“Landmarks” by Robert MacFarlane is a book to reread

We regularly recommend books on NickerNews (another site in the family of Cayyuse Crest Communications). Why not here?

This first installment comes on finishing one of the most impressive non-fiction books I’ve read in years: Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane.

Robert MacFarlane

Robert MacFarlane

Landmarks is full of those moments one has an engaged reader: Ah-ha moments and passages that you immediately have to read again, not because they confound you but because they lift you to a deeper place of understanding and appreciation. Those are passages where I turn down the top corner of the page. My copy of Landmarks must have three dozen turn-downs or more.

MacFarlane refers to and pays homage to many American essayists, including Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez, and John Muir. His book is a celebration of language, time in nature and wilderness, and a deeply thoughtful conversation about the junction of those elements.

Although focused on the how the English are losing nature-centric words specific to the British Isles (peat, fog, mist, etc), he even writes of Keith Basso’s work with the Apache of western Arizona:

“The Apache understand how powerfully language constructs the human relation to place, and as such they possess, Basso writes, ‘a modest capacity for wonder and delight at the large tasks that small words can be made to perform.’ In their imagination geography and history are consubstantial. Placeless events are inconceivable, in that everything that happens must

A worn, saddlebagged copy of Landmarks

A worn, saddlebagged copy of Landmarks

happen somewhere.”

Other books to consider, with leanings toward books of the western U.S.:

Hole in the Sky: A Memoir, by William Kittredge

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West, by Wallace Stegner

Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey

All the West that Remains, by David Gessner. Read a three-part interview with Gessner here.

Where Rivers Change Directions, by Mark Spragg

Send us your favorites!

Skida jazzes up the hat world

PrintJust in time for winter, UtahOutsider has a new friend. Say hello to Skida, the Vermont headwear and accessories company.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-03-at-2.03.37-PMWhat Darn Tough has done for the drab, itchy sock industry, Skida is doing for the drab, itchy hat world. The colorful, hip hats fit easily under riding helmets and will jazz up any barn or trekking outfit.

We’ll be giving away Skida hats and Darn Tough socks at the Equine Affaire. Check out details here.

Skida (Swedish for ‘to ski’) was founded by entrepreneur Corinne Prevot when the cross country skier was still in high school. That was about seven years ago and Prevot was sewing the hats herself and selling them to friends and teammates at Burke Mountain Academy, in East Burke, VT. Since then, the 24-year old has graduated from Middlebury College and her business has boomed. Last year, Skida produced 50,000 pieces and sold to about 300 retail accounts, from resort shops to small country stores. It does a brisk business with web sales, too.

This year, it will make many more. “We’ve definitely grown at lightning speed,” said Prevot.

No ‘made in China’ tags here. The fabrics are cut in New Hampshire and made by contracted seamstresses in northern Vermont. The company recently introduced gorgeous cashmere items and has a budding relationship with a factories and artisans in Nepal.

Prevot and her team of four full-timers just opened a storefront in Burlington.

Check out the website here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 12.49.10 PM

SPOT to the rescue (and for fun)

The move to Colorado means a few things change:

  • GEN3_leadI’m in unfamiliar territory.
  • I’m mostly alone while exploring on foot and horseback.

Just in time, the folks at SPOT have sent their Gen3 device with satellite service for messaging and tracking. We’ll be giving one away at the Equine Affaire. A $450 value.

I don’t plan on getting lost or needing help. Who does? I didn’t plan on getting in a wreck with Jolene this summer, either. If I’d been alone, it would not have ended as well.

SPOT is a fabulous option for so many of us who are out in the boonies with no cell service. (Despite what your cell company tells you, bad service happens more often than you’d think. And cell phone battery life can die quickly, especially when it is in constant search mode for reception.)

Extreme Tracking of an 11-mile trek near Mesa Verde National Park

Extreme Tracking of an 11-mile trek near Mesa Verde National Park

The SPOT unit is small and tough. It clips easily to a belt or can go in a pocket.

  • Press the message icon button to send an OK message via text message or email to whomever you list. (see below, screen shot of the text message I sent to my son. “Pretty Cause” is a name I gave our home here.)
  • Press the hiking boot icon to track yourself using Extreme Tracking. It’s a feature you will LOVE. You can choose the increments of GPS location: 2.5, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. I found 10 minutes to be a good stagger for riding. During this ride (see screen shot, right), we covered 11 miles over high meadow and through gullies of timber.

If you’re really in trouble, there are two options: by pressing the ‘give me a hand’ icon, a HELP message is sent to those friends and family listed in your account (via text and/or email). Or, use the SOS feature to get help from emergency services. SPOT has helped thousands in dire circumstances. Read this recent story of a outdoorsman boxed in by a wildfire.

Sign up to be a Remuda Reader and you’ll automatically qualify to win a SPOT Gen 3 unit with complimentary service (including messaging and Extreme Tracking) for a year. A $450 value.

Typical "Check In" message sent to family or friend

Typical “Check In” message sent to family or friend

Alpha Air works for every outing


Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 3.59.00 PMAs cold days come to Colorado and Utah, I’ve got a new Go-To jacket. It’s the Alpha Air from LL Bean. As comfortable as your favorite high school hoodie and as warm as a ski jacket, it’s better than either because it stretches and insulates during these variable, frosty days.

“Stretches?” you ask.

Yep. The Alpha Air is a stretchy soft-shell with 100 gram Polartec insulation. That makes it warm, breathable, and versatile. I’ve worn it while clearing trail, running dogs, tossing hay, and working with horses. Thrillingly, it’s not a dog- and horse-hair magnet (like so many jackets are). It also shed dew, branches, and leaves while I was clearing trail and it refused to snag or rip. Hooray.

Think of it as a hearty, Irish wool sweater without the itch, weight, and without the hair, hay, and burr magnetism. Oh, and no dry cleaning bill, either. Machine wash and dry.

IMG_1572The Alpha Air is blissfully free of bells and whistles. There are three useful and well-placed pockets: one zippered chest pocket for your phone and perhaps a billfold, and two for warming your hands or zipping in your keys. That’s it. Perfect.

Thankfully, the hood is not detachable which makes for less clutter around your neck and shoulder. And why would you want to take the hood off anyway? As they say in Maine (and everywhere else I’ve lived): “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

With hunting season coming up, I chose the nicely bright blue. But there are black/grey and red/pink varieties, too. Check it out here.IMG_1580

Klymit is now warm

My backpacking friends reacted with surprise and delight, like they’d just been served lobster and champagne on a camping trip.

KlymitLogoFinal-large-copy1When you’re used to mac ‘n’ cheese and tuna surprise, how else would you react to the comfort of the Klymit’s new insulated Static V Luxe sleeping pad?

We’d all slept plenty of nights on those crappy, standard-issue sleeping pads. Inflatable or not, they seldom offer a decent night’s sleep. They might pack light, but they’re slim on comfort, too, especially for those of us with back issues.

The Klymit pad, new this year, added a big dollop of luxury to our outing with only a few extra ounces to carry.

Klymit, Inc. caught my eye last year at the Outdoor Retailer. It’s a Utah company dedicated to the idea that “the experience of outdoor enthusiasts can be enhanced with new technologies and a different approach that yield quantifiably superior products.”

I reviewed the Static V Luxe (uninsulated) last year with skepticism and the firm belief that no pad would work for my problematic back. I was wrong. It was great. Read review.

klymit 1The insulated version adds a skosh more weight and bulk (35 ounces packs to about 5x4x8 inches, or the size of a large pineapple) in exchange for the added comfort that comes from not being cold. That’s substantial for a cold-weather weenie like me. Being cold means waking up more often and sleeping in multiple layers. No, thank you.

The pad expands to the same luxurious size as its Static V sibling: 76x30x3 inches, nearly wide enough for two humans or with plenty of room for your canine companions.

I toss and turn a lot at night, but I never slipped off this pad. With an R rating of 4.4, it’s the perfect for three-season pad (R is for heat-loss Resistance. Pads generally come with 1-7 R ratings. The higher the R, the better the insulation.)

It took three minutes to blow up and a fraction of that time to deflate. I doubt my dogs would ever pierce the 75-denier polyester, but if it ever happens, there’s a nifty patch kit sewn right into the stuff sack.

Looks like I’m all set for another great season of camping.

klymit 2


Kurgo solves Mud Season

muddy-dog-by-wout-1024x768Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud
Flanders and Swann

Mud Season’s around the corner. How will your back seat look?
Is it enthusiastically trashed by your beloved canine? Does she look at you with that “What? Me?” look as you grind your teeth and pinch your nose?

Kurgo_square_logo_600x600_hi-res copySeat covers are crucial if you don’t want your car still smelling like Mud Season in August or October. There are lots of choices. I recently returned a fancy, expensive “custom-fitted” seat cover. It didn’t fit, wasn’t well made or well designed and attracted dog hair like a magnet.
Then I found Kurgo. It’s a young, Salisbury, Massachusetts company dedicated to all things dogs: beds, collars, drinking bowls, harnesses, even life jackets and car booster seats.
They sent me an Allagash Bench Seat Cover.

Hooray!  I finally have relief from a truck perpetually smelling doggy and featuring a stubborn layer of multi-shaded hair.

IMG_8693The best feature of the Allagash seat cover might surprise readers: it’s the lack of customization:
Let’s face it, so-called custom seat covers never really fit well and can be incredibly hard to take off once you get them on.
Kurgo seat covers are simple and adjustable. They have slits to allow for seat belts and zippered pockets for stashing leashes and travel water bowls.

The next impressive feature is its material:

It’s Hydraweave, a tough, waterproof fabric made especially for the Allagash line. Hydraweave does not attract hair like most every other seat cover.
Yesterday, my three boisterous dogs jumped in and got the IMG_8697back seat muddy. Really muddy. I unclipped the seat cover, hosed it off, and put it back on the seat in a few minutes.
When Kip got excited and had a little accident, I just cleaned it with soap and water. No more smelling smells for months or spitting out dog hair when the windows finally get rolled down.

MindShift unpacks your habit

sketch_04_14_2014_v01It’s a habit you’ve had since school days: swinging a backpack off your shoulder. Over the years, that weary swing has become embedded in your muscle memory. You’ve graduated to heavier bags and maybe injured your shoulder, yet still you swing the pack by its strap and off your back.

Dayhiking and backpacking will have you performing this action as often as you look at a map or reach for a camera or hand out dog treats or grab binoculars or reach for a bandana or banana.

But thanks to MindShift Gear, we can now do all those things without unclipping our waist belts and dropping the pack. The California company, which initially funded their project on Kickstarter, has made it possible to kick the habit.

Rotating pack swivels on your hip for easy access

Rotating pack swivels on your hip for easy accessto kick the habit.

All Mindshift Gear packs feature ‘Rotation 180,’ belt packs that snuggle into the main pack and swivel out with an easy pull on the hip belt.

That means you can stash the rotating smaller pack with trail essentials. It’s made especially for photographers (Mindshift Gear was founded by the folks at Think Tank Photo and renowned conservation photographer Daniel Beltra) with removable, Velcro-adhered pads to keep cameras safe. But I stashed mine with snacks, sunglasses, hat, as well as my camera.

Perfectly-sized compartment

Perfectly-sized compartment

I tried it on several Oquirrh mountain day hikes. Admittedly, it took a while to shake the ‘unbuckle and whip it off my back’ habit and adopt the ‘unclip and spin’ move. Even this klutz got it down within an hour.


I could easily spin the belt pack without taking my eyes off the trail. I could grab my camera from the pack without taking my eyes off that soaring hawk. I could grab and hand out dog treats without stopping.

Say what you will about the invasion of technology into our wilderness mindsets. Here’s one technical advance that helps keep your focus where you want it to be.

Cool deal.

Aside from the Rotation 180 innovation, MindShift got the simple stuff right, too. There is an open, main compartment for stashing less essential gear (first aid kit, extra layers, extra water).

Pull tabs are tweak-free

Pull tabs are tweak-free

As we all know, simple things stink when done wrong. Flubbed design features can quickly become pet peeves. As I’ve discovered with other packs:

  • Pull tabs that don’t feel good when you pull them and don’t work if you’re wearing gloves.
  • Hip and chest straps that fall in the wrong place or rub uncomfortably.
  • Zippers that grab and fight.
  • Silly, pointless pockets.

My Mindshift rotation 180 Panorama gave me newly formed habits of ease and no pet peeves.

Check out the overnight Cotopaxi pack here.


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