THE OTHER STUFF
A LONGBOARD REVOLUTION swept the surfing world in the nineties, and the big sticks won: More than 50 percent of the boards shaped each year are now more than eight feet long. But length and heft—the characteristics that imbue longboards with their
trademark smoothness and stability—can be a major drag when you need to get them from your car to the baggage check-in counter without breaking your back. And as any itinerant surf junkie will tell you, nothing sucks worse than flying halfway around the world to find your favorite planks battered to hell.
Santa Monica Surfcase takes a hard-line approach to protecting your precious boards with their Longboard/ Funboard case ($279 to $310, depending on size; 310-828-4885, www.surfcase.com). Molded from rigid polyethylene, the box comes in lengths from 7 feet, 9 inches to 11 feet, 3 inches.
Essentially, it's a giant clamshell for your board: A family of gorillas could huck Samsonites at this unit and its contents would be just fine. The case splits in half and holds two boards with fins or three with the fins removed (it can also accommodate one windsurf board). With two in-line skate wheels and a shoulder strap that let you cruise through the
airport in style, it's the perfect way to turn the Endless Bummer back into the Endless Summer. —ANDREW RICE Andrew Rice is the author ofOutside Magazine's Adventure Guide to Northern California.
The Comfort Zone
BECAUSE SLEEPING BAGS are the last line of defense against wicked weather, serious mountaineers who skimp elsewhere tend to fork over big bills for what could be called the Mercedes of backcountry bedrolls—the Swallow by Feathered Friends ($310
with the Epic shell material; 206-292-6292; www.featheredfriends.com). The three-season Swallow has seemingly contradictory stats: a 20-degree comfort rating and a mere two-pound heft—at least four ounces less than comparable bags.Since Feathered Friends started making it in the late
seventies, this bag has boasted everything you'd expect in a premium mummy sack: a differential cut between inner and outer shells (allowing for more loft), an adjustable hood, and a choice of outer fabrics ranging from ripstop nylon to waterproof PTFE-Lite. This year, however, they've also added a few surprises like a more generous cut—because loose
bags trap more warm air. And since Swallows are handmade, you can also have it customized: Overstuffed for colder climes; packed with more feathers around your feet for chronically frozen toes. Ultimately, though, what defines the Swallow is its 750+ down—fantastically thick stuff pulled from old birds because mature down is more resilient than young
down. The price may make you gulp, but remember that a quality bag can last far longer than inferior models. So, ten years from now, you may find that this is the cheapest bag you've ever owned. —ANDY DAPPEN
Andy Dappen has had his Swallow sleeping bag since 1982.
COUNTLESS TRAVEL GUITARS on the market are lightweight enough for backpacking, but too often the sound is directly proportional to the size—diminutive. Not so the 3/4-size Baby Taylor ($349; 619-258-1207, www.taylorguitars.com). Measuring 34 inches long and crafted with a spruce top and
mahogany-veneer back and sides, the Baby Taylor is a compact travel guitar modeled after the standard-issue Taylor dreadnought. It's sufficiently small and resilient to accompany you on a river trip down the Grand Canyon, but despite its dainty appearance, this instrument isn't awkward to play and doesn't sound like a toy. The tone is pleasingly robust and
Last year Taylor Guitars introduced a sibling to the spruce-top Baby Taylor, the Baby M (also $349), which features a solid mahogany top, producing a noticeable variation in tone—warmer and brighter—from the original Baby Taylor's. This year, three new wood veneers will be available for the back and sides: Hawaiian koa, big leaf maple, and
Indian rosewood. All Baby Taylor models come with your choice of either the standard SKB hardshell case or the more practical padded gig bag, which protects the Baby from moisture, electrostatics, and impact. But do keep one thing in mind: Just because it's a small guitar doesn't give you license to play "Free Bird" everywhere you go. —JENNIFER NICELEY
Singer-songwriter Jennifer Niceley has performed at clubs in New York, Nashville, and Santa Fe.
Photos: Clay Ellis