The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Jun 2010

Lakehouse Expedition

WHERE TO USE IT: Lake Winni­pesaukee, near New Hampshire's White Mountains, is 72 square miles of tree-lined coves and some 300 sprawling islands—not to mentionwaterfront cabins with long wooden docks. Rent one on the quieter northor east side of the lake (from $1,000 per week; preferredrentals.com), then take the kids to a sailing class (from $125; lwsa.org), explore the coves by canoe (rentals from $25 at faysboatyard.com), or get your multisport fix—climb, bike, paddle, hike—in the nearby Presidential Range with White Mountain Exploration (guides from $65; whitemountainexploration.com).

1. Take the party to the pier. Bose's wireless SoundLink streams tunes from your laptop. $550; bose.com

2. The carbon-fiber blade on Bell Canoe Works's Voodoo Straight Paddle reduces swing weight—meaning easier paddling for you and the kids. $273; bellcanoe.com

3. An inflatable stand-up paddleboard? Yep. When C4 Waterman's 9'3" ISUP Sub Vector is fully pumped up, it's as rigid as fiberglass. Deflated, it packs down to the size of a watermelon. $1,100; store.c4waterman.com

4. Elevate your outdoor cooking game. The portable, battery-operated Auspit Kit makes rotisserie cooking over an open flame—on the beach or the patio—a cinch. $199; auspitbbq.com

5. Primus's Solar Camping Lantern burns for five hours after an eight-hour sunbath—and also takes three D batteries, just in case. $40; primuscamping.com

6. Jump right in: Sanyo's hi-def VPC-WH1 camera is submersible up to ten feet. $400; us.sanyo.com

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Vitamin D Test

The only way to know if you're getting enough vitamin D is to get tested—either by your doctor (a simple, standard blood test) or by yourself: ZRT Laboratory provides an easy-to-use, relatively painless home test ($75; zrtlab.com). The results might surprise you. Case in point: Here's how several Outside editors—outdoor junkies in sunny Santa Fe, New Mexico—and our writer in Chicago fared at the end of winter:

MONIQUE RYAN, WRITER // CHICAGO,51*
ABE STREEP, SENIOR EDITOR // SANTA FE,33
JUSTIN NYBERG, ASSOCIATE EDITOR // SANTA FE, 31
CHRISTOPHER KEYES, EDITOR // SANTA FE,24
RYAN KROGH, RESEARCH EDITOR // SANTA FE,20
U.S. AVERAGE IN WINTER 15-18

*Supplementing with 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily. It takes about 1,000 IU to raise blood levels by 10 units.

SOURCE: ZRT LAB TESTS; THE VITAMIN D SOLUTION, BY MICHAEL HOLICK
UNITS: NANOGRAMS OF VITAMIN D PER MILLILITER OF BLOOD (NG/ML)

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Hot Type

Bloody War!
"War is a lot of things and it's useless to pretend that exciting isn't one of them." These words explain, in part, why Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, spent the better part of a year in Afghanistan's six-mile-long Korengal Valley, embedded with the U.S. Army, to write War (Twelve Books, $27, May). The title suggests the ambition of the work; Junger set out to write the definitive account of the modern soldier's experience, and the men he embeds with deliver the goods. The Second Platoon of Battle Company is a collection of chain-smokers half Junger's age who often fight the Taliban sporting nothing but shorts, flip-flops, and INFIDEL tattoos. Their home is Restrepo, a mountaintop base with no electricity but enough ammo to "keep every weapon rocking...until the barrels have melted...and every tree in the valley has been chopped down with lead." Restrepo, named after a medic killed in battle, is also the title of a forthcoming film co-directed by Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington. The two-legged, Sebastian-does-Afghanistan project reminds us that Junger has become a brand. But his reporting reminds us that he's earned his star: Junger grasps the soldier's fear by living with it, once narrowly escaping death by IED. In April, the Army announced its departure from Korengal, and War will stand as a lasting account of the failed American experiment in this cruel little valley."It certainly isn't beautiful up there," Junger writes of Restrepo, "but the fact that it might be the last place you'll ever see does give it a kind of glow."

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Books: Playing God!

It's hard enough being a teenager today. Just try it if you're half ape. That's the deal in Laurence Gonzales's coming-of-age-except-I'm-also-part-bonobo biotech thriller, Lucy (Knopf, $25, July). Raised in the Congo by her scientist dad, Lucy is orphaned when insurgents attack their camp; she's scooped up by a neighboring primatologist, an American named Jenny, and the two leave the jungle for weirder terrain: suburban Chicago. Boy, is Jenny surprised when Dad's notebooks reveal what the reader already suspects: Lucy's mom is a bonobo, artificially inseminated by the scientist. Lucy, it turns out, is beautiful, quotes Shakespeare, and prefers to nest in trees. But she's got some 'splaining to do when she tosses a wrestler across her high-school gym. Before long, things turn mighty dark for our girl as she juggles YouTube, her budding sexuality (bonobos are omnivorous lovers), and guys in white coats who chase the teen, hoping to open her skull in the name of research. Gonzales goes over the top with Lucy's perspective on our fallen American lives—OMG, high school is just like the jungle!—but mainly this is an enjoyable ride that makes you think (just not too much) about what it means to be human.

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Books: Adventure Heroes!

In Wolf: The Lives of Jack London (Basic Books, $30, June), biographer James L. Haley gives the Oakland-raised writer the chronicling he deserves. At 21, London had already toiled as a cannery stuffer, an oyster pirate, a game warden, a seal hunter, and a coal shoveler. Then a steamship docked in San Francisco with Klondike gold and London hopped the next boat north. His 1897 Yukon folly gave him material for The Call of the Wild and made him vow to give voice to the hardworking poor. There's been speculation that misery caught up to him back in California (some called London's 1916 morphine overdose a suicide), but Haley sees his death as an accident: London went out seeking sleep, not suicide. Haley stakes a claim here as a rising voice of the West, with a biography that's perfectly suited to London's two-fisted, fortune-seeking life.

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