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NEMO Coda 0

Yes, there's ample justification for the shockingly high price tag.

For starters: stretch stitching in the legs, a DWR-treated shell, and water-resistant 850-fill goose down. Meaty internal draft collars and an overstuffed hood add to the zero-degree Coda's cold-weather chops.

But the bag's versatility impressed us most. Testers were comfortable from a chilly five degrees to a breezy 55, thanks to the Coda's "gills," 
a pair of slits down the torso. Unzip them to vent, or leave them closed to lock in the heat.

Bottom line: This could be your year-round sleeping bag. 0˚; 2.9 lbs

$700, nemoequipment.com 

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Disco Hammock from Betabrand

The best way to spice up your next camping trip? Bust out the Disco Hammock from Betabrand. (The company also carries disco-ball shorts, pants, a hoodie, and a tuxedo jacket if you want to go all in.) 

Robert Murdoch, the man behind the sparkly swing, collaborated with ENO to turn its Doublenest Hammock into a rocking world of shiny lights and flared pants, or you know, just a cooler-looking hammock for the woods.

The comfy nest, made from Betabrand's Disconium material, is lightweight and quick drying, and easily supports up to two people. It just might heat things up a bit during your next backcountry adventure.

$108, betabrand.com  

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The Tour de France for Women

Arguably the most marquee event in women’s cycling is taking place this weekend, and the majority of people probably don’t even know about it. On Sunday, after a 16-year hiatus, female riders will once again share in the prestige of the Tour de France at a one-day race called La Course.

Before the Tour steams into Paris for its concluding drag race down the Champs Élysées, some of the top women’s teams in the world will line up for a criterium on those same roads. The racers will complete 13 laps on the same cobbled circuit that the men finish on, for a total of 90 kilometers.

The race is the brainchild of journalist–turned–road-racer Kathryn Bertine, along with two of the world’s top female racers, Emma Pooley and Marianne Vos. The group, which has continued to add big names to its ranks as the movement progressed, has been working on making La Course happen since 2012.

Given cycling’s staid and traditional outlook, it wasn’t easy. It took a petition, which garnered more than 100,000 signatures, to get the attention of ASO, the parent company of the Tour de France.  

In some ways, La Course is a milestone—the first time that women have competed on the same stage as men. Using the same infrastructure and media as the Tour’s final stage, it will put women’s racing in front of one of its biggest-ever audiences short of the Olympics. Prize money for the race is €22,500, the same amount that the men earn for winning a stage at the Tour. It will be broadcast live, even here in the U.S., where any cycling coverage—male or female—is rare.  

On the other hand, the event also reinforces the lack of parity between men’s and women’s cycling. Compared to the 21-day, 2,300-mile extravaganza of the Tour, La Course is hardly a drop in the bucket.

And the course itself isn’t even as long as the men’s day, which is considered by most the easiest stage in the Tour. And it’s being held five full hours before the Tour stage, long before the men even take their start, meaning that the crowds and visibility will inevitably be much lower than they otherwise could have been. Even the TV representation is questionable. In three weeks of watching the Tour, we’ve yet to see La Course promoted.

This is hardly the first time that women’s cycling has gotten short shrift. Previous attempts at a women’s edition of the Tour, then known as La Grand Boucle Féminine, suffered from underfunding, poor organization, and a lack of media coverage and support, which eventually lead to the event’s demise. There was the Exergy Tour, which was billed as the great hope for women’s cycling in the U.S. when it launched in 2012, but failed even before its second year after the sponsor pulled out. And of course there were the infamous comments of Pat McQuaid just two years ago, when he was president of the UCI, that he didn’t believe that women’s cycling was worthy of a minimum wage. 

The fact is, while many have called La Course an equalizer for women’s cycling, it is, at best, a baby step. A few months ago, I was talking about to Evelyn Stevens, one of the top women’s US road racers with Specialized Lululemon and I sensed the same frustration.

Stevens was careful to say that she’s excited about the event and grateful for the exposure and chance. But there was also the underlying frustration that where ASO could throw its might behind women’s cycling and really help to promote it, they have created what’s little more than a parade.

Don’t get us wrong: We’re thrilled to see the best women on the planet throw down on the world’s biggest stage, even if it is hours before the main event. With the likes of Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley, Georgia Bronzini, and Elisa Longo Borghini, the race is sure to be every bit as exciting as the men’s event—perhaps moreso given how many of the favorites have been struck down from this year’s Tour. You can bet we’ll be tuning in.

We just hope that La Course will prove to be a stepping stone to bigger things, as Vos says it should be, and not just another high-profile misfire.

One day, we hope that little girls everywhere might know the phrase, “Vive le Tour Féminin!”

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Make Your Cabin Fantasies a Reality

Call it a cabin-porn addiction, but it seems like a lot of us have the same dream: a cabin of our own, deep in the woods that’s simple, off-the-grid, and far from anyone else. It probably has a porch and a view. Maybe even an outdoor shower.

Sounds pretty nice and, on the dream-scale, pretty attainable. So if you’re going to build a DIY cabin in a remote wilderness area, how do you make it happen?

Find a Site

First, you’re going to need to find a place to build your cabin. Off-the-grid sites tends to be significantly less expensive than land that's connected, which is good news for those who plan to make their own power—or go without. 

When he looks at sites, Northern California-based architect David Wright mainly considers solar access because it impacts the natural heating, cooling, ventilation, and day lighting of the building. Wright, who builds net-zero-energy-consuming cabins, also takes steepness and soil condition of the site into account. Both affect how hard construction and maintenance will be. Road access is also important for when you’re schlepping in building materials and preparing to settle in. 

Pick a Design

Architect Alex Scott Porter designed a 550-square-foot, off-the-grid cabin for her father on an island off the coast of Maine. The getaway takes advantage of the site and its ocean views, and it’s very simple due to its remote location. Porter decided to build the cabin on a grid, making everything square and easy-to-execute.

It’s tempting to get extra creative on the design side, especially if you’re starting from scratch, but simple usually works in your favor, especially if you’re a rookie. If you’re a first time builder, a prefab kit, or pre-designed plans, can make the whole process a lot less complicated. You can find plans and kits for everything from a 100-square-foot tiny house to a huge multi-story building, and prefabs are no longer limited to blocky boring cubes.

Buy Simple, Durable Materials

David Wright likes structural insulated panels (SIPs) for cabins—especially remote ones—because they’re simple, strong, and they provide included insulation. “This material costs a bit more, but the structural integrity, thermal performance, dry-rot resistance, fire proofing, and lack of ice damming are extremely important when building in the harsh winter climate in the mountains,” says Wright.

Remember: Don’t skimp on the windows—Wright likes metal-clad wooden ones—because you can lose a lot of heat and stability through them.

Make a (Really Thorough) Plan

Porter planned every detail of her dad’s cabin down to the last nail because all of the material had to be brought in by boat. If you’re building somewhere remote, advance planning is crucial. You’ll minimize time lost, frustration, and chances of screwing up.

Consider the Construction Process

Here’s where you’re going to have to evaluate your own construction skills—and those of your friends. If you decide to go the true DIY route, you’ll need the help of at least a few helpers to raise the walls and the roof.

It’s a nice (cheap) option, but if you’ve never done it before, you can get into trouble quickly. If you’re a novice builder, Wright recommends talking to a contractor beforehand. They’ll know about building codes, zoning policies, local materials and suppliers, and construction costs.

You also don’t want to harm the landscape you’re trying to cherish. A lot of cabins in sensitive ecological zones are built on piers attached to the bedrock, so the foundation isn’t as high-impact. Once the piers are installed, frame the floor and put up the walls. 

Then there’s the roof, which Wright says can be the most important part of the cabin—especially if you’re in a climate that gets a lot of snow. Think about where the snow will slide and collect, and where ice will form before raising the roof.

Power Up

There are plenty of options for non-grid power, such as generators and micro hydro. But both Wright and Porter champion solar power for its steady, reliable energy. In Porter’s cabin, four 100-watt panels power everything from the water pump to the outlets. “With today’s technology, there’s no need to be tied to conventional utility systems if one has solar access on the site,” Wright says.

Remember Water and Utilities

Water, for drinking and otherwise, is crucial, and depending on the surroundings, you might have to get creative. Porter’s site didn’t have access to water, so she built a rainwater collection system that includes a gravity-fed filter. Porter’s cabin also has a composting toilet, which is a good option for houses without a sewer. You can buy pre-built ones, or construct your own. Dreaming of an outdoor shower? Solar heaters, or a black rainwater collection barrel, can make that happen pretty easily.

Set Aside Some Dough

“So how much is this going to cost?” you ask. Frankly, it depends. It’s possible to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $200,000. Material, construction, and land costs differ dramatically. “Cost varies widely, from $275 in California and New York to $95 per square-foot in Oklahoma and Montana,” Wright says. “Double or triple that for high-altitude popular places like Tahoe or Aspen. Typically the cost is whatever the going rate is in your area. Ask realtors and contractors to get an idea.”

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8 Summer Yoga Essentials

There’s 420-friendly yoga. There’s co-ed naked yoga. There’s yoga California Chrome could love. There’s even yoga that includes a beer chaser. No matter which you choose, you’re likely to need some gear to practice.

We looked high and low for the latest and greatest in yoga mats, bags, and outerwear (for you prudes who don’t go au naturel). Here are our findings:

Lululemon Metal Vent Tech Tee ($64)

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Similar to the now sold-out Assert Tech Short Sleeve Tee we raved about in a recent review of Lululemon products, the Metal Vent Tech Short Sleeve is one of our favorite T-shirts by virtue of the cut alone, which is athletic while not being skin-tight. Put simply, it's damn flattering. And that goes for body types ranging from Cat 2 to Clydesdale. Thanks to anti-stink technology that inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria, the only funk that flows from you will be from your earbuds.

Manduka LiveOn Mat ($58)

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New to yoga? Released on June 4, the LiveOn is the perfect first mat because it’s lightweight, and at 5mm, it’s relatively thick (your knees will thank you for this in poses like cat/cow and dolphin). Plus, that joint-saving foam is 100 percent reclaimable and recyclable. Looking for something a bit thinner? A 3mm version is slated to go on sale this September.

The North Face Be Calm Tank for Women ($38)

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More affordable than most, this staple from The North Face is a poly-blend built from recycled fabric that wicks. And it’s cut long enough to reach the top of even the lowest of low-riding yoga pants.

yogitoes We Are One Collection Skidless Yoga Towel ($64)

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Whether you’re down with hot yoga or you just sweat a lot, this skidless yoga towel will save you from a saturated and, therefore, slippery mat. Silicon nubs help with grippiness, which you’ll appreciate in trikonasana and warrior poses when you're squeezing your inner thigh muscles and pushing down on your feet.

Much more absorbent than regular towels, it also dries quickly in the sun. Pro tip: the little nibs go face down. Keeping them face-up is the yoga version of wearing a bike helmet backward.

Yoga Sak ($50)

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Minimalist and multi-modal? Check out Yoga Sak. The fourth generation of this bag stows your mat vertically and is complete with a retractable pouch to make sure heavier mats (like the Manduka PRO) don’t slide out the bottom. 

And for hot-yoga-inclined people, the company also offers a wet bag ($10) for any sweat-drenched clothes. One drawback? The cell phone pocket is too small for an iPhone 5, Nexus 5, or Galaxy S4, an issue the company says will be addressed in the fifth generation of this bag, which is slated for release in early 2015.

Prana Sutra Pant ($70)

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Although most running and climbing shorts translate well to yoga, the Sutra is our favorite full-length pant. Available in three lengths (30”, 32”, 34”), they’re built from a blend of hemp, polyester, and lycra. With an inseam gusset, front pockets, drawstring waist, and relaxed fit, the Sutra is the Levi’s 501 of yoga—a classic.

Manduka GO Free Backpack ($120)

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Pedaling to yoga is the best. You get a warm-up and another excuse to ride your bike. But carrying a mat can be tricky: if you put it into a traditional backpack, it’ll hit the back of your helmet, testing even the most enlightened yogi’s equanimity.

Save your sanity with the GO Free that secures your mat with quick-release buckles and is big enough to haul a laptop (in a padded sleeve), a few bike locks, and change of clothes. There are also internal pockets for pens, tools, and a pad of paper, plus several large external pockets.

Lululemon For The People Short ($68)

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Although you can practice yoga wearing an old Radiohead T-shirt, shorts are different. Go with a pair without four-way stretch and you’ll be able to blame your clothing for keeping you out of half-pigeon. Go too baggy, on the other hand, and you’ll show too much when you’re upside down.

The tapered For The People were designed for yoga and are sweat-wicking, breathable, and knee-length. Plus, the breathable fabric feels good on your skin.

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