The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Aug 2011

180,000 Pounds of Rock and 900 Hours of Labor

USA Cycling Nationals-84(1)
Photo by Nils Ribi

It's a tall order to design a world class mountain-biking course. I always knew that. Then I interviewed Greg Martin. He's the course director for the USA Cycling Cross Country National Championships that were held in Sun Valley this past July. He laid out the specifics of building challenging terrain for me. In short, it's more work than you think.

Here's the dirt on everything that went into this year's course in Sun Valley. (And next week I'll have an interview up with Greg—stay tuned.)

USA Cycling Cross Country National Championships By the Numbers

180,000 Lbs. of rock used to create the boulder gardens

Read More

Sierra Road

  Sierra Road
The mere mention of it sends a quiver through the quads of Bay Area cyclists. The grades up this meandering slice of arcadian countryside on the north edge of San Jose reach 15 percent, with a 10 percent average over 3.5 miles and 1,700 feet of vertical gain. At this year’s Tour of California, Chris Horner capped Stage 4 by charging up Sierra Road in about 16 minutes. When I conquered it in early August it took me … longer than that. Turning onto Sierra from Piedmont, which skirts the blandly pleasant neighborhood of Piedmont Hills, you are confronted by a wall of blacktop. It’s the climb’s steepest point, and while it doesn’t last long enough to put you off, it does do a bang-up job of setting the tone. After the second turn, an empty plastic water bottle tumbled from my jersey, and I had to halt whatever momentum I had (not much, I can tell you) to retrieve it. At another point, perhaps a mile from the top, I stopped to shoot a “majestic” phone-cam pic of the entire South Bay, the dirty urban haze looming above it providing the source of those scare quotes. When I got home, that picture was nowhere to be found (believe me, no loss), but I did find these—a series of 13 pocket photos fired off as my phone jounced around in my jersey, the red and black fabric providing a Rothko-esque wash to pictures that at first glance appeared eminently deletable but on further inspection, through a series of inadvertent details—a skewed horizon line, telephone poles jutting up at odd angles, aloofly grazing cattle—offered a better account of that toilsome ascent than I could have myself.

Sierra Road

Sierra Road

Read More

Ditch the Bottle: Three Better Ways to Imbibe in the Backcountry

You want to have a little whiskey reward when you make to the lake. Or have some pinot noir along with your baked ziti on your next backpacking trip. We're with you.



Platypus Platypreserve: For vino, we've been, ah, pleasantly field testing these pouches for years. Cascade Design's Platypreserve collapsible reservoir lets you ditch the bottle and, just as important, squeeze the oxygen out and keep your drink in the dark (the two main environmental factors that make your wine go bad). The third, of course, is temperature. But how you keep it at a constant 52°F lakeside is your own issue. Available now, $10,

Read More

Rowing, Yes, Rowing, to the North Pole


Polar explorer Jock Wishart and a crew of five are closing in on their attempt to row 450 miles to the north magnetic pole. It's probably worth getting this out of the way up front. The journey is to the north magnetic pole as measured in 1996, on Ellef Ringes Island. The north magnetic pole moves every year due to changes in the earth's core, and since 2009 has moved roughly 35 miles a year towards Russia. It's the point your compass references, and it can move over land. The geographic North Pole is the set point where all lines of longitude converge over the ice or water of the Arctic Ocean, or, for some of you, where Santa Claus lives.

Read More

Rippers’ Gear Test: The World’s Best Infant Lifejacket—Salus Bijoux

If you tell people that you've taken teensy, just-born babies out on the water—be it in a raft, a sailboat, or a 15-horsepower runabout—invariably, the first question you'll get is, “They make lifejackets that small?” Yes, in fact, they do. 

But not all infant PFDs are created equal. When our older daughter, Pippa, was a month old and traveled to Stony Lake for the first time, my mother rustled up some ancient lifejacket from the depths of the boathouse that looked like it’d been around since my infancy a billion years ago. It had surely been an adequate piece of flotation apparatus in its day, but its day was most definitely past. The chest and back flotation panels had faded from rescue-me! orange to rust-colored sepia, and the buckle on the crotch strap had to be re-threaded. We used it for a few weeks, and even cinched down to its tightest, most compact size, it still swallowed the baby. She was all PFD, no Pippa (exhibit A). Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to bother her that the zipper rode up to her chin and she could barely flap her little arms—swaddled in her lifejacket, she zonked out the minute we started the engine. But what killed the deal for us was the float test: When, a few weeks in, we tossed the PFD into the lake—sans baby, of course—it sopped up water like a sponge and listed ominously to port. 


DSC_0038Exhibit A: Ouch

We were about to unearth another similar mini PFD from the mountain of lifejackets in the back hall when a cottage friend clued me into The World’s Best Infant Life Jacket, Period. Made by Canadian marine safety company Salus, the Bijoux offers a radical re-think on standard PFD design. Instead of a scaled-down, beefed-up adult jacket—zipping and buckling across the chest and securing with a crotch strap—the Bijoux is designed to go on like a mesh harness between the legs, and its one-piece front flotation panel buckles on either side of the neck. This gives it a snug fit without dreaded chin-pinch and ensures that the baby will turn face up in the water. Key!

Read More

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Outside GOOur hottest adventure-travel tips and trips. Sent occasionally.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

to Outside
Save Over

Magazine Cover

iPad Outside+ App Access Now Included!




Apr 20, 2014

Previous Posts




Blog Roll

Recent Comments

  1. John Morris commented on

    The Top Five Tips on...

    Thank you very good and a healthy...

  2. CJ commented on

    The Top Five Tips on...

    This is great information, although I...

  3. Pedro commented on

    Hydrate or Cry: Make...

    Is this a 6% drink like Gatorade? How...

Current Issue Outside Magazine

Subscribe and get a great deal! Two free Buyer's Guides plus a free GoLite Sport Bottle. Monthly delivery of Outside—your ultimate resource for today's active lifestyle. All that and big savings!

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Gear of the Day The latest products, reviews, and editors' picks. Coming soon.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Ask a Question

Our gear experts await your outdoor-gear-related questions. Go ahead, ask them anything.

* We might edit your question for length or clarity. If it's not about gear, we'll just ignore it.