The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Exploration

Trekking A Wild, and Not So Wild, Path Through Florida

A team of biologists and filmmakers is 32 days into a 100-day, 1000-mile trek, via kayak, bike and foot, from the southern tip of Florida up to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia. And should you think that sounds like a bit of a pleasure cruise, check out this video:


The trip is an effort to explore, document, and ultimately protect the wildlife corridor that creates vital habitat for important species such as the Florida Panther—which is slowly rebounding after near extinction. Click here for a map of the current and proposed corridor.

Wildlife corridors are increasingly important area of focus for conservation efforts. Development and roadbuilding often squeeze and sometimes cut off natural migratory routes or habitat ranges. In Florida, this means that species often must traverse wide swaths of private land in order to do things such as seek a mate. 

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Communicating from Everest

IMG_0344While staying in touch is mandatory and part of an expedition for me, some people want to get away from it all and escape the modern noise that comes with 24 by 7 communications. If that is your case, then take a sat phone for safety but don’t use it unless there is an emergency! Tell everyone that no news is good news and you will see them when you get home. And enjoy your time off the grid

For everyone else, here are several basic ways to keeps friends and family informed while you are on an expedition.

Call a Friend:

  • - Call a friend who passes it along or transcribes your conversation and posts on your Facebook page or blog.
  • - Email an update to a friend who forwards it, posts on Facebook or cuts and pastes it to your blog

Do it Yourself:

  • - Phone in a voicemail through a service that posts it directly to your blog.
  • - Send an email that automatically posts to your WordPress Blog.
  • - Write a post and upload it using the Internet along with pictures and/or videos directly to your blog

There are many ways to do this communication but I will cover what I have been doing for over 10 years. I have learned a lot and stick with what works – for me. I do all the programming but I am not THAT technical. There are consultants who you can hire at $150 an hour to do the work for you. I started with “Call a Friend” (my wife managed the transcription much to her chagrin) but soon switched to a fully automated system.

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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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Flying the Coop: A Few Thoughts on Leaving the Kids at Home

photo: Blair Beakley

By the time you read this, I’ll be 5,000 feet down in the Grand Canyon, rafting the Colorado River from Lee's Ferry to Phantom Ranch. My husband and I have been dying to do this trip for years, but it was only in the last month that the stars aligned and a couple of spots opened up on a commercial dory trip with O.A.R.S. and my mom agreed to babysit our daughters. I’m a big believer in serendipity—listen up, it’s trying to tell you something. In this case, leave the kids at home and reacquaint yourself with the person you were before they were born, the one who had seemingly unlimited time and zero conflicting loyalties, a bottomless supply of travel funds with which to finance spontaneous junkets to the farthest, most exotic ends of the earth, and no fear whatsoever of dying in freak ways or getting malaria. Yeah, right. 

It’s easy—but maybe not all that productive—to idealize who we were before our offspring crashed the party. We may have had a longer leash, with less at stake, but we also didn’t feel the sweet, irresistible pull of home and pudgy fingers clinging to our leg while we’re trying to fry an egg or get out the door for a trail run. Parenthood may be the biggest adventure of all, but we still need to shake loose its talon grips and get gone. On our own, for adventure as we used to know it: a three-hour mountain bike ride, a long weekend reliving your dirt bag climbing days in Yosemite, or a week’s surf safari in Costa Rica. Because no matter how dedicated you are to raising intrepid outdoor kids, sometimes you need to leave them at home to do it.

This begs the question: Do you have to be a ripper to raise a ripper? Thankfully, no. But it helps to be sane and grounded, with a healthy perspective, and your own interests and goals, and if that’s best achieved by going out and letting your formerly-awesome-but-now-maybe-merely-OK adventure self rip from time to time, without having to tote along a backbreaking supply of diapers, wipes, battery-operated white noise/miracle-napping machines or worry about whose feet are cold or whose stomachs are grumbly, then by all means, go.

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Outside Interbike Preview: Thule Apex Hitch Rack


It's much easier to throw a bike on a hitch rack than it is to lift it up and onto a roof rack. But there are usually drawbacks to that loading ease and convenience: hitch mount racks can block rear doors and hatches from opening and road shock can beat up bikes by causing them to bang against each other. Thule's new Apex hitch racks, which they are unveiling to the rest of the world today, seeks to eliminate these traditional cons.

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