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Review: 6 Super Versatile Layering Pieces

October 17, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment

 

Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody

Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody

By Michael Lanza

Whether climbing peaks, taking an ultra-dayhike or trail run, Nordic or backcountry skiing, or backpacking, the more time I spend in the backcountry, the more I value and wear lightweight jackets and vests that pull double duty as middle and outer layers. Unlike with heavier, warmer, and less-breathable jackets, you can often wear this type of garment while on the move—while your body is producing heat, but you still need some warmth. That makes you more comfortable and, ultimately, safer in widely ranging mountain weather. Plus, you get more bang for your buck from versatile layers like these because you use them more.

Here are six of the very best. Continue reading →

October 16, 2017 Rock climbing at Idaho's City of Rock National Reserve.

To My Kids: Yes, the Worst Can Happen. Be Careful Out There

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   6 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Hi Nate and Alex,

There was a tragic story in the news recently of yet another accomplished young climber who’s now dead. He actually survived an avalanche that killed his girlfriend while they were backcountry skiing in Montana, but he could not endure the avalanche of grief and pain that followed. He took his own life the next day. He was 27, his girlfriend was 23. They were both way too young. It’s unspeakably awful.

This story will probably fly off your radar soon, I know. But I can’t avoid thinking about that terrible double tragedy. For me, it’s a stark reminder of the inherent danger in many outdoor activities I’ve done with you two since you were little—a danger only magnified if we let all that’s fun and rewarding about what we do blind us to the darker reality. A story like this one throws a harsh light on a contradiction I’ve grappled with since you both could walk: The very experiences I know are helping shape you into wonderful young adults also pose a real risk to you. Continue reading →

October 15, 2017 On the summit of Mount Luxmore, Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Best, Uncomplicated Hut Trek: The Kepler Track

In Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

The forecast for New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park looks particularly grim, even for this chronically wet region that receives more than 30 feet of rainfall annually—or about 10 times as much rain as Seattle. A “Southwesterly,” a fierce and not uncommon type of storm that blows in from the Southern Ocean off Antarctica and can offload several inches of rain, will slam into Fiordland’s mountains and fjords over the next couple of days. With that kind of forecast, locals just hunker down indoors and wait it out what they refer to as a “weetha bum” (Kiwi for “weather bomb”). My friend, Jeff, and I, however, are going hiking. Continue reading →

Review: Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant

October 12, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant.

Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant.

Soft-Shell Pants
Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant
$240, 11 oz. (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
moosejaw.com

With heads bowed against the steady rain and driving wind, we plodded uphill toward the Grand Col de Ferret, a mountain pass at 8,323-foot (2537m) marking the border between Italy and Switzerland on one of the world’s great multi-day treks, the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps. Throughout that July day when the weather ranged from light rain to a wind-driven tempest, I never wore rain pants, only the Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant. I also wore them at other times on that nine-day trek, in light rain, cool wind, and in milder temperatures and sunshine, and through heavy rain and thunderstorms and temps in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit on a 39-mile, mid-September backpacking trip in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. All of those situations demonstrated how these three-season soft-shell pants excel when the weather turns foul. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Backpacking Boots

October 11, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX boots.

Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX boots.

Backpacking Boots
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
$250, 2 lbs. 7 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 37-48/US 5-14, women’s Euro 37-42, US 6-10
backcountry.com

What are your expectations of your boots? That’s a good question to consider when shopping for a new pair. On a 39-mile backpacking trip in mid-September in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, I put Scarpa’s Zodiac Plus GTX through the gamut of mountain terrain and conditions. We hiked consecutive, 13-mile days on trails ranging from packed dirt to rock and mud—the kind of backpacking for which I might normally wear a lightweight, low-cut shoe for comfort and breathability. But we also traversed a five-mile stretch off-trail over snow, steep and loose scree, talus, and a 12,000-foot pass, including some dicey third-class scrambling. We walked through shallow streams, puddles, boggy ground, wet vegetation overhanging the path, thunderstorms and heavy rain. By all measures, the Zodiac Plus GTX passed every test. Here’s why. Continue reading →

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