The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Gear

Turn Your Cabin Inside Out

Massive windows, sheltered decks, and rooftop seating are all features you might expect in a house that celebrates nature. But sliding glass walls and slatted wood screens aren’t exactly standard.

That said, this is no ordinary cabin. The 2,700-square-foot cottage, which overlooks an estuary in Brittany, has two levels with bedrooms and baths cantilevered over an open living space below. On the ground floor, three poured-concrete walls carve into the wooded slope. And there are windows everywhere, including narrow clerestory ones set in the back wall. But it’s the walls of sliding glass up front that blur the lines between inside and outside.


Architects used low-maintenance materials when designing this house. Stone slabs in the interior lead outside where they meet concrete pavers, while wood planks cover the ceiling and the simple kitchen island. On the top level, two light shafts flood the kitchen and living area with natural light. The central stair is surrounded by horizontal wood slats supported by vertical black limbs—an artistic and practical setup.


Then there’s the private upper level, clad in untreated chestnut planks. Cork bark cushions the floors of the bedrooms and baths, and the sleeping spaces make you feel like you’re in a private tree house. Catch a glimpse of the estuary through the screen of vertical wooden slats that rest on black steel pipe.


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Aaron Gwin’s Bombproof Wheel

I like to complain about cycling gear. As the editor in charge of reviewing bikes at Outside, it’s my job to log a lot of saddle time in new equipment and separate the worthy from the chaff. 

Road bikes can be so stiff they jangle your fillings free. Chamois in brand new bibs rubs raw spots, and shoes with Boa closures fail. Rims crack, hubs seize, cranks fall off, and—my biggest gripe—tires shred, fall apart, and fail at the sidewalls.

While my friends and colleagues who are not so entrenched in the product world are usually thrilled to be using a particular piece of gear just because it’s new, I’ll often take the same sample and immediately name three reasons it’s not good enough to make it into the magazine. 

All that bellyaching makes me feel like the eternal grouch.  

But the video of Aaron Gwin racing at the World Cup last weekend in Leogang, Austria, cheered me up. Sure, you could focus on the tire that he burped and flatted 10 seconds into his run. But the real story is that wheel, a DT Swiss EX471 laced to a DT hub, which survived four full minutes of world-class downhilling—without a tire. And the EX471 isn’t even officially rated as a downhill rim.

There’s footage out there in which Gwin’s team manager, Eric Carter, while watching the run in question, says, “I won’t believe it if that rim makes it down, man.” And yet it does.

It’s testament to two-time World Cup overall champ Gwin, no doubt. The man is faster than you or me, even with one wheel. But it also speaks to just how durable and well-made much of the bike gear on the market has become. (And yes, it used to be really, really bad.)

You have to hand it to Gwin for the best run of the weekend, even though he finished dead last. Meanwhile, Gwin’s sponsor Specialized must be as crabby as a jaded gear reviewer given that their star racer was aboard DT wheels and not the company’s own Roval model.

Watch the man's heroic feat below: 

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5 Hot-Weather Essentials for Your Dog

With July just around the corner, it’s about to get hot. Really hot. And while you might have the gear you need to perform at top speed when the heat is on, what about your pup?

Dogs (especially older ones) can become dangerously overheated even in temperatures just warmer than 70 degrees. Heavy panting, excessive drooling, or an inability to walk straight are all warning signs that your pup might be too hot.   

There are emergency measures you can take if this happens. Wet a towel or bandana with warm water and place it on the dog’s belly or drape it over his shoulders, advises emergency vet Dr. Heather Loenser. “Get him to stand in a stream and pat water onto his belly. Fan your dog—he needs evaporation to help him shed heat.”

But the best way to help your dog this summer is to make sure he doesn't overheat in the first place. That’s where annual physicals, exercise, and these five products come into play. 

Ruffwear Swamp Cooler ($55)


Soak the Swamp Cooler in cold water, wring it out, then clip it over your dog’s back and chest. The three-layer coat has a wicking outer layer to facilitate evaporation, an absorbent middle layer, and soft, cooling fabric inside. As water evaporates from the coat's middle layer, it draws the heat from your dog’s fur, cooling her through evaporation. Plus, the light-colored vest deflects the sun’s rays.

Dublin Dog Nomad Collapsible Travel Bowl ($25)


Unzip the Frisbee-like Nomad and two waterproof bowls pop out. Made from 1,000-denier Cordura, the bowls hold 1.1 liters of water. An S-hook lets you clip the Nomad on the outside of your pack for easy access.

Mushers Secret (Starting at $11)


Originally developed for sled dogs, this natural wax cream is meant to be rubbed into your dog’s paws. Designed to be used throughout the year, it works like an invisible boot to protect your pooch from sand, hot pavement, and other rough terrain. In the winter, it prevents ice from collecting in your dog’s paws. Musher’s Secret comes in three sizes, from 60 to 453 grams.

Wolfgang USA Camoflag Leash (Starting at $23)


Just in time for the Fourth of July, this leash from Wolfgang combines two of our favorite prints: camouflage and the American flag. It’ll prevent your overly excited dog from exhausting himself and harassing others, and keep him looking good at the same time. It comes in four- and six-foot lengths.

Kurgo Step and Strobe Dog Shoes ($70)


Protect your dog’s paws with this lightweight canine “running shoe.” Made from breathable tight-weave mesh and synthetic leather uppers and outsoles, they’re protective and durable. They’ve got a nice disco-flare, too: as your dog walks, red and green lights flash so you can see him at night and tell which direction he’s going. The kicks close around your pup’s paw with an ankle cord lock closure.

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PicoBrew Zymatic

What if you could design a craft beer and then brew it in your kitchen with just the click of a mouse?

Thanks to two former Microsoft employees and a food scientist, you can. The trio has used technology to simplify the ancient art of brewing beer without sacrificing any of the fun—or the taste.  

Their machine is called the PicoBrew Zymatic, which allows homebrew aficionados to make high-quality beer at home with about as much effort as it takes to run an espresso machine. And even though Zymatic automates most of the brewing process, it doesn’t completely quash creativity. Brewers still can tinker with their recipes and ingredients.

The Zymatic connects to the Internet so you can download a recipe directly to the machine. That information lets the Zymatic know when to release the grains and the hops you’ve selected. You then fill the gadget up with the ingredients you want, hit the start button, and wait three and a half hours. Voilà: You have a wort that can be cooled and then fermented. After about two weeks (once the yeast has done its job turning the glucose into alcohol and carbon dioxide), you’ll have beer. Next step: Drink.

But, traditionalists might cry, isn’t homebrewing just as much about the process of making the beer as it is about the final product? Well, there’s a lot that can go wrong in homebrewing. Sterilization is key, but can be easier said than done. (There are opportunities for your brew to be contaminated, which will ruin your hard work.) The Zymatic, on the other hand, is intended to remove human error, thus allowing brewers to focus on their recipes and ingredients, says PicoBrew co-founder Bill Mitchell.

The master plan is to bring homebrewing to the masses. And if recent stats are any indication, there’s a broad market for this sort of technology: The American Homebrewers Association estimates that 1.2 million American brew beer at home and that number keeps growing.

PicoBrew waged an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign last fall (it raised $511,000 more than its intended goal) and its founders believe that the social aspect of their machine will revolutionize homebrewing. The website allows users to share and rate consistent, clone-able recipes, thus growing the amount of high-quality homebrew out there. We can toast to that.

Available for pre-order now.


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