Perfect Things: 2010 Editor's Choice

46 Perfect Things

Overlooked mountain ranges, river beer, running album, gear of all time, and 47 other big ideas, accidental winners, and awesome things about the world outside we’ve come to love over the past 33 years. Introducing our first annual Editors’ Choice Awards...

1. Beginner Surf Spots

Like Faria Beach and Sunset, in Southern California. The breaks are long and gentle, and “party waves,” where everyone goes at once, are acceptable. Because if you eventually want to catch a wave like this one, at California’s Shell Beach, you gotta start somewhere.

(Getty Images/Photonica)


2. Growing a Winter Beard

We’re especially in favor of unruly ones, like filmmaker Chris Malloy’s.

Chris Malloy Perfect Things Outside Online
(Scott Soens)


3. Walk/Bike-In Theaters

Because sitting on a blanket among hundreds of other people sitting on blankets turns every movie into a big slumber party, whether you’re in mid- town Manhattan (Bryant Park Summer Film Festival), downtown Boulder (Boulder Outdoor Cinema), or Marin County, California (Film Night in the Park). And unlike at a drive-in, nobody leaves early to beat the traffic.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Courtesy of Socrates Sculpture P)


4. Film Cameras

Which instantly take you back to a time when each snap mattered, when you were more thoughtful, more deliberate, more discriminating—the way a good photographer should be.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(MS-R/Flickr)


5. Rope Swings

And vines. Hanging along riverbanks and lakesides.

40D Bembridge Canon Creative Commons Isle of Wight Tamron 28-300mm lightroom rope sea seaside swing tree tyre
(Garry Knight/Flickr)


6. Après-Ski Hot Tubs

Yeah, yeah, yeah: You’re not supposed to drink beer in there, either. Pffft!

(Chris Clinton/Getty Images)


7. The WhisperLite

Twenty-five years later, MSR’s WhisperLite Internationale ($90) is still our favorite backcountry stove. Simple, durable, burns white gas, kerosene, unleaded...

Perfect Things Outside Online
(likeablerodent/Flickr)


8. Selective Hitchhiking

A raised thumb guarantees you not only a ride but also fraternal conversation in certain places.
Like any ski town, the
state of Vermont, or Europe—especially
Ireland. Specifically
the country’s west
coast, between the
peninsula of County
Kerry and Galway; it’s
the world’s premier
hitchhiking destination, due to the views
of the moody Atlantic
(it’s always close), the
friendly locals, the tiny
fishing towns, and the
tinier bars.

1 Actor Adults Americans California Celebrities Exaggeration Full-length Hands Hitchhiking Los Angeles Los Angeles County Males Men Mid-adult Mid-adult man Movie actor Movie producer Movie set Movie still North America North Americans Paul Reubens People Performer Performing arts Prominent persons Screenwriter Set Thumbs Traveling USA Writer
(© Barry King/Sygma/Corbis)


9. Chocolate Milk

Few things taste better after a long run or ride. It’s also the foundation of the world’s most perfect postworkout smoothie: Combine 8 oz Nestlé Nesquik Chocolate Low Fat Milk, a banana, and a few spoonfuls of peanut butter in a blender and hit PUREE. Calories? Ratio of protein to carbs? What the hell is your problem? Just drink it.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Cedar Summit Farm/Flickr)


10. Sorel's Caribou Boots

Blizzard-proof as ever. ($120)

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Inga Hendrickson)


11. That Feeling of Lightness

After taking off a heavy pack and walking around camp.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(keepitsurreal/Flickr)


12. Southwest Airlines

The on-time arrivals, free baggage, Wheat Thins, democratic seating process (and absence of Premier Gold Super Executive Extra-Special All-Star members). We love it so much we’ll even excuse the flight attendants’ painful attempts at intercom comedy.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Aero Icarus/Flickr)


13. Dawn Patrol

It doesn’t really matter what you’re doing—skiing, surfing, cycling, hunting, running. It’s the fact that you’re up with the sun, doing something long before work. And the smug feeling is so justifiable.

(PhippeNeumann/Flickr)


14. Any Book Written by

Peter Matthiessen. "Killing Mister Watson" is a good place to start.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(jvoves/Flickr)


15. Helly Hansen's Stripes

The ones on their base layers.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Inga Hendrickson)


16. Rob Machando's Hair

He surfs pretty good, too.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Chris Straley)


17. Watching the Boston Marathon

Thanks to Patriots Day, the Maine-and-Massachusetts-exclusive holiday, the entire city turns out to cheer and drink and generally enjoy the biggest party of the year.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Vitor Pamplona/Flickr)


18. The Patagonia Catalog

There are plenty of copycats, but none of the others has what makes this one so coffee-table-worthy: brilliantly edited, sparely captioned, stunning photo- graphs taken in some of the last truly wild places left on the planet.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Patagonia Catalog)


19. P-Cord

It's easy to imagine an expedition without paracord. I just picture a world falling apart at the seams, with nothing to tie it back together: My tent has come untethered and blown away, my food sack has tumbled from a tree and been consumed by bears, half my gear has come loose from my pack, and my boots are unlaced and falling off. To say that I rely too heavily on paracord—otherwise known as parachute cord, p-cord, or 550 cord—is to trivialize an item used to keep WWII Airborne troopers attached to their parachutes. Soldiers on the ground were quick to recognize the versatility of string thinner than most shoelaces but rated to 550 pounds, so they scavenged lengths of it from discarded 'chutes. It became the general-purpose cord of choice for a generation of men who learned that the difference between good gear and bad gear can be the difference between life and death. My old man was a forward observer in WWII, working ahead of the front lines, and he continued to carry paracord until his death, six decades later. As far as I can remember, he never once embarked on a camping or fishing trip without a couple of 25-foot rolls. Today, I buy the same Type III paracord through army surplus. It has an almost sentimental value to me; it's the one piece of gear that has remained nearly unchanged from my father's time to mine. Not only does it span the years; if used properly, it can keep them wrapped up, tethered, and lashed down.

--Steve Rinella

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Carriagehouse2011/Flickr)


20. Mccann's

Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal ($7). Add hazelnuts, walnuts, dried cherries, raisins, and maple syrup and get out there. No, they don’t do instant, but you won’t be hungry again anytime soon.

Outside Online Perfect Things
(www.mccanns.ie)


21. Utilitarian Bikes

Like Surly’s Big Dummy. This steel beauty, designed specifically for the Xtracycle cargo extension, will take you and, say, a couple of kids on a long haul to the park and still have plenty of room to pick up a load of groceries on the way home. Imagine the possibilities ($2,000).

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Courtesy of Surly)


22. Postcards

From places very far away. This one’s from contributing editor Patrick Symmes while on assignment in deepest China.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Inga Hendrickson)


23. Tofino, Vancouver Island

The best surf town in North America is in Canada. Who knew?

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Tucker Sherman/Flickr)


24. Cat Skiing

No, it’s not as sexy as heli-skiing, but it’s a helluva lot cheaper and you’re not grounded when it’s puking powder. Plus it’s suddenly more accessible than ever. Two operations have opened up in the past year in Colorado alone: Powder Addiction, out- side of Winter Park, and CS Irwin, in Crested Butte.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Electronker/Flickr)


25. Wee Mountains

A while back, I was at a party where everybody was making an annoying fuss about this hairy overachiever who climbed K2 last year. I asked him how long it took, and he admitted that, from "training" to "recovery," he'd spent an outrageous five months getting up one lousy mountain. "You know how many mountains I usually climb in five months?" I said. "About 50." He gave an incredulous grunt, so I reeled off a few conquests: Blue Hill (934 feet), in Blue Hill, Maine; Cold Spring, New York's Breakneck Ridge (1,264 feet); the little drumlin on my hippie neighbor's property in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (100 feet?); and dozens of others. The K2 man shook his head and did more grunting—in amazement, I suppose. Though I'm aware many of my fellow mountaineers believe the only worthy summits are those reached with frost-blackened fingers and a bellyful of your frozen friends, I prefer the convenience-size peak. In about the time it takes to do a load of laundry, you can enjoy a moment of windswept victory on a minor crag and return to "base camp" in time to catch your favorite TV show. Not challenging enough? Use my special low-altitude adventurer's diet—half a case of beer and a chicken-fried steak every night before bed—and a scramble up a 400-foot knoll will feel like you've conquered Denali.

--Wells Tower

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Greg Walters/Flickr)


26. Woolrich's

Buffalo Check Shirt ($119). Wool + plaid = perfection.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Inga Hendrickson)


27. Telluride Film Festival

Still our favorite. Not only does it attract A-list filmmakers, explorers, and journalists—last year we bumped into New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, and this year Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson is on the docket—the laid-back atmosphere makes it remarkably easy to actually meet and talk to (and, ahem, take 2 A.M. shots of tequila with) all the attendees.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Carmel Zucker)


28. Homegrown Hurt

As in locally organized, down-home events. Some, like
the Dale Ball Buster, a 13-mile trail run that correspondent Katie Arnold puts on here in Santa Fe, involve no entry fees, goodie bags, or even so much as an RSVP. You just show up. Others, like the Vapor Trail 125, a 125-mile mountain- bike ride—or “celebration of suffering,” according to the race director—in the mountains outside of Salida, Colorado, require a bit more organization, but the goal is the same: Go out and have fun.

Outside Online Perfect Things
(Julia Baykova/Flickr)


29. Duluth's

AWOL bag ($200). Cut from full-grain cowhide, modeled after the ones servicemen carried in WWII, and just big enough for a weekend’s worth of stuff.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Inga Hendrickson)


30. Tarps

No, not for sleeping under (bugs, breezes) or covering your stuff (sags, leaks). For glory! For example: Take two canoes, use a paddle as a mast, and make a catamaran. Figure it out. If you send a wake rolling toward those gawking Boy Scouts, you’re doing it right.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Sean Winters/Flickr)


31. nws.noaa.gov

It’s where your weatherman goes every morning.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Dave Friedel/Flickr)


32. Room 99

There's nothing particularly remarkable about the Alta Peruvian Lodge's Room 99. It's a dorm room with six double bunks, a shower down the hall, the air foggy with the funk of 60 years' worth of wet ski boots. There are assuredly nicer places to stay in Alta, Utah—hell, even on the same hallway—although you'd be hard-pressed to find a cheaper one. But if you love skiing, I mean really love it, you must stay in Room 99 once in your life. There's the low-wattage thrill of slumming it in the crappiest room at Alta's scruffiest lodge (a yellow-pine palace whose employee housing is known as the Slave Ship), but it's more than that. When you walk into Room 99 after a day of hucking mineshaft drops into talcum drifts of the Greatest Snow on Earth to find 40-year-old investment bankers sitting in long underwear around a 12-pack of Bud and a bottle of Jameson, you understand that Room 99 is a time machine, spinning you back to an era, not so long ago, when you could still shrink the world down until you had no cares except the pure feeling of cold snow under your skis, the startling sound of your own laughter in the trees, and the taste of cold beer afterwards. A place like that is a treasure, no matter how bad it smells.

-- Christopher Solomon

Perfect Things Outside Online
(iamrealestatephotographer/Flickr)


33. Victorinox's Infantry

Classic, uncluttered, self-winds, and can take a beating. If you own only one watch...($495)

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Inga Hendrickson)


34. Unpopular Ranges

Five beautiful, off-the-radar mountain playgrounds you should check out: the Trinity Alps, in California; the Ochoco Mountains, in Oregon; the Purcells, in British Columbia; the Black Hills, in South Dakota; and the Jemez Moun- tains, in New Mexico.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(MiguelViera/Flickr)


37. Slightly Risky Spots

You don’t want to cross the borders into Iran or North Korea, but sometimes you can find paradise in places other folks don’t want to go to. Like Kiwayu, off the coast of Kenya, a tiny island with incredible beaches and two rustically elegant "camps": Munira Island Camp and, just across the bay, the Kiwayu Safari Village. Somalia is just 20 some miles away, and you can some- times see warships off the coast.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(blieusong/Flickr)


36. A Great Surival Story

Like this one, from conservation biologist Greg Rasmussen: "One moment I was flying my ultralight low over the Zimbabwe savanna, tracking a rhino. The next, I was falling from the sky. Turbulence sent me into a fatal wing stall. I remember screaming as the trees and rocks rushed upward. The crash knocked me out. I came to with petrol gushing onto my face. I lay sprawled on the hot earth, knowing from my years working as a biologist in Africa that I was in terrible trouble. I knew I had to get out. My legs had been smashed to jelly, so I dragged myself from the wreckage. I realized later that my pelvis and both femurs were broken. I had no food or water, my radio was shattered, and I was 70 miles from the nearest road. Even worse, I had crashed far from my planned route, where rescuers would look. I watched two vultures land on a nearby mopane tree and thought, Bugger off, I'm not ready for you yet. Blood began to pool in my ankles, so I spent over two hours taking my boots off, lest I get gangrene. The temperature soared. I had to get out of the sun, and I could hear my bones crack as I crawled under my plane's wing. I sat straining to hear the drone of a rescue aircraft but, instead, heard footsteps: a stalking lioness. She edged closer until she crouched just two meters away. I knew my only weapon was surprise, so I grabbed an aluminum strut and banged it fiercely on the wreckage. It worked. Nightfall provided a break from the heat. But now I had a new worry—hyenas. We call them "bone crushers"; their jaws can pulverize bone like it's balsa wood. I fought to stay alert. Toward dawn, I heard the unmistakable stilted gait of hunting hyenas. They must have smelled my blood. I scared them off by beating on the plane. In the morning came the sound of an aircraft overhead. I waved the strut, hoping the reflection would signal the pilot, but the plane disappeared, and I began to lose heart. I didn't hear the Land Rover approach or the sound of running footsteps until they were almost on top of me. I opened my eyes, saw three people, felt a hand on my back, and heard a voice say, 'It's all right now.'"

--As told to John Moir

Perfect Things Outside Online
(USAFE-Africa/Flickr)


37. Going All In

Like this one, from conservation biologist Greg Rasmussen: "One moment I was flying my ultralight low over the Zimbabwe savanna, tracking a rhino. The next, I was falling from the sky. Turbulence sent me into a fatal wing stall. I remember screaming as the trees and rocks rushed upward. The crash knocked me out. I came to with petrol gushing onto my face. I lay sprawled on the hot earth, knowing from my years working as a biologist in Africa that I was in terrible trouble. I knew I had to get out. My legs had been smashed to jelly, so I dragged myself from the wreckage. I realized later that my pelvis and both femurs were broken. I had no food or water, my radio was shattered, and I was 70 miles from the nearest road. Even worse, I had crashed far from my planned route, where rescuers would look. I watched two vultures land on a nearby mopane tree and thought, Bugger off, I'm not ready for you yet. Blood began to pool in my ankles, so I spent over two hours taking my boots off, lest I get gangrene. The temperature soared. I had to get out of the sun, and I could hear my bones crack as I crawled under my plane's wing. I sat straining to hear the drone of a rescue aircraft but, instead, heard footsteps: a stalking lioness. She edged closer until she crouched just two meters away. I knew my only weapon was surprise, so I grabbed an aluminum strut and banged it fiercely on the wreckage. It worked. Nightfall provided a break from the heat. But now I had a new worry—hyenas. We call them "bone crushers"; their jaws can pulverize bone like it's balsa wood. I fought to stay alert. Toward dawn, I heard the unmistakable stilted gait of hunting hyenas. They must have smelled my blood. I scared them off by beating on the plane. In the morning came the sound of an aircraft overhead. I waved the strut, hoping the reflection would signal the pilot, but the plane disappeared, and I began to lose heart. I didn't hear the Land Rover approach or the sound of running footsteps until they were almost on top of me. I opened my eyes, saw three people, felt a hand on my back, and heard a voice say, 'It's all right now.'"

--As told to John Moir

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Courtesy of Verana)


38. James Brown

In the Jungle Groove. Our favorite running album. Track most likely to light a fire under your ass: I Got to Move.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(In the Jungle Grove Album)


39. Empty Trailheads

Perfect Things Outside Online
(pfly/Flickr)


40. Catching a Native Trout

Browns are European; the hatchery rain- bows that flop for beat-up flies from New Mexico to Iowa originally came from California’s McCloud River. (And thanks to the forces of piscatory global- ization, of course, you can also catch introduced rainbows everywhere from Japan to Kyrgyzstan to New Zealand.) But pull a plump, 14-inch west-slope cut- throat out of a sidewalk-wide stream in Montana, a grayling from a high lake in British Columbia, or a brookie from an icy rivulet in interior Maine? You believe you’re raising something from a better realm, and when it hits your hand, its spots and colors don’t make you ac- knowledge that you’re fooling yourself. Sound fun? See anglerslifelist.com, a compendium of native fish—and some good hints on their whereabouts.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(USFWS-NE/Flickr)


41. Nepal

Sure, Kathmandu is a tourist junk show, but the locals continue to embrace trekkers. This despite the fact that no Nepali ever walked for fun. Stray just a bit from the rutted Annapurna Circuit or the Everest Base Camp queue and you’ll be invited to drink yak butter tea with monks, share the last of a family’s rice for the season, or dance drunkenly around a bonfire. Yes, some will see you as a walking ATM, but Nepal remains nothing less than the world’s friendliest country. Once, when I found myself alone in a dusty highway town in the southern plains, a gang of teenagers mysteriously took it upon themselves to teach me how to ride a motorcycle. Each night for a week, we lurched around under the stars on a borrowed single-cylinder Honda, a new rider’s-ed instructor shrieking commands from the back. Bhutan may be more 'authentic,' whatever that means, and the Karakoram more stunning. But only in Nepal do the locals say, 'Pahuna dyeuta ho,' or 'A guest is God.' Trippy.

-- Eric Hansen

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Jeanne Menjoulet/Flickr)


42. The Gorge Amphitheatre

Like Colorado’s Red Rocks? You’ll love this ridiculously, um, gorgeous venue in George, Washington.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(wilkristin/Flickr)


43. Yurts

So round, so cozy, and usually situated someplace excellent, like practically any valley in Central Asia, the base of the Midwest’s best little ski resort (Michigan’s Mount Bohemia, or beneath a cirque of toothy peaks (asis the case with many you’ll find at yurtlodging.com).

Perfect Things Outside Online
(louiscrusoe/Flickr)


44. Sledding

If you’re over the age of ten or from outside the Midwest, we understand your reticence. But you’re wrong. Trust us.

2 Adults Adventure Airboard Airboarder Airboarding Freedom Full-length Jumping Leisure Lifestyle Males Men Mid-adult Mid-adult man Mid-air Motion Mountain Outdoors People Recreation Risk Seasons Ski area Sledding Snow Snow sports Sports Trendy View from below Winter Winter sports Young adult man Young adults
(Chengas/Corbis)


45. People Who Never Say Die

People like Casey Fulp, who dreamed of being a Green Beret but was nearly killed in a motorcycle wreck in July 2008. He had a ruptured spleen, damaged lung, torn stomach, broken bones, and brain trauma—and, as a result, was dropped from the Special Forces training program. Today he’s gearing up for a 2,176-mile hike of the Appalachian Trail to support other disabled veterans. It’s the same spirit I see in Steve Baskis, who lost his eyesight in an explosion in Iraq in 2008. Baskis went on to climb a volcano in Mexico, and last year he ran a half Ironman. These people teach by their example: There are a lot of good reasons to give up—but none trumps the reasons to raise our ambitions even higher.

-- Eric Greitens

Perfect Things Outside Online
(The US Army/Flickr)


46. A Goose-Down Vest

Warm to the core.

Perfect Things Outside Online
(Inga Hendrickson)

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