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Backcountry Journal: All In on Lake Powell

Lake Powell is a bit of a paradox; it’s a crystal-clear ocean of bath water surrounded by an endless expanse of fiery red sandstone. But nature didn’t make it that way, and Glen Canyon Dam stands as a monolithic testament to what men can do with an infinite amount of concrete. I did get a melancholy vibe when I stopped playing and thought of the shaded canyon bottoms and Native American sites lost beneath the surface, but it’s hard to not be seduced by the place all the same. With 2,000 miles of coastline and nearly 100 side canyons, Powell is an opportunity for endless desert exploration. And even though the lake attracts several million visitors a year, it’s surprisingly easy to find yourself entirely alone, bobbing in a quiet canyon. As far as making family vacation memories goes, there’s no finer place to visit. So we all climbed aboard a cushy houseboat named the ALL IN, and we shoved off for a week on the water, equipped with everything needed for fun.

 Boardworks Shubu Wide Inflatable Stand-Up Paddleboard

Shubu Wide SUP

Made from military-grade rubber with an extra-wide deck, the Shubu Wide SUP is tough enough for rock-strewn rivers and stable enough for navigating choppy shoreline. That being said, our trip was focused more on relaxation than rapids, and the two Shubu boards we took with us were an absolute blast. Sure, they’re great for paddling, but we also used them as floating tanning beds, aquatic yoga mats, and even for portaging our crew across icy cold potholes in a slot canyon (pictured). Plus, you can deflate the boards for easy transport in the trunk or back seat of your car.

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 Hippy Tree Terrain Board Short

Hippy Tree Board Short

A new brand for the Backcountry family, Hippy Tree is committed to surf, stone, and pioneering “aimless wandering.” I like these guys already. Turns out they are also committed to using environmentally friendly fabrics and dialing in the perfect fit, and the Terrain Board Short is a great example. Made entirely from recycled polyester with a touch of spandex for stretch, the shorts have a gusseted crotch and no outseam for effortless movement—in the water or out. They’re perfect for wake surfing the endless wave behind the boat, climbing chossy sandstone over the water, or simply reading a book in the sun. The horizontal stripes even have a highly detailed topography print underneath that I spent way too much time looking at.

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 GoPro HERO3+

GoPro Hero 3+

Once upon a time, folks relied on a 8mm Kodak Brownie to capture family vacation memories. Now all you need to do is be a hero, so to speak. The latest edition of the GoPro is remarkably powerful for both video and photos. It goes under water, on land, snow, in the air, and it’s even been to the edge of outer space. It does ultra-high res, slow motion, time lapses, ultra-wide angles, can take 10 photos per second … the list goes on. Every time my sister showed me the images she was getting with it I was absolutely blown away. To top it off, it fits in your pocket and is practically idiot-proof.

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Smith Mastermind Sunglasses – Polarized Chromapop


Smith claims its Chromapop technology can make your brain recognize true color faster, resulting in brighter colors wherever you turn your gaze. Now, this sounds like a marketing trick akin to tennis shoes that are guaranteed to make a kid run faster and jump higher, but let me bear witness, it works exactly like they say it does—no joke. When you wear the Chromapop Mastermind, the water is bluer, the rocks redder, and the clouds are whiter; it’s like turning up the saturation and clarity in your photo-editing suite. If you don’t want your mother, sisters, and brother-in-law constantly bugging for a turn wearing your shades, you might not want a pair of these. Sure, the world’s largest natural stone arch (Rainbow Bridge) looks great with the naked eye—but it’s even greater with a pair of these puppies on. If you’d written off ever buying a pair of $200 sunglasses again like I had, think again—these are actually worth every penny.

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Sol Republic Deck Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Sol Republic Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Even though the houseboat was wired with enough speakers to make you think they were ornaments on a Christmas tree, we still found ourselves reaching for Sol Republic Bluetooth Speaker again and again. Despite its go-anywhere 4 x 7 -inch size, the volume and sound quality are surprisingly robust thanks to the internal R2 Sound Engines. We even put it to good use during the drive down for lack of an audio input cable. The Bluetooth connection will pair with your device from up to 300 feet away and it can pair with up to five devices at any time—so everyone on board got a chance to play DJ.

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Teva Original Flip Flop

Teva Original Flip Flops

If you were an outdoor loving kid in late ‘80s and early ‘90s like I was, there’s a good chance that a pair of Teva Originals will stir up the same memories for you as they did for me—a nostalgic blend of running through sprinklers, riding bikes, building forts, and the summer vacations that seemed to never end. The Original Flips are super simple, just like they should be. The Durabrasion rubber lent ample traction for exploring slot canyons and ancient Navajo stone dwellings, and the EVA footbed has a Microban treatment to keep the stink down. I chose a women’s pair because I liked the teal and purple color, but there are great colors for men as well. To be completely honest, these flips haven’t left my feet since I’ve been home from the trip. For the full throwback effect, check out the Teva Universals that give you the ultra-classic dual strap look, also available for men and women.

sunset on Lake Powell