Friday, June 17, 2016

On The Road Again - Headed to PressCamp!

Next week The Adventure Blog will go back on hiatus once again as I travel to Park City Utah to take part in Outdoor PressCamp. The event is designed to pair outdoor and adventure travel journalists with some of the top brands in the industry to check out their latest gear and test it in the wild. I expect it will be a busy, fun, and eye opening week for all of us involved.

While away, it seems unlikely that I'll have the chance to update with any frequency, but should anything interesting arise, I'll do my best to post an update. In the meantime, I'm sure I'll come home from PressCamp with lots of good news and information to share on some cool gear that we can all use in our outdoor pursuits.

I will be back and updating the blog again the week of June 26. I'll be around for about a week and a half before disappearing again. Thanks for your patience and for reading. I couldn't do this without you.

Video: Alaska in Timelapse

I've been fortunate enough to visit Alaska a couple of times, and when I return home I always struggle to convey just how beautiful and wild this place truly is. In terms of destinations that are wild and untamed, there are few that match what Alaska has to offer. This video helps to give viewers a sense of what it is like there, giving us nearly three minutes of beautiful landscapes captured in timelapse. If you have't been to Alaska yet, put it on your list. After watching this, you'll understand why you need to go there.

Alaska - Timelapse Film 4K from Toby Harriman on Vimeo.

Outside Gives Us 100 Reasons to Love the National Parks

As most of you probably know, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service here in the U.S. To celebrate, the NPS is holding a number of special events throughout the year, and visitors to the parks throughout the summer will likely see all kinds of signs reminding them of the centennial year.

A few months back I wrote a piece that offered 100 Reasons the National Parks Remain America's Best Idea.  Well, it seems I'm not the only one who had that idea, as Outside magazine has also published a similar piece, this time giving us 100 Reasons to Love the National Parks. Their list includes some of the same things that mine did as well, but there are plenty of unique items as well.

Amongst the reasons that Outside says we should love the parks is the way they inspire us to get outside and seek adventure. But other reasons range from the fact that there is an oasis to be found in the heart of Death Valley to the otherworldly views that can be had in the Badlands. The list goes on to highlight hikes, activities, locations, and a wide variety of other things that are linked to the National Parks in some way, giving us a good idea of just how important and influential these iconic places actually are.

Now that summer is here, the parks tend to get extremely busy. In fact, President Obama and his family are planning to visit Yellowstone next week. This will no doubt bring some complications for travelers, in a park that is already crowded. But despite those challenges, the national parks are well worth the effort. There are few places that can compare to these beautiful and wild places, and we should all be lucky enough to visit as many as we can. 

The Everest 2016 Climbing Season in Numbers - 450+ Summits on the South Side

The spring climbing season in the Himalaya came to an end a few weeks back, and to say it was a successful season would be an understatement. But just how successful was it? We now have some numbers from Everest to help put things in perspective.

According to The Himalayan Times, the Department of Tourism for the Nepali Government has released its climbing numbers for Everest this year, and it was an astounding rebound following two years of interrupted operations on the mountain. This year, there were 456 successful summits from the South Side of the mountain, of which 199 were foreign climbers from 29 different countries. The other 257 climbers were Sherpas who were part of the support teams that assisted in getting clients to the top. Sadly, there were also five deaths this spring season as well.

In a sure sign that things are returning to normal on the world's highest peak, tourism officials issued permits for 289 expedition climbers, and 457 high-altitude porters and guides. Those permits were spread out across 34 different teams. That means, of the foreign climbers who came to Nepal to attempt Everest this year, about 90 were unable to make it to the top.

Swedish Explorer to Walk From Mongolia to the Caspian Sea with Camels

ExWeb has posted an interview with Swedish adventurer Christian Bodegren on his next expedition, which is scheduled to get underway soon. The man who once paddled the length of the Amazon River will next travel by foot across a vast expanse of land-locked territory. Bodegren is currently in Mongolia, where he is planning to walk overland across that country and Kazakhstan, eventually reaching the Caspian Sea.

The Swede says that he is still ramping for this expedition to get underway, with part of the process finding camels to accompany him on the journey. Those creatures will serve as his mounts and pack animals as he travels for weeks on end. When he reaches the border with Kazakstan he'll sell of his Mongolia camels to purchase new ones. Christian says he learned a hard lesson about crossing international borders with camels when he made a trek across the Sahara a few years back, and that he doesn't want to repeat those problems once again.

In the interview, Bodegren talks logistics and his inspirations for undertaking this journey. He says that after paddling the Amazon back in 2012 he tried to return to a normal life, but after awhile he started to get anxious staying in one place for too long. Slowly he started to think about some other potential challenges that he could undertake. This Mongol expedition slowly started to come together.

At this point, it is unclear exactly when Christian will start the walk, or how long it will take him to complete it. But, on his official website the dates for the walk are 2016-2017, so he at least expects it to extend into next year. Similarly, there aren't a lot of details on his exact route, which is probably going to be decided as he moves along. He does plan to cross the Gobi Desert though, which gives us some indication of where he'll be.

Christian is posting occasional updates to his website. If you'd like to follow him as he proceeds, that would be a good place to stay up to date on his current situation. It should certainly be an interesting expedition to watch unfold.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Video: Yosemite Half Dome in 360º

One of the more exciting innovations in technology over the past year or two has been the rise of 360º videos. These clips are made with special camera set-ups that can shoot footage in every direction at once. Than, when viewed in a supported browser, the viewer can actually pan around the video to get a look at the scene from different angles. The effect is even more enhanced if viewed with a set of virtual reality goggles, such as the Oculus Rift.

The video below is a good example of this type of technology, as it takes us on a climb up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The result is quite an experience, particularly if you view it in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Opera. Enjoy!

Video: Rock Climbing in South Africa

South Africa is one of the best countries in the world for those seeking outdoor adventure. We're reminded of this by the video below, which follows North Face climbers James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini as they go searching for some great lines to scale, discovering sport, trad, and bouldering routes across spectacular landscapes in the Rocklands area. They also took time to deliver some much needed climbing equipment to a local climbing school as well, giving their South African adventure a different mission as well.

British Adventurers to Paddle From Greenland to Scotland

Two British adventurers are preparing to set out on a challenging kayaking expedition that will take them across the Arctic Ocean and North Sea as they travel from Greenland to Scotland. Their journey is set to begin this Sunday and is expected to take upwards of six weeks to complete.

In just a few days time, Olly Hicks and George Bullard will leave the U.K. for Greenland where they will launch their In the Wake of the Finnmen expedition. This journey by sea will cover more than 1200 miles (1931 km) as they travel from the Denmark Strait to Iceland, follow the coastline of that country before daring the waters of the North Sea to head towards the Faroe Islands, a remote place located north of the British Isles. After that, they'll turn south to paddle 50 miles (80 km) to reach the tiny island of North Rona before pressing on with the final leg, which ends at Cape Wrath in Scotland.

All told, the two men expect to be padding for six weeks, with 12 nights actually spend out on the water in the open seas. The first three of those nights will take place on the crossing from Greenland to Iceland. The paddlers will then take their time kayaking along the shores of that country, regaining their strength and preparing for the challenges ahead. During that section of the expedition they'll cover about 20 miles (32 km) per day before pushing on to the Faroe Islands, which will force them to spend another six nights at sea. The final three nights will be when they make the final push across the North Sea to Cape Wrath. 

Olly and George will be paddling a modified Inuk Duo 6.8m sea kayak, which is designed to withstand the challenges and rigors of open water in remote seas. It has also been made for long distance paddling expeditions, with plenty of storage for gear and supplies. The kayak even has sealable cockpits, allowing the men to squeeze inside its hull to catch some sleep on those long nights at sea. 

The aim of the expedition is to prove that the Inuit people of the Arctic could have made a similar journey to populate island that are found in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Hicks has called it the “Arctic Kon-Tiki expedition" in a nod to the famous Thor Heyerdahl expedition from 1947. Olly and George's boat is much smaller than Heyerdahl's however, with some very different challenges. 

This won't be be the first waterborne journey for Hicks. Back in 2005 he became the youngest person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean at the age of 23. In 2008, we followed his attempt to row around Antarctica as well, and while other expeditions have taken him across the Tasman Sea and around Great Britain. In the future, he hopes to row around the world, taking another crack at the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica once again. 

New Monument Discovered in the Ancient City of Petra

Archaeologists and researchers using satellite imagery and drones have reportedly uncovered a new monument in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. This structure is said to be massive in size, and unlike anything else found at the site before. It also hints at possible other discoveries yet to be made.

The new find was identified by archaeologists Sarah Parcak and Christopher Tuttle, who used a variety of high tech tools to locate and unearth it. The new structure is said to be roughly 184-by-161-feet (about 56-by-49-meters) in dimension, which makes it about the same length as an Olympic size swimming pool, and twice as wide. It is a large platform that surrounds a smaller platform which was once paved with flagstones. A series of pillars lined the outside, with a massive staircase on the interior.

What exactly this platform was used for remains unclear, and it doesn't match anything else that has been seen inside Petra so far. But, the ancient city is massive in size and scope, covering 102 square miles (264 sq. km), with the main city center covering about 2.3 square miles (6 sq. km). Many people who have not visited the site often believe that Petra is only made up of the Treasury, the iconic building that is seen in so many photos and movies. But the site is sprawling, with hundreds of buildings and structures spread out across the area.

Speculation on the newly found platform leads researchers to believe that it was a public building of some kind, but its exact use remains a mystery. It is thought that when it was intact, it was the second highest structure in the city, which was abandoned in the 7th century, and revealed to the outside world when it was located by explorer Johann Burckhardt in 1812.

This is another great example of an amazing discovery found in a place that we thought we already knew very well and had explored top to bottom. Petra is visited by millions of travelers every year, and it continues to amaze even in the 21st century. But it is even more fascinating to think that we are still finding new things there, and it makes you wonder what else is at the site, waiting to be uncovered.

Karakoram 2016: American Woman Going for Speed Record on K2?

Teams of climbers are now arriving in Islamabad as the climbing season on K2, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, and other big mountains in Pakistan get underway. It'll be a couple of weeks before things really ramp up, but we are now starting to get a sense of what to expect in the season ahead, including a potential speed record attempt on K2 itself.

It has now been revealed that British-American climber Vanessa O'Brien is on her way to K2, where she hopes to become the first woman from the U.S. to summit the peak, as well as the fastest ever too. She already holds the speed record for a woman climbing the Seven Summits, having accomplished that feat in 295 days.

O'Brien is an experienced mountaineer, but she has not faced a challenge like K2 before. This will certainly be a test of her skill and determination, although a healthy dose of luck will be involved too. The weather on K2 is very unpredictable, making it hard to predict when a summit push can begin. We're a long way from that point right now however, although she says she hopes to make her summit push in about six weeks time. Late July and early August are the traditional timeframe for reach the top of this very difficult mountain.

(Update: It isn't clear from the article linked above doesn't make it clear what, if any, speed record Vanessa may be going for. It is possible that the headline is misleading and based on her speed record on the Seven Summits.)

Vanessa says she is climbing to raise awareness of the incredibly natural environment that is found Gilgit-Baltistan region, as well as to improve relations between the West and Pakistan. She's also championing the rights of women in that country and across the globe.

Meanwhile, other teams are assembling and preparing to depart for the mountains as well. It typically takes several days to journey from Islamabad to Skardu if they go overland, and more than a week to trek to Base Camp, depending on their ultimate goal. That means we won't see anyone officially starting their climbs until next week, but there should be more interesting stories to tell as the teams press forward. More to come soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Video: Being There - The Importance of Wild Places

Have you ever had a place become so special and important to you that it actually crawls into your very mind and soul? If so, this is a video for you. It is a good reminder of why wild places are so incredibly important to us, and how they can change our perspective on the world around us. How these unique places play a role in shaping who we are, and how we feel when we are there. Beautifully shot and very thoughtful, this is the kind of clip that sticks with you long after you've seen it. I hope you enjoy it as much as did.

BEING HERE from Outdoor Research on Vimeo.

Video: Running Downhill in Iceland

One of the most exhilarating experiences for trail runners is topping out on a summit or ridge, and turning down hill at long last. It is then that they can let go, and just allow their legs to carry them down the trail as quickly as possible. In this video, we travel to Iceland, where British runners Ricky Lightfoot and Tom Owens go in search of great downhill opportunities. As you might expect, they find them amongst the amazing landscapes there.

Gear Closet: WoolPRO Performance Base Layers

When it comes to high performance fabrics, merino wool has become the defect standard by which all other materials are judged. Based on the performance of merino it is easy to understand why. Not only is it warm and comfortable, it also features natural wicking properties, it is highly breathable, and it has antimicrobial attributes that help to fend off odors too. This of course makes it a great choice for outdoor apparel, where this level of performance is most appreciated.

The down side of merino wool is that it can sometimes be expensive, which can make it a cost prohibitive option for some outdoor enthusiasts. But recently I had the chance to test out some great merino base layers made by a company called WoolPRO, which makes a number of outstanding products on par with those that I've found elsewhere in the industry, but at a more affordable price. 

Spring isn't always a great time to test base layers, but on my recent trip to Alaska I found plenty of weather where they still came in handy. I used WoolPRO's Scout mid-weight merino half-zip top ($84.99) and Thor mid-weight bottoms ($49.99), while my wife had the chance to try out the Agena mid-weight tops ($69.99) and tights, each of which proved very useful while exploring the icy waters of the Inside Passage.

Nat Geo Gives Us 10 Places That Deserve More Visitors

Still looking for a good destination for your next travel adventure? National Geographic is here to help. Travel writer Tara Isabella Burton has put together a great piece that shares 10 destinations that deserve more travelers, with some familiar and surprising places making the list.

Amongst the more unusual places that get a recommendation are Armenia, which is lauded for its history, rich culture, and natural attractions, and Kosovo, which offers fantastic hiking opportunities. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan lures visitors with its beautiful landscapes and restored ancient palaces, while Georgia is a growing outdoor sports mecca in Eastern Europe.

Other destinations that make the Nat Geo list include Nepal (an Adventure Blog fave), Iran (high on my list to visit), and East Timor, which falls in the Indonesian archipelago. I'll leave the rest of the lit for you to discover, but lets just say each has its own unique attractions to draw us in.

The Nat Geo article provides readers with good information about the current situation on the ground in each of these countries, most of which have had tumultuous situations in the not so distant past. The author also gives us tips on what to see and do while visiting, as well as reasons why now is the right time to go. Considering that the majority of these destinations remain well off the beaten tourist track at this point, the mere fact that they aren't especially crowded or over done should be reason enough to put the places on your radar.

To learn more about these places and read the entire article, click here.

Evacuation Operation Underway in the Antarctic

The National Science Foundation has initiated an evacuation procedure from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station as one of the winter staff members there has taken ill. The nature of the medical emergency hasn't been divulged, but it is clear that it is serious enough for the NSF to call in help.

Canada's Kenn Borek Air has scrambled two Twin-Otter Aircraft, which are currently en route to South America before making the leap over to the Antarctic Continent. One of those planes will serve as a support aircraft should search and rescue operations become necessary, while the other will make a 1500 mile (2414 km) flight from the British Rothera Research Station to the South Pole.

The time table for this rescue operation will be heavily dependent on current weather conditions in the Antarctic, but it is believed that June 19 will be the earliest that plane can reach the South Pole. It is currently winter in the Southern Hemisphere, which makes for some incredibly inhospitable weather in Antarctica. Conditions can change very quickly, and it is not uncommon to have high winds and incredibly cold temperatures, sometimes falling to more than -100ºF/-73ºC. That could complicated an evacuation procedures over the next few days.

Because it is winter at the South Pole, the Amundsen-Scott station has a greatly reduced staff on hand to maintain the base. Typically those crew members are on duty there until November or so, when the regular crew returns to ramp up seasonal research operations. The winter staff usually knows that once they are in place there is usually no way for them to return home, so the nature of this medical evacuation must be fairly serious. Not only is the NSF risking the lives of the pilots performing the dangerous flight, but they're also risking the safety of their crew.

Hopefully everything will go off without a hitch in the next couple of days, and both the flight crew and the NSF staff member will be safely evacuated. It should be an interesting story to follow to say the least.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Video: Two Years of Travel in Two Minutes

This wonderful video was shot over two years using just a GoPro camera as filmmaker Harry Van Durme traveled to 12 different countries, capturing his adventures along the way. He's now distilled those two years of travel down to just two minutes, taking us along with him to some amazing places. If this doesn't inspire you to want to see the world, nothing will.

Travel - 2 years in 2 minutes from Harry Van Durme on Vimeo.

Video: To The Summit of K2

Over the next couple of months we'll be following the proceedings on K2 very closely. Want to know what it looks like when you approach the summit of that mountain? This video will give you an idea. As you'll see, it is very steep and technical, which is why this peak has earned the moniker of "the mountaineer's mountain." Not a place for the inexperienced, this is a far different climb than Everest.

Gear Closet: Lowa Innox EVO Lo and Renegade GTX Mid Boots

Finding the right footwear to see you through your outdoor adventures is essential to enjoying your time outside. After all, if you're feet aren't happy, the rest of you probably isn't going to have a good time either. Fortunately, we live in a time when there are many good choices when it comes to shoes for our outdoor pursuits, with Lowa making some of the best options for a wide variety of activities, including hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, travel, or just kicking it around town. Recently, I had the chance to test two very different shoes from the company, coming away very impressed with both. Here are my thoughts on these two boots.

Lowa Innox EVO Lo Light Hiking Shoes
Lightweight and comfortable is the best way to describe these fantastic shoes, which have the soul of a trail runner and the sole of a hiking boot.

At first glance, the Innox EVO Lo resembles an athletic shoe more than a hiking boot, and since they weigh just 22 ounces for a pair, it would be easy to think they wouldn't offer all of the support you would need. But this hiking shoe has a stiff midsole that helps to protect the foot from jarring impacts, while still managing to maintain a level of flexibility that makes it an ideal choice for a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Questions Arise Over Robert Young's Attempt to Run Across the U.S.

Last month I told you about ultrarunner Robert Young, and his attempt to set a new speed record for traveling across the U.S. on foot. Young is currently in the middle of that attempt, and is trying to beat the previous record which has stood at 46 days, 8 hours, and 36 minutes for 36 years. To do that, he needs to run more than 60 miles per day, every day, for a month and a half, something he's being doing as he is currently on pace to beat the old record. But now, questions have begun to arise as to whether or not he is actually running all of those miles.

Outside magazine first broke the story, which involves a fellow runner tracking Young's movements on his official website. That person – named Asher Dermott – posted his story to saying that on June 4 he followed Young's GPS tracker as he passed through Dermott's hometown of Lebo, Kansas. Seeing that the ultrarunner was close by, he decided to head out to meet him, and perhaps run a few miles with him along the way. But when he tracked down Young's support vehicle, the runner was nowhere to be found.

To support these claims, Dermott has video and photos, along with time-stamped images of the tracking page on Young's website. He claims that he watched Young's support vehicle for an extended period of time, and that there was no runner to be seen at any time. The vehicle was moving along at roughly the same speed as a runner, with the implication being that Young was inside the RV resting, while the GPS tracker was used to trick anyone following along with his progress into believing that he was actually out on the road, covering all of those miles. Because Young mostly runs at night – it was 1 AM when he passed through Lebo – it would be unlikely that anyone would notice.

Canadian Adventurer To Row Across the Atlantic Solo

A Canadian adventurer who was the first person from that country to summit Everest without the use of oxygen is now preparing to embark on his next big challenge – a 4500 km (2796 mile) solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to raise funds to fight cancer.

This month, Laval St. Germain will set out from Halifax Habor on what he calls the Confront Cancer Ocean Row. His hope is to arrive in France in a few months time, braving big waves, hundreds of miles of open water, and potentially dangerous storms along the way. Traveling west to east across the turbulent North Atlantic will test his stamina and determination with cold water and icy seas as well.

St. Germain is making this solo Atlantic crossing to raise funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. He hope to pull in $200,000 in donations to help support that organizations cause, which is to work towards the cause of curing cancer and bringing an end to the disease which 43 Albertans are diagnosed with on a daily basis.

But Laval has another inspiration for rowing across the Atlantic too. In July of 2014, his oldest son drowned in a canoe accident on the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territory of Canada. He was 21-years old at the time, and had been attempting to lend assistance to a girl who was panicking while swimming in those waters. The young man lost his life, which as you can imagine had a dramatic impact on his family's life.

According to his Twitter feed, Laval will launch his epic crossing starting tomorrow – Wednesday, June 15. His specially designed rowboat has been placed in the water, and has been stocked with supplies, and the weather looks good for the start of the journey.

If you want to follow this adventure as it unfolds, it looks like Laval's Twitter is the best way to go. I wish him godspeed on this expedition. It should be a challenge unlike any other.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Video: Take a Hike Through the Highlands of North Carolina

When we think about the beautiful landscapes of the U.S., the western states tend to get an inordinate amount of attention. Those places are spectacularly beautiful of course, but sometimes other parts of the country get overlooked. Case in point, this video takes us to the highlands of North Carolina, where we get a good look at some of the amazing things that state has to offer visitors and outdoor lovers.

HIGHLANDS from Patrick Clement on Vimeo.

Video: Wingsuit Pilot Flies over Active Volcano

In this video we travel to Chile with stuntwoman Roberta Mancino where the wingsuit pilot makes a dramatic flight over Villarrica, an active stratovolcano in that country's Andean mountain chain. The results are some spectacular views and a close approach to one of nature's most awesome displays of power.

An Un-Cruise Adventure in Alaska

I've been so busy over the past couple of weeks that I haven't had a chance to share any stories from my recent trip to Alaska, a place that remains one of the best wilderness destinations on the planet. In terms of outdoor adventure and vast sections of land that remain widely unexplored, it is tough to top Alaska. Whether you like skiing, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, or kayaking, you'll find some  amazing places to pursue those activities. But my trip was a different kind of Alaskan adventure, one that many take on an annual basis, the very popular Alaskan cruise.

Now, before you start to think that this adventure blogger has gone soft, let me quickly point out that this wasn't your typical Alaskan cruise. Far from it in fact. I was invited to take part in a cruise through the Inside Passage with Un-Cruise Adventures, a company that does things a little differently than the mainstream cruise lines that most people use while visiting the area. How so you ask? Well, for starters the Un-Cruise fleet is made up of small ships, which means rather than sharing the vessel with hundreds – if not thousands – of other passengers, there were only about 70 travelers aboard my ship, the surprisingly well equipped Wilderness Explorer

This small ship experience allowed everyone on board the ship to interact with one another, getting to know everyone else to some degree. This was especially enhanced when we shared stories around the table during meal time, but also when travelers joined one another on some of the active excursions that are a part of the Un-Cruise itinerary as well. Unlike other Alaskan cruises, passengers don't just stay onboard the ship the entire time, often heading on shore to take a bushwhack hike or to board a kayak to paddle the clear, crisp waters that are found throughout the Inside Passage. Other options for exploring the area included guided walks along the beach, stand-up paddleboarding outings, and skiff tours aboard Zodiac inflatable boats.

Personally, I'm not much of a cruise traveler. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I enjoy being active during my travels and prefer visiting places that I can explore under my own power. On an Un-Cruise you can do just that, thanks to the challenging hikes and great sea kayaking opportunities that actually allow you to get closer to the breathtaking Alaskan landscapes that are such a big draw to visitors.

Outside Presents Gear of the Year for Summer 2016

With the warm summer months now upon us it is time for everyone to head outside and hit the trail, go camping, climbing, cycling, or take part in whatever your favorite outdoor activity might happen to be. Of course, it is also a good time to inspect our gear and check for new options that can help us to be more comfortable and efficient during our adventurous pursuits. To help us navigate through the sometimes overwhelming and confusing gear options, Outside magazine has posted their selection of the very best gear for summer 2016.

Amongst the items that earn a spot on Outside's list are the new Kelty TN2 tent, which is lauded for its no-nonsense design and ease of use, and The North Face Fovero 70 backpack, which was a favorite with editors thanks to its comfort and ability to carry heavy loads with ease. Klymit's KSB 20 Down sleeping bag gets the nod as the best sleeping bag on the market currently, while Under Armour's unusual Verge Mid GTX shoes take home the honors of top hiking shoe. 

Other items on the list include Outside's picks for the best road and mountain bikes, as well as the editors choice for favorite jacket, trail running shoes, fitness tracker, kayak, and much more. In short, it is a list of the very best equipment available today for just about any type of outdoor activity. Whether you like to hike, camp, paddle, cycle, run, or combination of all of the above, you'll find some great gear to help you through the summer on this list.

To get full geared up, and see what other items make the list, check out the full Gear of the Year article here.

Karakoram 2016: First Casualty of the Season, Unprecedented Numbers on K2

The 2016 climbing season in Pakistan is about to officially get underway, as teams of climbers will soon be arriving on the big peaks located there, including Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, the Gasherbrums, and of course K2. Most of the climbers will begin to arrive in country this week, where they'll put the finishing touches on their preparation before starting the long journey to Base Camp at long last. It now appears that it will be a very busy season in the region, with plenty of expeditions to follow in the days ahead.

While most of the teams are just now starting to gather, and ramp up their operations, we already have sad news from Pakistan. Over the weekend it was revealed last week it was revealed that Italian ski-mountaineer Leonardo Comelli has fallen to his death on Laila Peak, a 6096 meter (20,000 ft) mountain located in the Hushe Valley region. He was there – along with three friends – to climb the Northwest Face of the mountain, and then attempt a ski descent. He apparently fell 400 meters (1312 feet) after losing his balance.

Even though this accident took place several days ago now, I still wish to express my sorrow and condolences for Leonardo's family. Let's hope this isn't a sign of things to come in the summer climbing season ahead.

In other news, it appears that K2 is will see an unprecedented number of climbers this season. As commercial teams continue to see ways to monetize the mountain, more and more climbers are showing up on its slopes. According to Alan Arnette, more than 112 permits have been issued for the second highest peak in the world this season. That's a dramatic ramp up for a mountain that is many times more difficult than Everest to climb. A mountain that is far more dangerous and deadly as well.