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I wrote about 11-year-old Jordan Romero earlier this year when the grade schooler became the youngest person to stand atop Aconcagua, a 22,841-foot peak in Argentina. Now it looks like the kid has kicked his way up Denali, summiting on June 19.


This summit brings Jordan a step closer to his goal of becoming the youngest person to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents.


With this climb, Jordan tied the record for the youngest person to summit Denali. Jordan, along with his father, Paul, and stepmother, Karen, both accomplished adventure racers on Team SOLE, needed just seven days to reach the summit of Denali. (It takes many teams two weeks.)


Says Jordan: “The mountain was hard, there were lots of ropes and technical things to think about. There were definitely a few times that I was scared, but I wanted so badly to make it to the summit.”

In July 2006, Jordan began his quest for the Seven Summits as he climbed 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. In April 2007, Jordan summitted Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia; in July he climbed Mt. Elbrus in Russia; in December, Aconcagua in Argentina.





Jordan’s sights are now set on Antarctica’s 16,000-foot Vinson Massif. He is selling t-shirts on his website,, to raise money for the trip.


Hats off, little man!



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Adventure Kid Club

Posted by Stephen Regenold Jun 24, 2008


Do you worry that your kids spend too much time indoors or in front of the TV? Adventure Kid Club is a web site that sells a series of downloadable PDFs, each of which contains a collection of “fun, funny, gross, surprising, nasty and amazing nature tips” to get kids and their grown-ups out-of-doors together.


Kathy Fredriksson, founder of Adventure Kid Club, started the business with her two young sons and two nephews as an excuse to take a walk in the woods. It soon grew into a “club,” which grew into the web site that Fredriksson launched this month.






Adventure Kid Club adventures are brightly-colored, kid-illustrated, downloadable PDFs that lead kids and their parents through quick nature lessons on topics ranging from dandelions to “Under a Rock.”


Ever wonder why pill bugs roll up into a ball when you touch them? Or, how can a slug defend itself against a toad? These are a few of the questions you’ll answer for your kids as they poke under a rock, learning and listening to earn Adventure Kid Club points.


Download a free trial PDF by signing up here:



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Nau 2.0

Posted by Stephen Regenold Jun 24, 2008

Last month Nau Inc., an apparel company based in Portland, Ore., announced that it was closing shop. This was to my disappointment, as the startup had a neat business plan based on sustainability, plus I was a fan of the Nau aesthetic, kind of a futuristic/urban look that took cues from technical outdoors wear.


But today the news is that Horn-y Toad Activewear Inc. has acquired the Nau brand, purchasing the bulk of Nau’s remaining assets and financing a “new Nau” that will launch on August 1.






"We’re thrilled to find a partner who both recognizes and values the unique nature of what we’ve created and is committed to supporting the growth of our business over the long term,” said Ian Yolles, Nau’s head of marketing.


Nau will be treated as a separate company from ***** Toad, but the two will share operational support, sales fulfillment and logistic services.


According to Gordon Seabury, CEO of Horn-y Toad, “We saw in Nau an innovative brand representing the perfect blend of outdoor, urban fashion sensibility with an unwavering commitment to sustainability. It is all about their innovative product, authentic brand and most importantly the talented group behind those attributes.”








The Nau look.


          • Toad’s long-term vision, according to Seabury, is to create a family of complimentary brands that can “learn from one another while embodying a do-the-right-thing philosophy.”


Nau’s products will continue to be sold through its website, The Nau retail stores will not re-open, though the company has plans to sell through other stores around the country, starting with ***** Toad’s Lizard Lounge store in Portland this fall.



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A story I wrote last week on new summertime gear and gadgets was

picked up by MSNBC and The story, which highlights

gas-powered margarita blenders (no joke) to watches that predict the

weather, is about as over-the-top as I can go.



Did I mention the tent from Eureka with fans, lights and outlet plugs. . .



Click here to read “The Ultimate Summer Gadget Guide.”



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Handlebar-mounted map holders are one of those esoteric outdoors items that only complete cartographic nerds and adventure racers can wax silly about. Since I fit both molds—and add orienteering to my topographic confessional as well—the Rotating Map Holder from Adventure Racing Navigation Supplies caught my eye.


Last month, I employed the plastic platform on an adventure race along the St. Croix River in Minnesota, navigating trails and county roads for about 20 miles with relative ease. The 9×9-inch platform did not flex or flap, and the bungee cords held the map in place fine while on the go. The board does add wind drag, though less than I expected.







Made to fit all standard bike handlebar setups, the Rotating Map Holder mounts via a lever-activated clamp. You put in rubber shims to fit it tight against your handlebars. When putting the clamp on my bike, however, I had trouble getting the lever to snap down tight, though the platform stayed stable while I rode.


For reading the map on the ride, the platform rotates 360 degrees, allowing you to spin and orient the map with the lay of the land. This alone is a huge advantage to simply using an over-the-shoulder map case and trying to read a wrongly-oriented road map while riding on a bumpy road.


Indeed, pedaling and navigating has got to be one of the most dangerous parts of adventure racing. Several times while coasting downhill during races—the one time when I finally get a second to stop pedaling and try and peek at the map—I’ve squinted at bouncing details on a page and almost crashed. It’s like driving and talking on a cell phone, though much worse.


The Rotating Map Holder, on the other hand, keeps the map flat and easier to read. It costs $55 and adds just 8 ounces of weight to your bike setup.







While they seem hokey, the dual bungee straps pretty much keep the map in place. I had my map come out and blow off the bike once during my race. This was because I folded it a bit too small, and one side slipped out of a bungee, and the wind caught it, and . . . time to hit the brakes and head back for the page.


One feature that would be nice—and something I plan to add to my Rotating Map Holder—is a small stick-on compass. This way you would not have to check the lanyard around your neck for north before looking down each time at the page.


Anything you can do to make map reading easier (and safer) while riding is a good thing by me.


Price: $55


Company contact: Adventure Racing Navigation Supplies,




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In today’s Escapes section of the New York Times I write about a recent trip to the “Everglades of the North”—aka the Big Bog State Recreation Area in northern Minnesota.






The Bog—a spongy wilderness that stretches up to 20 miles north to south, and is 50 miles wide—is an alien world where “wolves and moose roam on soft earth, plants eat bugs and otters live in rivers thick with ooze. . .”


See the full story here:



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This post details a mountaineering incident last week in which a personal locator beacon (PLB) was employed. One of the involved climbers, Bill Becher, a writer from southern California, had the ACR MicroFix PLB unit in his pack, though he never expected to use it. But while descending from Mt. Gilbert near Bishop, Calif., in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Becher’s friend and climbing partner fell and broke his leg. They were several miles from civilization with no good options. Here’s a quick Q&A with Becher on what they did next.


The Gear Junkie: Describe what led up to your incident.


Becher: We had hiked up out of South Lake on Wednesday and bivyed at 10,800 feet east of Treasure Lakes. We were carrying ice tools, crampons an alpine rack and ice screws and were planning on climbing the ice couloir at Mt. Gilbert. We crossed snow and granite slabs called “The Death Slabs” to get to our bivy spot at the approach to the climb. But Thurs. a.m. we woke up and it was snowing pretty hard so we decided to bail on the climb. At about 9 a.m., heading back down, my partner was hiking to a spot to set up a rappel when he slipped on a snow covered rock that was pitched at an odd angle. He broke his leg.








On the approach to Mount Gilbert. Photo credit: Bill Becher


The Gear Junkie: What were your first thoughts?


Becher: I had a PLB, the ACR MicroFix, and we decided that since there was no way for him to hike out we needed to switch it on and send the distress signal. I carved out a platform in the snow and set up the tent while my partner splinted his leg with trekking pole sections and duct tape. We got in our sleeping bags to wait. We decided if nobody showed up by the next day and the weather cleared I’d hike out and go for help. I’d left a detailed description of where we were going with my wife.
















ACR MicroFix PLB unit.


The Gear Junkie: Did the PLB work immediately?


Becher: It was about noon when we heard a helicopter—three hours after I turned on the distress signal. I put on my red jacket and went out and waved. The chopper circled looking for us. It was difficult to spot us and because we were on a snowy, rocky slope there was no place for the helicopter to land. But it did make a good snow blower! They finally lowered a medic. His name was Zack. He checked my partner out—the leg appeared to be broken but no bones sticking out or bleeding. The helicopter lowered a basket and hoisted him up. I put on my harness and the medic and I clipped into the line and we were hoisted up.


We were able to take some gear, but had to leave my pack and the tent. They took us to the Bishop hospital where they did X-rays. He had a spiral fracture of the right fibula. They put a cast on it. The SAR (search-and-rescue) deputy drove me back to the trailhead but my key were in the pack on the mountain. Fortunately, he was able to jimmy the door open.


The Gear Junkie: Can you explain how this PLB process worked?


Becher: The way the PLB system works is it sends a signal to satellites that circle overhead every 45 minutes. The PLB is registered at NOAA with my name, emergency contact number, address, etc. When NOAA received the signal, an Air Force SAR coordinator called my wife, who told them where we were and that it was unlikely that I’d accidentally triggered the device. The second satellite pass—45 minutes later—confirmed that the PLB was still on and they rolled the helicopter out then from China Lake Naval Air Station. The Inyo County Search and Rescue team coordinated and was in contact with my wife. I felt bad that she had to get that call but she was able to give them detailed info our climbing route.










SAR helicopter to the rescue. Photo credit: Bill Becher


The Gear Junkie: What was the rescuers’ reaction after they got to you?


Becher: The Navy SAR team thanked me for having the PLB. They said they wished more people carried them as it makes the search part of “search and rescue” much easier. The SAR sheriff said they’d just had a training session on PLB and this was the first experience with actually using it. He was impressed with how well it worked. If they hadn’t been able to get the chopper in it would have taken a 12-man team with a wheeled litter to get my injured partner out, according to the deputy.


We were very thankful that the Navy team flew in the bad conditions and showed great skill and professionalism. We were also thankful we had the PLB or we’d likely still be on the mountain with me facing a difficult and treacherous descent and not being able to enjoy beer and Vicodin in my Winnebago as we are now!


The Gear Junkie: Did you guys have to pay for the rescue?


Becher: The PLB alert is a public deal run by NOAA. No cost for that. Sometimes the rescue costs are passed back. But in our case the Navy loans their helicopter to the Inyo County SAR for the practice and the only cost was the SAR deputy’s overtime: about $270.


The Gear Junkie: Anything you’d do different next time?


Becher: The SAR deputy said we did everything right. But one lesson learned is that the PLB isn’t that precise and you need some way to signal rescuers. They had difficulty spotting us until they saw my red parka. The traditional signal mirror doesn’t help much in a snowstorm.. I was thinking about getting my LED headlamp but wasn’t sure if it was bright enough. Eventually, jumping up and down in a red parka and waving my arms worked to get their attention.



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This feature story -- -- details my experience undergoing a blood lactate threshold test, where a fitness trainer put me on a treadmill and pricked my fingertip repeatedly for blood samples. The goal was to determine my lactic acid threshold, the point at which I start to "feel the burn."


Professional athletes, notably Nordic skiers and endurance-sports competitors, have sought blood lactate tests for more than a decade. Alongside fitness identifiers such as body mass index, VO2 max (aerobic capacity), heart rate and body composition tests, a blood lactate profile helps prescribe workout regimens individualized for the physiological makeup and fitness level of each athlete on a roster.






Indeed, blood lactate readings can distill the efficiency of exercise to a cellular level, providing a peek at the inner workings of millions of muscle cells, where oxygen, enzymes, glycogen, lactic acid and other infinitesimals mix to pound out movement and power. Trainers and coaches take test results and apply them to heart-rate-based workouts structured for maximum physical efficiency.


"It's about training smarter, not harder," said Ben Popp, a former semi-pro skier who coached college athletes for five seasons. "The goal with any workout should be to do the minimal amount of work possible to elicit the physiological response that you need to make a difference."


With such claims, blood lactate tests are just now entering the mainstream fitness vernacular. Popp says everyday exercisers, recreational athletes and dieters can benefit from the precise fitness plans generated by a lactate profile.


"People who work 50 or 60 hours a week and have just a few hours for fitness can increase their productivity," Popp added.


See the rest of my story, "Testing Blood Lactate Threshold," here. . .



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