The next interview of the Active Outdoor Vegans series features:
Jessica Ryle, an avid hiker and the creator of Vegan Outdoor Adventures, a site that provides a great resource for anyone looking for verified cruelty-free outdoor gear. Whether it’s hiking boots, trail runners, socks, jackets or sleeping bags, there’s something for everyone, and the list keeps on growing! So be sure to head on over to Vegan Outdoor Adventures after you read the interview. 😉
Jessica on top of Mount Marcy, the highest point in New York State
Alright, let’s get to it…
What is your favourite outdoor activity?
How long has it been an interest/passion of yours?
I hiked my first Adirondack High Peak in 2009 and between the exhilaration of having climbed so high and the amazing views in every direction I was hooked.
What got you started wanting to be an outdoor adventurer?
I’ve always loved being outside and seeing wildlife. Hiking and backpacking allow me to experience the wilderness in a peaceful way, powered by my own two legs. It’s where I feel the most centered and happy.
How long have you been vegan? And what led you to this path?
I’ve been vegan for 6 years now, and I was vegetarian for 6 years before that. I’ve always loved animals and felt a very deep connection with them. But I didn’t make the connection between the animals I loved and the food I was eating until I worked at a seafood restaurant and saw live lobsters being stabbed before being put into the steamer so that the eggs inside of them would cook. I was horrified and I stopped eating meat immediately. Over the next 6 years I slowly transitioned to things like Tofutti cream cheese, rice milk, and things like that. Then one day I saw on paper, right in front of me, a request for plastic tubing samples (I worked for an extruding company) to be used in animal testing. It was like a slap in the face and from that day on I knew that I’d do my best to avoid causing any suffering. I feel like my best self living a vegan life, and I know it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
Where are you located?
I live in Upstate, NY, just outside southeastern border of the Adirondack State Park.
Good To-Go backpacking meal in the White Mountains
Favourite vegan trail snack/food?
Tofurky sandwiches, Clif Bars and sometimes even some pieces of vegan candy for a celebratory snack on top of a mountain
Favourite piece of vegan gear?
I got a Cinnabar 3-in-1 jacket from The North Face for winter hiking last year and I loved it so much. It’s super lightweight, waterproof and so warm! Plus the layers come apart so you can just wear the waterproof shell or the inner insulated jacket, depending on the weather conditions. I also can’t say enough positive things about my Darn Tough Coolmax vegan hiking socks. They’re the best socks I’ve ever owned!
The best part about being active outdoors and in nature?
Listening to the sounds in the forest, going an entire day without seeing any other people, and feeling like you’re really part of everything that’s going on around you.
What is your favourite vegan meal or place to eat after a long day outdoors?
I love to fill up on chips and salsa and a soft pretzel with spicy mustard at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery after a fun day in the High Peaks.
Starting on the trail up Mount Washington
What is your most memorable outdoor experience/adventure so far?
Definitely climbing Mount Washington last fall. It’s so much bigger than the mountains I’m used to hiking. It was a cloudy day though, so we had no views. I’m going to have to hike it again on a sunny day!
Has it been difficult finding vegan gear (clothing, shoes, etc.)? Do you have any gear/companies you would recommend?
Yes! This is the entire reason I started Vegan Outdoor Adventures! I went years without buying hiking boots because I was unsure which were actually vegan, and no one seemed to be able to help me find out. It’s been a lot of work and I’m still trying to find more and more vegan gear options. As far as footwear goes, Merrell is really good about labeling right on their site which shoes are vegan. I’ve also had a really great experience with TrekSta. They’re always happy to check on a product for me. I have their Edict trail runners, which I love for warm weather day hikes, and I know a few people who have the Evolution hiking boots. They’re both really great options. Patagonia has the Nano Puff insulated jacket, which I just bought a couple of months ago and I already love how lightweight and packable it is. It’s cozy and keeps you warm, even when it gets wet. And definitely any of the Darn Tough Coolmax socks. They’re guaranteed for life. How can you beat that?
What is the best part about being vegan?
Living a life in which you do your absolute best not to cause any suffering. You can be more at peace when your actions align with your compassion.
Do you feel being vegan has improved your awareness of/appreciation for your natural surroundings – trees, water, wildlife, etc.? Do you feel more connected to nature? And do you feel being vegan has helped your health?
I do feel that being vegan has improved my appreciation of my natural surroundings and I do feel more connected to nature. I feel more like I’m part of the earth and all of the hustle and bustle that’s going on in the woods, respecting everything and everyone, rather than using those resources to benefit only myself. I’m not the healthiest eater… I really love my vegan junk food! But I do feel that eating vegan has made me healthier. I was sick a lot when I was younger and now I feel much stronger and I rarely get sick.
What are some essentials you always pack? Is it ever difficult to prepare or pack for a trip?
My essentials always include a trail book, map, compass, first aid kit, headlamp, multitool, extra layers, lots of food and water. I’ve been on enough trips of varying length and difficulty that I’ve pretty much got the packing down. I also always read about the trail I’ll be taking and check online forums or Facebook groups to find out current conditions in the area. Heading into the backcountry is serious business. Most of the High Peaks have no cell service so I know that I need to be prepared and cautious, because I’m not going to be able to call somebody for help.
Winter hiking on Cascade Mountain
Where are some places your adventures have taken you so far?
I’ve mostly hiked in the Adirondacks, around Lake George and in the High Peaks region. I hiked in the White Mountains for the first time last fall and can’t wait to go back. My boyfriend and I are also planning a trip to British Columbia this summer, so that’s going to be epic!
How many adventures do you tend to go on per year? How do you decide where to go? And how long does it generally take to prepare for them?
The past few years my work schedule hasn’t been that flexible so I didn’t go on as many adventures as I would’ve liked to. But this year has been great so far! I’ve been on many day hikes so far, so it’s shaping up to be a good year! I don’t take too long to prepare for most of my day hikes. I’m very familiar with the Lake George and High Peaks regions of the Adirondacks, so I normally pick a mountain with my hiking partner a few days in advance (based on where we’ve been wanting to go, what mountains we haven’t climbed yet, what we’ve heard is an awesome view, etc.) and do most of the physical prepping the night before. Overnights take more time to plan because there are more variables to take into account, like overnight gear and deciding on possible locations to spend the night.
Are there any future adventures you would really like to do and/or are currently embarking on?
I’m working toward becoming a 46er, which is someone who has climbed the 46 High Peaks over 4,000ft tall in the Adirondacks. I’d like to be at least half way done by the end of this year. I’m at 10 right now). After that I’d like to become a winter 46er (climbing those same mountains between December 21st and March 21st). I’d also like to explore new areas. BC this summer will be a good start for that!
What continues to inspire you to get outdoors?
Every trip is different. You can hike the same mountain 5 times and every time will be different. I love that.
You have a website that provides a great resource for outdoor vegans. How long have you had the website, and what would you most like to share with people through it?
I started VeganOutdoorAdventures in the late winter of 2014. It started for myself really. I just wanted a spot to catalog vegan hiking boot options. And not boots that are probably vegan, I wanted to find out for sure. It’s grown so much since then to include lists of vegan gear like climbing shoes, insulated jackets, socks, sleeping bags, hiking shoes, tips and informative blog posts by myself as well as guest bloggers, and gear reviews. I’ve been so happy to hear from so many people that the site has helped them. But my favorite part is the community that’s forming. I’ve met so many awesome vegan outdoor adventurers!
Thanks for sharing Jessica, and all the best with your summer adventures!
Follow Jessica’s outdoor activities, see photos of her lovely fur family, and keep up-to-date on vegan-approved outdoor gear at VeganOutdoorAdventures.com as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!