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Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 Gear Review

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Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7
Taking the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 to extreme places and testing it against precision instruments.

Tackling high places with the Casio Pro Trek  PRW3500T-7.  With most people swapping out their watch for time keeping on a smart phone, we often forget that a timepiece is not only a way to make sure you make it to your next meeting, it is a tool to make sure you make it home.

I had my first experience with Casio watches in the early 90s while participating in an intensive wilderness leadership program.  My Seiko dive watch fogged over and was unreadable.  I asked a fellow student how he liked his Casio G-Shock.  The man took the watch off his wrist and threw it as hard as he could at a brick wall…not a scratch!  The man said it was bombproof, and it was (is).

So I was intrigued to test Casio’s latest foray into the outdoor expedition market and put the three sensor Casio Pro Trek PRW3500-7T to the test.  The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 features tough solar power and three sensor technology.  This means that lifesaving and navigational features are more accurate and are continuously powered.  That’s right, you don’t have to worry about batteries or if your altimeter will lose power while peak-bagging.

The Test. To test the durability and functionality of the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7, I took the watch on a recent climb on the nation’s premier alpine climbing test laboratory – Washington State’s Mount Rainier.  In the mountains, accuracy of navigation and decision making technology can mean the difference between life and death.  In addition, the tools you are using have to be robust to extended power challenges, extreme weather, and physical abuse.

Functionality.  The expedition features of the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 include an altimeter, barometer, and compass.  To test the accuracy of the altimeter, I compared the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 data on ascent and decent against a Garmin GPS and a German made climbing altimeter.  I indexed the Pro Trek and German altimeter to the surveyed benchmark at Paradise.  The GPS altitude was low by 60ft from the benchmark.  Over the next several hours and thousands of feet, I repeatedly check the altitude of all three instruments.  What I found was that the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 had the least amount of swing in altitude readings than the other instruments, generally indicating more accurate functionality.  The other instruments would be either significantly high or low compared to the other two.

Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7
The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 tracking elevation gain while glacier traveling on Mount Rainier.

The barometer function gives both a reading of barometric pressure and a graphic that tracks the barometric pressure over the period of your climb.  The barometer was checked against relevant weather data and found to be very accurate.  In addition, the tracking graphic was great for quickly seeing the weather trend and helping to make weather related climbing decisions.  The temperature reading was accurate within 10 degrees, but was often influenced by body temperature.

The compass function was checked against a military grade lensatic compass.  The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 user manual alerts the user that the compass is only accurate to +/- 11 degrees.  I found this degree range unacceptable for wilderness navigation.  During the test, the watch displayed azimuth directions dramatically different from the lensatic compass.  The watch compass was also slow to react to changing directions of the user.  Where the compass feature could be helpful is as a back-up compass to indicate general direction.  I always believe in the redundancy rule when in wild country, I would trust the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 to point me in the right cardinal direction if my primary compass became inoperable.

Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7
The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 compass test.

The Band.  This model of Casio comes with a metal watch band similar to popular high-end dive watches.  A problem I encountered is that the watch needs to be uncovered to allow the sensors to operate properly and for the best accuracy.  However, if you adjust the band for your wrist, it is unlikely to fit over layered clothing (like a puffy or a parka) worn on expeditions.  The models with a rubber watch band don’t have this problem as these types of bands can be adjusted.  A recommendation to Casio is to make the metal bands with an extension, like dive watches do to adjust for wetsuits.

Expedition Features.  Need to know what time the sun is going to rise over a temple in Bhutan?  The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 will tell you; this watch is full of nice to have features for when you are adventuring across the globe or just across the country.  Other features include; water resistant to 200m, world time in 31 time zones, sunrise/sunset data, stopwatch, auto calendar through 2099, five daily alarms, battery power indicator,  and an incredible battery that will last for seven months on a single full charge.

Durability.  The durability of the watch was tested through first-rate abuse.  I conducted the throw test against volcanic rock – not a scratch or impairment of functionality.  I wore it rock climbing and it performed without a hitch.  Finally, I used the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7  in extreme weather conditions while ice axing my way across a glacier and it performed like a champ…well, like a Casio.

Five North Cascades Fall Destinations You Can’t Miss

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Downlake Northend Lake Chelan, Stehekin NCNP (John Chao 7-17-11)
North Cascades Fall Destinations
Looking for great North Cascades fall destinations? Nothing beats the historic town of Stehekin for fall adventure. Photo by John Chao, courtesy of The National Park Service.

Before the winter snow (and cold rain) starts to make outdoor excursions more a practice of survival than outdoor recreation, checkout Washington’s North Cascades region for wild recreation, wine tasting, and magnificent sightseeing opportunities.  The North Cascades National Park serves as the recreational hub, but outside the park the area comes alive with magical experiences from the wild to the refined.  Come with Seattle Backpackers Magazine as we take a tour of the area, stopping to highlight some of the special places adventurers can find in this gem of the northwest.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 1:  Mount Baker

Starting our trip in the north and approximately 31 miles east of Bellingham, Wash., you will find picturesque Mount Baker.  At 10,781 ft., Baker is one of many active volcanos in the Cascade Range and the second most active after Mount Saint Helens.  The mountain is a favorite of climbers, hikers, and snow sport enthusiasts.  Baker offers downhill skiing in the winter months with the season normally running from late November to early spring.  When ski season is over, the mountaineers arrive to attempt one of the premier alpine climbing experiences in the Northwest.  Hikers and backpackers can enjoy the unspoiled wilderness and dramatic fall colors throughout November. White water rafting is also available in the area on the Nooksack River.  Stop at the Glacier Public Service Center to plan your trip into the northern reaches of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

North Cascades fall destinations
Fire lookouts are a part of Washington’s history. Let your North Cascades fall destinations take you to some of the region’s best views. Copper Ridge Fire Lookout, photo courtesy of The National Park Service.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 2:  North Cascades Scenic Byway (Highway 20)

They say “getting there is half the fun,” and with the North Cascades Scenic Byway this is true. After enjoying Mount Baker, head south and catch the North Cascades Scenic Byway.  The byway winds 140 miles from Sedro-Woolley to Twisp and is part of the 400 mile scenic Cascade Loop.  Stop at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount for the latest conditions and for help planning your fall adventure.  Continuing east, skirt the translucent green waters of Ross Lake before heading up into the mountains and awe-inspiring views of rock spires, hanging valleys, waterfalls, and alpine glaciers that give this area the nickname, the “North American Alps.” Reaching the high desert of the Methow Valley, enjoy all types of outdoor recreation, charming restaurants, and vibrant nightlife.  The byway is a favorite with cyclists looking to test themselves on the steep inclines.  Many of the popular hiking and climbing routes in the area start on trailheads adjacent to the byway.   This road truly traverses wild places and is therefore a seasonal road.  Check the latest travel advisories because the byway closes in late November when heavy snow hits the pass.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 3:  Ross Lake

Our next stop is the Ross Lake National Recreation Area for fall kayaking, camping, and a visit to the famous Ross Lake Resort.  Ross Lake is approximately 20-miles long from Ross Dam in Washington State to southern British Columbia.  Enjoy off-season quiet and watching the changing colors from the seat of your kayak or canoe.  Kayaking and canoeing are popular fall activities on the lake and the area features 19 boat-in campsites available along the shores for adventurous paddlers with a backcountry camping permit.  There is no direct road access to the Ross Lake; canoes, kayaks, and other portable craft can be launched on Diablo Lake and paddled five miles to the end of the lake and then ported over a mile around Ross Dam (that will get your heart pumping!).  Visitors can also hike to Ross Lake or take the Diablo Ferry.  Ross Lake Resort provides portage and water taxi service on the lake and rents out small power boats, canoes, and kayaks.  The resort was established around 1952 from an old floating logging camp.  The resort offers 12 individual cabins and three bunkhouses built on log floats. Guests can enjoy the scenic mountain views and kayak from their front door at this one-of-a-kind remote resort. Accommodations are available by reservation from mid-June to October 31, so put this destination on your list for next year.

North Cascades fall destinations
Kayaking Ross Lake is one of the fun North Cascades fall destinations for the whole family. Photo courtesy of The National Park Service.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 4:  Methow Valley Towns

Continuing down the North Cascades Scenic Byway will take travelers through Mazama, Winthrop, and Twisp.  These towns serve as the cultural and recreational hubs of the North Cascades.  Mazama is on the Methow trail system and near well-maintained rock climbing routes.  Mazama is a popular stop year-round to fuel-up with great food and supplies at the Mazama Store while cross-country skiing, mountain biking, fishing, or hiking the Pasayton Wilderness.  Pedal power is a great way to enjoy fall colors, bike rentals are available in Mazama along with outdoor supplies and friendly local advice about the best places to go. The Old West town of Winthrop is next on the list of stops.  Winthrop has great restaurants and eclectic shops.  Outdoor gear and bikes can be purchased or rented at many of the outfitters that call Winthrop home.  Finally, at the confluence of the Twisp and Methow Rivers is the town of Twisp.  Twisp is home of a thriving artistic community that draws inspiration from the region’s natural beauty.  Stop for lunch and watch the golden leaves sway in the breeze on the banks of the Methow River.

North Cascades Fall Destinations 5:  Lake Chelan

Our tour ends at Stehekin, the quiet lake town nestled into the headwaters of Lake Chelan.  The remote town is connected to the outside world by foot, boat, or float plane.  The journey to Stehekin is part of the charm and ensures a quintessential North Cascades experience.  Early settlers established homesteads in Stehekin in the late 1800s and engaged in logging and agriculture.  Today there are several lodges and restaurants in town and approximately 78 campsites.  Free backcountry passes are required for most campsites; check with the Golden West Visitor Center for details.  Stehekin serves as a hub to explore the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and offers hikes for all abilities.  Visitors can also rent bikes and kayaks in town and even go horseback riding.  No trip to Stehekin is complete without visiting the Stehekin Pastry Company for amazing pies and cinnamon rolls. While it is possible to hike into the town, most visitors arrive on the Lady of the Lake ferry from Chelan.  Lake Chelan is over 50-miles long and the third deepest lake in the United States.  The lake hosts all types of water sports and fishing and is a great fall destination.  After a day hiking and taking in the fall colors, try one of Lake Chelan’s 24 shore side wineries and enjoy placid lake views while sipping some of the best wines in the country.

The Hiking Brain – Boost Your Creativity and Happiness

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hiking brain
Recent research shows how the hiking brain can boost our creativity, cognitive skills, and actually make us happy. Time to lace-up your hiking boots! Photo Source:


Outdoor exercise can do more for your brain than just the familiar runners-high.  Most of us have experienced a euphoric feeling while on the trail or reaching the summit of a difficult climb.  These pleasurable feelings are a result of a complex interaction of chemicals in the brain.  The hiking brain uses endorphins to mask pain and dopamine to motivate goal attainment that combines to give you an exhilarated high that lasts for hours after the hike has stopped.  However, recent research has shown that the hiking brain might also boost your creativity and attention.

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, researchers at Stanford University wanted to see how walking inspired the creative centers of the brain.  To do this, participants were tested under three conditions; seated, walking, and walking outdoors.  The participants were then given tests to measure creative thinking.  An example question from the study included finding alternate uses for a button, one participant answered, “as a doorknob for a dollhouse, an eye for a doll, and a tiny strainer.”

What the researchers found was that creative thinking improved by an average of 60 percent while walking, and improved even more when walking outdoors.  The reason for these findings is still unclear. Researchers think that hiking in nature may relax competition among different brain activities.  This relaxation is believed to allow for the opening of flexible new ways of thinking that increase the hiking brain creativity.

hiking brain
Scan shows how the hiking brain is energized, boosting creativity and cognitive skills. Photo Source:


Reboot and be Happy

Besides increasing creativity, the outdoors can also improve mental and emotional renewal while increasing positive feelings. A study published in the Journal of Psychological Science conducted at the University of Michigan found that walking outdoors improved attention and performance on difficult mental tasks.  Researchers believe that walking in the city requires so much attention that the brain cannot relax.  Crowded sidewalks, honking horns, and careening cars demand active attention to avoid bodily harm.  This study found that natural environments offer what researchers called a, “soft fascination” that is in sharp contrast to the attention grabbing aspect of our normal urban experience.  The relaxing scenes of nature allow the brain to reset and ultimately restore focus.  To test this theory, researchers had participants walk a 2.8 mile wooded path.  Participants were then given a series of numbers that they had to repeat backwards.  These scores were then compared to scores after a similar walk in a busy urban area. The researchers found that participants scored significantly higher on the test after walking in nature.  Researchers also found that the participants’ feelings of emotional refreshment after the nature walk were related to higher scores on the test.

In a related study, Iowa State University further tested the relationship between outdoor walking and emotions to determine if participants needed to walk a particular pace or time to feel good.  In a study published in the journal of Psychology of Sport and Exercise, participants walked for 15 minutes at a moderate pace to test the effects of outdoor exercise on mood.  Previous research assumed that exercise had to be done for an extended time to experience improved emotional states.  The study found that participants walking outdoors still experienced increases in both energy and positive emotions, even when conducted for a limited duration of just 15 minutes.

What these studies are telling us are things we already know, but often forget in our busy lives. We know hiking makes us feel good, we have amazing epiphanies on the trail, and we feel more energized and peaceful after a hike; even though our thighs are burning.  An unanticipated finding in the Stanford study was that participants also talked more and had better conversations while walking in the outdoors. The conclusion here is that people are funny social animals born of nature, we remember this connection the second our feet hit the trail. So this weekend conduct your own experiment, grab a friend or two and go for a hike.  You will not only become more interesting, you will have fun doing it.

Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks – Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories

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Read about the best Outdoor Retailer inspiring stories and learn how these companies are disrupting an industry. Photo Source:

There are thousands of vendors at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market exposition.  And while it is easy to get lost in the crowd, some companies are so unusual that it is impossible not to acknowledge their positive disruption of the outdoor industry.  This week, Seattle Backpackers Magazine reviews four outdoor retailer inspiring stories and how these companies are changing the world for the better.


Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Photo courtesy of nuun.

nuun.  On the outside, Seattle based nuun (pronounced noon) is an electrolyte replace and hydration company.  nuun packs a complete electrolyte profile in a small tablet that is dissolved in water and supports active lifestyles.  Electrolytes play a key function in maintaining fluid balance, preventing muscle cramping, and aids in muscle contractions and movement.  Most electrolyte powders or pre-made drinks are packed with sugar, the innovative effervescent technology, plant-based ingredients, and lack of sugar in nuun makes it a disruptive force in the outdoor and sport performance market.

On the inside, nuun is just as disruptive.  From organizational culture to a well-developed social conscious; nuun shakes things up…sometimes, literally.  The organization embraces what CEO Kevin Rutherford describes as the nuun life.  The nuun life recognizes the individual and social benefit of activity and is dedicated to an active lifestyle in and out of the office.  This dedication takes the form of supporting employee activities outside the office and 5-minute workout sessions three times a week during the workday called the five minutes of fitness.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
The staff and wonder dog Yukon at nuun taking five minutes to live the nuun life during work. nuun’s five minutes of fitness fosters social bonding and creativity while reducing stress and encouraging healthy living. Photo courtesy of nuun.

Social responsibility is a big part of the way nuun operates.  The nuun principles include clean product, clean planet, and clean sport.  The company supports socially conscious causes like The Conservation Alliance and other pro-green initiatives with financial donations from sales and volunteerism.


Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Photo courtesy of MiiR.

MiiR.  MiiR, another Seattle based company, makes outdoor bottles, bikes, and bags.  The company’s flagship store is in the trendy Fremont neighborhood known for microbrews and a giant troll that lives under the Aurora Bridge.  The products are elegantly designed, functional, and rugged. From the camp cup to the food canister to vacuum insulated bottles, MiiR has high quality containers for every aspect of your outdoor life.  MiiR also features a line of bikes for kids and adults.  The bikes are commuter style bikes great for getting to the office or a slow Sunday morning coffee crawl.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
MiiR’s flagship store is also a coffee and beer house. Photo courtesy of MiiR.

Besides great outdoor products, what makes MiiR truly inspirational is the company’s commitment to making the world a better place to live.  Every MiiR product funds a trackable giving project as part of the product to project program.  The program is unique in corporate giving and allows customers to fully understand the impact of their purchase.  Simply register the MiiR product online and enter the product tracking code and you can track where and what project your purchase is supporting.  MiiR gives five percent of revenue annually to different giving projects around the world focusing on water, education, and bicycle projects.  These ventures have led to 55 water projects, over 4,500 bikes given, and the building of a school.  Come down to the Fremont store and enjoy a handcrafted Counter Culture Coffee or one of over 25 beers currently on tap and see what MiiR is doing to make the world a better place.


Outdoor Retailer Inspiring StoriesSherpa.  The character, strength, and generosity of the Sherpa people have made the exploration of the Himalayas possible.  The bravery and heroics of Sherpa guides is legendary, as is the economic challenges of the people.  The company Sherpa makes adventure gear for the exploration of the wilder places on earth.  The gear is designed and tested for Sherpas by Sherpas in one of the most extreme environments imaginable.  From trekking to alpine climbing, the gear is made to be bombproof, functional in movement, and provide state-of-the-art thermal and cooling qualities.

While the gear is amazing, the story behind the gear is what makes Sherpa one of the outdoor retailer inspiring stories.  The company was founded by Tashi Sherpa, nephew of Ang Gyalzen Sherpa, one of the original Sherpa on Sir Edmund Hillary’s famous Everest expedition in 1953.  Tashi Sherpa’s goal was to create economic stability and opportunity for the Sherpa that supported the recreational industry in Nepal and often lived in poverty.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Tashi Sherpa’s daughters are now guiding the business. On the right is Pema Chalmatsang-Sherpa and on the left in the green is Tsedo Sherpa-Ednalino, Chief Operating Officer. Photo by dutch franz.

Now, Tashi Sherpa’s daughters Tsedo Sherpa-Ednalino and  Pema Chalmatsang-Sherpa guide the company and employ over 1,000 skilled women to hand-knit many of the company’s signature products.  The company focuses on keeping things local, a large portion of Sherpa’s products are designed and manufactured in Nepal.  In addition to the economic opportunity Sherpa fosters, the company also supports the Paldorje Education Fund.  This educational fund allows disadvantaged Nepalese children living in remote villages the opportunity to attend school.  Find out more about how you can help support the scholarship fund and Sherpa’s innovative commitment to rural economic development and sustainable manufacturing at the Sherpa website.


Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Bedrock Sandals Co-founder Dan Opalacz and Chief Experience Officer Naresh Kumar. Photo by dutch franz.

Bedrock Sandals.  This Richmond, California company believes in big adventure and simple living.  Bedrock’s innovative materials and minimalist design is genius, giving you just what you need to explore the world.   Co-founder Dan Opalacz started making sandals while living in his VW van traveling the country in search of great outdoor adventures.  Co-founder Nick Pence is chief designer and heads Bedrock’s 1% For The Planet environmental non-profit.

The sandal design takes a disruptive approach to traditional footwear concepts.   Bedrock’s goal is to harness the natural human-inherited flow of movement.  They attempt to do this with a zero drop sole profile as well as creating a sole platform that provides comfort and grip across terrain without unnaturally forcing your feet out of alignment.  Bedrock attempts to design footwear to mold over time to your individual foot profile, not the other way around.  The sandals reflect the founders’ vision of harmony and simplicity.

While Bedrock’s sandals are innovative, it is the company’s commitment to simple living and building an awareness of social responsibility that makes it one of the outdoor retailer inspiring stories.   Many companies have corporate giving or sponsorship programs, but few show the personal commitment that Bedrock shows to making a difference in the world.  This philosophy is personified in Naresh Kumar, Bedrock’s Chief Experience Officer.  Naresh left a high paying software engineering job in Palo Alto to live the simple Bedrock life and raise awareness for social justice issues around the world.  Taking this mission and Bedrock sandals on the road, Naresh trekked 3,800 miles through five countries and three continents.  The herculean effort included a stretch of 280 miles on a broken foot.  The efforts of Bedrock and Naresh helped bring much needed attention to the issues of human trafficking and the economic exploitation of vulnerable populations.  Few companies are willing to put so much skin in the game to live their values.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
A well-worn Bedrock sandal from Naresh Kumar’s 3,800 mile three continent trek. The ballistic insole of the sandal was rubbed bare by Naresh’s foot. Photo by dutch franz.


Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks – Main Floor Review

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Northface photo
Outdoor Retailer 2016
Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks from Seattle Backpackers Magazine. Photo by dutch franz.

The Outdoor Retailer 2016 Summer Market was a chance for some of the biggest manufacturers in the business to show what is new in the outdoor gear industry.  Read Seattle Backpackers Magazine Editor’s picks and get the inside scoop of what’s to come.

If you have never been to the Outdoor Retailer exposition,”OR” for short, then you can’t imagine the sheer size and volume of gear, clothing, and accessories available.  Being an OR virgin, I had not anticipated what I would find when I went to Salt Lake City for my first OR experience.  What I found was both inspiring and a little overwhelming as marketing and marketers attempted to define and shape the outdoor experience for profit.

The floor space at OR is mostly segregated by company size.  Large, or well-funded, companies have exhibits on the main floor.  Smaller companies, or companies that don’t want to spend the cash, have booths in pavilions adjacent to the main convention center.  This bifurcation of the industry seems like a natural place for me to segment my Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s picks.  This review will focus on gear found on the main convention floor from mostly larger companies.  Since there is just way too much gear to conduct a comprehensive review, I will focus on gear that stood out as exceptional or unique.

Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s Picks  

outdoor retailer 2016

Multi-Day Backpacking Packs.  Arc’teryx Bora AR50.  This pack is large, solidly constructed, and built to carry heavy loads a long way.  The revolutionary RotoGlide moving hip-belt allows the hip-belt to twist as your torso twists and moves up and down as you stride or ascend steep inclines.  The durability of the hard-plastic components is still suspect and needs testing, but the concept is revolutionary and could improve balance while reducing fatigue and lumbar and hip discomfort.  No other pack on the floor was thinking that far out of the box.



outdoor retailer 2016
Mountain Hardwear

Alpine/Mountaineering Pack

Mountain Hardwear continues to make the best expedition mountaineering pack on the market.  The South Col 70 OutDry Backpack is substantial and build to take a beating that only crampons and ice axes will give a pack.  The pack uses innovative OutDry construction that bonds a durable waterproof membrane to the main compartment so that your gear stays safe and dry in even the wettest conditions.  The pack keeps all the convenient features that mountaineers have come to expect and rely on.  My favorite feature is the outside reinforced crampon stash pouch.  This pouch allows me to quickly stuff my crampons into a pocket without fear of punching a hole through the pack, a simple design that has yet to be copied.


outdoor retailer 2016
Osprey Packs

Multi-Use Pack

Osprey leads the industry in versatile lightweight packs for trekking, day hikes, or trail running.  Osprey showcased a new ergonomic line of multi-use packs designed to be better fitting and functional on the move.  Osprey packs are full of features like Bio-Stretch technology, the Ergo-Pull hip belt, and the Airspeed suspension and spacer mesh harness system that will keep the load stable and comfortably positioned off your back while assisting in ventilation.  Many packs also include an integrate rain cover.  Osprey has a large selection of packs for all occasions, I recommend finding an authorized dealer and taking the time to find the right fit and features for what you like to do.


Outdoor retailer 2016
Hilleberg Tents

All-Season Tents

The best tents on the convention floor were made by Hilleberg.  Forget the more well-known tent manufacturers, Hilleberg makes the most bomb-proof, best designed all-season tents in the consumer market.  The tents are relatively lightweight and easy to put up, even in a storm.  The integrated rainfly allows you to pack-up the tent under the fly keeping the tent and you dry.  I also encourage you to take the Hilleberg challenge and try to rip a swatch made from the tent material. The swatches are cut nearly in half and you are challenged to try and rip the fabric further…good luck.


outdoor retailer 2016
North Face

Outdoor Clothing Systems

Nobody makes, or markets, an integrated outdoor clothing system like North Face.  From base layer to parka the North Face Summit Series uses high-tech material and design that ingeniously integrates each layer into a performance system.  Other expedition clothing companies attempt to integrate layers as well, but North Face simply does it better, and more importantly, they knew how to display it at the expo.  The Summit Series at the expo was on active manikins showing each layer as it would be combined and used in the outdoors.  Other manufacturers left the clothing on racks making it difficult to identify how the clothing systems worked together.  It may be only marketing savvy, but give it to North Face for helping customers understand how the clothing system is integrated into the activity.


Outdoor Retailer 2016
Garmont USA


Garmont is entering the U.S. market again with an innovative line of hiking and climbing boots.  The boot design breaks new ground with unique anatomical construction for greater comfort and performance.  Bigger toe boxes and heel lock technology add to comfort and the Intelligent Flex System accommodates natural forefoot flex and shin mobility.  Check out the entire line of hiking boots and fast hikers, Garmont has much to offer your outdoor pursuits.

Next week be sure to catch Outdoor Retailer 2016 Editor’s picks for the smaller innovative outdoor companies that are changing the industry.

Renowned Guide Book Writer Tami Asars – The PCT Experience in Her Own Words

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Mount Adams
Tami Asars
As you head north the trail curves around the broad shoulders of the giant Mount Adams and truly introduces ‘purple mountain majesty’ with meadows of lupine and aster lining the rocky soil. Volcanic views make you realize just how tiny you are in the grand scheme of the universe. Words and Photo by guide book writer Tami Asars.

This fall, photographer, former REI guide, and guide book writer Tami Asars will release her third backpacking guide book.  Tami’s critically acclaimed books are known for detailed trail information and beautiful photograph.  I caught up with Tami this summer after her two-year odyssey to write the definitive guide book of Washington’s portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  This timely book follows a 137 percent increase in PCT usage between 2013 and 2015.

In this two-part series, I will explore Tami’s experiences writing the book and her advice for those thinking about taking on the challenge of backpacking Washington’s PCT.  Not wanting to change a word, I present Tami’s responses unedited.  Enjoy!

Part One:  Tami Asars in her own words

What gave you the idea to write the guide book about the Washington PCT?

As a guidebook author, I’m constantly thinking of ways to share my passions with other hikers.  While I love day hiking, I’m absolutely smitten by backpacking and love doing long distance trips, especially in Washington State.  Because it’s so beautiful, section hikers are becoming increasingly more prevalent in the backcountry and I wanted to give them a tool to help them discover the best way to see the trail from logical point to logical point.

How long did you spend on the PCT?  Was it continuous or did you break it up?

I spent two summers pushing up every pass and traipsing down every valley with the GPS rolling. I documented every water source, every camp site, every trail intersection, every river ford, every challenge and every reward.

The first year, I hiked from Snoqualmie Pass to Manning Park, B.C a distance of just over 267 miles. It took me roughly 13 days and it rained, hailed, and drizzled consistently for 9 solid days out of those 13. Washington weather is extremely fickle and I was able to represent the landscape and countryside in photos and trail descriptions having experienced a wide variety of conditions.

Tami Asars
Lodge Lake near Snoqualmie Pass. Photo by guide book writer Tami Asars.

The following summer I bobbed and weaved through lightning bolts, rain and sunshine from the Columbia River to Forest Road 23, near the town of Trout Lake, a total of 81.8 miles which took me 3.5 days.  During those days I enjoyed the splendor of the deciduous forests and riparian landscapes near the southern Washington border, and wandered through Indian Heaven Wilderness elbow deep in huckleberries.

I took a break at that point and explored the Columbia Gorge before hopping back on the trail and hiking from Forest Road 23 to Snoqualmie Pass a total of nearly 163 miles. During that stretch there were moments of peacefully, haunting quietness save for the occasional lone Clark’s Nutcracker call in the Mount Adams Wilderness.

What was your experience on the trail? Your time alone, people you met, wildlife encounters, observations of nature, photography.

I hiked half of the state solo which I always enjoy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love company too, but I believe all of us seek to peel back the layers and find out just how strong we are, both emotionally and physically, and hiking completely alone does just that.

When you spend time deep in thought simultaneously hyper aware of your surrounds, you actually begin to use all of your senses more keenly. Because we live in a modern world, I think we forget about the fact that underneath it all we are mammals and those senses are there for our survival; they are just a little buried underneath computer screens and central heat.  Out on the trail I could smell where there had been herds of elk before I came to their tracks. I could hear water dripping down creek beds long before I saw them. And, at one point, I felt as if I was being watched, so I stopped and took a hard look around. I thought I was going crazy before I discovered a beautiful, red-tailed hawk perched on a tree branch not more than 30 feet above me.

One night, I met a thru-hiker who offered to let me pitch my tent not far from hers.  It was late and getting dark, so my options were limited and she seemed happy and chatty. We talked for a long time about her med school ambitions and shared stories about our love of wild creatures and places.  We were so deep in conversation that we nearly missed the most brilliant sunset I’ve ever seen!  As we starred at the hues of reds, pinks, yellows and turquoise melding into the setting stars over Mount Adams, we were hypnotized into a stilled state of awe.  Sometimes the most brilliant of life’s moment unfold at the most unexpected times.

As for wildlife encounters, I’ve seen many animals along Washington’s PCT.  All have been quick to scamper off much to the chagrin of my waiting camera. Deer, elk, bear, bobcats, pikas, marmots, martens, toads, frogs, snakes, lizards, and too many birds to list have crossed my path along the way. And, it’s likely I chatted with every animal who would listen to me talk.

What obstacles did you face on the trail and with the book?

The most challenging part of the book, hands-down was the data and ensuring it was as accurate as possible. Collecting data is challenging in the best of conditions but add in a dense forest in places and/or an overcast sky which prevents the GPS from seeing the sky/satellites and data can get messy. What’s more GPS’s are often slightly inaccurate.

GPS technology used for recreational purposes is simply not an exact science, so unravelling the mysterious data tracks took a lot of imports and exports on a variety of mapping software as well as comparisons with numerous paper maps and other trusted sources. In the end, I proudly stand with my conclusions.


Check back next week when Tami gives sage advice for those thinking of backpacking Washington’s PCT.

PCT SignGuide book writer Tami Asars on the Pacific Crest Trail. Tami’s new guide book will be out in September 2016 in a full color coffee-table style edition.  An e-reader version is available for those that want to take the book with them on the trail.  Tami says that her book is one in a series of PCT guide books that will be out this fall, other books will cover the California and Oregon sections of the PCT.  For details about where Tami Asars will be signing books and talking about her adventures go to her website at

Alligator Attack at Florida Disney Theme Park

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Alligator Attack
alligator attack
A 2-year-old boy was taken in an alligator attack at a Disney resort in Florida. Photo Source:

A 2-year-old boy was taken in an alligator attack Tuesday night at a lake at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, in Orlando.  Wednesday afternoon, officials indicated that remains of the boy may have been recovered.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the attack occurred around 9:15 p.m. on the beach of the Seven Seas Lagoon.  The large man-made lake is part of a series of canals that wind through the Disney complex and is across from Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park.

Officers from Florida’s Department of Fish and Wildlife have taken four alligators from the lake in an effort to find the boy’s remains.  The boy’s father is reported to have suffered minor injuries while trying to recover his son.

Fish and Wildlife officials say alligator attacks are rare for those encountering the creatures in the wild.  However, officials warn that alligator and human encounters are likely to increase as habitat diminishes and people continue to feed wild alligators.  Officials say that alligators are increasingly being habituated to seek out humans for food.

Alligator Survival in the Wild

  1. Check water source before approaching for water resupply
  2. Never swim in alligator habitat
  3. Avoid animal watering holes
  4. If you come in close proximity to an alligator run away as fast as possible in the most direct route
  5. Fight back vigorously and attempt to punch the sensitive snout and gouge the eyes

Car Survival in the Backcountry

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Leave a trip itinerary with a trusted friend before you go on your trip.  Photo Source:
Car Survival
Follow these car survival tips to stay alive when stranded. Photo Source:

Most survival situations are not dramatic falls or being shipwrecked on a forgotten island. Most survival situations start as mundane events that evolve into dangerous situations through the combination of unforeseen forces. Of all the survival situations, the one that might be the most common is surviving a few days in your vehicle waiting for someone to find you. While car survival may seem like a no-brainer, every winter the headlines are full of stories about outdoor enthusiasts or weary travelers involved in life-threatening car survival situations. Most situations involve the travelers breaking down, getting lost or encountering bad weather that strands the vehicle – life threatening situations usually combine variations of all three. The secret to car survival is that the same planning you use to hike safely can be used to survive comfortably in your car until you are rescued. Follow these three tips and be prepared for your next extended vehicular camping trip.

Car Survival
Leave a trip itinerary with a trusted friend before you go on your trip. Photo Source:

1. Leave a Note

You don’t go for a long hiking or climbing trip without making an itinerary and leaving it with a trusted friend or family member. Make a habit of doing this even on short trips. On the note include a detailed trip plan, the make and model of your vehicle, planned routes, maps taken, emergency signaling devices, survival gear and communications technology taken. Lastly, include a “drop-dead” time to call for help and include who should be called if you don’t return at the specified time.

Why include the maps you have with you? A person’s view of the situation often depends on what can be seen. If rescuers know what maps you are looking at they can begin to see the survival situation from your perspective and make educated choices about where to look for you.

Why include your emergency signaling devices? Rescuers find you faster if they know what to look for. Is that a piece of shiny garbage or a reflective emergency blanket?

Car Survival
Stay with your car, it is your best chance of survival and can keep you warm and safe in even subzero temperatures. Photo Source:

2. Stay with Your Car

Your car is the best piece of survival gear you have: It is shelter, heat and a signaling device…don’t leave it. With a little preparation your vehicle can keep you comfortable and safe in subzero temperatures. One danger of staying in your car is the dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide produced by exhaust or the use of a camp stove. Make sure to crack a window and try to get cross-ventilation while running the car or using a stove. If you are running your car for heat, turn the car into the wind if possible and make sure the exhaust is not blocked by snow or mud. Run the car for approximately five minutes every half hour and never fall asleep with the car running. Be aware that in really cold conditions the intermittent engine use could allow for snow to melt in the engine compartment and impair proper operation of the vehicle in the future.

Next, make use of the gear and resources you have with you. Wrap up in a sleeping bag if you have one. Old newspapers, floor mats, and carpeting can also provide warmth. In a pinch, the upholstery stuffing can be packed inside of clothing to increase warmth. Your comfort and survivability in a vehicle is only limited by your preparation and imagination. Carry an emergency survival kit next to your spare with survival food, water, signaling devices, a knife, a well-stocked first-aid kit (if you cut yourself with the knife) and emergency blankets.

3. Stay Positive and Active

In addition to packing survival items also think about packing a book or some games. Survival is more of a mental game than a physical one, and staying positive and alert increases your chances of survival. Having patience and staying calm can keep you from doing something stupid – like getting bored and trying to walk out. If you can safely exit your vehicle, get out and do some jumping jacks to increase circulation, warmth, and get a shot of spirit boosting endorphins. Check on your signaling devices and make sure they are still visible and not blown away or covered by snow. The activity will make you feel like you are contributing to your rescue and doing something useful, both powerful mental motivators for survival. Lastly, enjoy the moment. Notice the beauty in the snow drift or the patterns of the rain as it hits the window. Meditate, outline the great American novel, or sing as loud as you can. Few people have the opportunity to truly be alone; help will be there soon so take the opportunity to enjoy your momentary quantum of solace.

Car Survival
Add the amazing space blanket to your survival kit. Photo Source:

The Indispensable Space Blanket

Few items have such versatile life-saving uses as the small, light-weight, and often over looked space blanket. Used as a wraparound the space blanket reflects 90 percent of body heat and minimizes cooling through convection and radiation. To use the space blanket properly, put the shiny side next to your body. If you can, use duct tape to close the blanket around you so you don’t have to expose your fingers to the cold while trying to hold the blanket closed. The space blanket has many uses beyond just being a shiny cool wrap. The space blank can be used to increase warmth inside of your sleeping bag, as a lean-to shelter, and even as a large signaling device. At such a small size and weight it is hard to think of another piece of gear that can do so much in emergency situations.

Pacific Northwest Fireside Story – Is Mount Rainier an Interstellar Outdoor Destination?

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Arnold identified the objects as being slender and crescent shaped.  Later reports would coin the term flying saucer.  Photo Source
Fireside Story
Mount Rainier was one of three peaks in Washington State that UFOs visited in June of 1947 according to pilot Kenneth Arnold. Photo Source:

Scary fireside stories are as much of the outdoor experience as pitching your tent. The next time you are covered in the warm eerie glow of the campfire (or stove), share this fireside story of Washington’s role in popular UFO mythology.

On June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, a respected business man and experienced pilot from Idaho, was on his way from Chehalis to Yakima in his CallAir A-2 airplane on a business trip. At around 3 p.m. at an altitude over 9000 ft., Arnold spotted nine shiny objects flying towards Mount Rainier from the direction of Mount Baker to the north.

In an effort to identify the objects, Arnold conducted several maneuvers to confirm that the objects were not birds, sun reflections off his cockpit windshield, or another known aircraft. During these maneuvers Arnold estimated that the UFOs were flying around 1,700 mph (faster than any aircraft of the time) and were over 100ft long. Arnold described the objects as thin and crescent shaped – later reporting on the sightings coined the term “flying saucer” for the first time.

Fireside Story
Arnold identified the objects as being slender and crescent shaped. Later reports would coin the term flying saucer. Photo Source:

Arnold said the objects darted in and out of the mountainous terrain before heading south to Mount Adams. Arnold observed the objects around both peaks over the span of almost two minutes. When Arnold landed he reported his sighting and was interviewed by multiple news outlets and his sighting became part of an extensive Army Air Force intelligence investigation. Ten days after Arnold’s sighting, a United Airlines crew over Idaho flying to Seattle spotted UFOs similar to the ones identified by Arnold. These UFOs paced the United Airlines flight for 15 minutes before suddenly disappeared. The captain of the United Airlines flight, Emil J. Smith, met with Arnold and the Army Air Force intelligence to discuss the encounters. Arnold and Smith became friends and later teamed up to investigate an early UFO hoax that involved the mysterious Men in Black.

Fireside Story
Official report filed by Arnold with Army Air Force intelligence after the encounter with UFOs over Mount Rainier in June, 1947. The report includes sketches by Arnold of what the objects looked like and flight characteristics. Photo Source:

Like two X-File agents, Arnold and Smith are reported to have teamed up to investigate the mysterious close encounter known as the Maury Island incident. In June of 1947 two men reported to have had molten metal dropped on their boat in Puget Sound off Maury Island. The men also reported an encounter with a man in a dark suit that told them not to talk about the UFO incident. This story was later revealed as a hoax, but is considered the genesis of the Men in Black phenomenon associated with modern UFO mythology.

Who knows what really happened over the skies of Mount Rainier on that clear June day in 1947? My theory is that what Arnold really saw were early interstellar peak-baggers planning an epic single-day ascent of Washington’s three highest peaks (Baker, Rainier, and Adams)…I could be wrong.

Fireside Story
The Maury Island incident is considered the first appearance of the Men in Black in popular UFO mythology. The Photo Source:

North Face Spider Technology Moon Parka – The Next Big Thing In Outdoor Apparel

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The bioengineered spider silk is expected to be stronger, lighter, and more flexible than traditional outdoor apparel fabrics. Image Source:  The North Face/Spiber
North Face Spider Technology Moon Parka
The North Face spider technology Moon Parka could revolutionize outdoor performance and the way we use biotechnology. Image Source: The North Face/Spiber

Have you ever wanted to wear a spider web? Sounds crazy, but a new partnership announced in September between outdoor outfitter North Face and the biotech company Spiber will attempt to do just that. The garment, called the Moon Parka, will be made from the spider silk protein known as fibroin produced with the help of genetically modified microbes.

How it works. Spiber figured out a way to isolate the spider gene responsible for the production of fibroin in spiders and then created bioengineered bacteria that create the “spider silk” as they multiply. The bacteria can grow fast producing endless (conceivably) amounts of fibroin for manufacturing.

North Face Spider Technology Moon Parka
The bioengineered spider silk is expected to be stronger, lighter, and more flexible than traditional outdoor apparel fabrics. Image Source: The North Face/Spiber

The Moon Parka’s successful prototype was based on The North Face’s top-of-the-line Antarctica Parka and marked the world’s first successful use of synthetic spider silk materials on an actual manufacturing line. Spiber said the process was, “a giant leap toward fully harnessing the power of next-generation protein materials.” According to Spiber, the material is lightweight, stretchy, and incredibly strong. The North Face said it was too early in the design process to know the exact performance specifications of this next generation adventure outer wear.

North Face Spider Technology Moon Parka
The Moon Parka is expected in stores sometime in 2016. Image Source: The North Face/Spiber

While everyone knows North Face, Spiber is new to the outdoor apparel manufacturing industry. The Japanese biotech start-up has revolutionized the use of bioengineered material in manufacturing. The company says it has a library of over 600 types of thread that can be used in a variety of garments. According to Spiber the process is environmentally friendly since it uses sustainable protein materials in the tread instead of the petroleum based synthetic polymer that most apparel companies use. The company has received significant start-up funding and produced a slick new promotional video showing the Moon Parka and the process used to create the jacket. The North Face and Spiber hope to have the parka in stores sometime in 2016.

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