The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Oct 2012

Cross-Country Tested: MSR Nook Tent


Gear Tester Andrew Forsthoefel has just finished his cross-country walk. It took him nearly a year. At approximately 2,000 steps per mile—he’s had plenty of chances to count—Andrew has taken more than six million steps on his way from Pennsylvania to the Pacific.

Forsthoelfel sent us notes on his shelter from the high desert of Arizona. "The Navajo reservation land is beautiful, it’s harsh, and it’s all dust, sand, and rock," he shared. "I like it, even if there aren’t any trees for shade and even though the towns are few and far between. Because of the distance between water-refueling spots, I’m normally walking 20-plus miles each day, sometimes 30-plus. These long hours are putting my body through the ringer: dry cracked feet, burnt brown skin, aching legs."

Before Forsthoefel left, we set him up with an MSR Nook Tent, specifically designed to fit in small and/or awkward spaces. Here's Forsthoefel's report on his home away from home:

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Cycling Shootout: 4 MTB Tires

Tires have been a major headache for me this season. Early on, every time I went out I had a flat tire of some manner—often a sidewall slash from our desert Southwest rocks. I spent a lot of time whinging about the state of bike tires, and the more I talked the more I heard others complaining, too. So I decided to try and find some solutions.

Over the past six months, I've ridden almost two dozen tires in search of that subtle mix of traits that turns average rubber into your favorite ride. What I've found is that almost no tire on the market has it all: light weight, durability, great traction, low rolling resistance, and a reasonable price tag. But I've settled on a few models that score high in most of those categories and compromise well on their weaker sides. As for methodology, I (along with half a dozen other testers) have simply ridden the heck out of every tire that's come in, tossing out the ones that flat or fail or just feel bad, and continuing on the ones that hold up. I've tested entirely tubeless and mostly on 29er wheels (mix of Stan's, Specialized Roval, Easton, and Mavic), though a handful of tires have also gotten 26 time on Shimano XTR wheels.

Presenting my favorite four tires for fall, none of which have flatted for months. I know, now I'm almost certain to flat on my next ride.

Maxxis Ardent 2.4

Coming from a racing background, I've been a skinny tire devotee in the past (frequenting WTB Nanos and the like), but a long discourse with Jeff Jones about big tires and rolling resistance and deflection persuaded me to give the 2.4 Ardent a chance. And good thing, because this fatty, one of the widest 29er tires you can get, has become my hands-down favorite. It's as big as it says it is and weighs 800 grams, which is hefty but hardly corpulent for the girth. The mid- to wide-spaced chunky knobs grabbed best in dry to moist dirt and loam, though they tend to skitter a little in sandy and loose conditions. They make up for any slipperiness, though, in sheer size and strength, with a balloon-like round profile and sidewalls so thick they seem impervious to almost everything. I have ridden the same tire for six months in a dozen XC and endurance races, including a couple with brutal rock sections that went on for miles and miles, and not only did the Ardent shrug it all off, but the tire still has plenty of life. One note: The 26-inch 2.4 is just as good as the 29er, and the 29-inch 2.25 is also pretty good, though lacks a bit of the sidewall robustness of its bigger brother.

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Girl Who Fought for Education Shot by Taliban

On Tuesday, masked Taliban gunmen boarded a bus filled with schoolchildren in Pakistan and shot a 14-year-old girl in the head. Her name is Malala Yousafzai, and she is now in critical condition in a Peshawar hospital. She openly voiced her belief that girls in Pakistan should be able to get an education. For that reason, men covered their faces and hunted her down. The details of her attack come from an article in The New York Times, which featured the following statement from the Taliban:

A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, confirmed by phone Tuesday that Ms. Yousafzai had been the target, calling her crusade for education rights an "obscenity."

"She has become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it," Mr. Ehsan said, adding that if she survived, the militants would certainly try to kill her again. "Let this be a lesson."

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Adventure Video of the Week: The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing With Greg Long

After surfer Greg Long caught the biggest wave of his life, an undocumented 70-to 80-foot monster that formed at Cortes Bank in 2008, he shook, vomited, and cried. "There wasn't even a sense of stoke, or that excitement afterwards," says Long. "That, I was outright terrified."

Sine Qua Non, a 24-minute documentary profile of Long by The Inertia, offers an intimate look into the Californian's quest to ride the world’s biggest waves. It works as much for what it contains—honest, plain discussions with Long's family and friends about the biggest and scariest moments of his life—as for what it lacks—moody music, surfing clichés, hyper-cut clips of big waves, and platitudes from colleagues. Long is no ordinary surfer, and this is no ordinary surf flick.

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Shane Dorian Paddles Into Two Monster Waves at Jaws

The first big swell of the season hit Jaws this week, and surfers lined up to catch giants breaking off the north coast of Maui, Hawaii. Shane Dorian had perhaps the best showing Tuesday, when he paddled into two big barrels. While Jaws gained fame as a wave that riders towed into using a jet ski, a group of surfers now paddles into the wave. Both of Dorian's rides became early entries for the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards.

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