Monday, December 28, 2009

Trekking Across Mongolia

British Adventurer Ripley Davenport is preparing for the longest journey of his life – a trek across Mongolia, unsupported. "It stands to become the longest solo and unassisted walk ever completed."

Ripley will attempt the first recorded solo and unassisted traverse across the vast landmass of Mongolia, on foot from east to west, starting in April 2010. The Expedition will involve walking 2750 km (1700 miles) across the Eastern Mongolian Steppe, Gobi Desert and the Altai Mountain Range. He will be hauling provisions and equipment weighing in excess of 200 kg (441 lbs.) in a wheeled trailer specifically designed for the journey, in 90 days or less. In this trailer, he'll be carrying a Gogo LE and Tuo Lite.

Ripley has served in a special forces unit of the British Royal Navy. He served in the first Gulf War, Bosnia, Northern Ireland and in the West Indies. He is a renowned adventurer, humanitarian, and motivational speaker best known for his demanding expeditions to the isolated areas of the world, notably accomplished solo and unassisted without any machine or animal, but on foot by hauling or carrying all of his equipment. In 1998, Ripley completed a solo trek across the Karakum Desert in 21 days with one water resupply. Then, in the same year, he successfully crossed the Namib Desert solo and unassisted, with two camels, in 82 days.

Over the course of Ripley’s expeditions, he has raised thousands of pounds for childrens' charities. Recently, he joined the i2P - impossible2Possible team as an Inspirational Ambassador and remains loyal and dedicated in supporting UNICEF and Hope & Homes for Children.

To see how Ripley is preparing himself for this long journey, check out his blog.

To follow Ripley’s trek, starting in April, click here.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Sierra Nevada del Cocuy

NEMO ambassador Camilo Lopez and Anna Pfaff have just completed the first link up of all the major summits above 5000 meters in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy in Colombia, South America. See their journey across 6 summits on a unique adventure in the most remote part of the Andes.

Colmbia Expedition Episode 3 Sierra Nevada del Cocuy. The best kept secret of the Andes from Camilo Lopez on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Revenge of the Ice

Cam and NEMO friend (and two-time intern) Matt F. headed out for their first ice climb of the season at the Black Dike (Cannon Cliff, Franconia Notch, NH).

A classic 3 pitch mixed route, the Black Dike gave Matt a beating with falling ice on Pitch 3, but didn't stop him from finishing the climb. A long hike down and eight stitches later, he's all smiles. See the damage below, at your own risk.


Monday, December 14, 2009

A Few More Miles

Our friend Ben from Jetboil has taken a bit of a sabbatical and is traveling from New Hampshire through South America on a 2001 Kawasaki KLR650, lovingly referred to as El Burro. He's also brought along a prototype of next year's Morpho 1P. His latest entry is painfully funny, unfortunately, at his expense. Check out this report from Mexico.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Ice Season Cometh

For both the aspiring and hard core ice climbers, there are a few events coming up worth mentioning. The Ouray Ice Festival is January 7-10. Events over this weekend include climbing clinics (from beginning to advanced), an opportunity to check out the newest gear from equipment manufacturers, climbing contests for the pros and the amateurs, films, speakers, slack line and axe throwing competition (at the same time?), and more. This year, NEMO is donating some awesome gear to their annual auction. Proceeds go towards the annual operating capital needed to run Ouray Ice Park.

For East Coasters, there are two great events coming up. We're helping sponsor the 3rd Annual Smuggler's Notch Ice Bash Jan 30-Feb 1. Come demo great new gear, and attend clinics focused on Ice/Mixed climbing, companion rescue, climbing for skiing, women's only, etc. The party schedule looks full with pre-bash and post-bash events, slideshows, and talks of ladeling out hot chicken soup after a cold day of climbing.

The Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival is February 5-7. The website is currently being updated, but keep current with all the latest news through the blog. All clinics need to be signed up for in advance, so get going on it now!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Solar Energy Raising – The New Barn Raising

Last weekend I attended a solar photovoltaic energy raising in Durham, NH. Never heard of an energy raising? Well, you’re not alone. An energy raiser is much like an old fashioned barn raiser. People from the community get together and volunteer their time and services helping their neighbor install a solar hot water or photovoltaic system. The idea is to pay it back or pay it forward. Volunteer at 3 and you’re up. Already had a raising at your home – volunteer at someone else’s. It’s a pretty simple system. Although, the installation requires some skills.

The idea started about five years ago with a group in Plymouth, NH called PAREI (Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative). To date, PAREI has installed over 119 solar hot water systems in their area. Recently, people in the seacoast area of NH and ME have started their own, SEAREI, (Seacoast Area Renewable Energy Initiative) based on this model.

Interested in checking one out? There’s a hot water raising this weekend in Epping, NH and you can contact SEAREI through their website.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Alaia Surfing, All the Craze

I've been seeing the alaia board all over the place in the last year or so. In fact, just last week while rifling through the used board section at Cinnamon Rainbows in Hampton, I saw a used alaia tucked away in the corner.

The alaia is a kind of 'primitive' finless surfboard ridden back in the day (late 19th/early 20th century) in Hawaii. The geometry of the board is unusual: it is very thin and features a round-nosed and square-tail. This board is the subject of a recent article in the NYTimes, where the author further describes the feeling of riding the alaia:
A modern surfer will find alaias extremely difficult to paddle. Because they are only about 18 inches wide and one inch thick, they provide minimal flotation. I have been a dedicated surfer for more than 30 years and like to think that my arms and shoulders have adapted to paddling the way a marathon runner’s legs have adapted to running, but I was sore and winded by the time I made it out to the waves that day.

But the alaia’s challenge doesn’t end there. Without fins on the board to dig into the water, I went head over heels on my first five waves. On my next 10 I made it down the face, but when I went to turn, the board slid sideways, and I found myself washing to shore, feet first and wildly out of control. It was like learning to surf all over again.
One of the article's most interesting points was finding an analogous relationship for the alaia to traditional surfboards as fixed gear is to cycling or bow and arrow is to hunting.


Tiny Tuo

Steve just cranked out another quick and helpful video for anyone wondering how to pack down their inflatable sleeping pad into that tiny volume that is displayed in the gear stores. It's surprising how effective this method is...


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Springtime in Nashua??

We seemed to have skipped over winter here and moved right along to spring.

Not that one aberrant hot day means anything at all, but the average temperature for Dec 3 in Nashua is normally 33F. At least the water temperature is still at a chilly 48F (and dropping).


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Local Wildlife Part 2

Hello again, I wanted to share a few shots of these American Goldfinches that we see around the office. Normally these bird have a very distinct bright yellow coloring. As winter approaches, the color changes to a dirty almost greenish hue. I caught these guys feeding on some berries outside my window today. They are really fun to watch and arrive suddenly in groups, they leave just as fast as they arrive.



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Speed Tour of the Shire

New Hampshire surfers take a lot of pride in their coastline. When the lines were drawn so many years ago, New Hampshire snuck in between the endless miles of Maine and Massachusetts...just enough to be able to refer to the area as "Sea coast". According to a quick search on Google, we have either 13, 17, or 18 total miles of coastline (the shortest of all coastal states). I'm wondering if the discrepancy comes from coastal road vs shoreline...and maybe high tide vs low tide?

In case you have ever wanted to visit this quaint coastline of ours but live too far away, or don't have the time to drive the entire 13-18 miles, here it is sped up to just under a minute and a half. Unfortunately its a bit hard to see our surf breaks from car height, but perhaps its best we keep those locations secret. If you don't blink, you can see the section of beach NEMO cleans up every month at about 20-21 seconds.

NH Coastline from Michael Sander on Vimeo, courtesy of Pioneers Surf Shop.


Monday, November 23, 2009

NEMO Classroom Lessons #164: Nylon vs Polyester

“What’s the difference?”, you might ask. Nylon and polyester are used throughout the outdoor industry. Since both are synthetic polymers that have existed long before our time, most people don’t think twice about using one versus another. Since fabrics can be ‘finished’ in different ways to increase strength, UV protection, waterproofness, etc., the differences I’m talking about here relate more to the base fabric. Here’s a useful guide to key differences that might make you stop and think about fabrics the next time you’re looking at gear.

It’s not a fair comparison to say that Sugar Ray Robinson, a welterweight (140-147 lbs) is less strong than Evander Holyfield (heavyweight at >200 lbs). In same way, we generally try to compare fabrics ‘pound for pound’ – meaning that they are at the same denier (fineness of fiber). At the same denier, nylon tends to be a stronger than polyester and the difference can be such that a 420D nylon is stronger than 600D polyester. The strength difference shows up when you’re examining tear, abrasion resistance, or something as simple as the fabric’s ability to hold stitches. Since polyester is weaker than nylon, the thread count (and thus weight) can often be higher in polyester at the same denier.

The Cruel Sun
Seems pretty clear cut right? Nylon is stronger… except that in the presence of UV, it will break down and start to degrade much faster than polyester. Polyester naturally inhibits UV. Although the fiber may be weaker at the start, it holds up better over time.

Moisture, Stretch, and All That Good Stuff
Nylon tends to absorb more moisture than polyester. This means that if it rains, you’ll probably lose the perfect tension you had when setting up your tent. Polyester is more resistant to stretching/shrinking than nylon because it won’t take in as much water. In wet weather with polyester, you’ll generally be carrying less moisture which translates into faster drying times.

Dye Transfer
Nylons tend to be easier to dye than polyesters. The majority of dye migration problems I’ve seen have been with polyester. Wet/Damp conditions with polyester can definitely lead to dye migration, especially with darker colors.

Green Concerns:
Right now, nylon is more difficult to recycle than polyester. There are many ways to turn in old polyester for recycling, but very few for nylon. Nylons break down into toxic and hazardous material when melted, and incinerating them to recover the high cost of energy used to make them is expensive.

The decision to use polyester or nylon is almost never clear cut. There's a lot of strategery in adding finishing/coating/lamination methods that help improve performance (and hopefully don't adversely affect other properties). Hopefully, this will give you a good sense of tradeoffs that gear designers go through when selecting materials for use.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Twinkle, Twinkle

It's that Leonids time of year again.

 Photo: J.C. Casaso & I. Graboleda

The first time I ever heard the word Leonids was in 2002 as I was being coaxed onto the creaky roof of a friend's 4-story apartment in Somerville, MA. It was midnight and the show was just taking off. For the next 6 hours (before work) I watched shooting stars glitter across the urban sky while I did horizontal jumping jacks (to keep warm) in my 20 degree bag. The thermometer showed that it was much less than 20 out there, but I didn't want to run inside for more clothes lest I miss one of those magic moments.

Scientists seem to think there will be quite a show this year, especially if you are in Asia. Check here to find ideal viewing times by location (continent, country, or state).

NASA is predicting 20 to 30 meteors per hour over the Americas, and as many as 200 to 300 per hour over Asia.

Start drinking your coffee now, and get your cameras ready...


Hunting Penguins from the Master

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen recounts an amazing experience where a giant leopard seal takes him under his wing and tries to figure out why penguins aren't as tasty to humans as they are to seals.

(via boingboing)


Monday, November 16, 2009

London to Copenhagen, On Foot

NEMO ambassador, Alison Gannett, is embarking on a mission to walk, with skis on her pack, over 200 miles from London to Brussels, then onto Copenhagen, to raise awareness, support, and media exposure of climate change. At Cop15 in Denmark, she'll be working with the United Nations Climate Heroes program to help create a treaty to replace Kyoto. Over 196 nations will be represented at Cop15. President Obama has not yet confirmed his attendance.

In the 2007 IPCC report adopted by almost all countries around the world, including the US, scientists ALL agreed that human-induced climate change and feedback loops will raise temperatures by 7-11 degrees. But how exactly does this impact us? If you’re like the NEMO crew, you like to spend your winters sliding on snow. The OECD report in Europe demonstrates that with a mere 2-4 degree rise, almost half of Europe's ski areas will be without snow, while the CEO of Aspen Ski Area states that "even with moderate reductions (CO2 and energy use), skiing will be hampered if not perhaps gone, by 2050." Climate Disruption is possibly human kind's greatest modern challenge.

Alison is attempting to raise $3000 to help fund her journey from Colorado to Copenhagen. NEMO has contributed to the fund. If you’d like to join us, click here.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Jaws that Bite, Claws that Catch...

The wave report for this weekend in the Northeast is impressive.

As our friends at Pioneer surf shop pointed out, that's nothing compared to the waves earlier in the year at Shipsterns Bluff. Have you seen anything as monster killer-like as #18 in the slideshow?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Vehicle for New Adventures

I’ve always loved trucks. I didn’t watch much TV when I was a little kid (and still don’t) but I had an extensive collection of Legos and Tonka trucks. I pretty much split my time between making trucks with Legos and pushing Tonka trucks around in a dirt pile behind my house. The couple square feet I needed for a play area seemed like a universe. Lately I miss the feeling that the world is really big and contains unlimited mystery and possibility.

Back in college in Vermont, my roommate and I and our close friends would take our trucks through Nor’easters and up into the Green Mountains to teach ourselves how to ice climb or do things like rappel into 100 foot deep caves with only a few lengths of 4mm cord to Prusik our way out. It seemed like a big deal back then. Sometimes I miss fear. Sometimes I miss putting myself in situations I seriously doubt if I’ll be able to escape. That fear made us sharp. It gave us a reason to learn new skills, to exercise and strengthen our bodies, to carefully observe our surroundings and to problem solve. Starting and running NEMO has had its share of adrenaline moments, and the general sense among the NEMO folks that we are a first ascent team, deep in the unknown, pioneering and risking everything, has kept us sharp and engaged. But on the personal level, I’ve been coming up a little shy of my quota for adrenaline lately.



BFF will be your BFF

This year has been rife with with film premieres and festivals seemingly every weekend. Warren Miller's new flick Dynasty is making its rounds across the globe as we speak. Meanwhile, the Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) is wrapping up over the next month or so after beginning in late May.

Take a look here to see if you'll be near one of the last couple cities on the tour (hint: boston, tokyo, melbourne, new orleans, miami... you're in luck). For everyone else who wants a preview of the films, look here.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NEMO Classroom Lesson #383: How to Secure your Jake's Foot

Jake's Feet are one of the most functional parts of many NEMO tents. They make that pleasant snap so you know your corner is locked, they provide a convenient hub for your fly/poles/inner tent/footprint, and even cantilever your inner tent corners down to the ground.

My favorite function is that they create a system to remove your inner tent, leaving you with fly/poles/footprint for a lightweight tarp shelter which is perfect for a sunny day on the beach (specifically to keep the wax from melting off my board.)In order to do this, you have to move the Jake's Feet, which are usually attached to the inner tent, to the footprint using tri-glides.

Don't worry if you don't know what that means exactly, here's Steve to the rescue with another NEMO short to help anyone looking to make their NEMO tent into a sun shade now that its November...


Monday, November 9, 2009

Sneak Peak: Morpho 1P

In this installment of Sneak Peaks, we highlight a new AirSupported tent, Morpho 1P. This tent is the 1 person lightweight version of Morpho AR, and a good compromise for folks who are undecided between the elbow-height Gogo bivy and Morpho AR. I took the Morpho 1P with me this summer on a trip to Sun Valley, and really enjoyed the 'sprawling out' room.

We originally toyed with the idea of calling it Morpho 1.5 because it’s definitely large enough for you and your favorite 4-legged companion, or for two people who want to travel ultra light (and who really like each other). We’ve had quite a few people ask us if you can fit 2 in a Gogo, and while it would be pretty tight, those people might really like the Morpho 1P.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Proven Surf/Skate/Snow Film Festival

This week, the Banff Film Fest is knee deep in action. The Adventure Film Festival gets going next week in Boulder. For East Coasters who are looking for a piece of the pie too, check out this year's Proven Surf/Skate/Snow Film Festival.

The film festival features the top 10 surf/skate/snow films from New England's adventure film makers. Starting at 6pm, Saturday November 8th at the Rye Airfield, the event will also feature artwork, food, raffles (including a surfboard), and skate sessions before/after the show.

It seems that lately Rye Airfield has been a happening place. After Tony Hawk's visit last week and the film festival this weekend, we should be keeping a closer eye on the events going on there!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

{Don’t} Follow The Yellowbrick Road

Last spring we were approached by an independent film company with a strange request. They were getting ready to film a psychological thriller/horror movie, not far from the premise of Blair Witch Project, and they needed to borrow a few tents.

Being a big fan of horror movies since the days of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Children of the Corn, I was excited with the idea. A few of my more level-headed (and frankly, wimpy) co-workers, wanted to make sure no one died in the tents. ”You’re NEMO's PR director, think of what this could do to our image, let alone the camping industry?!” So, I made the request, but it was never confirmed. After seeing the trailer and the way the tents were returned, I’m afraid it was denied.

The movie is set and filmed in New Hampshire (our fair state) and will be submitted to film festivals soon. Check out the trailer and let us know what you think. I’ll tell ya, I get goose bumps every time I watch it.


Friday, October 30, 2009

The Mystery Continues

Number 8 - Nike Runner, sized 8.5

If you don't know what this means, read my earlier post first: Agony of Defeet


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beach Cleanup this Friday

NEMO's monthly beach cleanup at Jenness Beach is this Friday, October 30. We expect to be there at low tide (around 2 pm), but please email if you're interested in coming. The upside to the chilly fall weather is no crowds, free parking, and good surf at the beach... what more could you ask for?? Bring your surfboards for a post-pickup session.

Dogs, costumes, and lots of helping hands are welcome!


Monday, October 26, 2009

Old School in Scotland

We had an email come into Customer Service over the weekend from Kevin who brought sexy back with his Hypno EX at the Cairnforms in mid October 2009. Home to five of the six highest mountains in Scotland, the Cairnforms are a massive plateau of granite known for its ancient forests and often variable weather.

Kevin and Co. camped out at 4200 feet on the summit of Ben Macdui (Mack-doo-ee), not to be confused with Ben Macdhui in South Africa. Since the production of Hypno EX in 2005 was limited, we're always excited to hear from some of the proud owners and their many adventures.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Newfoundland T'railway Adventures

A couple weeks ago, our buddies Dale and Steve embarked on an 8-day journey to Newfoundland to ride the T'railway. The T'Railway is the railbed of the historic Newfoundland Railway that stretches from Port aux Basques in the west to St. John's in the east. Abandoned in 1988, the trail is more or less in a state of disrepair and is, at best, considered impassable to anything on two wheels because of its Appalachian Trail-like terrain. Enter Dale and Steve in their 3000 mile roundtrip journey. Read about the entire trip here on ADVrider...

View Larger Map

Almost exactly one year after I read the article about the T'railway on Newfoundland in the September/October issue of Road Runner Magazine, my buddy Dale and I were finalizing plans to make the trip ourselves. Our plan seemed pretty straight forward - 8 days total - 2 to get there, 3 to ride the T'Railway, 1 to ride back across the island, and 2 back home. The article suggested that 3-4 days was a good duration for completing the ride and figured sure, we can ride a bit faster, a bit longer, and do it in the shorter "3". This would also mean 500+ mile days back to back getting there and getting home. Well, we nearly did it...

Good number of bikes on the ferry. Talked to one guy briefly that was on a tour from California. He had logged 15K miles in the past 25 days - damn.

The coastline was just amazing and we were no less than 10 feet from it at times.

We both manage to navigate through this mess with minimal issue. Good moral booster!

No wake zone...

The rain lets up long enough for us to setup camp and get to sleep. We start a fire that was lame up until the point where we decided to give up on it and get some sleep. It then picked up and was great - so we put it out. That'll teach it!

So we had heard great tales of finding abandoned rail cars that have been converted to cabins that are more or less open for public use. Great tale indeed. While cool, the only one we found "open" was nasty as all heck and we decided to stick with our tents. Though, a nice fire inside a little fireplace did sound good, the mouse crap was a different story.

The Gaff Topsails region was the most remote and boy was it remote. Not a human in sight. Plenty of gravel though.

All in all, this was an unreal trip. My longest for sure and a true adventure. I do wish we had done the trail in the opposite direction because the landscape and trail condition seem to be better towards St John's. Live and learn I suppose. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are still on the list as far as places I need to ride since we pretty much just blew through them on this trip. I think I can consider myself a bit of a gravel expert now too....


Monday, October 19, 2009

A Vehicle for New Adventures

My wife, Caitlin, and I have had some great adventures together, but we’re ready for a change of scene, ready to feel like newbies again. We were introduced to each other by climbing friends and our first date was at a rock gym in Boston. We had instant chemistry, but I’d say we really fell in love riding my BMW 1200GSA motorcycle on weekend trips up north. I underestimated Caitlin when I met her (it seemed impossible she could be beautiful, smart AND loving, trusting and adventurous), but when she fell asleep on the back of my moto in forty degree temps and driving rain going unmentionable speeds coming home from the White’s one evening in the Fall of 2006, I knew I’d found my soul mate. We’ve since enjoyed a lot of rock and ice climbing, mountain biking, canoeing and just general travelling together. But we’ve also, of late, begun to see a transformation in our tastes. Maybe we’re getting settled a bit. Maybe soft. Or possibly just really busy and in need of something new and exciting to shake us up a bit.

Caitlin finishing up pitch 15 of a classic climb at El Potrero Chico in Mexico.
Photo: Cam Brensinger

I’ve always loved trucks. I didn’t watch much TV when I was a little kid (and still don’t) but I had an extensive collection of Legos and Tonka trucks. I pretty much split my time between making trucks with Legos and pushing Tonka trucks around in a dirt pile behind my house. The couple square feet I needed for a play area seemed like a universe. Lately I miss the feeling that the world is really big and contains unlimited mystery and possibility. Back in college in Vermont, my roommate and I and our close friends would take our trucks through Nor’easters and up into the Green Mountains to teach ourselves how to ice climb or do things like rappel into 100 foot deep caves with only a few lengths of 4mm cord to Prusik our way out. It seemed like a big deal back then. Sometimes I miss fear. Sometimes I miss putting myself in situations I seriously doubt if I’ll be able to escape. That fear made us sharp. It gave us a reason to learn new skills, to exercise and strengthen our bodies, to carefully observe our surroundings and to problem solve. Starting and running NEMO has had its share of adrenaline moments, and the general sense we have here that we are a first ascent team, deep in the unknown, pioneering and risking everything, has kept us sharp and engaged. But on the personal level, I’ve been coming up a little shy of my quota for adrenaline lately.

Cam’s 08 Tacoma overlander in the making.
Photo: Cam Brensinger

In 2008, I bought a Toyota Tacoma crew cab, long bed TRD Sport. I traded a WRX wagon. My love of fast cars and cool trucks is in direct conflict with a concern for fuel economy and I’ve tried to compromise. The Subaru was a pretty good compromise until Caitlin and I bought a house and a 100lb Malamute. Fur and dirt in the WRX were stressing me out a little and we had staged a few too many FAIL scenarios involving my little WRX wagon and a flatbed truck worth of lumber (think of those pics on the internet of TATA trucks in the developing world loaded to twice their height). Who cares about a little fur and dirt in a truck? And I figured the Tacoma would have pretty good fuel economy and a footprint between a car and full-sized truck. Plus, I started reading through the internet and magazines about the legendary prowess of Tacomas as expedition vehicles. It didn’t take me long to discover Expeditions West on the web and to start reading about Scott Brady and his trip to the Arctic Circle with a 2004 Taco.

Scott beside his tricked out Tacoma on his Arctic Ocean expedition in 2007.
Photo: Expedition’s West

Apparently, Scott had enough success early in his career in the software industry to permanently walk away from a job for a job’s sake and seek out a solid balance of entrepreneurship, adventure and fun. I like his story. He’s married to his high school sweetheart, he runs his own businesses, he travels a lot and he’s got more equipment than the US Army. Instead of a gear closet, he’s got a multi-bay garage. Shortly after I perused Expeditions West, I found the website for Overland Journal. Could it be? A magazine in the classy, lots-of-white-space, great photos and only ads that interest me style of Alpinist or The Surfer’s Journal?? I love the kind of magazine you never want to through away. I have every issue of Alpinist neatly filed on a shelf in my “man room” back at our house. I subscribed to Overland Journal right away.

It turns out that Overland Journal was discovering NEMO at the same time NEMO was discovering Overland Journal. They were slated to do a tent review for an upcoming issue and we were on the docket for a phone call when my subscription request came through. Jonathan Hanson, Executive Editor at the magazine, and I relayed a few emails remarking at the coincidence of how we came to be in touch and complimenting each other’s products. I hooked Kate, our marketing guru, and Jonathan up by email and we had a Morpho AR out to them within a day or so. Check out the Summer 2008 issue of Overland Journal to see how the review turned out and to lust over Scott’s KTM 950 Adventure motorcycle.

Scott’s KTM and NEMO’s Morpho AR making out in the desert.
Photo: Overland Journal

I met Scott for the first time at our big summer industry tradeshow, Outdoor Retailer, in 2008. He had just returned a short time earlier from riding the Trans-America trail with his KTM and our Morpho AR tent. He spent a bunch of days living out of the tent and despite sand, dirt, heat, abrasion in the side cases from endless bumpy terrain and adventure’s ever-present Mr. Murphy, Morpho AR performed flawlessly. The trip convinced Scott of the efficacy of AirSupported Technology and it convinced me I needed to make friends with this guy. I mean who actually finds the time and resources and gumption to ride across the country on a moto, over 90% of the ride off-highway?

Between the OR shows in the summer of 08 and in the summer of 09, Scott took several big trips and got to know NEMO better and I read at least 6 issues of Overland Journal and got to know overlanding better. There’s a clear spirit, passion and set of priorities in the magazine that are very familiar to me from our own industry. I recognized the same embracing of travel, adrenaline and new experiences, plus a healthy preoccupation with great gear, great beer, great food and camaraderie. These guys are clearly about having fun and enjoying life, but it’s also clear they take responsibility for their impact on the planet. They are all about driving trucks and bikes off the highway in remote places, but good luck finding any talk of “offroading” in the magazine (they are careful to point out the difference between overlanding and offroading—and it’s not just semantics I’ve come to find out). I chuckle to imagine the typical overlander taking his or her vintage Land Rover mudding. These guys love to have fun, but they don’t take it the easy way and they know the greatest rewards come at the end of the longest roads (with plenty of route finding, border crossing and challenging terrain along the way). I really like the Journal and I feel like I know where they’re coming from.

When Scott showed up at OR this summer, I was stoked to see him. I had done some work to my truck (suspension, second battery, custom air mat for the bed, baja style rack, etc) and taken a few trips. When I met Scott the previous summer, I had mentioned a lifelong dream of someday finishing the Paris Dakar Rally (now really the Argentina Chile Rally) and I would take any chance I could get to be involved with a racing or overland trip where I could break into the scene a bit and start the long learning curve. Finishing Dakar is an elusive goal. If you’re not familiar, it’s perhaps THE great vehicle based adventure and the stories of quicksand, snipers, land mines, breakdowns in the middle of nowhere, etc, etc are humbling. Just being at Dakar would be an interesting life experience. I wanted a way in to that world and I was hoping Scott would crack open a door for me at OR. He did.

Cam in 2006 on the GSA in Baja. Note the NEMO bird overhead.
Photo: Dave Kelly

Scott told me about his Overland Training School (somehow this was a branch of Scott’s web-based overland empire I hadn’t discovered) and invited me to fill the last opening in a Comprehensive Certification course coming up in October. Sign me up! I exchanged secret handshakes and decoder rings with Scott and he jumped back on his moto to head off on another adventure (check out SPEED Channel’s coverage of Scott’s trip to the Darien Gap at the southern tip of Central America). I couldn’t wait for October. New friends, new places and ways to explore, new gear. New gear. I had a strong feeling this could be the elixir Caitlin and I had been seeking.

I arrived in Prescott, AZ with only half an idea of what I would really be doing in the week long course. I doubt if I’ve taken three successive breaths in the last seven years without thinking about NEMO. And lately, it’s been busier than ever. But lack of time to study beforehand is only part of the issue. I’ve long since decided that the best journeys are only loosely planned…maybe from A to C but never from A to Z. The course arrived at a time when I desperately need a break and an adventure. I showed up with an open mind, a ready attitude, two giant Osprey wheelie bags filled with demo NEMO gear, a prototype Cosmo Air/Pillowtop pad, a couple changes of clothes and half a clue about what I would be doing. I like that kind of adventure. Plenty of unknowns+good attitude+good people+the right gear=a high probability for a good life experience.

The first three days of our week long class were spent a little outside Prescott, AZ in the desert on BLM land. Arizona’s BLM controls 12.2M acres of surface land, a good deal of which are open areas with beautiful natural features and well established trails for vehicular exploration. I flew in Saturday night, October 3rd, took a bus to Prescott where Scott picked me up in his EarthRoamer and I spent the night at his place. The next morning, Scott drove us to his HQ where we jumped in a 2004 Tacoma (owned by Jeremy, an employee of Scott’s) and headed out to the desert with Scott taking the unusual role of copilot. After about an hour’s drive, we got off the highway and met up with the other students and their vehicles at a trailhead. It was just us, a zillion Saguaro cacti riddled with bullet holes and a few locals with dirt bikes and high powered rifles. Scott chose this area because it was already severely impacted and nothing we would do in our class would leave the area in any worse condition.

Day one of Overland Training. Overlanders distance themselves from some off-highway enthusiasts with their commitment to staying on the trail, always trying to maintain traction and caring deeply about conservation.
Photo: Cam Brensinger

The persistent gunfire in the background and the occasional dude ripping by on his dirt bike put in context Overland Training. Especially juxtaposed with Overland Training’s chief instructor, Graham Jackson. Graham grew up in Africa racing motos and helping his dad build race buggies. He had aspirations to race Formula cars and went to racing school in Europe, but later chose overlanding and a career as a chemist and writer. He’s a cultured and well traveled guy, and he brings a scientest’s way of thinking to his passion for vehicles and adventure.

Scott demonstrates the difference between a winchline extension and a tow rope. My experience with textiles and fibers gave me a good footing here, unlike in some areas where I was a total newbie.
Photo: Cam Brensinger

Between Graham and Scott and the shared wisdom of some of my more experienced classmates, such as Mario Donovan, the owner of Adventure Trailers, himself a very accomplished overlander and engineer, I definitely felt like a newbie and had tons to learn. We ran through exercises to familiarize ourselves with the dimensions of our vehicle, to demonstrate the effect of locking differentials and airing-down tires. We also had a thorough clinic on recovery gear and then spent some time putting that gear to use. We learned about spotting (different from the kind we do climbing) and practiced helping each other through a moderately technical portion of a dry river bed. All real hands-on stuff and a total blast. I learned about “working load” versus “load limit,” how to identify a top quality shackle and how to use a Pull-Pal. Collectively, there were several lifetimes worth of knowledge and experience present. A whole new world to explore.

At night, we camped out and I got to show off a Losi 2P, a Fillo and a new [top secret] Cosmo Combo sleeping pad. The Cosmo, especially, was a real hit. Overlanders often work out an alternative to ground camping, whether it’s rooftop tents or sleeping accommodations in their vehicles, either way, the mattresses just aren’t like home. You would think, with weight less of a concern that mondo and plush they would be, but the mattresses in these things are almost universally anorexic slabs of hard foam. Cosmo might be about as close to the feeling of your luxury bedroom mattress as you’re going to get in a 4lb, small packing, backcountry-worthy pad. I won’t say anymore about it here, but keep an eye out. It’s pretty sweet. It poses a real threat to your early morning ambitions.

Losi 2P keeping my borrowed Tacoma from taking off during the night. Note the rooftop tents in the background, Australian Outback style.
Photo: Cam Brensinger

To close out the field portion, we did a short overland trip back to Prescott. Scott and I had a good chance to chat on the drive and I picked up some additional tips on side slopes (Scott has an app for everything on his beloved iPhone, including an inclinometer), high speed driving and smoothness. We talked about past and future trips and ways our companies could cooperate. The value of networking, etc. We also shared some of our philosophy on life and business and talked about the notion of excellence, and how it’s a good thing to aspire to, even if only for our own gratification. And even at the expense of our hairlines (Scott gave in a while back and just shaved his). We both have an anachronistic appreciation for taking time to do things right, building things with our hands and having pride in our work. The kind of stuff we saw and admired in our dads and our granddads.

The rest of the week in Prescott was based at Scott’s company HQ in a nice, modest sized, neat and tidy commercial park on the edge of town. Cubicles are traded for a cozy, well decorated (Stephanie Brady’s other talent, aside from being Design Director for the magazine) office with British campaign furniture and posters of remote places and an operating room clean and organized garage with parts bins, boxes of OJ back issues and half-a-dozen folding tables arranged as a classroom. There are mountain bikes and motorcycles in and around the shop, and always a parking lot full of vehicles you could literally jump in and drive to the furthest reaches of land anywhere on the globe.

Graham demonstrates proper spotting technique while Scott pretends to need his help in the prototype Mopar/AEV Overland Jeep.
Photo: Cam Brensinger

Graham really got to show off his science background in the classroom portion of the course. Topics included, just to name a few, the ins and outs of navigation, the science of water filtration (see Overland Journal’s recent issue for Graham’s exceptionally thorough and well thought out test of water filters), how to choose the right gear and apparel, and tips and documents needed for successful border crossing. We grabbed meals together in little groups and it was a real pleasure to get to know my classmates. They included the former CEO of a healthcare provider, a Reno motorcycle cop and a Port Authority officer who was at Ground Zero on 9/11 and came to Overland Training seeking a new direction in life having just retired from more than twenty years in service, among other interesting folks. To a person, everyone was enjoyable to be around and brought a unique personal history and perspective.

A closer look at the rooftop tent, this one a fine example from Eezi-Awn. The trailer is one of Mario’s exceptionally well built Adventure Trailers.
Photo: Cam Brensinger

We ended the class on Saturday the 10th with a short certification exam. Despite a week of succumbing to persistent daydreams about trips to Central America, Alaska and Northern Canada and lots of time penciling out a future mod list for my Taco way above my pay grade, I managed to only miss a couple points. One that Graham cheated me out of and one something to do with calibrating your GPS for different datums. The question must have been poorly worded…:) Anyway, mission accomplished and with my passing grade, NEMO gained its official Overland Certification (I will get mine too, but first I need to get a ham radio license to complete the qualifications). Scott’s program is still young, I believe this was the third class, and if I complete the cert soon, I will likely be among the first 20 officially certified graduates. I’m stoked to be a plank holder, to be in there on the ground floor, around to see how it develops in the coming years.

So, I left Prescott with a new passion pretty well formed. My only concern was that Caity wasn’t there to go through the same first hand courtship, and might take some convincing. But she didn’t. No doubt in some part just to support her man, she tolerated an earful of breathless enthusiasm over the phone during the class and listened and smiled when I got home and began campaigning for trips and truck mods in 2010. I feel good about where it’s all going. It’s something Caity and I can do together, and with Tsuba (our Mal) and even kids (who knows). And it’s really just the vehicle, pun intended, for countless possibilities for exploration and adventure, some of which are old hat for us, like climbing, and some of which we’re yet to discover. Out of it, we’ve already been talking about learning Spanish and sharpening our photography skills. With it come new friends, new gear to study and obsess over, and a new way to of looking at roads already traveled.


Monday Morning Tomfoolery

Shenanigans, tomfoolery, and ballyhoo in the office this morning. There are some initiations going on right now... the 80 year old man is beating up the punky teenager.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

OutDoor Demo East

This past weekend (Thursday-Sunday), Nicole and I ran the NEMO booth at the OutDoor Demo (ODD) East trade show in the Providence, Rhode Island. The purpose of ODD is to allow retailers and shop employees in the bicycle industry the opportunity to attend a show where all the new 2010 product can be seen in person. Not only can you 'ooooh and ahhhh', but you can actually hop on a brand new bike not available to the general public and take it for a spin. Although this show is primarily geared (no pun in tended... ok yes it was) towards the bicycle crowd, we realize that many people who ride bikes also spend time in tents camping.

We were able to talk a variety of people from gravity downhill mountain bikers looking for a tent to camp in after a long day of lift runs, to the team mechanic who spends all summer on the road and would welcome an alternative to sleeping in the truck. Several long distance riders were really psyched about our 1 person Gogo bivy.

There were several cyclocross races over the weekend and our very own Nicole took part in Providence Cyclo-cross Festival. Twelve hundred men and women (both professional and amateur cyclists) competed in multiple races Saturday and Sunday, including Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) and local favorite Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven-NoTubes)!

We would like to send thank-yous to everyone who stopped by to visit the booth. We would also like to send your-welcomes to the random folks who took "demo naps" in the Asashi tent that was set up in the expo area!


Chattahoochee, A Curious River Float

David Hanson is a writer, teacher and friend of NEMO. His background is in field-science and he has a passion for travel. Check out his most recent project below.

September - December 2009
Beginning in late September I will take an old-fashioned, two-person We-No-Nah canoe down the length of the Chattahoochee River through Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. It will take about three months to cover the 540 miles. I’m doing this mainly because I want to meet people and hear their stories along the way. Things like life, rivers, and speech move slowly down here. So will I.

I grew up in Atlanta, a city that sources water for its exploding population from the 'Hooch. A "Water War" is being fought between the river's three host states and a recent judge ruling upheld the original charter for the Corps of Engineers' management of the water and reservoirs of the Chattahoochee River basin (aka the ACF Basin for Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers). GA, FL, and AL have less than three years to come to a new agreement on water allocation. The results of this debate could set vital precedents for water resource management in the southeast and nationally. The next great conservation effort will be water and the Chattahoochee could turn out to be Ground Zero for policy and management discussion.

I will travel its length solo, looking at the people and life along the river corridor and conducting water quality tests with school groups whenever possible.

Launch, 100-Year-Flood, E.Coli
It starts with a bang. On Sunday, Sept 21, my launch day, I watched the upper Chattahoochee rise from 1.25 feet to, some say, 12 feet in 12 hours. The rain came down in sheets and the water rose in brown waves that carried full trees down its bowling alley corridor. I left Morpheus, my canoe, at a friend's riverside cabin where I was staying and we kayaked in the whitewater for three days as levels dropped off. By Tuesday, I had strung together the four upper sections (barring the stretch above and through Helen, GA). I rode the final push of flood water 30 miles, out of the mountains and into Lake Lanier.

After a long flat three days paddling on Lanier, sleeping on islands, and working with a student group at the Elachee Nature Center, I portaged Buford Dam and suddenly found myself in a beautiful strip of cold, clear, river and dense riparian forest surrounded by Metro Atlanta suburbs. I ran through the trails beside the river and popped out at manicured lawns and cul-de-sacs and carpools. I slept by the river in the woods. This is the epicenter of the development that needs so much water from Lanier to sustain itself. This is the heart of the Water Wars.

Poo Scare
I approached Atlanta on day seven, a week after floods had blown through the city, causing widespread damage to homes and schools and commercial buildings. E.Coli warnings began to appear in news reports. Bacteria levels had risen to over 30 times normal due to sewer systems and entire treatment plants having to expel raw sewage into the river and tributaries. I paddled one long day north of Atlanta - the river here a wild stretch of hardwood-bordered beauty - and took out 20 miles above the worst of the treatment plant spills.

I taught at the Lovett School, located on the river bank. The seventh grade science classes helped me record a water quality test and we discussed water stewardship practice. Levels have since dropped back to "normal," though the 'Hooch through here, while scenic on the surface and surprisingly unfettered by streamside development, remains a damaged river due to the daily cocktail of toxins running off from neighborhoods, parking lots and roadways, golf courses, industry, etc.

Back on the river tomorrow (Oct 5) for the worst of the worst through south Atlanta and then soutwesterly for 70 miles to the West Point Lake and the border with Alabama.

Week three: South Atlanta to West Point Lake
By far the most filthy river stretch in the whole Chattahoochee system and possibly one of the most wretchedly polluted rivers in the country. Atlanta simply unleashes its waste into the 'Hooch. It is usually heavily sedated/treated with chemicals, but following the 100-year-flood event of the last two weeks, raw sewage has been running straight into the river. E. Coli levels hit 170,000 ppm with the max for safe recreational use being 235 ppm. I floated on but it was nasty. The banks had slid away leaving steep, crumbling messes covered in downed trees and a few inches of greasy sediment. Plastic bags, paddles, toy grocery carts, volleyballs, yard ornaments clung to the branches of trees twenty feet over the water. I camped on islands with mounds of trash and I stayed in the barn of a man whose home was flooded. It's still raining down here. Working on 30+ inches in some places, since I began the journey.


For more about David, you can visit his blog.

All the pretty colors

New wallet samples came in. It looks like our Ditto Wallet stock is going to be replenished with an even wider variety of fabrics and colors soon.

Can you spot my already well-loved (dirty) wallet inserted in the middle of the bunch?


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Update #2 From Lion King on the AT

Last year, we were introduced to a man who goes by the trail name Lion King. Lion King has hiked many long distances, including completing the Appalachian Trail multiple times, the John Muir Trail, and the American Discovery Trail. NEMO was interested in getting some of its 2010 prototypes into the field for some intense tent testing (say that three times fast) and thought Lion King would be the perfect man for the job. So, we looked him up and made him an offer. We'd send him a couple of tents to preview and if he thought they'd be a good fit for his current AT journey, he'd take them along (in shifts) and give us feedback that we could incorporate into our designs. Below is an excerpt from his latest report.

So, with a change of seasons comes a change of tents. This time I am using the Losi Storm 2P™ (new for 2010), 2 person large design that came at just the right time.

As I hiked the Vermont section of the AT that also runs along the Long Trail, I met a beautiful woman named Dana who was hiking the long trail. Seems we both got along fabulously and after a fashion...well, we took to each other. Maybe it was the beauty of the tent, maybe it was my adventurous odor, who really knows? But I'm glad I had a two man tent...err...two person tent. It seems we both fit in fine and there are pockets at the head that held her small knife, her mace, her safety whistle and her Leki lay beside her. Trust? Yes. Safety? For sure.

I told her that those items were perfect to have in the tent. That way, if I acted up, she could mace me, stab me with her pin knife, blow her whistle for help as she shoved me out my side door with her Leki and then escape out of her side door all at the same time. A perfect tent design for two people who just met each other, like each other, but also feel the need to maybe escape in the dead of night with minimal discomfort to the other tent occupant. Nicely done NEMO.

Now, she and I hiked together from Bennington, VT to Rutland, VT and we shared a lot of laughs, some stories, and some history of each of us and we grew close. So close in fact, that after the ALDHA (American Long Distance Hikers Association) gathering in Gettysburg, I will be going to see her for a bit.

Was it the tent? Maybe. Whatever it was, I'm thankful for a roomy two man tent that also serves as a cuddle nest. Mace and all.

As the trip winds to a close, we approach Katahdin, she is home in PA and I am excited more about seeing her again then I am about finishing the trip. Which is good since bad weather forced us to not summit Katahdin, so we turned back and now are on the way to ALDHA. I will be showing a new film I made on the American Discovery Trail on Saturday so come on out ya'll, I'll be the guy in the nice large two man NEMO...hoping for Dana to show up and join me. At least for one night.

~Lion King

Friday, October 9, 2009

NEMO Classroom Lessons #591: How to Pack Fillo

The Fillo has been the hands down office favorite here in terms of shared-gear-that-gets-snatched-first-when-packing-for-fun-trips (otherwise known as SGTGSFWPFFT). We get occasional calls from customers who don't realize that the pillow has an integrated stuff sack hidden underneath the shock-corded side. Steve just put together this short video showing how to pack it up.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Agony of Defeet

There are a lot of mysteries out there. Some become the foundation for the plots of blockbuster movies, others seem to fade into old wives tales. Last night I read about a tale that has the potential for either — assuming someone can conjure the right ending with that important mix of a little horror and a lot of twist.

Christopher Solomon wrote the article Foot. Loose. for Outside Magazine detailing his account traveling aboot the coast of British Columbia in order to learn more about the disturbing recent history of people finding human feet, still in their running shoes, washed up on shore.

"Something strange is happening in the coastal waters near Vancouver, B.C. Detached human feet—seven of 'em, neatly wrapped in running shoes—have been found washed up on beaches or floating next to piers. The Mounties aren't talking, but locals have plenty of theories. Let's just hope they're wrong about the flesh-eating lobsters and the rural loner with all the knives."

(Map by Chris Philpot on

“At first the feet are all men's feet, all right feet. Then a woman's foot appears. Then a left foot. Four of the feet match: one pair of women's feet, one pair of men's. That's seven feet, bow-tied in seaweed, that were once attached to a total of five bodies—bodies that don't turn up...”

Despite the gruesome subject matter, his writing is rather humorous. And even though he didn’t beat the Royal Mounties to a sure conclusion, his theories and investigations leave you relatively convinced that you don’t need to hole-up in your house with chain mail around your ankles. Personally, I’m still going to be a little wary on our next beach clean-up.

Kathryn’s quote of the day in reference to the article and our last clean-up: “I’m just glad there wasn’t a head attached to the blonde wig.”


NEMO at Outdoor Demo East

Come visit the NEMO booth this weekend at Interbike's Outdoor Demo East in Providence, RI. No doubt you'll be visiting to check out new 2010 designs and take a spin on the off-road trails for mountain/cyclocross bike testing.

We'll be at Booth #404, and have plenty of new gear and schwag on display. Take a look at the other exhibitors and let's hope for some sunny weather outside.

Roger Williams Park Providence, RI
Trade Show Days: October 8-9, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Consumer Show Days: October 10-11, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm