The Outside Blog

Dispatches

Buy This Mountain, Become a Lord

Pedigreeless laymen are claiming land and kingdoms left and right, and if you too harbor royal dreams, a progressive British earl has a deal for you. For a paltry $3 million, you could help Hugh Clayton Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale and retired long-distance trucker, chip away at a $15 million inheritance tax on his estate by taking the popular rambling mountain called Blencathra, 2,677 acres of land, and the lofty title of Lord of the Manor of Threlkeld off his hands.

Blencathra, clocking in at 2,848 feet, is hardly the most impressive peak, but it's prime hiking terrain held near to the hearts of a legion of British outdoorsmen—some of whom are eager to put the sloping, bald mountain in the public domain. But before Friends of Blencathra could attract the required funds, it was reported this month that an anonymous high-roller won the bidding war by offering more than the asking price.

Luckily for lord hopefuls and conservationists alike, the mountain had already been declared a public asset, meaning the sale can't go through for another six months. But if you think those six months will go by without turmoil, think again—in the interim, Friends of Blencathra report getting a large dose of death threats despite the fact that they're "trying to do nothing but good," one told the Telegraph.

The real mystery is why bidding is so heated for a property carrying so many caveats. Blencathra might be "a jewel in the lakeland's crown," per the agency handling the bidding, but whoever buys the jewel won't be able to do much with it. The property is regulated by National Park zoning restrictions, and anyone can ramble through or graze their flocks there.

"I could understand if you wanted to buy an island to invite your friends to," Friends chairwoman Debbie Cosgrove told the New York Times regarding the property's potential. "But you can't put a fence up" around the mountain.

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Track Your Gluttony—and Lose Weight—with Jawbone’s New UP App

Fitness trackers (those little wearable pods that seem to be on everybody’s wrists or in everybody’s pockets these days) do a pretty good job keeping track of your activity levels and estimating your caloric burn. They aren’t perfect, but they’re better than nothing. The thing is, they can only see half the equation. It’s good to measure calories out, but what about calories in?

Well, an update to the Jawbone UP app for iOS is adding a bunch of new features to help you keep track of what’s going in your food-hole. For those who don’t know, the company's UP (and the more recent UP24) are among the more popular wrist-worn activity trackers out there.

Now, Jawbone's iPhone app will support easy search for food items. You just punch in what it is (hard-boiled eggs, for example) and the quantity (three, medium-sized) and it will be added to your food log, which will keep track of your daily intake of calories, protein, fats, carbohydrates, sodium, and other metrics.

What’s more, the app will come pre-populated with a database of menu items from popular restaurants across the country (mostly chains). This means you’ll be able to plug in an In n’ Out Double-Double to get the number of calories, rather than have to enter all the components individually (patties, buns, cheese, etc.). For smaller restaurants, you’ll have to add stuff in manually at the beginning, but as more people use the app, more menu items will be saved to Jawbone’s database, which means items will continue to get easier to find.

Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this. MyFitnessPal has been around for a long time (in both web and app versions) and has built up quite the database of food—over three million items as of now, mostly user-generated. That’s going to be hard to compete with. Also, MyFitnessPal already integrates with some very popular fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, Withings, and (curiously) even the Jawbone UP.

Where Jawbone may have an edge, though, is in the design. The app simply looks terrific. There are several layers of polish that MyFitnessPal just doesn’t have, which makes it cleaner and a whole lot easier on the eyes.

The company has also built some neat intelligence into it. For example, if you enter in cereal, it knows you’re likely also going to want to add milk, so milk pops right up, eliminating the need to search for it. It has created pairings for several dozens of food (many of which you can see in this interactive map), and that, combined with the smarts to learn some of your favorite meals, may make logging your food a quicker, easier process.

Creating a food journal is one of the most powerful weight-loss, fitness tools out there, but it’s notoriously tedious and tough to stick with. Anything that makes it easier is certainly a welcome change. The biggest downsides to Jawbone’s new app is you need to own an UP or UP24 device to use it, and the new version has not yet been released for Android.

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goTenna

Wouldn’t it be nice to communicate directly with the other members of your party without having to rely on shaky cell service or WiFi?

Thanks to goTenna, a new communications device that launched Thursday, you can. The rugged off-the-grid tool pairs with your iPhone or Android via BlueToothLE to enable users to send and receive text messages (160 characters max) and share their GPS locations. It’s a bit like a super walkie-talkie with a range of up to 50 miles, depending on terrain.

The big bonus: it only costs $150 per pair, with no subscription fees. Field radios or sat phones can cost 10 times that.  

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It’s a nifty, affordable solution to communication in the backcountry where you rarely have reliable cell service. Say everyone in your hiking party is on the system. It would be easy to relay messages between the group, even if you got separated on the trail. Or a guide could use the device to make sure all her clients make it safely back to base camp.

As handy as goTenna might be on a backpacking trip, it was initially conceived as a tool for emergency situations. Founders (and siblings) Daniela and Jorge Perdomo came up with the idea during Hurricane Sandy when millions of people across the East Coast were left without electricity or Internet. They realized people needed a way to communicate even when cell towers were down.

goTenna could also be used while travelling abroad (forget expensive, convoluted international phone services), or anywhere on-the-grid where it’s easy to lose members of your party (think music festivals and soccer stadiums). 

The gadget has one major limitation: you can only send and receive messages from other goTenna users. You won’t be able to send an emergency text to your girlfriend back home if she’s not on the goTenna network.  

So is it about to replace all our backcountry emergency communication devices? No. But is it a game-changing tool for the majority of us who hike without $1,000 field radios or travel without international phone plans? Absolutely.

Pre-order for $150, gotenna.com

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