The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Camping

Helle Dokka: A Handcrafted Folding Knife

RS128_Dokka

Helle of Norway has made knives since 1932—beautiful knives, knives that are handcrafted works of art as well as practical tools. Each Helle knife a unique wood handle and a triple-laminated razor-sharp stainless-steel blade that won't corrode or break. But the company has never made a folding knife—until now.

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The 10 Best National Park Adventures With Kids

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High on the trail in the Acadia backcountry. Photo: Kurdistan/Shutterstock

By Michael Lanza

Day Hiking Acadia National Park, Maine
Ages: All (depending on hike)

Acadia seems designed for hiking with kids: Numerous trails deliver constant views many of the best hikes are relatively short; and the steep, rocky terrain often requires exciting scrambling. The 1.3-mile hump up and back down The Beehive involves an exposed ascent of a cliff via ledges and iron rungs drilled into the rock. The easy, 1.6-mile walk to Great Head leads to the top of cliffs rising straight out of a pounding sea. The relatively flat and popular 3.6-mile Ocean Path follows the rocky shore from Sand Beach to Otter Point, passing by Thunder Hole, where waves crashing into a pocket in granite create an explosive popping noise, and over Otter Cliffs, the tallest sea cliffs on Mount Desert Island. The 4.2-mile loop over the rocky domes called North and South Bubble climbs just a few hundred feet to reach postcard-like views of Jordan Pond tucked between surrounding hills. Families gunning for a more serious challenge—and views stretching from Frenchman Bay to the hills and ponds of Acadia—can take a 13.5-mile, east-west traverse of the park’s six major peaks, linking trails (and crossing some roads) from the Bear Brook Trailhead on Champlain Mountain to the parking lot north of Upper Hadlock Pond on ME 198. Blackwoods Campground is across the street from the trailhead to Cadillac Mountain, the park’s highest, and has great access to carriage trails.   

Plan your trip: http:///www.nps.gov/acad.

Exploring Ancient Ruins in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Ages: All

Before having kids, I never visited Mesa Verde. The park, in the southwestern corner of Colorado, is known for its 600 cliff dwellings and 5,000 archeological sites dating back nearly 1,500 years—but long hiking trails or climbing routes were my focus back then. My wife and I finally went with our kids when our son was three and our daughter was one, and we were amazed by the 150-room Cliff Palace and other dwellings on this windswept mesa. Pitch your tent at Morefield Campground, four miles inside the park, and take the kids on the guided tours of Spruce Tree House (a half-mile) and Cliff Palace (a quarter-mile)—the latter featuring my son’s favorite moment: climbing a series of wooden ladders up a 100-foot cliff face.

Plan your trip: http://www.nps.gov/meve.

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'Up': The True Story of a Five-Year-Old Peakbagger

We’ve all heard of prodigal athletes—the seven-year-old ripping free skier, the two-year-old boulderer, teen mountaineers, the baby who starts skiing before she can walk, and the 12-year-old skateboarder who becomes the first athlete ever to land a 1080. Some of these wunderkinds stumble into their adventure prowess by chance, while others develop it through years of dogged determination.

In the case of Alex Herr, a New Hampshire–based girl who hiked all 48 of the White Mountains’ 4,000-foot peaks by the time she was six—before she lost her first baby tooth—it was a little bit of both.

Alex had only been hiking a couple of times when her mother, Patricia Ellis Herr, asked her on a whim if she wanted to climb a “grown up mountain.” What followed was a 15-month quest to tick off every peak over 4,000 feet in elevation—in summer and winter. “The drive to get out there every week, or every other week, came from Alex,” writes Patricia Herr in her new book, Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. That’s pretty impressive, considering that five-year-old Alex climbed each mountain without once being carried. It’s even more mind-blowing when her mother tells you, somewhat emphatically, that she never whined

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A Better Night's Sleep With New NEMO Sleeping Bags

Rhode Island School of Design student Cam Brensinger came up with the idea for NEMO (New England Mountain Equipment) and his college senior project, high on the flanks of New Hampshire's Mount Washington. One weekend Cam went camping and got caught in gale force winds.

Cam recalls: “I was up all night inventing new bivy designs, thinking about how to use my Thermarest to make a cube over my head so I could breathe. That was when I figured out where NEMO should start—it was the seed of the inflatable tent.”

NEMO launched in 2002. Since then it has earned an ISPO Brand New Award for its inflatable tent, and it has been featured many times in the pages of Outside magazine, as well as Time and Popular Science.

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Before They're Gone: Exploring America's Most Threatened National Parks

GB1-146 Us in Johns Hopkins Inlet, Glacier BayDodging grizzlies and calving glaciers in John Hopkins Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park 

Yesterday I caught up with Michael Lanza, author of the season’s must-read new memoir about bringing up adventure kids in the age of climate change: Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks

Lanza is a longtime editor at Backpacker magazine, creator of The Big Outside blog, and a devoted outdoor dad who’s logged hundreds of trail miles with his two young kids. Back in 2009, dismayed by scientists’ dire predictions that Glacier National Park’s namesake ice could melt by 2020, he hatched a plan to visit the 10 national parks most threatened by climate change.

But this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill family drive-by. He and his wife, Penny, and their kids ranged from Alaska to the Everglades, Rocky Mountains National Park to Joshua Tree, venturing deep into the backcountry on foot or kayak for days at time. To say that Lanza’s offspring, seven-year-old daughter Alex and nine-year-old son Nate, are hardy adventure kids would be selling them way short: Those two paddled through days of driving rain and dodged grizzlies in Glacier Bay, skirted treacherous ice-slicked trails in the Grand Canyon, and spent what amounted to weeks on end in the company of their parents, without electronic diversions. Hard core.

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