Q & A with Clay Abney - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Q & A with Clay Abney

How did you get involved in adventure sports?

I’ve been involved in adventure sports since I was a child. I have always enjoyed pushing the envelope and seeking out my next adventure. I was in Boy Scouts (eventually attaining the rank of Eagle Scout) growing up and that continued to foster my love for the outdoors and introduced me to backpacking, whitewater sports and climbing. Throughout high school and college, I have continued seeking out new experiences in the outdoor realm. I have been a whitewater rafting guide, sea kayaking guide and have always embraced each region I have lived in or visited. I spent a summer in 1997 living in the jungles of northern Argentina working with an Earthwatch primatologist studying owl monkeys. I still enjoy trail running, mountain biking, backpacking, sea kayaking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, snow boarding and traveling.

What is your favorite sport?

My favorite activity is whichever the one I am participating in at the moment. During the spring, summer and fall, I enjoy mountain biking, trail running, whitewater paddling, stand up paddle boarding, rock climbing and backpacking. During the winter, I embrace the change and look forward to opportunities to snowshoe and snowboard.

Of all the places that you have been, what adventure was your favorite?

Traveling opens our eyes to different cultures and experiences. I have enjoyed every single adventure from swimming with penguins in Antarctica to working with orphans in third world countries like Haiti and Guatemala. However, one that truly stands out to me was taking my three nephews to Peru in 2014 for their high school graduation trip. We hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, visited the highest navigable lake in the world (Lake Titicaca) and sand boarded on the Nasca dunes. Experiencing the adventure through their eyes was unique and fulfilling on so many levels. My niece and I are planning a similar adventure upon her graduation in 2020 to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

What piece of advice would you offer to anyone seeking an adventurous lifestyle?

Start small and in your own backyard. There are plenty of experiences to be had regardless of where you live. Experiences do not have to be on the other side of the world to be an adventure. There are so many wonderful adventures to be had in the Tri-State region. Join local groups that can help foster your desire to try something new. It is a great way to meet like minded people who can share knowledge and possibly gear with you as you seek out new adventures.

What five things do you always take with you for adventure travel?

I always take the same basic items with me on every trip or outing:

  1. First Aid Kit
  2. Rain Shell
  3. Backpack (the size of the pack changes according the adventure planned)
  4. Appropriate footwear 
  5. Headlamp (provides a handsfree flashlight)

What is your favorite piece of gear?

I don’t have one favorite piece of gear as the adventure always dictates what is required but I do have a few pieces that I tend to take with me regardless of the geographic location. I really prefer synthetic fabrics. I almost never carry cotton products when traveling. While I love a great pair of comfortable jeans, cotton can be unforgiving. Once wet it takes a long time to dry and provides zero protection once damp. I also like convertible pants. On many trips I have left a warm environment and arrived into a cooler environment. Having pants that convert to short (or vice versa) is ideal. Also, planes can get cold and it is nice to be able to zip back on the legs. Wool arm sleeves are another favorite. An early morning hike or bike ride can be chilly and having the ability to just pull on or take off the sleeves is advantageous. 

Wheeled or non-wheeled luggage?

My carry-on is almost always a 45-50L pack. It provides me a handsfree option regardless of where I am going. I almost always have to check a bag when flying as I always take a plethora of gear since I am typically testing some for my next story. While it is nice to be able to wheel that luggage without hauling it around, that isn't always possible in some of the remote locations I visit. However, they do make rolling bags that have pack straps that can be deployed as needed. Also, with weight restrictions with airlines, rolling bags also weigh significantly more than a duffel bag of the same volume.

Favorite Travel Tips:

Choose your luggage carefully.

I can’t begin to recount the times that I have watched people at the baggage carousel perusing each black rolling bag that comes of the belt only to discover it is not their luggage. When shopping for luggage, choose something that stands out and that you can spot as it comes onto the belt. It will also be easier to describe should your luggage not arrive with you at your destination.

Resealable Plastic Bags

I am a firm believer in having multiple sizes on hand when packing for any trip. They are great for organizing clothing, toiletries, gear and more as the contents are visible and contained within the deep recesses of your bag.

Health Insurance/Travel Insurance

If traveling internationally, verify that your regular health insurance policy covers illness or injury overseas. If not, consider a short-term policy for the duration of your trip. Also, purchasing travel insurance like World Nomads can be advantageous and low cost protection should you have to cancel your trip or need help when traveling.


I constantly live by the mantra of ‘Function over Fashion’. Whether you are on an airplane or climbing Kilimanjaro, dressing in layers will never fail you. Layers can be removed or replaced as dictated by the weather or activity. I personally only wear synthetic apparel when traveling. This includes base layers, tops, bottoms, and shells. They dry quickly and in the event that you have to wash them in a hotel sink, they will be dry within hours as opposed to cotton. Another item that I always have with me are my convertible pants. If it gets hot, I can zip off the legs and replace when the temperature drops.

Proper Footwear

It is amazing to walk through a large airport and check out the diverse footwear that you see people wearing in which to travel. If you must wear that fashion over function piece, I recommend carrying them in your carry-on and putting them on after you have reached your destination. Flip-flops and high heels are not conducive for running from one concourse to the next after a last minute gate change has been announced.

Favorite adventure moment:

I have so many but I think that swimming with penguins in Antarctica might top the list. And by swimming, I mean for the less than 60 seconds that I was in the water. In 2016, I took a voyage to Antarctica and had the opportunity to take a dip in the waters of Antarctica on the shore of Half Moon Island for a true polar plunge. The island is home to a colony of chinstrap penguins (along with a few visiting Gentoo penguins). The day was sunny and a balmy 32-degrees. The water temperature was 31-degrees. With my swimsuit on under my long underwear and Gore-tex pants, I quickly shed the layers. Standing on the rocky beach, the intensity of the sun felt much warmer than the outside temperature. As I entered the water, the nerve endings went numb and the cold was not immediately evident. With penguins darting in and out of the water around me, the moment was perfect until all nerve endings came alive and immediately reminded me of the water temperature. It felt like thousands of needles entering my skin simultaneously. I promptly exited the water and upon drying off, the warmth of the sun made the moment gratifying and memorable.

What is the craziest thing you have ever eaten?

By nature, I am a very picky eater. Though, throughout my travels, I try to be open minded to different regions and cultures and try new things. I have eaten alpaca in Peru, reindeer in Norway and most recently musk ox and seal in Greenland. 

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