Summer Essentials

It’s May now…and that means warmer days are in our future. I’m not really a huge fan of summer, but I figured the best way to start the season off would be with a guide on how to make the most of the hot days ahead of us. I don’t know about you, but my schedule for the next few months is filled with camping trips, day hikes, festivals and hopefully a road trip or two.

I’m not going to get too detailed with this one, but here are some of the basic essentials for a summer spent outside.

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The Landmark ProjectThe Nantahala Forest and Happy Days in the Parks tees are two of several designs that The Landmark Project has pumped out in the last few years. Their shirts are designed and printed at their home base and retail store in Greenville, SC. If you grew up exploring the Southeast, the majority of their designs should seem familiar. If not, you may still recognize some of the outdoor ’landmarks’ of the region. The Landmark Project has a site full of shirts, hats and accessories that have summer written all over them. You can pick up a shirt for $24.95…and while you’re there, grab one of their hand sewn bandanas!

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Topo Designs Mesh Ball Cap – I think this goes without being said, but a hat in summer can be one of your best friends. It’s a good way to keep sun off your head and face…which will ideally keep you a little cooler than you otherwise would’ve been. Just about any hat should do the trick, but right now, I’m partial to the this new one from Topo Designs. It’s a breathable 6-panel, made up of a combination of quick-drying / lightweight nylon and mesh. Check out the Topo Designs website, and do yourself the favor of picking up the Mesh Ball Cap for $32.

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Nalgene – Water is arguably the most important thing needed to survive the heat. Nalgene water bottles are a go-to item for myself and just about everyone else. Made of an extremely durable hard plastic, Nalgene’s come in multiple shapes and sizes…16 oz, 32 oz and 48 oz being the most useful in my life. Snag one…prices range from $8.95 to $11.50. Bonus points if you cover it with stickers!

Those are just a few of the many pieces of gear I’ll be putting to use this summer. Some other things to think about are sunscreen, bug spray and a good sense of your surroundings and limitations. I hope this helps everyone kick off the season. Happy trails!

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Taos, New Mexico

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We’re driving through Carson National Forest above Taos, New Mexico. The day is winding down…and we’re tired after a few long days exploring the snow covered trails around New Mexico’s highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. Wheeler Peak is situated in Northern New Mexico at just under 14,000ft (13,161ft to be exact). The mountain and the surrounding 20,000 acre wilderness area are covered in a growing blanket of snow. We spent the last couple of days between 10,000ft and 12,000ft, with temperatures dropping to around 0° at night.

The new plan was to come down from the mountains and spend the last couple days of our adventure in the high desert. We were pumped for the change of scenery, and the idea of spending a few nights on drier ground and in temperatures closer to the freezing mark. After about 40 minutes on the road, the pavement turns to dirt…and we’re on our way to an area that sits high up on my list of favorites. The next several miles took us down icy switchbacks, across a 100 year old bridge and up the opposite side of the steep Rio Grande River Gorge. Our time in the desert started off with a fresh blanket of snow and was filled with good runs, fat biking and a surprise visit from a herd of bighorn sheep. This trip was powered by curiosity, the pursuit of adventure and some of my favorite gear.

The North Face DNP Jacket and Hoodie – The DNP is by far, my favorite piece of wearable gear. Regardless of the season or forecast, the DNP is almost always within reach when I’m in the mountains. Its 60 grams of Primaloft Gold make it perfect for cold days, while still being light enough for use as a mid layer when the temperatures really drop. The DWR treated ripstop nylon fabric makes this jacket durable enough to handle scrambling over the rugged terrain of the Southwest. The stretch woven panels under the arms promote breathability and better range of motion.

The North Face Fuse Uno Jacket – The Fuse Uno’s stand out feature is the use of FuseForm technology. FuseForm enables The North Face to seamlessly integrate multiple types of yarn into products…which increases durability and decreases weight. With minimal seams, this waterproof jacket requires less seam tape than most shells (less seam tape means ounces of weight removed from the jacket). Added durability comes into play by using stronger yarns in areas known for taking a beating on the trail. These unique features have made this jacket my go-to shell for winter pursuits.

Thanks for following along. Hopefully this post will prompt you to do some exploring…whether it’s in Taos or somewhere else, get after it!

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Gear Trends In 2016

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If you’re connected to the outdoor industry in any way, you’ve undoubtedly watched technology and trends evolve over time. As a whole, consumers and businesses are constantly shifting in an attempt to keep up with the next big idea. Every season, technical apparel and equipment brands compete in a race to see who can put out the newest, most advanced technology first (new insulations, better breathability in fabrics, lighter equipment, etc.)…it’s comparable to the space race. This ongoing race to the top of the industry (…and the front of our gear closets) is directly responsible for the next level products floating around outdoor stores everywhere. Think about it like this, if your favorite sports team is in a league full of great teams…they’ll more than likely work harder to better themselves in an attempt to keep up with the natural progression of their surroundings. That’s the outdoor industry in a nutshell.

Over the past few years, a new trend…and for all intents and purposes, a new market has found its way to center stage. Up until recently, a large number of outdoor brands did little in the way of creating aesthetically pleasing products…for the most part, the sole design focus of a lot of our favorite brands would end at technical value. This is where things are changing in a big way…mostly because of millennials. As of late, ‘Millennial’ has kind of become a buzzword for outdoor companies and retailers. The big shift is centered around the idea that it’s possible to create products that are technical, functional and a good representation of individual style. Due to the efforts of brands at the ground level of this movement (Topo Designs is among my favorites), larger companies are starting to create products that cater to this category as well.

I’ve recently been testing out The North Face’s equipment response to all of this…the Homestead Collection. What I’ve discovered so far is a functional tent, that focuses more on comfort than being overly technical and a sleeping bag that does more than just keep you warm in a tent.

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Homestead Roomy 2 Tent – The 3-season Roomy 2 is the stand out item of the Homestead Collection. It’s a two-person tent, full of features geared towards creating a perfect car camping experience. Just like most tents on the market, the Roomy 2 includes a gear loft and side pockets that The North Face renamed ‘nightstand’ pockets. This tent separates itself most notably with it’s orange printed rain fly…you’ve never seen anything like it on a tent. The vestibule door opens in a way that allows for great views directly out of the door. The tent also offers 50% more room than the average two-person tent…it can fit a queen size inflatable mattress! The Roomy 2 retails for $229.95…which is an awesome price for the compliments and questions you’re bound to receive.

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Homestead Twin Sleeping Bag – The Homestead Twin comes comes in two different temperature options, 20° and 40°. The colder rated bag retails for $119 and the 40° bag retails for $89. This synthetic bag is filled with The North Face’s proprietary insulation, Heatseeker. Just like it’s tent counterpart, the sleeping bag features an orange print that you can’t help but notice from the get-go. This bag is all about comfort…it’s roughly the size of a twin mattress, which the company claims makes it the largest single person bag on the market. Another unique feature is the internal cell phone pocket that’s see through and touch screen compatible, allowing you to use your phone without removing it from the pocket.

These items are obviously different from what most of us are used to (I didn’t use the word ‘ultralight’ once)…but I’m happy to see that they’re made to last. The Homestead collection might be new, but I believe that it represents its brand in a way similar to The North Face’s more technical offerings. It shows progress and innovation…which is what the outdoor industry is all about.

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One Thing

It’s October 4th, 2015. We’re stuck in a 4-season Mountain Hardwear tent, hoping the torrential rain that we’ve endured over the past three days clears up before we get any further into a nine day outdoor adventure that we planned months ago. Keith hadn’t been to North Carolina in over a year, and I imagine this wasn’t the best weather to drive into after 20 hours on the road from Texas. The conditions were less than ideal, but we kept reminding each other of the saying “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear…”, which was somehow comforting in the midst of the apparent monsoon season outside of Asheville, NC. The rain continued over the next couple of days, but decided to clear up in time for us to spend the last few days dry and free of rain flys, rain jackets and rain pants. We could probably list a thousand reasons why we were in that situation, but the only one that really mattered was that it’s what we wanted to be doing.

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That’s one of the many experiences I had in the mountains in 2015. Over the years, my life has grown and evolved into a never ending cycle of trip planning, trip execution and unofficial reviews of those trips (which basically consists of me repeatedly saying something along the lines of “it was sick, but wasn’t long enough”). Planning trips has been a recurring theme in my life for several years now. I’ve slept outside in the high desert of New Mexico, camped in deep snow in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, backpacked through the Gila Wilderness, put one foot in front of the other in Guadalupe Mountains National Park (shh…it might be the best kept secret for outdoor enthusiasts in Texas) and spent more time than imaginable in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. My list of places to visit and things that I want to do in those places is a living, breathing thing. It knows no boundaries, and is constantly growing as I learn about new places and formulate new ideas. Now that it’s 2016…it’s time to start figuring out which trips I’m going to make happen this year.

My adventure bucket list is full of things like wanting to put my feet on the ground in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, experiencing the Tetons change from brightly colored leaves to snow covering everything and how badly I want to see the sunrise from Horseshoe Bend, Arizona. As much as I would love to talk about those places, I think there’s a broader and deeper conversation to be had in regards to new experiences in the outdoors, and why we’re constantly searching for something new.

I could be wrong, but I think it’s safe to say that progression is an integral piece of human nature. Whether we’re trying to progress as runners, climbers, in our careers or relationships…chances are, we’re all in pursuit of something. Progress happens as a result of combining what you’ve learned with effort and a goal. Personally, I learn best from doing. I may pick up on things from seeing and hearing, but experiencing it myself is ideal. I feel like that idea translates into adventure and travel as well. I learn something new every time I’m in the wild. I’ve learned to respect the weather, the land and the animals whose home I’m visiting. I’ve learned to prepare for the trail ahead of me…and to not underestimate it’s challenges. I’ve learned more from those experiences than I do from watching survival shows, reading blogs and magazines…and definitely more than I learned in school.

I’ve found familiar themes all over our country. In a way, I look at exploring new places as a giant opportunity to connect the dots. At times, the different regions of our country are polar opposites (the way we talk, the food we eat, the land we live on, etc.), but mountains have this way of being the ultimate equalizer. What I’m getting at is, the way it feels to scramble up a mountain into elevations higher than you’re used to is basically the same everywhere…regardless of whether you’re in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, the Brooks Range or anywhere else. Your quads burn, your lungs hurt and you might be light headed…the severity of these things may change based off the specifics of where you are and what you’re doing, but when it comes down to it, the root feeling is the same.

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Learning. Connecting. Experiencing. Those are the reasons I explore and the reasons why I’m always thinking about my next trip. Whether I’m learning from nature, connecting with like-minded people or experiencing that feeling that only comes out when I’m pushing myself…those are the driving forces behind long drives, steep hikes and my never-ending curiosity for finding new places. If you have something that makes you feel the way I feel about exploring, I’d like to know what it is. What’s your ‘One Thing’?

Patrick

How To Keep A Secret Spot Secret

It’s no secret that the number of people getting outside is growing at an extremely fast rate. There are so many potential upsides to this new trend…in my mind, the most important is the possibility that with this increase, we will also see an increase in the amount of people, groups and organizations focusing on protecting all of the wild places that are so important. With that said, one of the downsides to more people spending time in these established green spaces is the chance that your secret spot may lose some of its secrecy.

Do you have a favorite place? If you’re not sure, I’ll help you find an answer. Is there a place that’s always on your mind, no matter where you are or what you’re doing? It’s more than likely an area you’ve been visiting and revisiting for as long as you can remember. If you answered yes to the above question, then you officially have a favorite place. Next question, does that place have a spot that transcends everything else? Last one, are you ever hesitant to share details or the whereabouts of this location? If you answered yes to the last two questions…you have a secret spot. Congrats!

In the growing landscape of outdoor pursuits and the growing size of the outdoor community, is it possible to keep something hidden? I’m constantly asking myself this question. Just like most outdoor enthusiasts, I’m more than happy to share beta on the places that I love and I’m always pumped to find like-minded people getting after it…but there’s something unique about putting your feet on ground that’s rarely explored. That feeling of uniqueness sometimes makes us hesitant to share, leaving you with two options.

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If you’re committed to the idea of holding out and are ok with being a little selfish in an attempt to keep your spot off the radar, here are a few tips:

Speak Softly – The saying ‘loose lips sink ships’ hits the nail on the head. The more you talk about it, the more you’ll talk about it. And with all of that talking, comes questions and curiosity.

If You Post, They Will Come – In a world where the internet and social media are a huge part of our lives…posting written, photo and video content for everyone to see is the norm. Even with minimal information, chances are someone will be able to pick out a landmark or tiny detail that will help them hone in on your location.

Choose Wisely – If this spot yields amazing views, a hidden waterfall or something else that sets it apart from its surroundings…showing it off to each and every one of your friends, and their friends, is not ideal. The more people who know about your spot, the less likely it is to stay a secret.

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The second possible path is a little easier to follow:

I mentioned earlier that one of the best possible scenarios to come from the added growth and focus on outdoor recreation, is the potential for rapid (and hopefully lasting) growth in regards to protecting our green spaces. This growth can come in many forms…it could be picking up a piece of trash on a day hike or organizing a group trail maintenance event. It could also come in the form of brands, businesses and even the government putting more emphasis on the importance of the places that we love. We’re already there in a lot of ways, but we didn’t just end up here…it started with an individual.

I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a minute. What if those secret spots that we’ve been talking about are exactly what we need to spark a fire in someone new to the outdoors?

I do have places that I want to be a secret for as long as possible, but I believe it’s important to make case by case decisions on when to share them. I look at it as a balancing act between sharing enough to reap the benefits, but not so much that an area becomes overrun. When it really comes down to it, if sharing a secret spot with someone furthers the preservation of the wild…you can count me in.

Thanks for reading.

Patrick

 

Essentials For A Cabin Weekend

You know the feeling you get just before leaving home for a trip…the feeling that you’re forgetting something that you’ll need? If not, I’ll refresh your memory. It’s time to hit the road, so you finish packing everything into the car (everything you threw in a bag last minute). You give some thought to what you might be forgetting, but get nowhere. Everyone jumps in the car, preoccupied by thoughts of who’s choosing the music first and making good time on the snowy roads to your favorite mountain town. From here, you’ve got adventure on your mind. And winding roads that lead to fresher air. That’s when it hits you. You left your insert item here (it’s most likely your cell phone charger, laptop charger, iPad or toothbrush).

Now that we’re on the same page about this scenario, let’s focus on the things you DO NOT want to forget. The essentials to making a cabin weekend reach its full potential. Oh, and the story up top was your reminder not to forget those invaluable items.

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The North Face Base Camp Duffel – The medium (69 liters) for $135 is perfect for long weekend trips, but if you pack more than the average person…you may want to consider the large (95 liters) for $145. The Base Camp Duffel was made for expeditions high in the Himalayas. It’s built with 1000 denier, water resistant fabric. Along with the large amount of storage space in the main compartment, the duffel now comes with an end-cap zippered pocket. This feature allows you to separate dirty clothes, shoes and anything else from your bag full of clothes. There’s a large zippered mesh pocket inside of the main compartment of the bag as well. The last feature to highlight is the fact that it’s equipped with carry handles and padded shoulder straps that allow you to carry it like a backpack. Regardless of whether your duffel is being carried by a yak or in the back seat of your Subaru, it will last a lifetime of travel.

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REI Travel Sack Sleeping Bag – The travel sack is the perfect lightweight mummy bag for anything from summer camping to huddling around a fireplace in a cabin full of friends. It has a two-way zipper that allows you to unzip the bag completely, for use as a quilt. The travel sack is rated for 55 degrees fahrenheit and weighs 1 lb. 13 oz. How much? $59.50.

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Eno SingleNest Hammock – Weighing in at around 16 oz., it’ll take up little to no space in your bag. It’s perfect for anything from a lazy day around the cabin to relaxing by the fire before crawling in the tent on your next camping trip. Pick up this lightweight, nylon hammock for $59.95.

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SmartWool Socks – If there’s a perfect fitting sock on the market right now…chances are, SmartWool’s making it. Their fit bands, merino wool and strategically placed cushioning make this sock brand a go-to for just about any activity. They’ve got socks designed for every day life, high intensity pursuits and beyond. The PhD Outdoor Medium Crew is a favorite of mine. These socks will most definitely make you forget your old favorite pair with the hole in the toe…you’re welcome. How much? SmartWool’s hiking sock category ranges from $13 to $26.

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United By Blue Enamel Steel Mug – A winter weekend spent in a cabin wouldn’t be complete without hot chocolate. Philadelphia based United By Blue has it figured out with their enamel steel mugs. I’m partial to the John Muir mug…”The mountains are calling” is a timeless quote that fits perfectly on the side of my favorite mug. United By Blue removes a pound of trash from oceans and waterways for every item sold. Spend $20 on your new favorite mug. It’s bound to benefit you, and the planet as well.

If you made it this far, thank you! I’m Patrick. I’ll be posting more entries like this in the future. See you soon!