The Outside Blog

Camping : Oct 2011

American Alpine Institute Gives Best Gear Awards

AAI gc

The American Alpine Institute (AAI) is a 35-year old mountain school best know for its advanced trainings, expeditions, and exceptional instruction, as well as its committment to protecting public lands. Of course, they also know a thing or two about gear, and this summer at the Outdoor Retailer Show, they presented 11 Guides Choice awards.

AAI guides rate the gear year round in the desert, cold weather, rain, snow, high wind, and in high altitude environments. AAI states on its website that “Because of the intensity and constancy of use, the wear and stress that gear receives during these tests corresponds to many years of use by a recreational climbers.”

We believe it. And not just because they say so: about a third of the products below have shown up in our last few Buyer's Guides. Here's what got the gold from AAI: 

Biffy Ledo Environmental – Biffy Bag

AAI states: “As more and more people venture into the backcountry every year, management of human waste become increasingly important to protecting the health of our pristine wilderness areas. Weighing only 65 grams the Biffy Bag system is smaller and lighter than all of the competitors. Our guides liked that the system is made up of two independent bags, minimizing the possibility of a puncture leading to nasty situation. The Biffy Bag is unique because its design allows it to be used easily without a bucket or commode.  The user simply ties two straps around their waist, pulls the bag up between their legs while squatting to do their business. The Biffy Bag kit includes, an odor-proof zip-top transport bag, 1 biodegradable inner bag, an ample amount of toilet paper, Biffy Powder (neutralizing agent) and a sanitizing hand wipe.”

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Slip and Sliding on a Slingshot Into 100-Foot Jumps

Now that those warm days at the lake have passed, people are updating their YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook pages with videos of their proudest summer stunts. Some include inner tube rides that end in nasty wipeouts, others show error prone attempts on the slip and slide, and more impressive clips show high dives off cliffs. The video above includes all three on an extreme scale, thanks to a human slingshot that obviously took some time to put together. Let's just say we don't advise such stunts, but if you want to really impress your friends on social media next year, you might have to up your game.

--Joe Spring


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Mountain Biker Versus Hartebeest


You hear stories of mountain bikers' close calls with wildlife—like the mountain lion that leapt on some poor schmuck's back from high ground or the mother bear that chased off a hapless rider when he startled her cubs—but I've always written them off as urban legend. I figure that any critters I happen on will be fast headed the other direction. Case in point: a few weeks ago, while racing the Vapor Trail 125 outside of Salida, Colorado, I sent a black bear scuttling for cover when I came hurtling down the trail late in the night. And last weekend on the Coconino 250, I startled an elk with a giant rack into a dead run on the flanks of Bill Williams mountain. Animals want as little to do with us as we want to do with them, I've always said—until I saw this video. I think I'll watch the woods a bit more closely from now on.

--Aaron Gulley 

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Transformer: Keen's Backpack Chair


Call us soft (and many of our friends have), but we've always been a fan of Crazy Creek chairs. (Our tripmates have consistently sneered "Lazy Geek" chairs, and then promptly sat in them when we got up to pee.) We also like the contraptions that turn your sleeping pad into a chair, like this one from Big Agnes.

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From The Lean-To: CU Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion

Ok, maybe I'm reporting about the mountain lion that was tranquilized on the University of Colorado campus because I'm an alumni. But come on, a mountain lion on a college campus is kind of amazing, right? (Yes, they come down into Boulder often, but rarely do you hear of them hanging out in a tree near the dorms.) All those parents worried about their kids drinking too much, doing drugs, having sex bla bla bla. But never do you send your kids off to college and think about the chances that a mountain lion would walk down from the foothills and take a nap outside the window where your kid is studying (drinking) history (Coors Light). More on the story if you read on, reader.

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