The Outside Blog

Adventure : Mar 2012

The Flora Invading Antarctica

Plant-snow_flickrPhoto: Flickr/gailf548

A study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows how ecotourists, researchers, and others who are lucky enough to step foot on Antarctica might be leaving more than footprints. Seeds and other plant material hitch-hikes there by way of visitors' clothing and gear, and could one day wreak havoc on the Antarctic ecosystem.

The study was conducted through Stellenbosch University in South Africa during the 2007-8 summer season. The Stellenbosch researchers vacuumed the clothes and gear that 850 people had brought with them and they found 2,686 seeds, reports the Los Angeles Times. The seeds were not intentionally brought, they'd simply been stuck to shoes and in the creases of clothing and in other gear. 

Clearly, these seeds don't signify an immediate threat to the icy continent, but as the climate there warms, these seeds could turn into invasive plants, which may flourish and harm the ecosystem. Should animals, such as rats, also find their way to Antarctica, things could get really ugly for endemic fauna. 

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Recycling Airbags Into Urban Packs


What to do with old airbags? It’s a question the designers at Keen were asking themselves when they came up with the Harvest III, a new limited edition series of bags for 2012.

Keen "harvested" pre-consumer automobile airbags for its new Harvest III tote, backpack, and wallet. Here's a quick summary of the trail. A recycler in Salt Lake City, UT, sorted the bags and shipped them to Chico, CA to be dyed and laundered. The colored airbags were then cut and the pieces passed to Chico crafters to sew into Keen's new line.

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2012 Bikes: New from Moots

As we prepare to ship our Spring Bike Special and Summer Buyer's Guide to press, I'm finishing up last-minute test rides on the top contenders and boxing up stacks of bikes to ship back. Of course we never stop testing (bikes trickle in year-round), but it's a more leisurely process than the daily-bike speed dating I've been doing for the last half year. Over the next weeks and months I'll bring you previews and ride reviews of 2012 bikes and gear from all of our testing.

While I relish being able to take out a new bike on every single ride, this time of year also brings the relief of returning to my personal rides. New bikes are great, but so are my bikes, which have shock pressures, seat height, stem length, and gearing preferences set where I like them. Last night, rather than spend 30 minutes fiddling with drop height, pedals, and bottle cages, I simply grabbed my bike and rode out. Simple bliss. And though my Moots MootoX YBB is going on five years old, it's as refreshing and comfortable as an old friend.

Moots, the titanium wizards out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, didn't have any new bikes ready in time for us to test, but they showed me through their revamped mountain line when I visited their factory late last summer. They also lent me a Vamoots RSL so I could check out the local road scene, and Rob Mitchell, president of the company, took a day off work to tour me around some of the new trails on the back side of Emerald Mountain. The visit reminded me just how passionate this small company is about making and riding great bikes. Here's a peak at what they have coming:

Moots MXDivide

Of all the new bikes I've seen for 2012, the MX Divide is the one that excited me most (and the one I was most disappointed not to test). This four-inch 29er uses a new linkage, dubbed Fusion Link, that Moots developed in collaboration with the well-known bike-engineering firm Sotto Group. The single-pivot design is reminiscent of many of the successful suspension platforms out there and should yield a highly efficient ride. The MX Divide has all the modern finery (oversize 44mm head tube for tapered forks, PressFit 30 bottom bracket, 30.9mm seatpost), and it shows off Moots' new swoopy lines. It will also be available in a 26-inch version, called the Divide. Both will start shipping in mid-April. Frame with Kashima Coat rear shock, $4,995.

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Climber to document mountaineering's impact on Sherpa culture

Young_oh_everestPhoto: Young Hoon Oh

Young Hoon Oh, South Korean PhD candidate in anthropology at UC Riverside, is headed to Nepal at the end of the month to attempt his second Everest summit. But his itinerary extends well beyond the days he'll try to reach the top of the world. He'll then spend a year and a half living with Sherpa families in order to research his dissertation. His goal is to document how mountaineering has transformed Sherpa society over the nearly 100 years during which Western climbing guides have employed Sherpa people as porters.

Without this assistance, many hundreds of climbers from all over the world could not have ascended Everest and other Himalayan peaks. But the benefits that mountaineering has bestowed on Sherpa culture aren't always as clear, says Oh. Yes, Himalayan mountaineering and trekking have brought a thriving tourism and guiding industry to the region. But that has come at a price.

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Three Perfect Ways to Explore Costa Rica with Kids

Tul_big_2_118Adventure awaits @ Manuel Antonio [photo: Tulemar]

Costa Rica is Central America’s answer to New Zealand: small place, huge adrenaline rush. With surfing beaches, cloud forests, rainforests, eco lodges, and active volcanos crammed into a country the size of West Virginia, it’s no wonder Costa Rica has been on the eco-tourism map for nearly 30 years. But thanks to a recent surge in zip lining, rafting, and canyoneering, its focus has shifted from budget-conscious backpackers and active couples to adventurous families looking for more than just a lazy beach vacay.

Maybe it’s the headline-grabbing drug woes in Mexico and the high costs of the Caribbean, but lately it seems like everyone I talk to is decamping to Costa Rica with the kiddos to get in on the action. If your idea of a tropical vacation involves more than lolling poolside with a fruity drink while the kids play Marco Polo, check out these three itineraries, custom made for adventurers of all ages.  

Sunset at Manuel Antonio [photo: Holly Drake]

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