When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Along

Anyone can get along in the wilderness when it’s 75 degrees, sunny, your Bluetooth speaker is kicking out the jams, and there’s a great swimming hole. It’s a different story on the third day of cold driving rain, or when you have to cover long miles in rough weather.

Experienced wilderness travelers talk about something vaguely called “expedition dynamics.” NOLS calls it ”Expedition Behavior”: a set of practices that keep a group cohesive. Here are my tips to keeping groups operating smoothly through rain, snow, sleet, long miles, bugs, and other adversity.

Group Comes First
Strong groups are more than a collection of individuals. To prosper through the warp and weft of a hard journey, groups need to have a clear goal and group members must be wiling to make the group’s goals their priority.

Personal Goals
That doesn’t mean that individuals won’t have their own goals—from seeing a particular part of the world to climbing peaks or surfing waves on a remote beach. It just means that they’re secondary. If individual members get too much summit fever, group dynamics tend to fall apart.

Take Care of Yourself
Each member must also take care of their own needs. If people get dehydrated, exhausted, or injured, the margin of safety shrinks and the group’s goals are more likely to be out of reach.

Everyone’s Responsible for Assessment
Assessing risk in the outdoors is a complex judgment process. While there’s a tendency to defer to experience, the reality is that everyone in the group will be running that rapid or traversing that ridge. Self-assessing one’s own abilities is even harder than evaluating external risk, so everyone should develop their judgment.

Expertise
That doesn’t mean that the most experienced members of a group don’t hold sway. They may overrule the group consensus based on their experience. There should be redundancy in critical skills like route-finding: any group reliant on one person’s ability is at risk.

Help Others, But Don’t Do Their Work For Them
Everyone will have responsibilities, and there will be times when someone needs a hand.  The whole purpose of operating in a group is to be able to support each other when needed and to allow the group to achieve what individuals can’t. Helping out, however, is not an invitation to slack off.

Personalities Meet in the Middle
When you’ll be crammed together in stressful situations, moderating personalities helps the group endure challenges without getting on each others’ nerves. The manic or deeply introverted personalities that work fine or can be funny when everything is going well can become grating when times get tough. A moderate combination of placid calm and positive energy, will help the group weather rough seas and endure over time.

Conserve Energy
On an expedition, you never know when you’ll need a reserve of energy: a midnight storm or a late night setting up camp. Keep some fuel left in the tank.

Expect Everyone to Mess Up….Including You
High-altitude mountaineers operate under the assumption that due to the combination of oxygen deprivation, fatigue, and summit fever, everyone will make both physical and mental mistakes. Even if you’re not in the 8000-meter zone, double-checking ropes, compass bearings, and other critical functions is a good practice. Once a group accepts that it’s operating in a challenging environment under stress, this redundancy will feel less like an implication of incompetence and more like a basic pre-flight check.

Have Fun
This list doesn’t mean that expeditions are all work and no play. It’s just a different kind of fun in some of the wildest places in the world.

We love you, just remember that.

8 Reasons to Become a Nautical Chart Nerd

Neophytes call them “maps”. But any old salt can tell you a nautical chart is a different beast entirely. For starters, they’re huge, and covered with lots of weird symbols numbers.  No, those aren’t the secret messages from the Illuminati for people who have read too many Dan Brown books.  But those symbols mean stuff, and once you understand them you’ll never look at a body of water in the same way. Here’s why you should become a nautical chart nerd.

When I started hiking and mountaineering, I learned to read topographic maps, so I could navigate off-trail and learn to read the contours of the land to find good routes.  When I started coastal sea kayaking, I needed to do the same thing: find good routes and landing spots through offshore rocks, coastal swell, and current. Unlike the land, the sea is always moving. The chart is the key to the mystery of how it moves.

The Top and the Bottom
Most of those symbols on a nautical chart describe the bottom of sea or river you’re in.  They describe the depth, rocks lurking just below the surface, and channels that dry to mud when the tide is out.  The shape of the bottom of the sea controls the surface behaves. Gentle wells turn into breaking waves when they hits shallows areas.  Wind across deep water will cause ripples, but creates rough water when it pushes water across shallow subsurface rocks, Understanding the bottom helps you stay safe on the top of the sea.

Find the Nozzles
Nautical charts help you predict the water will do really strange things.  Tide changes generate currents, and these currents will accelerate through narrow passages, form swirling eddies around headlands, and create surf waves where they pour over rock shelves.  At its worst, you can end up fighting a strong current or swept into a bad spot. At it’s best, you can get a free ride and find great spots to play.

1571 nautical chart from Portuguese cartographer Fernão Vaz Dourado

1571 nautical chart from Portuguese cartographer Fernão Vaz Dourado

Don’t Get Squashed
Nautical charts aren’t just topo maps of the sea. They’re also a road map. Giant ships ply our waterways. If you’re a kayak, sailboat, dingy, or anything smaller than an oil tanker, you don’t want to play in the middle of the interstate. Learn where the shipping channels are, and look both ways before you cross the street.

Fog
When fog rolls you’ll suddenly find yourself traveling blind. The ability to read a chart here becomes critical. Knowing directions, reading landmarks from quick glimpses through the pea soup, and knowing how to navigate by compass will keep you off the rocks.

Fish
My friend Jason, a kayak-fishing expert, always stresses that his most important piece of fishing gear is a nautical chart. It shows him the undersea rocks where fish gather, and how deep they are.  There’s no point in dropping your lure twelve feet when the rock is twenty feet down.

Impress Your Friends
When the conditions get wacky, chart reading quickly goes from nerdiness to wisdom.  I’ve helped groups find an offshore island in the fog, guided them through tiny passages protected from big ocean swell, and anticipated tidal rapids where none were marked.

It’s way cooler than GPS
On one long fogbound crossing off the west coast of British Columbia, I challenged a friend of mine with a GPS to see who could plot a more accurate course to an offshore island. We landed right next to each other. And a nautical chart won’t run out of batteries or short out when you accidentally drop it in the drink.

They’re Free
The government would rather not have to come get you in a bright orange Coast Guard helicopter. As a result, American charts are fee online. Now you can nerd out to your heart’s content for free. You can also download Chart #1, which tells you what all those funky symbols mean.

We love you, just remember that.

6 of the World’s Best Snow Festivals

Picture yourself somewhere snowy—very, very snowy. There’s tons of terrain to shred and plenty of fellow snow sport enthusiasts to swap stories with. But it’s not all about the on-mountain action: there are concerts, films, and, of course, plenty of parties, too. Pack your portable power bank and get out of here!

The World Ski and Snowboard Festival
Let’s start the festival of all festivals: Whistler, British Columbia’s World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF). Whistler is known for some big mountain skiing and snowboarding, so it only makes sense that the festival is known for being larger than life.

Taking place every April, WSSF strikes the perfect balance between those last few powder days and some epic spring skiing. The conditions are usually perfect for the athletes competing, and they’re just as good for spectators watching on a nearby patio.

Aside from the skiing, snowboarding, and partying, there’s a cultural side to WSSF that you don’t want to miss out on. Events throughout the festival include an action sports photography competition, a time-limited ski film contest, and plenty more.

The Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Festival
Time for another BC-based festival: the Coldsmoke Powder Festival takes place in February at the Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, BC—the powder mecca of the Kootenays. The Coldsmoke Powder festival features the usual athletic competitions, but also plenty of clinics and demos – expect to get a lot out of the weekend. And don’t forget to catch the Coldsmoke Film Festival opener. Ski movies… mmm!

International Freeski Film Festival
The International Freeski Film Festival (iF3) in Montreal, Quebec involves more ski film watching than actual skiing, but satellite events as part of the iF3 film tour take place in ski towns like Le Massif, Innsbruck, and Whistler, so it makes sense to include it. The festival features ski and snowboard films long and short; some are made my pros, others are produced my amateurs. There are features, web specials, and even entire ski film series’. This ones a must for ski film lovers, and the after parties are legendary.

Snowboxx
Snowboxx is not your average music festival. Hosted in France’s Alpe D’Heuz, this is a huge party: ski the resort by day, check out the live music by night. Featuring open-air main stages, international DJ sets, and late nights out at the club, you won’t have any trouble getting your music fix. Just don’t party so hard that you miss out on the mountain fun, including Retro Olympics, mountain yoga, and the chance to ski the longest run in the world.

Altitude Festival
If you’re looking for an excuse to ski in Austria, this is it. The 2015 Altitude Festival takes place in Mayrhoffenn, Austria from March 23 to 27, and there’s definitely skiing, but the festival is centered around something different: comedy. Throughout the event, head to improv, stand up, and musical comedy shows that will knock your ski boots off. Comedy is officially the perfect apres.

Holmenkollen Ski Festival
If you fancy a different kind of ski festival, look no further than Norway’s Holmenkollen Ski Festival. It’s not a downhill skiing kind of event: the stars of the show are ski jumping and cross country skiing. This festival dates back to 1892 and is an awesome way to watch some of the world’s best athletes in their element.

And that, in short, is what goes down during the world’s best ski and snowboard festivals. If you’re a fan of sliding down the mountain on a plank or two, do yourself a favor: make a pilgrimage to one (or all!) of these festivals and celebrate the sport you just can’t get enough of.

We love you, just remember that.

Fruit Ninjas

Kayaking through the mangrove forest in Kho Lonta, Thailand seems peaceful—that is until you pull out your pineapple and a clan of monkey fruit ninjas attack! I don’t even want to know what would have happen if he would have thrown bananas.

We love you, just remember that.

Top Apps for Cyclists

OT_blog_image_appsicons

Smartphones are the perfect tool to track cyclist’s time, distance, speed and ride. No longer are mobile devices made solely for calling and texting, but are equipped with gps and ride-tracking devices that goes beyond the biker’s brain. Explore limitless riding opportunities with these top apps made specifically for the smartest of smartphones.

Map My Ride
Map My Ride originally released as a website for runners and bikers to map routes in their hometown. Now created as an app, this GPS system records and logs every short and long distance ride. Riders explore routes nearby and bookmarks favorite rides. Data such as time, speed, distance calorie expenditure and elevation are recorded. Available in various languages and costs $2.99.

Bike Repair
Roadside maintenance is stressful and nerve wrecking for those who have no knowledge on how to change a presta tube. Riders have no fear with the Bike Repair app. The app features 58 detailed guides, and 95 tips and tricks, on how to fix virtually almost every maintenance issue. The app shows steps, labels parts and displays images for the problem. App is available for $3.99.

First Aid for Cyclists
Cyclists pedaling the road less traveled benefit from first aide tips for when the unexpected happens. It is estimated that 19,000 cyclists are injured, or killed, while riding on the road. The app provides emergency and body-part specific care for head, muscles, bones and skin emergencies. The app is free.

Strava Cycling
Strava Cycling features a detailed GPS tracking system with the ability to upload and share rides with friends. Calculate cadence, heart rate, power and calorie expenditure as well as speed, distance and elevation. Follow friends and climb the leaderboard through personal goals, met records and winning challenges. The interactive tool shows which friends are currently riding or running. The app is $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year.

GPS Quick Location Share
When in need to quickly share your location, this app meets your needs. Riders can instantly share your location, or address, with friends, family and fellow riders. This is perfect for riders who are meeting halfway, or during an emergency situation. The gps coordinate location is sent via text message or email. This app is ideal for those who also hike and head outback to unknown locations.

We love you, just remember that.

7 Must Have Apps for Skiers

Skier in mountains, prepared piste and sunny day

Personal trainer. Educator. Weather forecaster.

These are just a few roles that your phone can take on with the help of some pretty nifty apps. For skiers and snowboarders, a regular smartphone can pack a whole lot of punch—not to mention, keep you entertained on the gondola ride up. Especially when you have some bluetooth helmet speakers.

Your cell phone will never replace things like personal experience or an avalanche course, but we’ve found that these apps can enhance your skiing and snowboarding experience in a major way. Here are a few apps that are well worth the download.

Mountain Athletics
If you’ve got a few square feet of space and a set of dumbbells, you’re ready to embark on the 40 day dryland training programs outlined in the Mountain Athletics app.

Developed by The North Face, this app lets you pick your mountain-related fitness goal (resort skiing or backcountry skiing, for instance) and provides you with a daily training plan. The workouts pack a lot of punch and are incredibly easy to follow, with the help of videos and self-timers. Give it a download, and you’ll be quadzilla in no time.

Red Cross First Aid
When you’re in the middle of a medical emergency, the last thing you want to do is panic. This app is an awesome tool to have on hand: it guides you, step-by-step, through some common first aid scenarios (like severe winter weather) to help get you back on track. In non-emergency scenarios, you can brush up on your safety and first aid skills through other features on the app.

PeakFinder
Impress your buddies with your knowledge of the local mountains with the PeakFinder app. Use the panorama feature to pick up the names of all the mountains surrounding you—the apps knows more than 250,000 peaks, so it’s probably got you covered.

Mammut Safety App
When it comes to avalanche safety, the more information you can get your hands on, the better. The Mammut Safety App offers some extra tools to help you make informed decisions on the mountain, including a clinometer, a compass, and an altimeter. It also provides updated links to avalanche bulletins around the world.

Ski Dice
Shake things up in the park—literally—with this ski dice app. Jostle your phone and the app will present you with a random trick to try. This is a good one if you find yourself doing the same old tricks over and over again, and will challenge you to become a stronger skier or snowboarder.

Ski Tracks
Are you one of those people who just has to know how fast they’re going, how many miles they’ve logged, and how much vertical they’ve skied? Ski Tracks was made for people like you: it uses GPS to track every run of the day, providing you with the stats you want and a handy map showing how much terrain you’ve tackled, among other features.

iTrailMap
If you’re hitting up a new resort, forget the paper maps they hand out at the info—that thing will be soaked and ripped in no time at all. Instead, download iTrailMap. As the name suggests, it’s got digital trail maps for more than 750 resorts worldwide, so you’ll know exactly where you are, what you’re skiing, and where to go next.

by Magee Walker

We love you, just remember that.

Tech Meets Goggles

goggle techOnce upon a time, skiers wore plain old sunglasses to keep the sun, snow, and wind out of their eyes.

Thankfully, ski goggle technology has come a long way since then. Companies are coming up with innovative ways to make their goggles better than ever before, whether that means making it easier to see in extremely tough conditions or building a mini computer into the lens, Google Glasses style.

If you are looking for something to go good with your wireless ski helmet speakers, here are a few of the ways that companies are taking ski goggles to the next level.

Oakley Prizm Lenses
Have you ever amped up the contrast in an Instagram photo and found that it looked way better? That’s kind of the idea behind Oakley’s Prizm technology, only it doesn’t just make your surroundings look prettier – it actually helps you see better.

You don’t know how much you aren’t seeing until you try a pair of these on. Depending on the weather conditions, you can switch between three lenses that will allow you to see every dip, bump, and shadow in fine detail.

The magic lies in the way light transmission is controlled through the lens: using color science, the lens filters your view to provide maximized contrast and enhanced visibility. These features are awesome for competitive skiers and backcountry enthusiasts alike.

Recon Snow2
Check out a pair of goggles with Recon’s Snow2 and you’ll notice something different: there’s a little web-cam looking device in the corner of the lens. This mini computer can provide you with a ton of info, requiring only a quick glance on your end.

For starters, it’ll give you the lowdown on your performance: your speed, vertical descent, distance logged, airtime, etc. You can also connect it to a heart rate monitor to track that, too. Sync it to your smartphone and you can scroll through texts and e-mails while you’re waiting on the chairlift.

You can find Recon’s Snow2 technology in Oakley’s Airwave 1.5, its first model with new partner Garmin.

Smith Optics’ Turbo Fan
Goggles are supposed to help you see – so when they fog up, it can be extremely frustrating. When it comes to anti-fog technology, Smith Optics has always been ahead of the curve. Arguably, their most creative innovation is the Turbo Fan: there are actually tiny micro-electronic fans inside the goggle. The fans help keep air circulating through the goggles, keeping moisture at bay. You can choose to run the fans on a continuous low setting, or to use the high setting to clear things up quickly after a particularly sweaty run.

Interchangeable Lenses
Sometimes, the best innovations are the simplest. Interchangeable lenses are the perfect example: switching out lenses to match the conditions just makes sense.

Plenty of companies have jumped on board the interchangeable lens train, including Dragon, Electric, Oakley, and Smith. Each has their own little particularities, namely the ease of which you can switch between lenses. Smith’s I/O series are relatively easy to maneuver, but Oakley’s Airbrakes are foolproof: you can swap lenses even while wearing the puffiest of mittens.

Photochromic Lenses
Those hybrid reading glasses/sunglasses that changed tint, depending on the environment, were always a little dorky – but when it comes to technology, photochromic lenses suddenly make a lot of sense.

Instead of switching out lenses, photochromic lenses self-adjust in only a few seconds based on the present conditions. Both Smith and Julbo produce good photochromic lens options.

by Magee Walker

We love you, just remember that.

To Climb an Iceberg

Professional ice climbers Klemen Premrl and Aljaz Anderle ascend to the summit of an iceberg in Disko Bay Greenland. Their journey to the top is unpredictable, unstable, but worthwhile—so long as they don’t break the ice! They probably could have used some Chips for some relaxing music.

We love you, just remember that.

6 Situations Where The Kodiak Will Save Your Day

Most outdoor enthusiasts are more than happy to leave wireless connections behind when they head off the beaten track. But let’s face it, cellphones can feel like a good hedge against emergencies, even if you have to go some distance to get within a coverage zone. And should your camera batteries give out, or your camera goes AWOL, you can least use your smartphones to snap some crucial photos—like that Sasquatch print you encounter in the backcountry.

But smartphone batteries typically drain quickly in roaming mode or when you use one to shoot photos or video. The solution is to carry a high-capacity portable power bank, although many on the mark only charge a few types of devices.

That’s what makes the Kodiak, with its 6000 milliamp battery capacity and ability to charge all of your USB powered devices out in the field, an item to put on your Top 10 Essentials List.

Here are 6 pursuits where the Kodiak might not only be a day saver but a lifesaver:

Snowsports
Whether you’re off-piste down hilling or avalanche-zone free-heeling, or out in the backcountry on your cross-country skis or snowshoes, the Kodiak’s lightweight—a mere 9.4 ounces and the size of a deck of cards—makes it perfectly portable. It also features a tough, durable silicone wrap and IP-67 certification so you don’t have to worry if you drop your touring pack in a boulder field or your water bottle leaks all over it in your pack.

Kayaking
If the point of being on the water is to relax and enjoy the scenery, it makes sense to have all your ducks in order. That means keeping electronics in a dry bag, but also being prepared for a few splashes here and there. Whether you’re out paddling for a day or touring for a week, having a backup power pack wrapped in waterproof silicone available to power your emergency cellphone or your depth (fish) finder provides peace of mind.

Rockclimbg
Nirvana for rock climbers typically means places like Joshua Tree National Park and its high monzogranite walls. That’s exactly why road tripping and rock climbing tend to go hand in hand. The Kodiak’s fast 1.0 to 2.1 Amp output and IP-67 certified impact silicone wrap quickly juice up your tablet, phone, POV camera, e-reader, wireless headphones, GPS, or even your rechargeable flashlight. The power pack is also highly dustproof, something that’s downright indispensable in the desert.

Backpacking
A new nationwide 4G-LTE open wireless broadband network uniquely integrating satellite and terrestrial technology promises to not only revolutionize wireless communications in the United States, but also make it possible to make an emergency call from places like the exceedingly remote Tapeats Creek in the Grand Canyon. But you’ll still need a charged cellphone to make that happen. And while 9.4 ounces isn’t exactly ultralight, the Kodiak easily fits in your pack’s waist belt pockets or your coat’s napoleon pocket. And when you consider your options for a backup power supply when you’re far off the grid, along with the impact resistance of this power supply, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more reassuring.

Hiking
Hiking out to a cabin off the grid or to a fire lookout? The Kodiak provides a blazing fast charge to a smartphone or GPS unit, up to three times. It also features a push button battery level indicator that lights up to let you know how much juice you have left so you can carefully use or conserve as needed.

Mountain Biking
GoPro helmets cams are just plain fun. But GPS units are definitely indispensable when hurdling over a remote boulder garden, down technical single track or through a maze of fire roads way out in the sticks. Of course, so is a cellphone—especially for those surprise endos that require emergency transport out of the backcountry. Rugged, water-resistant, dustproof and, well, Bigfoot proof, the Kodiak could literally save your face and your butt.

We love you, just remember that.

Get in the Groove: Finding the Right Headphones For Your Active Life

No matter what sport you enjoy—save for backpacking, alpine climbing, and hiking, perhaps—a soundtrack can help improve your performance and keeping you going mentally and physically long after your body is ready throw in the towel.

But if you want to listen to music while working out or enjoying high-impact endurance sports, you’ll need headphones that are easy and comfortable to wear, offer a secure fit, and are resistance to dust, sweat, grime, and searing or freezing temperatures.

The more action-packed the sport, the more ergonomic, seamless and secure the fit you need. Few headphones meet these needs like earbuds, tethering your headphones securely to your head, and locking them into place without putting undue pressure on the ear canal. Outdoor Tech has you covered for all these issues, including headphones that seamlessly integrate into audio-ready sport helmets.

Here are 10 things to consider when buying headphones for active pursuits:

Awesome Technology, Minimal Design, Easy to Use
Look for headphones with a low-fuss design and a simple interface. They should also come with a secure cord you can wear around your neck when you’re not using them.

Hands Free Hi-Fi Sound
Wireless headphones connect to Bluetooth-enabled devices; look for headphone with easy one-touch pairing that let you listen to music, skip tracks and control volume without ever touching your device. When choosing wireless earbuds, look for headphones that deliver rich, crystal clean sound with 8mm drivers and at least 30 feet of reach. Advance sound enhancements to keep an ear out for include apt X and AAC.

Wireless Connectivity
The best wireless headphones let you reconnect automatically to previously paired devices.

Bluetooth Connectivity
Headphones with an Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) offer high-quality stereo sound streaming. Those with an Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVCRP) let you remotely control track (next/previous track) selection, pause/play and volume.

Wireless + External controls
Having both wireless connectivity and external controls provides even greater flexibility. Look for three-button inline controls that easily let you adjust volume, change tracks, pause/play and control calls effortlessly while on the move.

Batteries
Look for lithium-ion powered headphones. Lithium-ion batteries’ greater energy density means you can operate them longer between charges. They also have a much lower rate of self-discharge than other rechargeable cells such as Ni-Cad and NiMH. Also, you never need to prime a lithium-ion battery before its first charge, or do any maintenance on them, unlike Ni-Cad cells, which require a periodic discharge to ensure that they don’t hold a short charge “memory.” The best headphones have rechargeable lithium-ion batteries offering up to 6 hours of playtime and at least 120 hours of standby time on a single charge.

Built-in microphone
Multi-tasking headphones give you the option of listening to music as well letting you receive hands-free calls from anywhere, any time.

Surround Sound
Earbuds that offer ambient noise-enhancing features are critical for skateboarders, cyclists and runners. You should be able to safely hear sounds in your surrounding environment while enjoying your playlist.

Security
For high-impact sports, look for earbuds with removable over-the-ear clips paired with custom-sizable ear pads/cushions for extra secure staying power. Having the option of removing ear hooks and just having a bud in your ear are also indispenisable features.

Waterproof, Sweatproof
If your pursuits take you in or anywhere around water (like running in the rain or stand-up paddling), look for silicone-wrapped waterproof headphones that provide quality sound even when submerged, as well as the ability to adjust them easily for sound level and track changes.

Audio-ready, Hardwired, Cold Play
If you have an audio-ready liner in your ski or snow helmet, and would rather hit the slopes with a mp3 player or hardwired smartphone, look for hardwired headphones that seamlessly integrate with your helmet liner to allow you to control music tracks, play/pause, or activates voice command via one glove-friendly button, and also keep in you in the groove for as long as you or your battery holds up. You’ll also to look for headphones that stay functional down to -20°C/-4°F so you never have to worry about frozen button syndrome.

 

We love you, just remember that.