The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Camping

An Ode to Vintage Gear

I've got a confession to make. During my lifetime, I've purchased a fair amount of crappy gear that I found, for one reason or another, appealing. And because it was cheap. These days, I've got less stuff and I'm more selective about what I buy. I try to only spend my good money on gear that's well-made—U.S.-made is a plus—by transparent, sustainable companies.  

I also try to consume less, in general, which is made easier by these three stellar items that you'd have to pull from my cold dead hands.

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Planning the (Almost) Perfect Family Yurt Trip


P1010300Little yurt in big woods [photo: Katie Arnold]

My husband, Steve, and I have been living and skiing in northern New Mexico for 16 years. We’ve had epic powder season, when we skied Taos nearly every weekend and drought seasons when we had to settle for skinning up our local ski area and carving wide wale. Steve scored some great backcountry seasons, with hut trips to British Columbia. Then I had pregnant seasons (hiking Kachina Peak at 5 months along—maybe not the wisest idea?) and newborn seasons, when my ski days were curtailed by ravenous infants and, when I did venture farther afield, my pump was part of the package. I’ve expressed milk in ski area parking lots, cafeteria bathrooms, and SnoCats, but never—thank God—on a chairlift. 

Now that our two daughters are emerging from babyhood and are learning to ski, we’re having kid seasons. We’re enormously lucky to have a decent resort just 25 minutes up the road, but it’s still a schlep to get girls and gear to the lifts, and on the best days, we only manage to sneak in few runs ourselves. So all winter we’ve been fantasizing about getting out of the area and into the backcountry, where—away from the vacationing crowds, the lure of hot chocolate in the lodge, the occasional parking lot tantrum—skiing as a family would be simpler, more relaxing. Or so we thought. 


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From The Lean-To: Miscellaneous Adventures

If you're currently on the Outside Blog reading this, then it's more than likely that at one point in your life you've happened upon Dick Proenneke's Alone In The Wilderness on PBS. (Or you've seen it on all those blogs and Tumblrs on the ol' Internets.) My favorite part about Proenneke's adventures are the things he makes—which is basically everything—but more specificially, the spoons and bowls and forks for his cabin. Why? Because if I were to learn the craft, it would probably take me many many years to work my way up to a cabin. A bowl seems more realistic and relatable, but even I know that's far off. 

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Ditch Your Car, Find Adventure with Transit and Trails

Katie_subwau_transit_trailsKate Kernerman on her way to a campground. Photo: Ryan Branciforte

It was a brisk and sunny morning, typical for the dry winter we're having in San Francisco. As I locked my bike up to a sturdy fence and started down the escalator to the 24th Street subway station, I realized how odd I looked, in my running tights, fleece, and hat. I looked even more out of place as I sardined into a crowded subway car full of workaday commuters, headed east. 

Ryan Branciforte, co-founder of Transit & Trails, joined me a few stops later. Our destination: Joaquin Miller Park, high in the Oakland hills. My goal: to find out whether ditching my car in order to stitch together various modes of public transit to get me from my home in SF to an awesome trail would be as annoying and as tedious as it sounded.

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The Perfect Desert Basecamp

Photo[1][all photos: Emily Shoff]

Soon it'll be mud season--time to escape to drier ground. And there's no better remedy to the tail end of winter than dropping a thousand feet into the canyons of southern Utah.

My husband, Andy, and I have traveled with our girls, ages 2 and 5, all over southeastern Utah. By far, our favorite spot is Cedar Mesa, just southwest of Blanding, Utah. This is the spot where Ed Abbey set parts of his infamous book, The Monkey Wrench Gang. One visit to Cedar Mesa, and it’s easy to see why. The expansive landscape, with its rolling mesas of slick rock and maze of canyons, is the perfect place to stage an escape, whether you are a rag-tag group of eco-warriors or a family looking for a weekend reprieve.


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