Q&A With Michael McLaughlin, Wilderness EMT

If there’s someone who knows the outdoors, it’s Michael McLaughlin. Currently based in Los Angeles, he is registered with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, serves as a wilderness emergency medical technician (EMT), and is President of Musa Masala, a nonprofit organization enhancing the experience of the outdoors for everyone, from first-time hikers to experienced climbers and trekkers. We talked to Michael about his passion for the outdoors and his recommendations for holiday gifts for all of the adventurers in your life.

Bite Away: Tell us about yourself and your organization.

Michael: My name is Michael McLaughlin and I am the co-founder of Musa Masala. We are a 501c nonprofit. We create educational materials and content to promote safe, healthy, and culturally aware mountain and outdoor travel. We started in Nepal in 2016. Our team is spread across the U.S., Nepal, and Ireland.

Bite Away: How did you become so passionate about spending time outdoors?

Michael: I grew up camping, hiking, and being outdoors. As I slowly age and fall apart, I find any chance to be outside is so beneficial to my health, both mental and physical.

Bite Away: What’s your favorite kind of outdoor adventure?

Michael: I really enjoy remote alpine climbing and mountaineering. 

Bite Away: What’s a smaller scale, more every day outdoor adventure you enjoy?

Michael: Locally, I enjoy trail running.

Bite Away: What are your favorite places to spend time outdoors around L.A.?

Michael: Around L.A., I love the Angeles Forest. It is so close and you can get into a real alpine environment in an hour! Mount Baldy, Mount Baden Powell, Mount San Gorgonio, are some local favorites. And Griffith Park in the middle of the city!

Bite Away: What are some barriers you’ve encountered to people spending and enjoying time outdoors?

Michael: One of the biggest barriers [to enjoying time outdoors] is not knowing where to go. I lived in L.A. for around a year before I went into the Angeles Forest. People also may not have a lot of knowledge about the outdoors and so they are less likely to explore. Now with COVID-19, many people are heading into our parks and forests and deserts for the first time. At Musa Masala, we are creating information for new adventure seekers on getting out there safely and staying healthy.

“One of the biggest barriers [to enjoying time outdoors] is not knowing where to go…Now, with COVID-19 many people are heading into our parks and forests and deserts for the first time. At Musa Masala, we are creating information for new adventure seekers on getting out there safely and staying healthy.”

Bite Away: Are you seeing more mosquito bites this year?

Michael: Actually, it seems so! We are getting all bit up around dusk. We have been using Bite Away as a quick fix to take away the itch from mosquito bites. It has provided a lot of relief. 

Bite Away: What’s your go-to breakfast and on-the-go snacks to power up for a hike?

Michael: My favorite snack experience was on a climb in the North Cascades. I brought nothing special with me, but at the airport I bought fruit, cheese, and a cracker box. In the mountains it was so delicious! Now there are many prepackaged fruit and cheese boxes that are perfect to fit in your pack for hiking and climbing. When we are in Nepal it is all about hot mango or lemon juice at local teahouses… it’s magic! And you always have dal bhat, a traditional lentil curry, to power you over the trails.

Bite Away: What’s on your wishlist for the holiday season?

Michael: In addition to Bite Aways for the mosquito magnet, outdoorsy loved ones in your life, our holiday wish list includes our Musa Masala holiday box! The box includes our illustrated book, Musa Masala: Mountain Girl of the Himalaya, a Musa Masala bandana, a Musa carrying bag, a sticker and a special holiday card. Book proceeds go to building the Wongchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital in Nepal. You can order it at our website, musamasala.com.

Musa Masala team at Tenzing Norgay statue in Namche Bazaar, Nepal.

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