Archive for November, 2009

The Genetically Engineered Gear Junkie

Stephen Regenold’s Life Mission: To Push the Limit On Everything

Stephen Regenold is taking the long way to Mount Everest. Before the 32-year-old Gear Junkie joins Jamie Clarke and the Expedition Hanesbrands team for the trek to base camp this April, Regenold is stopping off in Tierra del Fuego in February to bike, trek, and kayak 500 kilometers in the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race.

“It’s going to be utter suffering and misery for ten days,” says Regenold. “But I’m pretty psyched for it. I think it will fit my unique skill set.”

Suffering is hard-wired into Regenold’s native Minnesotan, Norwegian DNA. Long before the athlete and entrepreneur started reviewing gear, Regenold was putting his mind and body through the ringer: His parents started taking him camping when he was six months old. At age 17, Regenold climbed Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower with his dad. To learn how to ski, the family of six would pack into the car at 4 a.m. almost every winter weekend and drive five hours north from their home in Minnetonka to Lutsen Resort on the frigid shore of Lake Superior. They’d ski for two days straight, stopping only to cram into a tiny hotel room to sleep, then pile back into the car late Sunday.

“It would be -20 degrees and my brother Ben and I would be out doing laps on these insane, glistening, eight-foot-tall moguls,” says Regenold. “It was a very formative experience. I learned how to ski and be in the outdoors.”

Regenold used the same gritty passion to start his own magazine in college: He hung up a flyer at the University of Minnesota journalism school campus, found a business partner, and created Vertical Jones, a ’zine that grew into a 5,000-circulation quarterly. They launched a Web site version a few years later.

In 2002 Regenold approached the Minneapolis Star Tribune about writing gear reviews. His bi-weekly column, “The Gear Junkie,” became so popular that it was syndicated in 15 papers nationwide. In 2005, Regenold and two business partners expanded it to an online version,, which attracts up to 75,000 unique visitors and hundreds of thousands of page views per month.

But the days of Regenold’s endurance benders weren’t over. In the fall of 2005 he finished Ironman Wisconsin.

“My kidneys hurt. It was real misery,” he says.

That winter he competed in the Arrowhead 135 Ultramarathon in northern Minnesota.

“It was 135 miles of biking through the snow— unsupported, cold, crazy, and desolate.”

Regenold followed it up with a two-day race in West Virginia, where he stayed awake for 60 hours straight. He topped off the spree in July 2006 with Primal Quest, a 420-mile adventure race in Utah.

“I learned the utter limits of myself physically, emotionally, and mentally,” says Regenold, a skill that comes in handy now that he and his wife Tara have three kids, the youngest of whom was born in October.

“All these little accomplishments prove to yourself that the months of training, planning, and balancing life are worth it. It’s a physical and emotional feat.”

Short of summiting (which he won’t have time to do), what makes Regenold excited about the Hanesbrands Everest expedition? It will be the ultimate melding of his love for gear and adventure.

“I’m excited that Hanesbrands has jumped in with both feet to try something innovative,” he says. “They’ve created their version of a concept car to show their engineering and innovation muscle. Plus they’ve partnered with Jamie Clarke, an independent, fast and light mountaineer. What they’re doing with Jamie is pure and interesting.”