Meet the Neptune Pros: Pam
We sat down with Pam Roberts, a Neptune floor warrior who's been travelling the world to hike, climb, ski, and surf for more than 20 years. She shares her travel tips, gear recommendations, favorite destinations, and more.
Hi Pam, tell us a bit about yourself.
I started working at Neptune’s in 1983 or so. I knew Gary Neptune from climber parties, and because I was an avid skier and traveler, he invited me to come work at the store.
I used to consider myself a “typical Boulder girl”. I rock climb, ice climb, Nordic ski (skate, classic, and XC), backcountry ski (25 years tele, now AT), mountaineer, hike, trek, bike, surf, swim, and travel. Pretty much just love to play outside!
When did you become interested in travel?
In 1977 my father was transferred to Sao Paulo, Brazil, when I was a senior in high school. That move was a life-changing event, as prior to that I didn’t really know much about the “outside world”. From there we started travelling in South America, and I was smitten.
My first “personal trip” was in 1980-81, in which I spent 9 months travelling by myself in Peru and Bolivia.
What countries have you been to?
I’ll try not to leave any out: Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, Canada, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, Spain, Portugal, France, Pakistan, England, Scotland, and United Arab Emirates (well, just the airport in Dubai, but still…). Many of these countries I’ve been to multiple times.
Tell me about one of your favorite trips.
Oh geez….almost an impossible question to answer! Besides Cuba (been 3 times) and Pakistan, just because they are so different, I guess I might have to say walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela the summer of 2012 is right up there. The short version is that my husband Jack Roberts had died in an ice climbing accident that January. I was already planning on doing the Camino, and he was going to meet me towards the end. So I brought a Nalgene bottle of his ashes, and did the walk myself, and threw his ashes in the sea at Finisterra. It was an amazing experience physically, culturally, and emotionally. It was lots of fun despite long, hard days, and it gave me ample time to reflect on our life together, and what my own life might be moving forward without him.
How do you decide where to travel?
I usually plan my trips around what physical activity I want to do. Climb, trek, surf are usually the 3 driving activities…I guess season plays into that as well, to take advantage of the ideal weather/conditions.
How far in advance do you plan?
Anywhere from less than a month, to a max of 6 months. So much can change in a month’s time, so I prefer not to plan TOO far in advance.
How do you prepare for upcoming trips?
Nowadays I use a combination of guidebooks, internet, and people. I’m a huge fan of The Lonely Planet guidebooks, and never travel without them. I also prepare physically…I feel blessed to live in a place where I can hike trails out my front door, access fantastic climbing areas (or gyms!), get up to altitude, etc. For surf trips, I swim quite a bit…Boulder has a handful of great outdoor pools!
Do you check your luggage or try to stick to carry-ons?
I tend to check gear. It’s really hard nowadays to just have carry on baggage, especially with climbing gear, pocket knives, etc. That being said, I try to keep the weight manageable, since I’m usually alone. I tend to travel for about a month (dog at home prevents longer trips). Currently I’m a fan of a 60-Liter wheelie bag and a 35-44-Liter pack. At many youth hostels and such you can leave gear….so I’ll get to my jumping off place, leave the wheelie behind, and just take what I need in the pack. Walking across Spain I had my pack at 17 lbs total…Again, I try to arrange it so I can carry my gear (say wheelie and daypack) even a few miles by myself if need be.
Do you have any tips for first time international travelers?
Just go! Know that being nervous is part of it. Learn some words in the language. Engage with people, i.e. stay off phones and computers! There is nothing more mind-expanding than travel. Don’t over schedule or over-think. In other words, don’t do the 10-days in Europe visiting 6 different countries!!! I don’t consider that true travel. Pick a place or two, and get to know it and the people.
What is your favorite pack/luggage to travel with?
How much do you pack?
I try to pack as light as possible…no one pack over 30lbs. for a long trip with multiple activities. I sort of have my “travel outfit” that can bring me from warm-water surfing to pretty chilly temps. I lay everything out ahead of time, maybe a week before, and add or subtract. I don’t put it in the bag until the last minute.
Any packing/organization tips?
I like to organize, especially in a duffel. I love Sea to Summit stuff bags and compression bags…I can organize my clothing by type in different colored bags (yes, I can be OCD), and know they are in something waterproof. When I’m feeling cheap, I just buy the sliding zipper kind of zip-lock bags in gallon and three-gallon sizes for doing the same thing.
Any absolute must-haves?
A journal, camera, Lonely Planet Guide, pictures of my dog, and my two very small stuffed animals that always go with me…my hedgehog Hertzog, and penguin Maggie.