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RETRO SHRED-A-THON: A MOUNTAINOUS SUCCESS

The High Fives Foundation Raised More Than $56,000 at Their 7th Annual Skiing Event

Outdoor Tech was immensely proud to sponsor the High Fives Foundation at their epic fundraiser dubbed “Retro Shred-A-Thon.” Now in its seventh year, the 2022 downhill ski event took place at Winter Park, CO. 

Highest amount raised in seven years

67 individuals comprising 11 teams met on the mountain to participate and vie for setting the record of the highest number of laps. This year’s record was 31 laps up and down the mountain. Now that’s a full day of skiing! And when the sun set, Shred-A-Thon had raised $56,256 for High Fives’ mission. It was the highest amount achieved in the last seven years.

Supporting adaptive athletes and veterans

High Fives’ mission is to help individuals, athletes and veterans who have sustained life-changing injuries. Founder Roy Tuscany created the organization in 2009 as a way of “paying-it-forward” after he suffered a spinal cord injury, dashing his hopes of becoming a world-class professional skier.

Since 2009, High Fives has distributed more than $6,000,000 to adaptive athletes and veterans for things like adaptive sports and medical equipment, living and injury expenses, healing networks and other helpful programs. The total funds raised by Shred-A-Thon events since 2016 is now more than $635,000.

Who’s ready for 2023?

Outdoor Tech congratulates High Fives on another unforgettable Shred-A-Thon, and invites everyone to participate when they hold their next one. Along with a full day of spring skiing in rad costumes, you’ll enjoy live music, amazing food and the opportunity to win great prizes from brands like Outdoor Tech, YETI, Eddie Bauer, Smith, GoPro, Phunkshun Wear, Yakima and more. Best of all, you’ll help people who need it. Hope to see you there!

Retro Shred 2022: the recap

Hot edit: Skiing in Japan

Everyone has their favorite shot or edit of themselves doing what they love best. Here’s what Andy Parry shared when we asked for his favorite skiing video:

“I really like the international trips we did with Traveling Circus. I have never flown overseas for any reason other than to film that. It was never really in the cards for my family to fly to Europe or Asia for a vacation, so anytime I get to do it for skiing it’s that more special.

This video was made in Japan. It’s the best place in the world.”


Earth Day 2022: Investing in Our Planet

The theme for Earth Day 2022 is “Invest in Our Planet.” As a brand, Outdoor Technology lives at the intersection of technology and nature—the same place where our customers live, work, and play. We have a special responsibility to invest in our planet through education, celebration, and making a difference.

A commitment to plastic-free packaging

That’s why we’re taking this day to share the investment we’re making as a company:

Outdoor Technology is committed to being fully plastic-free in all of our product packaging by the end of 2023. We’re proud that we’ve already achieved this with the packaging for Chips 3.0, one of our new products. Katy Petroff, our General Manager, says, “Rolling out sustainable packaging across all of our products is one of the best, most immediate investments we can make in our planet today.”

The packaging for Chips 3.0 is the first in our commitment to plastic-free packaging.

This is ongoing work. We’re ready for it.

We’re also going to be transparent: the hangtags on our packaging are recyclable plastic due to the strength needed to hold the product’s weight. We’re still looking for a strong, sustainable solution to meet our goals—and if you have a lead, drop us a line.

All of us—individuals and companies alike—share accountability to protect the planet. Join us in taking a closer look at what we can do today, so we can preserve the spaces where we love to go forth and play.  

Read more about Earth Day 2022 and the call for businesses to enable a sustainable future.

On Earth Day 2022, go forth and play.

5 Things to Love About Our New Bluetooth Speaker, Earbuds, and Headphones

There are a lot of new Bluetooth products from Outdoor Tech this year. So far, we’ve launched five new audio products (one speaker, two earbuds, and two headphones). That is quite a big feat for us (or any company) and I am proud of the Outdoor Tech team for getting it done. Here are some of my favorite features for each product, which might help you find the best one for yourself or someone else.

Adjustable Pivot Points on the Twin Peaks Speaker

What would happen if a Rubik’s Cube and a Turtle Shell speaker had a love child? The Twin Peaks Bluetooth speaker would happen, that’s what. We’ve never made a speaker like this: you can twist each speaker to direct the audio while changing the shape and form of the speaker itself. This makes the speaker fun and just plain cool. If you’re looking for something unique, the Twin Peaks Bluetooth speaker is for you.

Twin Peaks Bluetooth Speaker
The Twin Peaks Bluetooth Speaker

Minimal Style of the Pearls Bluetooth Earbuds

I love the Pearls Bluetooth earbuds because of their minimal aesthetic. The way the Pearls pop into your ear and stay put makes them ideal for when I’m watching YouTube on my phone. I’ve been on a pretty serious tool restoration watching binge for a while now. The kids know that when I’m in my chair with my Pearls in, I’m probably watching some guys make a rusted corn sheller from the 1890s look like new. (The YouTube account is Lost and Restored, by the way.)

Pearls Bluetooth Earbuds
Pearls Bluetooth Earbuds
Komodos Bluetooth Headphones

Easy to Use Controls on the Komodos Bluetooth Headphones

The large button surface area on the Komodos headphones makes them amazingly easy to control. What I like is that after using them a few times, I intuitively know where to push when I want to raise the volume or skip to the next song. It’s all about making things simple, intuitive, and not complicated with a clunky interface.

8 Hour Playtime on the Ravens

Have you ever had one of those workdays where it is just Zoom Meeting to Teams Meeting to a conference call and then back to Zoom? Yeah, I’ve been there too. The 8-hour playtime on the Ravens Bluetooth earbuds makes sure I can hear every word and chime in when I need to (they have a built-in microphone too). When I’m grinding through a heavy day of virtual meetings, the Ravens grind with me.

Ravens Bluetooth Earbuds

Active Noise Cancelling on the Sequoia Bluetooth Headphones

When it’s time to shut everything else out, The Sequoia headphones are my go-to whether I’m writing blog posts (like the Mothership Classic recap) or I need to crank through some emails. I switch on the Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) feature, play instrumental music, and get stuff done. I haven’t traveled recently with them yet but I know they will be on me when I do.

Sequoia Active Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headphones

Of course, there are other features that I find useful and think you would too. Check out the individual product pages for more details about our new speaker, earbuds, and headphones.

The 11th Annual Fat Ski-A-Thon is Here!

Where: Sugarbush Resort
When: March 6th, 2022

The High Fives Foundation regularly organizes a Ski-a-Thon event where participants, either as a team or an individual, raise funds for the non-profit and get rewarded with prizes depending on the number of completed laps and by how much you raise.

Outdoor Tech is happy to help sponsor this year’s event. It’s no secret that we are big fans of the High Fives Foundation and the amazing service they provide.

The 11th Annual FAT Ski-a-Thon takes place March 6, 2022, at Sugarbush Resort in Vermont sponsored by Vermont North Ski Shops. The FAT Ski-a-Thon was launched in 2012 with 38 participants, the first-ever in the series. Since then, it has become the highest-grossing event raising a total of $272,532 by 144 participants in 2021.

“Combining philanthropy with outdoor activity is the best way to get people in the fun component of FUNdraising.”

Roy Tuscany CEO of The High Fives Foundaton

Check out the 2020 Fat Ski-A-Thon Video

Similar to the 2021 Ski-a-Thons, this year’s series will be designed as hybrid-virtual events. The High Fives Foundation will follow CDC guidelines regarding COVID and adjust its event protocol accordingly.

Interested sponsoring brands, donors, and participants can register on the event website: fatski.highfivesfoundation.org

  • Adaptive Skiing
  • Fat Ski-A-Thon Group
  • Ski-a-thon girl
  • splits on skis
  • High Fives Foundation Fat Ski-A-Thon

You can help out the High Fives Foundation by sponsoring one of the teams or an individual.

Now go share this post everywhere to spread the word. Let’s help the High Fives Foundation have the best Fat Ski-A-Thon ever!

The High Fives Foundation and Outdoor Tech Continue Their Partnership

What is The High Fives Foundation?

The High Fives Foundation is a non-profit adaptive sports organization on a mission to provide hope and resources for athletes. This nonprofit organization serves athletes living with life-altering injuries, such as spinal cord or traumatic brain injury.

How is Outdoor Tech Involved

Outdoor Tech is happy to announce that we are continuing our long-standing relationship with the High Fives Foundation. We are overjoyed to help Roy and his team raise funds via product raffles, donations, and spreading the work. We won’t get into all the details yet but let’s just say you will see a lot more collaboration between us.

One Athlete at a Time

Life-altering accidents that cause physical and or cognitive disabilities potentially resulting from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are more than challenging but the High Fives team is there to help.

Many High Fives Athletes have returned to active lives with some going on to participate in the Paralympic Games and Special Olympics.

High Five Foundation Events

It seems like the High Fives crew is always holding fundraising events so that they can help more athletes. The Fat-Ski-A-Thon, Mothership Classic, and Retro Shred-A-Thon are just a few of the events throughout the year. Check out all their events here.

  • adaptive skiing
  • adaptive mountain biking
  • Roy Tuscany adaptive surfing

The Next Chapter

There is so much more to say about this rad organization but we will keep it short and sweet. Outdoor Tech is committed to growing our relationship with the High Fives Foundation. Be on the lookout for upcoming events, activations, and collaborations. You can learn more about the High Fives Foundation at https://highfivesfoundation.org/. Make sure to connect with us on Facebook or Instagram to get all the latest updates.

Tips for Camping in Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier is an icon, not just for Washingtonians but for all outdoors enthusiasts. At 14,410 feet of elevation, Mount Rainier is one of the tallest peaks in the contiguous United States. It is also the most glaciated U.S. peak (outside of Alaska, of course): it’s the starting point for five major rivers! So it’s no wonder that camping in Mount Rainier National Park is a very popular and worthwhile adventure.

The park covers a massive 235,625 acres with over 260 miles of maintained hiking trails. Mount Rainier itself is an active volcano, and the surrounding area has wildflower meadows, forests with thousand-year-old trees, and tons of amazing wildlife. Ready to start planning your trip? Let’s dive into our top camping tips to get you started!

Plan Your Trip Thoroughly

The first thing to know about the park is that it is huge. There are five entrances, three drive-in campgrounds, two inns, and so much more. It’s essential that you know where you plan to spend your days and nights, so you don’t waste time driving around. Luckily, the National Park Service has loads of maps to help you plan, as well as information about road closures and other alerts.

Where to Camp

There are plenty of options for staying overnight in Mount Rainier National Park, but be sure to book early, as sites fill up fast during the summer months. For drive-in camping in Mount Rainier, two excellent options are the Ohanapecosh and Cougar Rock Campgrounds.

Ohanapecosh Campground

  • Number of sites: 188
  • Fee per night: $20
  • Attractions: Surrounded by old-growth forest and close to popular hikes
  • Amenities: water, flush toilets, fire pits, grills, picnic tables
  • Other information: Groups larger than 12 people must stay at Cougar Rock Group Campground.

Book at Recreation.gov

Cougar Rock Campground

  • Number of sites: 173
  • Fee per night: $20
  • Attractions: Lookout point of Mount Rainier, close to a wildflower meadow, access to the Wonderland Trail
  • Amenities: water, flush toilets, fire pits, grills, picnic tables

Book at Recreation.gov

Mount Rainier
Photo by Dan Purdy

Backcountry Camping in Mount Rainier NP

For backcountry camping, there are also many fantastic options. Very little of the park is accessible by car, meaning that the rest is just for wilderness camping. To get an idea of where you might want to camp, you can check out all of the trails of Mount Rainier. Once you know where you want to camp, you can refer to the Trails and Backcountry Camping Conditions to double-check that your desired site is open.

The most popular backcountry camping options, and for good reason, are along the Wonderland Trail. This 93-mile long trail encircles Mount Rainier and covers a lot of elevation gain and loss along the way. The National Parks Service recommends reserving your wilderness permit for this trail since the permits go fast. (More on that below.) 

Wonderland Trail
Photo by Danielle Plouffe

The Wonderland Trail has eighteen wilderness campsites and three non-wilderness campsites, one of which is the Cougar Rock Campground mentioned above. The best way to plan your trip is to use the Wilderness Trip Planner that shows all the campsites along the Wonderland Trail. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to camp within a quarter-mile of any trail or road. There are also three developed areas that are designated for day-use only: Longmire, Paradise, and Sunrise.

Finally, a few trails branch off from the Wonderland Trail to head higher up the mountain. The best of these is the Camp Muir Route, which ends at the Muir Public Shelter. This strenuous 9-mile round-trip trail has an elevation gain of 4,680 feet. Please note that this route is unmarked and only for experienced hikers and climbers. Before you go, be sure to check trail conditions and know your route!

Camp Muir View
View from Camp Muir: Photo by Dan Purdy

When to Go Camping in Mount Rainier NP

If you plan on camping in Mount Rainier National Park, the optimal season to visit is late spring through early fall. Average temperatures in these months hover in the 40s to 60s degrees Fahrenheit, with the best weather coming in August. Most important, though, is the average rainfall. The Pacific Northwest is notoriously drizzly, but the summer tends to be a bit drier, keeping hiking trails and campsites comfortable and safe.

That being said, if you choose to go during their peak visit times, know that you won’t be alone. Reservations book quickly, parking spots get taken, and entrance roads become congested and slow-moving. Be sure to reserve your sites and permits early. You can get up-to-date information on congestion updates via NPS Mount Rainier’s Twitter account, and be sure to check out their other summer congestion tips.

Mount Rainier Trail
Beautiful fall colors near Paradise on Mount Rainier: Photo by Danielle Plouffe

Know the (Permit) Rules

There are many different permits and reservations you could need in Mount Rainier National Park, including ones for weddings and military activities. I’ll stick to the basics and just cover what you’ll need to know to go camping in Mount Rainier. First, the single-vehicle park entrance fee is $30 unless you have a Mount Rainier Annual Park pass ($55/year) or an America the Beautiful NPS Park pass ($80/year).

Second, camping sites are $20 per night and can be reserved on Recreation.gov. Backcountry camping requires a wilderness permit, and NPS has an Early Access lottery for permits as the Wonderland Trail is so popular. 

Lastly, if you plan to hike/camp above 10,000 feet, climb, or walk on a glacier, you’ll also need to pay a Climbing Cost Recovery Fee ($52) and get a climbing permit. 

Mount Rainier Spring
Don’t forget your backcountry permits: Photo by Danielle Plouffe

Prepare for Unpredictable Weather!

Finally, one more very important tip for Mount Rainier camping is that the weather is extremely unpredictable. Even if you go in the summer, you should be prepared for it to start raining at any time. That means packing a waterproof shell and extra socks in your day bag. You should also check the weather every morning before heading out to make sure you don’t get caught in a storm.

If you plan to hike up the mountain, you’ll need to be extra prepared, as there will be different weather conditions than at lower elevations. For example, the snow around the 5,000-foot elevation mark on Mount Rainier doesn’t fully melt until July. Keep this in mind as you pack and plan your trip, as you might need heavier gear and better boots the higher up you hike on the mountain.

Final Thoughts

No matter where you stay in Mount Rainier National Park, you are sure to have an amazing time. You’ll see beautiful wildflowers, interesting wildlife, and of course, the awe-inspiring Mount Rainier. Plan ahead of time and pack well, and you’ll undoubtedly set yourself up for a memorable adventure!

Once you’ve picked out your camping spots, don’t forget to review our top camping tips to make your trip as fun as possible.

*Written by BestDraft LLC. contributor Benjamin Panico.

How to Keep Your Gear Dry While Hiking in Rain

Most of us don’t plan to go hiking in the rain, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Besides, a little water shouldn’t stop you from a rewarding outdoor adventure. If you’re planning to hike in wet conditions, here are some precautions you can take to make sure you and your gear stay as dry as possible. Following these hiking tips will help you to have a safe trip and allow you to embrace Mother Nature in all her stormy and wonderful glory!

So, keep a close eye on the weather forecast leading up to your trip. If it looks like a wet hike, don’t forget these tips.

Keeping Yourself Dry

First and foremost, you need to keep yourself from getting soaked. If you don’t wear the proper gear and get drenched, you’ll be extremely uncomfortable. In cold enough conditions, you will also be more susceptible to hypothermia.

Waterproof Outer Layers

The first step for hiking in rain is to wear waterproof gear. An outer shell that is waterproof and windproof will keep you warm and dry underneath. When shopping for such gear, one with a hood is key. While a hat may keep your head dry, you don’t want cold rain dripping down your neck and back. I always keep a poncho in my pack for this reason. Even if I think the weather will be nice, a small and lightweight poncho protects me from an unexpected downpour.

Waterproof pants are another key ingredient for a happy hike in the rain. In my opinion, insulated waterproof pants are better than a thin shell that you wear over other pants. One solid layer is a good way to prevent cold air or water from sneaking up under a baggy shell. Also, keep an eye open for rain pants that zip up the entire leg length, allowing you to put them on without needing to take off your boots.

If you like a little music while you hike, you may want to grab a waterproof speaker like the Turtle Shell.

hiking in rain
Photo by Gabriela Palai from Pexels

Boots and Socks

Finally, waterproof hiking boots are a must. This applies to all weather conditions since you never know when you’ll find a puddle or shallow stream. As all experienced hikers know, wet feet are a surefire way to end up with blisters. There is nothing worse than hiking in wet boots, so it’s no surprise that most hiking boots are waterproof. 

But in addition to waterproof boots, you should also pack an extra pair of socks at the very least. If you are on a long camping trip, pack at least a few extra pairs and plan to dry them out every night. Allowing your feet at least twenty minutes to air dry before putting on dry socks is a great way to prevent blisters. If you’ve gotten wet on a rainy day or if your feet have gotten sweaty (as all ours do!), you will want to change socks during your lunch break.

Don’t forget to check out our Guide to Outdoor Apparel to make sure you’re prepared for any type of weather.

Keeping Your Pack Dry

It goes without saying that you can’t stay dry if all your gear gets wet. Here are a few great hiking tips for preventing even the wildest rainstorm from getting into your pack. 

rain in forrest
Photo by Raphaël Menesclou on Unsplash

Pack Liners

First, I like to pack all my gear in garbage bags when hiking in rain. There are purpose-built waterproof bags and pack liners, but garbage bags are a great budget alternative. You can bring multiple bags for different bits of gear (clean clothes, dirty clothes, sleeping bag, toiletries) so you can keep everything separate and easy to find. It’s especially important to keep your wet clothes separate from the dry ones, so you don’t accidentally ruin your dry socks. 

Dry Boxes

Another key piece of gear is a dry box. I have a small Pelican dry container that perfectly fits my phone and wallet. The sealed edges and heavy-duty latch keep my gear well protected from a rainstorm or even a dip in a lake. For a simple budget solution, head to your kitchen for some Ziplock bags. Sandwich bags are perfect for cell phones because you can keep an eye on the time and notifications through clear plastic. 

It’s essential to keep important gear in watertight containers. You want to make sure your wallet, camping permits, maps, and such stay dry. You should also have a dry box for your first aid kit and fire starters. Waterproof boxes for matches are obviously important if you plan to start a fire after the weather clears – though you might have trouble finding dry wood!

Pack Covers

Lastly, pack covers will keep your whole pack protected from the elements. While some packs come with them, many you have to buy separately. Luckily, pack covers are not too expensive, and they really are worth the cost. They are extremely lightweight, so you don’t have to worry about carrying extra pounds. Mine folds into a tiny bag that I keep on the outside of my pack for easy access should I get caught in a surprise storm.

If you buy a pack cover separately, make sure you get the correct size for your pack. The cover should fit pretty snugly around your pack. A pack cover that is too loose can come off in windy conditions. Your cover should have elastic or drawstring to tighten around your pack and keep rain from sneaking in. 

backpacking gear
Photo by mohammad alizade on Unsplash

Keeping Your Tent Dry

Hiking in rain is one thing, but camping in rainy weather adds a whole new component. When you need to camp in the rain, you’ll need to think about where to put your tent to keep you and your gear dry.

First, your tent should be on a gentle incline, with the entrance facing downhill. Having a tent on flat ground is a bad idea as the water won’t drain away, and you’ll wake up in a puddle. Also, you might think that having your tent under a tree will keep you drier, but a shady spot will prevent the sun from drying you off the next day.

Tarps and Tent Flies

Before you set up your tent, first set up your tent fly or tarp. This way, you can put your gear down out of the rain and stay dry while setting up camp. Keep in mind that a tent fly or tarp needs to be extremely taut in order to be waterproof. Wrinkles or folds in the material will allow water to pool and drip down onto you. 

Next, you absolutely need a ground tarp under your tent – often called a tent footprint. I use one even when it is totally dry just to give my tent a little extra protection from the rocks below. Again, being on higher ground and at a slight angle will allow water to drain off your tarp instead of pooling around your tent. 

rain on tent
Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash

Rope, Towels, and Newspaper

The final pieces of gear that are essential for hiking in rain are micro-cloth towels, a rope or string to make a clothesline, and newspaper. These are gear items that you will likely already be bringing on a hike. Okay, maybe not the newspaper, but I’ll explain why you should pack some, and it’s not for reading.

Micro-cloth towels are great for drying up after you wash your face, but they also come in handy when hiking in rainy conditions. You should always dry off your gear before putting it away to ensure your pack stays dry. It is even more important to dry the tent off before packing up since the material can soak through once folded.

A rope or string will allow you to set up a clothesline to dry key items before the next day. If you have piles of wet socks, set up a clothesline next to (not uphill from) your tent so you can dry your clothes out. If it’s still pouring out and you have limited space, you can even set up a clothesline inside your tent.

Finally, newspaper is a great material for absorbing moisture. Stuff some crumpled pages into your hiking shoes to help them fully dry out overnight.

Final Thoughts

Hiking in rain doesn’t have to be a terrible experience. If you prepare with the proper gear, you can enjoy the outdoors in any weather conditions. Hopefully, these hiking tips will keep you from canceling your next trip when the weather turns! Stay safe, stay dry, and have fun.

*This article written by BestDraft contributor Ben Panico.

Choosing the Best Travel Camera for Adventuring

This isn’t just a camera buying guide; it’s better. In this guide, we won’t be focusing on specific models as much as how to choose the best travel camera for you. It’s our goal to help you navigate the plethora of options by explaining common camera specs and their various applications in certain scenarios and aspects of adventuring. 

So, let’s dive straight in and look at the most common camera features.

Best Travel Camera Features and Specs

Manual Settings

If you want to hone your skills as a professional adventure/travel photographer, choose a camera with full manual settings. You’ll have a wide range of options when it comes to what you can photograph if you’re able to adjust all the camera’s settings.

Canon camera taking picture
Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Having control over your camera’s ISO (light sensitivity), shutter speed, and aperture settings can truly separate a good shot from a great one. With a fully manual camera, you’ll be able to practice taking the same photo over and over again, each time with slightly different settings. This way, not only will you be able to grow as a photographer, but you’ll also be able to develop your personal style. Do you prefer photos that are dark and moody, or light and airy? Recognizing this and controlling it from the get-go with your camera’s settings will save you tons of editing time. 

Adventure Focus: This feature will benefit almost any type of adventure – from landscapes and hiking to colorful climbing and kayaking shots.

Zoom Range/ In-Camera Lens Capability

Non-traveling photographers have the luxury of being able to store and haul around a multitude of different lenses. However, we adventuring photographers don’t have space in our luggage to store anything other than the essentials!

Camera lens in mountains
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Adventure photographers already have enough gear to lug around; bulky, pricey zoom and macro lenses don’t easily jam into a backpack that’s already bursting at the seams. Therefore, having a camera with a built-in zoom will make it easier to photograph landscapes, wildlife, and people. But remember, the farther the zoom, the bulkier the lens. Choose your camera’s zoom distance based on what you think you’ll be photographing the most. For portraits and up-close shots, you may not need to zoom. Of course, choose a travel camera case that is large enough to accommodate the size of your camera body and lens (if detachable) to keep it safe from harm!

Adventure Focus: Fine-tuning your zoom capability will allow you to capture stellar shots from your favorite sports. Perhaps zooming in enough to catch a climbing buddy pulling off a tough, crimpy move 100ft away (just make sure you’re not supposed to be on belay!), or zooming in on a cool mountain feature during a hiking trip.

Megapixels & Sensors

We need a basic understanding of how megapixels and sensors work together and to be aware of the ‘megapixel myth’ to choose the best travel camera. Luckily for you, we’ve done the hard work and broken down the science of megapixels and how it relates to your personal photography style.

Basically, 1-megapixel cameras take photos that have one million pixels of information in them. 8 megapixels means eight million pixels of information. The myth is that the higher the megapixels are, the better the camera and image quality. This isn’t always the case. It won’t matter if your camera has 24 megapixels if the sensor on the camera is cropped (1-inch sensors are considered small) since the sensor is the piece that’s actually storing all those megapixels and transferring them onto your image. 

old school camera
Photo by Julius Drost on Unsplash

Sensors consist of millions of photosites that record what is being seen through the lens, so size matters. For context, an iPhone 11 sensor size is around ½ inch and 12 megapixels. The image looks clear on the screen but loses quality when cropped or blown up for printing purposes. So now we know that larger sensors with high megapixel counts produce the best quality of photographs.

There are two main situations where you absolutely shouldn’t compromise and opt for the full-frame sensor over the crop. The first is if you are looking to sell prints. The second is if you aren’t carrying around several lenses and will need to crop photos. 35mm full-frame sensors are the gold standard when it comes to camera sensors. 

Choose RAW over JPEG

Shooting in RAW format saves the image without any internal modifications, unlike JPEG. Cameras that shoot in JPEG apply sharpening modifications to the image before compressing them to save. On the other hand, with cameras that shoot in RAW mode, the image is saved without any processing. The result is that the RAW image file stores a ton of color data that you would otherwise lose.

ice cave
Photo by Sean Pierce on Unsplash

At first glance, the extra processing that JPEG images go through can trick you. In fact, the software enhances the image to look sharper before you even upload it to your computer! However, for JPEG files to remain a sustainable size, the true image quality will always be compromised. RAW images are stored without enhancements and can use all their storage availability on the features that matter to you. What’s more, they can be edited more precisely. Not all cameras shoot in RAW mode, so select this type of camera if you want some extra leeway when editing your photos later on. 

Adventure Focus: Colorful landscape shots benefit tremendously from RAW shooting. Backpacking, hiking, and picturesque water sports are, therefore, prime activities for this capability. But remember, investing in RAW and learning how to harness its benefits will never detract from your adventure shots for any sport.

Weatherproofing

Some cameras are better than others at withstanding exposure to the elements. If you’re choosing a hiking camera or a camera for rock climbing, don’t compromise weatherproofing quality. The best adventure and travel camera is going to be able to hold up even through potentially years of random spells of dust and moisture. Look for the term “weather-sealed” when shopping for the best travel camera. 

water resistant minolta
Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

Get a Tripod

Not necessarily a camera buying tip, but definitely something you won’t regret. Your camera will need to be as still as possible in low-light situations, for example, when photographing subjects with only the light of the moon or campfire. Even the best image stabilization technology can’t beat the sturdiness of a tripod. Tripods are easy to strap to a backpack, reasonably priced, and definitely the superior option over balancing your camera on a rock or between tree branches. This accessory will enhance the qualities of the best travel camera and help you get those jaw-dropping shots. 

camera taking landscape photo
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Go Big or Go Home?

I have a general rule when it comes to buying equipment. If I’m not making money with a piece of equipment, I don’t spend too much money buying it. This translates to: if you aren’t selling photos or striving to be known for your work as a professional photographer, go for a cheaper, decent option that’s fully manual and weatherproof. If this is you and you’re just seeking to capture the moment, then a basic, affordable camera will work just fine. After all, the saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words,” became a cliche long before modern-day, super sharp cameras came out!

On the other hand, if you are looking to make money off your photos in any way (selling photos, building a social media following), take the camera-choosing process seriously and follow our tips. Once you have your camera, all you need to do is choose your next adventure destination and start snapping pictures!

*Written by BestDraft contributor Morgan Wilder.

Best Hiking Trails for Summer Backpackers

The United States is home to some of the world’s most diverse landscapes and best hiking trails. Every single region offers its own bounty of spectacular scenery, weather conditions, and unique challenges. But sometimes, the hardest challenge is just picking where to go! 

But we’ve got you covered; we’ve found the top hiking vacations around the country and put together your go-to guide for summer backpacking. Whether you’ve got wanderlust for snow-topped mountain views, desert heat, a tropical oasis, or wild Appalachian ponies, there’s a backpacking trip that’s perfect for you.

Glacier National Park – North Circle Loop

  • Where: Northwestern Montana
  • Length: 52 miles, strenuous
  • When to go: July-September 
  • Average Summer Temperatures: Lows: mid-30s Fahrenheit, Highs: mid-70s
Glacier National Park
Photo by Sam Solomon on Unsplash

Why Visit

This loop trail is one of the most scenic and best hiking trails in America. Expect breathtaking mountain scenes, lakes, waterfalls, active glaciers, and abundant wildlife. You’ll get to walk along 11 miles of the Highline Trail, famous both for being Glacier National Park’s most beautiful trail and for its views along the Garden Wall. The 0.25 mile stretch along the Garden Wall offers stunning views along a narrow 6-8 foot wide cliffside ledge; don’t worry, there’s a safety cable to hold onto.

Logistics

Be sure to review Glacier National Park’s trip planning resources. You’ll find maps, current trail conditions, permitting information, and park safety. Pay special attention to the permitting information; you’ll need to get your permit in person the day before your backpacking trip actually starts. 

Difficulty 

This is a strenuous hike with 12,000 feet in elevation gain. Therefore, we recommend you take 5-7 days to complete the loop. 

100 Mile Wilderness

  • Where: Monson, Maine
  • Length: 100 Miles, strenuous
  • When to Go: Late June- Early August (Early June is black fly season while August brings lots of traffic)
  • Average Summer Temperatures: Lows: mid-50s Fahrenheit, Highs: upper-70s
100 Mile wilderness
Photo by Joseph Holihan on Unsplash

Why Visit 

The 100 Mile Wilderness is the northernmost section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). This stretch of wilderness takes you through tunnels of tight pines where you may run into moose, berry bogs, craggy ridges, and jaw-dropping scenery. 

It runs from Monson, Maine, to the base of Mt. Katahdin, which is the finish line of the 2,179-mile-long AT for northbound thru-hikers. There are no places to resupply along the 100-mile long stretch, which means hikers must have enough food to last the entire 100 miles (we recommend 12 days’ worth to be on the safe side). For this reason, it’s often touted as the most challenging section of the AT and one of the best hiking vacations in the northeast. 

Logistics

This hiking vacation will take a lot of preparation as there is no trailhead or parking lot at the southern point of the trail. If you’re heading northbound, you’ll need to set up a private shuttle or hitchhike to the trail’s starting point. If you prefer to walk south, you’ll have to pay for parking and get a shuttle back up to your vehicle once you’re finished backpacking. Check out this local’s guide to a successful hiking vacation. 

Difficulty 

This is a strenuous backpacking trip. Therefore, make sure you’re comfortable with the distance and remoteness before embarking on your adventure. 

Paria Canyon – White House to Lee’s Ferry

  • Where: Utah/ Arizona border
  • Length: 38 miles, moderate
  • When to Go: April – June
  • Average Summer Temperatures:  Lows: low 40s-60s Fahrenheit, Highs: mid-60s-80s
Paria Canyon
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Why Visit

This is an incredibly unique and not overly difficult early summer hiking vacation – you’ll lose 1,130 feet in elevation total. Backpacking the Paria Canyon involves meandering along the Paria riverbed through two giant walls of breathtaking Navajo sandstone. Along the way, you’ll experience stunning rock formations and feel like a modern-day Indiana Jones as you explore the canyon’s twists and turns. 

Logistics

Riverbed hiking comes with two crucial considerations:

  • First, you’ll have to cross the river dozens of times, so plan accordingly.
  • Second, Flash flooding in the canyon is dangerous and most likely to happen between July and September. 

Make sure you check Paria Canyon weather before your trip. If there is a chance of rain, call the Ranger Station to make sure they think it’s safe to hike. Additionally, check all permitting and camping information as soon as you start planning this backpacking trip. Carve out 4-5 days for backpacking, depending on your fitness level. 

Difficulty

This hiking vacation is moderate. You’ll experience minimal elevation changes. However, warm and dry weather should play a role in your planning, especially if you’re unaccustomed to hiking in these conditions.  

Grayson Highlands State Park

  • Where: Blue Ridge Highlands, Virginia
  • Length: 22.5 miles, strenuous
  • When to Go: Spring through Autumn
  • Average Summer Temperature: Lows: low 60s Fahrenheit, Highs: upper 70s
Grayson Highlands State Park
Image by Eric Dobson from Pixabay

Why Visit

Roaming along the Appalachian Trail over balds resembling the Scottish Highlands while passing by wild ponies calmly eating their fill: does it get any more magical? 

Although there are plenty of options for hiking the Grayson Highlands, we recommend exploring the 3-day, 2-night route we call the Massie Gap Loop. This loop will take you up and over Mount Rogers, Virginia’s highest peak. Moderate temperatures make this hiking vacation feasible anytime from the spring to fall. 

Logistics

Be prepared to pay the parking fee at Massie Gap trailhead and file a camping plan at the park office. As the directions for this particular adventure are a little more complicated, we suggest the following itinerary, and remember that the best hiking trails often take a little more planning! 

  • Park in the Backpacker’s lot
  • Begin the hike on the Appalachian Blue Spur Trail until you reach the Appalachian Trail, where you’ll head south. 
  • Two miles past Virginia’s highest peak, Mount Rogers, take a right onto Mount Rogers Trail, down to Virginia State Route 603. 
  • Cross the road to take Fairwood Valley Trail; you should come to Old Orchard Trail in a mile – follow this until you reach the AT again, where you’ll go South. 
  • You’ll come back to the Appalachian Blue Spur Trail two miles past Wise Shelter, which will take you back to the parking lot! 

Keep in mind, this is a suggested itinerary and is no replacement for your own good preparation. You still need to utilize the park map and read up on general park information to plan your trip, prepare your route, and decide where to camp. 

One final note, don’t let the blue skies fool you! The Southeast is notorious for its daily summertime thunderstorms that seem to come from nowhere. Also, bring a few layers of moisture-wicking clothing as the Grayson Highland winds can be quite chilly, even in the summer! 

Difficulty

This portion of the Appalachian Trail is considered strenuous. Therefore, plan for rugged terrain and steep elevation changes. 

Kalalau Trail

  • Where: Kauai, Hawaii
  • Length: 22 miles, moderate
  • When to Go: May – September
  • Average Summer Temperature: Lows: low-60s Fahrenheit, Highs: mid-70s
Kalalau Trail
Photo by malte on Unsplash

Why Visit

The rugged out-and-back Kalalau Trail is the only way hikers can access the world-renowned Na Pali Coast and “one of the world’s most beautiful beaches,” Kalalau Beach. The trail to get there is lush, dense, strenuous, and by far one of the best hiking trails in the country. It starts (and ends) at sea level, but a 5,000-foot elevation gain over the 22 miles makes this a formidable hike. This is undoubtedly a hiking vacation to put on the bucket list! 

Logistics

Most hikers, from average to expert experience, can make it all the way to the beach (11 miles) in a day. The length of the trip just depends on how many nights you want to camp on the beach. 

Camping on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches does not come easy. Permits are available 30 days in advance but can sell out in minutes, so be prepared to be flexible about the dates of your backpacking trip since it might take a few tries to snag a permit. If you are parking a vehicle, you’ll need a permit for that too. 

The weather in the summertime is essentially perfect, but always check the forecast to be on the safe side. If there’s rain in the forecast, there could be a chance of flash flooding at one of the river crossings. 

Difficulty

This hike’s difficulty is generally considered to be moderate. However, proper preparation and safe hiking practices are just as important as physical fitness to ensure a successful and fun adventure. 

Wrapping Up

Now that you know some of the best hiking trails in the country, all you have to do is choose where you’ll adventure next! 

As always, remember to prepare and be as safe as possible by checking the weather, wearing appropriate clothing, and knowing how to hike safely at your destination. Use our beginner’s guide to backcountry hiking as a resource when you decide which one of these awesome summer backpacking destinations is perfect for you. Have fun out there! 

*This article was written by BestDraft contributor Morgan Wilder.