Monday, December 24, 2018

My favorite memory of Christmas in NYC

Santa Spoilers Ahead.

I am a big fan of Christmas. I enjoy the trappings of the holiday. A good meal shared with people I love, giving gifts - receiving gifts makes me a little uncomfortable - and the joy the season brings. I have several traditions that are important to me. Every season I read A Christmas Carol, and Christmas morning I enjoy a champagne cocktail. I have also always enjoyed what I can only describe as the production design of the holidays, particularly in NY. I am sure there is a real term for what I am describing, but my background in photography calls it this. The decorations, the soundtrack, the glasses on the table. They all come together to tell a story, and it is one I enjoy. Having lived in Manhattan for over a decade I found it easy to avail myself of the beauty that is Christmas in the city. I generally avoided the big tree at Rockefeller Center, though I did ice skate there once, and though I am not much of a shopper I used to take a walk down Fifth Avenue at the beginning of the season to get myself in the spirit. Get a light dusting of snow in the West Village and was always game for a walk with a spiked hot chocolate.

But my favorite Christmas memory is none of these. When I worked in photography I ran a photo studio for an small stock photo agency. We produced a lot of imagery, and maintained a staff that fluctuated from five to eight. A couple of us were jack of all trade types but we had a guy who worked with us whose specialty was casting. He cast people that could fulfill any role from banker to craftsman to sports star. He truly had a talent for it. His name was Ken. Ken had been an actor, and after working with me moved on to some fame on a reality TV show, which will remain nameless.

But it turns out that Ken had a side gig at the holidays. Ken worked during the holidays at Macy's as a Santa. He was Santa Ken. This memory came rushing back to me this morning because I was listening to David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries, in which "Santa Ken" has a brief mention. I suddenly remember in a rush of emotion the year I visited Santa Ken at Macys.

I am not sure how it started, or how it came up. I think I must have mentioned over lunch that my sister brought her boys to Macy's every year, Ken told me they had to come and see him specifically, and that he would make it really special. I protested, as it made me a little uncomfortable, the gift thing, but Ken insisted. And so I was given a Christmas assignment.

I am guessing here, but my sisters boys were probably eight and three? I am honestly not sure. I think the oldest was starting to not believe in Santa, but the younger of the two was deep into the mythos as every child should be. Ken gave me a list of questions to ask my sister. The boys names, and their teachers names. If they played any instruments. What they wanted for Christmas, things like that. A couple of emails back and forth and everything was set. But here was the kicker. I had to go with them. This was non-negotiable. It was explained away as this, Uncle Brett and Santa go way back, they are old friends and he is going to come with us to visit his friend Santa. I was the cool uncle. So it was on a weekend morning - probably hung over - that I found myself at Macy's in line to see Santa with my sister, her husband and the two boys. I had specific instructions that "when I got to the magic tree, tell the elf you want to see Santa Ken." I have to say that the line actually went pretty fast, and before too long I found myself at the magic tree, whispering to an elf "We need to see Santa Ken" feeling like a complete lunatic. But the elf was a professional, and orchestrated everything perfectly. What you can't tell from the magic tree is that there are 6 or 8 different Santa houses. But this elf got us where we needed to be, without it being obvious that he was manipulating the line or the flow to Santa. He had us pause just outside the door to Santa's house and as we stood there I realized something very important that no one had mentioned. I had to enter the room first, or Santa Ken wouldn't know it was show time. At the last minute I cut in front of everyone and walked into Santa's house and was greeted by the bellowing howl of a laughing Santa Ken. "Well hello Brett! Is that "S" and "I" you bought to see me? I said it was, and ushered them to Santa. The oldest "S" sat on Santa's lap and was asked all manner of questions about the goings on at his school, to which Santa had an amazing amount of knowledge. If I remember correctly, "I" was a little too overwhelmed to sit on Santa's lap. Pictures were taken, and the experience was amazing. As we were leaving, I thanked Santa, and he said "Not so fast Brett, you have to sit on my lap too!" So I sat briefly on Santa's lap and posed for a picture. As we left Santa's house, "S" asked my sister "How did he know my teachers name?" to which my sister replied "He's Santa."

It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, though I am pretty sure my sister cried and gave me a big hug. The following Monday at work I gave Ken my thanks and told him he was amazing. He truly was Santa. In the years that followed when I would think about the experience it would strike me, that in essence, it was a little thing Ken did. He was already there, doing a job, it wasn't that much more to do this for me. But in fact it was. I hesitated when he first suggested it because I don't like to make work for people, and it was more work for Ken to take the notes and keep them hidden, and to act convincingly as Santa for my nephews. It was a little thing that echoed for years, and to this day I am grateful for the experience. It is those little moments where we do something for each other, the gestures for the holidays to say "I appreciate you, and I can do this little thing for you." that make the holidays special. I haven't talked to Ken in close to twenty years, but this little act of kindness sticks with me. I still look for things like this I can do for people, but I doubt I will ever have the impact that Santa Ken had on me.

And that, is my favorite Christmas memory from living in New York City.

Merry Christmas everyone. Thanks for reading and following and playing along.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Where Dreams Go To Die.

Just spreading the word about a documentary I just saw and loved. No, it's no Free Solo - which I saw and loved, it's amazing, check it out! - but this one about the Barkley Marathons. Here is the trailer.

If you don't know the Barkley Marathons, they are a really extreme trail based ultra-marathon. It is listed to 40 people per year, and the registration process is a secret. It starts when the race organizer lights a cigarette - somewhere in a 12 hour time span. You have 60 hours to complete 5 loops which are listed as 20 miles each but vary and are usually 25 or so. They call completing 3 loops the "fun run" and only 16 people have completed the 5 loop version.

It is insanity on two legs.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Missing Glaciers of Prince William Sound - Episode 2

Well, we got to Alaska, but still had to paddle quite a ways to get to the glaciers. In this episode, a lot of paddling, and a lot of eating.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Holiday Sales on all Books.

Getting ready for the holiday season? With that in mind I decided to run a sale for the month of December on all the books I have written. 

At the iBook store, Enlightened Kayaking is now $3.99 (originally $5.99) and GO! Planning weekend trips to month long adventures is $7.99 (originally $10.99) Finally, Forward, the short book that just focuses on the forward kayak stroke is Free. All of these books are digital only and can be read on the iPad, iPhone or your Mac. 

At Amazon, GO! is also $7.99 and the Paperback version is $12.99 (originally $15.99). 

This sale is going to run through the month of December. January first they will go back to full price. On either platform you can send these books as a gift in either digital form or paperback. 

I like the thought of giving the gift of experiences for Christmas, and these books can help give people the skills to create their own experiences. 

If you have already purchased one of my books, thanks for supporting an independent author, and if you enjoyed it, please give the book a review wherever you bought it. If you didn't enjoy it, please send me some feedback. The joy of being independent and publishing digitally, is that I can make changes. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Adventure Otaku Stocking Stuffer Guide 2018

Part two of the Adventure Otaku Christmas is the stocking stuffer list. Once again, these are all Items I use. They make my outdoor life better, safer and more fun. Here is hoping they will have the same effect on your loved ones. 

Snow Peak Gigapower Torch $57.95 - I bought this after years of wanting it. It takes a lot for me to buy something I don’t really need, but this thing gets used all the time. I use it to start campfires mostly, which it does quickly and easily, but I have also used it to melt cheese over a bowl of soup. Talk about versatile, and it uses the same fuel I am already carrying for my stove. A little pricey for what it is, but it is beautifully made. 

Big Agnes Ultra Pump Sack -  $34.95 Blowing up an air pad isn’t too bad, but this is just so much better. Essentially a large dry bag with a connector on the bottom that mates to Big Agnes sleeping pads, depending on which pad you are using it will take about two full pump sacks to fill your pad. When not being used as a pump it is a waterproof bag for clothes our whatever you need to carry and keep dry. 

The UV and insect Shield buff - $20ish. The first thing I pack when I am teaching. Whether it is summer or winter. Versatile, lightweight, and inexpensive. It is the perfect accessory. In the summer it is sun and bug protection. In the winter it is warmth. Can’t beat it. 

Sawyer Permethrin - $14-$20  Because I teach in the outdoors, I try to not use too many chemicals on my skin. That is why I usually use permethrin on my clothing instead of bug spray on my skin (or sunscreen for that matter!) Spray your clothes, let it dry and it keeps bugs at bay for 6 weeks or 6 washings. I was skeptical at first, but once you realize others in your group are shooing mosquitoes while you are sitting comfortably you will realize how well it works too.

MSR Mug Mate Coffee and Tea Filter - $16.95 Super simple, super easy, super light way to make great coffee.

Fox 40 Whistle - $6.00 Everyone should have a fox 40 whistle. Ridiculously loud, inexpensive, and the ultimate piece of safety gear. People don't like buying safety gear, so buy it for them. 

Warm Socks - $14 to $40 Whether your choice is smart wool, Darn tough, or farm to feet, a high quality pair of wool socks cannot be beat. Nothing makes for a better stocking stuffer than awesome, warm, cozy, socks. Whether you are wearing them around the house, or inside a sleeping bag after a long day of paddling. Everyone loves warm socks. 

These last three items combine to make a great gift, you could even add the Jetboil Mighty Mo from the previous list, and make it a super Christmas for someone. 

Hot Chocolate Mix -. $14.00 A great thing to have in the backcountry on a cold day. Here is a great recipe you can make yourself, and prepackage as a gift for someone. If You want to buy it pre-made I have tried tons of brands and my favorite is Godiva Dark chocolate hot cocoa. Paired with the Jetboil Mighty Mo, and a vessel for heating water and this is the ultimate cold weather kit for a hot drink. 

Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Coffee Cup $24.95 - keeps coffee hot or cold for a long time, and most importantly seals tight when not in use. Love it, and it fits in a cup holder. And yes, it replaced my Yeti. This is better. 

The GSI Halulite Kettle - $24.95 And here is your vessel for heating water. It packs small enough to carry on a day hike, but big enough to carry a Stove and a canister of fuel. 

Here is your bonus gift. Available via the link on the right side of this list is GO! which is available to give as a gift on either amazon for kindle, or paperback. Or on the iBookstore for iPad and Mac. On sale for $7.99 from December first through New Years Eve. Get your friends or family members the gift of the written word, and the skills to plan their own adventures. 

Happy Holidays Everyone. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Missing Glaciers of Prince William Sound

A few years ago we took a voyage to Alaska with a lot of gear and a great team. Our goal was to photograph the glaciers in Alaska's, Prince William Sound. What we saw was both amazing and confusing.

Here is the first video installment from that trip.

More to come, subscribe to the Youtube Channel to see more.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Adventure Otaku Gift Guide 2018 - 5th Edition

It's that time of year again, The music is playing, the fire is cozy, and it is time to buy some gifts for the adventurer in your life.

A few changes this year. With the switch to Adventure Otaku (from Paddling Otaku) I can now talk about gift ideas for people besides paddlers! Doesn't everyone know an Adventurer? Also, this years list will include Amazon Affiliate links. Maybe you could help me make a few pennies, but still no ads. So that's a positive right?

With just a few exceptions these are all items I have used and truly love. Whether you are just starting out in the outdoors or are a seasoned professional, there are things here for everyone. This year the list ranges from $24 dollars to $1000, depending on your budget, But fully half of them are under $200.

So put on some Christmas music, get some cocoa, and check out this years list!

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet  ($24.95) - Obviously you aren’t taking this backpacking, but for car camping or vanlifing there is nothing better. Easy to maintain, and naturally non-stick, these pans are versatile, durable and with a little care will literally last for generations.

Black Diamond Spot ($39.95)- This headlamp is on the list most years, and with good reason. In the brightness vs dollars category, this is the hands down winner, a great headlamp particularly at the price, and every year they make it just a little better. No affiliate link for this one, if you order it, make sure you are getting the 325 lumen version. Amazon only seems to carry last years model at 300 lumens. 

Patagonia R0 Sun Long Sleeve Shirt ($49.00) - This year I replaced the shirt I paddle in. I took 14 shirts to the fitting room,  to find the one that fit my needs. It had to be comfortable, wick efficiently and offer UPF 50 protection with long sleeves. The Patagonia came out the winner. As I was trying them on I was hoping some underdog like NRS would offer the best shirt, and a lot of shirts offered the features I needed, but none fit like the Patagonia. 

Jetboil Mighty Mo ($49.95) - The most underrated backpacking stove out there. Slightly bigger than the revered Pocket Rocket it adds a push button igniter and a pressure regulator for better performance in cold weather and altitude. Well worth the $5 more than the MSR. 

Snow Peak Pack and Carry Fire Place ($89.25 for the small) - I bought this mainly because it would look cool in photographs, but it is amazing. I use it most often when I am teaching on a cold day so students can warm up, even though it is fairly small it is great for physical warmth and psychological warmth. I set it up at a party a while back and it immediately became the focal point. Best of all it folds flat. I have the smallest, it is only about a foot across, they get much bigger. 

Patagonia Nano Puff  ($199) - My go to winter insulation piece. Because I often adventure in wet weather I try and stay away from down. This packs small and keeps me warm. What else do you need. 

ACR Personal Locator Beacon ($289.95) -  I don’t want the level of communication that most people want in the backcountry. I want a rugged reliable device that has one feature. When the pooh hits the fan, and my life is in jeopardy, get me the hell out of here. This is that device. Built to a much higher level of durability than a spot or Inreach, it has one button, one use, and no service fee. 

Goal zero Sherpa 100 ac ($299.95) - I used the Sherpa 50 for the last Alaska expedition - actually two of them - and they were awesome. This updated version with a lithium ion battery is a fraction of the weight with a lot more power. It has more power than the Yeti 400 I use in my van. This will power just about anything, from your GoPro to a laptop. 

GoPro Hero black 7 ($400) - Mark my words, this camera will be looked back on as the camera that saved GoPro. For two reasons. First is the image stabilization. Nearly gimbal good. Second, is the TimeWarp - I really prefer to call it hyper lapse, which is what it is - which combines a traditional time lapse with the above mentioned image stability. Both are amazing. Additionally, an unsung feature is the new user interface which is so much better than the last version. 

iPad Pro ($799) - I am writing this post in a tiny house on my iPad Pro. I do everything but final book layout on my iPad Pro and I absolutely love it. It has replaced laptops for me, easily. I use it extensively planning classes as well as for media consumption. It is smaller, lighter and frankly better than any piece of portable computing gear I have used. I absolutely love it. To have access to satellite imagery, detailed weather and communication anywhere is impressive, If only it were waterproof. 

Mustang Survival EP 6.5 Ocean Racing Jacket ($999) - Okay, as I am just delving into sailing, I have no need of this product. Yet. But this is the coolest looking jacket I have ever seen. Mustang survival makes some great gear. This looks like it belongs in a sci-fi movie. *This is the only product on this list I haven’t used. 

So that is this years list. Let me know what you think. In about a week there will be a second list of Stocking stuffer ideas, with nothing over $50. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and maybe it is evens snowing where you live. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Outdoor Misconceptions

As the woman walked away from me she said, "the gloves have to be waterproof, because it feels like it's never going to stop raining!" This is just one of the misconceptions that I hear regularly. Some of them are specific, like this one. But some are generalizations that are just plain wrong. But whether they are things that are purported to be facts, or vast generalizations based on nothing substantial I - and I am sure many of my colleagues - hear them all the time.

Here are some of the most common things I hear, that are just plain wrong.

For some reason, in the area of water treatment there are a lot of misconceptions. The first is people looking for water treatment, saying "I need a water purifier." No. You don't. Yes you need to treat your water to make it potable, but you don't need a water purifier. When water is "purified" it has been treated to the viral level for contaminants. Most people active in the backcountry don't need this level of treatment - unless you are going to a country where they don't do a good job of segregating waste water from drinking water, or an area of severe flooding.

"I'll Just use Iodine" is another good one. If you are using iodine as a water treatment you are wasting your time. Iodine is effective at treating Giardia, but not cryptosporidium, and there are too many factors to consider - water temperature, turbidity, and PH - to make iodine treatment of viruses useful to us in the backcountry.

If you have questions about treating water, check out this post from a couple of years ago. The only thing missing from it is mention of the MSR Guardian water filter which is a bit heavy, and very expensive but an outstanding filter if you need viral protection.

Another area that has a lot of misconception is anything to do with Bears, here is my favorite, "Grizzly bears are the largest and most dangerous bears out there." This is just plain wrong. Grizzlies are neither the largest, or the most dangerous which I will clarify by saying they are not the most aggressive towards humans. The winner of both of these awards goes to the Polar Bear. Which is to say that Polar bears are both taller, and heavier than Grizzlies (which actually come in third in the size category) Polar bears also subsist mostly on meat, and are far more predatory than Grizzly bears. Grizzlies evolved on the plains, where they had an option of fight or flight, but Coastal Brown bears - which includes Kodiak bears, as well as many other subspecies of brown bear - evolved on the coast, where the ate diets rich with protein - salmon - which helped them grow bigger, and they didn't have anywhere to run in a fight, so they evolved far less likely to flee an altercation. Most scientists agree that Polar Bears are both the most aggressive and the largest bear on earth - though you are less  likely to run into them unless you are in the Arctic. But Kodiak bears are sometimes found to be bigger, this may be a statistical anomaly, but there are cases.

"Bear Spray isn't proven effective." Also just plain wrong. Bear spray has been tested over and over again, and is proven effective against all types of bear, including a handful of cases with polar bears. I have discharged bear spray a couple of times, but always in training. It sprays a cone of mist around 25 feet, and is potent. A friend of mine had an accidental discharge on his back - it is designed for use on mucus membranes remember! - and he said it felt like an iron was pressed against his skin. Now imagine that in your eyes or nose. Now imagine the effect on a bears nose, a nose that can smell bacon from two miles away.

"A gun is far better for defense against a bear, than pepper spray." Okay, imagine this scenario. You are standing 25 feet from a large brick wall, holding a basketball. You throw the basketball at the wall. As soon as you release the ball you draw your gun, and aim and shoot the ball before it gets back to you. If you can do this, then by all means, use your gun. If you can't shoot a charging bear in the head and guarantee a brain shot, then stick to bear spray. It is really that simple.

Okay, enough about bears. Go read Bear Attacks their causes and avoidance. It is the book Outdoor professionals read. 

"Kayaking is a great upper body workout." Only if you are doing it wrong, or are doing it at the Olympic level, take a kayaking class and learn all that you have been doing wrong.

"I need waterproof gloves." You probably don't, and waterproof gloves are expensive and horrible. If your hands are going into liquid water you need water proof gloves, but even I - a lover of cold water paddling - don't use waterproof gloves because they stink. TO make a glove actually waterproof, all the seams - and look at  pair of sewn gloves, and see how many seams there are on the fingers! - have to be sealed with tape or welded. This is time consuming and expensive. If the glove is also truly waterproof chances are it won't breath well, which means your hands will end up cold and wet (from sweat) anyway. Water resistant gloves are just fine for most people. I love and highly recommend power stretch gloves, they are made by a number of different companies.

"It's going to be cold so I need a four season tent!" Your tents job isn't to keep you warm. Your tent is like a shell Jacket. It protects you from wind, rain and snow. Keeping you warm is the job of your sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. A four season tent is designed for high winds and a heavy snowload. I own a four season tent for kayaking in Alaska, because of how much wind you can get on the coast. We should really stop calling them four season tents, because it leads people to think if you are camping in winter you need one. My three season, three person tent weighs just under four pounds. My four season, three person tent weighs 11. Do you really want that in your backpack? No.

Before you start spreading misinformation like any of the things listed above, think about the source. If there are any things you hear frequently that are just plain wrong, let me know in the comments.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Paper vs. Plastic.

The dilemma of our time. We are standing in line at the market, with our fresh organic produce. And we need to decide paper or plastic. About a decade ago I did some research. Here is what I found.

I found that they were about the same. That while plastic is made from oil, it biodegrades pretty quickly, and that paper, while killing trees to make them, the trees are harvested specifically for that purpose -- it's not like they are cutting down virgin forests for them - and the too are designed to biodegrade pretty quickly.

Proof that you can find data to support anything you want, I just found out that all of this is wrong. This started for me in a small privately owned market down the street. This place was transformed a few years ago, it was a dingy 1950's supermarket that had grey meat and dusty canned goods. It still looks like it could use a new floors and fixtures, but they got smart. They lined an entire wall with open front refrigerators and filled them with craft beer. It is now the go to place for the local students. My town has a large university and five colleges. The bulk of our residents are students, faculty and administrators. They now do very well and have a good selection of produce, and a handful of other things. It is a great place when you realize you are out of dog food on a Sunday night at 8:00, and really just want to run in and run out. So I heard the young woman at the register - tattoos, face piercings, blue hair, talking with a customer buying a six of craft beer that she thought it was about the same, paper or plastic. I decided to go home and check my research. I was wrong. way wrong.

Yes, the paper for bags is from carefully controlled and harvested trees. They are left un-dyed so when they biodegrade they don't pollute. But here is the problem. First, they take up a lot of space in the landfills. Second, they take thousands of years to biodegrade, because they are packed so tightly into a landfill, they don't get any oxygen. Which is needed for them to break down. It also takes a lot of water, and power to make them, so they are impacting the environment that way. Though it should be stated that more people recycle their paper bags than plastic. which usually ends up in the garbage.

On the other hand, plastic bags were designed in the 1970's to replace the environmental impact of paper bags. They take very little power, and no water to produce. They are made out of ethane which is a by product of natural gas production. It is usually just burned off, but they figured out a way to make bags out of it. Plastic bags weigh nothing, and they are made to biodegrade very quickly, even in a landfill. They really are brilliant engineering.

So if you have those two choices, plastic is by far the winner.

But you don't have just those two choices do you? No, you have a third. Frankly, I think if you want a bag at a store you should have to pay for it. This would be the single biggest thing we could do to minimize their use. Well, maybe the second biggest thing, we could make them illegal like California.

No, what you should be doing is keeping a reusable bag or two in your car. Let's just eliminate the problem completely. I bought a couple of bags, for each of our cars. They cost me about $5 a piece. Sometimes I forget to grab them, but I have drastically reduced the amount of plastic I use. You can do this too. Give it a shot.

Hey! Do me a favor.

If you are one of the many people who have bought my book GO! on either Amazon or iBooks. Please take a moment to review it. It is the single biggest thing you can do to support a self published author. Even more than buying my book. It takes just a few minutes, and you would be doing something nice for another person. It would be greatly appreciated.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Got a lot of Gear?

I have a lot of gear. There is no denying it. Even though I work hard to have a minimalist lifestyle, I teach a lot of topics and all of them have associated gear. I do try and minimize how much I have, but facts are facts. I have a lot of gear. It has always been something I struggled with as a minimalist, here is how I handle it and how I organize my gear which is something a lot of people active in the outdoors struggle with. 

I teach kayaking, and have for a long time. I have what I need for teaching and expeditioning, and that equals a large duffel bag, two kayaks and two paddles. 

I teach sup as well, and a lot of my kayak gear crosses over. I use the same PFD for both instead of a more sup designed life vest. A lot of sup instructors use inflatable PFD’s and I choose not to. But I have two boards, two leashes and two paddles. 

I teach navigation, and have a plastic lidded bin that houses all the things I need for those classes. Maps, compasses, and accessories. I would probably thin out my map selection if I wasn’t teaching this, but it is good for me to have a lot of resources for my classes. For the same reason I have three different compasses, to show variations on a compass theme. I also keep things in the bin that I consider as falling into the realm of ‘signal’. This is strobe lights, chemical light sticks, personal locator beacon and such. I also keep headlamps in there. 

Another bin I keep is ‘med’, which includes first aid supplies that I am always using and resupplying my many first aid kits. I have a separate canvas bag that goes on WFA courses with me. But if it doesn’t fit in that bag it doesn’t go on a course. This includes teaching materials as well props, prizes for students, note books for me, and reference materials for when I need to look something up. 

I have two more bins that get a lot of use. ‘Stoves’ and ‘H20’. The first is self explanatory, everything stove related is in this bin. Both canister and liquid fuel. I own 6 stoves. This is a little excessive and Ill be selling one of them soon. I don’t generally accept free gear, but two of the stoves I got for free, specifically so I could use them when I teach. The third is a backup solely for expedition use. H20 Is everything water filter related. I own four water filters and again, two of them were free for teaching. 

The beauty of this system is when I am going to teach a class I just grab the appropriate bin, and whatever expendables I need. I never waste time digging for gear. Some things stay in my truck for months at a time. The entire summer all my sup gear and kayak gear is in the truck. I use it all most weekends. All I do is replace expendables and ‘surprise and delight’ - leave a comment if you don’t know what that is! - and maybe wash something or change something out. 

When I speak of expendables I mean things that get used up and have to be replaced before the next class. In my map and compass class everyone gets a printed map of where we are working so they can learn on a very specific map. They get to take notes on it, and do things like plotting a bearing. It also refers to stove fuel - I use a lot of stove fuel in the course of a year - as well as things I give away like water additives and power food. 

As fall approaches and I transition to land based classes I keep a backpack loaded with the gear I always carry. Rain layers, extra warmth layers for students - they frequently under dress -  a hydration reservoir and other things I have to bring along. This keeps it easy to grab my gear and go. 

What about my big stuff? Well, in my office I have what we refer to as the gear monolith. A large divided structure for storing gear. I has a small cubby for anything that needs to be charged and storage for batteries. There is a power strip in the cubby, and all my chargers are ready to go. Just plug it in and let it charge. When I need it, it will be ready to go. Another, larger cubby has all my tents and sleeping pads. Self inflating pads are stored unrolled with the valves open so that they are inflated all the time. The more a self inflating pad is inflated the faster it will inflate when you use it. Tents and other pads are stored in their bags in this cubby. 

There is a large bin that contains a lot of my camp kitchen gear, and some specific food related gear that I only use when I teach cooking classes. There is a large central cubby that holds my large paddling duffel in the off season. Dry bags are stored in a large dry bag, as is my dry suit. 

For most people I say store your sleeping bags in large bags so they can be loose, but my sleeping bags are sort of always in use. Several are in my sprinter which is my rolling office a lot of the time. Another is always on my bed. But if you are a normal person store them in the big cotton or mesh storage bags. 

I have another large bin that is just water bottles and water reservoirs that aren’t in use.

I was never a particularly organized person, but forcing myself to get organized has made a huge difference. I refuse to spend time looking for gear, and to combat that I spend a little time organizing my gear. 

I never store gear in an environment that isn’t temperature and humidity controlled. No attics, basements or crawl spaces. Never. 

The final part of my office organization is the three large dry erase boards on the walls. I use them for organization of projects I am working on, as well as things I need to do, both for teaching or other projects. These help keep me on track. 

The important thing is to find systems that help keep you organized, so you can spend more time playing in the outdoors. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Next steps - sailing

The last chapter of my book is called Next Steps.

It is a common phrase in the outdoor education world, and we use it to talk about what students should do next to advance their knowledge in a certain area. With the long term goal to be proficiency in an outdoor skill.

I am usually the person giving people their next steps, but today I am thinking about my next steps, in particular when it comes to sailing. Despite growing up on my fathers power boat, and spending most of my adult life working on the water in kayaks and for the last five years, stand up paddle boards, I am a complete novice when it comes to sailing.

I have already done a fair amount of reading, but I need to get out there, and spend time in boats. The amazing thing that has been occurring since my last post about sailing is the number of people who have offered up their time, experience and excitement to help me.

My friend Lisa - who I consider my SUP mentor - divulged that she got her start on the water as a sailor, I would very much like to sail with her, she is a great educator, and an amazing person.

My employer just hired a young woman who is a competitive sailor and US Sailing Instructor, I have already hit her up for some information, and hope to convince her to take me out on the water.

Beth, who you may know from the training chapter in my book as well as taking part in the AGAP trip, just brought a Laser sailboat back from he mountains, it needs some work but I am excited to help her get it on the water.

Finally, I hear through the grapevine that another friend, Ron, who moved away but is now coming back, learned to sail while he was gone.

These are all great opportunities and will make for fun experiences, and will be a boon to learning how to do this.

Part of this is my network of friends, most are interested in the outdoors, and jump at the chance to help people learn a new skill. The joy that I get out of this is new skills. Something I love.

On my last check in with my boss on the outdoor education side of things, he asked why I continue to teach. I told him a big part of it was selfishness. I love learning new things in the outdoors, and no matter how many times I have taught something, I always learn something new from new students. That is what I get out of it. This is a whole new world that I get to play in, and bring my experience from many other venues to play in this arena. Super exciting.

So, hey, follow along on this journey. I plan on doing more video through this process, and want to share it with you. Subscribe to the Adventure Otaku youtube channel, content is coming. In the meantime, Instagram is the pest place to follow this next adventure.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Hurricane Michael

About a month ago, central North Carolina went a little crazy preparing for Hurricane Florence. While Florence did severe damage tot he coast, it never really found its way to where I live in central North Carolina.

But this week we got hit - with little warning! - by Hurricane Michael. We got hit on Thursday around 11 am. We lost our power around 2:30pm. The storm was gone by 6:00pm, but the damage still remains. We got our power back on Saturday night around 9pm, which was surprising. We expected it to take longer. We were just getting into the grove of the silence. The AC and Fan kicking on and off. The sound of our ceiling fan when we are trying to go to sleep. And the never ending sound of our commercial refrigerator - you don't realize how loud a commercial refrigerator is until you put one in your kitchen. Comment below if you want to know why we went that route.

While it was inconvenient to not have power, it also wasn't that bad. We got lucky, as we are surrounded by large trees, and many fell, but nothing hit our house. I posted video of the storm at its worst on instagram.

Two things struck me during this exercise of no electricity.

First, as I mentioned, the silence. People have a hard time with silence. It is the reason your friend calls you when they are driving home from work. A lot of people have a hard time embracing the quiet, because when it is quiet, when there are no distractions, you hear the voice in your head. As a culture, we are bad at quieting that voice in our head and it makes people very uncomfortable. Part of why I like long kayak trips is there is plenty of time to quiet that voice in your head. It takes practice, and you can call it meditation, or deep breathing exercises or whatever you want. But it is a good skill to have, the ability to keep your wits when all is quiet. We have so many distractions to day that keep us from practicing that skill, and it really does scare people. Try this, go to have lunch with a friend, and put your phone on the table, face down. Don't look at it or pick it up during the meal. Just connect with the person across from you. You may find this difficult, but give it a shot, and invite the person opposite you to do the same.

I am really enjoying the new screen time app that is included with iOS 12. It gives me the ability to see where I am spending my time on my phone or my tablet. It is sort of a device separation detector. As I look at screen time now, I can see on Friday my usage ballooned, because I couldn't use my iPad or desktop. But when I look at the app on my iPad it was way down. I average about 45 minutes a day on my phone - which sounds like a lot, but I think it probably isn't. But on Friday it was right at around 2 hours.

Okay, the second thing that struck me was the storm itself. On Monday I looked at the weather radar and the Michael was a tropical storm and a poorly organized one at that. Meaning it didn't have a very pronounced circular motion. It just looked like a large storm, and I didn't think it would be that bad. On Tuesday I wasn't too surprised to see it was a Category 1 hurricane, but when it made land fall the next day it was a powerful category 4 hurricane. So how did a poorly formed tropical storm become a powerful cat 4 in two days? How did it do this in a location where storms rarely form, the Gulf of Mexico (most hurricanes form off the coast of Africa, and take their time moving slowly across the Atlantic picking up strength.) It is also surprising that the storm did this in October, the end of the hurricane season?

Well, the answer to all these questions is abnormally warm water. Warm water is what feeds hurricanes. The warmer the water, the more evaporation there is, the more moisture they carry. And while the wind from a hurricane is bad, it is the water that does the damage. As bad as the damage was it would have been far worse if it hadn't been going so fast. If this storm had lingered the way Florence did, thousands would be dead. They are actually thinking of changing the saffir-simpson hurricane scale, to reflect water content as well as wind. Because wind levels only tell part of the story. Honestly, we dodged a bullet with Michael. It could have been much worse.

But, abnormally warm water? Why? Simple. Take a guess? Climate change. The only way for a storm to form that fast, in October is the abnormally warm water from the changes to our climate.
Hurricane Michael, was the exclamation point added to last weeks IPCC report. Unless we take dramatic action to curtail greenhouses gases in the next 12 years, by 2040, storms like Michael will seem small. Ask someone who lives on the coast of Florida what they think of storms like Michael being small.

Climate change isn't a hoax, or a Chinese scam, or a ploy by money hungry scientists. It is a dire warning that this planet is done with us. If we don't make dramatic changes now, life as you know it will be very different in 20 years. Cities will be underwater, food shortages will be common - because  it will be harder to grow crops. (oh, and Michael killed millions of pigs, and hundreds of millions of chickens. it is starting already) Both of which will lead to devastating wars.

So when you put your phone down over breakfast, talk to your friend about climate change and what they are going to do about it. Because it is going to come down to all of us doing something. We can all do a little today, or a lot tomorrow. It is your call.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A big Weekend, both good and bad.

It was a big weekend, that took a long time to make happen. I spent Saturday taking an introduction to sailing course in Oriental, NC. My wife and myself spent four hours sailing a beautiful Catalina 42 with a highly experienced captain.

We had been trying to make this happen since last April, and the plan changed dramatically over that course of time. If you have read my latest book you know the dramatic plan I laid out in it. A new challenge for myself, and my wife that would take years to make happen. I am still not sure we can pull it off, but I am at least confident in the next steps. We both enjoyed our time on the boat, and with the process of sailing, and now want to start learning the finer details of moving a boat with nothing more than wind.

I was amazed how much of my kayaking experience translated to a sailing environment. Things like reading and understanding wind. The feel of a boat in a following sea, and the effects of the shape of the keep on tracking. All had direct comparisons in the sailing world.

Unfortunately I wasn't surprised with the people of the sailing community. I have to stress, everyone was very nice and welcoming, but it is a community with very little diversity, and it is a sport that - at least in my small exposure to it - seems designed to be exclusionary. Besides the entry cost of sailing - though if you look at youtube you will see that there are ways around that - the thing that struck me the most was the amount of jargon that was thrown around and that people - even novices - are expected to know it. Keep in mind that I have worked the past 20 years (almost) in the outdoors. I was a skilled climber and mountaineer. I teach navigation and stand up paddling. I am a very skilled and highly experienced kayaker, having paddled thousands of miles in remote locations and extreme conditions. None of that prepared me for the amount of vocabulary and terminology that is used even amongst people who have admitted that they know nothing, which was how we described ourselves.

As an outdoor educator I can say that isn't a good way to welcome people to a sport. Now, admittedly, if you are teaching myself (a long time outdoor educator) and my wife (a tenured professor in higher ed) we are harsh critics of people who teach. To a point where it may be unfair. Our captain was a highly skilled sailor, there is no question. But having a great deal of skill is not my first criteria when I am hiring an educator. It is having the ability to break down concepts, simply, and make them easy to understand. With this, I was not impressed.

But enough of my complaining, I had a great time, and look forward to taking my next steps into sailing. I was super excited that after posting video on instagram I had a number of close friends who work in the outdoors fess up that they got started in sailing and would love to take me out, and were happy to help pass on knowledge. I am excited to have something new to learn.

Now here is the bad. We were in Oriental, NC about 30 miles north of where Hurricane Florence made landfall a bit less than 3 weeks ago. The coast of North Carolina is still in pretty bad shape. Though spirits are high, and peoples energy is positive. All the campgrounds were closed due to damage and what hotels were open were full of displaced people and people working to repair the damage. We got to spend our second night in a Wal-mart parking lot, which is really no fun. We planned on spending Saturday night at the coast again, but couldn't find place to stay, and started back early. We were almost in Raleigh before we found a place to stay.

Then, Sunday morning we were greeted by the IPCC report that the environment is getting worse more rapidly than the worst estimates and we have a mere 12 years to make dramatic changes across all parts of our society - power, fuel, housing, farming - to keep our temperature rise below 1.5 degrees centigrade. We have already risen a full degree. I was not surprised to see this story fall off the front page of CNN less than 24 hours later. It seems with all the chaos in the world, no one cares that we are destroying our world. The current US administration simply doesn't care, which leaves it up to us to either change the administration or make the changes to our society ourselves. The whole thing is pretty depressing.

So, that is where I am. Excited for new challenges and dreading the next 5 years, waiting to see the impact of our neglect coming home to bite us. Head over to instagram to see the video and the most amazing photo of storm damage imaginable.

Stick around here to see what else happens! A lot is brewing!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Outdoor activity and decision making.

Do you consider yourself active in the outdoors? Do you care about the environment? Do you consider the outdoors when you are making a purchasing decision? I was thinking about this today, I was thinking about the actions of some people I know, and some decisions they made. Both are people who I would consider very active in the outdoors, but both made decisions that were extremely bad for the environment. I was curious if they considered the environment in their decision making? Which got me to thinking about, the gap between people who worry about the environment, and who also choose not to vote.

I learned in 2016 that there is a big disconnect between people who care about the environment and people who vote.

All these thoughts will eventually find there way into a blog post, but to help me get an idea as to what others think, take this quick 10 question survey. Thanks!

Outfitting for the Santa Cruz Trail in Peru

One of the things I enjoy having the opportunity to do is help people get outfitted for trips. If you follow my instagram you know that I recently consulted with Molly who is headed to Alaska. A week before that I consulted with Jim who is prepping for a thru hike in New Zealand on the Te Araroa. Jim and I were talking specifically about navigation and personal locator beacons.

But back in August I had a meeting with a guy named Jason who needed some help planning for something really special. Through a work situation he found himself in Peru with a day to kill. I should point out that Jason is an ultra-runner, but what he was planning was a little extreme.

His plan was to hike a the Santa Cruz Trail (also none as the Santa Cruz Trek) witch is a 30 mile stretch of trail that cuts through Peru's Cordillera Blanca. Thirty miles isn't that far, but this is a difficult trail, that tops out at 15,000 feet. People normally do the trail in 3 or 4 days, but Jason only had one. One day, to hike and run 30 miles, at altitude in an environment that offers some pretty extreme variation. He only had one day to complete it, but that wasn't - in my opinion - the biggest problem. The biggest problem was he had no time to acclimate to the altitude. The trek started at 11,200 feet, and he would only have one day at 10,000 feet prior to the run/hike.

Here are some things to know about altitude. It is the most researched aspect of wilderness medicine, and yet we don't know a whole lot about why people get altitude related illness. We used to think that there was a hydration factor, and while you should always make sure you are hydrated, particularly at elevation where there is far less moisture in the air, it doesn't seem that alone contributes to it.

The biggest problem is that you can go to altitude a dozen times with no problem, but then your next trip you can get Acute Mountain Sickness or worse, Hape (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) or Hace (High Altitude Cerebral Edema). That is the part we can't really figure out.

So Jason and I talked about signs and symptoms of Altitude related illness, medications he could take to help him acclimate, and what to do if he felt issues coming on. Secretly I suspected that if he could in fact do the trip in one day, he could get up and down before his body had a chance to object to the altitude. Well, object more than make it difficult to breath.

We talked at some length about the gear he would be carrying, the goal was of course to keep the weight low, but still have everything he needed in case it went bad. Looking at Jasons final gear list, he ended up going lighter than I would have, but he still felt was a little too heavy.

And that right there is the difference between consulting on a trip like this, and actually doing a trip like this. I would love to do the route, but I could never run/hike it all in a day. But as a consultant for his gear, I have to give him a cushion in case things go poorly. But as the athlete, he is more willing to stick it out there, because he knows what he is capable of. I didn't doubt he could accomplish this, but my concern was uncooperative weather, mixed with an altitude problem.

This is something that I write about in the opening chapters of GO! Sometimes you have to stick it out, and really extend yourself to get things done. I did it on the Inside Passage. Andrew - who I profile in the book - did it with his Motorcycle ride across the country to Alaska. Jason was already an accomplished ultra-runner, but here is his description of the first morning.

I headed out at 4:25am with my Black Diamond spot headlamp fully blazing and set out for what would either be a total disaster or an epic, once In a lifetime event.  I remember thinking as I ran the half mile dirt road to the trailhead, how crazy it was that I was doing this solo, self supported in a foreign country with very limited Spanish and photo copies of a route map made by a British guy.  I had no choice but to follow through as I had a friend waiting for me on the other side in what I predicted would be a 12 hour traverse.  

So how did he do? He completed the route in 9 hours and 50 minutes, which I think is just incredible. I was excited to have helped out, even if just a little bit. The biggest hurdle in making big trips happen is our self doubt. Hats off to Jason, he may have had a little in the beginning, but he knew deep down he could do it. What an amazing trip!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Want to see what paddling the Inside Passage is like?

I thought it was time to dust these off.

Paddle North - Episode 3 from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

I was reminded by watching the @paddlingnorth women on Instagram what an amazing paddle this was. Even with the bears. And the flu... And the cruise ships.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Who made it possible to predict storms and save lives.

As I write this hurricane Florence is dancing in a large circle around me. I am in central North Carolina and a few days ago it was predicted that this storm would race ashore and pass right over my head, dumping literally tons of water on the way. Then a couple of days ago meteorologists predicted a change. Florence would curve south, and head inland slowly, followed by a sweeping curve north. Her wind would also drop dramatically, causing less damage - though the slower movement meant she had more time to drop more water. Everything is a trade off. And guess what? That is exactly what happened. It looks like I won't see much more than her outer bands.

I spend a lot of time maligning meteorologists. I teach my students - unfairly - that meteorologist in English translates to liar. It always gets a laugh. I can't tell you how many times bad weather reports have ruined perfectly good plans. But the fact is, that particularly for events like a hurricane the predictions are better now than they have ever been, and ultimately it saves a lot of lives.

How does this happen? How do we have the ability to predict the actions of killer storms. There are three things that happen, to make this possible.

The first, is the advance of computer technology. Ever faster computers, make it possible to work with all the data sources and variables that make weather happen. Research in the 1960's and 1970's in chaos theory and supercomputers made it possible to figure out what was going on. Today we see the outcome of all this work with accurate weather system prediction and spaghetti models for how storms will move. This is chaos theory and supercomputers at their finest.

The other thing that occurs is people decide to dedicate their lives to scientific research. They go to work at research institutions, which are almost all publicly funded universities.

The by-product of all these things, studying an extremely abstract concept like chaos theory, working to make computers infinitely faster and more powerful, and students becoming scientists give us better understanding of weather, and how it effects us. Which means local governments have a better idea of what is going to happen and can better prepare themselves, their towns and their people for major weather events like a hurricane.

I want to apologize to every meteorologist I have used as a punchline. It won't happen again, and I appreciate the advances you have made in the field of weather prediction. The nature of my work - outdoor education - means that I rely on accurate weather information and tracking all of its changes. I have the ability - from my phone, while sitting in the cockpit of a kayak, or standing on a SUP - to see recent satellite photos, and predictions on wind and rain. The ability to do that is because of the hard work of the people mentioned above. I literally have in the palm of my hand significantly more computing power than was used to go to the moon, and I utilize it give people good, exciting (and safe) experiences in the outdoors.

Finally, the next time someone says to you they don't believe in global climate change, or global warming, explain to them that people have been working hard for decades to understand the incredibly complex system of weather and climate that we are surrounded by. We know, all too well, the effects of what we have done to our environment. All you have to do is open your eyes, and see those effects around you every day. If they don't listen, just walk away. They will understand when we run out of food, and their house is underwater. Just don't let them knock scientific research and publicly funded research. They do amazing work, and make the world a better place. We need more people taking up hard sciences like this, as a nation we are falling far behind other countries.

If you are interested, here are the apps I use for weather prediction. Dark Sky is a micro weather app that gives hyper-localized information. My Radar is just that, and while it is free I paid for the hurricane tracking update. Well worth it. Windy is an amazing weather app that gives a visual representation of direction and velocity of wind. I have started using Predict wind which is very popular in the sailing community but the free version of the app is rather limited.

Be safe out there people.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

I'm not your Billboard

Years ago, I was folding clean laundry when I made a startling realization. I had a pile of T-shirts, which is primarily what I wear, and I realized I hadn't paid for any of them. They were many different colors and all had garish logos or pithy sayings on the front or the back. All of them were shirts I had gotten from either my employer or product vendors for free. The unwritten understanding is this. You will give me a shirt to wear for free, and I will wear it. In doing so I am subtly implying an endorsement for your product. Over the years I have received many items for free from vendors. The company I work for has a policy that I can't receive a gift greater than $50. I have received a lifetime supply of stickers, key chains, beer cozies (and I don't drink beer!) and more bottle openers than I will ever need in a lifetime. (Seriously, the outdoor companies need to think outside the box. Bottle openers? Really? Yakima puts them on their car rack accessories. What does that say about the outdoor industry?) These days after a conversation with a vendor rep, when they dump out their bag of free goodies, I generally just walk away. There is rarely anything I would like in that bag. There is almost certainly nothing I need.

The agreement we are all making, is that you will give me a shirt (or some other giveaway) and I will be excited to use this free item. I will like it, because it makes me part of an exclusive club. But in reality I am unpaid marketing for you. I am a walking billboard, and I don't want to be a walking billboard. Particularly for free. In essence though, I am not doing it for free. I am getting paid, in the form of the free stuff I am receiving. The schwag is my payment. If you ask me, that is a lousy deal.

This was a big part of the reason I developed a "uniform" of a grey T-shirt and blue jeans for everyday wear. I started by recycling all those T-shirts. Some became rags, some went to good will. The old ones went right in the garbage. I simply don't want to be a billboard for your outdoor company. I wanted to get away from what I think of as an implied or "soft" product endorsement.

A big part of my job is recommending gear to people, and I am absolutely fine with that. I have no problem telling you what piece of gear works well and what piece of gear is a waste of time and money. It is one of the reasons I started doing product reviews on this website. None of those are sponsored by the manufacturer. If They are my sponsor, I am beholden to them. Gear Junkie used to give real reviews listing what worked and what didn't. Then they got popular and got a ton of sponsors and they could no longer be honest about products. I'm sorry Gear junkie but my dream truck isn't a diesel chevy pick up truck. Just because you got paid this month by chevy doesn't mean that is a piece of outdoor gear.  That said I still read GJ and understand what they do, and have to do. Business is business.

I understand how this happens in the outdoor industry, most of us who work in the outdoors don't make a lot of money and free clothes are awesome. What really upsets me is when I see this outside of the outdoor industry. I see yeti stickers on the back of cars and trucks. This makes my brain ache.  You just spent $30 on a coffee mug, and want to tell the world by putting the sticker on the back of your car? Or you decide to wear a Yeti hat? So after that purchase you feel you owe the company so you will wear their brand name? No coffee mug is that good. But that isn't actually what is happening though, is it? People put a yeti sticker on the back of their truck because it gets them entrance to a club. The cool outdoor club. I feel bad for these people because they desperately want entrance to a club that isn't that cool. You want to join a cool club? Go climb El Capitain. That's a cool club, and those people know how to party.

Here is another example. You spend $40K on a new car. On the back of that car is a sticker with the name of the dealer, and maybe even a license plate frame with the name of the dealer. So I spend all this money and I have to advertise for you? I just gave you $40K you should be advertising for me! I can also tell you from experience the stickers are supremely difficult to get off, without ruining the paint on your car.

To be honest though, I have to come clean. I have been sponsored in the past by gear companies. I was never asked to say anything specific about a product, but I have been given products for particular projects with the manufacturer fully aware that 10,000 people would see their product in a picture or a video. That I consider a fair trade. I am getting something I need - an actual piece of gear as opposed to a key chain or a T-shirt. They are getting something they need, exposure.

I also make exceptions if the product is the best option. I recently had to replace the long sleeve, sun protective shirt that I wear when I teach paddling. I grabbed every piece of clothing I could find that met my criteria and took them to a fitting room. I tried on 12 shirts from 5 brands, and was upset that the best option was actually made by Patagonia. Now, there is nothing wrong with Patagonia, they are a great company that make great products but the shirt that met my needs had a large Patagonia logo on the back. I would have rather a shirt without a big logo. The shirt is amazing though!

I have been saying for close to a decade, if you want to market a product, give it to the people who use it. If it is any good people will tell their friends. If you think outdoor instructors and guides don't sit around a campfire talking about products that work and products that don't you are crazy. GoPro exploded in 2008 because they offered a really good prodeal to outdoor professionals. They made a good product, everyone saw us using them, and we talked about how great the product was. I consider that a fair trade.

I still see a lot of people in my industry who will take anything if it is free. "if it's free, it's for me!" is a phrase I have heard in the past. By all means, go for it. But if you want me to represent your product, and tell people how great it is, Your going to have to give me more than a beer cozy.

Friday, September 7, 2018

GO! in paperback

For the first time I have written a book that doesn't require an E-reader. For the first time I have produced a physical book. I didn't think this would seem like a big deal, but it really seems like a big deal.

I am extremely excited to say that GO! Planning weekend trips to month long adventures is available on Amazon. Follow the kindle link on the right and there is an option to buy it in print.

I am extremely proud of this book, and hope you enjoy it. I hope it helps you bring outdoor trip plans to fruition. If you are one of the many people that have bought the book already it would be incredibly helpful if you could review it wherever you bought it.

Proof that I am getting somewhere, I have already found an illegal PDF version of it available online. Please don't buy it there. Thanks.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018


No, really.

I need three people who have a kindle (that can view color photos) and three people who have iPad's.

If you feel like helping me out with a project - some cash will be involved! - send me an email.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The future of Yeti

Recently I was training new staff, people who would be working for the major outdoor retailer that I work for. A big part of their training is learning the multitude of products that we sell. When it was time to talk about Yeti - the expensive cooler company - I had us sit in a circle and talk about how we felt about the company.

For the record, I own a Yeti tundra 65 that lives in my van. I am very happy with it. My dog has already tried and failed to chew her way into it. If it is full, the ice lasts a very long time. If it is half full it is no better than a $40 cooler. But for what I need a cooler to do, I am very happy. My biggest complaint with cheap coolers is that I end up replacing them every 12 to 18 months because they can't hold up to the amount of abuse my work puts them through.

My sister has a theory. A toaster theory, that I think applies here. She thinks you can buy a $12 toaster, or a $300 Dualit toaster. If you buy the $12 toaster it will work fine, but you will replace it yearly. If you buy the Dualit, yeah it costs a lot more, and really they both just make toast, but for the rest of your life, you never have to go through the trouble of buying another toaster.. This is how I feel about Yeti coolers. At the end of the day it is just a cooler, but I will probably never have to buy another one.

So we were sitting in a circle, talking about Yeti and everyone agreed they were a good product, but pretty much everyone makes a Yeti style cooler, that costs less. The reason for this is that Yeti is a company owned by fisherman, who aren't great businessmen. How shall we say, they have had some patent issues. That is a story for another day.

What I said to these new hires was that I was curious to see how Yeti pivoted - which they would invariably have to do, to survive - and what markets they tried to slide into. My question was answered two short days later with the announcement of three new Yeti products.

First, the Yeti Boomer Dog bowl.

Built like a Yeti Rambler mug - and all the durability that goes with any Yeti product - this dog bowl will survive the perils of life with a dog that chews everything. Like mine. Oddly, I have an all metal dog bowl that has survived the perils of living with a dog that chews everything. It cost me $8. Which is $42 dollars less than the Yeti Boomer.

Next, The Tocayo Backpack.

A commuter backpack designed to shed water, and stand upright when you put it down on the ground. It also has rambler pockets - designed to hold their rambler mugs - and 360ยบ protection for a laptop. It looks like a capable backpack. But at $249 it is almost double the price of other commuter packs with a similar feature set.

and finally. The Lowlands Blanket. This highly durable, and padded blanket is water proof, and designed with pets and rough ground in mind. But at a staggering $199, I think I will be skipping it.

Now admittedly I haven't used any of these products. I have no doubt they are impeccably manufactured, and work as designed. But I can't help but think that this is not the direction that is going to save this company. I think they were doing better in the duffel bag market - the Pangea bag is really impressive, admittedly the waterproof duffel market is pretty small.

As a paddler I would love an insulated dry bag from them, like a tin 15 liter hopper bag. I just don't think this is the way to go. Sorry Yeti.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Trip Planning Workshop

Next week I will be teaching the first workshop solely devoted to trip planning. Obviously in conjunction with the release of my trip planning book. I am teaching it at Piedmont Hiking and Outing Club, which is a very active outdoor group located here in central North Carolina. 

I am in the early stages of creating a web based workshop, which will probably have two different levels. A self guided video version, and a more interactive version with one on one time to fine tune your plan. (I am looking at as a host for both of these, but if anyone has any recommendations I am in - no pun intended - uncharted waters.) 

This is something I am excited to teach, because at the end of the day my goal is to get people actively, and safely having amazing experiences in the outdoors. For years I have been hearing the reasons why people can't do trips. There are a lot of reasons people give for not doing a big trip - keeping in mind that a week of backpacking could be considered a big trip to a lot of people. Here are some of the big ones:

  I don’t have the (Fill in the blank). It could be money, time, ability, or another big one: permission from a partner or family members. 
Money is a good one. A lot of people say they don't have the money to do a big trip, or they don’t have the time to take off from work, giving up that income to do a month long (or longer trip.) We all have bills to pay, right? Mortgages, car payments, phone bills. Life insurance. Health insurance. College debt. Not having enough money is a perfectly valid reason. 
Except, it isn't. Money should never be a reason not to do something. The truth is, that it doesn't really cost that much to do an outdoor trip. A month of time is nothing. If it means you live lean to put money aside to cover your bills for a month, isn't that worth it? Of course it is. 
The other part of money is related to the gear. I don't have the money to buy the gear I need to do an epic trip. Except, it's a lousy reason. Gear can be purchased slowly, over time, to help defray cost, but here is the best part - once you have the gear, you can keep doing trips. Yes, my expensive kayak set me back, in terms of cash reserves, but once I had it, I didn't worry about having the gear I needed to do trips. I bought my Delta Seventeen because it was fun to paddle when empty, but could easily handle a month worth of food and fuel. I bought a drysuit by redirecting the money from my daily cup of coffee. It took about 4 months to save the money I needed. Money isn't the reason people don't do epic. Or at least it shouldn’t be a reason. 
Time. You don't have the time. No one has the time. We are all way too busy. Right? Doing something big takes time. Time to plan, to train, time to just get your mind around the idea that for a month you will be paddling a kayak or hiking a trail or climbing a mountain. Start there. But really, having the time to take a month off isn't easy. 
Except, nonsense, this is completely doable, and I’m going to tell you how. The “time” excuse is really a permission problem. See #5. You have the time. It is making the time a priority that is difficult. 
What about skills? I don’t have the skills to do this. I can't ride a bike, I can’t hike 1000 miles. I can't paddle 500 miles in a month. Maybe I should work on my forward stroke and rescue skills, and paddling in surf, and wind and cold water. And cycling, maybe I need to be stronger to climb hills, and learn to descend big hills safely. Mountain biking definitely has a skill set that needs to be learned. As does rock climbing, and mountain climbing. Skills or the lack thereof will certainly keep you from doing an epic trip. 

Except, guess what? Skills can be learned. Skills are supposed to be learned. We can use the process of learning new skills to build the foundations we need to do amazing outdoor trips. It can become part of the training for your trip. You want to climb El Capitan? Spend a couple of days climbing Cathedral Wall in New Hampshire. You want to ride cross country? First ride across your state, and before that, ride across your county. Before that, ride across your town. By starting with small trips and building to bigger ones, you will learn all about your needs while performing. You will learn what your food and fuel requirements are. What kind of seat you like in your boat, or on your bike. You will make all sorts of mistakes and learn from them. Wouldn't you rather do that paddling on a lake near your home, than on the coast of Alaska? With some hard work, and honest judgement, skills will come. 
Permission. I don't have permission. From my partner, from my work, from my family, from my dog to take a month off. I simply have too many responsibilities. Guess what? Nonsense.
All of these reasons, time, money, responsibilities and skills are problems of insufficient resources. Insufficient resources can always be overcome by resourcefulness. Always. So what are the real reasons we don't do big trips? It isn't a lack of money. It isn't a lack of time. It is a lack of resourcefulness, partnered with fear. 
Fear. It is really that simple. I won't be able to do this. I will look stupid. I’ll be ridiculed. I will fail, and people will make fun of me. I don't have enough knowledge. Fear. Fear is real. It sounds counterintuitive, but don't be afraid of fear. Fear is a driver. Fear is a motivator. Fear will help you think through every detail for your trip. Fear will help you prepare. Fear will get you to take that wilderness medicine course, which almost guarantees that you wont need any of those wilderness medicine skills.
 Fear can be a motivator, if you allow it to be. But fear can also paralyze you, keeping you from doing that trip you always wanted to do. Embrace fear, and work through it. 
There is one other reason why people don't do epic trips. Age. Regardless of what age you are, age becomes a reason. You are an adult, and having the ability to take that kind of time off is only possible if you are a teen or not yet in your "real career." Unfortunately, when you are a young adult, done with high school perhaps, but not finished with college, you may have the time but you don't have the money, or the discipline to be careful with your money to do a trip like this. I used to work freelance, and when I had the time I didn't have the money and when I had the money I didn't have the time, or at least that was the excuse. 
All of the previously mentioned reasons for not doing a big or epic trip, can be beaten by doing one thing first. One simple thing. It is hard at first, but once you do this simple thing it makes all the other things easy. It is deciding that you are going to do an epic trip. That is it. It is having the realization that you can work through any problem put in front of you, to get to a goal. Once you decide you are going to do it, really decide, you will let nothing get in your way. 

For more information on how to make a big trip happen, check out my book.