Engineered for Adventure with Sam Chaneles
You might remember that about a year ago, we teamed up with Physicist, Mountaineer and all-around epic and impressive human being, Eyelene Perez for her expedition to Aconcagua (the second highest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas). Through Eyelene, we were introduced to another incredible human and mountaineer, Sam Chaneles.
If you scroll through Sam's Instagram feed, @engineeredforadventure, you can start to get a sense of the big, big stuff he's up to. As an engineer as avid adventurer, Sam finds a sweet spot for his passions and gifts in planning and executing some of the most beautiful and the most challenging expeditions the earth has to offer. But we thought there'd be no better way to tell Sam's story than to hear from Sam himself on what it takes to be Engineered for Adventure, and what fuels his best life while he's at it.
Sneakz: Let’s start from the beginning! Who is Sam Chaneles?
Sam: Whew! Now that is one hell of a question. Well, there are a few ways to answer that, but I'll just start from the basics.
Sam Chaneles is a Mechanical Engineering student at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA. He grew up in Miami Beach, Florida, the son of two amazing parents who encouraged him to travel and explore the world. Sam is an athletic, curious, and explorative person who loves to push himself to new heights. As his grandmother would say, Sam “loves exertion”, he loves the feeling of giving it his all.
Sam is a dreamer and finds fun in thinking of his next big adventure, whether it be mountain climbing, backpacking, or a family game night.
Sneakz: Which came first - engineering or adventuring?
Sam: Hmm. . . that depends on what you define as “engineering.” I like to think of engineering as solving problems, finding innovative ways to make the world around you a better place. In that case, they evolved hand in hand. From an early age, my parents always pushed me to solve problems, work through challenges, and think of how I could develop skills that would empower me to become self-sufficient. Adventuring was one of the pathways I learned to problem solve. As a family, we would go on day hikes, go skiing, or climb mountains together, and I would be forced to “solve problems”: find our location on a map, pack my bag appropriately for the day, or develop an itinerary that was appropriate for everyone involved.
In terms of the start of my “adventuring,” that can be traced way back to family trips. Our family is made up of explorers (our family tree can even be traced back to both Meriweather Lewis and William Clark). Our family trips revolved around hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, rather than beach vacations and city sightseeing. Eventually, when I became old enough, I started to go on more strenuous trips, longer hikes, etc. My adventuring really took off when I started college, though, when I went on a backpacking expedition to Alaska with Georgia Tech’s Outdoor Recreation program (ORGT). Ever since then, I’ve traveled around the globe and climbed some of the world’s tallest mountains with some amazing people.
Sneakz: How do the two overlap and support one another?
Sam: I always say that adventure and engineering are more closely related than people may think. To execute an adventure, you need a well thought out, developed plan. You need information, such as maps, phone numbers for rangers, proper food, and equipment, etc. But most importantly, you need the right mindset: you need to be able to THINK ON YOUR FEET. And that’s engineering for you.
Sneakz: Your expeditions take you to some incredible destinations all over the world. How do you decide what comes next?
Sam: My process goes something like this:
First, I look at WHEN? Since I’m a student, that’s largely dictated by the academic calendar. Winter Break, Spring Break, Summer Break, etc. I find my pockets of time and set them aside for adventures.
Next, I look at what is in season for each of those breaks. Will it be winter conditions, summer conditions? That depends on if I’m going somewhere in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, if I’m staying relatively equatorial, etc. This step allows me to narrow down where in the world I CAN go during certain seasons, where I will be able to reliably predict the weather.
Then, it’s time for inspiration. The research. I will scour the internet, Google Maps, Facebook, Caltopo, maps, etc. I prefer the alpine environment, so I often tend to be interested in that environment for my trips. I’ll ask friends for advice, but most of the time, it almost feels like the ideas come to me, in some weird way.
Before I go any further, I always ask myself WHAT THE PURPOSE of my trip is. Do I want this to be a harrowingly difficult adventure in which I test my limits? Or do I want a relaxed trip where I can sit back and enjoy the landscape? I need to have a clear sense of purpose when planning a trip so that I can align the itinerary accordingly.
Once I’ve identified my:
- Time windows
- Possible locations
I start fleshing out possible ideas. I will take a small list of places I think look interesting and begin making mock itineraries. I’ll plan out routes, price out flights, see if reservations or permits are required, etc. This step really allows me to see if this trip is POSSIBLE.
Once I’ve identified a few trips that are logistically possible, I will do some visualization. What would the trip look like? In my head, I almost walk through the trip as if I was actually going on it so that I can decide for myself if it’s something I’m interested in pursuing.
Then, I go for it.
I know, a super engineering, nerdy answer, but hey, that’s me.
Sneakz: We know through other mountaineers that we’ve worked with that training for expeditions like these is no joke. How far ahead do you start preparing for the next adventure?
Sam: The “preparation” is kind of twofold for the adventures I go on: logistics and physical.
The logistics need to start AT LEAST 3-6 months ahead of time for my big trips. That gives me time for flights, permits, etc. For smaller trips nearby, I can normally throw together an overnight backpacking trip in a few days. But for an expedition to climb in South America or Africa, I definitely need a few months of prep work.
Physically, I try to constantly maintain a high-performance level of physical conditioning. If I’m training for a specific expedition, I will begin fine-tuning my training 3-4 months beforehand to develop specific strengths. And then I will “taper” off a week or so ahead of the trip to give my body a chance to recover.
Sneakz: What does that process look like?
Sam: Logistically, the process consists of Google Drive, spreadsheets, and a lot of data. As I said, I’m an engineer at heart, so data is my bread and butter. For all of my trips, I have a Google Sheet outlining my itinerary, day by day and overview, and then I have folders upon folders of maps and other important materials.
Physically, I keep a workout log on a Google Sheet which tracks my weekly workouts and keeps me motivated to push and meet my fitness goals. If I am doing a trip with a team, I will have them track their workouts on the same spreadsheet and it will become a kind of healthy competition.
Sneakz: How important is nutrition for you in planning ahead for, actually going through an expedition, and then recovering from it?
Sam: Nutrition is EVERYTHING. I like to think of my body like a high-performance race car, and that fuel matters, A LOT. For me, it’s not just about macronutrients, like how many calories or carbs I’m getting in a day, but also WHAT those nutrients are coming from. A Snickers bar and a real meal are totally different things in my mind, even if they have the same number of calories, carbs, fats, and proteins.
Whenever I prepare for a trip, I analyze how many calories I will need per day, the breakdown of fats/carbs/proteins I will need, and the micronutrients I will need, such as vitamins, minerals, salts, etc. I will think through what types of foods I will have available; for example, if I can bring fresh, perishable foods like fruits and vegetables, or if I need shelf-stable, non-perishable items. I will also think through the weight and volume of my food depending on my trip: if it’s going in my backpack, I want it to be light and dense, whereas if it's going in the trunk of a car, it can kind of be anything.
Sneakz: Why do you choose Sneakz as part of that strategy?
Sam: SNEAKZ is a crucial part of my strategy because it allows me to get vegetables and important micronutrients into my diet when I would otherwise be unable to. When I’m going on a long-distance backpacking trip or a fast and light mountaineering objective, I can’t really carry a head of broccoli or cauliflower in my pack and roast it in the oven. But I sure can carry a SNEAKZ Meal2Go shake. I love adding SNEAKZ Meal2Go to my morning oatmeal, into pancake batter, or just as a shake at the end of a long day. Not only do I love the taste, by the way, chocolate is my favorite, but I am getting vegetables into my diet as well, which is very important to me. Your body NEEDS those micronutrients, and if you don’t get them you won’t perform at your best.
Sneakz: If you had to choose one of your expeditions to do over again, which would it be?
Sam: WOW! Now that’s a tough one to answer. But there is always one trip that sticks out in my mind for me: the John Muir Trail. I hiked the JMT with my Dad in June of 2017. We were the first hikers on the trail that year, as it was a record snow year. We had snow for roughly 185 miles of the 220 we hiked, and we were mostly alone along the way. It was an epic father-son adventure, and I will always remember it for that reason. I’ve done harder expeditions that were more physically challenging, but that one is one of the most memorable for me because I got to spend it with my Dad. So that one for sure.
Sneakz: Which was the most challenging?
Sam: The most challenging expedition was certainly the Colorado Crest, a solo 40-day cross country backpacking expedition I did in the summer of 2018. It was my first solo trip, and that came with many emotional challenges I could not have expected. I grew so much from the experience, learned a lot about myself, and accomplished some amazing feats (such as summiting 17 of Colorado’s 14,000’ peaks throughout the trip). But I won’t lie, it was really hard.
Sneakz: What are you most excited for in what’s ahead?
Sam: My next big adventure is an expedition with two friends of mine to climb Aconcagua, the tallest peak in South America at 22,841’. Not only is it one of the Seven Summits, but it is also the tallest peak outside of the Himalayas! I am really stoked to get out there with two amazing friends of mine and tackle the challenge. I’ve always said that trips are more about WHO you do them with rather than what you are actually doing. The people you spend the time with make the experience, and these are two amazing people I have alongside me. Plus, Argentina has been on my to-go list for a while now.