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Wenger, a brand known mainly for its Swiss Army Knives and sport wristwatches, last month launched a line of shoes promising “superior performance and incredible comfort.” Working with Established Brands, the worldwide footwear licensee for Wenger, the company unveiled eight shoe models that include features like spot-welded seamless interiors, antibacterial insoles and liners, and contoured footbeds with cell pattern padding for air circulation and breathability.

 

According to Wenger, the outsole on all of the models adjusts to hot and cold environments to offer better traction. Price range is $95 to $170, and the line will be sold in sporting goods and outdoor specialty stores starting this month. Here’s a look at three stand-out models. . .

 

 

Above: The Shiltorn is a lightweight, low-cut athletic shoe that employs the company’s Temposit sole, a rubber formulation that adjusts to adapt to the climate, hardening in cold weather and getting softer when it’s warm. A seamless interior and mesh upper adds comfort for long treks.

 

 

Above: The Eiger is a mid-cut hiking boot the company says absorbs impact to reduce foot stress via something called the Spydraflex Outsole, which dampens and displaces impact outward rather than up the skeletal structure of the shoe. It has a waterproof membrane booty to keep your foot dry in puddles and snow and a one-piece leather upper.

 

 

Above: Wenger’s Vitznau is marketed as a “performance crossover shoe,” meaning you can use it in town where style counts or on the trail. It has a seamless interior and a lightweight but high-traction outsole, according to the company.

 

See the full Wenger footwear line at www.wengerfootwear.com

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Recreational Equipment Inc. yesterday opened its second prototype store to test the performance of green building features, including environmentally-friendly materials, new retail design concepts and technology to promote sustainability and energy savings.

 

 

The store, built from the ground up in Round Rock, Texas, is projected to consume 48 percent less energy than a typical store of its size.

 

Constructed using the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, the store includes features like solar panels, a solar hot-water system, tubes to direct diffused natural light indoors, an automated lighting system that dims or turns off when not needed, and a “cool” roof to reflect radiation and save energy. These features, REI estimates, will generate 13 percent of the store’s electricity and heat 70 percent of the store’s water use for restrooms and employee showers.

 

 

Recycled and sustainable materials used in the building include sunflower seed husks, recycled tennis shoes, carpeting manufactured through a climate-neutral process, and reclaimed wood from fallen trees.Says Sally Jewell, REI president and CEO: “This store will not only have reduced operating costs, but we’ve significantly reduced our dependency on fossil fuels.”

 

See more info on the Round Rock store here:

http://www.rei.com/greenbuilding/roundrock

 

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My story this week for Travel+Leisure — “Do-It-Yourself Digs” — covers a subset of science-based trips that are participatory expeditions and get-your-hands-dirty digs. The Warren Wilson College archaeology field school, in Morganton, N.C., as one example, offers sessions that put attendees on the site of a 16th-century Spanish fort. You dig and brush at the dirt to find pottery and tools at the earliest European settlements in the interior of what is now the United States.

 

 

Other trips are more exotic, including an expedition run by the Earthwatch Institute to Chile’s Atacama Desert, where one person I interviewed came face-to-face with a mummy. Not the Hollywood kind, but a real, long-gone hunter-gatherer. The body was wrapped in a grass mat, skin still intact, resisting rot for centuries in the antiseptic dirt of one of the driest places on the planet. “It was right out of the pages of National Geographic, just mind-boggling to see,” said Carl Schweser, a retired university professor.

 

 

“Major discoveries are not uncommon,” says Jeanine Pfeiffer, a program director at Earthwatch, which facilitates more than 4,000 volunteers a year. These volunteers have discovered a “trophy” ancient Wari warrior skull in Peru, an Inca solar observatory, and an “Argentinean fossil treasure trove” that revealed a new vertebrate life-form that existed in the Late Triassic period.

 

Some adventurers hire private guides to dig in out-of-the-way places, while families and day-trippers can find more accessible programs. In the United States, several research sites are open to the public, including the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum in North Dakota. This museum and hands-on field school offers amateur paleontologists the chance to help at a dig site for dinosaurs at the price of $100 per day.

 

See the full story and a list of “Do-It-Yourself Digs” at http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/do-it-yourself-digs

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This workaday flashlight can boost out a solid white L.E.D. beam at up to 18 lumens, which is enough energy to illuminate a big bubble of real estate when something goes bump in the campground at night. But what makes the light newsworthy is its multi-battery functionality, meaning it’ll accept AA, AAA or CR123 batteries to power its 0.7-watt L.E.D light source.

 

There is nothing too extraordinary about the Omnivore except for the fact that no one, as far as I know, has done the multi-battery thing before. Three areas within the chamber can host the aforementioned battery types. Just jiggle a single AA or three AAA or a CR123 battery and you’ll get light.

 

 

 

Brightness levels and battery capacity varies depending on what’s powering the Omnivore. At its highest output — 18 lumens — you need CR123 batteries, and the beam is tested to last for five hours. With just a single AA, the omnivore puts out 12 lumens for 5.5 hours. Mix and match at will to specify brightness and beam life along with the available batteries you can find in the junk drawer.

 

 

Gerber (http://www.gerbergear.com) makes the omnivore with an aircraft-grade aluminum housing. It measures 4.5 inches long and weighs about 3 ounces when empty then slightly more depending on the employed battery type. Available now for $57.

 

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eleven U.S. newspapers; see http://www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

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That famous pink bunny powered by batteries has rolled into the outdoors arena. Energizer’s e2 Lithium headlamp, unveiled at a consumer-electronic trade show in early 2008, is an interesting new entry into the now-crowded product category. The solid little light has an aluminum lamp case and an LED that delivers up to 100 lumens of brightness (140 lumens in a boost mode, as per the company’s spec).

 

I tested the headlamp on several nighttime hikes this month, and it provided a bright, clear light that created a wide window of virtual daylight. I was impressed with its adequate brightness and peripheral range: The lens has a super-wide setting that illuminates a giant circle of nighttime air, providing a full field of vision (as opposed to a tunnel of light or a beam). This light doesn’t reach as far as the focused beam of a Princeton Tec Apex or a similar model, though for hiking and easy biking after dark the Energizer e2 Lithium gives more than enough light, stretching about 150 feet outward and 75 feet wide in a strong bubble of light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus: Energizer added a few features I’ve not seen on many other headlamps, including interchangeable battery packs (you can use AA or AAA batteries); a red-light mode for map reading at night (it won’t wreck your night vision); and a tiny blinking green LED on the battery case to provide easy location of the headlight in a dark backpack and to allow your fellow hikers to see you on the trail, even when your light is turned off.

 

Ergonomically, the e2 Lithium felt fine. That is to say its fit was average — not extremely comfortable but for the most part unnoticeable. Small cord-routing plastic clips on the webbing can rub a bit weird if the unit is worn too tight.

 

It weighs 6.3 ounces on my scale with its AAA battery pack, which is an average weight. Energizer (energizer.com) ships the lamp with two sets of its Ultimate Lithium batteries, purportedly “the world’s longest lasting AA & AAA batteries,” according to the company. These batteries do have some advantages in the outdoors, too, as they are good in temps ranging from -40° F to 140° F.

 

Energizer touts the e2 Lithium headlamp as “hands-free light for the most extreme outdoorsmen.” I’m not sure I’d go that far. But this light is an admirable new entry into the headlamp game. It is high quality and solid, and its wide, clear and white LED window of light illuminated with aplomb as I hiked down the nighttime trail.

 

Price: $54.99

 

Available at www.brightguy.com or www.opticsplanet.net

 

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eleven U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

 

 

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