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Latest Exploring Articles

Between a Rock and a Hard Place Trapped in a remote canyon in Southeast Utah for a week with his hand pinned between a chockstone and the canyon wall, Aron Ralston faced an impossible choice.  With no way to call for help and with no one aware of his location, he determined that amputating his hand to free himself was the only way to avoid dying alone in the canyon.  Although Aron admits to the critical mistake of not informing anyone of his plan and setting off alone to explore the canyon, his management of the situation and his ultimate survival in the face of unimaginable challenge is impressive. Aron recounts from the memory of when he first fell in love with the outdoors through to his journey out of the canyon after amputating his own arm, and this superbly written account of his often dangerous encounters is an inspiring testament to the power of the outdoors and the will to survive. Retail: $14 (Buy)


Billed as a jacket for superlight expeditions, the Phantom performs as advertised.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Weighting in at just 1lb. 1/2oz. the Phantom is quite warm despite some of the downfalls associated with 'superlight' gear.  Stuffed with 800-fill down, the Phantom provides exceptional loft, however the jacket is made using box quilted construction instead of baffled construction.  This shortcoming leaves cold spots where the stitching is, especially when the wind is acting up.  A lack of windproof zippers doesn't help this problem, the Phantom only includes a flap of ripstop behind the zipper.  The jacket is rather basic as well. It lacks a hood, and the cut is quite small.  The bottom of the jacket is so high that the shirt you're wearing will show under it.  You may want to order a size larger than you feel you will need.
The jacket is constructed of 15 Denier ripstop that is very lightweight, at the cost of some durability.  It's also finished with a water repellent to keep your down dry in a sprinkle, although any serious rain will require a shell to keep you dry and warm.  If you are looking for a jacket to have in case of cooler weather and are looking to go light, start with the Phantom.  If you need anything more, you may be better served with another jacket.

Quick Review

Design: Super light down jacket Retail: $240 (Buy) Weights: 1lb. .5oz. (medium) Why it's hot:
  • Weight
  • 800-fill down
Why it's not:
  • Quilted construction
  • Short cut

Cloudveil Down Patrol JacketThis jacket has kept me warm on more frigid days than I can remember. Cloudveil doesn't have the name recognition of many of the larger companies, but the quality of their gear suggests that this may change very soon. The Down Patrol jacket gives you the warmth you need without feeling bulky or hindering your movements. Designed as a down jacket that can also be used for skiing, it's got plenty of pockets, pit vents, and a removeable powder skirt.Kite SkiingThe interior chest pocket has a small hole perfect for your iPod headphones. The jacket has a longer cut in the back, meaning that when you sit down you're not going to suddenly have a draft against the small of your back. One of my personal favorite features is the drawcord on the back of the hood which allows your to tighten the hood against your head without sacrificing your peripheral vision. If you're looking for a good down jacket for skiing, belaying on a cold day, or just running around town, this is a great jacket I would highly recommend. Very versatile, and very functional.

Quick Info

Design: Down Jacket Retail: $375 (Buy) Why it's hot:
  • Long cut back side
  • Hood cinch mechanism
Why it's not:
  • Weight
  • Price
Serving well as either a glove liner or lightweight windproof glove, the Mountain Hardwear Gravity Gloves work like a charm.  Made with Gore Windstopper and a leather leather palm, these gloves are great for any activity in less than ideal conditions.  Trying them in 90MPH wind on a cold day kept the wind off my hands and retained enough heat to keep them warm for about ten minutes before I needed additional protection.  These gloves have found a permanent spot in my cool and cold weather gear lists.

Quick Info:

Design: Windproof glove or glove liner Retail: $50 (Buy) Weight: 3 oz. (medium) Why it's hot:
  • Quality construction
  • Versatility
  • Leather Palm
Why it's not:
  • None
~|~[caption id="attachment_711" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Osprey Talon 44"]Osprey Talon 44
The Osprey Talon 44 ended my search for a new pack.  I had gone through about three others in the span of about a month when I tried the Talon 44.  From my very first day on the trail the Talon 44 promised to be my go to pack and solidified that fact on the second day.  Reinforced lightweight materials allows the pack to be light while offering an acceptable level of durability.
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