What if you asked a gear-shop employee, “What’s the capacity of this backpack in cubic yards?” That would be ridiculous.
What if you asked a gear-shop employee, “What’s the capacity of this backpack in cubic yards?” That would be ridiculous. (illustration: Brendan Leonard)
Semi-Rad

Outdoor Things, but by Unfamiliar Measurements

An exceedingly unuseful guide

What if you asked a gear-shop employee, “What’s the capacity of this backpack in cubic yards?” That would be ridiculous.
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I have a smartphone app that converts measurement units into other measurement units. Sure, you probably think that’s pretty dorky. But let me ask you this, hotshot: How many tablespoons are in a quarter cup? That’s what I thought. This app got me thinking about how contrived all of our units of measurement are, but how they seem to make sense when we apply them to the correct things. Like I always think of backpacks in terms of how many liters they can hold, because I can easily visualize what a Nalgene water bottle looks like, and I can visualize 40 or 60 water bottles fitting in a backpack.

But what if you asked a gear-shop employee, “What’s the capacity of this backpack in cubic yards?” That would be ridiculous. So would measuring a long-distance running race in chains, a unit of measurement that equals 66 feet. So I started playing around with some things, which will very likely not at all be useful to you in the future but are included below for your enjoyment. If you text a friend asking them to go for a trail run or a bike ride and propose the distance to them in furlongs or rods, please send me a screenshot that includes their reaction. Oh, and here’s a link to that app, just in case you’re ever at a dinner party and need to communicate how much more wine you’d like to drink—but in cubic millimeters.

The Leadville Trail 800-Furlong Run
Mount Everest 1.8328 Leagues High
The 29er (with 0.00398 Nautical Mile-Diameter Wheels!)
The 1.7-Bushel Backpack
The Century Ride: 320,000 Rods
The Colorado 14ers: 42,000+ Hands Tall
The 189.27-Metric Teaspoon Water Bottle
The NYC Marathon: 0.00000000000136647 Parsecs

Brendan Leonard’s new book, I Hate Running and You Can Too, is available now.

Lead illustration: Brendan Leonard

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