WON Landing Page OCT 2022

My Job … My Outdoors: Meet Jill Missal, 'Head Geargal' from Alaska

jillmissaltnThe WON welcomes Jill Missal, aka “Head Geargal” from Anchorage, Alaska, to its front page. Jill and company will be featured here with reviews from her website, http://geargals.net. We think you’ll like to sneak off our page and go cyber-north to Jill’s page every week, to take advantage of the reviews from our Alaskan outdoor sisters. Meanwhile, get to know Jill a little better in this installment of “My Job … My Outdoors.”

My Job

Like so many other outdoors-minded folks, I’ve made my lifestyle and my job into one. I had struggled to find women’s-specific technical clothing and gear for my outdoors pursuits, and as a survival instructor and search and rescue volunteer, it was critical that my gear function well. Frustrated with what I then perceived was the lack of good women’s gear, I founded Geargals, the mission of which is to increase women’s participation in outdoor activities by helping readers find the right gear. I soon found that the gear is out there – it’s just that it’s not found as easily! After all, magazines routinely do “all-gear” issues, with 90% of the content focused on men’s gear, and usually one small section in the back of the issue with a few token offerings for women. For Geargals, I look for technical women’s gear that really performs in extreme conditions, and my recreational and volunteer activities are a great arena for testing.

jill missalAs the Editor and “Head Geargal,” I can often be found skiing, biking, or climbing, all in the name of gear testing. Coming back into the office and writing up articles is fun, but nothing compares to taking the gear out and putting it through its paces. I’ve found some real gems this way, and I hope that Geargals is playing a part in reminding manufacturers and retailers that women need great gear too!

My Outdoors

The reason I live in an isolated state with a harsh environment is the easy access to all the fun things I like to do outdoors. Well, not ALL the fun things – I like to swim, surf, and snorkel, but those activities require a trip down south. Here in Alaska, I love to ski and mountain bike. There is great skiing and riding right out my back door.

The backcountry skiing in Alaska is phenomenal – short approaches and thousands of feet of vertical. There’s no reason to not be able to find untracked powder anytime you want it. It’s a whole different ball game from the crowds in other areas. I’ve never felt rushed to score an untracked line; there’s always more powder. Even during the shortest days of winter, it’s possible to get in several laps on peaks right by the city after work – and all the Peak Three skiers in Anchorage will know what I’m talking about!

If I get bored with that, I can grab my ice or rock climbing gear and head out for a different kind of vertical. Admittedly, the rock climbing here does not compare to the iconic climber’s havens down south, but there is some good rock here and there and there is always ice, year-round. Ice climbing on a glacier on a 70 degree summer day is so fun – getting back to ice climbing in the cold wintertime is always an adjustment. There are many peaks to climb, as well; whether simple walk-ups or technical climbs, it would be impossible to run out of routes or peaks.

Geargals.net also reviews doggie gear.

Geargals.net also reviews doggie gear.

Harvesting my own food is also a great aspect of life in Alaska. Here we call it “filling the freezer” for the winter – hunting, fishing, and picking berries ensures a year’s worth of good, organic, wild foods that keep me and my family healthy. It’s very satisfying to know that your food has only been handled by your family – and it’s fun too!

Even with all those options, my favorite way to decompress is to grab my bike and my dog and head off into the mountains to explore the trails. I’ve lived here most of my life and still find great trails I have never ridden. There are so many of them here that it’s hard to go wrong! Exploring by bike is a great way to access wild areas via human power. Every year I find another great cross-country bike trip. I would never be able to pick my favorite trail, there are too many.

  • About The WON

    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.


The Conversation

  • teebird says: December 2, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I would love to live this life for a few weeks! That’s probably all I could take of the cold weather. When it dips down into the 70s in Louisiana we usually pull out the winter coats =)

  • Deb Ferns says: December 2, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Jill, you’ve recruited me to visit Alaska! My camera supervisor and editor, Marilyn Vogel and I have decided to attend the 2010 Iditarod in early March 3rd. (Marilyn’s daughter Kathy has sled dogs in the musher team of Karen Ramstead.) Let me know where you are located and with any luck maybe we can meet up and you can help us find the right boots for Alaska – doubt they sell what we need in Tucson!