July/August 2009

When I’m out on a long backcountry adventure, I aim to consume around 3,000 calories per day. This means that if my food averages 100 calories per ounce, I’m toting roughly 2 pounds (30 ounces) of food per day. If I’m out on a two-week backpacking trip with no options for resupply, that quickly adds…

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We’ve been hearing a lot about the presidential family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard this week. Imagining Sasha and Malia Obama exploring a landscape so different from Chicago and Washington, D.C., reminds me that for many children, vacationing at the seashore is an early and powerful introduction to the natural world. That put me in mind…

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There are a lot of times when a fully waterproof shell is far more than you need. Rather than carry around all that Gore-Tex-ified bulk and weight, you may want to consider cutting your pack weight significantly by going with something as simple (and lightweight) as a basic water resistant shell. Sure, a water resistant…

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The first lesson of the school year has come early this year, before Ursula and Virgil have even entered their new classrooms. I could call it a nature lesson, a science lesson, or a lesson about changing how we act; I was as much a student as Ursula or Virgil. School starts tomorrow, so we’ve…

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Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of catching the Perseids, the annual mid-August meteor shower. We hadn’t planned our summer vacation to coincide with the showers, which occurred this year between the end of July and the middle of August. We were just lucky to be on a lake with a wide-open view of…

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When I’m out hiking, I always carry a map of my location. And so should you! It’s one of those no-brainer, don’t leave-home-without-it, Ten Essentials items. But it’s not nearly as helpful if you have to rummage through your pack any time you want to check something—you’re much less likely to use it if you…

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The other morning we were awakened by the sound of a battle in the field across the road. I was first to the upstairs window, but I couldn’t immediately tell what was going on. I saw animal motion, a brief glimpse of whirling body parts — just like in the cartoons — and heard harsh…

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For a long time, there has been no industry standard for setting the warmth rating of sleeping bags. Manufacturers were free to label their sleeping bags as they saw fit, leading to great disparity between companies’ ratings. For example, The North Face is notoriously optimistic; Marmot is generally conservative. Consequently, a +15 degree bag from…

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Hot and steamy weather has arrived at last. No matter that school starts for Ursula and Virgil in a week. They’re spending the last of summer submerged in water, pickling and pruning themselves in it. Last night all four of us went for a swim in the pond before dinner, just to cool off enough…

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For nearly a decade (roughly 1997-2006), Suunto produced the best altimeter watch on the market: the Vector (right). And then they replaced it with their Core series. Now they no longer make the best altimeter watch. In fact, they’ve done a good job at seriously damaging their reputation due to some consistent quality control problems…

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