June 25th, 2010
Two recent reports of attacks on hiking trails are disturbing, but one is even more frightening than the other. On June 17, a man was attacked and killed by a grizzly bear near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The area is known for its grizzly activity and park rangers say written warnings were posted and the man was warned verbally, but he didn’t carry any pepper spray or other bear defense gear.
On Sunday, a woman hiking on a trail in north Boulder was attacked, but this time, the attacker wasn’t a wild animal. It was a man – a short thin man who was carrying a knife. This one ended better – the woman punched her attacker and escaped, and he was later arrested near the trailhead.
The Boulder attack and a similar one last September on Signal Mountain Trail near Fort Collins are reminders that animals aren’t the only dangers on the trail. Literature about trail safety often talks about what to do if you meet a bear, or a mountain lion, but rarely mentions human encounters. I know many women who hike alone. Most of them don’t carry a weapon that could be used against animal or human.
I carry a folding knife in my backpack, but I don’t know if I could or would ever use it to defend myself. I’ve had a few unusual encounters in the outdoors – once at night, when a man dressed as a Ninja ran through our backcountry campsite and another time when deputies were called in after campers in a Forest Service campground started playing with their pistols at night, shooting into a raging bonfire they had built.
The latest attack, in Boulder, got me thinking about trail safety again. What do you think? Should we be more aware of potential human danger on our hiking trails and in our forests? Or are these isolated events that could have just as easily happened on a city street? Have you ever had such an encounter? Have you thought about what you would do if your attacker wasn’t a black bear or a mountain lion but was a person?
- Deb Acord
June 10th, 2010
Here’s something we already knew – being outside in nature can make you feel more vibrant and alive. That’s the finding of a report in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
Researchers conducted an experiment with college students, comparing their actual outdoor experiences with indoor experiences enhanced by photographs. Those who actually went outdoors felt more energetic. And here’s the cool thing – students in the study who didn’t go outside but imaged themselves in a nature setting also felt more energetic.
- Deb Acord
April 28th, 2010
Zip Adventures at 4Eagles Ranch
Here’s something new to entertain you this summer – ziplines that span the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs.
The new Glenwood Canyon Zipline Adventures course is under construction 1.5 miles east of Glenwood. A sister company of Rock Gardens Rafting, the attraction will feature three ziplines and a high-ropes challenge course.
The owners expect to have the attraction open around Memorial Day. The zipline allows you to fly 35 feet in the air across the Colorado. For more information, go to Glenwood Canyon Zipline Adventures.
4Eagles Ranch near Wolcott, 15 miles west of Vail combines a short hike with the zipline experience.
And near Durango, Soaring Tree Top Adventures features 34 platforms with more than 24 spans on an elaborate zipline course.
Closer to home, Captain Zipline Adventure Tours offers zipline rides on six separate cables near Salida.
- Deb Acord
April 15th, 2010
National Park Week starts this Saturday and during it entrance to all 392 national parks will be free. It’s from April 17th to the 25th. Since it includes two weekends, it’s actually more than a week.
In addition to no entrance fees, there are other special events. They include National Junior Ranger Day on Saturday April 24th. Children can take part in kid-friendly activities and earn their very own junior ranger patch.
For more information, see the National Park Week page on the NPS site.
January 26th, 2010
The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market ended Sunday in Salt Lake City. It is the ultimate showcase of products you will see in your favorite gear stores this year. Here’s a rundown of some of the more intriguing products:
- Klymit Kinetic Vests, with an insulation which uses argon gas to trap warmth and allow the insulation to retain its loft. Klymit says the inflatable vests stay warm when they are wet, and are windproof. The gases used are non-toxic and non-flammable.
- K-Light solar-powered lantern. About the size and weight of a can of soda, it has a solar-charged battery and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The K-Light, made by Pisatsolar is rechargeable and offers 20 hours of run time when it’s fully charged.
- Ready to Eat Sandwiches from Bridgford Foods Corp. I’ve always loved the idea of pre-packaged camping food, even though I would only eat some of it (the new MREs) if it was the only way I could survive. But I’m open to new ideas. These sandwiches have a three-year shelf life and can be eaten from the pouch or can be heated at your campsite using an MRE/flameless heater or boiling water.
- JakPak. It’s a waterproof jacket. It’s a sleeping bag. It’s a tent. (Well, it’s more like a bivy.) Claiming to be the world’s first combo product, it has breathable fabric and pit zips. Its sleeping bag and tent are detachable.
- GoGirl. Does a girl pee in the woods? Only if she has no other options. Guys have it made in this department and probably won’t understand the importance of this innovation. This practical product allows women to stand up while going to the bathroom, keeping shoes and pants dry and making the whole process easier.
- Ansai’s Mobile Warming clothing. This Chinese company has recently expanded to the U.S. Its Mobile Warming technology features a four-way stretch breathable, waterproof-fabric and keeps you warm with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with four-level thermo-regulating controls.
- Deb Acord
January 22nd, 2010
If you try to keep your gear purchases green, check out some of the Colorado gear companies given the Green Steps designation at the Outdoor Retailer show going on now in Salt Lake City. Participants in the show, sponsored by Outdoor Industry Association, are recognized as Green Steps companies for their ecologically sound practices in products, policies and business tactics.
The list is filled with Colorado companies. Among them:
- Chaco, based in Paonia. Focuses on using durable materials that allow its shoes to be resoleable and re-webbable, not disposable. The company donates a percentage of after-tax profits to environmental groups.
- Chaos Headwear, based in Steamboat Springs. Offers an organic line using natural dyes; concentrates on natural fibers
- cotton, hemp, linen.
- Colorado Trading & Clothing Co., based in Denver. Features garments of soy and bamboo blends.
- Honey Stinger, based in Steamboat Springs. Makes honey-based gels, chews, protein bars and energy bars. Uses wind power in its office space and warehouse; marketing materials printed using a percentage of recycled, post-consumer waste paper products.
- Katie’s Bumpers, based in Golden. Makes dog toys from pre-consumer recycled materials including Chaco webbing.
- Optic Nerve, based in Denver. An eyewear company which supports three local charities and uses some biodegradable materials.
- Osprey Packs, Inc., based in Cortez. Features recycled materials in its daypacks and courier packs; pro purchase program requires donation of $2 per transaction with proceeds going to non-profits such as The Grand Canyon Trust.
- Sierra Designs, based in Boulder. Headquarters is wind-powered; working on products with Cocona, a wicking fiber made of coconut shells.
- SkirtSports, based in Boulder. Makes exercise wear for women. Uses Eco-cycle recycling systems to reduce waste from import and export shipments.
- TrapTek LLC and Cocona, based in Boulder. Develops natural technology products including Cocona fabric, made by using activated carbon from coconut shells.
- Deb Acord
January 19th, 2010
One of the tips for staying safe while hiking in bear country is to wear bells. Unless they’re startled, protecting young or guarding food, most bears prefer to avoid humans. The bells give the bears time to move out of the way without feeling threatened. Fortunately every time I’ve seen a bear on the trail they’ve been in a hurry to get away from me.
Now there’s a high tech way to alert bears. The ScareBear Trail Companion iPhone app gives the option of bear bells, rocks in a tin can or hands clapping to alert bears that you’re coming. If you do encounter a bear, mountain lion or other wildlife you can tap to use an air horn sound to scare them. The app costs 99 cents.
I was curious about the app so I paid my 99 cents and downloaded it. I don’t know if the app really requires it but it won’t install without the 3.1.2 software update. I hadn’t updated from 3.1 so I had to do the update first.
The volume of the sound is determined by the iPhone’s volume control. With the volume all the way up, it is loud enough to be bothersome for bear bells, rocks in a tin can or hand clapping. The air horn doesn’t really sound much louder than the other sounds. My dog lying in my office didn’t even bother opening his eyes. My kids can certainly scream a lot louder.
The ScareBear Trail Companion iPhone app comes with a very long disclaimer list. It includes agreeing that the app is sold as a novelty item.
I have concerns about carrying my iPhone out where it could be heard in wet or dusty conditions. Although I didn’t test how long the battery lasts with it playing, the sound does keep playing when the screen is off so I would guess it is too big of a battery strain.
My recommendation is to stick to the low tech bear bell fastened to your pack or shoes. It’ll be more reliable and easier on the ears. I guess if you do forget your bear bell, you could use the app as a backup.
January 12th, 2010
Along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Newspapers in New Zealand have reported that country has adopted a new common-sense outdoor safety code with tourists in mind. The code was written after many reports of poor trip planning, “such as attempting to hike in rugged terrain wearing jandals.”
My question is this: What are jandals?
After extensive research (OK, I Googled), I’ve learned that jandals are flip-flops. It seems like hapless tourists hiking in flip-flops aren’t just a problem in Colorado.
According to the New Zealand Herald newspaper, in the past year, 245 search and rescue efforts in New Zealand – about 12 percent – involved tourists.
The Herald reports a police spokesman said, “We hear stories of visitors attempting the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in jandals while others don’t carry supplies because they assume there’s a shop on the Heaphy [Track]. Rather than be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, we want to help ensure that all visitors don’t get into trouble in the first place.”
Among the code’s messages, designed for NZ trampers (that’s hikers), are tips for planning trips, leaving word of destination and return times, knowing about impending weather, knowing physical limits and taking sufficient supplies.
- Deb Acord
December 15th, 2009
It’s time to think about holiday gifts for your significant other – your dog.
Here’s some of my favorite outdoor gear for dogs
Cool Pooch Sport Bottle. We used to try and give our dog drinks from our Nalgene bottles, but most of the water ended up on the ground. So several years ago, we tried the Cool Pooch bottle, and now we never hike without it. Its innovative design with a plastic straw allows you to drink from the bottle and pour water into the attached water bowl for your dog to drink.
Doggles goggles. You wouldn’t think about heading out in the snow without your sunglasses. All that glare can harm your dog’s eyes, too. Doggles have fully adjustable head and chin straps and their lenses are cushioned with foam.
Lands End Dog Squall Jacket. We aren’t really into dressing up our beagle, but when the temperature drops, he starts to shiver. This practical jacket is wind- and snow-resistant, fleece-lined and easy to put on, and it’s trimmed with reflective binding.
Dog booties from Dogbooties.com We tried to get our Lab to wear these a few years ago, and he high-stepped it around the house until he got them off his feet. But I know these things work – I’ve seen them on hard-working sled dogs in Alaska and Colorado. They come in nine colors.
REI Adventure Dog Tent. We’ve never had a tent for our dogs, but I love the idea of it. This would be perfect for a multi-day car camping trip. It weighs two pounds, five ounces, and is 45 by 37 by 31 inches.
- Deb Acord
December 14th, 2009
Only in recent years have I had a chance to test the insulating properties of wool. Until SmartWool and other companies began using soft, silky merino wool, I couldn’t go near it without itching.
Today, manufacturers are combining wool with other fabrics in outdoor socks, gloves, hats, sweaters and pants. And we can reap the benefits. According to SmartWool, wool is superior at managing moisture, regulating your body temperature and repelling body odor. It’s breathable and even if it gets wet, it retains its insulating qualities.
Check out these wool products
SmartWool: Apparel, hats, base layers, socks and even slippers; all are so comfortable you won’t want to wear anything else.
Woolistic: Merino wool cycling jerseys, sweaters and shorts. And check out the retro team clothing – vintage team jerseys that are exactly like the originals.
Arc’teryx: Cool combinations include hoodies with Polartec Power Dry fleece on the outside and wool on the inside, zip jerseys made of Merino wool, and sweaters with fleece on the inside and wool on the outside.
Ibex Outdoor Clothing has Merino interlock crews, sweaters, jerseys and hoodies.
North Face: Its Duboce insulated jacket features a blend of 80 percent wool, 20 percent nylon woven wool insulation and a synthetic. The Cabrilla sweater features a blend of cotton, wool and nylon.
And we can’t forget Woolrich, the venerable outdoor clothing manufacturer. Our favorites: the classic rugged field coat with leather collar, and the plaid wool shirt
- Deb Acord