Showing posts with label Backpacking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Backpacking. Show all posts

Video: Traversing the High Sierra with Kalen Thorien

What do you do in the off season if you're a professional skier? In the case of Kalen Thorien, you set out on an 18-day, 270-mile solo traverse across the High Sierra Mountains. In this video, we join Kalen on this adventure as she goes in search of adventure and solitude. She finds all of that, and a lot more, as she makes the hike through some very remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes.

Gear Closet: Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Flex Rain Jacket Review

Over the past few years there has been a very noticeable trend in outdoor apparel. Most of the big name manufacturers have begun offering products that are less "technical" in appearance in favor of a more natural look that blends in nicely when not on a trail. This clothing offers the same high level of performance and comfort, but it doesn't look like traditional outdoor gear, extending its appeal beyond the traditional outdoor market. When I received the new Eddie Bauer Cap Flex Rain Jacket, my first thought was that it looked like something I would wear around town or while traveling, rather than on a tough hike on the trail. But, as it turns out, those looks were a bit deceiving. While this jacket does indeed give off the appearance of being designed for city slickers, it is actually a solid solution for use in the backcountry too.

Made from 100% nylon, and sporting an athletic cut, the Cap Flex fits snugly without being restrictive. The jacket comes with an adjustable hood, waterproof zippers, secure hand pockets, adjustable hem and cuffs, and pit zips for venting excess heat. Individually, each of those features isn't especially groundbreaking in any way, but together they add up to a nicely equipped jacket designed for use in the rain when temperatures aren't especially hot or cold.

While putting this jacket to the test, I've worn it as a rain jacket while running errands around town, hiking trails, and even running. In most cases, it worked exceptionally well, keeping moisture at bay with its sealed seams and DWR coating. In fact, despite getting caught in some serious downpours, the interior of the jacket stayed exceptionally dry and comfortable, which is a good testament to how well it performs.


The one exception to this was when I wore it on a run in a big rainstorm. The Cap Flex did a great job at keeping the water out, but it unfortunately didn't breathe as well as I would have liked, resulting in a warm and sweaty interior. The pit zips helped to mitigate this somewhat, but if you're searching for a jacket to wear during high-intensity aerobic workouts, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.

Tipping the scales at a mere 11 ounces, the Cap Flex won't bring a lot of undue weight to your backpack. That's definitely a plus in its favor, as is the ability to compress it down into one of its pockets for storage. That's a feature that I love in my travel gear in particular, and I was happy to see it implemented here. Despite the fact that it is a bantamweight, this jacket remains highly durable. I've worn it numerous times, with and without a pack, and it shows no signs of scuffs, rips, or abrasions. That bodes well for its longterm survival.

I'm also a big fan of the Cap Flex's adjustable cuffs, which use velcro to dial in just the right fit. Most cuffs have this feature these days, but I found the ones found here were especially good, and remained comfortable even when cinched up tight. On similar jackets I've struggled to find the exact right dimensions for it to fit my arms without being too restrictive, but on this jacket it was a simple affair to set and forget the cuff fittings, even while on the run.

Perhaps the best feature of the Cap Flex is its price. With an MSRP of $129, this is a rain jacket that performs well without putting too much of a crimp on your wallet. Sure, there are others out there that breathe better or can hold up to more abuse. Some are better suited for use in colder conditions, and others are more versatile and offer higher technical ratings. But all of those are going to come at a higher price point, and in most cases a much higher price. In terms of what this jacket brings to the table it is a real bargain, making it a no-brainer for anyone who is looking for rain jacket that can be used in a variety of settings.

With the Cap Flex, Eddie Bauer has hit on a winner that balances style, performance, and cost very nicely. Find out more at EddieBauer.com.

Backpacker Shares Their Favorite Tents of 2017

A few days ago I posted a story from Popular Mechanics that shared their picks for the 7 best camping and backpacking tents. Not to be outdone, Backpacker magazine has also shared their thoughts on the subject, publishing their selection for the 12 best tents of 2017 instead. And since it is time for spring hiking and camping outings, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at their suggestions.

In testing these new shelters, Backpacker called in a large group of testers. All told, 31 people participated in the tent test, spending 247 nights outdoors and hiking 1029 total miles. Along the way, one tester faced 55 mph (88 km/h) winds, while others spent 4 consecutive nights in the rain. One even camped above 11,500 ft (3505 meters) in an effort to put these tents through their paces. In other words, the selection of the top tents was no small affair, and the list is definitely comprised of the best camp shelters available today.

So, which tents made the cut? As usual, I won't spoil the entire list, but will share a few of interest. For instance, Cotopaxi's Techo 3 and Inti 2 both earned a spot on Backpacker's rundown, which is a strong showing for a company that just introduced its first models. REI's updated Quarter Dome 2 also got the nod, as did the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2.

This is just a small sampling of the tents that made the cut and there are 8 others for you to discover as you look through Backpacker's list. Which one works best for you probably depends on your individual needs and budget, but in reality you probably can't go wrong with any of the options here. Obviously the team of testers really put these tents through the ringer, and as a result you can bet that these are the best new options on the market at the moment.

If you're ready to go shopping for a new tent this spring, do yourself a favor and give this story a look. Chances are, you'll discover some new choices you didn't even consider and you might end up with a better hiking shelter than you first thought.

Outside Shares the 7 Best New Trails in the U.S.

Now that spring is here, I'm sure that many of you are ready to get back out on the trail and resume hiking after taking a break for the winter. But if the same old local trails aren't inspiring you to lace up your boots, than perhaps Outside magazine can help. They recently posted an article that lists the 7 best new trails in the U.S., providing some good suggestions for alternative places to explore on foot.

The seven new trails can be found in places as diverse as California, New York, and even Austin, Texas where a new 30-mile (48 km) urban route is starting to take shape. Other options on Outside's list include the Captain Ahab Trail in Moab, Utah; the Wild Rogue Loop in Oregon, and the Mount of the Holy Cross in Colorado.

No matter what kind of trail you like to explore, chances are you'll find something that will spark your interest here. For example, the Colorado route mentioned above takes trekkers to the top of one of the state's famous 14ers, while the Captain Ahab is built specifically with mountain bikers in mind and reportedly features some epic downhill. The trails vary in length greatly from as few as 4 miles to as much as 750 depending on which one you choose, although most are considerably shorter than that.

Since most of these trails are almost completely new, some of them are not entirely complete yet. That means you can probably expect some rough spots along the way but also less traffic as well. Chances are, some of these will be almost completely empty depending on when you go.

If you're ready for some inspiration to help you get started on a new adventure this year, this article can help. Check out all of the trial options by clicking here.

Popular Mechanics Shares the 7 Best Tents for Camping and Backpacking

Now that spring is finally here, I'm sure more than a few of you are planning that first big camping or backpacking trip of the year. If that's the case, and you're in the market for a new tent, Popular Mechanics is here to help. The magazine recently posted an article on its website listing the 7 best camping and backpacking tents that are currently available, with some good options for just about every budget.

The seven tents that made the cut vary in size, weight, and price greatly, but there really is something for just about every type of camper here. For instance, the list starts with the Kelty Grand Mesa 2, a two-person, three-season shelter that costs just $140. On the other end of the spectrum is MSR's awesome Hubba Hubba NX, which retails for $400, but is built to survive in just about any conditions and weighs in at just 3 lbs., 7 oz.

In between these two options you'll find plenty of others, including some that are both more and less expensive. Depending on your needs, you'll discover some solid suggestions here, with tents to accommodate two adventurous souls or as many as six. Most are meant for spring, summer, and fall outings, although one or two could be used for winter camping in mild conditions as well. In short, its a nice variety of shelters to accommodate all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts.

If you're about to do some shopping for a new tent, this article is definitely worth a look. The tent market is as competitive now as it has ever been, and the latest models are lightweight, efficient, and comfortable. Deciding which one is the best is a tricky endeavor, but PM can help you sort out some of the choices that are currently available. Read the entire article here.

Gear Closet: Fjällräven Vidda Pro Trekking Trousers

My recent trip to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia wasn't just about sailing between those destinations and hopping a zodiac to shore to play with penguins and seal pups. Both places also afforded some excellent hiking opportunities as well, especially on South Georgia where I was fortunate enough to get the chance to trek a part of Shackleton's route across the island, ending at the old whaling station in Stromness. This of course gave me the chance to test more gear in the wild, which is one of the side benefits of visiting a wild and remote place in the Southern Ocean. 

One of the items that I took with me on the trip was a pair of Vidda Pro Trousers from Fjällräven. For those not familiar with the company, it is a Swedish brand that has been making excellent outdoor equipment for more than 50 years. In Europe, Fjällräven is very well respected and established, but here in the states it remains a bit more off the radar. But, I had always heard that its hiking pants were some of the best in the business, and I was eager to see if they lived up to this lofty reputation. 

Made from Fjällräven's own proprietary G-1000 fabrics, the Vidda Pro have been a staple in the company's line up for nearly two decades. After putting them on and taking a few hikes in them, it is easy to understand why. Comfortable and form fitting, without being restrictive, the pants are extremely durable. I wore them in all kinds of weather conditions on my recent adventure, including bright sunny skies and in cold, windy conditions with sleet and snow, and they came away completely unfazed by the experience. They passed over rocky trails, through mushy bogs, and down cold streams without missing a beat, and after the mud, grime, and sweat were washed away, they looked completely brand new. 

The Vidda Pros boast seven different pockets, including four in the usual places on the front and back. But in addition to those, the pants also have a dedicated map pocket, a knife pocket, and an inner safety pocket for keeping important items secure. While carrying a variety of items with me, it was nice to have all of these storage compartments at my disposal, and it helped to keep items well organized while on the trail. 

Other nice features that I appreciated were the reinforced seat and knees that helped prevent moisture from seeping through on damp ground, and elastic leg endings (complete with buttons) that helped secure the pants around my ankles. In the wet environment of the Falklands and South Georgia this was appreciated for helping keep moisture and mud out of the boot laces. The G-1000 fabrics also bring some natural water resistance as well, which made these pants a great choice for the environment I was visit. But, they also managed to still breathe quite well, so it wasn't often that I felt like I was overheating either. 

As the spring hiking season hits, you're sure to find some wet, muddy conditions out on the trail too. If you're in need of a new pair of hiking pants to get you through those conditions, the Vidda Pro is an excellent option that I highly recommend. That said, at $150 they are a bit pricy for someone who just wants to take a stroll on a local trail from time to time. More casual hikers will probably find other options that are more well suited to their budgets and activity level. However, if you're a serious hiker, backpacker, or climber, these are fantastic trousers to have at your disposal. You're likely to find that this is money well spent based on the level of  performance you'll get out of them. Additionally, because they are so durable and fit so well, you're likely to be wearing them on many adventures to come. To me, the $150 price tag is justified by the quality that Fjällräven has delivered. The company has more than lived up to its reputation as far as I'm concerned, and I think you'll feel the same way when you try them out for yourself. 


Gear Closet: The North Face Apex Flex GTX Rain Jacket

If traveling through the Southern Ocean recently taught me anything, its that the weather there can be incredibly unpredictable and can change quickly. That makes it a great environment for testing gear, and it was the perfect place to put the new North Face Apex Flex GTX rain jacket through its paces. The jacket hit the store shelves while I was away, but fortunately for me I had an advance sample to take with me. It proved to be an excellent travel companion, and became my go-to shell for all kinds of different types of weather.

Believe it or not, the Apex Flex is The North Face's first ever soft fully-waterproof soft-shell rain jacket. The company has made hundreds of different jackets over the years, but this one is marks a milestone in terms of performance and comfort. That's because it pairs incredibly soft stretch-woven fabrics with a Gore-Tex layer to provide a fit that isn't restrictive in anyway, but can repel the worst conditions imaginable.

Completely wind and waterproof, the Apex Flex not only looks good, but feels great when you put it on as well. I personally like the more fitted cut of the design, which hugs the body nicely and stays out of the way when things get active. While wearing it on South Georgia Island and in The Falklands, I used it with various base layers, insulating layers, and even a down puffy, and it worked well in conjunction with all of those items. In fact, it was a mainstay jacket that I wore on numerous hikes, visits to penguin colonies, or whale watching out on the deck of our ship. During that time, it survived rain, sleet, and snow, and even kept me comfortable in winds approaching 50 mph (80 km/h).


The secret behind the Apex Flex is that it uses Gore-Tex 3L shell material and combines it with a soft, woven facing fabric and a knit backer. The result is a jacket that feels a bit like a comfortable hoody, but with the performance of storm shell. That isn't easy to pull off, but it brings a level of versatility to the jacket that is difficult to find elsewhere. It also makes this a coat that you'll want to wear in a wide variety of conditions, ranging from perfect clear and sunny, to heavy rain showers, to near-blizzard whiteouts.

The jacket features two zippered hand pockets, as well as a convenient zippered chest pocket as well. Two additional zippers are found under each armpit for venting purposes. Those came in handy on longer hikes with a lot of vertical gain where I built up excess heat quickly. Once we started down hill, and things began to cool off, it was a snap to close them up again to maintain warmth. All of the zippers – including the main one on the front – are polyurethane coated to be waterproof as well.

In addition to providing a high level of performance, the jacket doesn't take up much room in your duffle bag or backpack either. And since it only weighs about 24 ounces (680 g), it isn't especially heavy or bulky too. That will go a long way towards making it a favorite for future adventures as well, as I see this accompany me on more outings in the near future.

For those that like technical performance in their outdoor gear, but don't particularly care for an overly technical look, this jacket will become a favorite as well. The Apex Flex has a subtle, stylish design that offers a classic look without coming across as "retro" in any way. While wearing the jacket I've had several compliments on its appearance, which is understated in the best possible ways. While for most of us performance is the key factor we look for, it doesn't hurt if the outdoor apparel we wear looks good too.

Priced at $199, the Apex Flex offers a lot of performance for the money. In fact, I was surprised when I learned the final price, as this jacket could easily have sold for more. In my opinion, The North Face has a real winner on its hands here, and this is a piece of gear that is going to have wide appeal. The fact that it offers so much performance at a reasonable price is further testament to just how well built and designed it is. If you need a new rain shell, this one should be at the top of your list.

Buy The North Face Apex Flex GTX rain jacket at REI.

Backpacker Lists 12 Big Hiking Adventures for 2017

We are almost two months into 2017 already, and I'm sure by now many of you have already made plans for your adventures for the year ahead. But, if you're still looking for a few suggestions, Backpacker magazine is here to help. In a recently published article, the mag suggests 12 big adventures for the year ahead.

This being Backpacker the list contains lots of places that you can visit and explore on foot. Each of the destinations also comes with an estimated cost, so you can get an idea of how much you might have to spend to undertake these excursions. Some of the suggestions that made the list include hiking the Grand Staircase - Escalandte National Monument in Utah, which comes with an estimated cost of $500.

That turns out to be the only adventure set in the U.S., as all of the rest take place in countries like Canada, Peru. Chile, Nepal, New Zealand, and other great adventure destinations. For instance, Backpacker also suggests hiking the Jungrrau Region of Switzerland ($1500) and the An Teallach Traverse in Scotland ($1100).

None of these suggested adventures are particularly expensive. The most costly is a $4000 trek through the Amphu Lapcha Pass in Nepal. Most are under $2000, with a couple trips priced at less than $1000.

All in all, this is a great list for those who like to hike, trek, or backpack their way through some amazing landscapes. And since 2017 is really just getting started, there is still plenty of time to get a few of these options on your list before the end of the year. Personally, there are at least four or five of these trips that I'd love to do, but I'll just continue adding them to my never-ending bucket list.

Video: (To)Day Dream - REI Reminds Us to Spend Some Time Outdoors

This video seems highly appropriate as we head into the weekend. It is a a short, but sweet, reminder to get outside and enjoy nature. It comes our way courtesy of REI – who obviously has a vested interest in getting us outdoors – but it is a great message nonetheless. Yes, we're all busy and have very complicated lives. But some time outdoors can help us sort through all of that. So, as the video says find an empty spot on your calendar and find an empty spot on the map. It is as simple as that.

(To)day Dream from REI on Vimeo.

Backpacker Gives Us the Best Comfort Thru-Hiking Gear

A few days back I shared a post from Backpacker magazine that offered readers their picks for the best budget gear for making a long-distance thru-hike. Each of the items on that list were selected primarily because they are affordable, with performance being the second characteristic. Now, the editors are back with some more gear recommendations, but this time their offering options that fall into a different category – comfort.

Backpacker's picks for the best comfort thru-hiking gear includes a fantastic sleeping bag from Western Mountaineering, an incredibly comfy sleeping pad from Thermarest, and a large, quite possibly the most comfortable backpack on the market today courtesy of Osprey. You'll also find selections for the best tent, jacket, trekking poles, and even an umbrella, all of which are aimed at the hiker who doesn't mind carrying a bit of extra weight if it means he or she has some luxuries that help them to stay at home out on the trail.

Obviously this list is not for those of us who count every ounce when we're heading out on a hike. Instead, it is all about keeping your body as strong and comfortable as possible, even when hiking for miles on end day after day. If you're someone who is okay with knowing you don't have the lightest gear around, but that you'll probably enjoy your hike more as a result, this list is definitely for you.

Check out all of the items that made the cut by clicking here.

Gear Closet: SOL Escape Pro Bivvy

As someone who spends a lot of time in the outdoors, and often finds himself traveling to remote places, I'm always on the lookout for innovative new products that can make those experiences safer and more enjoyable. A piece of gear that can pull double duty by providing extra functionality is always a plus too. Recently, I've discovered just such a product in the form of the new Escape Pro Bivvy from SOL, which can serve as an emergency shelter or an extra layer that provides additional warmth for your sleeping bag.

In terms of performance, the Escape Pro Bivvy checks all the right boxes. It is built to be extremely durable, yet offers a high level of breathability as well. It is wind and waterproof, and uses a special material called Sympatex Reflextion to reflect up to 90% of your body heat back at you, helping you to stay much warmer in cold conditions. On top of that, the bivvy weights a mere 8 ounces (240 grams), which make it easy to stuff into your backpack to take with you anywhere.

Because it weighs next to nothing, the Escape Pro Bivvy is a great choice for ultralight hikers who don't want to carry a full sleeping bag on their outdoor adventures. As a stand-alone shelter, it can keep most hikers comfortable in conditions down to 50ºF (10ºC). And when paired with a sleeping bag, it adds as much as 15ºF to the overall temperature rating, while also providing the water and windproof capabilities. That makes it a more sensible choice than even carrying a more basic sleeping bag liner.


Measuring 31" x 84" (78 cm x 213 cm) in width and length, the Escape Pro Bivvy has a 24" (61 cm) zipper than runs along one side that allows for easy access. When unzipped, this also allows the user to more easily stuff their sleeping bag inside. A drawstring closure hood also allows you to cinch the bag up tightly around your head when things get especially chilly.

If you're backpacking with a tent, the wind and waterproof features of the bivvy are nullified somewhat by the shelter you're already sleeping inside. But, as more and more hikers take to the hammock camping trend, this product truly shows its colors, at least in terms of being an extra shell for you sleeping bag. If you prefer to sleep suspended off the ground in a hammock, the Escape Pro Bivvy will be a very useful piece of gear to have at your disposal, not only for its added warmth, but ability to keep wind and moisture at bay too.

Of course, it also comes in very handy as an emergency shelter should you find yourself unexpectedly caught out in bad weather on a mountaineering expedition or backpacking excursion into remote areas. It is easy to pull out and climb inside should the need arise, and it is one of those items that you'll always be glad you have with you, even if you don't need it. And scene it weights so little, there is almost no excuse for taking it along, even if you don't plan to use it an extra layer for your sleeping bag.

Priced at $125, the Escape Pro Bivvy is a bit pricer than a standard sleeping bag liner, so if you're just looking to add a few degrees of warmth to your bag, you might want to look elsewhere. That said, this product does A LOT more than a liner could ever hope to do, providing protection from the elements, and potentially even saving your life in an emergency situation. That makes this not only a far more versatile item – which alone makes it worth the money – but something that should be considered essential gear for those journeys into remote areas. If you're serious about your backcountry adventures, this is definitely an item you'll want to have at your disposal.

Find out more at SurviveOutdoorsLonger.com.

Backpacker Gives Us The Best Budget Thru-Hiking Gear

Thinking about making a long-distance hike, but don't have a big budget to buy all of the gear that you'll need? Never fear, Backpacker magazine is here to help. The mag has put together a list of their favorite inexpensive products to help you get over the budget crisis and head out on the trail.

The list contains some of the most important items that you'll need for any backcountry camping or backpacking excursion, including a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. It also offers some suggestions on a couple of jackets to keep you warm and dry on your adventures as well. Just don't expect any major name brands to make the cut, as there is nothing from The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, or Columbia on the list. Instead, you'll find products from companies that you've vaguely heard of that Backpacker says deliver the best bang for your buck in terms of performance and price.

So what equipment makes the cut? For starters, the magazine says that you should forego the more expensive down jackets from the well-known brands in favor of the Uniqlo Ultralight Down Jacket instead. It costs just $70 but comes from a company more well known for its fashions than its outdoor performance. In terms of a backpack, we're told to go with the ULA Circuit, which is 68L model that costs $235.

The rest of the items on the list fall into a similar vein, offering solid performance at a more affordable price, although I would argue in some cases that there are better options out there for less money – particularly if you shop clearance items and closeouts. This list also doesn't offer the prices for each piece of gear within the story itself, which would have saved a few extra clicks when reading about the gear. And, I take a bit of umbrage with them listing "SmartWater" as one of their lightweight pieces of gear, when I think in reality they're telling readers to use the bottle that the brand of water comes in.

Still, for those of us who want to save a little cash and don't need to have the latest gear from the big boys in the industry, the list does have some all-around solid choices. As we approach spring hiking season, and you find yourself needing some new equipment, you might be able to save yourself some cash and go with these items instead.

30 Scary Trails From Around the World

We all know that there are some truly difficult and downright scary trails to be hiked in just about every corner of the globe. Some climb straight up sheer cliff faces, while others are twisty mazes that are surprisingly easy to get lost in. Some, straddle a line along a narrow knife-edge ride, while the rare trail combines all of these elements into a single adrenaline-inducing experience that no one who ever hikes it can forget.

I'm sure we all know a few trails that match that description, but if you happen to be looking to add a couple more to your collection, Active Junky has quite a list for you. They've compiled a list of 30 terrifying trails, and have included some amazing pictures to back up their claims.

Some of the trails that have earned a spot on this dubious list include the Narrows on Longs Peak in Colorado, the Half Dome Route in Yosemite, and Rover Run, which gets the nod do to the frequent bear activity that occurs around the route. Unsurprisingly, the via ferattas of Italy also make the cut, as does Aokigahara, Japan with a trail that passes through the "suicide forest."

This is just the tip of the iceberg however, and there are plenty of other weird, wild, and down-right scary trails to learn about from this list/slideshow. If you're looking for some suggestions on where to hike some freaky trails, Active Junky definitely has you covered. Check out the full list, and start planning your treks, by clicking here.

Video: Thru-Hiking the Grand Canyon - A 650-Mile Challenge (Part 1)

Throughout 2015 and 2016, photographer Pete McBride and journalist Kevin Fedarko set off to make a sectional thru-hike of the Grand Canyon in an effort to document the threats that that National Park now faces. Along the way, they faced more challenges than they had anticipated, as the journey was more difficult and dangerous than they had ever impinged. This video takes us along with them into the canyon, to experience much of what they saw while they were there. It is Part 1 of a 3 part series, which promises to be an amazing adventure with some important revelations to be had along the way.

Video: Ultralight Camping - How to Minimize Your Pack Weight

Want to know how to shed some weight from your pack before setting out on your next outdoor adventure? Why not let professional skier and mountaineer Hilaree O'Neill help? In this video, she shares some great tips for how to pack smartly for any trip into the backcountry, conserving weight by bringing items that can be used for multiple purposes and just examining more closely the things that you take with you. Even if you have a fairly light pack already, chances are you can still learn a thing or two from Hilaree's tips and tricks. And while not all of us want to go completely ultralight on our adventures, it never heard to trim some extra ounces from our gear.

Backpacker Maps America's Best Long Distance Hiking Trails

Everyone knows about the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and even the Continental Divide Trail, but did you know there are a number of other great long-distance hiking routes in the U.S.? In fact, there are numerous other options for those who like to trek for days on end, covering hundreds – if not thousands – of miles in the process. And now, thanks to Backpacker magazine, we have a comprehensive map of the very best of them.

The map, which you can view in its larger format by clicking here, shows dozens of different trails scattered across the entire U.S., many of which most of us probably aren't all that aware of. For instance, did you know that there is a Centennial Trail that stretches for 111 miles (178 km) through South Dakota? Or that the Buckeye Trail covers 1445 miles (2325 km) on a circuit through Ohio? Heck, there is even a Florida Trail that stretches for 1400 miles (2253 km) across the entire length of the state, including the panhandle.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of course, as there are plenty more interesting long-distance hiking routes all over the U.S., stretching from one coast to the other. That includes the American Discovery Trail, which literally does just that, covering some 6800 miles (10,943 km) in the process. The point is, no matter where you live, chances are there is an epic trek to be had somewhere near by, and Backpacker wants to help you find it. This map is a great place to start.

As the magazine also points out, these trails wouldn't exist if it weren't for the tireless efforts of dedicated volunteers and conservation advocates all over the country. We get to reap the benefits of their hard work, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude. Hopefully in the years to come, there will be even more impressive trails to add to this map.

Nat Geo Adventure Gives Us 39 Destinations for a Great Long Weekend

Looking for a few suggestions on where to get a nice long weekend adventure? If so, you're in luck, as National Geographic has compiled just such a list. But this one is quite extensive, offering 39 different places in the U.S. to make a quick getaway, but still enjoy a surprisingly great outdoor adventure too.

Now, lest you think this is one of those quick and dirty  lists that is vague in its description of the place, each of the locations is given a solid introduction and shares inside tips from an expert on that particular place. You'll learn where to hike, bike, climb, ski, and paddle, as well as where to eat, drink, and stay too. You'll also learn about the favorite spots for the locals as well, most of which aren't well known to visitors. All in all, the individual posts for each destination are filled with useful info to help you to decide just where you want to go, and what to do when you get there.

So what are some of the places that earn a nod? The list begins with Salida, Colorado, expands to Hood River Oregon and Lake Placid, New York, before spreading out across the U.S. to other places like Ely, Minnesota and Whitefish, Montana. Of course, the list is populated with plenty of destinations you've heard of, but it is also long enough to slip in some new ones that you probably haven't encountered before too. And whether you like to play in the snow, desert, mountains, or on the water, you'll find something here to draw you in.

As 2016 grinds to an end, and the holidays draw ever nearer, most of us probably don't have a lot of free weekends at the moment. But, 2017 is just around the corner and after the New Year comes and goes, I'm sure we'll all be looking for an escape. Check out the full list here and start planning.

Gear Closet: Mountain Hardwear's 32 Degree Insulated Hooded Jacket

It's no secret that Mountain Hardwear has long been one of my favorite outdoor brands. I've always appreciated their no-nonsense approach to making great gear for use in some of the most extreme environments on the planet, and over the year's I've come to rely on the company's commitment to quality and performance. But, as the company grew and found more mainstream success, it also seemed to lose some of its focus. Its products were never out-right bad, but they for a time Mountain Hardwear was no longer delivering top-notch, cutting edge products that we'd all grown accustomed to seeing from them. By their own admission, the company got a bit complacent, which is not something that sits well with its core customers.

Thankfully, that era seems to be a thing of the past, and MH is currently in the process of righting the ship and getting back to the basics that made it such an innovative brand. As a result, over the past six months or so, it has been releasing some fantastic products, including the Dragon hoody I reviewed a few weeks back, and the awesome new StretchDown Jacket that has broken new ground. Better yet, I've seen a glimpse of things to come from Mountain Hardwear, and I can promise you the company has some amazing things in the pipeline for next spring and beyond.

But, if you're looking for something in their current catalog that stands out as a great piece of performance apparel, look no further than the 32 Degree Insulated Hooded Jacket. It is an exceptional piece of gear designed to keep you warm and moving fast on the trail, that also happens to be priced great too. This high-performance soft shell carries a price tag of just $130, making it extremely affordable, even for those of us who have never worn any of Mountain Hardwear's clothing before.

Weighing in at a mere 9 ounces (255 grams), the 32 Degree jacket is meant to be a lightweight option for skiing, snowboarding, winter trail running, or backpacking and hiking. Insulated with Mountain Hardwear's very own proprietary Thermal.Q Elite synthetic materials, it can keep you warm and comfortable on the trail, even when the temperature starts to plunge or precipitation begins to fall.

That said, it should be pointed out that this jacket is not waterproof, and although it does offer solid protection from the elements, it isn't the best option for wearing in a steady rainfall. Instead, it is a lightweight option for those active days out when you want to move fast and light. The cut and design of the jacket is meant to conform to the body nicely, providing warmth without hindering motion in anyway. I've found that it does exactly that, allowing me to move well while running, hiking, mountain biking, and climbing. For me, there is nothing worse than having my range of motion inhibited, but thankfully that isn't a compromise I have to make here.

One of the more interesting design elements for the 32 Degree jacket is its body-mapped insulation, which distributes it to places on the jacket where it is most needed. In this case, most of that insulation has been placed on the chest area to help keep your core warm while outdoors. That leaves the sleeves and lower half of the jacket with less insulation, allowing those parts of the body to breath more and vent out heat and sweat in the process. As a result, you tend to stay drier – and thereby warmer – when wearing this hoody in your active pursuits. The placement of the insulation also comes in handy afterwards, which is often when a chill can set in.

While this jacket obviously performs very well on its own, I've also used it as part of a layering system as well, and found that it works great in that capacity too. Throw a shell over the top, and you suddenly add water and wind-proofing to the mix. Add a baselayer underneath, and you're truly set for cold and inclement weather. This level of versatility makes it a great option for just about any outdoor pursuits, as well as a good choice for adventure travel too. And since it is so lightweight and thin, it won't take up much room in your luggage either.

As mentioned, one of the true strengths of this jacket is its price. You'll be hard pressed to find so much performance out of a jacket that is this affordable. The fact that it has the Mountain Hardwear logo on the chest tells you that you can expect durability and quality as well, which means it will be a garment that you'll be able to take with you on many future adventures. It also happens to be a great holiday gift for that outdoor enthusiast on your list.

Find out more at MountainHardwear.com.

Reminder: Don't Forget to #OptOutside This Friday

We are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., and as such I'll be shutting down the blog over the next couple of days to enjoy some time with friends and family, as I'm sure many of my readers will be doing too. But, before I step away I wanted to remind everyone that Friday of this week is also "Black Friday," that annual ode to consumerism in which many people flock to shopping malls and department stores in search of the ever elusive big sale. But, just like last year, there is an alternative – you can #OptOutside instead!

Last year, gear retailer REI made headlines when it elected to close all of its stores on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Instead of luring in customers, the company decided to give all of its staff the day off and encouraged them to go outside to pursue the activities they love. They offered the same encouragement to us – their customers – as well.

Needless to say, the promotion was a big success, so REI is doing it again this year. Their stores will be closed – including the website – and the company's employees will once again get the day off. But this year, more than 500 other organizations are joining the #OptOutside campaign, including the national parks and many state parks as well. If you're looking for a place to go to get outdoors, check to see if the parks near you are offering free entrance to celebrate the day.

I'm happy to see that this movement has continued for another year. Hopefully it will become an annual tradition, not just for REI, but other stores as well. Most of all, hopefully it will be a tradition for most of us too. After celebrating Thanksgiving with the family on Thursday, gather them all up for an outdoor adventure on Friday. You won't regret it for sure.

How will you #OptOutside this year?

The 2016 Adventure Blog Holiday Shoppers Guide (Part 1)

The holidays are now upon us, and its time to start looking for the perfect gift for the outdoor adventurer and world traveler on your list. If you're looking for the perfect gift for that guy or gal, I have some suggestions that should make them happy this year. Here's what they really want to find under their tree this holiday season.

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Jacket ($250)
If your loved ones like to spend time outdoors in the cold months of the year, they'll appreciate the new Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Jacket. Not only does is use stretchy material that moves well during active outings, but it employs heat-sealed baffles rather than standard stitches, making it much warmer as well. This is the most innovative puffy on the market today, and one that will be a great companion on many adventures to come. (Buy at REI.com)

Osprey Atmos AG 50 ($230)
There are so many great backpacks to choose from on the market today it is tough to select just once. But Osprey's Atmos AG 50 is still one of the very best, with perhaps the most comfortable fit and suspension available today. Perfect for backpacking, camping, and adventure travel, this pack has plenty of capacity and comes with such additional features as a removable top lid, tool attachments, removable sleeping pad straps, and much more. Best of all, its backed by Osprey's lifetime warranty, which means they'll fix or replace it should anything every happen to the pack. (Buy at REI.com)

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots ($230)
There are a lot of great hiking boots to choose from these days, but for my money it is tough to top the Lowa Renegade GTX in terms of performance, comfort, and durability. This boot is designed for hiking, trekking, and even light mountaineering, with excellent traction on a wide variety of surfaces, plenty of support for the foot, and a classic look that never seems to go out of style. (Buy at REI.com)


Goal Zero Venture 30 Battery Pack ($99.95)
Being able to keep your gadgets charged while on the go is an important consideration these days, and there are many portable battery packs to choose from. But Goal Zero's Venture 30 not only carries a lot of juice (7800 mAh) but its rugged enough to survive just about anywhere you want to take it. Waterproof and durable, the Venture 30 has a high speed USB port that can recharge your mobile devices as quickly as a wall outlet. (Buy at REI.com)

Eddie Bauer Kara Koram +20ºF Sleeping Bag ($449)
When it comes to getting a good night's sleep in the backcountry, your sleeping bag is the most important piece of kit that you can take with your. Warm, comfortable, lightweight, and compact, the Kara Koram +20º bag from Eddie Bauer is a great option to have at your disposal. Stuffed with 850-fill, water-resistant down, this bag is tough enough to go anywhere and continue to perform at an incredibly high level.

Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad ($64.95)
Nobody likes to sleep on the hard ground when they're spending a night in the tent, which is why a good sleeping  pad is a must. The Klymit Static V2 is lightweight (weighs 1 lbs), very comfortable, and packs down to the size of a soda can. Its body-mapped pattern is also extremely comfortable too, allowing you to sleep like a baby in the backcountry. (Buy at REI.com)

The North Face Talus 2 Tent ($199)
A good tent provides the shelter you need to survive in the backcountry, and the Talus 2 from The North Face is an excellent option for those who like to travel light but without sacrificing features. Tipping the scales at a mere 3.2 pounds, this tent has plenty of room to sleep two, features double-doors and two vestibules, and comes with both a gear loft and a footprint. It even has a lifetime warranty, which means you can depend on it surviving rough conditions, or TNF will replace it. (Buy at REI.com)

Mountain Khakis Original Mountain Pant ($84.95)
If you're looking for the perfect outdoor pants that can also transition to town without missing a beat, the Original Mountain Pant from Mountain Khakis has you covered. Reinforced in all the right places, and designed for comfort on and off the trail, these pants feature classic good looks, a relaxed fit, and quality fabrics, stitches, and zippers. (Buy at Campsaver.com)

REI Sahara Tech Long-Sleeve Shirt ($36.93)
The REI Shara tech shirt is comfortable to wear, provides moisture wicking and temperature control features, and offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun. It also has classic good looks, is designed for travel and outdoor activities, dries quickly, and packs down to a small footprint. Pretty much everything you want out of any piece of active apparel.

Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec DSS Trekking Poles ($159.95)
A good pair of trekking poles are essential for challenging hikes, and Leki makes some of the very best. Lightweight, compact, and easy to travel with, the Micro Vario TI Cor-Tec DSS poles are perfect for anyone hiking local trails close to home, or flying off to tackle Kilimanjaro. Quick and easy to assemble, with comfortable hand grips, these trekking poles are one of those items you don't know you need until you have a pair. They are perfect for the hiker on your list. (Buy at REI.com)

More gift ideas to come in the second part of my holiday gift guide tomorrow.