The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Tools

Falcon's Interactive Guides to Hiking, Climbing, and Cooking

FalconGuides just announced the first 12 titles in a new line of interactive outdoor guides the company developed in partnership with Inkling, a platform for interactive learning.

For the price of the download, readers get expert content optimized for iPhone, iPad, and Web, with features that bridge the gap between apps and ebooks: slideshows with high-res images not found in the print editions, guided visual tours, hyperlinks, and smart search that makes it quick and easy to get to the information you need, from a list of dog-friendly hikes to a river name. Hiking guide users can give tips to other readers and share trail notes on washed out bridges, best photo ops, bees nests to watch out for, or anything else. An animal tracks feature lets you click through a series of questions that narrows down which animal tracks you’ve spotted based on pattern, shape, and size. Rock climbing instructional guides have stop-motion animation illustrating specific techniques.

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The Fastest Way to Add Winter Traction


Historically, installing chains on your car to get over a mountain pass has been an awful task. Nearly always it involves crawling around under your car, usually in the middle of a storm or in deep and cold snow drifts, freezing your hands off. It's typically wet, cold, miserable, and dirty—and unavoidable. Chains are required on many Western passes and ski area access roads. No chains, and you head home or wait until the road is plowed and clear, and others get first tracks.

No more. Thule just introduced Easy Fit Snow Chains, which literally snap on with a lever and self tighten as you drive.

There are three easy ways to put the chains on, all of which you can do without taking off your gloves: 1. Extend the rigid arch, which means popping the chain open; 2. Lay the chain on the tire starting from the top; 3. Open up the pedal and push down with your foot to tension the chain.

And it’s just as easy to get them off.

Still don't believe how fast these are? A month ago, Thule snagged a Guinness Book World Record for most snow chains put in one minute. It took the Thule team about nine seconds to install each chain.

To make sure that even the most mechanically challenged can be successful, Thule packages the product in a nylon bag that you turn inside out and use as a mat when installing the chains. It has printed instructions and even marked dots where you should kneel for best positioning. It’s one more way Thule makes sure installing the Easy Fits is easy—and that you don’t lose the directions. Available now, $450;

—Berne Broudy

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Helle Lappland: A Knife You Can Depend on


In many cultures, your life depends on your knife.

A knife is the tool you use to prepare food, hunt and dress animals, work skins, cut firewood, clear brush and vegetation. In southern cultures that knife is a often a machete. In northern Europe, the indigenous Sami people, who live in northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia, use a smaller machete-strong and versatile knife. Helle modeled its Lappland after the Sami blade.

A semi-nomadic Sami reindeer herder uses his knife like an axe for the heavy work of maintaining his homestead, feeding his family, and making his clothing. The Lappland is suited to all of the above—it's a work of art that's designed to be used. It's the ultimate camp knife, whether you're working or whittling.

The made-in-Norway Lappland is not as large as a machete, but it is a hefty tool outfitted with a thin, 8.5-inch non-laminated steel blade made for slicing. The birch handle with cast brass fittings brings the knife to 13.25 inches. It comes in a traditional Scandinavian-style etched leather sheath, where the knife sits deep and secure.

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The Original Hero Kit: Bike Repair in Your Jersey Pocket

Kit contents 639 pixels

You’re late getting home from work, and your buddy will be over in 10 to pick you up for the epic mountain bike ride you’ve been scheming all summer. You still need to get dressed, but you also need to find your wrenches, chain tool, patch kit, and all of the other stuff you know you should bring along.

Get the Original Hero Kit, and you’ll never scramble to pull together the right bike repair kit for your trail ride again.

A mountain bike repair kit small enough to fit in your jersey pocket, the Original Hero Kit has everything you need to get you or your riding partner out of the most common trail conundrums. assembled essential tools in a durable waterproof Aloksac (a durable zip closure bag big enough to keep your cell phone dry in an unexpected storm) that’s packed flat so it sits comfortably against your back when it’s stuffed in your pocket. The included tools are high quality and practical, from a sturdy multitool with an easy to use chain breaker, to zip ties, cleat bolts, master link, patch kit and other bits and parts that at some point every cyclist wishes he had along for the ride. But the kit isn’t just tools. The Original Hero Kit includes survival supplies, like water purification tablets, toilet paper, and duct tape. And, lest you get stuck out in the wilds with no idea how your chain tool might fix your breakdown, the Original includes basic instructions.

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A Compact Headlamp Bright Enough to Bike or Ski With

Solite250 on Climbing Helmet Lighthead Closeup

Whether you’re night riding, hiking, skiing, cooking or just rummaging around your tent, a bright and long-lasting lamp can make a big difference between loving the great outdoors and cursing it.

Light and Motion’s new USB-rechargeable Solite 250 will help you choose the former. The light uses the same battery as your iPhone, which helps keep it working at about 1.7 lumen’s per gram. And, it’s designed to be versatile—use it as a headlamp, flashlight, picnic table light, or bike light. No other light that we’ve tried here at the Gear Shed does such a good job at so many things. In fact, we recently used it during the Lunar Quarry 12, a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. bike race in southern Vermont. It lit up the night and helped our team pedal to victory.

Because the Solite is regulated, the beam of light is bright and consistent across the entire life of the battery. Most lights don’t stay consistently bright through their charge—their brightness degrades rapidly as the battery drains. And riders barely noticed they were wearing it during the Lunar Quarry 12. The next brightest contender had a massive battery to deal with. 

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