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Skiing and Snowboarding : Tools

Vertex Backpacking Stove

The Vertex Ultralight Backpacking Stove might be the most lightweight, simple backpacking stove we’ve ever seen—it weighs just 1.8 ounces and packs completely flat.

The stainless steel contraption is designed with a full, built-in windscreen and, with no moving parts or valves, it's easy to set up instantly. 

The stove supports Esbit 14-gram solid fuel tablets, which burn at low temperatures and high elevations, and can serve as fire starters in a pinch. Plus, you'll know exactly how much fuel you have left (no more running out of gas before your water boils). With the tablets, you can boil 16 ounces of water in about eight minutes, according to the company. The stove also works with the Trangia spirit alcohol burner.

The final bonus? The Vertex comes with a lifetime warranty.


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Electric FW02 PU

Take a hefty stainless-steel case, add a funky artisanal aesthetic, and let Thomas Edison pick the name—that’s the Electric FW02. Available in five sleek color combos, it isn’t for those who want their data fast and loud: the chrono dials are blended into the main dial, and the pushers have to be unscrewed. And we love that.


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Building the Ultimate Green Home

How do you build an energy-efficient home on an island that’s 20 miles from civilization—and electricity? Let’s just say you’ll need some creativity, and a lot of time.

The owner pondered how to build this private home, located on a remote island off the coast of Maine, for 30 years. The first challenge? Establishing the boundaries of the three-quarter acre lot, which the locals call the “floating island.” Next, the team had to determine the perfect spot to lay the home’s foundation.


Take note: if you’re building in a remote area, you better follow energy-efficient best practices. This cabin’s design is deliberately compact and efficient. The island has no electricity, so only battery-operated power tools were an option during construction. Now, four solar panels power the lights and refrigerator, while the stove and water heater run on propane. The owners even collect rainwater for drinking and washing dishes.   


Most of the materials for the home were gathered on the mainland, shipped to the building site on an amphibious truck, and then moved to the job site on a converted lawn mower. (Remember how we mentioned the need to be creative?) 

When the cottage isn’t in use, the windows are covered with sliding metal panels to protect them against the often-ferocious weather. Smart storage units are concealed under the sofas, beds, and dining benches, while a sleeping loft is tucked under the single slope roof.


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Why Solar-Powered Roads Won't Work

An ambitious plan to build solar roadways across the country sounds almost too good to be true. And guess what? It is.   

First, some backstory: A two-person startup called Solar Roadways wants to pave roads with solar cells, and they’ve already secured almost $2 million in crowdsourced funding. The basic idea is pretty simple. The solar road would use existing asphalt as a base layer, while the tempered-glass cells would generate about 52 watts of power each and last about 30 years.  

The company’s math is quite compelling—if all the asphalt roads in the U.S. were paved with solar cells (about 31,000 square miles of land), they’d generate three times the electricity we use today. And the potential interface between the roads and future electric cars (with the solar cells providing wireless power to undercarriages) also sounds great. And it gets even better. This “information superhighway” wouldn’t only generate power for cities and cars, but also for powerlines and fiber-optic cables.

You might also be wondering how tempered glass is supposed to hold up to all this abuse. Well, the company claims the new roads can withstand vehicles weighing up to 250,000 pounds. In fact, Solar Roadways claims that a tank convoy could traverse the road. (It also admits that the material it plans to use hasn’t yet been load-tested tested in an environmental chamber.)  

With a small town in Idaho promising to build a solar parking lot and a bike path this year to test the technology, and with plans to move from prototype to production relatively soon (although there’s no mention of exactly when or where), the road to the future seems to be coming along nicely, right?  

Um, not so fast. There are some potholes in the plan.  

One seemingly mundane question has to do with tire marks. You’ve seen them—skid marks on the highway that look so dark you wonder what terrible accident occurred. Solar Roadways says it hasn’t yet tested the effect of car tire marks on its solar cells. Instead, it’s only used bike tires to see if these black streaks impede power generation. The company claims the answer is no, but we’re still waiting for more data during the next round of testing.     

Then there’s the question of funding. In several of the FAQ comments, Solar Roadways says the cells “pay for themselves.” Back in 2011, I asked noted Gartner automotive analyst Thilo Koslowski if the project sounded feasible. His main objection at the time? That building solar roads would cost several billion dollars and require serious government and taxpayer involvement. We’re still waiting to hear from the company regarding how much it anticipates the next phase of the project will cost, although it claims we should have those numbers later this summer. 

There’s no data available about what would happen to the road after a year of heavy commuter traffic, trucks, and buses following their routes on a daily basis. And the effect of skid marks and the everyday abuse roads must take from the elements is still unclear.  

The takeaway? While we’d be stoked to see this idea succeed (sounds like a win-win, right?) the tech is still untested. Solar Roadways hasn’t made it obvious, from its FAQ or the crowdfunding campaign, what its long-term plans entail, how much a stretch of road will actually cost, or when the company will start building working models. 


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Hey, Apple, We Love You, Too

As much as we love to spend our free time trekking through mountains or finding great road riding routes, us editors spend the lion's share of our weeks sitting at desks, staring at screens just like everyone else. Our technology is important to us.

For that reason, we closely watched the livestream from Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference keynote Monday—and realized our interest in Apple might not be one-way.

Apple kicked off the keynote with an announcement about its new OS X operating system, which the company named Yosemite. You'll remember that Apple named its initial OS X releases after exotic cats, like Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion. Last year, it bucked that trend by naming OS 10.9—which, if you're like the majority of Mac users, you're probably operating right now—Mavericks, after the famous California surf destination.

Fair enough. Apple employees presumably love to get outside like the rest of us, and it makes sense the company would gravitate toward the national park that's practically in its backyard—and maybe even read our recent national parks package. And, as it’s started to name its software after some of our favorite places, we've made big cats a priority, covering tigers in our June issue.

Okay, okay. All this cross-pollination could have been coincidental. Or at least, that's what we thought until Apple's CEO Tim Cook introduced the new operating system for iPhones and iPads—iOS 8. What's that we spied on the far right screen? Outside's logo and the header of our homepage.

We can't be sure if Cook or Apple's software guru Craig Federighi is reading Outside. It certainly seems like someone in that office is, though, and that the outdoors can allure even people who earn their keep with their eyes glued to screens. To demonstrate iOS's social capacity, Federighi showed how he'd use the software to plan a camping trip to Yosemite with his friends—an activity we're quite familiar with.

Of course, Apple also introduced some other features that really excite us, especially its new HealthKit application hub, designed to synthesize all your mobile health apps. We'll have more on that once we get our hands on the software, but for now, we're stoked one of the coolest tech companies around is showing its love for the outdoors.

So Apple, we love you too. Sergey and Larry, if you read Outside as well, now's the time to speak up.

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