Get the info you need. Then get out the door.
That was our mantra when putting together Outside's guide to the Internet. The cheapest gear, the choicest hotel rooms, the best training tools, maps, and weather sites. It's all here. Now it's up to you to customize your browser or handheld deviceso you can turn them off and relax.
When's the best time to buy? Farecast.com predicts whether fares between specific cities will rise or fall in the near future. Yapta.com will track prices on your selected flights and alert you via e-mail when they fall. Whenever you go, SeatGuru.com helps you pick the best seat on the plane.
Tripwolf.com covers 250,000 destinations, mostly in Europe, and also features content pulled from Wikipedia and YouTube.
Where to Stay
HotelChatter.com is the Gawker.com of the hotel industry, with daily reviews and gossip, plus lists like The Five Worst Hotel Rooms for Drunk People." More practical is VibeAgent.com, which collects user-generated hotel recommendations and searches more than 30 booking sites for the best deals. TripKick.com rates hotels and recommends the best rooms at each in terms of size, views, etc.
The team at TVtrip.com creates one-to-two-minute video hotel reviews so you can view location, rooms, and even workout facilities before booking. TripFilms.com has some of the most professional-looking amateur videos on the Web. ZoomAndGo.com may have the largest travel video-collection, with over 12,000. Plus, upload a photo from the road and theyll turn it into a postcard and snail-mail it anywhere in the world ($2$3 per card).
Outside Guide to the Web
Active.com lists nearly 100,000 eventsrunning, cycling, mountain biking, triathlons, and more.
Hiking & Climbing
Climbers, you can download free sample maps and buy guidebooks at SuperTopo.com. For info about an obscure range in Greece or a hard-to-reach thirteener in Colorado, Peakbagger.com and SummitPost.com are your best bets. And for tips on how to shed pounds from your pack, Backpackinglight.com is the Webs fast-and-light mecca.
Skiing & Snowboarding
SkiPressMag.com is best for resort news and culture. Backcountry skiers, check snow conditions at Avalanche.org. Knee-droppers, you can chat with members of your tribe at Telemarktips.com. Fixed heel? Geek out for hours over Dynafit reviews at Lou Dawsons blog, WildSnow.com.
Started by two ex-Paddler Magazine editors, PaddlingLife.net brings all of the features (news, reviews, links to real-time river flows, etc.) and none of the paper.
Orvis.com has great videos and info for beginners, but for advice on how to tie an elk hair caddis, SexyLoops.com is your site. For everything else, we recommend ThisIsFly.com, a refreshingly unpretentious online magazine.
Mountain bikers, roadies, and even cyclocross geeks, Cyclingnews.com has everything from technology reviews to race reports to personality profiles. Commuters and city dwellers, UrbanVelo.org is your source: Cycle Messenger World Championships, wheel building 101its all there. Everyone can learn how to keep bikes running smoothly at BicycleTutor.com, which has hundreds of how-to videos and articles.
Dont believe the hype: Surfline.com is great for events, but BuoyWeather.com is a better bet for global forecasts, while WetSand.com has the best California surf reportsand surfing blogs. East Coasters, head to SwellInfo.com.
For everything from mileage logs to customizable training plans, check out ActiveTrainer.com and MarathonGuide.com. The easiest route-measuring site is MapMyRun.com, which also offers a free training log and the best (and free) iPhone app for tracking your pace and distance.
Adventure and Environment
AdventureWe wish someone covered high-profile expeditions the way Alpinist.com once covered climbing projects. (The site shut down in October and was for sale at press time.) For now, your best bets are EverestNews.com, which post frequentbut not necessarily verifiedupdates during theHimalayan climbing season and ExplorersWeb.com, which also covers polar and oceanic endeavors. ExpeditionNews.com offers briefs on expeditions, research projects, and adventures around the world.
EnvironmentOur Code Green columnist prefers Grist.org for up-to-the-minute eco-news and commentary (with a sense of humor), although she geeks out daily on GreenBiz.com, a sustainable business blog edited by clean-tech wiz Joel Makower, and DotEarth.Blog.NYTimes.com, by New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin, for the smartest analysis of environmental stories. For less wonky enviro (and cultural, political, and lifestyle) news about the Rocky Mountain West, we love NewWest.net. Join BetterWorldClub.com for roadside bicycle assistance and discounts of hybrid car rentalsits a green version of AAA. And,lastly, TheDailyGreen.com is packed with tips on eco-smart living, eating, and building.
Fitness & Coaching CorePerformance.com is packed with experts' tips and articles on exercise, nutrition, motivation, and recovery, plus a library of 300-plus nutrition and exercise videos, all free. Upload your workout stats at TrainingPeaks.com and track your progress over time; the WKO+ program ($100) syncs with more than 70 different GPS, heart-rate-monitor, and power-meter devices.
Nutrition & CookingBookmark EatingWell.com for nutrition advice and hundreds of healthy recipes you'll actually like. Our managing editor also likes EatWellGuide.com. Punch in your zip code and it will find sustainable ranchers and local-food restaurants. San Francisco foodie Heidi Swason's blog, 101cookbooks.com, features more than 170 vegetarian recipes made with fresh, minimally processed ingredients (e.g., no white sugar or white flour). Exercises, recipes, diets, even stress management and career adviceLiveStrong.com has all that and more, including a supercool calorie-tracking iPhone app (free; itunes.com).
ShoppingFor new gear, we troll the usual suspects for the best prices: Backcountry.com, Campmor.com, SierraTradingPost.com, REI.com, etc. A more efficient way is to sign up for deal-of-the-day e-mail alerts from sites like TramDock.com (skiing), ChainLove.com (mountain biking), BonkTown.com (road biking), and SteepandCheap.com (everything). Prefer to support local shops, even on the road? Find them at GrassRootsOutdoors.com. Of course, if were just in the mood to ogle cool stuff, we head to Uncrate.com. Our favorite snow-gear site is EvoGear.com. Bikers can comparison-shop for the cheapest goods at Nashbar.com, PerformanceBike.com or BackCountry.com's two new bike-specific sites, which will launch this March: RealCyclist.com (road) and BigRingKing.com (mountain). Runners, buying perfect-fitting shoes online is less harrowing thanks to the expert phone support and no-risk return policies at RoadRunnerSports.com and RunningWarehouse.com.
EmploymentAnd for those of you who dream of working in the outdoor industry, bookmark Snewsnet.com. A subscription is required to read all the wonky news, but you can browse the classifieds for free.
Rental & RepairNeed to rent gear for an upcoming trip? LowerGear.com rents everything from bear canisters to GPS units to tents. Our favorite piece of gear is past warranty and needs to be repaired? RainyPass.com is licensed to repair Gore-Tex fabrictheyre the only guys wed trust to repair a blown gasket on our drytop.
WeatherFor detailed five-day forecasts, we like Wunderground.combetter than Weather.com (more info, fewer ads). But when we want moreor, in some cases, lessinfo we like these three.
1. Weather.gov For really specific info, Big Brother is still the best for everything from small-craft advisories to freeze watches to the projected gust speeds tomorrow at 9 a.m. at your favorite backcountry skiing location. Tip: For any highly weather-dependent sport, we like to cross-reference NOAA with a few local siteslike your yacht clubs or regions specific avalanche-conditions pagethat we learn about the old-fashioned way: by asking friends.
2. iMapWeather.com If youre already getting text messages from NOAA.org, bookmark this new site. It went live just before we went to press, so we didnt have time to play around on it, but the beta version looked promising: Its aiming to be the first socialnetworking/weather Web site, where you can share photos, videos, and mini-blogs with other climate geeks (or skiers or paddlers or hikers) about what the weather is doing out their window this very moment.
3. UmbrellaToday.com This site is brilliant in its simplicity. You type in your zip code; it tells you "yes" or "no"the answer to whether you should take an umbrella with you that day. You can also sign up for a daily service that will you text you a reminder on days you might need one.
Maps, Widgets, Friends
Maps1. Yes, Maps.google.com, with its ever-expanding array of handy featureseverything from real-time traffic conditions to a terrain feature that lets you scout new hiking routes (you can now get on-the-ground views of national parks)still reigns supreme. Tip: You can upgrade almost any phone at google.com/mobile. 2. MyTopo.com: Casual users can browse U.S. and Canada topo maps for free, while serious enthusiasts can drop $30 for a years subscription to customize (add icons or text, mark GPS waypoints, etc.), download, and print topo and aerial satellite maps.3. OmniMap.com: Historical. Bicycling. International. Hiking. Paper. Digital. Even winery-specific. If you can't find the map you're looking for here, it might not exist. Prices vary.
WidgetsStop surfing the Web. Instead let todays forecast and cheap airfares come to you. Go to widgetbox.com and grab a few widgets, like Surflines surf forecaster or Ski Bonks snowfall tool. Embed them on your home pageiGoogle.com, Facebook.com, MySpace.com, etc.along with your favorite up-to-the-minute RSS feeds. Voilà! You just streamlined your daily online routine.
FriendsLooking for folks to play with? Bode Millers social-networking site, SkiSpace.com, hasn't reached the tipping point yet, but some of the videos are pretty damn funny. Whitewater junkies, you'll find MountainBuzz.com a bit more wholesome. Although its still in beta, Plus3network.com is a promising site that combines social networking, GPS-enabled training tools, and a program that partners you with corporate sponsors to raise money for one of 13 charities. Just looking for a date? Active.com/singles, with more than amillion members and a list of more than 90 sporting preferences, from caving to tri-athlons, is still your best bet.
Phones Got a fancy phone? Great. Now stop wasting it.
1. Android-powered cell phone BreadCrumbz allows you to create your own picture route. Wikitude overlays Wikipedia content over your pictures. And before you make your next purchase, check out Compare Everywhere. Get it here: android.com/market.
2. iPhone/iPod Touch Earthcomber can find anythinggas stations, ATMs, movies, etc.YogaStretch (60 moves) and Pocket First Aid and CPR Guide are self-explanatory. Ditto Beer Pong Pro.Get it here: apple.com
3. BlackberryDon't bother with Blackberry's pre-loaded map function. Instead, use Trimble Outdoors for trip planning and GPS navigation. Viigo is a free do-it-all software that streamlines all your RSS feeds.Get it here: blackberry.com