The Outside Blog

Dispatches

6 Beach-Ready Essentials

Instead of that old-school boombox, consider throwing a powerful water-resistant speaker or high-tech action camera in your beach bag this summer. Check out these six sand- and sun-resistant products guaranteed to make your hot summer nights even more fun:

Canon PowerShot D30 ($330)

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Go ahead and dive up to 82 feet below the surface with this 12.1-megapixel pocket camera. The tough outer shell can withstand drops on the dock up to 6.5 feet. The killer feature? Perfect for beach-goers, the screen uses a new LCD screen that’s viewable even in direct sunlight.

Outdoor Tech Big Turtle Shell ($230)

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Don’t dip your toes in the water unless you have the tunes to play in the background. This durable Bluetooth speaker is water- and splash-resistant (not waterproof), plays music at a loud 110 decibels, and connects to your phone or tablet from up to 30 feet away.

Quiksilver Rashguard ($40)

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This smart short-sleeve shirt has a hidden feature. Although it looks like every other T-shirt you’d wear to the beach, it uses a new Rashguard tech with a UPF 50+ rating for sunblock. The entire line includes long-sleeve shirts, swimming trunks, and surf shirts.

Miir Growler ($59)

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Not every water bottle is beach-ready. Not so the Miir Growler, which uses a unique clamp system that keeps sand and other residue from building up at the lip. The double-insulated shell keeps cold drinks cold for about 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours.

Sprint Kyocera Hydro Vibe (Free with contract)

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A few years ago, companies started offering so-called “waterproof” phones. The Kyocera Hydro Vibe actually lives up to the claim—it can be submerged down to 3.28 feet for 30 minutes. The 4.5-inch screen is also crack-resistant and the phone wards off dust and sand.

Plantronics BackBeat FIT ($130)

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This Bluetooth headset, which is splash-resistant and durable, comes with a neoprene armband to hold your smartphone on your arm while you lay out at the beach. The headset lets you control music and answer calls with a quick finger press.

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Tested: Maximalist Shoes of 2014

There are few debates more polarized in the running world than the one between maximalists and minimalists. It seems everyone either subscribes to the super-cushioned cult or the minimal movement, and there’s not much common ground in between.

After the minimalist craze of the past few years, more top shoe brands are entering the maximalist fray. So we reviewed the latest beefed-up options to get to the bottom of the dispute. Or at least add more fuel to the flame.

Hoka One One Conquest ($170)

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Intended for: Road

This is the Cadillac of road runners. The Conquest—the latest edition from the brand known for its trademark giant foam—is Hoka’s first attempt at a road shoe. Perched on a 29mm stack, the Conquest has twice the cushion of most normal road trainers. This makes it a great option for runners who log a lot of miles and want some extra cush or for those returning from injury.

Noticeably narrower and slightly less cumbersome than Hoka’s trail-shoe options, the Conquest still has a boxy, stilt-like effect. With that said, it’s also astonishingly stable thanks to a new Rmat® midsole-suspended cradle system that cups your foot. This shoe is laterally stiff and so cushioned that there's very little ground-feel, which might turn off some runners.

I found the shoe to be quite comfortable thanks to a seamless upper. Take note: the collar and tongue are uncushioned, and although I didn't have any problems with this, it could chafe some runners. All the more reason to try before you buy. The Conquest's Race-Lace system (similar to Salomon's Speedlaces) did cut into the top of my foot, but this was easily fixed by swapping in a pair of normal laces (included with every pair of shoes).  

The Conquest’s 4mm drop and rockered forefoot accelerate your transition from ground-strike to push-off, delivering on the promised feeling of “weightlessness.” Hoka devotees will notice the new foam is less plush than that in other Hokas, but this shoe is still a great combination of cushion and responsiveness for the road. Alberto Salazar told us, ”The more you run, the more support your foot needs.” This is a big-mileage shoe for any road runner looking to extend their long run in search of racing glory.

Important note: Hokas run at least a half size larger than the number on the box, so be sure to try these on for sizing before you buy.

Weight: 11.8 oz.; Drop: 4mm; Geometry: 25/29mm

Brooks Transcend ($160)

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Intended for: Road

The Brooks Transcend, the company’s first foray into the maximalist market, looks a bit like it arrived on a spaceship from the future. The Brooks Super DNA midsole is 25 percent more cushioned than any of Brooks’ other offerings. Its rounded heel and 8mm drop helps you roll through your gait cycle and allows the shoe to maintain Brooks’ quick-footed lightweight feel. It’s a traditional road shoe that doesn’t compromise its midsole responsiveness for unnecessary cushion. 

For this shoe Brooks departed from a traditional shoe post—designed to keep you in proper biomechanical alignment—in favor of a new technology it calls “Guide Rails” to protect against pronation and supination. These rails are specialized plates along the upper on the outside of the shoe. The rails act like bumpers, so if your foot doesn't roll in or out, you won't notice them. If it does, they'll keep you from over-pronating or over-supinating.

The shoe’s plush upper feels downright luxurious, but I found the shoe could use a little more room in the toe-box. Runners with narrow feet shouldn't have any problem with the fit, but if you have wide feet, definitely try before you buy. The Transcend is a wonderful option for a focused road runner who wants a bit more cushion, but who isn't ready to make the jump to a Hoka One One.

Weight: 12.2 oz.; Drop: 8mm; Geometry: 22/30mm

Altra Olympus ($130)

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Intended for: Trail

Named after a peak on the edge of the Salt Lake valley, the Altra Olympus is the first maximally cushioned, zero-drop shoe. The heel is at the same height as your forefoot, as it would be if you were running barefoot. Altra believes this promotes proper biomechanics.

The wide toe box allows your toes to naturally splay, good for anyone with wide feet or runners who battle neuromas. The foot feel is soft and slipper-like, even without socks (if you choose to go that route). 

The Olympus forefoot rocker—like a early-rise ski tip—helps initiate your stride. And the Olympus’ wide platform makes it a very stable ride despite its relatively high stack height. If you charge downhill, or hope to, the Olympus will gobble up terrain like no other. The price for that, however, is less return of energy from the midsole. At times this shoe feels like riding uphill on your big travel freeride bike: the shock absorption is great until you have to climb. That means it can have a wet-shoe feel on the flats.

Our major gripe? The Olympus' tread looks more like what you'd expect on a road shoe. It wasn’t tacky enough for rock, and it wasn’t toothy enough for steep dirt trails. Finally, I found its tongue needed to be a bit longer and wider, or it needed an offset loop, to keep debris out. On long runs, I inevitably got rocks in the shoe.

Weight: 11 oz.; Drop: 0mm; Geometry: 32mm

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 ($110)

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Intended for: Road

Of all the new maximal shoes this year, the Fresh Foam 980 doesn’t feel like it belongs in the super-cush category. It has the slimmest profile of the crop and really doesn’t comply with it’s marketing copy of “soft, pillowy, and cloudlike.” What this shoe lacks in “pillowy” however, it makes up for in proprioception. That means it provides superior ground-feel than its competitors. Combine that with how light this shoe is, and you have a fast, lightly cushioned racer. 

Fresh Foam 980’s 4mm drop encourages a mid-foot strike and a quick cadence. A comfortable fit with a thick cushioned tongue, it features an elegant single-piece midsole and outsole that provide long-term durability (a technique made possible by new 3D-printing technology). The breathable upper uses welded overlays to eliminate seams and possible hot spots for blisters. It has a narrow forefoot, and sizes a little small—you should probably size up at least a half size when you buy.

The Fresh Foam 980 is the fleetest maximal shoe on the market today. It’s super responsive, light, cushioned, and wonderfully flexible for a maximal shoe with a lot of midsole. When your training volume increases and your long runs get really long, this is the high-mileage workhorse you’ll be happy to own. 

Weight: 8.8 oz.; Drop: 4mm; Geometry: 22/26mm

Vasque Ultra ShapeShifter ($170)

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Intended for: Trail

The “Ultra” in the name denotes who this shoe was made for—ultrarunners. The super-cushioned ShapeShifter subverts the traditional construction methods (and associated construction waste) by attaching the shoe’s upper directly to a one-piece injection-molded EVA outsole. This method eliminates the midsole and the insole entirely. Take note: that also means this shoe won't work for those who run with orthotics.

The Ultra ShapeShifter features a roomy stretch mesh sock upper and the Boa L5 lacing system. The latter is brilliant for on-the-run customization, and anyone who prefers their shoes loose for uphills and tight for downhills. Simply bend down and twist the mechanism to tighten your shoe to your preferred snugness. Because the laces are thin (about the size of fishing wire), they can cut into the top of your foot if they're too tight. 

The one-piece sole is malleable and conforms to the trail, and I found it gave me great traction even on loose kitty litter. It’s also a fantastic buffer between you and the hard ground, which increased my downhill running speed. Eliminating the layering comes with the added benefit of giving the ShapeShifter good trail feel for a shoe that lifts you 28mm off the ground. 

The biggest downside: I found the fit to be quite odd. The front of the arch/midfoot was much narrower than any other shoe I've worn. I couldn't run more than a few miles in this shoe, and if you have wide feet, either consider another option or definitely try before you buy. 

Weight: 10.6 oz.; Drop: 6mm; Geometry: 22/28mm

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Shark Diver Missing in Bahamas

A commercial shark-dive client has been missing since Sunday, July 13, when the U.S. Coast Guard received a distress call at 8 p.m. The diver, identified as John E. Petty, 63, was aboard controversial shark-dive outfitter Jim Abernethy’s yacht Shear Water.

On Saturday, Petty boarded the boat along with eight other divers and four crew in Palm Beach, Florida, for an eight-night expedition to Tiger Beach, a 20-foot-deep site about 20 miles off Grand Bahama’s West End. Their goal was to dive with a resident population of tiger sharks that hang out in the area.

For now, it’s hard to say what happened, but the most immediate possibility is that Petty got disoriented or accidentally swam into a swift current and was swept away before anybody noticed he was gone.

“It was a night dive, so getting lost is an option, as is unintentionally swimming out to the Gulf Stream and being caught in the current,” says Andy Dehart, shark adviser for the Discovery Channel and longtime Tiger Beach diver. Dehart also thinks a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, is a possibility.

In 2003, two divers off the Great Barrier Reef were left behind by a dive boat after the captain miscounted his passengers. That episode became the basis for the film Open Water, a true-life horror film chronicling the divers’ long drift to a slow death.

Though Abernethy wasn’t answering his phone on Tuesday, one of his instructors was available. “The exact location where we dive varies,” says April Mai, a boat captain and dive master for the outfitter. “It depends on currents and where the best action is.”

Typical shark-diving protocol is to keep the motor idling while tossing chum and fish blood overboard until shadows appear below. Unlike many shark-diving outfits, Abernethy’s Scuba Adventures doesn’t use cages and advertises this trip as only for divers with advanced open-water training. According to scuba certifying agency PADI, Petty received his advanced open-water certification earlier this month.

Abernethy has come under fire from the dive community in the past for promoting dangerous dives with shark species known to pose a threat to humans. Tiger sharks account for a large percentage of the relatively small number of shark attacks on people each year. Abernethy lost a diver to a shark attack in 2008 and has himself been bitten.

For now, information about Petty’s disappearance is slim. After fielding the distress call Sunday night, the Coast Guard, operating out of Miami, deployed an immediate air-and-sea search operation consisting of a cutter, a fixed-wing aircraft, and a helicopter. The only clues found so far don’t lend much hope.

“They found the mask and camera on the seafloor one nautical mile from where the incident was called in,” says Mark Barney, a spokesman for the Coast Guard.

Still, Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios remains hopeful. “I can’t say how long we will be searching. It could be one more day, or it could be a week.”

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Why Bostonians Won't Need Snow to Shred

You need snow to snowboard, right? Not necessarily. If all goes according to plan, Boston-based skiers and snowboarders will soon be able to practice their tricks year-round at a new indoor snow-sports training facility.

On June 29, a Facebook page called the Lab Freestyle began publicizing a crowdfunding effort for the center, modeled after Utah's state-of-the-art Snogression. Reminiscent of a modernized Discovery Zone, the Lab Freestyle would offer beginners and experts alike opportunities to grind a low-angle rail garden, attempt 540-degree flips on trampolines, try their gutsiest moves knowing they have foam pits to catch them, and more.

Throwing tricks for the first time, the founders suggest, can be exhilarating but dangerous. It's much safer and easier to perfect your moves in a controlled environment and unleash your skills on powder once you're comfortable.

"There's no thrill more intense, no high more satisfying, than landing that new trick you've been dying to try out. But hitting the slopes unprepared can have catastrophic, career-ending, even life-threatening consequences," the Lab writes on its Facebook page. According to an FAQ with New Schoolers, the Lab Freestyle's jumps will be constructed "to have more pop than length so that you have a bit more hang time to learn tricks" than you might on the mountain. 

The Lab Freestyle is still taking suggestions on facility design and hopes to raise funds quickly enough to open within the year. The Lab hasn't begun crowdfunding yet but said as of yesterday that it plans to start within the next month.

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Airbus Plans to Replace Plane Seats with Bike Saddles

You can choose to fly first class, economy, or perched on a bicycle seat.

Airbus filed a patent application for airline "bicycle seats," which are exactly what the name says they are—bike seats mounted on vertical bars that passengers would sit on for the duration of their flight. The tray table-, headrest-, and legroom-lacking design skimps on comfort but maximizes space efficiency. 

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According to the LA Times, the patent application, submitted in Europe, explains that the intent of the bicycle seat is to reduce the bulk of airplane seating and allow more passengers to board flights.

"'Low-cost' airlines seek to increase the number of passengers transported on each flight, and more particularly on short-haul links, in order to maximize the return on the use of the aircraft," the patent description states. "The number of seats in a cabin must be increased, to the detriment of the comfort of the passengers."

If Airbus is ever able to utilize its bicycle seats, we hope it will spend any extra profits on special classes to teach pilots to avoid all turbulence.

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