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Kim Havell

There are different ways to explore. For our team, as we began planning a ski expedition to the Wrangell St. Elias/Kluane Park region of the Yukon, Canada, we decided to add more levels of adventure beyond that of the standard routine of arriving, climbing and skiing one peak, and flying back out. Our trip incorporated a greater level of expedition experience. Though it would involve more suffering and more logistics, we finalized a plan to climb, ski, traverse, and explore as much of the area as possible. Choosing to go in mid-April meant colder temps but safer movement in the [...]

Lisa Edlund

Nothing quite compares to the experience of heading off into nature with a pack on your back that contains just the essentials. But picking that backpack for your adventure can be anything but simple. There is a wide range of pack options out there, making it daunting for beginners and experienced backpackers alike. The first step is to determine what size (capacity) pack you need. Another way to think of it is, how much are you willing to leave behind? This will vary based on activity (will you be doing something gear-intensive, like climbing or fishing?), length of trip (days), the [...]

Lexi D.

Whether it’s in the form of a lightweight baselayer or stylish pea coat, you really can’t go wrong with wool. It has been around for centuries—millennia, even—yet it continues to outperform many of today’s high-tech synthetics. But before we get into why wool is so amazing, banish from your mind the image of scratchy sweaters that exude the essence wet sheep upon first contact with snow or drizzle. That’s not the kind of wool we’re talking about here. We’re concerned with merino wool—also known as nature’s miracle fiber—but lambswool and high-quality wool blends are worth a mention, too. What makes [...]

Pace Measom

Romance in the wild is a bit of two-edged sword. It’s true that wilderness has a certain romantic charm—think of a crackling campfire, a stunning sunset, and the cool evening breeze that encourages two love-struck souls to draw closer together. But it’s equally true that camping presents would-be romantics with certain challenges—think of constricting mummy bags, rash-inducing plants, biting insects, and camp meals that send your innards in a death spiral. As it turns out, there’s a lot of good gear that can help improve the not-so-romantic aspects of the campground. To put some of the best to the test, [...]

Pace Measom

Choosing your first pair of climbing shoes? Ready to upgrade? Brush up on profile shapes, asymmetric curvature, linings, and closure types to figure out which shoe is right for you. Profile Shape Climbing shoe profiles range from a flat position to an aggressive claw-like downturn, with many models falling somewhere in between. These differences reflect the style of climbing for which they are intended. From bouldering in the gym to freeing every pitch of a Yosemite big wall, the right pair of shoes can really make a difference. Flat Profile Shape A flatter profile shape allows your foot to rest [...]

Jared Downs

I have not only been climbing for years, but have also built ziplines around the country—so I understand the importance of safety, to say the least. Wearing a helmet is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself before you even tie into the rope. I wouldn’t consider climbing without a helmet, in this case the Black Diamond Vapor Helmet. Climbing can be one of the most rewarding experiences out there. Obviously, there are inherent risks and as climbers we should take every measure to reduce them. You not only wear a helmet for single pitches at the crag but [...]

Andrew Bisharat

Climbing tastes are as subjective and whimsical as tastes in love, poetry, and music, so to say that there are five best routes—of any style—is completely ridiculous. Still, I would argue that there’s a set of values that contribute to a climb’s overall quality. Those values are: Position: Where the climb is located. Is it set amid a pristine wilderness, a humid jungle, or next to a major highway? Exposure: How much air you “feel” beneath you? Quality of rock: Are you grabbing iron-hard rock, or are you ripping choss holds off the wall every third move? History: Was the [...]

Garson Fields

Buying a new mountain bike can feel like a daunting task, whether you’re buying your first mountain bike ever or your first one in a while. Between the sport’s state of constant change, the staggering amount of information, and the huge array of choices, it’s hard to know where to start looking. If you’re feeling lost, consider these seven guidelines a starting point to making an informed choice about your next mountain bike. 1. Know Where You’re Riding Your local terrain, style of trails, and riding ambitions are key points in narrowing down your choices. The forgiveness of a 150mm [...]

Jared Downs

Climbing is a great way to exercise or physically challenge yourself. I guarantee a day of sport climbing, which involves using pre-drilled and set expansion bolts for the primary means of protection, is just as tough as hitting the local gym. Aside from being physically demanding, it also pushes you mentally, both in problem-solving and getting over fears of falling. And inevitably, you are going to take a fall. Paul K. getting down (or up, rather) in the La Sportiva Testarossa climbing shoe Sport climbing is usually a stepping-stone into the world of traditional, or “trad,” climbing. For people who [...]

Kyle Livingston

We are all drawn the open trail, our gear on our back and map in hand searching for some solitude next to a campfire far beyond the lights of the city. When you decide to leave the campground behind and make the leap to the backcountry, there is a lot to consider. My first backpack was a hand-me-down Gregory and it took me years to accumulate the necessary gear to support me in the wilderness as a bona-fide backpacker. Loading up your pack, leaving the car far behind, and carrying everything you need on your back combine to raise the [...]

Ben Rabinowitz

Bouldering is a great introduction to climbing—it’s social, low to the ground, and presents both mental and physical challenges. So what exactly is bouldering? It’s literally climbing on boulders or other outcroppings, generally around ten feet in height. It’s climbing at its simplest form, without the fuss of gear or ropes or anchors to deal with. It’s easy to socialize in between “problems” (the term for boulder routes) and the problems themselves can be lots of fun to figure out. Having the right gear will ensure your first bouldering experience is a gateway to a lifelong love of climbing, adventure, [...]

Pace Measom

The remote northern end of the Great Salt Lake in Utah is a stark, otherworldly place. Microbes imbue the water with a rusty red color that’s reminiscent of Mars. Delicate salt crystals grow on black basalt rocks spewed from ancient volcanoes. Signs of life are scarce. Extending from the shore near Rozel Point is a jetty made of black basalt boulders. It’s 15 feet wide and 1500 feet long, snaking outward and bending counterclockwise in great cosmic spiral. This is Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Smithson helped pioneer the concept of creating earthwork sculptures on a monumental scale, outside the confines [...]

Emma Garrard

It’s been almost two and a half years since I became a mom and there are still moments when I find myself thinking, ‘Wait, when did I become a parent?’ Yet at the same time being co-owner of a toddler is now a huge part of my life and identity. Returning to the activities that define and bring me joy was not simple, but was an exciting and challenging journey from athlete to mom-athlete with a lot to learn. No new parents like unsolicited advice directly, but here are my top ten tips from my experience returning to life as [...]

Ben Rabinowitz

There are many different types of tents out there, and choosing the right one will ensure a better camping experience. A tent, after all, is quite literally your “home away from home.” In this article I’ll walk you through the different constructions, sizes, weights, and features. I’ll also go into some alternatives. While each adventurer has his or her own specific needs, a double-wall, three-season, freestanding tent will work well for most situations. Singles or Doubles? The first (and probably easiest) question to answer is whether to purchase a single-wall or double-wall tent. When most people imagine a tent, they [...]

Jared Downs

No matter what your sport or activity, a headlamp is a critical piece of gear for your kit. Not just any headlamp will do; headlamp capabilities vary greatly, and you want to be sure to select the proper headlamp for your use. For example, I do my best to get out trad climbing on a regular basis, and occasionally I run into dusk. Last summer I found myself on the fourth pitch of a multi-pitch climb, here in the Wasatch called “Eleventh Hour.” Getting a late start and finishing the fourth and final pitch after midnight in complete darkness made [...]

Andrew Bisharat

If you’re going to be a rock climber, you don’t necessarily need to know how to tie your shoes (as long as you wear Velcro slippers), but there are seven essential knots you’ll want to know. There are dozens of knots that might be worth learning as a climber, but for the most part, you can get up and down any climb on Earth with just these basic, essential knots—The Figure-8 Retraced, Girth Hitch, Clove Hitch, Munter Hitch, Double Fisherman’s, Prusik and Euro Death Knot. Know them, learn them, and practice them until you can tie them in your sleep. [...]

Jessica Hamel

Haunted by a past filled with violence, Colombia is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to exploring in the outdoors. Just 10 years ago, Colombians didn’t feel safe in their own homes so you can’t blame them for not heading out into the isolation of the mountains for the sake of exploration. This has left the beautiful land rather undiscovered. Mix in the lack of information on the World Wide Web and that’s what you call an adventure, right? To be honest, Colombia wasn’t a thought-out trip planned and dreamt about for years. It was actually rather [...]

steph davis

With nearly two decades of hard free ascents, free solos, and mind-boggling BASE jumps under her belt, it’s clear that Backcountry athlete Steph Davis knows her stuff. The Backcountry video crew caught up with Steph for a day of world-class crack climbing and the chance to learn from a true master in Utah’s renowned Indian Creek. Learn from Steph as she explains the different types of climbing ropes and the situations that each rope is best suited for. The Basics: Static or Dynamic With ropes you basically have two options: static ropes and dynamic ropes. Dynamic ropes stretch. Static ropes [...]

Lexi D.

In the gentle rolling hills of Eastern Oregon, along the Umatilla River, you’ll find the old frontier town of Pendleton, Oregon. For over 100 years and through six generations of family ownership, the Pendleton Woolen Mill has cranked out beautiful woolen goods that reflect the culture and heritage of the American West. I received my first Pendleton blanket two birthdays ago, carefully tucked among clumps of newspaper in a modest cardboard box with scant trimmings. The box was big, with ‘Happy Birthday, Cowgirl’ scrawled in black ink across the lid; I had no inkling of what lay inside. Pulling out [...]

Curtis Jensen

Above photo by Ian Matteson Can a softshell replace your trusty hardshell in sustained rain or snowfall? Probably not. What softshells do best is keep you warm and dry while your heart rate is up in windy and/or damp weather.  What Is “Softshell”? “Softshell” is a class of knit or woven materials, made from polyester and nylon, used to make technical outdoor clothing that essentially bridges the gap between waterproof hardshell jackets and highly breathable fleece jackets. They’re more breathable (but less water and wind resistant), more flexible, and generally more durable than hardshell materials, and more protective than fleece. [...]

Jeff Catalano

Whitewater kayaking is an intense sport. It requires considerable skill, concentration and a solid understanding of the dynamics of water, not to mention a strong ability to control stress and fear. Despite paddling’s difficulty and inherent danger, after just a couple sessions in the water, or like me, simply watching kayaking movies, it’s easy to get hooked on this adrenaline-fueled sport. Whether you’ve been borrowing your buddy’s extra boat for years and already run Class V whitewater or you’re just getting ready to learn how to roll a boat, choosing a new kayak can be a daunting task with so [...]

Jeff Catalano

Once you decide to get into whitewater kayaking it’s time to start building your kit. There’s a considerable amount of kayak gear on the market and it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed when attempting to choose specific products. Following is a list of essentials and accessories you’ll need to have a great day and stay safe on the river. PFD & Helmet Your PFD (Personal Flotation Device) and helmet are the two most important accessories on the river. In the event of a swim, your PFD will help keep you above water. Rapids are very good at pulling objects, including [...]

Dan Gates

It’s an overcast day in June, the mayfly hatch is thick, and there is a ‘pig’ (really big fish) consistently rising 40 feet away. After a long, slow stalk you are finally in position to cast. All you have to do is place your fly in the perfect position to drift into the fish’s feeding lane. Too many false casts and the fish will scare; overshoot the cast and you’re going to ‘line’ the fish (spook it by having the line float over the fish before the fly). However, you’re not worried because you have just the right rod in [...]

Dan Gates

To the seasoned fly fisherman, there is no sound sweeter than the mechanical hum of a quality fly reel, especially when the drag sings under the strain of a big fish. Modern fly reels are more than just line holders. The correct reel will help balance the fly rod, perform smoothly, and most importantly, help you land that big fish. Following are some things to look for as you consider your next reel purchase: Weight/Size Like rods, reels are often rated by weight or size.  When looking for a new reel you will want to match the reel size to [...]

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