The Stories You Loved Most in 2015
Revisit our best of the year—picked by you
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You know those ubiquitous roundups that sites publish around the new year, boasting about all they’ve accomplished? This is ours. And we’re seriously proud of it. The 35 pieces selected below represent the best of Outside across all platforms—all chosen, in the style of The New York Times, by the total time viewers spent engaged with them. It’s a unique mix of actionable service, literary journalism, stunning photography, and great design. But enough about us. Presenting the stories that you loved most in 2015.
1. Voormi's Plan to Revolutionize Our Outerwear and the Mountain-Town Economy
Five years ago, Dan English, a former manager at Microsoft and an executive vice president at hunting-apparel company Mossy Oak, had a revelation: there were too many clothes in his gear shed. Most of it worked all right but was so specialized that he had to bring a suitcase full of layers whenever he traveled. Many of the hard shells were so flimsy, they didn’t last more than a few seasons.
2. Can the $7,000 Stromer ST2 E-Bike Replace Your Car? We Spent 30 Days Riding One to Find Out.
Earlier this fall, I performed an of-the-moment transportation experiment. Several days every week for a month, I ditched my beloved hauler of a minivan for an electric bike. Aside from an e-bike’s tailpipe-less upsides, I wanted to find out if such a device could satisfyingly replace both van and traditional bike as my daily conveyance for stretches at a time.
3. How Do I Turn My Truck into a Mobile Adventure Home?
It’s easy—and relatively inexpensive. But before you rush out and start converting your truck into the ultimate adventure vehicle, step back and think carefully about the design, because the same rules you’d follow when buying a nonmobile home apply here: Be patient and detail oriented, and begin with the right foundation.
4. The Coolest Adventure Vehicles We Found at Overland Expo
Each fall, adventure-travel enthusiasts gather on a ranch in Asheville, North Carolina, to check out hundreds of tricked-out adventure cars and trucks and to learn the ins and outs of overlanding. The event’s called Overland Expo, and it’s basically a dream come true for the editors at Outside. If you want to drool over the most badass, go-anywhere jeeps, trucks, vans, and bikes in the world, this is the spot.
5. Clothes You Can Feel Good About Wearing
This winter I went on a mission to find young companies that are focused on crafting quality apparel. Slow Fashion, some call it. You know the concept: Pay a premium for a really well-designed and responsibly manufactured jacket or pair of pants; love it and live in it for three times as long as you thought you would. Voilà: By shelling out more up front, you saved yourself money.
1. The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S.
We began our 2015 Best Towns competition with a bracket of 64 favorites, then let you vote until one dream burg emerged. Here, we present the 16 finalists—the places you say are the top spots in the country to work, run, eat, sail, paddle, drink, ride, and climb. The winner? A southern gem that surprised us once again. Read more.
2. The 30 Best Trips of 2015
Warning: unless you’re an annoyingly carefree bon vivant with a hefty trust fund, reading our annual Best of Travel awards may trigger a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the pathetic state of your mundane life. There are so many cool places to go, you’ll think as you scroll through our 30 epic selections. And not enough time! Why am I stuck at this desk! Do not panic—this is a totally natural reaction. And that’s the beauty of our annual awards.Read more.
3.Seven Ideas Shaping the Future of Travel
We live in the 21st century, but it still takes a good 30 minutes to board a plane (on a good day). And don't get us started on the lodging horror stories! The outdated guidebooks! The soul-sucking process of renting a car! That's why we are rooting for these seven revolutionary ideas. From an Airbnb for adventurous car rentals to pain-free new ways to board planes, these innovations are changing how we get out and see the world.Read more.
4. Inside the Mad, Mad World of TripAdvisor
The Koryo Hotel does pretty well on TripAdvisor, all things considered. The Internet never—and I mean never—works. The towels are “thin,” the sheet thread count low, and the milk powdered. Watch out for the “giant mutant cockroach snake hybrid“ in the shower. Guests even have to pay for the pool. Still, the Koryo, a pair of dull beige towers connected near the top by a sky bridge, is the number-one-rated hotel on TripAdvisor for Pyongyang, North Korea. Read more.
1. Running on Empty
When the gun went off, Mike Wolfe fought to stay toward the front of the stream of Transvulcania runners, which were bottlenecked on the narrow singletrack. He redlined the first 6,000-foot climb with an up-and-coming American, Dakota Jones, and the sport’s reigning king, Spaniard Kilian Jornet. He kept up with the leaders as they strode across the spine of the island, but about halfway through the race Wolfe began to slow. He wasn’t cramping or bonking—he’d experienced those things often enough to know when he’d gone out too fast or not eaten enough. This was different. Read more.
2. One Athlete's Quest for a Perfect Night's Sleep
For my fortieth birthday, I decided to climb the Grand Teton, a 13,770-foot peak in my backyard of Jackson, Wyoming. The Grand is technical, requiring rock climbing and rappels on exposed faces with 5,000-foot drops. Make a mistake and you’re dead. I’d decided the ascent would help me feel less 40. I gathered the gear I needed and did all the necessary training, including steep, hourlong hikes wearing a 60-pound weight vest. The one thing I was missing to perform at my best? Enough sleep.Read more.
3. Eight Breakfasts of Champions
In this three-part series, we map out your day in food, with expert advice and tasty recipes to fuel the time-crunched, health-conscious athlete. First up: breakfast. Read more.
4. Scott Jurek’s Champagne Problems
Last week, ultrarunner Scott Jurek set a new record for through-hiking the Appalachian Trail, finishing in 46 days 8 hours and 7 minutes. When he reached the summit of Maine’s Mount Katahdin—whose 5,269-foot summit sits within a state-administered wilderness area in Baxter State Park—he popped the cork on a bottle of champagne, NASCAR style. His supporters were there to greet him. So was a ranger with a summons for violating park and wilderness regulations.Read more.
5. Run for Your Life
The pain comes in waves. On uphills like this, my quads feel like there are badgers inside, clawing their way out. My calves are OK, but my knees are rickety. The pain isn’t constant, nor is it a curse, really. It’s mine, and since all it takes to make it stop is stopping, I feel an affectionate ownership of it. Read more.
6. Can Surfing Reprogram the Veteran’s Brain?
Brian and I grew up together. Best friends. At 19, he went off to war and came back fucked-up. Post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, nerve damage. In May 2014, he cracked. “I’m in pain,” he wrote on Facebook, “and now will bring the pain to someone else. Some incompetent motherfuckers are going to die.” Read more.
1. Dean Potter's Final Essay on Love and Adventure
Dean Potter wrote this essay on adventuring with his dog, Whisper, not long before he died in a BASE-jumping accident in Yosemite last spring. We’re publishing his words now, with the permission of his girlfriend, Jen Rapp, as a telling reflection of Potter’s values and love of the outdoors. Read more.
2. Murder on the Appalachian Trail
Twenty-five summers ago, I pulled into what was called the Thelma Marks shelter, near the halfway point of a southbound through-hike. I met a stranger in the old lean-to, talked with him under its low roof as we fired up our stoves and cooked dinner. Eight nights later, a southbound couple I’d befriended early in my hike followed me into Thelma Marks. They met a stranger there, too. Read more.
3. An Oral History of Langtang, the Valley Destroyed by the Nepal Earthquake
On April 25 of this year, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal at 11:56 a.m., local time. Half a million homes across the country were leveled and more than 8,500 people were killed, including 19 climbers and Sherpas who died in an avalanche that roared through Mount Everest Base Camp. While images of the devastation in Kathmandu were broadcast around the world, little was heard from people in the Langtang Valley, which sits roughly 40 miles northeast of the capital. Read more.
4. On the Hunt for America's Last Great Treasure
If not for the treasure, it seems unlikely that Forrest Fenn and Darrell Seyler would ever have crossed paths. Fenn is an 85-year-old retired art dealer from Santa Fe; Darrell is a 50-year-old former cop living in Seattle. Yet the two are inextricably linked by an incredible fact: for the past three years, Darrell has been searching the Rocky Mountains for a chest filled with an estimated million dollars in gold, and Fenn knows where it is. In fact, he put it there. Read more.
5. Little Things That Kill You
If the doomsayers are right and we are headed toward a zombie apocalypse, I’ll have a laugh from the grave about whoever eats me. Unless they cook my flesh to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, they’re going to experience the same torture that I recently endured after enjoying a meal of undercooked black bear meat in central Alaska that was contaminated with the roundworm Trichinella spiralis. Read more.
6. They Shoot Kangaroos, Don't They?
We spot 40 kangaroos in the distance and creep toward them. “Act like they do,” Don Fletcher whispers. “Put your head down, like you’re grazing. Don’t move straight at them.” Fletcher goes full kangaroo, drooping his head, hunching his shoulders, dangling his hands from his chest and zigzagging slowly forward. He does everything but bounce and eat grass. Read more.
7. Avalanche Rescue Needs a Revolutionary
On January 7, 2008, Todd Weselake, a 23-year-old photographer living in Fernie, British Columbia, picked up two friends, Janina Kuzma and Ian Bezubiak, for a morning of backcountry skiing and snowboarding on the northern slopes of Mount Proctor, a 7,851-foot peak within view of town. The trio snowmobiled up a valley for 45 minutes, then climbed to an alpine ridge where they began their descent. Read more.
1. The Cursed, Buried City That May Never See The Light of Day
Thirty-three years ago, Peter Brosnan heard a story that seemed too crazy to be true: buried somewhere along California’s rugged Central Coast, beneath acres of sand dunes, lay the remains of a lost city. According to his friend at New York University’s film school, the remains of a massive Egyptian temple, a dozen plaster sphinxes, eight mammoth lions, and four 40-ton statues of Ramses II were all supposedly entombed in the sands 150 some-odd miles north of Los Angeles. Read more.
2. How the World's Most Difficult Bouldering Problems Get Made
The route setter studied the blank gray surface. His section—part of an array of climbing walls set up outdoors under a huge tent—was 16 feet tall and 10 feet wide, and it loomed above the chalk-dusted mat at a forward-facing 40-degree angle. His eyes darted from one position to the next, dancing along a grid of bolt holes that were laid out every six inches, like a sheet of graph paper. Strewn around the stage were thousands of Crayon-colored climbing handholds, a wicked assortment of crimps and jugs and pinches and pockets that he would use to fill this void. After a moment of reflection, he unholstered his cordless drill and affixed a bright blue hold to the wall with a whir and a screech. Read more.
3. A Liar Standing Next to a Hole in the Ground
The old prospector was convinced it was gold, but the geologist couldn’t say for sure. Very small knuckles of a yellow mineral attached to cubes of pyrite were in question. Six of us stood around the rusty iron door that served as our camp table and was now piled high with ore and canvas sample bags inked with GPS coordinates. Flint Carter, the prospector, tipped back his cowboy hat, pulled a thin brown cigarillo from the chest pocket of his overalls, and lit it as the sun set over Arizona’s storied Cañada del Oro.Read more.
4. The Piscivore's Dilemma
I contemplated the simple sandwich on the plate in front of me: a beautiful slab of glistening rainbow trout, crisp lettuce, and a freshly baked French roll. The trout skin was lightly seared and seasoned. The pinkish meat was firm and toothsome. I genuflected briefly, then two-fisted the thing and took a big bite. A slightly smoky, sweet flavor gave my taste buds a sensation long denied. I chased it with a slug of Fort Point ale. Soon, both fish sandwich and beer were gone. I am a vegan, but I was untroubled. Eating the trout seemed like the right thing to do. Read more.
5. The New Adventure Library
It isn’t just books and movies anymore. With drones and Kickstarter, GoPro and YouTube, true stories of courage and survival have never been more mind-blowingl plentiful. That's especially true in the world of Outside, where new technology means new ways of capturing outsized personalities, amazing feats, and treacherous locales. We combed through it all—from instant-classic memoirs to action-cam epics to next-level ski porn—and assembled the best of the 21st century’s best.Read more.
6. The Greatest Boat Race Ever (Dreamed Up Over Beers)
On a concrete ramp near the pier in Port Townsend, Washington, Alan Hartman pulls on his eye patch. It’s uncomfortable, but the doctors say it’s necessary to keep salt water out of his right cornea, which the 47-year-old fisherman recently speared while chainsawing brush near his remote Alaska cabin. He is resolute that neither his wound nor some wet nights’ sleep will keep him from the journey ahead. “This race is going to change my life,” he says. Read more.
1. Forrest Fenn on How To Find His Million-Dollar Treasure
In 2010, a renowned art dealer from New Mexico named Forrest Fenn reportedly hid a treasure worth more than a million dollars somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe. He then published a book called The Thrill of the Chase that contains clues regarding the treasure's whereabouts. Outside profiled Fenn, and avid treasure hunter Darrell Seyler, in the September Issue.
2. Inside the World's Most Amazing Adventure Vehicle
EarthCruiser makes some of the most incredible and capable vehicles on the planet. Based on a 4-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Fuso platform, the EarthCruiser FX averages 15 miles per gallon, has a 1000 mile range and can carry enough fresh water to keep you off the grid and self-sufficient for months at a time. Founded in Australia and now based in Bend, OR, an EarthCruiser should be on the short list of vehicles to consider if your dream involves selling your house and traveling the globe for years at a time.
3. How to Become a Hero
The Ancient Greeks believed anyone could unlock superhuman potential by mastering the three pillars of heroism: skill, strength and compassion. In this exclusive series based on research uncovered for his upcoming book, Natural Born Heroes, Christopher McDougall tracks down the high priests of the lost fitness arts.
1. The Cutest Patrol Pup You'll Ever Meet
Meet Jake, Vail Ski Patrol's latest recruit. The 10-week-old Yellow Lab got his first taste of snow at the top of Vail earlier this month, and soon he'll start working with Patroller Matt Whalen to master obedience skills, get used to riding chairlifts and train in avalanche rescue. Video by Andrew Taylor, Vail Resorts.
2. This Guy Will Make You Fall In Love With Skiing
If you aren't already obsessed with skiing, the latest film from Volume II of DPS Cinematic's The Shadow Campaign should do the trick. Snowflake, a Banff Adventure Film Festival selection for 2015-2016, is the story of an eccentric Swiss skier with one of the most brilliant philosophies on life we've ever heard.
3. 50 Seconds for Anyone Stuck in an Office
The first installment in our Weekly Escape series, Filmmaker Rob Johnson, from FilmUpHigh, created Dawn in Capel Curig as a “50-second mountain fix for anyone stuck in an office.” It sure did the trick for us.
4. Bend Your Will to Wilderness. Your Life Will Be Changed.
The arts of bushcraft and wilderness survival are lost on many, but not renowned traveler and British TV personality Ray Mears. We Belong to It, a film by Goh Iromoto, follows the bushcraft expert into the heart of Wabakimi Provincial Park in Northern Ontario, Canada – a remote and beautiful area that's a part of the rugged Canadian Sheild, and the world's largest protected wilderness cannoeing area. Watch as Mears explains why “we must remember that at the end, nature does not belong to us, we belong to it.”