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Dispatches : Gear

Make Your Cabin Fantasies a Reality

Call it a cabin-porn addiction, but it seems like a lot of us have the same dream: a cabin of our own, deep in the woods that’s simple, off-the-grid, and far from anyone else. It probably has a porch and a view. Maybe even an outdoor shower.

Sounds pretty nice and, on the dream-scale, pretty attainable. So if you’re going to build a DIY cabin in a remote wilderness area, how do you make it happen?

Find a Site

First, you’re going to need to find a place to build your cabin. Off-the-grid sites tends to be significantly less expensive than land that's connected, which is good news for those who plan to make their own power—or go without. 

When he looks at sites, Northern California-based architect David Wright mainly considers solar access because it impacts the natural heating, cooling, ventilation, and day lighting of the building. Wright, who builds net-zero-energy-consuming cabins, also takes steepness and soil condition of the site into account. Both affect how hard construction and maintenance will be. Road access is also important for when you’re schlepping in building materials and preparing to settle in. 

Pick a Design

Architect Alex Scott Porter designed a 550-square-foot, off-the-grid cabin for her father on an island off the coast of Maine. The getaway takes advantage of the site and its ocean views, and it’s very simple due to its remote location. Porter decided to build the cabin on a grid, making everything square and easy-to-execute.

It’s tempting to get extra creative on the design side, especially if you’re starting from scratch, but simple usually works in your favor, especially if you’re a rookie. If you’re a first time builder, a prefab kit, or pre-designed plans, can make the whole process a lot less complicated. You can find plans and kits for everything from a 100-square-foot tiny house to a huge multi-story building, and prefabs are no longer limited to blocky boring cubes.

Buy Simple, Durable Materials

David Wright likes structural insulated panels (SIPs) for cabins—especially remote ones—because they’re simple, strong, and they provide included insulation. “This material costs a bit more, but the structural integrity, thermal performance, dry-rot resistance, fire proofing, and lack of ice damming are extremely important when building in the harsh winter climate in the mountains,” says Wright.

Remember: Don’t skimp on the windows—Wright likes metal-clad wooden ones—because you can lose a lot of heat and stability through them.

Make a (Really Thorough) Plan

Porter planned every detail of her dad’s cabin down to the last nail because all of the material had to be brought in by boat. If you’re building somewhere remote, advance planning is crucial. You’ll minimize time lost, frustration, and chances of screwing up.

Consider the Construction Process

Here’s where you’re going to have to evaluate your own construction skills—and those of your friends. If you decide to go the true DIY route, you’ll need the help of at least a few helpers to raise the walls and the roof.

It’s a nice (cheap) option, but if you’ve never done it before, you can get into trouble quickly. If you’re a novice builder, Wright recommends talking to a contractor beforehand. They’ll know about building codes, zoning policies, local materials and suppliers, and construction costs.

You also don’t want to harm the landscape you’re trying to cherish. A lot of cabins in sensitive ecological zones are built on piers attached to the bedrock, so the foundation isn’t as high-impact. Once the piers are installed, frame the floor and put up the walls. 

Then there’s the roof, which Wright says can be the most important part of the cabin—especially if you’re in a climate that gets a lot of snow. Think about where the snow will slide and collect, and where ice will form before raising the roof.

Power Up

There are plenty of options for non-grid power, such as generators and micro hydro. But both Wright and Porter champion solar power for its steady, reliable energy. In Porter’s cabin, four 100-watt panels power everything from the water pump to the outlets. “With today’s technology, there’s no need to be tied to conventional utility systems if one has solar access on the site,” Wright says.

Remember Water and Utilities

Water, for drinking and otherwise, is crucial, and depending on the surroundings, you might have to get creative. Porter’s site didn’t have access to water, so she built a rainwater collection system that includes a gravity-fed filter. Porter’s cabin also has a composting toilet, which is a good option for houses without a sewer. You can buy pre-built ones, or construct your own. Dreaming of an outdoor shower? Solar heaters, or a black rainwater collection barrel, can make that happen pretty easily.

Set Aside Some Dough

“So how much is this going to cost?” you ask. Frankly, it depends. It’s possible to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $200,000. Material, construction, and land costs differ dramatically. “Cost varies widely, from $275 in California and New York to $95 per square-foot in Oklahoma and Montana,” Wright says. “Double or triple that for high-altitude popular places like Tahoe or Aspen. Typically the cost is whatever the going rate is in your area. Ask realtors and contractors to get an idea.”

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8 Summer Yoga Essentials

There’s 420-friendly yoga. There’s co-ed naked yoga. There’s yoga California Chrome could love. There’s even yoga that includes a beer chaser. No matter which you choose, you’re likely to need some gear to practice.

We looked high and low for the latest and greatest in yoga mats, bags, and outerwear (for you prudes who don’t go au naturel). Here are our findings:

Lululemon Metal Vent Tech Tee ($64)

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Similar to the now sold-out Assert Tech Short Sleeve Tee we raved about in a recent review of Lululemon products, the Metal Vent Tech Short Sleeve is one of our favorite T-shirts by virtue of the cut alone, which is athletic while not being skin-tight. Put simply, it's damn flattering. And that goes for body types ranging from Cat 2 to Clydesdale. Thanks to anti-stink technology that inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria, the only funk that flows from you will be from your earbuds.

Manduka LiveOn Mat ($58)

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New to yoga? Released on June 4, the LiveOn is the perfect first mat because it’s lightweight, and at 5mm, it’s relatively thick (your knees will thank you for this in poses like cat/cow and dolphin). Plus, that joint-saving foam is 100 percent reclaimable and recyclable. Looking for something a bit thinner? A 3mm version is slated to go on sale this September.

The North Face Be Calm Tank for Women ($38)

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More affordable than most, this staple from The North Face is a poly-blend built from recycled fabric that wicks. And it’s cut long enough to reach the top of even the lowest of low-riding yoga pants.

yogitoes We Are One Collection Skidless Yoga Towel ($64)

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Whether you’re down with hot yoga or you just sweat a lot, this skidless yoga towel will save you from a saturated and, therefore, slippery mat. Silicon nubs help with grippiness, which you’ll appreciate in trikonasana and warrior poses when you're squeezing your inner thigh muscles and pushing down on your feet.

Much more absorbent than regular towels, it also dries quickly in the sun. Pro tip: the little nibs go face down. Keeping them face-up is the yoga version of wearing a bike helmet backward.

Yoga Sak ($50)

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Minimalist and multi-modal? Check out Yoga Sak. The fourth generation of this bag stows your mat vertically and is complete with a retractable pouch to make sure heavier mats (like the Manduka PRO) don’t slide out the bottom. 

And for hot-yoga-inclined people, the company also offers a wet bag ($10) for any sweat-drenched clothes. One drawback? The cell phone pocket is too small for an iPhone 5, Nexus 5, or Galaxy S4, an issue the company says will be addressed in the fifth generation of this bag, which is slated for release in early 2015.

Prana Sutra Pant ($70)

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Although most running and climbing shorts translate well to yoga, the Sutra is our favorite full-length pant. Available in three lengths (30”, 32”, 34”), they’re built from a blend of hemp, polyester, and lycra. With an inseam gusset, front pockets, drawstring waist, and relaxed fit, the Sutra is the Levi’s 501 of yoga—a classic.

Manduka GO Free Backpack ($120)

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Pedaling to yoga is the best. You get a warm-up and another excuse to ride your bike. But carrying a mat can be tricky: if you put it into a traditional backpack, it’ll hit the back of your helmet, testing even the most enlightened yogi’s equanimity.

Save your sanity with the GO Free that secures your mat with quick-release buckles and is big enough to haul a laptop (in a padded sleeve), a few bike locks, and change of clothes. There are also internal pockets for pens, tools, and a pad of paper, plus several large external pockets.

Lululemon For The People Short ($68)

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Although you can practice yoga wearing an old Radiohead T-shirt, shorts are different. Go with a pair without four-way stretch and you’ll be able to blame your clothing for keeping you out of half-pigeon. Go too baggy, on the other hand, and you’ll show too much when you’re upside down.

The tapered For The People were designed for yoga and are sweat-wicking, breathable, and knee-length. Plus, the breathable fabric feels good on your skin.

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On Cloudracer

The Cloudracer’s rubber springs are no gimmick. Though the Swiss-engineered shoe sports a thin, almost minimalist mid-sole, the rubber pads compress on each impact, so it takes almost all the sting out of the road while still feeling fast and low to the ground.

“I didn’t know what to make of this shoe at first, but I’m sold,” said one tester. The swap of rubber springs for foam cushioning should also boost the life span, and hot-weather runners will love the extremely breathable, all-mesh upper.

The bottom line: A tempo-run tool for the fleet of foot, but pronators and heel strikers should steer clear. 7 oz; 5 mm drop

$130, on-running.com 

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Tour Tech

It's not just about the bikes at the 2014 Tour. Many companies use the world’s biggest race to unveil all manner of gear. And why not? Stick a racer in your helmet, shoe, or jersey, and if they win a stage or place well, you can claim your product helped. We can’t verify all of that, but here are a few of the new things we’ve seen that we like.

Giro Empire SLX ($350)

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Lace-up cleats have made a bit of a comeback in recent years, in part thanks to American Taylor Phinney’s affinity for them. The original Empire was already lightweight and trim, but Giro has pared the shoe down further for the new SLX version. With an even trimmer EC90 SLXII carbon outsole and a highly ventilated Teijin upper, a size 42.5 SLX weighs just six ounces—about the same as a large banana.

Bell Star Pro ($240)

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Aero road helmets have exploded since Giro launched the first-of-its kind Air Attack two years ago. Bell’s Star Pro is a bit different than most because it uses a system that allows riders to either close or open the vents, improving aerodynamics or ventilation respectively. Bell says that in wind-tunnel testing, the Star Pro had the least drag of any of its aero competition (the Specialized Evade and Air Attack among them), while it was cooler than the average road helmet with vents open. Some models will include a sun visor, which attaches with built-in magnets. 

Rapha Climber’s Jersey ($225)

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This jersey, worn by Team Sky, takes lightweight to an almost ridiculous level. The open-mesh body fabric is so lightweight and gossamer that the garment comes with a warning tag that it must be worn with sunblock for safety reasons. It is, indeed, extremely comfortable on stuffy days, and as with all Rapha apparel, the fit and tailoring is just right. The locking zip, which keeps the jersey secure with the thob down but allows for quick cooling with just a tug of the fabric if the thob is up, is a nice touch. And though we have nothing against Team Sky, we do wish this jersey was available in a non-Team edition for less-conspicuous riding.

Louis Garneau Course Superleggera 2 Jersey ($160)

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Ironically, after typing that about wanting a non-branded version of the climber’s jersey, the Course Superleggera 2 showed up, and it’s mostly cut from the same gauzy fabric used by Rapha, which Garneau calls Kite Mesh. An extremely sheer Lycra covers the upper chest and shoulder blades, a material that Garneau uses in order to add a Cold Black treatment for UV protection. This one also has a neat, laser-perforated elastic waistband, and it’s nominally lighter than the Rapha—90 grams for a size medium. Wisely, Garneau is opting to offer it to the public in options other than the cash green of Europcar, which, in Rapha’s defense, isn’t nearly as fetching as the Sky design.

Oakley TDF Eyeshade ($200) 

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Remember those giant, ski-goggle-esque glasses that Greg Lemond, Andy Hampsten, and all the cool kids wore back in the ‘80s? They’re back, courtesy of a Heritage line by Oakley. The resurgent Eyeshades (as well as two other models, the Razorblades and Frogskins) come in three lifestyle colorways (Seafoam, Black, and Fog), as well as a Tour-de-France edition that has white frames adorned with a color swatch to match the three jerseys of the Tour. And yes, there are some pros actually wearing these.

 

Shimano CM-1000 ($300)

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Those paying close attention might have noticed a few riders with cameras mounted to their bikes. For the first time in history, the UCI has approved the use of these electronics at the Tour, and Shimano has placed a number of its new CM-1000 with sponsored teams. The diminutive device sports an f2.0 lens that records in 1080 HD, and it’s also ANT+ and WiFi enabled so it can talk to a host of devices, including Shimano’s new Di2 transmitter, power meters, and smart phones. Shimano is hush hush about what it plans to do with any video it might collect, but footage from the Tour de Suisse in June has become a bit of an internet sensation.

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Duckworth WoolCloud Snap Shirt

In the winter, we can’t get enough of these insulated wool snap-down shirts. They’re way more streamlined than many Stay-Puft-Marshmallow jackets, which means they wear well out to dinner, and they layer neatly under a storm shell when the forecast delivers wet, sloppy slush instead of light, dry flakes.

The Duckworth WoolCloud Snap Shirt caught our attention not only for its good looks. Launching this fall, Duckworth’s tailored collection of wool apparel is made entirely in the United States by the founders of former wool fashion apparel brand I/O Bio.

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Follow Duckworth’s manufacturing process and you’ll see that it’s unlike the majority of wool-apparel makers, which source their wool from Down Under (most often Australia or New Zealand), send it to China to be turned into clothing, and then ship it to the U.S. to be sold.

Duckworth has beat this manufacturing process by sourcing all of its wool from the Helle sheep ranch in Montana and then sending it to the Carolinas, home to some of the few remaining textile factories in the U.S. The climate of the Rockies in Montana—hot, dry summers paired with freezing winters—nurtures wool that’s not only soft and breathable, but is naturally more crimped than other wool on the market, aiding its durability.

A jacket that can handle the trail but looks tailored enough for a dinner in Aspen—and is 100-percent American? We can’t think of a better package.

$200, duckworthco.com

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