The Outside Blog

Adventure : Mar 2012

Solar ski helmet opens off-grid power possibilites

Solar_ski_helmetPhoto: Fraunhofer IZM

There was a time when the ski resort experience was not punctuated by the sound of ringtones and "hey, is my GoPro on?" But those days are gone forever. You may or may not lament this. But our desire to take technology with us when we go outside has led to considerable R&D in the area of energy harvesting and wearable technology.

One result of this is a helmet with an embedded solar panel. It's the result of a breakthrough at Fraunhofer IZM, a German firm that develops new ways to package and produce technologies. In this case, the company found a way to mount small monocrystalline silicon solar cells on a three-dimensional curved surface without significantly losing the cell's efficiency (its ability to generate power from sunlight). 

The power is stored in a battery pack that powers headphones and a mic, all of which are integrated into the helmet. The user wears a glove with an integrate display, controls and battery. This links wirelessly to the helmet, and the helmet uses a Bluetooth link to communicate with the user's phone. Yes, we are becoming cyborgs. 

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2012 Bikes: Five Hot MTB Products

Bike season is upon us, and we've been testing lots of 2012 product. From our test trip in Arizona to endurance races across the southwest, we've been beating up on lots of gear. Here are a few of our favorite new mountain bike products hitting the market.

CrankBrothers_KronologCrank Brothers Kronolog ($300) This new five-inch dropper post looks to be a huge step up in design and function over the company's previous offerings (as well as other models on the market). It's mechanically operated, not hydraulic, thus very simple and durable. The return rate is easily adjusted from the post's base with a shock pump, and it returns in two stages so it's not harsh or jarring. It has infinite adjustability (not just one or two set tiers like other models out there), and locks in the down position as well as the up. I've been quite impressed on the couple rides I've logged on it so far; stay tuned for a full review in a few months.

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Custom Outdoor Apparel from Beyond

Beyond_Roughrider_Jacket_Coyote1500x1740If you're that guy who is always complaining that the sleeves are too short, the legs are too long, or the torso is too tight when you buy other outdoor apparel, a company called Beyond is waiting for your call. The Seattle company makes custom technical under and outerwear. 

Beyond was founded by Scott Jones, who 16 years ago sewed his own custom fleece jacket for climbing and skiing in the Cascades. Obsessed with custom fit and personalized gear, Jones decided to craft under- and outerwear for outdoors people that was made to order.

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The End of a War at The Explorers Club

Kathy Willens/ Associated Press Kathy Willens/ Associated Press

The rancorous feud at New York’s 108-year-old Explorers Club has finally drawn to a close. Yesterday, the board of directors gathered at the club’s Manhattan headquarters and voted to oust controversial president Lorie Karnath in favor of Alan Nichols, a San Francisco-based lawyer and longtime member with seven Explorers Club flag expeditions under his belt. (Nichols once rode a bicycle more than 10,000 miles across the Silk Road in Asia.) Four sitting board directors were also replaced, including former television host Josh Bernstein, who publicly feuded with Karnath in recent months, and who didn't run for re-election. As I noted in the April issue of Outside, Karnath’s tenure had been marked by charges of high-handedness and cronyism. The club had fallen into bitter factional fighting following a mass resignation by the club's Flag and Honors committee in November. Nichols, who served as the club’s ombudsman during Karnath's presidency, facilitated a top-level “feel good” talking session between the organization’s leadership and board of directors in late January and was nominated for the president's seat during yesterday's meeting by another board member. Karnath then lost in an anonymous vote.

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The Top 10 Nutrition Tips for Outdoor Kids


I’d like to think that I’m the kind of parent who knows exactly what her kids should eating at any given time, and how much. The kind of parent who’ll—for example—whip up homemade date-and-nut energy bars or lemon sports drink before heading out on the trail or slopes. Or like the French parents in the red hot bestseller Bringing up Bebe, who only let their kids snack once a day. Très bien! 

But the truth is, I'm still learning to cook, and most days it’s hard enough to get two young girls and their gear out the door. So I settle with stuffing so-called “healthy, organic" store-bought bars, cheese sticks, and dried fruit into their packs, which I then shamelessly use as bribes: “Let’s walk out to the river overlook,” I said yesterday in gale force winds on a hike above the Rio Grande, “and you can have some snap pea crisps when we get there!” And juice boxes? Guilty. Only in our house, we call it “river juice” or “adventure juice" in an attempt to limit it to true outdoor epics. 


IMG_3091Trail running on Trader's Trail, outside of Taos, really takes it outta ya. [photo: Katie Arnold]

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