Friday, June 29, 2012

3 Days on the Wettest River in Maine

 Note: River name and location has been taken off the record for secrecy reasons.

The page in my guide book had been earmarked for some time.  So when the 3-day weekend presented itself in early June, it didn’t matter that a tropical storm was bringing heavy rain and the potential for flash floods to the area.  Per adventure protocol, I left my trip itinerary with friends who only responded with bewilderment: “Did you see the weather forecast?...You’re still going?”

The night before, I start pulling gear.  Working in the outdoor industry for some time has afforded me a bevy of gear options, borrowed, repaired, bargained for gear.  So when I picked the NEMO Nocturne and Rhapsody sleeping bags out of the pile, my husband Paul and partner in adventure looked at me with more than just bewilderment.  “You’re not seriously taking DOWN sleeping bags?”  It’s well known that down is useless as an insulator when it gets wet and with this trip, we had no intention of being dry for any part of it.  But I was thinking light and packable AND the NEMO down bags have DownTek treatment—a water resistant finish applied to the down.  I thought, this would be the best gear decision ever, or I might have to live this down the rest of our lives if we escaped an unfortunate soggy, dangerous experience.  Let’s go with the former rather than the latter.  I was unwavering in my decision.

The rain is coming down in buckets as we head North. I soak in the last warm heat of the car and upon arrival suit up with wetsuit, booties, PFD, and a wide brimmed rain hat.  We load the gear into the canoe and we’re off, it’s raining.The first leg of the trip puts us on a lake crossing immediately.  Loons circle our boat at first, and there’s no doubt we’ve found the perfect isolated canoe trip we had hoped for.  Soon, the wind is barreling down the surrounding mountains and dumping across the lake, creating massive waves. Two hours in and the waves make me feel like I’m in a never ending ocean. We arrive at our first portage—1.25 miles across a boggy expanse between this lake and the next.  As agreed, I take the two frame packs, one on my back and one saddled in front, along with a dry sack slung over the paddles.  Paul takes the canoe and we begin the trek.  I’m thinking, he laughed at me for taking the ultralight gear.  Look who’s speeding up the pace on the trail now.

The second lake is calmer, or so we thought for the first hour.  The rain settles to light, steady drops, the loons come back out.  But the second we cross into the larger section of the lake, the wind and waves pick up again.  Running parallel to our destination, massive waves persistently steam across the lake and funnel around the islands.  The wind pulls at their apexes and causes them to break.  I might have felt the mist off of the 3-4 foot lake monster waves but I was already waterlogged.  The tip of the canoe touches land.  We are relieved to make it to camp without capsizing in the lake first.
It’s time to set up base camp.  I unpack the light and packable Obi 2P, luxurious Cosmo Air pads, and the pièce de résistance—Nocturne and Rhapsody sleeping bags.  We peel off our wetsuits, although happy to put on dry clothing, it’s like pulling a bandage off to release the warmth that has been trapped by the neoprene.  But I know we’ll be jumping into the bags for warmth and the thought of a cozy bed has me ignoring the dinnerless night.  Under the protection of the tarp, we roll back the double vestibules of the Obi to watch for moose in the dusk.  The moose don’t come but sleep shortly does.

We wake mid-morning, cozy and comfy in our bags even though everything is damp with the heavy, saturated air and misting rain.  Success!  The bags have worked flawlessly.  I have placed the blanket fold of the Rhapsody sleeping bag over my head and my nose is warm although the air is not.  My toes are toasty and thinking of prying my wetsuit booties on has me sitting in the sleeping bag until the last possible moment.  It’s very spacious and I worm around camp from the door of the tent to pack all the saturated (and still saturated) gear we have strewn about camp to “air out”.  We pack it up and paddle on.

The rapids are getting bigger over the course of the day and we make it to camp just above the largest falls in the trip.There aren’t many trees so we use the canoe to tie off one side of the tarp and nestle the tent in along the edge of the tarp. Two of the three dry bags now hold wet gear.  I’ve saved our emergency clothes and first aid kit from exposure to the penetrating rain but everything else it wet.  Wet hands digging into dry bags, wet raincoats, wet camp towel, wet, wet, wet.  Even after being packed away damp from the night before, I unfurl the pleasantly puffy sleeping bags.  Our site overlooks a marshy abutment and again we prop our heads out of the fly to spy for moose.

What I deem minutes after dozing off, a ruckus breaks out in camp.  Groggy from sleep, we struggle to determine the enormous thud and the weight of something massive rolled over on the foot end of the tent.  A moose! A moose has tripped and fallen on our tent!  We don’t have time to think because water collecting from the tarp is streaming directly through the contorted tent body, exposed now, and the water is dumping directly onto Paul in his sleeping bag.  Alert in senses now, we realize a wind gust has rolled the canoe over onto us and is now sitting on top of the aluminum poles.  We quickly correct the canoe and tarp, rigging more far off points to battle the wind.  I’m amazed to find no damage to the tent poles as the tent springs back to shape after removing the canoe.  Even more so, Paul empties the puddle of water from atop his sleeping bag and crawls back in, damp from the rain, for another warm and comfortable night although temperatures are in the high 30’s now.

We wake in the morning to find a huge change in the water level overnight.The river has risen over 2 feet and the rapids at our camp are a completely different beast then what we had scouted last evening.  The rain seems to have teetered out and summoning our confidence. We spend some time determining our line, making bail out plans, and lashing the gear down well. We line up the boat perfectly with the tongue and hold our line better than I had anticipated.  I take huge standing waves over the bow and we have 8” inches of water in the boat.  Again, I really don’t notice the waves hitting me because, it’s raining after all.  We joyfully lollygag down the river which empties back into the first lake.  With one more hour of lake crossing, we’ll be back to our starting point.  Just as we come up to the first large island, Paul spots it foraging in the marsh weeds.  Ahhh, a moose.  We have officially, and successfully, completed a Maine river trip of a lifetime.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Poetry in Motion

These videos just keep getting better.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Independent in the Seacoast

There is a certain hardiness about New Englanders that is readily apparent—it might be a result of the wildly variant weather, the shortened growing season, the endless wood stacking in the winter, the consistently inconsistent (at best) ski/surf/climbing conditions. And whatever that set of New England-y qualities is, it seamlessly transfers to the souls of the companies that inhabit this area.

We're proud to be a New England company; to be inspired and surrounded by like-minded outdoor companies is a huge bonus.

We recently had a chance to visit Independent Fabrication, a hop/skip/jump over from Dover to Newmarket. To call IF a bike company is like calling Apple a music player company. Gary Smith gave us the behind the scenes tour at their new(ish) digs.

Tubestock, racked and ready to go.

Much of their machining is done on post-war era lathes, CNC machines, etc. There's a lot of heavy metal going on in the back, just sayin'.

A titanium frame on the stand, ready to be finished welded in the morning.

Shiny and waiting their turn -- rack of forks. 

Some finished forks being shown off by Gary.

Independent's locker rooms. Fully customized, as expected.

Gotta love details like on this belt drive bike. 

Their in-house capabilities are impressive and inspiring. They've certainly elevated bicycle manufacturing to a level of artisan craft that doesn't necessarily exist in today's world anymore.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In Search of a Cooldown

If last week's heat wave has made you long for cooler weather, this video should help.

The folks at Granite Stoke have been posting an impressive array of videos in the last year. If you want to know what it's like to be a surfer in the Northeast, this is it.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Open Access for NH Climbers = No Lawsuits

No need to get lawyerly about open access. NH landowners that open up their property to climbing are now protected from getting sued if someone gets injured on their property.
Local climbers rallied to submit letters and make phone calls to their Senators, asking them to amend the bill to include technical climbing before passing it. 
And today it was signed into law by Governor John Lynch. “This is an important piece of legislation for climbers,” says Eisele. “With landowners protected from liability if someone is injured while climbing on their property, it makes it much more likely that a landowner would consider public access to climbing.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Helio Q&A

Helio Pressure Shower arrived in our warehouse a couple weeks ago (and has since been shipped out to stores). We've already heard back from folks that have been playing with their new toy and had a few questions about the product.

Q: Given the color, I assume it's meant to be left out in the sun the way other camp showers are. How long do I need to leave it out before it warms up?
A: The long answer? It depends. It depends on what temperature the water starts at when you put it in, how much water you put in, the temperature outside, whether it is exposed to direct sunlight, and what you want the final temperature to be. But to give you a data point in space, when we were out at Trail Days in Damascus, VA, we filled Helio halfway up with water from the spigot (~55F) and let it sit in direct sunlight where the outside temperature was about 85-90F. It took the water inside the tank about 3 hours to warm up to what felt about 90F.

Q: How strong is the hanging strap? Am I messing with disaster if I hang a full Helio by this strap?
A: The strap is a carrying strap, not a hanging strap. It is meant to be used to carry Helio a short distance, and should NOT be used to hang Helio—unless the tank is empty and is just being dried. Hanging the weighted tank by the strap puts undue stress on the welds. Over time, both the material and welds can be compromised by the constant loading. Plus, the beauty of Helio is that you don't have to hang it. The bottom of the tank is structurally rigid, so it can stand on its own, which means you won't have to search for the perfect tree at the perfect height to wash up.

Q: It looks like you open the valve at the top of the foot pump before use. What's the valve at the bottom of the foot pump for?
A: The valve on the underside of the foot pump is just for drainage purposes when you are finished using the pressure shower. Be sure to keep it closed when pressurizing the tank.

Q: What's the best way to store Helio?
You should only pressurize the tank when you're using it. Keeping the tank out and pressurized over long periods of time puts the fabrics and welds under constant tension. Over long periods of time, this can affect the durability and longevity of the product. So when you're done showering/rinsing dishes/etc, take the time to properly depressurize the tank. The easiest way to do this is to spray water out of the nozzle until the stream dies out. Then open the valve on top of the tank to let the air out.

If you have any other questions, let us know!

Monday, June 18, 2012

On Innovation

An excerpt from a great piece on innovation in last week's New York Times Sunday Magazine:

The electric light was a failure.
Invented by the British chemist Humphry Davy in the early 1800s, it spent nearly 80 years being passed from one initially hopeful researcher to another, like some not-quite-housebroken puppy. In 1879, Thomas Edison finally figured out how to make an incandescent light bulb that people would buy. But that didn’t mean the technology immediately became successful. It took another 40 years, into the 1920s, for electric utilities to become stable, profitable businesses. 
We tend to rewrite the histories of technological innovation, making myths about a guy who had a great idea that changed the world. In reality, though, innovation isn’t the goal; it’s everything that gets you there. It’s bad financial decisions and blueprints for machines that weren’t built until decades later. It’s the important leaps forward that synthesize lots of ideas, and it’s the belly-up failures that teach us what not to do
This is what innovation looks like. It’s messy, and it’s awesome.

Friday, June 15, 2012

NEMO Fabrics

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We're Impressed

Mike Hall is half-man, half-machine. We heard that he just arrived back in England after cycling around-the-world in 91 days, 18 hours. Unsupported.

He rode over 18,000 miles in three months. His feet got thinner, his lycra baggier. We were psyched to hear that his shelter and sleeping pad of choice was Gogo Elite and Zor. One thing to point out about Gogo Elite—it's not almost as light as a bivy bag. It IS lighter than a bivy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

1,156 miles on the Murray River - SUP Adam Colton-style

When I started out Feb. 18th on the Murray River in Southeastern Australia, I had 1,876 km (1,156 miles) in front of me from Yarrawonga to Murray Bridge. I had never done a paddle board trip before, the most time I had spent on a paddle board was in Mexico for about 2 hours… even with this lack of experience I felt really confident.

YES I can swim, check, yes I am a persistent monster, check. I know from doing other long distance adventures (long distance skating) the physical challenge is never the hardest part… it is the mental challenge. Already knowing this trip is NOT going to be FUN; it was going to be a whole slew of emotions, ups and downs, doubt, boredom, and small moments of joy. All of this combined to make this one of life’s unique experiences. It was going to be a mental battle to keep in a good state of mind that allows you to take your mind away from the realization that this is going to take a very, very, very long time and not be aware of every wakening second of each super long day.

The whole trip was movement by daylight. The same day I landed in Melbourne Feb. 18th after a 15 hour flight I set out on the river that night at 5:30 pm and did not stop until I was done March 18th at 10:30am. 30 days straight with no days rest, on the water 10 -13 hours each day, I was a determined Monster in motion. I paddled in all weather conditions: rain to heat, wind to calm. It even rained so much that the river was in a medium flood state.

I had some days where the wind blew so hard and the river turned into a small ocean with miniature waves. At one point, I thought it was so ridiculous that I questioned if I was cursed, as if the river really had it out for me and I yelled at the river, reasoned with it, told it off and then I had a feeling like crap, maybe I have upset the river gods more. Then there were apologies, hahah. Soon I accepted the rivers challenge; it was what it was.

Overall, trying to write about the trip is a mild reflection but perhaps it has inspired someone or made you think. These trips are full of so many emotions, unique energy and just overall small details that words are really just words; actions of the trip and being there is the true testament. From one long-distance human powered traveler to another you just can look at each other and with a nod understand what that other has gone through. Whatever you are inspired to do make your idea happen, let your actions be the true testament.

-Adam C.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Too Much Fun in the Office Rain Chamber

The new rain chamber is up and running in our Dover offices. Nate took a spin in its inaugural run this afternoon.

All that standing around and staring into a glass cage made it seem like a zoo outing. You know what they say: you can take man out of the jungle, but not the jungle out of man.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chip This

We've been having some fun over here with Chip It! from Sherwin Williams.

The web based program lets you submit any photo on the interweb, and creates a custom palette chip card that can be saved to Pinterest, Facebook, desktop, or personal Chip It! album. Let us know if you need some photos if you're planning to paint your kitchen in the NEMO color palette.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ready for Liftoff

A new shipment arrived last week and the warehouse guys spent a few hours dragging around around pallets to create space for this:

FYI, the shortlist of what's available right now is Fillo Luxury, Zor, Zor Short, Tuo Cub, Astro Air, Astro Pillowtop, Astro Air & Pillowtop Combo, Astro Air Short + PT Combo, Cosmo Air & PT Combo. More coming in a month.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Seen in the Office Parking Lot

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Doing Double Duty (DDD)

Not everyone has a tent quiver. We've been there—sometimes you have to make do with the gear that you have. We heard from a customer who has an Espri 2P, and got in some good winter camping with it this season. 

This is his campsite on the Comanche snowfield before his climb on Comanche and Fall mountain the next morning in the Mummy Range (Northern Front Range of Colorado). 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Returning to the AT

We had a chance encounter with Patrice and Justin at the REI in Reading, MA where we discussed what exactly was the best shelter for them to take on their 2011 AT through-hike. As all through-hikers know, the trail does funny things to your mind and body. It gives you perspective, time to contemplate the things that are truly important in life. 

Fast forward to May 2012, where we ran into both these guys at Trail Days in Damascus, VA. 

Patrice and Justin are now running the Bears Den Trail Center Hostel in Bluemont, VA—giving back to the next generations of hikers who come across their cottage, just 3/4 miles off the AT. Next trail planned? The 3000 km Te Araroa (The Long Pathway), just completed in 2011. The bigger dream is operating their own hostel in Maine.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Uber-Repair Man with a Van

If you were ever curious to take a peek inside the van of one of the most well-known gear repairers in the Outdoor Industry (Allen Allyn M., for those of you who know who I'm talking about), take a look at the below pictures. Not only does he have enough tools to turn your boots into a hat, and your headlamp into a campstove, he make some mean ribs on the grill. 

Any repairman with an actual anvil outside his van gets major points.