Gabriel Lacktman - Athlete Profiles

Continuing our Athlete Profile series, we are excited to feature design guru and advocate of big adventures, Gabe Lacktman of FOREVER OUTSIDE (Instagram: @foreveroutside).  When he's not coming up with some of the coolest looking outdoor gear, you can find him out hiking and climbing in sunny SoCal.  Let's see his thoughts on climbing competition, brands he admires, and who Taco is.

Introduce yourself!
Hey!  My name is Gabriel Lacktman and I'm the creative director of FOREVER OUTSIDE a direct-to-consumer portal for art, hand-made outdoor lifestyle accessories, and original adventure journals.

What sort of climb is your favorite?  Indoor/Outdoor, etc. 
I'm an avid hiker and backpacker, turned rabid climber over the last couple of years.  The fortunate weather in Southern California affords me to climb almost exclusively outdoors, all year round.  I enjoy all styles of climbing, but I'm less of a grade-chaser and more of an adventure climber.  I prefer long multi-pitch routes or alpine style rock climbing, but I have fun doing any and everything out there.

How has climbing changed you as a person (Attitude, lifestyle, etc)?

Climbing has really changed my life, it fulfills two desires of mine, human connection and thrill seeking.  I love the teamwork aspect of climbing, there is so much trust involved in the obvious but there is so much cooperation in all the systems as well.  There's a workflow that can be very complex, and successful operation with your partner is a very satisfying accomplishment. I come from a rich history with skateboarding.  I was a street skater for decades but eventually I reached an age where the rewards couldn't outweigh the risks.  My body couldn't keep up the activity involved in jumping down staircases and eating pavement.  Rock climbing has really filled that adrenaline void in me.

Background:  How did you get in to design?  Do you have an academic background in design in general?   What are brands you admire? 
I've always been into art, both my parents are artists, and I was fostered in a creative environment. In the late 80's / early 90's I was infatuated with technology and computers, particularly the Apple IIgs and the Deluxe Paint application.  I began using the computer as my drawing medium.  I sort of blindly pursued this combined interest of fine art and computers through high school, at this time Adobe Photoshop 2.0 was in circulation and I trained myself.  Eventually I learned about Graphic Design, which I pictured the closest mixture of art + technology, and I never looked back.  I got my B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and then moved right afterwards to Los Angeles to start my career.

After eventually settling in the world of apparel and with nearly a decade of professional t-shirt graphic experience, I am always looking at the market and following the trends, it's sort of my job.  I visit sites like Hypebeast daily to see what's sparking.  Personally I still have a soft spot for streetwear and I'm liking this evolution of it into the outdoor world.  I'm interested in how brands like Element is evolving and I like seeing Poler Stuff and Hippy Tree grow their business. Parks Project is a new company I am designing for and I love their story and purpose. However I think most inspiration comes from extrapolation, it can be completely random.  I think the best ideas are sparked not from a deviation on something existing, but from an accidental connection.

Sport in general: What gets you excited about climbing? What sort of problems do you like to work?
I get excited about two things, one is climbing in a new place.  When I started climbing, my mentor Sam took me to a new crag almost every time for several months.  I never knew how blessed that was until I was deeper in the sport and realized how much we are creatures of habit.  I'm never intimidated to show up somewhere I've never been and try and figure out how it goes down. I have favorite places, but I'm happy having a "one and done" attitude on most routes.  The second thing that gets me pumped is my summit fever,  I acknowledge it's kind of an unhealthy thing, but it's real to me.  I'm into more simple mountaineering, and yeah the journey is the treat, but I want to sign those registries! I'm not crazy about starting projects, I like to go for it and move on.  Get it down and tick it off, or fail and let it go to the wayside.
Where do you see the sport moving in the next five years?
I don't know if I'm the most qualified to answer this, but what fascinates me thinking about it, is the technology of the gear.  I love watching old documentaries of the hard men doing ascents in boots and without protection. I'm a total gear junkie and now there's like 9 pairs of shoes for every type of climb, crack gloves, huge crash pads, technical chalk bags, ultralight cams, magnet-locking carabiners...  maybe these things will be an advantage to push the limits of what's possible?  Or perhaps they're just more marketing to keep the public consuming?  It's interesting!

What projects have you been dreaming about? Any future travel plans?
I always dream about being bolder.  I wish I started climbing when I was more fearless and had less consequence.  I am more calculated these days.  It's not a disadvantage, it's an observation.  We often want to be something we're not. I wouldn't change anything because I have a blast doing what I'm doing, but yeah I can dream of doing the second ascent of Meru, ha! 

Realistically though, I have some exciting plans this year, I'm aiming to summit all the mountains in California over 14,000' with my sites on 7 to 8 of them this Summer. Five of which I will tag doing the "Palisade Peak Traverse" or more accurately known as the "Thunderbolt to Sil Traverse."

Travel-wise I've heading to Oregon to reunite with Sam and send the Monkey Face at Smith Rock.  I've never been, so I thought what a perfect ice breaker to atop that icon for my first climb at Smith.

Who are your favorite climbers right now? What is it about their style that gets you pumped?
I don't follow the scene too much, so my answers are probably pretty generic.  I loved seeing Tommy Caldwell in Reel Rock 10, doing the Fitz Traverse and Dawn Wall in the same year, that was incredible.  Alex Honnold also came off as way funnier and down to Earth than I sort of expected and that impressed me too.  Peter Croft, James Bridwell, John Long, I mean I don't know if these guys even climb anymore!?!  They inspire me, they stand for something.  One of my favorite climber's is my buddy Taco, he really just embodies the spirit of climbing.  He isn't jaded over the superficiality of any of it.  He climbs in a pure form, doing first ascents and sharing what he's learned.  He often heads off the beaten path, truly to explore, and it's kind of a thankless offering to document it for others.  Many people really pursue climbing partners who go harder then themselves so they can progress, and it can often be challenging to find a mentor. I don't think Taco's ever been shy to assist other climber's, and that's commendably generous and genuine of him.

Are you interested in competition?
I'm sort of the opposite dude.  I totally get it and respect it, especially if you're brilliant and competitive, but I'm more attracted to the rebellious side of it all.  The unorganized, wayyyy out there, doing what most people wouldn't do for reasons even we can hardly understand.  The only competition I have is with my own psyche.  What is risk vs. perceived risk vs. calculated risk.

What do you think about the current state of competitive climbing? Do feel like anything is lacking, and if so, what would you like to see happening?

The only thing I can chime in, is that I'm not against it going to the Olympics, and I loved watching a rock climber win American Ninja Warrior.  I love watching a good competition, I love watching the Metolious Dyno Comps at the Red Rock Rendezvous, but I'm just not that guy.  I get into things like art and skateboarding and hiking and climbing because they're not competitive in their nature.  I remember when the X-Games got huge and then the Mountain Dew Tour thing...  skater's rolled their eyes in disgust at first, it was like a weird selling out thing. I was never into organized sports, or organization in general. Now years later, it's a mainstay and my opinion has evolved.  If you're the best at what you do, be it climbing or tennis or pottery, you SHOULD make money doing it.  Why not?  Do what you love and let the money follow. 
Doing Work: What sort of training do you do? What are the benefits? What forms of cross training do you engage in?
My training is a little more unusual, I weight train chest and arms a couple times a week but I also focus a fair amount of time doing martial arts.  I train Kenpo Karate which is a good mix of strength and cardio.  Many of the stances require a very low center of gravity and build great leg muscle. We spar and hit bags, do deep stretching and HIIT training, it's exercise that keeps me engaged in the activity.

How do you see that work translated on the wall?
It's coincidentally working out really well, when you reach higher belts of training, you begin to focus less on the physical and more on the mental aspects of fighting, from there we begin to train our spirit.  We work tirelessly on creating the proper cause level for combat. Hurting someone isn't hard, just tap your fist on someones' nose and their eyes water up.  However, sincerely generating the intention to hurt, maim or even kill someone is difficult, if not impossible.  What the heck am I digressing about?  Recently I was reading the "Rock Warrior's Way" which is a great book.  I was alarmed how much of the context paralleled that ideals of REAL warriors, those who go to battle and into war.  Training your mind and spirit to confront fear and overcome your limitations, to me, is the hardest part of rock climbing. Martial Arts helps be gain "willingness" to enter my battles.  That probably sounded strange, maybe just read the book!

What skills/moves do you see lacking in beginning climbers and what can they do to get better?
I'm deeply connected with the Sierra Club, I'm a wilderness outings leader and instructor.  The Sierra Club was a foot in the door to meet climbers and partners and expand my network.  That being said, the theme of safety is always our emphasis.  Some people might even find it "annoying" like an over-protective parent.  For me, I think it's key.  The inherent risk in climbing is obvious, why be lackadaisical about it?  I cringe seeing new climbers that are more balls than brains.  Learn the systems, practice them, create good habits.  It's never good for the climbing community or their loved ones to read publicized accidents that might have been preventable with a helmet or a few more seconds to examine your set up.  Climb safe!
Thanks again to Gabriel for the inspiration!  Be sure to check out his brand and pick up some outdoor gear at