Meet An OGExpert: Melissa Mcnell

Meet an OGExpert: Melissa Mcnell
What’s an OGExpert? They’re the folks that huff and puff alongside you in the skin track, give you a yell from the lift, move that pad for you at the climbing gym, share their granola at the summit, or help you change a flat tire at the bike trail head. They’re us. We’ve done it all, and used pretty much every kind of gear along the way. We live, breathe, and recreate with the community.


Melissa McNell




Peculiar, MO—yes, I attended the Peculiar Elementary School

What brought you here to Vermont?

I moved to VT to work 50 hours a week and make $500/month as a Farm Intern at VYCC, it  was an Americorps Position. It was sweet to be able to pay off $5,000 of my college loans at the end, but the pay was so low that I had to pick up a second job to be able to eat, so I worked 20 hours/week at Zachary’s Pizza in Richmond as well.

How long have you been working at Outdoor Gear Exchange?

Almost 9 years now.

What is your role at OGE?

Senior Buyer and Dance Party Initiator.

What would you consider your area of outdoor expertise?

I excel at climbing, am a proficient back-country tele skier, avid gravel/adventure riding and am an exceptional backcountry cook.

Tell us about any upcoming goals or trips you have.

I’m looking forward to taking a few weeks off this late summer/ early fall to learn how to surf off the Maine coast.

What is one piece of advice or trip recommendation you often give to people who are experiencing the outdoors for the first time?

Put your phone away and walk quietly.

Favorite piece of outdoor clothing or equipment you bring on every trip?

Darn Tough socks!

What’s your favorite trail snack and local beverage?

My trail snack of choice is a Tornado sandwich, it’s grilled peanut butter, cheese and sriracha. Especially delicious when eaten while backcountry skiing and with an added fried egg for extra long days.

Do you have a hidden talent? What is it?

Driving long distances with little to no sleep. I recently drove to Missouri from Vermont and stopped 4 times to take a 15 min nap.

How do you keep the stoke at 11?

It helps that I work with a rotating bunch of 20-somethings. Keeping up with them as I grow older maintains the motivation.

Instrument of choice for digging a cat hole?

I’m pretty low tech and enjoy starting the hole by kicking into the ground with my heel and then attacking it with a stick while I try my hardest not to poop my pants.

How were you introduced to the outdoors?

My Aunt Cindy took me out on a 10 day horsepacking trip in the Wind River Mountain Range when I was five. I experienced a ton of firsts on that trip: caught, cleaned and ate my first trout. First emergency poop on the side of the highway, first time in a tarp sauna and skinny dipping.

Favorite after-work shred spot/outdoor adventure?

In the heat of the summer, I love heading up to Smugglers Notch after work and climbing by bike lamp then catching a slice of pizza at Picasso on the way home.

Favorite part about the OGE?

The community. I’ve made many close connections with co-workers and customers and I def, would not have such a cool and diverse group of folks to call friends if I didn’t work here.

Biggest outdoor pet-peeve?

Climbers who spray un-requested beta.

Are you a fan of Type 2 fun?

I think so. I find myself in uncomfortable situations often, but I don’t know if that means that I’m a fan or a fool…

Any suffer-fests or epics you’d like to tell us about?

It’s hard to think of something that isn’t too embarrassing. Most of the suffering I’ve experienced has been a result of poor planning, over confidence or just plain bad decision making and is not particularly funny or unique. But there was this one time when I worked on a remote ranch in Mexico. We had a satellite herd of cattle about 6 hours away from the herd was staged to be imported into the United States soon and I had to check in on them to make sure everything was good and buy all the food and supplies the ranch would need for the next 3 weeks.

It took a bit longer than expected to complete my tasks and night was coming as I was driving back. The ranch where I was living was in the Sierra Madre Mountains where the roads are quite dangerous at night—they are super twisty, not well marked and it was not uncommon for thieves to roll rocks onto the road to stop traffic and rob drivers.  Unfortunately, this was during the peak of the drug war in Mexico and none of the small hotels that I was passing were open; there had been a spat of beheadings of local business owners. I had a choice to make, chance the drive with a truck loaded down with valuable supplies and food, or find a place off the road to sleep.

I found a sunflower field to hide the truck and myself in, and tried to get comfortable on the truck bench seat which also had a box of eggs on it. I had my rain jacket to keep me warm on that night, I alternated between waking up shivering and waking up paranoid at every odd sound—thinking that someone had found me and the truck, and were going to steal everything and kill me. That night, the temp dipped low enough that I woke up to frost on the windshield in the morning.

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Published:November 19, 2019

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