Allison Arguello - Why I'm a Backpacker
Atmosphere Store Manager
Hiker for 8 years
“Disconnect and lace up!”
When did you start hiking and spending time outdoors?
I started hiking 8 years ago, and backpacking 3 years ago. But I was always very active as a young person and tried to get outside or play sports as much as I could growing up.
What got you into hiking?
I was looking for ways to spend more time outdoors, to disconnect from the digital world.
And what would you say motivates you today to stay active and hike?
I definitely never want to take my health and overall wellness for granted. As long as I’m healthy, I will climb as many mountains as I possibly can.
How would you describe your approach to the outdoors and fitness?
I love a challenge; lots of early starts and long days. I’m always looking for challenging new mountains to scramble up.
Did anyone influence your initial interest?
I can’t say that any one person in particular sparked my initial interest, but for the past three years or so I’ve been hiking and backpacking with the same group of people, and each of them absolutely keeps me interested and inspired to get out for our next challenge.
Was there a particular moment where your decision to embrace your activity was solidified?
Getting to the top of a mountain. No matter how many mountains I climb, I am always amazed by the beauty of it all.
How long have you been with Atmosphere?
I’ve been with the company for 13 years now. Back in high school, I did a work placement at one of our stores and from there I moved into a sales associate position, and eventually worked my way up to assistant manager and finally store general manager here in Abbotsford.
Can you describe your role?
I see my role as a mixture of needing to inspire my staff to get active so they can in turn inspire our customers, as well as overseeing the overall operation of the store, making sure we’re able to meet people’s needs for their outdoor activities, etc.
What motivates you to work here?
To be honest, I feel like Atmosphere is an extension of my life. I love talking to customers and inspiring my team to get outside and challenge themselves.
Has anything surprised you about the job or the path you followed to get where you are today?
Years before I moved into a management position with Atmosphere, I considered becoming a martial arts instructor and letting that become my career path. I realized as I spent more time at our stores and getting more and more involved in the outdoors and other types of sports that it made much more sense for me to stay with Atmosphere and continue on a career path where the opportunity to try new activities –things like winter camping, mountaineering and rock climbing–would always be presented to me.
I’m also surprised to have fallen in love with climbing in particular. I took it up 2 years ago so I could sell the product better by gaining a deeper understanding of the sport. I still climb today and it’s one of my passions.
Can you recall a time you went above and beyond for a customer or gave them a nudge in the right direction?
I once convinced a family, who thought it was too hard, to do a particular hike. They had planned on doing it the same day as me, but were going to cancel because they had heard it was a difficult hike. Having done it before, I reassured them that they could do it. I ended up running into them the next day on that very hike and they came by my store the day after to thank me.
What would you say you are most proficient at?
I’ve become a very strong scrambler simply out of necessity. I have greater access to a wider variety of areas and landscapes thanks to my ability to ascend what some people might see as unclimbable terrain.
What is one of the more challenging experiences you’ve had?
Hiking the North Coast Trail. My two hiking partners and I spent five days covering 90 km of trail. It’s not that the terrain was all that challenging to navigate, but there were constant elevation changes and all that up and down and up and down again felt like it added hours and hours onto our hike.
Plus my pack weighed 50 pounds because I brought a little bit of fresh fruit and some vegetables. I thought having fresh carrots and pears would be a nice break from dehydrated food but the added weight really wasn’t helpful. It made those 12-hour hiking days feel even longer.
Would you say your most challenging experience is the one you’re the most proud of?
Absolutely, hiking the North Coast Trail was amazing. Can’t recommend it enough, as long as you’re properly prepared in terms of your skill level and gear.
Are there any outdoor enthusiasts or experts that you look up to?
Matt Gunn, author of Scrambles in Southwest BC.
Where do you see your abilities a year from now?
I’d really like to learn mountaineering skills within a year from now. Learning to glacier travel, crevasse rescue and rope travel will be extremely useful.
In five years?
I would love to be backcountry splitboarding (a type of snowboard that splits into two pieces used for hiking up a mountain. They’re like skis that work similar to snowshoes) in 5 years.
What are some things people can do to become better hikers and to better enjoy their experience outdoors?
There are lots of resources via clubs (Alpine Club of Canada, BC Mountaineering Club, Varsity Outdoor Club). Surround yourself with people with experience and take a course.
What have you noticed in terms of changing trends or technologies in the hiking world over the last few years?
Weight has changed significantly for gear. Everything is about being as light as possible without sacrificing performance.