Next time you're around a campfire either during an adventure or at home, check out one (or several) of these great campfire recipes from SurvivalLife.comRead More
Insulated pints/tumblers are currently one of the top buys in the outdoor community, and for good reason. They usually come with a leak-resistant top so they’re great for on the go or around the campfire. Most versions are rated to hold the heat (or cold) for many, many, hours.Read More
Since purchasing a timeshare week at Grand Lodge on Peak 7 in Breckinridge, Colorado about 6 years ago, we’ve had the opportunity to visit quite a few other timeshare resorts around North America. Luckily, our Summer/Fall week at Breckenridge trades quite well, so we usually see some amazing places. During…Read More
This article originally published in Spring 2011 issue of Adventure Insider Magazine. Feathered Friends, located in Seattle, Washington has been producing high quality down products since 1972. We sat down the Brent Zwiers, the Director of Operations for Feathered Friends and got some insight about the company and how he handles the 9-to-5 grind. Make sure to check out Feathered Friends at http://www.featheredfriends.com
AI: Tell us about Feathered Friends. BZ: Feathered Friends was founded in 1972 by Peter and Carol Hickner who still own the business and operate it today. They started essentially in their basement. Carol learned to sew and in the 70's there was an economic downturn. They took their skills and just started making gear for themselves. Their friends found out and started saying 'hey, can you make me this, can you make me that?' so really Feathered Friends was making everything, tents, sleeping bags, jackets, backpacks, anything that needed to be made. Somewhere along the line it was decided that down sleeping bags and jackets were really an avenue they could pursue from a business perspective, but we sold direct to the customer and that's still about 80% of our business. We opened a retail store in 1988 and the rest as they say is history. Today we enjoy a very organic, grassroots following of loyal customers from around the globe. AI: With all the outsourcing occurring these days, talk a little about where your products are made. BZ: About 90-95% of our products are made here in Seattle. Now, we've have to switch it up the past couple of years because we could no longer meet the demand out of our facility and we’ve had difficulty finding skilled sewers. It's not for lack of trying or for economic reasons that we’ve outsourced, it's purely the fact that we couldn't meet the demand. We've moved some of our products to a factory in Vancouver. As far as profit margin is concerned it would be really easy to outsource to Vietnam, or Cambodia, or Laos but some of the people that work for us have worked here for 20 or 30 years, almost as long as the company is old so we feel we have a responsibility to them. They're not just employees, in some ways they're like your family. AI: And what about the options you offer to your customers? BZ: One of the things we allow customers to do is customize items. So it's not "here's your sleeping bag and it comes in red", you can get it in any color and made of any of the fabrics we have. We try to have standards but if you're willing to wait and maybe pay a little bit extra in terms of a custom fee we'll make it for you. We really try to deliver to the customer's needs. AI: What is on the horizon for Feathered Friends? What should we be looking for? BZ:We're always working on new things. We have a new sleeping bag that we've been working on for the past couple years that has taken a little work to get together but we're getting a lot closer. It's called the Spoonbill. It's a double person alpine bag and has no insulation on the bottom and the two people sleep pretty close but you can save a lot of weight. And in July we launched a new jacket that will be the first new jacket design in about ten years. Feather Friends makes very classic styles so we tend not release new products all that often. It'll be a super-light down sweater called the Daybreak.
Since this interview the Spoonbill has come to market, we will be launching a lightweight jacket called the Jackorak in March and we will also have our first ever women’s specific down jackets. We have a lot of other projects that we are working on and hopefully our customers will see some great new products continue to come to market.
AI: What are your earliest memories of the outdoors? BZ: My parents were both teachers so we used to always be outdoors. They both had summers off so we would always take summer family vacations. Probably my absolute earliest memory is from Oak Grove Park in Iowa where I grew-up, riding in the backpack with my dad. I remember there being this really big rock and you got back as an adult and the rocks really not all that big. I was fortunate I got to travel so much. I've been to all 50 states and almost all the national parks. AI: Do you feel that working here, especially as you move up in the company, precludes you from enjoying getting out as much as you used to? BZ: It's an unfortunate truth that the busier you get in work the less time you have to devote to the outdoors. AI: And how do you deal with that? BZ: My wife and I, instead of trying to go outdoors every single weekend like we used to do we now try to do more scheduled trips. Book off a week and go to Utah and ski or take a trip to the southwest and now we're looking at doing a trip to the Argentina/Chile area. You have to plan a little more, it's not as easy as waking up and asking "Who wants to go to Smith Rock?". AI: What's your favorite activity? BZ: I would say it's a split between sport climbing and skiing. I grew up climbing and then I moved out west and I took up skiing. I never thought it would take over, but as your skills improve and you can deal with the powder it makes it a tough call. AI: What's your favorite crag or mountain? BZ: I love Smith Rock, there is so much variety. You can get down into the basalt you can stay out on the front side. There is so much variety in not just styles but its difficulty. You can get as much as you want. My favorite place to ski is probably Kicking Horse in Golden, BC right near the border. My wife and I also got engaged there so it holds a little sentimental value. AI: I know it's not an easy question but what is your favorite piece of gear? BZ: Wow, that is a tough one. When you have a basement full of gear it's tough to pick one thing. I'm going to have to go with the Feathered Friends Hummingbird sleeping bag. It's been with me for a really long time and it just does everything and covers a very broad spectrum.
This article originally published in Spring 2011 issue of Adventure Insider Magazine. Crack climbing is a necessary skill to climb many classic American routes. From desert towers like Castleton Tower in Castle Valley, UT to big walls like Yosemite's El Capitan and Half Dome -- if you want to climb it, you must be able to use crack techniques. Learning the basics of crack climbing will also make other climbing disciplines easier. For example, you can utilize crack techniques on a face climb to rest or stick a move. Jamming in cracks is not intuitive like face climbing. It must be learned and practiced. As you practice these techniques you will not only gain experience but open up a world of new routes. Let's begin with a bit of terminology. Climbers usually describe cracks by the appendage used to climb them, such as a hand, fist, or finger crack. Wider cracks are referred to as off-width crack and chimneys. Climbers refer to the width of a crack as it’s “size.”
How you climb or jam a crack depends on its size relative to your body. When climbing a finger crack, climbers apply a technique called a finger lock. This is done by stacking your fingers tightly into the crack and turning your wrist to pull down. This cams your fingers and locks them into the crack. This can be done in either the pinky up or pinky down position. Most climbers get a more secure lock with their pinky up, however it is dependent on the rock. Experiment with both and find out what you prefer. There is a good chance it will be some combination of both as the situation dictates. I feel the most secure way to attach yourself to the rock is with a hand jam. In a perfect world the hand jam is done by placing your hand inside a crack with your thumb tucked into your palm. While cupping your palm try to close your hand so that opposing pressure is placed on one side of the crack while the back of your hand and knuckles are pressing on the opposite side. As the crack gets wider you will need to cup your hand more to maintain pressure. Ideally a thumb-up hand jam is going to allow you to have a greater range of motion off of the hand jam than a thumb-down jam can allow. However there are many times you will need use both to successfully reach to top of your climb.
As the crack continues to get wider you will need to start jamming your fists. This is simply a matter of putting your hand in the crack and making a fist. You may find the need to adjust your hand’s orientation horizontally or vertically depending on the width of the crack or size of your hand. If you find yourself in the gray area between a hand jam and a fist jam there is a trick you can employ. Make a hand jam with your top hand and rotate your hands so the palm of your hand is facing down the crack. For your bottom hand do the opposite. It will essentially be an undercling hand jam. Once a hand jam is no longer wide enough to keep you progressing up a crack you are going to have to start getting a little more creative. And, as your creativity increases, so does your energy output.
Stacking is the most common way of working up wider cracks. Do this buy putting your hand over your fist (like paper covers rock in a game of rock-paper-scissors). This along with some chicken-winging, (putting your arm in the crack with your hand on one side and your elbow on the other side, or put your arm into the crack elbow first.) will help you make progress up the crack. Practice builds confidence... and technique. As you do more crack climbing you’ll develop a great feel as to when are where are the best times to walk your hands (hand-over-hand progression) and when it is best to shuffle them (hand-to-hand progression and keeping one hand in the top position). The same is true for your feet. For example, if the crack is completely vertical it will probably feel comfortable with walking your hands and feet; conversely, if the crack is leaning to one side it is likely you will need to keep your highest hand with a thumb-down jam and will need to shuffle your hands. Your feet will also be more comfortable being shuffled.
You’ll have the best body control if you keep the corresponding foot on top (i.e. right hand and right foot high) While hand jams may help you feel secure, foot jams will do just as much if not more for your confidence. However, the size of your feet and the size of the crack will do a lot to determine how easy or comfortable you will be. Also, consider your gear. I recommend getting a pair of climbing shoes that have a slightly roomier toe box and allow your toes to lay flat. (This is not the time to be cramming your feet into your 5.10 Anasasis.) To do a foot jam you simply turn your foot so your arch is pointing up, slide your foot into the crack and straighten your foot, pushing your arch back down. As you do this it will cam your foot into the crack and you’ll be able to stand up.
The more weight you place on the foot the more secure your foot will be. The most important thing to remember is that when turning your foot for the jam, you need to use your knee to do the work turning your foot. It will allow for greater range as well as make your foot jam more secure. If you find your feet slipping or feel unsecured in the crack this is likely the fix. As the crack gets smaller you will be able to get less and less of your foot in the crack. When this happens you will need to take smaller steps and you may not feel quite as secure. In more extreme cases you will want to point your toes up the crack as you are turning turning your foot (from your knee) and place as many of your toes in the crack as you can starting with your pinky toe. Once you get a little experience under your belt you will naturally want to make the progression to leading. If you’ve had experience placing gear this will be easy to pick up. If you’re used to clipping bolts this too will be a learning experience. But here are a few tips to help you get going.
Try to get used to how the size of your gear relates to your hands. For example with my rack of Black Diamond Camelots I know that I am the happiest jamming my hands if I’m placing yellow number 2 cams. #.4 gray cams are fingertips, #.5 purples are good fingers, #.75 greens are loose fingers, #1 reds are small hands, #3 blues are fists. And, if I’m placing anything above a #3 I'm likely to be saying things that would make a sailor blush, because I’m stacking and chicken-winging in an off-width. It is also helpful under most circumstances to try not to place above your highest hand. (You will find that your gear will just be in the way.) Finally, like most any time you are on lead it is nice to have a belayer with experience. The rope has a natural tendency to want to snake into the crack and be right in the way of any gear or your hands. A couple of well timed flicks can keep the rope mostly out the way. It is likely if you have spend much time around trad climbers you have seen them with tape gloves on. While I have and will wear tape gloves I prefer to use them on the end of a trip when my hands have already given as much as they can. I personally like the feel of my hands in the crack. I find that it helps me get a better sense of how secure my jams are. If my hands are slipping I know I need to make an adjustment. While this will probably leave you with some battle scars to show off around the campfire it will also help you learn what works best for you. And, I’ve never seen a climber who had aspirations to be a hand model... There is no substitute for experience, and watching a seasoned crack climber float up super crack while you are still trying to get off the ground can be a humbling experience, but with a little patience and a lot of practice you too will be jamming your way to the top.
Maybe it's your first pair of rock shoes. Maybe you are looking for a second pair of shoes to increase your performance. Or maybe your current shoes kill your feet or you want some specialty shoes for a specific type of climbing. There are many different reasons for purchasing a new pair of rock shoes but knowing what you need is the only sure way to get exactly what you want.
We are pleased to announce the Spring 2011 issue of Adventure Insider Magazine. While it should be rather obvious we have out focus on the coming climbing season you will also find some trips to the Bahamas for those still needing to shake off the winter blues. Enjoy, and please let us know what you think.
MSR’s new backcountry snowshoe, the Lightning Ascent, boasts many useful features for the back-country traveler including modular flotation tails, PosiLock AT bindings, cross members for rigidity, pivot crampons and heel lifters. We put the MSR Lightning Ascents through it's paces in Colorado and Vermont and tested it's versatility using subjects that differ in weight by 100 pounds on the 25" model. One tester, new to snowshoeing wasn't entirely sure what all the features meant but at the end of her ascent of Mt. Mansfield she was very happy to have the aggressive serration along the entirety of the snowshoes. This proved key in the sub-zero 50+ MPH 'slog'. Both testers raved about the heel lifter on both Mt. Mansfield and on the backside of Mt. Lincoln, CO, after our other heavier tester was asked to break trail in a couple feet of fresh, deep powder on a cold approach for some ice climbing. Our budding snowshoer found the device after her hiking partner pointed out the feature and was immediately a fan of heel lifters in general. A hiking pole is sufficient to raise the bar when in the raised position out testers found climbing steep slopes was a breeze.
Our heavier tester, breaking trail in Colorado made good use of the flotation tails. They are easy to install with just a couple of hooks and a rubber strap they can easily be attached with gloves and provide extra flotation in deep, soft snow or for heavier hikers. Weighing 3lbs. 14oz. (25" model) the MSR Lightning Ascents can handle a load between 120 and 220lbs and up to 280lbs with the flotation tales installed. Of course those number vary by user experience and snow conditions. Of course, as with most items from MSR, the Lightning Ascents are made in Seattle, WA. Both testers agreed the bindings were tough to get in and out of but acknowledged the binging is more secure than other snowshoes and proper sizing in a nice warm place is key. $269.95-$299.95 www.msrcorp.com
This article originally published in the September 2010 issue of Adventure Insider Magazine. In 1988, a vibrant young man who loved the outdoors had his life changed forever when a truck blew through a red light. Lance Blair was only 18 years old when he lost his left leg in this tragic accident. The doctors weren’t sure if Lance would make it through the weekend, much less ever walk again. 22 years later, not only does Lance walk, he drives one of the most amazing off road machines I’ve seen. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In 2000 Lance decided to give up his thriving tobacco shops in order to pursue a different goal. He wanted to help people in the same way so many special people helped him after his accident. Lance decided to become a nurse. And that decision was just the beginning of Lance’s service to others. His next big leap came in 2006 when Toyota began selling their iconic FJ Cruiser. Lance was immediately sold on FJs. He loved the look, the capability, and the possibilities. I first met Lance (virtually) on an online forum dedicated to FJ Cruisers. It was there that I learned about his passion for off-road driving, adventure, and expeditions. When I started FJC Magazine, I asked Lance if he’d be interested in a recurring feature called “Expedition Wheeling” to cover thoughts and ideas related to long-range overland driving. He was more than happy to help out and I’m glad to say he’s still writing for us today. Not long after Lance had his FJ (mostly) setup for vehicle dependent expeditions, he decided that he wanted to share his knowledge and love of the outdoors with other disabled persons. Disabled Explorers was born.
The first major trip Lance put together for Disabled Explorers was one for the record books: three FJ Cruisers, over 5,000 miles, and 24 days, all to explore the continental divide from Canada to Mexico. The kicker: trying to stay off road (off pavement) for as much of the trip as possible. That trip was a huge success and served to motivate Lance to expand Disabled Explorers even more. The FJ Cruisers worked well for the continental divide trip, but there was one major drawback to the fun little trucks: wheelchair access. In order for Lance to truly serve all disabled persons, he would need something a little larger, but still as capable. At the Overland Expo a couple of years ago, Lance found his answer: the Sportsmobile camper van. Of course, Disabled Explorers wouldn’t build just any old conversion van; this vehicle had to be able to go where few could -- it had to be stout, tough, equipped, and capable of handling nearly any situation. Enter the W.A.V.E. (Wheelchair Accessible Van for Expeditions). The W.A.V.E. is a very well equipped Sportsmobile conversion van (based on a Ford full size van) with nearly every bell and whistle you can imagine. The Sportsmobile comes ‘standard’ with upgrades like a Dynatrac Pro Rock 60 axle, ARB Air Locker, heavy duty shocks and Dakar springs, a high capacity fuel tank, and dozens of other enhancements. The real interesting bits of the W.A.V.E. though are the unique features for the disabled. The wheelchair lift; the hand controls; the automatic step; and all the other mobility enhancements make this the ideal vehicle for disabled exploring. Lance’s goal is to allow disabled persons to truly explore the outdoors like never before. We’re not talking about a guided tour where the participants sit in the back & enjoy the view (although they’re welcome to do so). Lance gives everyone the opportunity to drive the W.A.V.E. off road. It’s one thing to see the great outdoors, it’s another to experience it.
Disabled Explorers is not some vast organization with plenty of resources and a waiting list of participants. Although, not surprisingly, there is a waiting list. The fact is Disabled Explorers is supported almost entirely by its founder, Lance Blair. He works extra shifts at the hospital to fund weekend trips into the great outdoors. These trips range from simple day trips, which allow a participant to get used to the W.A.V.E., to full multi-day expeditions. Participation is completely free of charge. Lance is adamant that Disabled Explorers and its supporters foot the bill for everything. And, although the W.A.V.E. does feature some equipment and gear that’s been donated, the operation, maintenance, repair, and refitting bills fall straight into Lance’s lap, not to mention the monthly payment for the $75,000 van. Of course, he’s more than happy to give to the project he started. For him, it’s all about helping others. There are plenty of future plans for Disabled Explorers. There are at least two other chapters expected to open in the very near future (San Diego, CA and Pueblo, CO). Depending on donations, sponsorships, and grants, they’ll feature their own versions of the W.A.V.E. and of course they will have the same mission: To expose as many disabled persons as possible to the great outdoors. Lance won’t be able to do it alone though, he needs our help. If you’re interested in helping Lance continue and expand the Disabled Explorers mission, he’s setup a Paypal account to accept donations, you can access the DE Donation Page here. Another great way to help the cause is by spreading the word. If you’re on Facebook you can ‘Like’ the Disabled Explorers Page (http://www.facebook.com/disabledexplorers) and tell your friends and family about this great program. Thanks, Lance. And, keep exploring! Shane will be covering some of Disabled Explorers’ adventures in upcoming issues of Adventure Insider, so stay tuned for many amazing stories!
These days it seems everyone wants to share photos from their latest adventure with friends and family. Whether it’s Facebook, Flickr, or good, old-fashioned email, we love to brag about out adventures with pictures and videos. The Olympus makes capturing those images and videos a breeze. That said, the real value in the Stylus Tough 8010 is the beating it can withstand. Waterproof to 33 ft, shockproof to 6.6 ft., and freezeproof to 14˚ F, the Stylus Tough 8010 sports a 14 megapixel still camera and is capable of shooting 720p high-definition video. The tap controls allow you to navigate the menus while wearing gloves and the 5x optical zoom lets you get closer to the action. The one thing we would have liked to see on this camera is a GPS to allow for automatic geo-tagging. Next time... $399 www.olympus.com