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Dispatches : Tools

REI's Little Helpers Are Making Santa Look Bad

Screen shot 2011-10-21 at 3.30.04 PM
REI, Recreational Equipment Inc., a Seattle-based gear co-op we think you've probably heard of, seems to have hired away Santa's most creative elves just before the holidays.

The company just announced its online Winter Gear Guide, which highlights the best winter gear, explains techy terms like rocker, and gives members suggestions for family fun. With the Gear Guide, REI is also launching its free Snow Report App for iPhone and Android, which has weather reports as well as ski resort maps.

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GPS Essentials in a Keychain


Brunton Get-Back

Not everyone needs a GPS with infinite maps, geocaches, and barometric altimeters. When all you really want to do is find your tucked away Bangkok boutique hotel after an afternoon mopeding through the city, use Brunton's Get Back GPS. It's a small, no-frills navigator that is perfectly designed for the technically challenged—no getting lost in the endless options of a multifaceted touch screen with no obvious route back to the home menu.

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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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So Fresh and So Clean

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For those of you adverse to getting into a sleeping bag with with mud caked on your legs, dirty and tired from a day in the woods, here's a piece of gear will prevent that pre-sleep complaining. New Hampshire based Nemo plans to release its new Helio Pressure Shower this spring. This backcountry bath comes in a neatly nested kit that provides five-to-seven minutes of water pressure. Fill the 11-liter fabric tank, let the water warm in the sun, set the tank on the ground, then give the pump a gentle press with your foot every 30 seconds to a minute while holding the seven foot nozzled neoprene shower hose overhead.

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Outdoor Cooking on Steroids

EcoqueNo one backyard accessory will decrease your time in the kitchen more than Ecoque's outdoor Wood-Fired Pizza Oven and Smoker.

Why?
1. You can now cook outside at anytime of the year.
2. You're cooking with wood, so everything you hot or cold smoke, roast, bake, braise, plank, or slow roast will have a delicious hardwood smoke flavor.
3. You will become a famous chef, at least on your own block, and become even more popular with the neighbors.

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