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Skiing and Snowboarding : Cameras

10 Rules to Detox Your Digital Life

Remember the dire Y2K technological apocalypse predictions? If only they had come true. Without sermonizing, here are 10 ways to disconnect the broadband flow of digitized scheiße that's drowning our souls.

#1: Smell a Book

Hey, iPad readers: Do you remember what a book smells like? Especially an old book that everyone in your family has read a few times? As an 11-year-old, I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, plus The Hobbit, and, verily, even The Silmarillion at least four times. Call me a creep, but sometimes I'd walk by, pick up one of the tattered, coverless paperbacks, and smell it.

I won't attempt to describe the aroma—it's too personal—but it made me feel good. Books are tactile and sensory. Like candlelight, they're intimate and calming. And a book won't knock your teeth out when you fall asleep reading one—if you can sleep at all after reading on an iPad. Experts say the light your iPad or phone emits is jacking with your melatonin. Not so with books.

#2: Ditch the Smartphone Alarm Clock

One of the only smart features I actually use on my phone is the alarm clock. This is a trap. Alarm clocks go next to the bed, so your phone goes next to the bed. My latest software update makes a wee light flash blue (Facebook), white (text), or green (email) every time a message arrives. What's that? Somebody tagged me? Oh, it's an irate reader calling me a douche at 11:00 p.m.

Now I'm angry, or stressed, or annoyed, or distracted, and perhaps worse, I'm looking at a bright white light (more on that later). Recently, I moved my angry alarm phone to the kitchen and replaced it with a large wall clock at my bedside. It ticks like a school clock and somehow reminds me of my late grandfather—and the heartbeats of my sleeping dogs. Studies have found that our constant connectivity affects our mental health and frequent cellphone use can lead to insomnia.

#3: Talk to Your Coworkers

We hire and train a few interns at my office each year. Important parts of the job entail checking facts, connecting with sources, and asking for photo-shoot gear. Invariably an intern—a journalism student, mind you—will enter my office and hopelessly explain that a source hasn't gotten back to them. "Did you call?" I ask. "Uh, no," they reply, shaken by the thought.

It has been reported that the generation currently in high school send upwards of 1,300 text messages a month, and they're seven times more likely to text than to call. Email and text are marvelous tools, but they work best in place of otherwise guttural vocalizations like "got it" and "on the way." Texting while you drive is a thumb stroke away from a negligent homicide charge. A poorly worded email can get you fired. Easily articulated nuances like mirth, sarcasm, facetiousness, or just the right amount of displeasure do not cross over to hastily typed digital communication. Pick up the phone. Unless you're driving. In which case, shut up.

#4: Put Down the Camera

Recent studies have shown that aggregating pixels is not the same as observing and reflecting upon the world. It's called the "photo-taking impairment effect," and although you may feel like you're documenting wondrous existence, mostly you're just operating a chintzy camera and not paying attention.

This means that unless you're carefully framing the subject and noting the light and composition of the impending image, you're not really absorbing the experience into your memory. As Socrates once wrote on a wildly popular Athenian bumper sticker (it bombed in Sparta), The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living. Your daughter's dance recital. Skiing with your son. Mountain biking with friends. Put your camera phone down and be there. Socrates didn't take selfies. #drinkinghemlock 

#5: Join the Dark Side

I interviewed a sleep-disorder specialist a few years ago. For the most common form of insomnia, his advice was stupid simple. Don't drink coffee after 3:00 p.m., and get your television, laptop, tablet, and smartphone out of your bedroom. It sounds like hippie science, but biorhythms are real. Staring at a bright box late at night tricks the body into thinking it's morning. The effect is so powerful it can make you hungry for breakfast, which is why it has been linked to obesity. Unless your insomnia is entrenched, it's probably fine to read a book made of paper by a dim light. Otherwise, the bedroom is for sleeping—and "wrestling." 

#6: Bring Back Cursive

Like art and gym class, handwriting has largely been dropped by our education system—not that adults are writing by hand much these days, either. It's a bigger loss than we thought. A series of studies have shown what we intuitively knew all along. Like creating art, the act of writing lights up the brain in ways that typing decidedly does not. There has even been conjecture that the very act of writing cursive may instill "functional specialization" (focus, control), help us compose our thoughts, and even treat dyslexia. We aren't going to stop typing anytime soon, but when paired with just the right fedora and skinny jeans, perhaps bringing a journal on vacation and a legal pad to a meeting might pass as hip.

#7: Turn Off Your Alerts

The end of the world is coming. Check this box if you'd like to be notified by email or text message. Last winter, I downloaded an NFL app, thinking—as advertised—I would be able to watch a playoff game as I flew to Utah. Naturally, it didn't work. But then, many months later, during the far-superior hockey playoffs, my phone alerted me no less than 20 times about the endlessly fascinating and life-affirming results of the NFL draft, an event that now competes with the birth of a British royal for pure idiotic spectacle.

With the exception of reverse 911 updates, turn off all your phone notifications. Yes, including Facebook. And adjust your computer settings. Do you really need the little pop-up and accompanying chime when an email arrives? Has instant messaging ever benefited you? They seem petty when isolated, but systemic distractions are a big deal. NASA big. There's even a field of research devoted to it called "interruption science." For the humans among us, no matter what kind of work you do, true creativity or even just workaday focus comes in brief bursts. The masterful novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez once told the Paris Review that, at his best, he could write a worthy paragraph in a six-hour workday—and most of the time he'd tear up those lines the next morning. The breaking news that Johnny Football went to the Browns might have completely derailed him.

#8: Unplug from the Data

I wear a brilliant GPS watch in the backcountry. My mountain bike is kitted out with a touch-screen computer that tells me my location, route, speed, heart rate, and pedaling cadence. My Strava-connected road-cycling friends speak the strange language of power meters. For them, riding isn't about mileage but wattage.

I enjoy my outdoorsy gadgets: The watch once saved me from a night wandering the high country in search of my tent. The bike computer lets me gauge my effort so I don't blow up before the final climb. Power meters have taken the guessing out of training regimens. But sometimes we rely upon tech too much. A map or even just a look around tells me that if I follow the creek, I'll hit the pond. And there are times when you should listen to your body instead of your power meter.

"Athletes sometimes have to separate themselves from their data analysis," says Jason Hilimire, director of coaching at FasCat Coaching in Boulder, Colorado. "As coaches, we can spot it in their written comments. 'I'm tired. I'm hungry. I can't sleep.' They're cooked from training or their jobs or their family life. We tell them to unplug and ride with no prescribed goals. Hit the mental reset. Have fun."

#9: Forget About Facebook

Unless it's to notify you that their 27-year-old dog died, nobody goes on Facebook and tells the world about their downfalls: Can't afford new snow tires. The kid has lice! Dead-end job. Drinking too much lately! No, those aren't good posts. Facebook is about gloating and pretense, not the harsh realities of life that actual friends help with. The showing off is especially prevalent with outdoorsy types—and I'm as culpable as anyone. Nothing but sunshine, gleaming choppers, and powder on my page. Nobody's life is that perfect. One small study hinted that the more participants interacted with Facebook, the unhappier they became. Sometimes, when I'm feeling alienated from society and nauseated by being, Facebook makes me feel a whole lot worse. For those days, what we need is a social media site composed of morose French existentialists chain-smoking Gauloises. "We refuse to like your post," they would say. "At the most, we'll recognize that behind the veil of your public presence, you too also suffer."

#10: Share the Music

In Empire of the Summer Moon, author S.C. Gwyne spends a few lines telling the reader how Comanche would wake up singing. That passage resonated with me. And then, last night, my 12-year-old son said he didn't listen to as much music as his peers who spend their days isolated in their private soundtracks. He seemed almost dejected. Music is part of our family life, but earphones and portable music are not. In the car or at home, we listen to music together. We share music, just as I did with my parents and teenage friends. And when we wake up, we wake up singing.

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Hitch Up to Adventure with This Trailer

A trailer isn’t simply about carrying more gear. Rather, it’s designed to let you hitch up and take off for the backcountry at a moment’s notice.   

Enter AT Overland's Chaser, which lets you store your adventure-ready equipment in the trailer rather than in your SUV or garage.

The Chaser isn’t your normal cheesy pop-up camping trailer that you’d imagine getting towed behind the Griswold’s station wagon. No, the Chaser is the modern version of a classic military trailer—durable, functional, with some nice creature comforts inside. 

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With its high-tech, trail-ready Trailing Arm Air Suspension (TAAS 4.0) mounted to a laser-cut steel chassis, it’s very rugged and very capable. In fact, this trailer is likely more capable than the vehicle you plan on towing it with.

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The weather-resistant, six-foot long cargo box provides 46 cubic feet of dry storage—about three times the amount of storage you’d get in a Jeep Wrangler. You can outfit this space however you want, from a full glamping setup to a bare-bones storage unit. The Prescott, Arizona-based company specializes in customizing your rig.  

Options include: roof tents; awnings; hot water showers; freezer-fridges; bike carriers; and full kitchens. You can outfit the AT Overland Chaser the same way you’d outfit your vehicle—except you don’t have to drive it to work Monday morning.

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Single POV Action Cameras Are Dead

Single point-of-view shots are so old school. The future of adventure filmmaking lies in full-on 360-degree video, or at least that’s what Bill Banta believes. The pilot and avid skier is the CEO of CENTR Camera, one of a handful of 360-degree cameras due out in the next nine months that promise to revolutionize how we capture video.

“Over time, people have gotten to a point where they want to go back to living in the moment and experience things first-person,” says Banta, who was previously a part of Apple’s iPhone camera team. Because 360-degree cameras capture everything, “you’ll have the ability to relive those memories and share different pieces of them with different people.”

Perhaps even more important for adventure junkies is the camera’s versatility. “It allows you to much more easily capture the perfect shot,” Banta says. With some 360-degree cameras capturing up to 240-degrees of vertical as well, botched shots will be a thing of the past, and stories won’t be limited to what the people holding the camera see in front of them. “I can go flying and give you a video of what’s going on out the front of the plane, a picture of myself flying, and a picture of the passenger sitting next to me,” Banta says. “I can do all of that with one single shot.

The new crop of 360-degree cameras all work similarly, stitching together video from several small cameras. The CENTR, in particular, is a palm-sized disc that houses four high-definition cameras. The device patches all of the shots together in real time, so the video will be ready to share on a smart phone or computer immediately. No special viewing or video editing software required. And should you decide you want a single POV, CENTR lets you enable just one camera, so you don’t have to shoot in 360 all of the time.

The only drawback we've heard of so far? Battery life on some 360-degree cameras may be limited. Yahoo Tech reports that Giroptic’s 360cam battery lasts only an hour, though some may argue that’s more than long enough to capture what you want. (On the highest-power consumption setting, average battery life on GoPro’s HERO3 Black Edition is just an hour, too.) 

Many 360 cameras promise to be as easy to use as a GoPro, and might even change the way we watch video, making entertainment a more immersive experience. The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, for example, could allow viewers to look around as if they were actually in the video itself.

For now, we’ll take the expanded field of view on our normal screens—and the promise that every shot will be epic. “We’ve had beta tester videos of BASE jumping, wingsuit flying in Africa, paragliding, fighter jets, race cars,” Banta says. “The flexibility and ability to retell stories in creative ways is going to make 360-degree cameras a really powerful tool going forward.”

Excited for 360? Check out the cameras coming soon:

CENTR Camera 

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With its sleek design, the camera slides easily into a pocket. CENTR recently raised $607,628 on Kickstarter, falling short of its $900,000 goal. But Banta says he got valuable user feedback from the campaign that will influence the final design. CENTR’s currently working on widening the device’s vertical field of view from 56 degrees. As for battery life, the CENTR lasts "two hours with all four cameras recording at 720p HD resolution" on one charge, according to Banta. Expect to see the final product debut in early 2015 for $399.

360Fly 

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The 360Fly looks like a geodesic dome that can capture 240-degrees of vertical, making it “the widest viewing camera in the world.” Poised to debut this fall for about $400.

Geonaute 

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Marketed as “the first 360-degree action camera,” the Geonaute is about the size of a baseball and at 255 grams, it’s more than twice the weight of the 360Fly. But tech pundits declare it’s the most market ready considering it was supposed to hit shelves this spring. It’s currently on sale for $499 as part of a “pre-launch offer,” with no official sale date listed.

Giroptic 

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The designers of this egg-shaped camera are currently raising funds through Kickstarter. (They’ve already blasted through their $150,000 goal, with backers pledging $776,568 with 31 days still to go.) The current starting price for the French camera is $329, with an estimated delivery of November.

Bubl Cam 

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A tetrahedral design, this camera boasts 190-degrees of vertical view with shipping set to start in August. It carries the heftiest price tag at $579.

 

Eager to see what these 360-degree cameras can do? Check out this CENTR Cam video of heliskiing in Alaska:

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CENTR 360-Degree HD Camera

There’s a new wave of camera technology that stitches video together in real time to create 360-degree live filming. First, we noticed the 360 Fly. Now CENTR, a new unit that’s raised more than $450,000 on Kickstarter, looks poised to ignite the 360-degree camera world.

Already being used by the likes of Red Bull, FOX Sports, and the US Army, CENTR has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring the panoramic camera to the masses. The company, founded by two former Apple employees, is still some $300,000 short of its $900,000 goal, but the camera has already generated some buzz.

The CENTR’s specs are, quite frankly, amazing—if they're all true. The Kickstarter page outlines 360-degree HD filming at up to 60fps, up to 4k panoramic video resolution, and even 20 megapixel panoramic stills. Plus, the camera is compatible with most tripod and GoPro mounts and it only weighs nine ounces.

We're still waiting to see if CENTR will meet its fundraising goal, and if the technology can carve out a place in the crowded action cam market. But for now, the camera’s most recent promotional video is pretty impressive.

$399, centrcam.com

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