Forrest McCarthy seeks big adventures in remote, wild landscapes. He learned to rock climb so he could more completely explore the Grand Tetons; he learned to packraft so he could wander the Colorado River Basin and Alaska’s backcountry; and he combines sports—alpine climbing and ski mountaineering or thru hiking and boating—so he can travel across wide open landscapes.
“Curiosity has been the driving force throughout my life,” he says. “What’s that river like? What’s over that next mountain range? What’s that ecosystem like?” In order to travel to even more distant places in a world where untrammeled landscapes have become rare, McCarthy brings only what he absolutely needs on his adventures to stay warm, dry and protected from the elements. For example, he uses his dry suit as raingear and his throw bag, trekking poles or paddle as hardware to put up his UltaMid. He even shares a toothbrush sometimes, though only with his wife, he adds with a laugh. And he uses the most technologically advanced equipment he can find.
“Often I see manufacturers trying to out-design each other,” he explains. “They are trying to sell end users gear with too many bells and whistles because that’s what the magazines tell the end users they need. There’s a certain level of dysfunction in this. How do we educate people that they don’t need the super high-tech suspension systems? It comes back to keeping it simple.”
McCarthy brings this simplicity to every aspect of his life. “From an environmental standpoint, the first way to minimize our impact on the planet is to need less. The second way is to figure out where can we share. Can we ride the bus or a bike or share a lawnmower with a neighbor? The third way is to use the technology that makes things lighter and simpler.” We chatted with McCarthy about how he achieves his optimal self, among other things.
What gets you up in the morning?
The prospect of exploring big and wild landscapes.
When and why did you adopt a minimalist philosophy, gear and techniques?
In my twenties I adopted a minimalist philosophy out of necessity for alpine climbing and long ski traverses. To successfully climb and ski in big mountains and wilderness areas I needed to be limber and move fast. To achieve this I learned to take only what was absolutely necessary and invest in the lightest most durable equipment. I later applied this same philosophy to river paddling.
In what ways have you applied this philosophy to the rest of your life?
In life, like when in the mountains, on the river, or in wilderness, being light and nimble allows me to focus on what really matters; experiencing a place and spending time with interesting people.
How do you achieve your optimal self?
Drink coffee, study maps, hike, climb, ski, paddle and explore. I also enjoy reading books by true explorers from earlier ages when there truly existed “blank spots on the map.” The ingenuity, curiosity, and insight by the likes of William Tillman, Eric Shipton, David Brower, George Schaller, Charles Darwin, Ernest Shakleton, and Knud Rasmussen inspires me.
What gets you to your Zen moment in the mountains?
I often feel as if I’m chasing rainbows; seeking ephemeral moments were light, landscape and emotion collide in a spectrum of magic and beauty. I can’t plan these moments, I can, however, increase the likelihood of experiencing them by simply going outside and into nature. When “in the moment” I’m often not aware it’s occurring. Only afterword’s do I fully appreciate the euphoria and splendor. Wonderful memories… that can never be taken away.
What motivates you to focus? What are your goals?
As far as I know I only get one ride on the oases we know as earth. I plan to take full advantage of it.
On a given day and for your sport of choice, what absolute necessities are in your pack? What extras?
If I had to choose one sport it would be hiking for its simplicity and versatility. In my pack I carry just a jacket, water bottle and maybe a map.
What issues are you passionate about and why?
There are not many wild places left on the surface of the earth. Their protection and the opportunity to experience them is paramount to me.
What sports do you primarily partake in?
Hiking, skiing, climbing, packrafting, and mountain biking.
When did you join the Hyperlite Mountain Gear team?
5 years ago.
What’s your favorite piece of Hyperlite Mountain Gear equipment and why?
My Porter Pack is my most used piece of gear. It is light, durable and versatile.
You can also find Forrest McCarthy...Instagram