The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Camping

Transformer: Keen's Backpack Chair


Call us soft (and many of our friends have), but we've always been a fan of Crazy Creek chairs. (Our tripmates have consistently sneered "Lazy Geek" chairs, and then promptly sat in them when we got up to pee.) We also like the contraptions that turn your sleeping pad into a chair, like this one from Big Agnes.

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American Alpine Institute Gives Best Gear Awards

AAI gc

The American Alpine Institute (AAI) is a 35-year old mountain school best know for its advanced trainings, expeditions, and exceptional instruction, as well as its committment to protecting public lands. Of course, they also know a thing or two about gear, and this summer at the Outdoor Retailer Show, they presented 11 Guides Choice awards.

AAI guides rate the gear year round in the desert, cold weather, rain, snow, high wind, and in high altitude environments. AAI states on its website that “Because of the intensity and constancy of use, the wear and stress that gear receives during these tests corresponds to many years of use by a recreational climbers.”

We believe it. And not just because they say so: about a third of the products below have shown up in our last few Buyer's Guides. Here's what got the gold from AAI: 

Biffy Ledo Environmental – Biffy Bag

AAI states: “As more and more people venture into the backcountry every year, management of human waste become increasingly important to protecting the health of our pristine wilderness areas. Weighing only 65 grams the Biffy Bag system is smaller and lighter than all of the competitors. Our guides liked that the system is made up of two independent bags, minimizing the possibility of a puncture leading to nasty situation. The Biffy Bag is unique because its design allows it to be used easily without a bucket or commode.  The user simply ties two straps around their waist, pulls the bag up between their legs while squatting to do their business. The Biffy Bag kit includes, an odor-proof zip-top transport bag, 1 biodegradable inner bag, an ample amount of toilet paper, Biffy Powder (neutralizing agent) and a sanitizing hand wipe.”

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From The Lean-To: ATC Hiker Photo Archive

Screen shot 2011-10-06 at 8.53.26 AM

From Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, the Appalachian Trail is almost 2,200 miles of White Blaze, Trail Angels and Lean-Tos. And somewhere in West Virginia, in a town named Harpers Ferry, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the organization who manages and protects that long and winding road, has its headquarters. Harpers Ferry is considered the halfway point of the trail (If you're really doing the math, the actual halfway point is 75 miles north in Gardners, PA near the Appalachian Trail Museum, which opened last year in 2010), and for Northbounders and Southbounders alike, taking your photo at the headquarters has become a ritual for those intending to walk the entire trail.

Having your photo taken at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters has become a standard ritual for those hikers intending on walking the entire A.T. One of the functions of the ATC, as the lead organization in managing and protecting the A.T., is to maintain the official 2,000-miler registry of all those who have completed the A.T. This tradition started in 1979 when ATC staff member Jean Cash (known to legions of hikers as "Trail Mom") started taking pictures of hikers with a Polaroid. According to the ATC's website, "the practice became a standard procedure, and a numbering system was developed that served as an informal registration."

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So Fresh and So Clean


For those of you adverse to getting into a sleeping bag with with mud caked on your legs, dirty and tired from a day in the woods, here's a piece of gear will prevent that pre-sleep complaining. New Hampshire based Nemo plans to release its new Helio Pressure Shower this spring. This backcountry bath comes in a neatly nested kit that provides five-to-seven minutes of water pressure. Fill the 11-liter fabric tank, let the water warm in the sun, set the tank on the ground, then give the pump a gentle press with your foot every 30 seconds to a minute while holding the seven foot nozzled neoprene shower hose overhead.

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Finally, a Snuggie for the Wilderness

Selk'bag Lite - Surf the Web

Do you find sleeping bags too confining? Are you a sleepwalker concerned about frostbite on your late night excursions? Are you jealous of small children who have onesie pajamas with feet? Then do we have something for you.

Introducing the Selk'bag. This Gumby-like, polyester-filled, insulating outfit is a sleeping bag with legs, arms, a hood, and feet. The feet have reinforced nylon soles, and the hands now have no-zip quick release in-and-out access.

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