Meet Pillowthread, Trailspace's Reviewer of the Month

Congratulations to community member Pillowthread (aka Vincent Contreras). Vince's Killer Review of the Vargo Titanium BOT Bottle Pot was voted one of January's most helpful reviews by the Trailspace community. 

Congratulations, Vince! You win a goodie pack of gear from RockyProBar, Nature's Coffee Kettle, and Ibex and Trailspace for your most recent effort.*

Write your own helpful gear review and you could be next month's most helpful reviewer.

Meet Vince

A relaxing weekend on the Kannah Creek Trail with my buddy John, The Grand Mesa, Colorado
Vince (right, with the 'stache) and his buddy John on the Kannah Creek Trail, Grand Mesa, Colo.

How did you get started exploring outdoors? Any favorite stories, memories?

My appreciation for all things out-of doors has its roots in both my own hyperactive imagination and my mother’s stalwart insistence that I “go outside and play.”

I got bored very easily as a kid, and would often introspect and then draw the fantastical scenes I imagined…pretty stock kid stuff. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, would literally lock me out of the house on Saturdays and Sundays, telling me, “Come back when it's dark.”

I soon found out that if I was willing to pay enough attention, entire worlds surreal beyond my imagination could be found just outside my doorstep, if veeeeeeerrry tiny, sometimes-hard-to-find worlds.

One of my most memorable experiences as a young kid—type 2 fun, mind you—came during my first “long-distance” hike as a Scout. The walk, if I remember correctly, is a 21-mile route from a small town a ways outside Springfield, Illinois, to Springfield, Illinois. They called it the Lincoln Trail, and it whooped my 10-year-old butt.

A mostly wooded trail, with a bit of meadow and some road, I did it with a group of Scouts much older than me. They were doing it to meet the requirements of either more advanced ranks or merit badges; I had just received my Arrow of Light, and was just about brand new to the troop, excited to impress my new peers and take a hike longer than I could fathom. I can still remember about halfway through, apologizing to the Scoutmaster that I was swearing so much.

ackcountry snowshoeing trip near the Maroon Bells, Colorado
Vince snowshoeing by a 10th Mountain Division hut near the Maroon Bells, Colo.

What do you enjoy doing outdoors now?

I consider a good outdoor experience one that helps me to dissolve the distinction between subject and object. I suppose that in many ways “I” am not present when my body appears to instinctually halt when a certain breeze surrounds me on the trail.

I am not conscious of the things that happen when dodging trees on my snowboard. I do not get mad at myself when a sketchy foot placement pitches me off the rock roof for the thirteenth time, just as I do not get mad at the rock.

It sounds cliché, I know, but the experience is probably best termed spiritual or religious in the same way Meister Eckhart and D.T. Suzuki used the words.

What are your favorite outdoor sports?

Hmmm…is backpacking a sport? Have to think about that one a bit.

OK, favorites: climbing (things of all sorts), snowboarding/skiing, bushcraft/native skills techniques, adventure racing, and just general see-how-far-I-can-go-before-I-pass-out type masochism.

Why did you review the Vargo Titanium BOT Bottle Pot, which you did as a member of Trailspace's Review Corps?

Well, it was new to me, and I immediately appreciated it for reasons other than its novelty.

I enjoy creating things, and have an appreciation for things I see as well-realized examples of ideas. Even Ideas, you know? In the Platonic sense…this BOT thing has always had a corresponding Idea—heck, it’s been in my head (and all of our heads) since time immemorial—and only just now do I get to hold it in my hand! Out of the cave and into the light!

Vince putting in the hours at the Grand Junction Climbing Center, Colo.

What are your favorite pieces of outdoor equipment? Why?

Simple, multifunction, jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none type of stuff. I find I don’t own much highly specialized gear, except for where function dictates it. A lightweight, breathable windshirt is virtually indispensable for me, as is a thin beanie.

I don’t mind carrying heavier gear if I know it’ll save me what I call “fiddle factor,” and I don’t want to deal with the extra hassle of, say, staying with my stove every second of the way as it’s burning, or readjusting tensioners multiple times a night.

Then again, I find well-designed gear to be lightweight by nature. I suppose my most useful piece of gear is my Integral Designs SilWing: a smart, versatile, wind-shedding design, simple construction, and easily enough coverage to use without a bivy. I have a good memory of a weeklong, late-spring rainstorm in the mountains of West Virginia…soaked bags, collapsed tents, and shivering peers…and myself, perfectly dry and comfortable, making cocoa for those shivering under the shelter.

Tell us about your favorite outdoor spots.

I enjoy backpacking and climbing in the Shawnee Hills of southern Illinois probably more than any other place. Then again, I've been missing the Grand Junction sandstone quite a bit lately. Thankfully, I'm taking a trip of sorts over the next couple of months to do a bit of exploring around Colorado, California, and really just wherever the rock looks good.

Anything else you'd like to share with the Trailspace community?

Hike your own hike.


Great job, Vince!

*Besides Trailspace glory and appreciation, Vince gets a goodie pack with a Trailspace beanie, a Trailspace pint glass (for après-backcountry use), a Trailspace-Ibex Zepher Skull Cap; ProBar energy bars and wicking top, A Nature's Coffee Kettle sample, a Rocky SV2 Survival Grenade emergency survival kit, and Trailspace stickers.

Wondering how you can be as lucky as Vince? Write a great gear review of your own. Next month the Trailspace community will recognize another reviewer (who'll win prizes), and it could be you and your gear review.

Help recognize the best reviews on Trailspace by clicking that up arrow whenever you read a truly helpful review. You'll not only recognize good reviewers, you'll help highlight the best reviews of products for other members looking for outdoor equipment.

Filed under: Reviewer of the Month


Alicia MacLeay (Alicia)
848 reviewer rep
3,901 forum posts
February 8, 2013 at 8:41 a.m. (EST)

Congratulations, Vince! Thanks for being such a great contributor and member of the Trailspace community.

Now I have to ask, where does your username, pillowthread, come from?


1,500 reviewer rep
140 forum posts
February 8, 2013 at 12:38 p.m. (EST)


2,570 reviewer rep
1,407 forum posts
February 8, 2013 at 1:33 p.m. (EST)

Thank you!...I'm just trying to reach the high standards set around here!

Regarding the origin of my name, I encourage guesses...

2,170 reviewer rep
2,136 forum posts
February 8, 2013 at 6:58 p.m. (EST)

Congrats Vince!

Pillowthread guesses:

A.)  Maybe a reference to thread count such as is sometimes associated with Egyptian cotton; hence an allusion to quality?

B.)   Perhaps it is representative of a proclivity or bias towards internet forum discussion related to pillows and sleeping; a juxtaposition of succor?

C.)    Thread as in mechanical or screw thread, but where does the pillow come in to play on this one….hmmm.

D.)  Surely not pillow talk as in intimate discussion?

E.)   Or perhaps thread is synonymous with string and the string is taken from string theory so this really means you like to discus particle physics?

You must tell us!

1,663 reviewer rep
3,956 forum posts
February 10, 2013 at 7:50 a.m. (EST)

Way to go Vince!

How about a hint regarding the origin of your name?

1,711 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
February 10, 2013 at 9:56 a.m. (EST)

Vince, great job on the review man & congrats on the accolades. 

2,570 reviewer rep
1,407 forum posts
February 10, 2013 at 7:45 p.m. (EST)

Thanks again..."pillowthread" is a nonsense term I first used about a decade ago, as at the time I was looking to create a new email account...I remember people telling me that I had to think up a name that really fit my personality...that it was probably gonna be with me for a while, and to take my time with it...that it might take a while to chose a new moniker; that I might change my mind a few times before I settled...

Immediately, out of the unfathomable abyss that is my Buddha Nature, a shot rang out, "pillowthread" fell from my lips, and so it was. No pillows in sight, no prior pillow talk...I've since made "pillowthread" my online moniker for everything; I go by no other handle... I think it's kinda amazing, actually, that at every single junction where I join a new online community and it comes time to pick a name, "pillowthread" is always available...not one time have I ever had to choose something different.

It has since become my trail name, rules-be-damned...everyone that was there understands that I did not pick the name; "pillowthread" picked me. ("pillow" for short...)

0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts
February 10, 2013 at 8:20 p.m. (EST)

Another great review! Ive always wondered where your name came from, but was scared to ask.

Alicia MacLeay (Alicia)
848 reviewer rep
3,901 forum posts
February 11, 2013 at 7:49 a.m. (EST) was meant to be! I'm glad to know where it came from.

I was trying to come up with something about being the thread between people, conversations, and ideas, in a soft and gentle manner.

193 reviewer rep
74 forum posts
February 13, 2013 at 9:09 p.m. (EST)

Congrats man!

I would have guessed that you got stuck in a bad situation after your plane went down in the Yukon. And by pulling off some mad fat McGyver skills, you made it out by unstiching your pillow and pulling off a self rescue with only the thread. Then again some duct tape, a paper clip, and a rubberband would have helped out as well. Just kidding man. Great Job.

Cody Bartz
415 reviewer rep
3 forum posts
February 14, 2013 at 1:43 a.m. (EST)

Right on Vince! May I ask what type of sunglasses you are sporting in the top two photos?

2,570 reviewer rep
1,407 forum posts
February 16, 2013 at 2:13 a.m. (EST)

@ shenora: I suppose I'd need all that if I didn't always keep a few packs of Sugru on me...

@ Cody: Those are the Altice Eclipse frames; I got 'em from the masters themselves,

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