The Outside Blog

Adventure : Mar 2012

What Happens to All The Plastic in the World's Oceans?

Five_gyres_collectionResearchers wield the collection trawl  Photo: Stiv Wilson

Despite what you might have heard, there are no huge, visually striking debris fields of plastic shopping bags and PET bottles swirling around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But if that's the good news, the bad news is much worse: there are in fact five different garbage patches, or gyres, formed by wind-driven ocean currents, and they are filled with photo-degraded plastic bits that are potentially far more dangerous to marine life and insidious than barges of plastic trash would be.

Oh, and every once in a while one will find huge gnarly balls of discarded fishing nets and bottles and buckets and toothbrushes bopping along the currents.

These were among the findings that Leslie Moyer and Carolynn Box, research aids with the 5 Gyres Project, shared with a packed house at Patagonia's North Point retail store in San Francisco on Wednesday. Five Gyres is a research initiative that has spent the past few years sailing into the world's subtropical gyres to collect water samples and measure the amount of plastic pollution within each.

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The Perfect Desert Basecamp

Photo[1][all photos: Emily Shoff]

Soon it'll be mud season--time to escape to drier ground. And there's no better remedy to the tail end of winter than dropping a thousand feet into the canyons of southern Utah.

My husband, Andy, and I have traveled with our girls, ages 2 and 5, all over southeastern Utah. By far, our favorite spot is Cedar Mesa, just southwest of Blanding, Utah. This is the spot where Ed Abbey set parts of his infamous book, The Monkey Wrench Gang. One visit to Cedar Mesa, and it’s easy to see why. The expansive landscape, with its rolling mesas of slick rock and maze of canyons, is the perfect place to stage an escape, whether you are a rag-tag group of eco-warriors or a family looking for a weekend reprieve.


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Can Your Shirt Make You Faster?

Clothes make the man, as the old adage goes. In the case of clothing that uses Schoeller energear fabric, in fact it's certified to be true by scientific researchers, and claimed better than your average tee by race car drivers.

How it works: Energear, according to Schoeller, “is a specially formulated mineral matrix that reflects the energy contained in Far Infrared Rays radiated by the wearer back to the body."

"Huh?" we asked.

According to Schoeller, the additional energy keeps you fresh, speeds your recovery, shortens your warm-up for physical activity and increases balance, concentration and wellbeing.”

Sounds esoteric, but it’s now been put to the test by Luna-C clothing owner and race car driver Lee Davis, and racer car driver Ryan Eversley.

“The competition in racing is tough, so everyone is constantly searching for any advantage they can get,” said Davis. “When I used an energear shirt in my first couple of races last year when I got out of the car, I realized I was not as tired, and felt really focused. In my last race before using energear, I finished a distant third. Since that time, I've had seven wins and two second-place finishes. I’m sure it wasn’t the only factor, but I consistently felt better and more focused in the car. I was in the zone."

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A New Three-In-One Jacket From Columbia

Men's Ultrachange Jacket

Does a "3-in-1” jacket seem like a gimmick that can't possibly deliver on all fronts? 3-in-1 jacket means that the inner insulating layer and the outer jacket shell can each be worn individually, or they can be worn together for a third dual layer option.Columbia shows that both layers can be excellent and that paired up the whole is as good as the sum of its parts with the Ultrachange.

The Ultrachange's outer shell is ultralight with a longer cut for maximum coverage to keep you warmer on cold or blustery days. Its breathability is on par with other high end ultralight shells, with full seam sealing, and so far, good durability (we’ve been wearing it to resort ski without a pack for four months). The outer jacket has a chafe-preventing abrasion chin guard that wraps from the zipper around the back of the neck to make you feel warm. And the hood slides easily over a helmet.

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Black Bear Killings Near Alberta Tar Sands Increase Three-Fold

Trash_bear_ontarioBlack bear scavenges at a dump. Photo: Flickr/Mr Emprey

As the debate rages over the environmental costs and benefits of oil derived from the tar sands in northern Alberta, wildlife near a major extraction area is already coming out on the losing end.

Alberta wildlife officials killed 145 black bears last year within tar sands areas because the bears had become habituated to garbage. Nearly half of those bears were shot in the tar sands camps and facilities that have been erected around near Fort McMurray, a major tar sands production region, according to the Calgary Herald.  

Darcy Whiteside with the Canadian government's Alberta Sustainable Resources Council, told the newspaper that the number of black bears killed near Fort McMurray last year was three times as many as in 2010, and the highest number in recent history. 

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