Hong Kong : Muscle Man wanton mee + Sha Tin Racecourse + Oystermine Restaurant

Hong Kong trip - May 2014

Muscle Man 大隻佬麵家

Why the name? Take a look at the chef aka the owner when you are there, he is a very muscular guy with tattoo on his body. Reminds me of the Andy Lau show.

It was very crowded during lunch time. Tourists have to learn from the locals to squeeze in, take queue number, stand near the door and listen intently for your number to be called. Otherwise, you might miss your number. We waited for approximately 20 minutes. 

The area was not very big but they used their space very cleverly. They placed as many seats in the cafe as possible to house as many customers at one time. It is also their culture to share table with strangers. I guess this is how they meet new people in life lol.

炸鱼皮 HK$14

This was very good. The proper way to eat this is to dip this with the soup. Damn salty damn good. lol

Wonton 云吞 HK$28

Dumplings 水饺 HK$28

Wonton noodles 云吞面 HK$28

Actually I did not know wanton mee is a cantonese cuisine until now. =X

I like to drink soup at a high temperature. The soup here was steamy hot and I like it! I like the noodles and the wonton but I like it better if less oily.

It was quite stressful to eat in Hong Kong as they would stare at you and the people queuing outside would stare at you as well. I like to eat my food at my own pace with time to take pictures lah..

Muscle Man 大隻佬麵家
Address: G/F, 97 Hak Po Street, Mong Kok
Nearest MTR station: Mong Kok East station
Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 11:30am-10:30pm Sun Closed
Tel: +852 2363 2838

Sha Tin Racecourse 沙田馬場

Sha Tin Racecourse is one of the two racecourses for horse racing in Hong Kong.

I always see my father watch horse racing at home and would like to see it in real life. Also to do my father a favour by betting it at the real place.

Gloomy day again..

We went there on a weekday afternoon.. apparently these people no need to work as well =)

When I was queuing up at the ticketing counter, I did not know how to buy bet for the game. I picked up a bet paper and just coloured my favourite 3 numbers. My friend still continued to analyse the game and the odds.. lol need so serious de meh..

 Game started!! CHIONG AH!! or in cantonese "shiong ah 上啊!!"

At this point of time, my number was actually the first! I was like "wow am I really that lucky or not!!??" and I gave a despised eye contact to my friend.

Then dont know why my horse started to slow down or other horses started to catch up..

Turned out my friend's horse won. Chey.. the winning amount also not that much.. He used his winning to buy another bet and so lost it as well. game over.. lol *sore loser*

Oh yes, one more thing, please bring your passport and check for race schedule.

So I guess 
analysing odds 
really works...

Sha Tin Racecourse 沙田馬場
Nearest MTR station: Sha Tin
Admission Fee: HK$10
Website: http://entertainment.hkjc.com


Finally, I thought I get to meet my super idol in person and not during fanmeet. I have met Pornsak at his Porn's Thai restaurant in Singapore, not meet Jay Chou at his 2 restaurants in Taiwan and so this time I should meet Bosco Wong at his restaurant in Hong Kong right?

My friend was so nice to accompany me there after dinner.

*blush smile*

It was shocking empty in his restaurant on a Sunday late night. His restaurant is quite high class that sells mostly champages, wines and oysters.

*look around vigorously but no sight of him* 

We were full from the dinner before so we only ordered soup and one bottle of champagne while waiting for him. I still stood very firmly that he would come. lol

I do not remember what champagne that we ordered because we both have no idea as well hahaha..I only remember it was pricy.. 

Interior of the restaurant

Ok lor.. we already finished 3/4 of the bottle and he still did not show up yet.. we gave up after 1+ hour and went back to our apartment.. 

damn him

Ok.. probably Pornsak has lesser workload than the other two celebrities... the probability of meeting Jay Chou may be 0% but Bosco Wong... sigh.. got to be at least 30% lor.. ok I need to go his restaurant another 2 or 3 times.. 

Address: G/F., 57 Nam Kwok Road, Kowloon City
Not near to MTR station
Nearest MTR station: Lok Fu station (1.5km away)
Tel: +852 2382 8234
Opening hours: daily 5pm to 2am

Video: Dark Skies in Canarias

Dramatic, beautiful, and breathtaking. Those are all words that I would use to describe this video, which is a timelapse shot over the Canary Islands. It is two minutes of pure bliss. Enjoy!


Video: Heart of Alaska

Filmmaker Bjorn Olson has launched a Kickstarter campaign to make a documentary about an adventurous family that walked and packrafted for three months in the Alaskan wilderness, covering 800 miles (1287 km) in the process. That in and of itself is pretty amazing, but the fact that they did it with two pre-school kids in two is simply incredible.

Below you'll find a trailer for the documentary that Bjorn hopes to make. It gives you a bit of insight into the subjects of his film, and why he is so interested in telling their story. With about nine days to go on the fund raising campaign, he still has a few dollars to bring in so that he can wrap up the project. If this looks like something you'd like to see made, throw a few bucks his way to help him reach his goals.

The Adventure Blog Holiday Shopping Guide

Thanksgiving is always a great time here in the States. Friends and family gather together to catch-up with one another, enjoy some great food, and relax for a few days. But, it also kicks off the frenzy of the holiday shopping season, with millions of consumers heading out to stores in search of the perfect present for their loved ones. If you have an outdoor adventurer on your shopping list this year, then perhaps I can suggest a few items that they might find under the tree. Without further adieu, I present to you the 2014 Adventure Blog holiday shopping guide.

Osprey Rev 12 Pack ($110)
The perfect gift for the trail or ultra runner in your life is, without a doubt, the Rev 12 pack from Osprey. It is lightweight, comfortable to wear, and packed with features. For instance, it comes with with a 2.5L hydration bladder, an innovative media pocket that keeps your phone close at hand at all times, and plenty of pockets and compartments for storage of essential gear. This is simply one of the best packs ever made for trail running, and it is sure to be a hit with your favorite outdoor athlete. The Rev is also available in 1.5 liter, 6, liter, 18 liter, and 24 liter sizes depending on the needs of the runner.

Mountain Hardwear Sereaction Jacket ($600)
Looking for the ultimate high performance jacket to keep your favorite adventurer warm and dry in the mountains? Then look no further than the Sereaction Jacket from Mountain Hardwear. This shell features the company's proprietary Dry.Q Elite fabrics, which were developed for maximum breathability and ventilation during rigorous alpine activities. Designed to allow the wearer to remain comfortable at all times, without restricting movement, this is a jacket that will perform well in nearly any kind of environment and conditions.

Bikes From Cannondale
One of the best presents that anyone can find under the tree on Christmas morning is a new bike. That was true when we were kids, and it remains true to this day. Cannondale always has excellent models to fit every type of rider. The Trail SL 29 ($2060) is a great ride for all-mountain performance, while the Quick CX 1 ($1620) is a fun hybrid for comfortable off-road and city riding. But for the top of the line mountain biking experience, check out the Trigger Carbon Black, Inc. ($10,830), a lightweight, nimble beast that can both climb and descend like no other. This is quite possibly the best mountain bike available today.

CamelBak Forge Travel Mug ($30)
If you've been looking for the ultimate travel mug, your search is over. CamelBak (yes, the makers of all those hydration packs!) has gone to great lengths to design the best travel mug imaginable. The Forge features a double-wall, vacuum insulated container that will keep your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate warm for 4+ hours. Its innovative lid features a leak-proof design that is built to keep your hot beverage going inside of you, not down the front of your shirt. Best of all, CamelBak has come up with a way to make it easier than ever to keep you mug clean, with a design that is so simple, you'll wonder why no one thought of it sooner. This is a wonderful product that is perfect for just about anyone on your list.

Outdoor Technology Big Turtle Shell Wireless Speaker ($230)
These days, Bluetooth wireless speakers are everywhere, and have become a popular accessory for our outdoor adventures. But few of them are built from the ground up to survive in the backcountry, while also delivering high quality sound in the process. The Big Turtle Shell from Outdoor Technology has been designed to not only provide great audio performance, but it is also water resistant, dust proof, and shock proof. That means, music lovers don't have to compromise on sounds when they go camping or backpacking. And with a battery life of 16 hours, they'll be able to listen for a long time between recharges.

Sugoi Cycling and Running Jackets
Running and cycling apparel also make for great gifts, and Sugoi has some of the best gear for both sports. Take for example the new Zap Bike Jacket ($160), which features the innovative Pixel fabrics that are designed to be both highly waterproof and incredibly reflective. This is the kind of jacket you want your loved one wearing when the rain sets in, or darkness starts to fall a bit earlier than expected. Similarly, the Alpha Hybrid Jacket ($175) is tailor made for runners. It provides plenty of warmth for those cold weather outings, with great breathability to ensure overheating doesn't become an issue. Wind and water resistant, the Alpha will quickly become a favorite piece of gear for your favorite runner.

Vasque Grand Traverse Shoes ($130)
Adventure travelers looking for a lightweight, highly packable, and very comfortable shoe to take with them on journeys will want to consider the Grand Traverse from Vasque. Good looking and versatile, these shoes are perfect for light trail duty, traipsing around town, or shuffling through an airport. Depending on the type of activities that are part of the itinerary, the Grand Traverse just might be the only shoe you need to take with you on that next adventure abroad.

Nite Ize Inova STS Headlamp ($35)
There are a lot of headlamps available on the market today, but what sets the Inova STS from Nite Ize apart from the competition is its unique swipe-to-shine technology. This allows the wearer to quickly and easily dial in the exact level of brightness they need without having to fumble with buttons, special modes, or switches. The headlamp is capable of putting out as much as 142 lumens of power, and is waterproof to one meter, as well as drop resistant.

Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Power Pack ($200)
Keeping your electronic devices fully charged in the backcountry can be a real challenge these days. In addition to smartphones and digital camera, we also have to be able to keep your GPS devices, rechargeable headlamps, and other gadgets working too. It would be nice if that extended to tablets and laptops as well. Enter the Sherpa 50 Power Pack($200) from Goal Zero, a battery pack that can provide plenty of juice for everything you take with you on your adventures. Charge it up before you leave home, or pair it with a Nomad 13 solar panel ($160) for a portable charging solution.

Buffs ($20)
Buffs have been around a long time now, and they remain one piece of gear that I never leave home without. These versatile pieces of headgear can serve as a scarf, balaclava, do-rag, face mask, and so much more. Available in dozens of colors and styles, they make great stocking stuffers for the active outdoor enthusiast. Personally, I'm a bit partial the new National Geographic Everest design, but there are so many to choose from, it's tough to decide which is best. And don't forget there are Buffs designed specifically for cold weather use as well.

Chums Gizmo PED Case ($25)
Keeping our electronic devices safe while in the backcountry, or on a trip to the far side of the planet is of the utmost importance. That's why Chums has introduced a new set of products designed to do just that. The Gizmo case is offers padded protection for a smartphone, digital camera, or similarly sized device, with an interior that is lined with soft fleece to protect delicate screens. The outer shell is made of ballistic nylon to help provide further protection, while a couple of interior pockets are great for organization. The case is perfect for an iPhone 6, charger, and cable, with enough room left over for a few other items too.

Vessyl Smart Cup ($99)
Fitness and workout nuts will love Vessyl, a smart cup that can keep track of everything they drink, and provide nutritional feedback. With its sophisticated set of sensors, the Vessyl is capable of detecting the brand, flavor, and contents of just about anything that is put into it, and store that data for analysis over time. The device can then break down the "liquid calories" consumed by the user, making them more aware of what they are drinking. When linked to a smartphone, the device can help users lose weight, stay hydrated, regulate sugar and caffeine intake, and more. The Vessyl will ship in 2015, but can be preordered now at a special introductory price.

Video: 55-Year Old Female Mountain Biker Finds Adventure in Austria

How about a bit of inspiration for your day? Check out this video, which features 55-year old Uta Philipp off on a mountain biking adventure in Austria. She rides like someone half her age, and has a spirit that deserves to be applauded. She couldn't have picked a more beautiful location for her ride either. It looks like a fantastic place to explore on two wheels.

Granny MacAsskick from Summitride on Vimeo.

Video: Katabatic - Episode 2

A few weeks back, EpicTV launched a new video series entitled Katabatic. The series follows explorers Mike Libecki, Freddie Wilkinson, Corey Richards, and Keith Ladzinski as they attempt to circumnavigate the Wolthat Mountain Range in Antarctica. It promises to be a compelling set of videos of a very experienced team visiting some incredibly remote areas of the Antarctic.

In this video, the team discovers just how powerful the forces of nature are in Antarctica. A storm rips through their camp, unleashing a ferocity that is unexpected, even in a part of the world that is known for it's inhospitable weather. Seeing those forces in action on video will give you a new appreciation for what polar explorers endure on their journeys.

Sign-Up for the Inaugural TransArabia Ultramarathon, Get a Discounted Entry into the TransPyrenea 895 Too!

Ultrarunners who had been hoping to take part in the 2015 TransPyrenea 895 race, but found themselves missing the cutoff for registration may just have a second chance to get in on the adventure. The race reached its 300 person cap weeks ago, leaving some of the top endurance athletes in the world on the outside looking in. But now, organizers of the TransPyrenea have announced that they will accept the next ten people who enter TransArabia ultramarathon as well, allowing them join the ranks of competitors at their event. And to sweeten the incentive even further, they're willing to provide a €500 (roughly $620) discount off the entry fee as well.

Organizers for these two great events have teamed up to give ultrarunners the ultimate challenge for 2015 – run a stunning course through the deserts of Jordan, and another through the breathtaking Pyrenees of France. The first of those races will take place starting on February 22, when runners will set off from the shores of the Dead Sea on a 300 km (186 mile) race that will take them through ancient villages, past the lost city of Petra, and into the very heart of Wadi Rum. Then, later in the year, they'll also take on the demanding 895 km (556 mile) TransPyrenea route that will test their legs with more than 52,000 meters (170,600 ft) of vertical gain in the Pyrenees. Both races promise to be incredibly demanding, pushing the competitors to their absolute physical limits.

 For someone who had been hoping to run the TransPyrenea but found themselves missing the entry cut-off, this is a bit of a reprieve. These ten entrants will get to race two of the most exciting ultra events on the calendar for 2015, with more to follow. The two race management teams also promise a big announcement that will be coming soon, with a sister race for the TransPyenea being announced for 2016. Those who race in both events in 2015 will be on the fast track for entrance to those races the following year as well.

If you were hoping to run a major ultra race next year, but just haven't gotten around to registering for one yet, this must might be the opportunity you've been looking for. But act fast, as these ten entries are likely to go quickly, particularly since they now involve not one, but two races, and a discount as well.

Good luck to all the runners in both of these amazing events.

Antarctica 2014: Bitterly Cold Temps and More Arrivals on the Ice

The 2014 Antarctic season is in full swing now, with more teams setting off for the South Pole amidst  "brutally cold" temperatures and high winds. Even during the austral summer, conditions on the frozen continent can test a person's resolve. With miles of open expanse in all directions, surface conditions that are incredibly difficult, and visibility often reduced to zero, it can be difficult to continue to forge ahead. But on the other hand, Antarctica is a stunningly beautiful place that is about as remote as any on the planet. All of those things, and more, are running through the minds of the skiers, many of whom have barely begun the long journey to the South Pole.

We'll start today with an update from Are Johansen, the guide who is taking Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel to the Pole. He reports that temperatures have dropped below -40ºC/-40ºF, with winds that are making things very challenging. But, the team has also managed to cover an additional 21 km (13 miles) in a little over seven hours of skiing. That's a solid distance for these opening days, especially as they pull themselves up to the polar plateau, gaining altitude as they go.

For their part, Stéphanie and Jérémie seem to be holding up well to the rigors of the trail. They making great progress, and seem well prepared for the journey. In their most recent dispatch they talk about the heavy sleds they are pulling behind them as they travel across the ice. Those sleds are their lifelines, packed full of gear and supplies. But it seems they are already thinking of ways to lighten their load, and are considering dropping some extra items that they feel they may not need such as a computer and possibly solar chargers. It is interesting that they are already looking for ways to go faster, even though they've been out on the ice a fairly short time, and have plenty of season left to go. The sleds themselves will naturally get lighter as they make progress, burning food and fuel along the way. They must feel especially burdened however if they are discussing plans to drop gear so soon.

Meanwhile, Canadian kite-skier Frédéric Dion ran into more problems with his sled over the weekend, and had to make some serious repairs this time. In order to ensure he doesn't run into problems, the explorer actually used a saw to cut the sled in half, then pieced it back together using tools and fasteners that he had on hand. The result is a smaller, more secure sled, that will also see its load lighten over time. Fred is on his way to the Pole of Inaccessibility, and needs his gear to function at a high level. He hopes that this latest round of repairs will allow him to progress without further problems.

After fixing the sled, Fred ran into a different issue – low winds. He is in a bit of a calm area at the moment, and as a result, his distances covered have dropped dramatically. On Sunday he managed just 17 km (10.5 miles) as he conserved his energy for when the big winds return, and he can put his kite up once again. The forecasts indicate those winds will return soon, so he'll be back on his way to the POI before we know it.

A couple of new expeditions got underway yesterday as more explorers and adventurers arrived on the ice. Amongst them was Paula Reid, who is skiing the full distance to the South Pole from Hercules Inlet. She has only just barely gotten underway, and her dispatch yesterday says she is testing gear before she really sets out. I would imagine she'll start covering longer distances today as she launches her bid to reach 90ºS.

Another expedition that set off yesterday is that of Manon Ossevoort, a Dutch woman who is driving a tractor to the South Pole. She's starting at the Russian Novo station, and is targeting an arrival at the Pole on or around December 7. Manon claims that it has always been her dream to drive a tractor to the bottom of the world and now, after years of planning, she's set off to do just that.

Finally, ExWeb has posted an interview with polar explorer Keith Heger, who shares some insights and tips for traveling in the Antarctic. Keith says that prospective South Pole skiers should stay organized, trust in their preparation, and never forget to have some fun along the way. He also shares his five favorite gear items, which include his Iridium Go satellite communicator, his Ibex Tuck SoftShell pants, and a specially made banana chocolate chip bread that is baked by his wife. Keith further goes into the food that keeps him fueled up on the Antarctic as well, where calories are of the utmost importance.

That's all for today. More updates as the season continues to unfold.

Are You Ready To Tackle Everest?

The spring climbing season in the Himalaya may still be a few months away, but the shadow of Everest always looms large over the outdoor adventure community. With that in mind, Winfields Outdoors – a retail chain that sells gear in the U.K. – has put together a fun infographic to check to see if you're ready to take on the tallest mountain on the planet, and as you can imagine, it is filled with helpful links to websites that can prepare you for an expedition to the Big Hill.

The handy guide to preparing for Everest begins by first taking a look at the skills and gear you'll need for the climb, as well as providing some insights into how altitude could effect the expedition. Some of the links in this section include a list of the best mountains for beginners, a run-down of ten items you'll need to take to Everest, and tips for how to acclimatize to the high altitude.

From there, we move on to look at the level of fitness required for a Himalayan climb, with insights on how to get Everest fit, as well as preparing for the mental rigors of dealing with such a demanding environment. There is even a section that breaks down the costs of an expedition to Everest, with a link to our friend Alan Arnette's annual guide for that very subject.

The infographic doesn't end there however, as it also addresses the topic of finding the proper guide, complete with an official guide directory, which route to take to the top, and information on how to secure your climbing permit. There is even tips for how to descend properly following a successful summit.

In case you couldn't tell already, this infographic has enough links and information to keep you busy for awhile. So whether you're an old pro at Everest expeditions, or just starting to lear, you'll probably find something of value here. Check it out for yourself by clicking here. Just don't plan on doing anything else for awhile, as you'll probably be kind of busy.

Video: Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point in the Grand Canyon

Here's a beautiful short video that is even more impressive when you realize the entire thing was shot using just an iPhone 6 Plus. It features some amazing footage from the Grand Canyon, where filmmaker Dan Carter hiked Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point, capturing video as he went. It is incredible to think that we now have such great cameras, and video editing tools, right in our pockets. Filmmaking has never been so accessible as it is today, and as a result, we're getting some very cool videos. Enjoy!

Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point (iPhone 6 Plus) from Dan Carter on Vimeo.

Video: Teaser Trailer for Nolan's 14

There is a little known challenge in the ultrarunning world known as Nolan's 14. That challenge involves running a 100 mile (160 km) route through the mountains of Colorado, while bagging all 14 individual 14,000 ft (4267 meter) peaks that make up Sawatch Range. The runners who take on this challenge are free to follow any route they choose, so long as they manage to get all 14 peaks in under 60 hours. Only 15% of those who try are actually able to do it.

Now, a new documentary about Nolan's 14 has been released, and it looks fantastic. The teaser trailer for the film can be found below, and it serves as a good introduction to this grueling undertaking. You'll recognize some of the biggest names in ultrarunning in the clip, which also gives viewers a glimpse of just how difficult this challenge truly is. The final quote in the trailer sums it up well. "There's running. There's ultrarunning. Then there's Nolan's 14."

If you like what you see, you can rent or buy the full documentary on Vimeo as well.

Nolan's 14 - Trailer from Pheonix and Ash Productions on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Backpack

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, a few weeks back – just before I left for Ecuador – my friends at 5.11 Tactical were kind enough to ship me a box filled with all kinds of goodies. Amongst them were the Stryke Pants, which I took with me to South America and put to good use in the field. But also in the box was a wonderful daypack that I think many people will find is a great addition to their own gear closets. It is the Rush 12 pack, a versatile, durable, and well built bag that can be used in a variety of situations from the backcountry to the boardroom.

As with all of 5.11 Tactical's gear, the Rush 12 takes a lot of its design cues from military and law enforcement gear. This looks like a pack you would expect to find on the backs of soldiers deployed in just about any theater of operations around the globe. It is incredibly well built, and designed to last, and as such it resists abrasions, tears, and scuffs very well. This is the kind of pack that you'll be able to abuse for years, and still continue to put to good use while hiking, hunting, or carrying your urban gear around town.

The designers of the Rush 12 put a lot of thought into this bag, and have managed to put in a surprising number of features. For instance, there are 16 different compartments, stow pockets, and storage chambers on the pack, giving you plenty of options for keeping all of your important items in just the right place. Those compartments include a fleece-lined pocket that is perfect for sunglasses or a smartphone, with the soft lining ensuring that lenses or screens don't get scratched. There is also a 60oz (1.77 liter) hydration sleeve, a pocket with built-in organizational slots, and large main storage area that can swallow up plenty of gear as well.

Unlike most other pack manufacturers, who generally indicate the size of the bag in the name, 5.11 Tactical took a different approach. The "12" in the Rush 12 name indicates the number of hours the bag would be used for. Thus, the Rush 12 is a good daypack for up to 12 hours of use. This is in contrast to the Rush 24, which would be an overnight bag, or the Rush 72, which is a three-day pack. In terms of traditional size however, the Rush 12 offers a solid 21.2 liters of capacity, which puts it on the smaller end of the daypack scale, but with more storage capacity than that number might typically indicate.

The Rush 12 features thickly padded shoulder straps, which help to distribute a heavy load nicely. A sternum strap locks the back into place, although their is no hipbelt at all, which may cause some to find the fit to be a bit more loose than they would like. The back stayed well in place during testing however, and unless you are attempting to use it for trail running, or some other fast-paced aerobic exercise, it will more than likely meet the demands that you put on it.

All of the straps, buckles, and zippers on this pack are of exceptional quality, and only add to the feeling that this pack can withstand plenty of punishment. 5.11 Tactical has gone to great lengths to ensure that Rush 12 can survive in harsh environments, and that includes integrating self-reparing zippers, with pull tabs that are easy to operate, even while wearing gloves. The great quality even extends to the stitching, as the entire package has been constructed in a manner that simply makes the Rush 12 feel practically bullet proof.

The back panel on the Rush 12 doesn't feature any type of frame to help facilitate ventilation. In fact, there isn't even much in the way of contouring that could provide relief when wearing this bag in a warm environment. It is not unusual for a pack of this size to lack those kinds of features, but it is worth pointing out none the less. If you're someone who works up a sweat while wearing a daypack, the lack of ventilation system may be of ca concern. Depending on how you plan to use the pack however, it may not be something you would notice at all.

While this pack may lack some of the more technical features of bag designed specifically for hiking, it definitely makes up for it with its level of versatility. This is a pack that you can use as part of your everyday commute, just as easily as it can pull double duty out on the trail. It has a nice, classic look to it that would feel just as at home in an office environment, as it does sitting around a campsite. Military and law enforcement personnel will absolutely love this pack, and I think it will be a hit with hunters too. It has all of the storage space that those individuals will need, all wrapped up in a nice compact design. Casual hikers will find that it is more than up to the challenge of day-hiking along your favorite trail, although serious trekkers may want to look towards a more technical pack designed specifically for their needs.

With a price tag of $100, the Rush 12 is a great bargain for the market that it it going after. You'll have a tough time finding a pack of this quality from any other manufacturer at that price. Durability and dependability are the name of the game, and 5.11 Tactical has delivered those qualities, and then some. If this is the type of pack you need, then don't hesitate to order one today. You will not be disappointed.

Antarctica 2014: More Skiers Hit the Ice, Slow Progress Elsewhere

It has been a few difficult days in the Antarctica, where the season is ramping up nicely. More South Pole skiers arrived on the frozen continent on Saturday, after suffering a one day delay in getting out of Punta Arenas due to poor weather. Meanwhile, others continue to battle hight winds and the dreaded sastrugi – ice ridges that form on the surface, creating obstacles that slow progress. All of this is pretty much standard operating procedure in the Antarctic however, and is all part of traveling in the highest, coldest, driest place on the planet.

A big Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft had been scheduled to shuttle more explorers to the camp at Union Glacier last Friday, but that flight was scrubbed due to bad weather. Fortunately, it was only delayed by a day, and as a result, South Pole skier Newall Hunter is now on his way towards 90ºS. He spent part of yesterday skiing away from his drop-off point, and has been testing his gear to insure everything works properly. If all goes according to plan, he should hit the trail today and start the long journey from Patriot Hill to the Pole. Over the coming weeks, we'll be following his progress closely as he makes his way across the frozen expanse.

Presumably Ian Evans is also out on the ice, although he has not updated his blog just yet to indicate his current whereabouts. He has been scheduled to fly out on last Friday's flight as well, so it is logical to assume he was on the re-scheduled flight on Saturday instead. He could be at Union Glacier, and preparing to get underway, but until his website is updated, we'll just have to wait to find out where he is exactly.

Meanwhile, Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel, and their guide Are Johansen, continue to press ahead. The team is currently knocking off somewhere in the neighborhood of about 23 km (14.2 miles) per day, which is a solid effort at this point of their expedition. They are seeing their progress slowed by sastrugi however, which can take the energy out of the legs, and slow progress dramatically. Still, they are happy with how things are proceeding thus far, despite a difficult headwind and temperatures that are hovering around -30ºC/-22ºF.

Canadian kite-skier Frédéric Dion continues to make great progress on his way to the Pole of Inaccessibility. Last week he suffered a setback when his sled suffered severe damage, but he was able to repair it to a degree, and continue on with the expedition, at least so far. After stitching up the 30 cm crack in the side of the sled, he was able to catch the wind with his big kite, and cover an impressive 150 km (93 miles) in a single day. That was enough incentive for him to for go calling it a day, and climbing inside of his tent for rest. Instead, Fred chose to push on, collecting a few extra miles in the process. Right now, he and his home team are keeping a close watch on the repaired sled. If it fails, he would have to cancel the expedition altogether. A replacement sled belonging to polar explorer Dixie Dansercoer is stashed at the Novo station, and could be delivered to Frédéric in a pinch, but to do so would mean that he would have to abandon his "unsupported" designation. He is understandably reluctant to do that at this point, so for now he'll press ahead, and hope his repairs hold.

Finally, Faysal Hanneche is starting to see some solid progress on his attempt to kite ski from Novo to the South Pole, then on to Union Glacier. After being tent-bound for several days last week, he has been making solid progress with good winds as well. After covering 60 km (37 miles), Faysal reports that he found himself in a large sastrugi field, which is exactly where he didn't want to be. If sastrugi are a problem for skiers, they are even more challenging to kite-skiers, who are generally traveling at a much higher rate of speed. Hopefully he'll pass through the field in short order, and will have better skiing all the way to the Pole.

That's all for the start of the week. Stay tuned for more news out of the Antarctic soon.

Nepal Backtracks on Everest Permits, 2014 Climbers No Longer Need to Return as a Group

What a difference a week can make. Last Monday I posted a story about how Nepal was honoring the cancelled permits from the 2014 Everest climbing season, but had put a stipulation on their use that would cause many to be unable to climb on the permit that they actually paid for. But now, the Himalaya country has backtracked on those restrictions and is providing better opportunities for the climbers who saw their dreams of scaling Everest dashed this past spring.

As I'm sure most of you know by now, the spring climbing season on Everest was cancelled following a massive avalanche that left 16 Sherpas dead. It was the worst accident in the history of the tallest mountain on the planet, and the aftermath left many of the men and women who work on the mountain angry, confused, and demanding better compensation. At the time, the Nepali government made the decision to close things down, while they looked for ways to defuse the situation. That decision sent hundreds of foreign climbers home, unsure of their future on Everest.

Eventually Nepal's Ministry of Tourism announced that it would honor the climbing permits for five years, giving most of the mountaineers an opportunity to return to Everest, and attempt to climb the mountain once again. But the preliminary announcement indicated that all the climbers listed on a permit would need to return together in order to take advantage of this plan. Those that were unable to come back with their teammates would see their opportunity forfeit, and would have to pay for another permit on future attempts. This meant that if a single member of a team went back to Everest, and used his or her 2014 permit, all the other climbers listed on that document would no longer be able to use that permit themselves.

This was of course a confounding stipulation, as it would be almost impossible for a full team to reassemble to try Everest once again. Fortunately, someone in Nepal saw this as a problem, and was successful in changing the rules. Now, any climber who was on a cancelled permit from the spring 2014 climbing season can use that permit at any time over the course of the next five year. They no longer have to return with their previous team, and they can sign on to any expedition they choose.

I applaud the Nepali government for making this change to the regulations that will give climbers on 2014 permits more freedom to choose when they'll return. This is how the system should have worked in the first place of course, but it is good to see that someone saw the injustice in the previous plan, and made a move to adjust it. Hopefully now, more climbers will have an opportunity to go back to Everest over the next five years, and attempt to climb the mountain.

The spring 2015 season is still months away of course, and yet we continue to find plenty of things to talk about in regards to Everest. I have a feeling the run up to the start of the next climbing season is going to be an interesting one.

Video: Two Lands - Greenland and Iceland

This short video gives viewers a glimpse of two of the most iconic, adventurous, destinations on the planet - Greenland and Iceland. The timelapse images depicted here are beautiful and awe inspiring, providing us with some insight into why these two cold, challenging, places hold such an allure with adventure travelers and explorers the world over.

Two Lands - Greenland | Iceland from SCIENTIFANTASTIC on Vimeo.

Video: The Ridge

Shot in Denali National Park this past spring, this video gives us a dramatic look at a long, and treacherous, mountain ridge. The slow, meandering pace of the clip gives the mountains an almost sinister quality, as if it is daring viewers to just try to traverse its difficult route. But the images are also beautiful and inspiring, reminding us that the dangerous places of our planet are also worth the effort to explore. Sit back, and soak this one in. It says a lot, without saying anything at all.

THE RIDGE from Forge Motion Pictures on Vimeo.

Video: New Documentary to Take Viewers on Epic Traverse of Remote Canadian Mountain Range

This video is a teaser trailer for a new documentary entitled Colours of Edziza. The film follows a diverse team of friends and adventurers as they trek through a remote mountain range in the Tahitian First Nation region of British Columbia in Canada. This part of the world remains largely untouched by outside influences, and the team discovered a land that is as rugged, as it is beautiful. Along the way, they also discovered how to work together to overcome the challenges they faced on their traverse of two different mountain ranges.

The filmmakers for this amazing looking documentary are hoping to complete their project, and have launched an Indegogo campaign to raise the funds they need to finish the film. As I write this, they have raised about $10,000 CAD for the project, and are looking to get to $25,000 CAD. I think after watching the trailer, you'll see that this is an interesting adventure doc that deserves to be seen. If you agree, perhaps you can help out a bit with their goal.

Ultra-running Team Sets New Mark on New Zealand's Great Walks

A few weeks back I posted about the New Zealand 9 expedition, an attempt by a trio of ultrarunners/adventurers to set a new speed record for completing all nine of New Zealand's Great Walks in just nine days. While I was off galavanting around Ecuador the past few weeks, this team of endurance athletes launched their ambitious effort as well. While not everything went according to plan, they were able to successfully complete eight of the Great Walks, and a portion of the ninth, while in the process, setting a new record along the way.

Ben Southall, Luke Edwards, and Patrick Kinsella faced grueling trail conditions, sleep deprivation, logistical challenges, and the wrath of Mother Nature as they ran – and paddled – their way along the Great Walks. The three men pushed themselves to their physical limits, often running distances greater than a marathon on back-to-back, successive days, on dirt trails no less. In the end, it was circumstances beyond their control that prevented them from achieving the nine walks in nine days, although they did manage to complete eight of the journeys in record time.

For those who don't know, the nine "Great Walks" consist of the following: The Rakiura Track (32km/19.8 miles), Kepler Track (60km/37.2 miles), Milford Track (54km/33.5 miles), Routeburn Track (32km/19.8 miles), Heaphy Track (78km/48.5 miles), Abel Tasman Coastal Track (51km/31.6 miles), Whanganui Journey (145 km/90 miles), Tongariro Northern Circuit (43km/26.7 miles), Lake Waikaremoana Track (46km/28.5 miles).

When the team completed the Routeburn Track, they immediately set out for the Heaphy Track to continue their expedition. Unfortunately, extended driving times between the trailheads forced them to run the 78km (48.5 mile) route at night, which presented plenty of challenges in and of itself. They were able to complete that route however, and that wasn't where they faced a roadblock that couldn't be overcome.

With logistical issues causing delays, the expedition schedule got a bit off track, and by the time they reached the Whanganui Journey – a 145km (90 mile) paddle down the Whanganui River – they new they were racing an uphill battle. The river had swelled to unusually high levels, making it even more of a challenge to complete. When nightfall set in, the boys realized that it was too dangerous to paddle after dark, and were forced to abandon the attempt.

Dejected that they wouldn't be able to finish that stage of the journey, the move don to the Tongariro Northern Circuit, before catching a helicopter ride to the start of the Lake Waikaremoana Track. They ran those two ultramarathon length trails back-to-back, and crossed the finish line for the expedition in 9 days, 23 hours, and 20 minutes. 40 minutes shy of ten days.

As it stands, they team set a new mark for finishing 8 of New Zealand's Great Walks in record time. They are disappointed of course that they were unable to complete the Wanganui Journey, but are proud of their accomplishment none the less. Congratulations to Ben, Luke, and Pat on a job well done.

To find out more about the expedition visit TheGlobalAdenturers.com.  And check out the video below of the final leg of the journey to get an idea of the challenge they faced along the way.

Trail 9 - World Record from NothinButShorts International on Vimeo.

Winter Mountaineering 2014: Lonnie Dupre to Return to Denali

Although we will be closely following the efforts of climbers on both K2 and Nanga Parbat this winter, not all of the major climbing expeditions will be taking place in the Himalaya. Polar explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre will be heading back to Alaska in a few weeks, where he'll once again attempt a solo summit of Denali in January, something that has never been accomplished before.

This isn't the first time Lonnie has attempted this climb. In fact, for three straight years we followed his efforts, during which he often flirted with the summit, only to have his efforts thwarted by poor weather. He skipped an attempt this past January to concentrate on other efforts, but is now planning to return more focused than ever.

According to ExWeb, Dupre will begin the expedition on December 15, when he is expected to fly to the Kahiltna Glacier at the foot of Denali, where he'll prepare for the actual climb itself. As in the past, he won't launch any efforts to go up the mountain until at least January 1, the start of the coldest, windiest, and darkest month of the year in Alaska. Whether or not he'll be able to stick to that date remains to be seen. A weather window will need to open for Dupre that will grant him – and the bush pilot who flies him out to the glacier – access to the region.

And just what can Lonnie expect on Denali? Cold. Lots and lots of cold. Average temperatures in January are about -50ºF/-45ºC, with wind speeds often topping out at over 100 mph (160 km/h). On top of that, the mountain sees only about 6 hours of sunlight per day in January, making it a very inhospitable place.

As Lonnie is quick to point out on his website, just 16 climbers have ever summited Denali in winter, and of those, six died on the descent. Those successful summits are spread out over nine expeditions, four solo, five as a team. The mountain has only be climbed once in January, and that was by a team of three Russians. If successful, his would be the first solo-summit ever in January.

As in years past, Lonnie will approach the climb in a unique fashion. Just as if he were traveling in the Arctic, he'll pull a sled behind himself with all the gear he needs for the journey. He'll also dig a series of snow caves up the side of the mountain, stashing gear in those caves as he goes. This will not only help him acclimatize to the altitude, but will also build his camps for the eventual summit push. Those caves will serve as his shelter from the weather, keeping him out of the most inhospitable conditions. On one of his previous attempts on Denali, Dupre ended up spending nearly two weeks stranded in a snow cave as he waited out the bad weather.

At 6168 meters (20,237 ft), Denali – also known as Mt. McKinley – is the tallest peak in North America. It's extreme northerly latitude gives it some of the coldest, and most unpredictable weather, imaginable. That same latitude also creates higher air pressure, making the altitude seem higher than it actually is. These are all challenges that climbers on Denali face each season, but they are augmented even further during the winter, when the weather is even more extreme.

Good luck to Lonnie on this latest attempt at a summit attempt of Denali in January. We'll be following!

Video: Nosunvalley - Mountain Biking in Slovenia

I don't know much about the Soča Valley in Slovenia, but judging from what is shown in this video, it looks like a beautiful outdoor destination, with some great mountain biking trails to ride. This short film takes us on a journey through this intriguing landscape on a mountain bike, giving us a glimpse of the amazing mountains, valleys, and meadows that exist there. It looks spectacular to say the least.

Nosunvalley [MOVIE] from Twisted Chick Production on Vimeo.

Video: The North Face - Your Land

This video is a promo clip from The North Face, with a number of scenes of outdoor athletes doing their favorite activities, while strains of the song This Land is Your Land plays in the background. While that song has a decidedly American slant to it, the theme of the video is universal, as are the images that it evokes with outdoor lovers. This land belongs to you and me.

Gear Closet: 5.11 Tactical Stryke Pants

Just a few days before I set out for Ecuador, a box was unexpectedly delivered to my door. Since I wasn't really expecting anything, I wasn't sure what was inside. I opened it up to discover several excellent pieces of gear from 5.11 Tactical, a company that makes great clothing and other items for outdoor enthusiasts, military personnel, and law enforcement agents. While not all of it was appropriate for my trip to South America, I did immediately add their Stryke Pants to my backpack, as I though Ecuador would a perfect place to test them. It didn't take long for me to realize that they were a great addition to my pack, and a vital piece of equipment for my trip.

Made from Flex-TAC ripstop fabrics, the Stryke Pant features a cut that fits the body nicely, without inhibiting motion in any way. Comfortable to wear, even for extended periods of time, these pants allow you to move as necessary over rough terrain, and in difficult conditions. On top of that, they are treated with a Teflon coasting, that provides protection from stains and dirt, as well as a measure of moisture resistance as well. This is a nice benefit for travelers who like to travel light, as it allows you to carry fewer items with you when you go. In my case, I brought only two pairs of pants on my trip to Ecuador, with the Stryke Pant getting the bulk of the use during active pursuits.

Tactical 5.11 knows their customers well, and when designing these pants they incorporated plenty of pockets and stash points to store all of your important items. In addition to the traditional pockets on the front and back, there are also cargo pockets conveniently located on each leg. Inside those two pockets, you'll find organizational compartments as well, which are perfect for a cell phone, digital camera, a pocket knife, or what ever other items you want to keep close at hand. Both the cargo and rear pockets also feature velcro flaps to ensure a level of security too. Those flaps stay solidly in place, and are nearly impossible to open without drawing the attention of the wearer. This is also a nice feature for travelers, who want to keep their wallet, and other valuables, safe while on the road, although they also come in handy for making sure nothing falls out while you're scrambling up a mountain, or hiking a difficult trail.

I was impressed with how durable and rugged these pants are, without being overly weighty. The articled knees include knee pads to help protect the fabrics when you're kneeling on the ground, and other important areas of the design are reinforced as well. I put these pants through the wringer on multiple hikes in the Andes, as well as on mountain bike and horseback rides, and they came away looking brand new. They are even incredibly easy to wash while traveling, which allowed them to stay looking fresh, even though I had just worn them on a hike up a 4200 meter (13,779 ft) mountain.

As mentioned above, the Stryke Pant is moisture resistant, but not water proof. I found this out the hard way when I got caught in a rainstorm on an afternoon hike in the Andes, and ended up having to descend for about three hours in a squall. Surprisingly enough however, the pants still performed very well, and repelled water far longer than I would have expected. At the end of the day, they also dried fairly quickly, and were ready for use the next day without a hint of moisture remaining. While I wouldn't recommend wearing them on an adventure in which you expect to get wet, if the need arises they can certainly keep you moving, even when conditions are less than optimal.

While these definitely look like a pair of pants that you would wear on an adventure to some far flung destination, they also look good enough that you can also wear them about town, and not feel out of place. In fact, I wore them around Quito on more than one occasion, including grabbing dinner at a nice restaurant. I have the black version of the Stryke Pant, and they actually have narrow pin-stripes incorporated into the design. This actually makes them look a bit like dress slacks, even while carrying all kinds of extra gear in the pockets. Again, as a frequent traveler, it is nice to have versatile apparel that can pull double duty on the trail and at a nice dinner.

Tactical 5.11 sells the Stryke Pant for $70, which I feel is quite the bargain. They are incredibly well made, and seem like a piece of gear that you can rely on taking with you on multiple adventures for years to come. Very durable and comfortable, these pants will be a welcome addition to any outdoor enthusiast or adventure traveler's wardrobe. I know that I will be carrying them with me on many of my future journeys for sure.

Antarctica 2014: Trouble on the Way to the POI

The 2014 Antarctic expedition season is well underway now, with teams of skiers making their way towards the South Pole, and other destinations across the frozen continent. While travel in Antarctica has become somewhat common place in recent years, it is still a very difficult, and in hospitable place, which one explorer found out yesterday. Meanwhile, the next flight to Union Glacier is still on track for tomorrow, as yet more expeditions prepare to get underway.

Canadian kite-skier Frédéric Dion ran into a bit of trouble yesterday, and it could put his entire expedition in jeopardy. Dion set off from the Russian Novo station back on November 11 with the intention of kiting to the Pole of Inaccessibility, which is defined as a point that is located furthest from any coastline on the Antarctic continent. Using his large kites to catch the wind, Fréd has been zipping along quite nicely, covering more than 500 km (310 miles) in a relatively short period of time. With him he has a specially designed sled that can best be described as a kayak on skis, which carries all of his gear and supplies. It is essentially his lifeline while out on the ice, and it is the one piece of equipment that needs to function properly in order for him to successfully reach the POI.

Yesterday, when he contacted his home team, it was with the grim news that the kayak had suffered a 30 cm (11.8 inch) crack, this making it very difficult to continue. Dion immediately initiated an attempt to repair the crack, but it took 5 hours to do so, and he made no progress at all yesterday. He will attempt to continue today, although we'll all have to wait to see if the sled will be able to stand-up to the rigors of the Antarctic.

In addition to his issues with his kayak-on-skis, Fréd is also dealing with a bit of frostbite on his nose.  Otherwise, he says that he is in great physical condition, and eager to continue, although he admits that his morale has taken a hit with the damage to the sled. He is still fully stocked with supplies, has 50 days remaining on his schedule, and is determined to press on however, so there is a good chance he could still reach the Pole of Inaccessibility. He's going to need a little luck on his side though, with the hopes that no further damage will be done in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, fellow kite-skier Faysal Hanneche is finally back on the trail, and heading towards the South Pole. He spent three consecutive days inside his tent as high winds and whiteout conditions made it impossible for him to progress. He was finally able to get moving again yesterday, but made just 6 km (3.7 miles) of progress due to amount of time it took him to simply dig out his buried tent. He hopes to make better time today, as he has a lot of ground to cover. Faysal set off from Novo station as well, and will traverse the continent to Unction Glacier, via the South Pole.

Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel, along with guide Are Johansen, are continuing to make solid progress towards 90ºS as well. They have now been underway for six days, and yesterday the managed to knock off a solid 22.5 km (14 miles). Considering that they are still in the early stages of the journey, that is a good distance already. The route from Patriot Hills to the South Pole requires skiers to first climb to the Antarctic Plateau, which can take days, and keep progress to a minimum in the early going. Most South Pole skiers pick up speed at they overcome early obstacles, find their rhythm, and get more accustomed to the work. The fact that they are able to cover such solid distances in their first week of skiing bodes well for the team.

Finally, the next flight out of Punta Arenas to Union Glacier is still scheduled to take place tomorrow.  It will carry the next wave of South Pole skiers, including Newall Hunter and Ian Evans, both of which are heading to 90ºS independently of one another. They should be underway in just a day or two, depending on the weather conditions.

That's all for today. Things are starting to get interesting in the Antarctic, and I'll have more coverage soon.

Winter Mountaineering 2014: K2 and Nanga Parbat Take Center Stage

Earlier this week we turned out the light on the 2014 fall Himalayan climbing season by wrapping up the last couple of expeditions that were still ongoing. Now, there will be a bit of a respite on the big mountains, while most of the attention turns to the spring climbing season on Everest. But before that occurs, the winter climbing season awaits, and in just over a month's time, teams will begin heading to some of the most difficult peaks on the planet in an attempt to summit during the coldest, most demanding season of all.

As of now, there are just two 8000 meter peaks that remain unclimbed in winter, They are K2 and Nanga Parbat. This winter, teams have targeted both peaks in an attempt to knock off one, or both, of these incredibly difficult mountains.

While most of the winter climbing expeditions are heading to Nanga, the team that we'll be watching the closest will no doubt be on K2. As previously announced, a team consisting of climbing all-stars Denis Urubko, Adam Bielecki and Alex Txikon, who will be joined by Artiom Braun and Dmitry Siniew, has set its sights on a new route on the toughest mountain on the planet. The team will climb from the Chinese side of K2, up the North Face, along the Northeast Ridge. According to ExWeb, the squad will depart for the Karakoram on December 16.

Of course, this team has a great deal of experience climbing during the winter. Urubko was part of the team that put up the first winter ascent of Gasherbrum II a few years back, and Bielecki has two first ascents during the season under his belt as well – Gasherbrum I and Broad Peak. They'll need all of that skill, experience, and determination if they hope to reach the summit of K2 in a few months.

Meanwhile, ExWeb is also offering solid details on the plans for Nanga Parbat as well. They claim that Tomek Mackiewicz, Daniele Nardi, Elisabeth Revol and Roberto Delle Monache will all share Base Camp on that mountain, although beyond that point Tomek intends to make a solo summit bid. That will be a bold expedition to follow as well, as he attempts to go up the Mummery Rib. The group is expected to depart for Pakistan on December 20.

According to Russian Climb, Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval are also attempting Nanga this winter. They are planning on setting off for Pakistan on December 22 for their own winter 8000-meter expedition.

Finally, Simone Moro is up to something in the Himalaya this winter, but we're not sure exactly what yet. He has promised his wife he would not attempt K2, so he won't join his friend Denis Urubko on that expedition, and he has also ruled out Nanga Parbat. Apparently, the expedition is still coming together, and he isn't quite ready to reveal plans just yet. Hopefully we'll hear more about what he has in store in the days ahead. As usual with Simone, he generally has some big idea. Perhaps he'll bring his friend Ueli Steck along for the ride as well.

That's all for now. These expeditions will begin to take center stage in about a month, but until then, the mountaineering world will be a bit quiet. It is certainly shaping up to be an interesting winter in the big mountains though. Stay tuned for updates.

Video: Sanctuary

If you're looking for a bit of serenity in the middle of a hectic week, this video just might do the trick. It features some lovely timelapse imagery shot in Colorado, Alaska, and Canada over this past summer. When mixed with soothing music, it is three minutes of visual bliss.

Sanctuary from Taylor Caraway on Vimeo.

Video: Climbing Icebergs in Greenland

Since the release of the Hero4 camera last month, GoPro has been sharing videos that demonstrate its use in the field. This is another one of those clips, this time showing pro climbers Klemen Premrl and Aljaz Anderle as they tackle some icebergs near Greenland. The mood of the video is set in the first minute, when they are ascending a wall of ice, only to find that it is starting to crumble around them. The rest of the short documentary shows more of their adventure, and the beautiful landscapes that they operate in.

Gear Closet: Granite Gear Kahiltna 29 Pack

It has been interesting to watch the evolution of the backpack over the past couple of years. Outdoor gear manufacturers have managed to continue to add excellent –and often surprising – new features, without compromising on the size, storage capacity, or overall design of their bags. Take for example the Kahiltna 29 pack from Granite Gear, a versatile technical daypack that feels larger than it actually is, while still managing to deliver on the promise of a comfortable fit that can see you through a full day of adventure in the backcountry, around town, and beyond.

Granite Gear has a legacy of creating excellent technical packs designed for a variety of outdoor activities. The company has sent their gear to some of the most remote places on the planet, including Everest, and the North and South Pole. Over the years, they've continued to refine those products, improving on their designs after every generation. The Kahiltna is a culmination of those efforts, combining years of experience with technical know, to create a pack that is versatile enough to take with you anywhere.

What struck me first when putting on the Kahiltna pack was how well padded the shoulder straps, hip belt, and back panel actually are. For a small daypack, Granite Gear has certainly gone to great lengths to ensure the comfort of the wearer. The thick, plyable padding allows you to carry a heavier load than you would think possible with a 29-liter pack, without straining or struggling in anyway. The back panel does lack a frame system that would allow for better ventilation however, although a series of contours etched into the panel does provide some relief in that area.

In terms of storage, the pack features a large main pocket that can hold a surprising amount of gear, especially when the side compression straps are released to provide extra space. A front pocket includes several nice features for organizing smaller items, with the internal zip pocket proving especially useful. A handy key clip and a variety of other organizational pocket, show that this pack can pull double-duty in the backcountry or urban environments. Two large pockets on the hip belt make for perfect storage for a cell phone, digital camera, or trail snacks, while small mesh pockets on each shoulder straps are good for stowing small items that you want to keep close at hand. The Kahiltna also features twin water bottle holders, one on each side of the pack as well.

The pack includes a few extra features that will come in handy in certain situations. For instance, the Kahiltna is hydration ready, supporting up to a 2-liter water bladder. Customers will have to purchase a bladder separately however, as Granite Gear doesn't include one. For those looking to shave a few extra ounces off the weight of the pack, the hip belt can be removed. Considering the Kahiltna tips the scales at  2 pounds, 1 oz (.93kg) this may be a welcome option for some, although it does comes at the expense of some stability.

A built-in rainfly, located in a zip-pocket at the bottom of the bag, is another welcome addition. It can be deployed in a matter of seconds, keeping the contents of the pack safe from excess moisture from an unexpected rainstorm. In recent years I have really come to appreciate a pack that includes this feature, as it has saved my gear on more than one occasion. I was happy to find that Granite Gear has included one on this pack as well. It may seem like a minor feature, but it is really good to know that it is there when you need it.

Considering the price, the Kahiltna truly delivers a lot of value for the money. Granite Gear sells this pack for just $139.95, which is a solid bargain for everything that it delivers. It is a versatile, comfortable, and durable daypack that will fit the needs of most people. With a capacity of just 29-liters, it is a bit on the small side for some bigger adventures, but the bags ability to handle larger loads makes it a solid performer on most active outings. The Kahiltna's capacity to serve as a good travel pack, as well as for lugging gear around town, makes it an even better bargain, as it truly can be a bag for all occasions. If the outdoor enthusiast on your list has requested a new pack this holiday season, this just might be the perfect choice.

Kenn Borek Air Ceases Operations in the Arctic

For years, Kenn Borek Air has supported expeditions to some of the most far flung destinations on the planet. In fact, the company's motto is "Anytime, Anywhere... Worldwide." They may have to amend that in light of recent news involving the airline, as ExWeb is reporting that the company has ceased operations in the Arctic, and will no longer support teams heading to the North Pole. 

In a brief article posted to its website, ExWeb wrote the following:
"Rumour has been confirmed that Kenn Borek Air, operating from Canada, will not be flying any North Pole expeditions to their start points, or pick them up at the North Pole, or anywhere in between for emergency purposes, in the foreseeable future. 
Explorersweb has asked Kenn Borek for a statement, and will publish it as it becomes available."
At this time, that is all that is known about this story, but it still is a significant one. For years, Kenn Borek Air has been the logistical lifeline for expeditions heading to the North Pole from the Canadian side of the ice. The company flew skiers to their starting point, and often picked them up at the Pole as well. In recent years however, very few expeditions were able to reach 90ºN, and thus the pilots for  Kenn Borek were forced to retrieve explorers out on the ice. With the changes that have been occurring in the Arctic over the past few years, that had to increasingly more challenging.

Until we get a statement from Kenn Borek, it is hard to say exactly why this decision was made, but I'm sure the unstable conditions, and added expenses, of operating in the Arctic played a major role. Weather conditions in that part of the world seem to be getting increasingly worse during the traditional Arctic expedition season, making it all the more difficult to operate as well. Safety for both the pilots, and the explorers on their way north, are obviously one of the big concerns.

It seems rather unlikely that another airline will step in to pick up the slack, which means those hoping to ski to the North Pole will have to do some from the European side of the ice. The Russian government handle a lot of the logistics for Arctic explorers on that side of the planet, although there are a few other alternatives as well. In recent years, going to the North Pole on skies has become one of the most difficult endeavors in exploration, and without Kenn Borek, it has just gotten a little more challenging.

Hopefully we'll get more information about this development in the near future.