Travel Pack: A Backcountry Gearhead Helps Me Pack the Surf Essentials for The Tides of Sandbank, Barbados
Despite the fact that online shopping has undoubtedly surpassed the brick and mortar model of shopping, finding a go-to site for all your travel needs has remained difficult. There is, however, one site that we are all probably familiar with, known as Backcountry, that has changed the game for us adventure seekers. Whatever you may need, from surfboards to swimwear and snow gear to hiking essentials, Backcountry has been the place to get all travel must-haves.
However, to make things even easier for us consumers, Backcountry has made a big push for their Gearhead service - a seamless way to speak with experts on what to wear and pack for any adventure you embark on. So, rather than looking on dozens of sites searching for what you need, Backcountry has our back as the one-stop-shop of the best of the best items for any activity.
To prove it, we spoke with Rich Fahey, Senior Manager of Gearheads, to learn more about why this service is so special and important to Backcountry as well as travel tips from a true Gearhead, Sean Arruabarrena. See below for full interview and travel tips!
Rich Fahey, Senior Manager – Gearheads
In your own words what is a Gearhead?
Backcountry Gearheads are passionate about the activities they participate in and helping others pursue their own passions. Gearheads are problem solvers, adventurers, trip planners, gear experts and all around outdoor enthusiasts!
How does one become a Gearhead? Can you share unique qualifications?
Having a deep understanding of the gear required for various activities is a good starting point. From there, being able to share the attributes of that gear and knowing everything required to have an exceptional outdoor experience. The difference between a good and great experience sometimes comes down to the little things, and the best gearheads are able to identify those right away.
What makes Gearheads service different from what competitors are offering?
Backcountry’s commitment to the 1-on-1 element is truly remarkable. Your personal Gearhead handles all of your needs, so you always have a trusted resource here at Backcountry. It’s not like other customer service scenarios where you talk to someone different every time. Your Gearhead learns about you and your passions and makes shopping for outdoor gear as easy as it gets. And it doesn’t end there….we’ll also help with trip planning, nutrition recommendation and even meet up for a quick ride or take a few laps at the resort if you’re in town.
Explain the Chase Your GOAT campaign?
The purpose of the campaign is to share what GOATworthy means to Backcountry and our wider community of employees and customers alike. The campaign will showcase a variety of sentiments, activities, and personal “Greatest of All Time” (ie: “GOAT”) milestones. The common thread is that GOATworthy is what keeps us all coming back to our favorite outdoor pursuits time after time, it’s a calling to the outdoors that transcends all expertise levels and activities. Our Gearheads are related because their knowledge and passion is an enabler of these moments. What does GOATworthy mean to you? What GOAT are you chasing? Backcountry wants you to have these moments, over and over again.
In your own words how does a Gearhead help consumers reach their #goatworthy moment?
We take all of the pain out of decision-making when it comes to gear shopping. Customers are able to focus on the moments and not whether or not their gear was the right choice for their pursuits.
Any plans on how Backcountry plans on evolving the Gearhead consumer approach?
The Gearhead customer approach is all about personalization. What are you motivated by? What are your goals? What gear suits you best? Also, what Gearhead is right for you? Invariably the Gearhead approach will evolve, but it will do so in order to push the envelope on a better end-to-end and more personalized customer experience.
If I'm in Sand Bank can I just call my Gearhead for advice on my outing or gear?
The short answer is “absolutely!”. The longer answer is that you can put us on speed dial, invite us to your wedding (wouldn’t be the first time) or call us from Sand Bank. We’re here.
Gearhead's Guide on What to Bring to Barbados
A little about on Sean:
He spends a month each summer doing shark conservation research in in Caribbean so he spends a ton of time on the water, and is really passionate about not only surfing, but the ocean in general.
“Barbados offers the most consistent surf conditions in the Caribbean. Year round, you will never find the water temperatures dropping below 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and will experience water temperatures +82 degrees Fahrenheit in their warmest months, July and August. While these temperatures provide conditions where a wetsuit is not necessarily needed, water conducts heat away from the body 20 times faster than air does so if you are spending a significant amount of time in the water, you may find yourself start to get chilly after catching several barrels. In July and August, you can easily get by just wearing a suit. One timeless board short that I have used is the RVCA VA Board Short - Men's. Its high cut above the knee and four-way stretch allows you to move without feeling any restriction in the water or on land. Another feature that I absolutely love about RVCA’s trunks is that they have a low profile zippered fly. Most traditional suits will have either Velcro or mesh at the fly. Those designs not only make it harder to get into the board short, but also limit your accessibly when you have to make a bathroom stop. A zippered back pocket another thing that separates this board short from many others. It easily fits your keys, credit cards, ID, fin key, or wax scraper.
If you want to avoid getting a rash, as well as avoid those harsh UV rays, you might want to consider a rash guard. My favorite is the Patagonia R0 Sun Long-Sleeve T-Shirt - Men's. Being a relaxed fit, the rash guard drapes away from the body while you are out of water to give you a lifestyle look, as well as give you more breathability. A UPF rating of 50+ ensures that you are protected from the sun even with the rays being intensified by the water. In addition, thumbholes on the sleeves permit all day paddling without having your rash guard getting stretched out of place.
As the waters slowly start to cool, I prefer to use a vest wetsuit rather than a full bodies one. The Patagonia R1 Lite Yulex Vest - Men's. Cutting off just at your shoulders, this vest says in place as you paddle, and provides just enough positive buoyancy to aid your swimming if you take spill into a nasty current. The flat lock seems reduce any chafing so that you stay comfortable hour after hour, day after day. At 1.5mm, you should be protected at the surface from water temperatures around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, with the increasing frequency of tropical storms, upwelling from the oceans deeper and colder water can occur. When these tides overturn, you can experience a thermocline two feet under the water. For me, I prefer to be comfortable the entire time I am in the water rather than getting cold half way through the day an`d then having to debate whether I stay in the water or not. This is when I turn to the XCEL Hawaii Infiniti Comp 3/2 Chest-Zip Full Wetsuit - Men's. The Hawaii Infiniti Comp wetsuit uses V Foam which is the lightest premium foam available. It is also stretchier, and softer than standard foams. This is XCELs stretchiest wetsuit proving unprecedented mobility and comfort. They were able to achieve this by the foam they use, as well as how they seal their seams. By gluing and blindstiching the seam, the Neoprene is never fully penetrated so that you can get unmatched stretch, but also stay warmer. Traditional stitching compacts the neoprene where the thread complete goes through the foam. By compacting the foam together, you can get cold spots so it is nice that XCEL keeps this in mind. In addition to their stitching methods, they use a thermo dry seam tape to reinforce the stitching, and an inner nexskin seal around the wrist and ankles to minimize flushing. The X2 Front Entry Zipper also makes putting this wetsuit on a breeze by allowing you to stepping straight through the chest opening. This watertight zipper combined with their crossover neck design allows the zippered opening to expand beyond traditional sizes giving you an extra wide entry point.
When on island time, there is no telling what time you will be getting in the water or when you will be getting out. This is why it is important to me to have the proper shoes to get me to where I need to go. The Astral Brewer Water Shoe - Men's provide just enough support an traction to get me to the hard to get surf spots while remaining lightweight, packable, quick drying, and breathable. These shoes even have purge holes in the footbed for when you take on some water and need it to drain from the footbed. While I personally prefer to use my feet directly on my board when surfing, there does come a time where you may find it nice to have a bootie. I have poor circulation in my feet and the Billabong Furnace Carbon Comp 2mm Boot is my boot of choice for days when feet are really cold. The 2 mm neoprene isn’t overboard for Barbados’s water temperatures and the traction soles give you sure footing on your kick turns. As your feet start to bend and flex, there is a possibility for the neoprene to come away from your foot and allow leaking. However, the Furnace Carbon Comp booties have a Liquid External Seams to help prevent this, as well as a hook-and-loop closure lock to keep your foot securely in place.
Now if you are someone with several boards that spends a lot of time jumping from airport to airport, you may consider picking up the Pro-Lite Wheeled Coffin Surfboard Bag - Short. This bag has oversized rollerblade wheels to efficiently transport the weight of up to four boards (plus clothes), as well an adjustable deluxe shoulder strap if you start to travel through uneven terrain. The bag also comes with multiple internal fin pockets, as well as board dividers and straps so that you can stay organized, and rest assured that your boards are protected. If you find this to be overkill for what you need, I would suggest the FCS Dual All Purpose Surfboard Bag. With the Dual All Purpose bag, you do not get wheels, but you get an extremely comfortable strap. The shoulder strap is ergonomically designed so that it contours to your body, but is also padded and ventilated so that you are never unhappy while transporting your board(s). The bag also has a dual-density padding along the rails of your board to protect it from any unexpected drops and dings. On top of all this, the armadillo shape of this bag makes it unique, while also increasing ventilation to your board to help moisture escape.
One piece of equipment that is often over looked for trips like these is sunscreen. While most are aware that they should probably uses some sunscreen to protect themselves from getting burned, most negate the fact that the sunscreen they use can damage the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) in the coral and thus kill coals in the long run. Zooxanthellae photosynthesize the sun’s rays and convert the energy into food for the coral themselves. Without healthy Zooxanthellae, the corals lose their color and become bleached. Unhealthy reefs with bleaching episodes are on the rise due to many factors including changes in the oceans salinity, temperature, and PH levels. If we want to preserve our oceans and the fish that live in it, it is important that we do not add to the destruction of the reef by not using irresponsible sunscreens that contain Oxybenzone. A great reef safe sunscreen is the Badger SPF 30.
I appreciate all of this gear because while most of it is surfing oriented, I find it extremely versatile for everything that I do on the water. As an Instructor Scuba diver and a shark conservationist, I need gear that can hold up to long days and hard work. I am often underwater for hours at a time and when underwater, anything can happen. My rash guards and wetsuits protect from unseen jellyfish while also keeping me warm as I descend into thermoclines. When researching mature and juvenile lemon, tiger, reef, and nurse sharks, I am either on Scuba, trudging through mangroves, or rocking back and forth on boats. These days can feel long, especially when you are on a remote island with limited resources and shade. Due to this, I found that my Hydro Flask 64oz Wide Mouth Water Bottle (Growler) is one of my most important pieces of equipment as it is difficult to keep your water cold, as well as stay hydrated on an island. This coupled with my Buff UV Buff - Solid which allows me to stay out longer to reach the all desired #GOATworthy moment.The moment I catch a shark on a drumline, on video with my BRUV (baited remote underwater video), or juveniles in a gill net, my adrenaline starts pumping and I remember why I do what I do. It’s that #GOATworthy moment that we all strive for and it looks different to everyone you talk to. One thing remains the same, the gear you use can help make or break that moment. With all the discussed gear, I am able to stay out longer, work more proficiently, as well as stay connected to my passions.”