You spent the most time with some of the most intense stories of the year—and a few #vanlife stories thrown in.
You spent the most time with some of the most intense stories of the year—and a few #vanlife stories thrown in. (From left: Cole Ott; Dominic Nahr; Sara Lafleur-Vetter; Morgan Rachel Levy; Jesse Burke)

The Stories You Loved Most in 2016

Revisit our best of the year—picked by you

You spent the most time with some of the most intense stories of the year—and a few #vanlife stories thrown in.
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You know what they say: measure your life not in the number of times you clicked on a headline but by the number of minutes you spent reading the article. (Just us?) That's exactly how we plan to look back on 2016. Presenting the stories you spent the most time with this year—from a Sherpa you should know to high-altitude mysteries to an investigation that will make you sweat the next time you board a chairlift. 


Adventure Stories

1. What Happened to Eastern Airlines Flight 980?

Conspiracy theories have flourished in the aftermath of the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 980. Two friends from Boston decided to figure out what really happened.
Conspiracy theories have flourished in the aftermath of the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 980. Two friends from Boston decided to figure out what really happened. (Robert Harkness)

“On New Year's Day in 1985, Eastern Air Lines Flight 980 was carrying 29 passengers and a hell of a lot of contraband when it crashed into the side of a 21,112-foot mountain in Bolivia. For decades, conspiracy theories abounded as the wreckage remained inaccessible, the bodies unrecovered, the black box missing. Then two friends from Boston organized an expedition that would blow the case wide open.”

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2. What Killed the Bear Lady?

Before her death, Grayson was friendly with nearly 20 local bears and could even feed them by hand.
Before her death, Grayson was friendly with nearly 20 local bears and could even feed them by hand. (Drew Wilson/Virginian-Pilot)

“For 28 years, Kay Grayson lived side-by-side with wild black bears in North Carolina's swampy coastal forests, hand-feeding them, defending them against poachers, and letting them in her home. When she went missing last year, the only thing the investigators could find were her clean-picked bones. And that's just the start of the mystery.”

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3. The Most Successful Female Everest Climber of All Time Is a Housekeeper in Hartford, Connecticut

Lhakpa Sherpa at home in Hartford, Connecticut.
Lhakpa Sherpa at home in Hartford, Connecticut. (Jesse Burke)

“Lhakpa Sherpa awoke before dawn on a cold Connecticut morning in January 2015 and shuffled into the kitchen of her two-bedroom apartment in West Hartford. She brewed up a small pot of coffee rather than the milk tea she grew up on in Balakharka, a village in the Makalu region of the Nepalese Himalayas.

“ ‘I’m very sad inside, but I never show people sad,’ she said. ‘I’m all the time happy.’ I asked whether she was sure she wanted her story told. She was.”

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4. Special Report: The Keyhole Seven

From left: Gary Favela, Robin Brum, Steve Arthur, and Linda Arthur on the morning of September 14.
From left: Gary Favela, Robin Brum, Steve Arthur, and Linda Arthur on the morning of September 14. (Courtesy of Bobby Arthur)

“When a group of canyoneering beginners were swept away in a flash flood last September, it was the worst disaster in Zion's 97-year history. And it illustrates a growing question: How far should national parks go to keep their visitors safe?”

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5. What's Happening in Standing Rock?

The conflict over the Dakota Access oil pipeline has evoked America’s ugly racial past—and present.
The conflict over the Dakota Access oil pipeline has evoked America’s ugly racial past—and present. (Sara Lafleur-Vetter)

“Two of our country's biggest issues, racism and climate change, collided on a North Dakota reservation. In September, Mark Sundeen loaded up his station wagon with water and supplies and drove down for a look at a historic demonstration that could shape the national dialogue going forward.”

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Culture Stories

1. The Real-Life Superhero Who Beats the Cops to Bike Thieves

The anonymous Bike Batman didn't mean to become a stolen-goods vigilante. But sometimes, the cape finds you.
The anonymous Bike Batman didn't mean to become a stolen-goods vigilante. But sometimes, the cape finds you. (Cole Ott)

“Bike Batman was just an average-seeming guy in Seattle who liked to ride his bicycles. He had no inkling to become a vigilante who would face off against criminals while armed with little more than a smartphone, some spare time, and a pair of brass balls. But sometimes in life, the cape finds you.”

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2. How Jogging in Burundi Became an Act of War 

Ferdinand Nitunga continues to run despite the rising violence.
Ferdinand Nitunga continues to run despite the rising violence. (Dominic Nahr)

“For a decade, the African nation of Burundi was home to a unique phenomenon: group jogs involving thousands of people who hit the streets to sing, socialize, and sometimes protest the nation’s authoritarian president, Pierre Nkurunziza. In March 2014, he banned the activity. As conflicts threaten to boil over—and the body count continues to rise—runners have become both weapons and victims.”

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3. How Sally Jewell Is Opening Wild Lands to Underprivileged Kids

Sally Jewell recently prioritized improving access to the outdoors for disadvantaged youth.
Sally Jewell recently prioritized improving access to the outdoors for disadvantaged youth. (USFWS Midwest/Flickr)

“The Secretary of the Interior isn’t as interested in recounting her childhood adventures as she is in trying to ensure that all American kids have the same opportunity to get outdoors that she had. Her initiative seeks to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds experience the wilderness.”

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4. The Privileges, Punishments, and Odd Training Methods of a Star Cold-War Athlete

Emil Zátopek was stripped of his role in national sport after his defiance of the 1968 Soviet invasion in the wake of the Prague Spring.
Emil Zátopek was stripped of his role in national sport after his defiance of the 1968 Soviet invasion in the wake of the Prague Spring. (Erin Wilson)

“Czech running phenomenon Emil Zátopek was unstoppable on the track. Outside of the arena, living in a Soviet satellite state, was where things got complicated.”

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5. The Unofficial Oral History of ‘Hot Dog… The Movie’

"Combine a beautiful resort, a record winter, booze, and lots of free time... What would you have been doing up there, you know?"
"Combine a beautiful resort, a record winter, booze, and lots of free time... What would you have been doing up there, you know?" (Metro-Goldwyn Mayer)

“It has a paint-by-numbers plot, loads of sexism and gratuitous nudity, and a screenplay full of tired racial stereotypes. It’s also the highest-grossing ski movie of all time. Frederick Reimers and Sam Moulton uncover the true story behind every skier’s favorite cult classic.”

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Gear Stories

1. Traeger vs. Big Green Egg: Which Is Better for Grilling Meat?

We put the Traeger and Big Green Egg head-to-head to see which worked best.
We put the Traeger and Big Green Egg head-to-head to see which worked best. (Wes Siler)

“We threw a slice of venison on the two fanciest grills around to find out which cooks best.”

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2. The Husband-and-Wife Team Behind the Internet’s Most Infuriating Outdoor Retailer 

If there’s a lesson consumers can learn from the 123Mountain saga, it’s that it’s always worth double-checking the credentials of unfamiliar e-businesses before handing over a credit card number.
If there’s a lesson consumers can learn from the 123Mountain saga, it’s that it’s always worth double-checking the credentials of unfamiliar e-businesses before handing over a credit card number. (Neil Webb)

“It’s hard to believe a Colorado gear shop could outrage so many customers in the age of crowdsourced review sites and marketplaces like Amazon. But 123Mountain, owned and operated by European couple Olivier and Anna Sofia Goumas, has been fending off lawsuits for years. Has their luck finally run out?”

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3. How to Live Out of Your Car

How's this for a backyard? Living in your car might involved cramped sleeping quarters, but it opens up a literal world of outdoor life.
How's this for a backyard? Living in your car might involved cramped sleeping quarters, but it opens up a literal world of outdoor life. (Chris Brinlee Jr.)

“Professional vehicle dwellers share their tips for making the most out of life on the road.”

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4. Is Your Local Chairlift a Death Trap?

The average age of our nation's lifts and gondolas is 27 years old.
The average age of our nation's lifts and gondolas is 27 years old. (Francesco Bongiorni)

“At 8:30 a.m. EST, Timothy Yates hopped on the Thunderstruck lift for a course inspection. It’s an old three-seater that was installed in 1985 by Borvig, a New York–based company that went out of business eight years later. That day, as Yates approached Tower 12, he gazed in disbelief as the crossarm tipped away from him in slow motion. The haul rope slipped free from the wheels, and his chair plummeted toward the ground 30 feet below.”

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5. Chasing the Dream: How to Live the Ultimate #Vanlife

Brendan and Chloe Couvreux with their two boys and their 1990 Volkswagen Westfalia.
Brendan and Chloe Couvreux with their two boys and their 1990 Volkswagen Westfalia. (Morgan Rachel Levy)

“For a certain breed of adventurous souls, the key to happiness is a road machine that forever stokes their desire to chase fun. Looking at these seven dream rigs, it's hard not to want to play along.”

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Fitness Stories

1. The Silencing of a Low-Carb Rebel

Tim Noakes’s theory is that a fat-rich diet helps people lose weight, reduces insulin resistance, and staves off diabetes.
Tim Noakes’s theory is that a fat-rich diet helps people lose weight, reduces insulin resistance, and staves off diabetes. (Hannah McCaughey)

“South African physician Tim Noakes, one of the world’s greatest sports scientists, has been preaching an ultra-low-carb, high-fat diet as the key to fitness and health. His ideas have made him a bestselling guru, but now his critics are pushing back—and as Bill Gifford reports, they’re putting his theories on trial.”

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2. How Your Sex Affects Your Diet

For peak performance, women need female-specific nutrition.
For peak performance, women need female-specific nutrition. (Studio Firma/Stocksy)

“ ‘Almost every woman I talk to is eating a certain way—whether they’re doing Paleo or intermittent fasting—because their male coach or husband or boyfriend told them to do it,’ says Stacy T. Sims, an exercise physiologist at Stanford. But she adds: ‘And while it’s probably working for her husband, for her, it’s a disaster.’ ”

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3. Sweating the Small Stuff Will Make You a Faster Runner

Gwen Jorgensen, recent winner of the United States’s first ever triathlon gold at the Rio Olympics, believes that many small performance gains are found outside of aerobic training.
Gwen Jorgensen, recent winner of the United States’s first ever triathlon gold at the Rio Olympics, believes that many small performance gains are found outside of aerobic training. (Nils Nilsen)

“Alone, these tiny details won't boost performance much. But their sum could mean the difference between a good race and a PR.”

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4. The Latest on Low-Carb, High-Fat Diets

Ramping up fat-burning seems like a good idea in theory, but it can hurt your ability to burn carbs.
Ramping up fat-burning seems like a good idea in theory, but it can hurt your ability to burn carbs. (Kaare Iverson/TandemStock)

“In December, racewalker Evan Dunfee notched a huge personal best at a 50-kilometer race in Australia, smashing the Canadian record and punching his ticket to the Rio Olympics this summer. Just a few weeks earlier, he’d completed a three-week block of intense training on a diet of 75 to 80 percent fat, fueled by pre-workout boiled eggs and nutballs—‘nuts, cocoa, and I’m not sure what else to hold them together,’ he recalls, ‘but they were alright’—and mid-workout cheese and birthday cake.”

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5. Question Everything You Know About Fitness

Use cold exposure to increase fat loss and elevate mood.
Use cold exposure to increase fat loss and elevate mood. (Martin Schoeller)

“Whether you’re an elite athlete or a restless desk jockey, there are better ways to achieve your goals. Just ask 4-Hour guru Tim Ferriss, who started quizzing the world’s greatest performers on their routines as a side project—and ended up with a whole new approach to training.”

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Travel Stories

1. So You Want to Be a Dream Town?

For all its attributes, you’d think Libby would be a regular contender for Outside’s Best Towns—but it has some baggage.
For all its attributes, you’d think Libby would be a regular contender for Outside’s Best Towns—but it has some baggage. (Donnie Sexton)

“How does a city turn itself from a backwater to one of Outside's Best Towns? Libby, Montana, is trying to figure it out.”

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2. The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S.

Clockwise from top left: Grand Teton National Park; The Love Apple in Taos, New Mexico; mountain biking in Billings, Montana; Seattle's Bar Melusine.
Clockwise from top left: Grand Teton National Park; The Love Apple in Taos, New Mexico; mountain biking in Billings, Montana; Seattle's Bar Melusine. (From top left: Jimmy Chin; Jen Judge; Peter Frank Edwards; Courtesy of Bar Melusine.)

“We talked to climbers, Olympic mountain bikers, musicians, and award-winning chefs about what exactly makes their hometowns so special and fun.”

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3. Visiting Alaska’s Fortress of the Bears

More brown bears than the lower 48.
More brown bears than the lower 48. (USDA Forest Service)

“Alaska is home to some of the largest brown bears on the planet, and southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage includes several remote islands that have more giant bears per square mile than anywhere else in the world. We flew out to explore this wild marvel—here's how you can do the same. ”

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4. 351 Amazing Places That Aren't National Parks

You could travel across America and fill all of your time seeing anything but national parks, if you wanted.
You could travel across America and fill all of your time seeing anything but national parks, if you wanted. (Margaret Kimball)

“Yes, we’re crazy about our 59 national parks. But the Park ­Service manages 351 other worthy properties, so follow our road map, pack a beach towel, and ditch the masses.”

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5. A Hidden Irish Paradise of Vertigo-Inducing Fun

Donegal's coastline offers rocky adventure for bikers, climbers, and surfers.
Donegal's coastline offers rocky adventure for bikers, climbers, and surfers. (Andrew Hetherington)

“By European standards, Ireland’s County Donegal, tucked into the country’s far northwest corner, may as well be Mars. But for adventure travelers, it’s a hidden frontier packed with wind-bitten landscapes to mountain-bike, rowdy coastline to surf, and 500-foot sea stacks to climb. That is, if you’re brave enough.”

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Lead Photo: From left: Cole Ott; Dominic Nahr; Sara Lafleur-Vetter; Morgan Rachel Levy; Jesse Burke

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