Long Reads


Long reads are the longform articles our readers know and love. These features showcase our strongest writers, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors.

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Brian Boland was a prolific creator of handcrafted hot-air balloons who set distance and altitude records all over the world. But on July 15, 2021, during a routine outing with a family in Vermont, things went dramatically wrong. Sarah Schweitzer examines Boland’s eccentric and adventurous life, and finds out what happened on his fateful last flight.

Once thought to be basically immortal, giant sequoias are dying in droves as fires burn bigger, hotter, and longer than at any other point in human history. Protecting them is possible, but managing western woods is a Pandora’s box of tough choices.

People develop sensitivities to just about everything these days, but can you really be allergic to frigid temperatures? Our writer takes us on a wild—and potentially life threatening—journey to find out.

Mega cruise ships stopped sailing to Key West, Florida, during the height of COVID-19. Many locals appreciated the resulting peace and quiet and won a vote for large ships not to return. But the fight’s not over.

With fabrics created from alga, graphene, and copper, and hoodies built to last a hundred years, two British ad men are creating the apparel and gear of the future

After kicking off an enormous slide on a familiar backcountry run in Colorado, our writer was forced to reconsider his relationship with skiing

After a lifetime of prudishness, our writer tries to become one of those people who bares it all in the great outdoors

Thanks to a lot of hard work, skill, luck, and love, these amazing animals emerged safely from the flames and disruption

Fresh out of film school, Soraya Simi’s first documentary was centered around the Paralympic rower’s 2,500-mile solo journey to Hawaii. Except Madsen never made it.

When vast gas reserves were discovered off the idyllic coast of northern Mozambique, a crew of roughnecks flew in from around the world to make their fortunes. But in March 2021, Islamist rebels attacked, and the foreigners and thousands of Mozambicans were abandoned. Two hundred holed up at the Amarula Lodge, where the expats faced a choice: save themselves, or risk it all to save everyone. As oil and gas fuel a new war in Europe, Alex Perry pieces together, shot by shot, a stunning morality tale for the global economy.

He was an environmentalist versed in the dangers of our warming world, an expert trail runner, and eminently capable of moving far and fast outside. The heat killed him all the same.

The Swiss Alps are home to an incredible new hut-to-hut runners’ route called the Via Valais. It’s a little demanding—150 miles, nine stages, and 42,000 feet of elevation gain—but if you can take it on, you’re guaranteed one of the most spectacular adventures of your life.

This retired professional ultrarunner has found (almost) every waterfall along this wild stretch of central California coast. And, no, he won’t tell you where the best ones are.

Last summer, Tiffany Thiele, a young rock climber from Reno, Nevada, took her life after posting a Facebook message claiming she’d been raped by a ski patroller. She left behind an unsolvable mystery about what really happened, along with urgent questions about whether more could have been done to heal her feelings of pain and distrust.

In the heart of Cornhusker country, they know how to make their own fun. Native son Carson Vaughan drafted four friends, loaded up on beer, and did what may be the strangest float trip in the world.

In an excerpt from his new book, ‘Riverman,’ writer Ben McGrath recounts how he met an itinerant canoeist named Dick Conant, a fascinating character who mysteriously disappeared shortly thereafter

Last year, Annette McGivney lost her beloved yellow Lab, Sunny, and was overwhelmed by sadness. Since then she’s built a new life with a challenging rescue dog, and she’s learned a lot about the healing power of human and animal bonds.

It’s not easy being a progressive who works for a middle-of-the-road president. Mark Sundeen sizes up the interior secretary’s first year in office—which has been a disappointment to climate-change activists—and decides she’s most likely to make a mark through a historic reckoning over the U.S. government’s shameful running of Native American boarding schools.

In a small town in England in the early 1950s, a group of Brits gathered at a pub to form the world’s first off-road cycling club. They came from all classes—barons rubbed elbows with foundry workers—but were united by their love of the wild and a shared belief that a bike could get them anywhere they dreamed of. Seventy years on, Tom Vanderbilt heads to the UK to join a few current members in pursuit of the rough stuff.

How boredom and booze created an outlaw sport best left alone

Earth-loving New Yorkers are drawing from an unlikely arsenal of activism, hip-hop, marathon city-council Zoom meetings, and one sassy pug to hold the city to its zero-waste commitments. If they succeed, the environmental benefits could be huge.

The accident highlights an industry at a crossroads and raises a crucial question: As safety schools boom, who is responsible for making sure the students come home?

Mark Jenkins chose to skip a risky adventure with his friends. Twenty-five years later, he’s still haunted by what happened in his absence.

In the past two years, Americans have become disenchanted with work, leading to major strikes and what is being called the Great Resignation. But what if there was a better way? This writer went looking for that ever elusive work-life balance, learning how to get outside more and stress less.

Reeling from her husband’s request to divorce after 25 years of marriage and two kids, Florence Williams was experiencing debilitating grief. An accomplished reporter, she decided to explore the science of heartache to see if she could find a cure. In this excerpt from her new book, ‘Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey,’ she heads out for a 120-mile solo paddle on Utah’s Green River, with a too heavy portable toilet and a shattered heart.

Four years ago, the Minnesota phenom won historic Olympic gold in cross-country skiing, alongside Kikkan Randall. She was just getting going.

All over America’s ancient eastern mountains, there’s an organism that lives underground, tethered to tree roots, waiting to be hunted. It’s among the world’s rarest and most expensive foods, and it grows in a wide range of conditions. But there’s only one guy in the country who really knows how to find it. Rowan Jacobsen joins him in the search for the Appalachian truffle.

While getting his PhD in English, Logan Scherer developed an intense friendship with a male grad student that lasted for years, through his friend’s engagement and marriage to a woman. Scherer struggled to make sense of it, until he lost himself in a group of spinster nature writers from the late 19th century who eschewed marriage to live alone or with other women during a time when the language of queerness didn’t exist.

A secret abortion, pirates, and the peace found at the bottom of the ocean

With increased coastal flooding and erosion, climate change is harshing California’s mellow vibes. Officials say it’s time to retreat from the shore altogether. Residents want to stay and fight. Paul Kvinta reports from the front lines of a pitched battle, where geologists and millionaires are squaring off, and friendly fire between surfers isn’t so friendly.

When Maggie Shipstead set out to report on women-only expedition travel, she was driven by a desire to learn new skills in a low-bro-factor environment. But six days exploring Alaska with the state’s first woman-owned adventure outfitter turned out to be regenerative in ways she didn’t expect.

Hoping to help my brother beat his alcohol addiction, I set up a two-wheel road trip through the scenic terrain of northeast Kansas. As usual, he was funny, endearing, maddening, and burdened by problems I couldn’t solve.

For as far back as she can remember, Mardi Fuller grew up in a world of swimming lessons and swim teams, which was unusual for a daughter of Jamaican immigrants. Why the emphasis on water? Because of a mysterious death that haunted her family’s past.

All over the West, a housing crisis is causing workforce shortages, crippling local businesses, and threatening the culture and existence of mountain towns as we know them. But amid the doom and gloom, some people are fighting for solutions.

The grandeur of the Great Salt Lake stopped Brigham Young in his tracks and inspired John Muir to jump in for a swim. Yet now it’s in danger of disappearing, sucked dry by agriculture, climate change, and suburban lawns. Many Utahns would just as soon pave it, but as Bill Gifford learned during a yearlong exploration, there’s beauty and natural splendor here that deserves to live on.

How two rival teams fought storms and sleep deprivation to claim an 18-year-old paddling FKT

For decades, Deep Springs College in California resisted the push to go coed. But even though women are now allowed to attend, it still holds on to the past.

I’m really sorry it happened and really glad I survived. Notes on the flabbergasting climax of an Alaska road trip that changed my life.

Each year an estimated 300,000 smugglers, known as ‘kolbars,’ haul millions of pounds of contraband from Iraq to Iran over the 14,000-foot peaks of the Zagros Mountains. More than 50 of them will die—shot dead, killed in accidents, or freezing to death—and countless more will be arrested and imprisoned. Alex Perry travels to Iraqi Kurdistan to investigate the roots of a trade that all but defies comprehension.

Over the past few years, McCastle has completed 5,804 pull-ups in a single day, pulled a 5,000-pound truck across the Mojave Desert, and climbed a rope the equivalent height of Mount Everest. How on earth has this Navy SEAL dropout accomplished some of the craziest physical feats in recent memory?

If you get lost or injured in the woods these days, aid might come from above—in the form of small-propeller drones that are revolutionizing SAR and saving lives

A revered figure in modern climbing literature, Katie Ives is known for her intense work ethic and for encouraging writers who weren’t always invited to the club. In her first book, she explores how the physical and fantastical aspects of big peaks have, for centuries, inspired human dreams.

Oregon voters have opened the door to treating mental illness with substances like ketamine and psilocybin. In a peek at the future, our seeker attends a backwoods retreat where patients get help from a powerful combination of drugs and the outdoors.

A new app called NatureQuant harnesses the latest research to track and rate your time outside. Next up: determining how much you need.

At a bold and stylish new brewery in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Missy Begay and Shyla Sheppard are using traditional Native American ingredients to produce delicious craft creations, part of a growing movement that’s changing the face of domestic beer

When my yellow Lab died last spring, I was flattened by an overwhelming sadness that’s with me still. And that’s normal, experts say, because losing a pet is often one of the hardest yet least acknowledged traumas we’ll ever face.

With a pair of Army SPECS and a little ingenuity, Pit Viper’s cofounders built a brand that nobody could have predicted

Lyme-carrying ticks are a bigger threat than ever. A promising new antibody treatment looks to stop infection—even after a tick bite.

To live in the small town of Haines, Alaska, is to live with bears, with roughly one brown bear for every nine human residents. Last winter, a local snowboarder woke a hibernating brown bear in the backcountry and was severely injured, furthering tensions between food-stressed bears and anxious local residents. But in most encounters, it’s the bear that ends up dead, prompting the question of what it means to coexist.

Her list of physical feats seems almost impossible. Win national sport-climbing competitions starting at the age of 13? Check. Summit Mount Everest? Check. Free-climb El Capitan in under 24 hours? That, too. But in order to cement her status as one of the world’s best climbers, there were more daunting obstacles to overcome.

Born in Surf City USA, and the descendant of an actual samurai, Japan’s surfing superstar is ready for the sport’s debut on the world stage.

On a backpacking trip through Utah’s Buckskin Gulch with ultralight gear legend Glen Van Peski, our writer learns about the Crotch Pot, an Oscar-winning actor’s anti-snoring technique, and that there’s a whole lot of shit you don’t need when you’re on the trail 1,000 miles from home

It’s not just the gear purchases—it’s how we think about the future. Here’s the Outside guide to getting your financial $hit together, no selling out required.

When President Biden needs a break from Putin and Mitch McConnell, he vacations on the Delmarva Peninsula, a blend of mid-Atlantic beauty, quirky accents, and tasty treasures from soil and sea. I grew up in the heart of it. Hear my song to this glorious land.

"I fell in love with cycling while watching the Tour each year with my father. When he was dying last summer, it became so much more than just the world's biggest bike race."

The later moon missions didn’t grab as much attention as the first landing in 1969, but they had something very cool on the gear front: the lunar rover, a lightweight go-kart that gave crews unmatched mobility on another world

After losing her father to Alzheimer’s disease, one writer reflects on her relationship with grief and running—and the connections between the two

Tuliamuk had secured her spot in the Tokyo Olympics—then 2020 happened. Fortunately, she’s always run for more than just the medals.

At some point in every adventurous life, you need to pursue something completely trivial with such single-minded focus that it nearly drives you mad. Allow me to explain.

Climate change is melting the glaciers and permafrost of the Mont Blanc massif, revealing crystals hidden in pockets once covered in snow. Simon Akam tagged along on an expedition with one of the area’s most legendary hunters, a daring French alpinist who completes dangerous climbs to discover specimens worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Since Mary Cain spoke out about the Nike Oregon Project in 2019, a growing wave of young runners have come forward with their own allegations of negligent coaching and toxic team cultures across the sport

Teenage diver Sebastian Morris and his dad were hunting for treasure in the Gulf of Mexico when they found a below-the-knee prosthetic. How do you lose that in the ocean? Amazingly, they solved the mystery.

In September 2017, Outside published a feature about the ‘Berserk,’ a ship that went missing in 2011 off the coast of Antarctica with three men aboard. The expedition leader, Jarle Andhoy, disagreed with the story we published, which contained some factual errors, and with our portrayal of the lost men of the ‘Berserk.’ He also believed that the story left out crucial information about the days before the ship’s disappearance. Outside editor in chief Christopher Keyes interviewed Andhoy and his lawyer, Gunnar Nerdrum Aagaard, to better understand new details the two have gathered, which may help explain what happened to the men on board.

The odds of being attacked by a shark are less than one in 11 million, which makes it nearly impossible to find people to turn to when you become that one. Enter a support group of survivors called the Bite Club—the most exclusive club nobody wants to join.

For centuries, dowsers have claimed the ability to find groundwater, precious metals, and other quarry using divining rods and an uncanny intuition. Is it the real deal or woo-woo? Dan Schwartz suspends disbelief to see for himself.

When Konstantin Grigorishin—über-wealthy Ukrainian businessman, aspiring philosopher, former pal of Russian oligarchs—introduced the upstart International Swimming League in 2019, he made the first move in an ambitious plan that could blow up Olympic sports and usher in a new era of athlete fairness. He also commenced a game of chicken with some of the world’s most powerful and dangerous men, including Vladimir Putin. And he just might win.

Spun-out Teslas on snowy roads. Cabins bought for cash, sight unseen. A shoveling disaster. Locals bemoan the pandemic-induced migration of Bay Area residents to the mountains. But there are two sides to the Zoom-town story.

He’s not only one of the fastest cyclists in the country—he’s also one of the sport’s most outspoken champions for diversity. But his mission has morphed into the greatest moon shot of all: to bring bike racing to the American masses.

Joshua Skenes ran one of the most expensive restaurants in San Francisco, with industry accolades and three Michelin stars. Still, he felt unfulfilled. Enter a top ­secret new venture where, if you’re lucky, you can have the best meal of your life for free.

Investigators, family, and friends are still trying to close the case of Paul Fugate, a naturalist at Arizona’s Chiricahua National Monument who vanished without a trace in 1980. What keeps them motivated to stick with a mystery that may be unsolvable?

What I learned about love, loss, and landscape over two decades of living in a 1961 Artcraft mobile home in the Utah desert

In her quest to master a quintessential cool-kid trick, Outside contributor Kim Cross found the sweet spot at the crossroads of work and play

Vaccines are rolling out with increasing speed, but we’ll also need effective treatments, because new coronavirus cases will be a worldwide reality for years to come. Enter Jacob Glanville, a maverick San Francisco immunologist who believes he’s found an unparalleled path to healing.

In 1967, Marlon Brando bought a tiny atoll near Tahiti with the aim of preserving it as a tropical paradise. That effort continues, supported by a resort where Beyoncé, Obama, and other big shots chill next to a stunning private lagoon. Hampton Sides went there to meet with scientists and splash around an eco-fantasy island.

From the outside, things seemed perfect for the former world extreme skiing champion: he had a family, a successful guiding business, and unending adventure out his front door in Valdez, Alaska. But something dark festered beneath the surface.

The company sponsors some of the best athletes in the world, from Emily Harrington to Alex Honnold, all of whom are vying for a slice of the brand’s annual budget to support their expeditions. The process can be as competitive as getting into an Ivy League university—except, if approved, the athletes are often taking on death-defying adventures.

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