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Stories

I Punched a Bobcat

I’m not known for making reasonable life choices. That’s why nobody outside was at all shocked when I entered a small, weathered barn one autumn morning to manually evict a bobcat.

It all started as we sat around a pile of Fourth Meal wrappers, engaged in the sort of philosophical discussion that only occurs when a group of undergrads stays out too late. After the nth Nirvana reference and upon the realization that, for the first time since starting college, we were about to see a sunrise, we loaded up in my ’86 Chrysler Fifth Avenue—everyone entering through the passenger’s door, since it was the only one that worked—and drove out to one of the guy’s parents’ farm.

Everyone clambered out, blinking and stretching, then stood around looking at stuff since we clearly hadn’t planned this out. His parents were out of town or at work (I don’t remember which) so, after a long three minutes, we got bored and started wandering around, throwing rocks at trees and picked the conversation back up where we left it—somewhere between Pennyroyal Tea and Negative Creep.

In the distance, across a pasture, we spotted an old barn that, to quote my friend, “isn’t a barn; it’s a bobcat den.”

In retrospect, he probably meant that to dissuade us from venturing further but it had the opposite effect. We were suddenly awake and alert, excited to go peek through the cracked-wood walls in hopes of spotting the glowing eyes of such a ferocious predator.

Someone made a joke about taking it back to the dorms. Another about dropping it off in the math department offices. Then, after a few seconds of silence as we peered fruitlessly through cracks and gaps into the darkness, someone made the not-so-bright suggestion to go inside.

Whether it was courage, curiosity, stupidity, bravado, or some combination thereof, I spoke one of the dumbest phrases my mouth could have possibly released at that moment—“I’ll go.” With that, it was settled.

My “friends” took up posts around the barn, each straining to observe, as closely as possible from a safe distance, the carnage that we were all anticipating.

I opened the door and stepped in.

There was some sort of dust floating through shafts of light that slid through the wall-cracks, only partially blocked by the muttonheads gawking outside. I took a step, then another, then my eyes started to adjust. There was a broken-down riding mower, an old farm implement, some other debris… and a bobcat.

Just for clarification, when I said “I’ll go,” I, deep in my heart, knew there wasn’t a bobcat inside that barn. You live and learn.

Someone outside, peeking through the wall behind the bobcat, must have made a noise because, all of a sudden, that thing came straight at me. Mustering my deepest lack of intelligence, I made a fist and dropped my finest haymaker on that big cat’s ear. Then I screamed like a little girl and retreated all the way to the car.

We love you, just remember that.

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How to Keep Your Gadgets Charged While in the Backcountry

Between smartphones, GPS devices, tablets, mp3 players, GoPro cameras, and a variety of other high tech toys, today’s outdoor enthusiasts travels with more electronic gadgets than ever before. These lightweight – yet very powerful –  devices can provide a host of tools and functionality that can come in handy during our outdoor pursuits. But just like anything else that relies on a battery for power, they become useless when their charge runs out. With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how to keep your gadgets functioning while in the backcountry.

Battery Packs
Perhaps the simplest, and most convenient, way to keep your electronics working while traveling in a remote place is by carrying an extra battery pack. These devices feature built in lithium-ion batteries that can be fully charged at home prior to departure. That charge can later be transferred to a smartphone, camera, or other gadget as needed via built in USB ports on the battery pack itself. Generally lightweight, and durable, battery packs come in a variety of storage capacities.

Outdoor Tech’s very own Kodiak Powerbank is an excellent example of a battery pack designed specifically for use in the outdoors.

Solar
Over the past few years there have been some impressive advances made in the area of solar panel technology, and as a result, powering your gadgets from the sun is now a viable option. In fact, many expeditions to places like Everest and the Antarctic rely on solar technology to keep their devices working properly for days, or even weeks, on end. Modern solar panels are thin, lightweight, durable, and efficient, allowing you to charge your devices directly, or store the power they collect in a battery pack to be used later. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, a good solar panel just might be the best solution for powering electronics for extended periods of time off the grid.

Goal Zero makes some of the best solar power solutions in the industry today, including power packs that are capable of keeping a laptop charged.

Hydrogen Cells
While not as common as a battery pack or a solar panel, a hydrogen fuel cell system can be an efficient, environmentally friendly, way to charge your devices as well. This relatively new method of generating power uses a reaction created by combing hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity that can then be transferred to any electronic device. The benefits of this type of system is that they work much like a battery pack, but allow you to carry extra fuel cells that can keep generating power over a longer period of time.

Brunton’s Hydrogen Reactor is an example of this type of unique charging system.

Conserve Your Power
The final method for keeping your devices powered for longer periods of time in the backcountry is by intelligently conserving your power. For example, switching your device to “airplane mode” will shut down its WiFi and cellular radios, greatly reducing the amount of power it uses. You can also turn down the brightness on your screen, and turn the device off completely at night. Rechargeable batteries are also highly susceptible to cold temperatures, so keep the your gadgets warm at all times. This can help to greatly increase their lifespan.

With a little common sense, and attention to detail, your gadgets will continue to function for longer than you might expect, even when you’re miles away from the nearest outlet.

We love you, just remember that.

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