Monday, June 18, 2018

Video: Find Out What Its Like to Mountain Bike in the Arctic

The video below is a brief clip from the film North of Nightfall, which we've mentioned a couple of times on this blog already. The documentary took several professional mountain bikers north of the Arctic Circle to explore the island of Axel Heiberg from the seats of their bike. In this particular clip, we go for a ride with Darren Berrecloth, who happens to be wearing a GoPro camera at the time. The result, is a fast and furious ride across this beautiful landscape from a first-person perspective.

Video: Explore the Natural and Cultural Beauty of Louangphrabang in Laos

This clip comes or way courtesy of National Geographic, and takes us to Louangphrabang in Laos to introduce us to the stunning natural beauty and amazing culture and history that can found there. This is one of those rare destinations that manages to combine travel adventures that include both active, adventurous activities with a deep dive into the local culture too. There is a lot to be seen here and this clip only enticingly scratches the surface.

Gear Closet: Lowa Locarno GTX Mid Hiking Boots Review

For nearly a century, Lowa has been making exceptional footwear for use in the outdoors. The company has built itself a reputation for designing and crafting some of the best boots around for hiking, backpacking, mountaineering and a host of other outdoor activities. In fact, some of my favorite boots that I own come from Lowa and are my go-to options when heading out on a big adventure. But if there is one market segment that the company hasn't quite found its way into just yet, its creating boots for the more casual hiker. The person who loves to get outdoors and explore a trail, but may not be pushing it quite so hard in the mountains or spending days in the backcountry. The new Locarno GTX Mid looks to change that however, bringing the legendary quality and comfort that Lowa is known for to a boot that is built for a wider audience. 

As you would expect from Lowa, the Locarno GTX Mid is built from very high quality materials. The upper is made from a blend of very durable nubuck leather and other lightweight materials that are paired nicely with the company's Hybrid Trac sole, Monowrap frame, and a Gore-Tex liner. All of that translate to a shoe that is built to survive in difficult environments, even if the person wearing them may not be taking these boots to those kinds of places. 

Lowa has given the Locarno a unique design style that is both classic and timeless, and yet modern and sleek, all at the same time. At first glance, these boots look like a pair of hikers that could have been made at any time over the past three or four decades, but look a bit closer and you'll also see that they have been streamlined to a degree as well, giving the sense of a more athletic fit. This translate to a more nimble feel on your feet when wearing them out on the trail too, providing stability and comfort, without sacrificing quickness and agility. 

Speaking of comfort, when I first put these shoes on I had to double-check the box to make sure they were indeed from Lowa. Not that the company's other boots are uncomfortable – quite the contrary in fact – but these took that level of comfort to a new level. Not only does the boot show hints of an athletic shoe in its design, but it feels like a trail runner on the foot at times too. And while the Locarno boots weigh in at 950 grams (2 pounds) for a pair, they certainly don't feel like they weigh that much when used on the trail. 

Nat Geo Picks the Best Summer Trips for 2018

Later this week, summer will officially arrive here in the Northern Hemisphere, kicking off a busy travel season that sees many people taking vacations to some place adventurous and exotic, or even relaxed and restful. If you haven't figured out exactly where you'd like to go this year, National Geographic is here to help. The iconic organization has posted an article that lists its picks for the absolute best places to travel in the summer of 2018, with a little something to offer just about everyone.

The list kicks things off nicely by offering Borneo as your next destination. The Malaysian island has a lot to offer, from stunning beaches and hopping nightlife, to plenty of outdoor and wildlife adventures. Those activities include visiting an orangutan rehabilitation center, exploring caves in Gunung Mulu National Park, and spotting creatures like dolphins, monkeys, and cloud leopards. There are even opportunities to witness the island's famous corpse flower, the largest bloom in the world, often growing to the size of a small tree.

But Borneo is just the start of Nat Geo's list. Other locations that earn the nod include perpetual favorites like Iceland and Peru, as well as some surprise inclusions such as Mongolia and Papua New Guinea. Yosemite National Park also makes its way onto the list, although anyone who has ever visited in the summer knows just how crazy and busy the Valley can get during that time of year. If Yosemite is on your summer travel plans, you may want to plan on visiting some of the other areas instead.

As you would expect, each entry on the list includes a brief description of why it deserves to be on your short list of summer adventures. There are also suggestions of things to see and do there once you arrive, including links to help you find out more. In short, each location provides an enticing description, but there is plenty of room for you to explore and discover more.

Read the entire list here and then go start packing.

Karakoram Summer 2018: Teams Arriving at Base Camp in Pakistan

Even though we've already had a couple of solid reports about the start of the climbing season in the Karakoram this summer, the work in the mountains of Pakistan is only now starting to truly begin. The first teams have now arrived in Base Camp on various mountains across the region and the long summer climbing season is about to officially get underway. As with expeditions to the Himalaya, the acclimatization process takes several weeks and there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get fixed ropes into place, which means most of the peaks won't start to see true summit attempts until mid- to late-July, with K2 expeditions potentially even pushing into early August. But for now, that's a long way off and there is a lot that needs to be accomplished before any of that can happen.

We'll start with an update from Nanga Parbat, where mountaineer Mike Horn was the first arrival this season. There haven't been any updates from Horn and his team since late last week when they were planning on climbing up to 6400 meters (20,997 ft) for an overnight acclimation stay. Things seem to be going well for the Swiss explorer and his squad, although weather forecasts indicate there as been some heavy snows on the mountain already, which may be keeping him and his companions in BC at the moment.

Meanwhile, the Japanese team led by Akira Oyabe that we told you about a couple of weeks back has arrived in Base Camp on K2. The group arrived there last Thursday and have been getting settled in their temporary home while they wait for the weather to clear. Snowfall kept them in BC for a few days, which gave them an opportunity to set up tents and start making the place feel a bit more homey. Today they plan to start installing lines up to Camp 2, but weather may delay that progress as well.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Video: A Look at the Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan

As we all know, the mountaineering world has turned its attention to Pakistan and the Karakoram mountains. For the next month and a half, it will be home to some of the most difficult expeditions taking place at the moment, with climbers attempting K2, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, and others. So what exactly does this place look like? The video below – narrated by David Attenborough no less – will provide a clue. Like the Himalaya, these peaks are tall, rugged, and jagged, and can put fear and doubt into the heart of a climber just by looking at them. They are also beautiful and fascinating, with a siren song that can't be ignored either.

Video: Hansjörg Auer - No Turning Back

In this video we meet Hansjörg Auer a talented mountaineer who has a talent for pulling off big things at high altitude, including scaling mountains and paragliding back down again. His various adventures have taken him to Annapurna III, the Trango Valley, and Baffin Island, amongst an array of other destinations. In this short film, we learn about his life and what drives him to explore remote corners of the planet, not to mention what it means to be truly alone in those places.

Scientists Have Discovered a Way to Reverse Climate Change and Make Gasoline at the Same Time

More good news for the environment this week, as a team of researchers from Harvard University and a company called Carbon Engineering have announced a major breakthrough that may not only reverse the effects of climate change but create a new supply of gasoline at the same time.

The new process – which has already been reportedly tested at scale – uses an inexpensive and easy to produce technique to scrub carbon from the air and turn it into gasoline instead. The technique uses limestone, hydrogen, and air to complete the process, which can be done using small, home-owned carbon scrubbers, on massive industrial sized factories.

This technology has been around for quite some time, but it hasn't been cost-effective to implement. A few years back, researchers estimated that it would cost a minimum of $600 to remove a metric ton of carbon dioxide from the air, but the team from Harvard says they can do it for as little as $94, and no more than $232. To put that in perspective, that means it would cost between $1 and $2.50 to remove the CO2 produced from burning a single gallon of gas from a typical automobile. In other words, it is still an expense to take into consideration, but considering the impact it could have on the planet, it is a more affordable solution than some other options we've seen. '

Carbon Engineering says that it has already built a small-scale version of its carbon-scrubbing machine at its test plan in British Columbia, Canada. The next step is to seek funding to build a larger version, which it hopes to do by 2021.

Meet Six Extraordinary National Geographic Explorers for the 21st Century

Each year, National Geographic brings together some of the top researchers, scientists, conservationists, and adventurers from around the globe to discuss the current state of exploration and share their stories. It is a chance for these extradorinaiy men and women to come together to discuss their work and the challenges they face in a variety of remote corners of the globe. That event is taking part at the Nat Geo Festival, which is being held in Washington, D.C. right now. To spotlight this even, the National Geographic team is sharing the stories of several of the explorers that it supports, giving us an idea of the wide variety of projects that are currently underway.

The article, which you'll find here, introduces us to six National Geographic Explorers, of which there are many. The six who are spotlighted here however include  Hans Cosmas Ngoteya, who at the age of 28 is working to promote peace and tranquility between man and nature in his native Tanzania. He's joined by Erina Pauline Molina, who is focused on protecting the oceans, and Tashi Dhendup who helps to reduce human-wildlife conflicts in Bhutan through education of the local people. Jen Guyton is a photographer who studies mammals in Mozambique, while Ella Al-Shamahi searches for fossils in caves found in conflict zones around the world. Finally, Evgenia Arbugaeva is also a photographer who is focused on capturing the history, culture, and stories of the people who still live and thrive in the Russian Arctic.

Each of these individuals has some fascinating stories to share and their work is playing an important role in each of their fields. To become a Nat Geo Explorer you truly need to stand out in your field, and these men and women have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to their work. In the modern age, exploration doesn't often involve cutting your way through the jungle with a machete any more, and the fields of research have gotten diverse and unique. Thankfully there are people like these who are helping us to continue to learn more about our planet, while finding ways to protect it at the same time.

Read the entire story here.

Colin Haley Sets New Speed Record on Denali's Cassin Ridge

Rock climber and mountaineer Colin Haley has set a new speed record on one of the most iconic routes on Denali, making a solo summit of the mountain at the same time. According to Rock & Ice, Haley managed to climb the difficult and demanding Cassin Ridge in 8 hours and 7 minutes, besting the old record – held by Jon Griffith and Will Sim – by more than 6.5 hours. That's an incredible time when you consider he was climbing alone.

The history of climbing the Cassin Ridge is long and storied. The route was first completed back in 1961 and repeated again in 1967. The first solo ascent came in 1976 and was completed in 36 hours. In 1991 American climber Mugs Stump set a speed record of 15 hours, which stood until Griffith and Sim lowered the time back in 2011. The fact that Haley was able to crush their time shows you how far climbing techniques, training, gear, and athleticism have come.

Haley himself has always had a fascination with climbing Denali, with a good dose of inspiration coming from Stump. As Rock & Ice tells it, Colin skipped his high school graduation back in 2003 to go climb the mountain instead. He has since reached its summit 16 times and counting. That included previous attempts on the speed record, which were thwarted by the mountain's notoriously bad weather and deep snow.

This year, in preparation to have another go at that record, he decided to go extremely light. His equipment list included a set of ice tools, monopoint crampons, a helmet, collapsible ski poles, 3.5 liters of water, 13 energy gels, two energy bars, two pairs of gloves, an extra set of puffy pants and jacket, and his music player. Haley didn't take any rope, harness, or protection. The plan was to free solo everything along the way. Apparently, the plan worked to perfection and the weather was in his favor too, as he didn't just beat the speed record, he destroyed it.

To find out more about this epic climb, check out the full story and Rock & Ice.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Video: The Passage - Canoeing From Washington State to Alaska

This beautiful short film is one not to be missed. It combines adventure, passion, familial ties, and a love for the outdoors into one amazing story. The documentary takes us out on the water with a family who are determined to complete a legendary journey started back in 1974, canoeing from Washington state to Alaska. What they find along the way is more than they had expected.

The Passage from Day's Edge Productions on Vimeo.

Video: The Road to Nanga Parbat Base Camp

If you think your commute is bad, wait until you get a look at this one. This video takes along the road to Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat Base Camp. But this isn't just some simple ride in the park. In fact, it could be one of the most dangerous roads in the world. It looks like quite an adventure just to get to the start of the climb. Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

The Adventure Podcast Episode 22: How to Get Started in Adventure Racing

The latest episode of The Adventure Podcast is now available to download from your favorite podcast platform, including Apple, Google, Stitcher, and Spotify. You'll also find the audio clip embedded below in this blog post for those who prefer to listen directly from their browser.

With the recent announcement about the return of Eco-Challenge, not to mention a question from an avid listener, this week we decided to talk about how to get started in adventure racing, which can seem like a daunting affair. But co-host Dave Adlard and I break down how to begin putting together a team, choose a race, start collecting your gear, and more. But first we start the show with adventure news with topics like speed climbs on El Cap, disturbing stories from the Himalaya, and a long-distance swim across the Pacific Ocean. And of course, we wrap up the show with our gear picks, including hydration options for camping and a new portable power station.

As always, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, and we love getting feedback, questions, and other notes via email too. If you haven't given the show a shot yet, and you like what you read here on The Adventure Blog, chances are you'll dig the program. Thanks for giving us a shot and listening to us ramble on about exploration, adventure, and outdoor gear on a weekly basis.

Antarctica is Losing Ice at an Alarming Rate

We've seen some truly alarming reports on the state of the ice in Antarctica in recent months, but maybe none of them have been quite so scary as the one released by researchers a few days back. A new report, published in Nature, indicates that the loss of ice on the frozen continent is far more than we expected and it is accelerating.

The report is from a study that looked at data between 1992 and 2017 and is the work of dozens of researchers who have been studying the impact of climate change on the Antarctic. Their findings indicate that over that span of time, more than three trillion tons of ice have melted there, pouring into the sea and starting what could be an irreversible trend in terms of ocean levels rising. Worse yet, the loss of ice is speeding up at an unprecedented rate, with more than 200 billion tons now disappearing on an annual basis.

Andrew Shepherd, a cryospheric scientist who was instrumental in putting this study together says, “That the rate of ice loss is now three times faster than it was prior to 2012, when we last looked. The longer term 25-year signal is now one of clearly increasing losses in most calendar years.”

In other words, the outlook for the next two and a half decades is grim, with more ice melting in most years, which will only lead to rising oceans around the globe. Most of the damage is being done on Antarctica's western edge, where warmer waters are actually finding their way under the ice. That is causing it to erode much faster than initially expected and is part of an accelerating cycle. As the ice melts, it falls into the warming oceans, causing it to rise and make its way further under the ice shelfs as a result. The Larsen Ice Shelf is also collapsing quickly, although the researchers say that the eastern coast of Antarctica appears to be fairly stable right now. 

As the ice retreats, scientists have also started to notice that the land beneath all of frozen water is starting to rise too. As the massive weight is taken away, it slowly begins to emerge from the ocean. Right now, that geological process is only a few millimeters each year, but it is happening, and changing the face of our planet as a result. 

I don't have to tell you what impact rising sea levels would have on the coastlines around the world. With hundreds of millions of people living in those areas, the continued melting of Antarctic ice and subsequent impact it would have on our oceans could mean that many of those people will have no place to live. For a long time now we've felt that this was an issue that we still had decades to solve, but it now appears that we may not have as much time as we thought. Sobering stuff to say the least. 

Karakoram 2018: More Teams Heading to Base Camp in Pakistan

Yesterday we took a quick look a the main peaks that climbers will be focused on summiting this summer in the Karakoram Range in Pakistan. Some of those mountains already have a few alpinists already in place, while other teams are starting to make their way to Base Camp in preparation for the summer climbs ahead. Here's a quick rundown on some of the things that are currently happening.

The Furtenbach Adventures team is trekking to BC on Broad Peak where they'll warm up before attempting both that mountain and K2. The squad had been on the trail for more than week now and expect to reach Base Camp on Friday where they'll spend a few days getting settled before starting their first acclimation rotation. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Madison Mountaineering team is just now preparing to leave for Pakistan, so they'll be about two weeks behind Furtenbach in terms of reaching BC.

Other major expedition teams that will be on K2 this year include Seven Summits Treks, SummitClimb, and Himex, although Russell Brice has still yet to confirm his company's participation this season. Last year was a particularly frustrating one for him and his squad, promoting Brice to head home early, only to have other teams reach the summit. At the time, he had expressed his frustrations in an open letter that seemed to indicate he was ready to retire, but later clarified that stance and said he would continue guiding, admitting he still had to figure out what K2 was all about.

In addition to the well established commercial squads, there are a number of talented individual climbers in the region this summer with their own objectives too. For instance Romanian Alex Gavan and Turkish alpinist Tunc Findik have set their sites on Nanga Parbat this summer, while Adam Bielecki and Jacek Czech are heading to the Gasherbrum massif, possibly to bag several summits. Polish climber Andrzej Bargiel is back once again this summer as well to continue his pursuit of climbing and skiing down K2, something that seems utterly wild. Fredrik Sträng will have a go at K2 as well and indicates that he'll be setting out for Pakistan in the middle of next week, while Nathalie Fortin and Brit Jake Meyer have also targeted the world's second highest peak.

For now, most of these teams and climbers are still in the preparation phase back home, but there are a few who have already reached their starting points. For instance, Mike Horn has already started acclimatizing on Nanga Parbat and went to Camp 2 yesterday. His most recent dispatch indicated that he is planning on moving higher today, which would lend me to believe that he is looking at a rapid ascent on this mountain. At this rate, he could be done and heading home before most of the other teams arrive. We'll just have to wait to see what happens.

That's all for now. The stage has been set and soon the Karakoram will start to get busy. We'll be following the news there very closely for the next month and a half.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Video: A Spectacular Journey Through Myanmar

If you want to get off the well-trodden tourist path in Southeast Asia, add Myanmar to your list of places to visit. The country only opened up to foreign visitors a few short years ago, and much of it still remains a mystery to outsiders. But, there is plenty to see and do here, and as you'll discover in this clip, there are some utterly spectacular landscapes to explore and people to meet, not to mention a rich culture and history to discover too.

Enchanted Myanmar from Oliver Astrologo on Vimeo.

Video: This Inspiring Climber Summited Everest, Now She Encourages Others to Explore Too

Mountaineer Tine Mena is the first woman from her region of India to reach the summit of Everest, after which she returned home a hero. She now serves as a source of inspiration for her community, but rather than just rest on her laurels and soak up the adulation, she is now working to inspire others to explore the world around them too. In this wonderful video we not only get a chance to meet Mena, but we also get to see just how she is impacting the lives of young people in India who may not have thought they could travel, explore, and do adventurous things too.

Help Clean Up England's Rivers and Canals on a Waterbike Adventure

Our friend Dave Cornthwaite has been on some amazing adventures over the past decade or so. He launched his Expedition 1000 challenge by first skateboarding for more than 3618 miles (5822 km) across Australia, and then proceeded to add other excursions to his list, including riding a stand-up paddleboard down the Mississippi river, swimming 1000 miles (1600 km) along the Missouri River, and sailing the Pacific Ocean. Last year, he added a new form of transportation to his list of unusual modes of travel, this time using a waterbike to cover 1243 miles (2000 km) along the coast of Norway. Well, it seems that unique pedal-powered vehicle left quite an impression, as waterbikes are now playing a big role in Cornthwaite's next endeavor.

Dave is taking 2018 off from his busy expedition schedule to allow his body to heal up and attend to other business, most notably getting married this summer. But, that doesn't mean he doesn't have some big projects in the works including one called the Waterbike Collective. As part of this initiate, Cornthwaite is inviting others to take part in a 1000 mile waterbike relay along the rivers and canals of England with the expressed purpose of not just heading outside to take part in an adventure, but also help clean up trash along those waterways.

The relay is actually broken down into ten different legs, the first of which is actually wrapping up this week. But, it's not too late to sign up to take part in one of the other legs yet to come, with the next one schedule to start This Saturday, running from Sheffield to Leeds. You can find out more about the Waterbike Collective, and sign up to join the leg, by visiting this page. There will be waterbike riders taking part in various legs between now and the end of September, ultimately ending in London at that time. All riders are required to pay £25 ($33) to take part in the event and overnight camping options are available.

In addition to the Waterbike Collective, Dave has also revealed the YesBus, a completely renovated English double-decker bus that has been outfitted to be the ultimate adventure mobile. The YesBus is serving an outdoor base camp in West Sussex, where individuals and groups are invited to come escape their urban environments, immerse themselves in nature, and focus on creative projects, relaxation, or whatever else they'd like to achieve.

You can find out more about both of these project and more at

Outside Explains What Happens to Your Body When You Climb Everest

One of the hardest things for non-climbers to understand is the impact that altitude can have on your body. Unless you've been up into the thin air itself, it's tough to get a sense of how the lack of oxygen can mess with you both physically and mentally. This is especially true when climbing an 8000-meter peak like Everest, where the oxygen in the air at the summit is less than a third of what it is at sea level.

To help us understand what happens when climbing into the so called "Death Zone," Outside magazine has put together an interesting piece that explains the impact that the dramatically-lowered oxygen levels have on the human body. The article takes a look at the effect his has on the brain and lungs, which are the parts of the human body that are most likely to be effected by altitude sickness. But that's just the start, as the story also examines how the heart, eyes, gut, and extremities (hands, feet, ears, and nose) are impacted too.

Everyone knows that High Altitude Cerebral Edema and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema are extremely dangerous for climbers, causing fluid to develop on the brain and lungs respectively. But, not everyone knows about how the lack of oxygen causes the heart to work harder or how lowered oxygen can cause spasms in the arteries that supply blood to the eyes too. This can sometimes lead to temporary blindness. Of course, climbing at high altitude can also cause a lack of appetite and mess with the digestive track. In terms of the impact on the extremities, the main challenge is the potential to contract frostbite.

If you follow the mountaineering scene closely, you probably have a good idea of how dangerous the thinner air at altitude can be. But this story breaks it down in a manner that makes it easy to understand exactly what is happening to the body. It is definitely worth a read and could help you to better understand what is happening the next time you find yourself at high altitude too.

Check it out here.

Pakistan 2018: The Peaks of the Karakoram

With the spring Himalayan climbing season over our attention now turns towards the Karakoram in Pakistan. Whereas the the big peaks in Nepal and Tibet dominate the high alpine mountaineering scene in the spring and fall, the Karakoram is where it is at during the summer months. Right now, the teams are still just arriving in Base Camp and the season is still ramping up. But before things start to get really busy, I though it might be worth it to take a look at the mountains they'll be concentrating on in the days ahead.

This is the crown jewel of the Karakoram. Standing 8611 meters (28,251 ft) in height, it is the second highest mountain in the world behind only Everest. That said, K2 is far more of a technical climb than its Himalayan counterpart. It requires much more skill and experience to get to the top, and several years can go by without anyone reaching its summit. Additionally, it is prone to avalanches, making it extremely dangerous too. In fact, for every four summits, one person perishes on the mountain, giving it a 25% death rate. Those aren't the best of odds, although to be fair those numbers have started to come down in recent years with more successful summits due to an increased number of commercial climbers. There are multiple routes to the top, all of them very difficult, but the Abruzzi Spur is the most popular and well traveled. To put things in perspective, consider this; K2 is the only 8000-meter peak that remains unclimbed in winter. That is how difficult and demanding this mountain truly is.

Broad Peak
Situated not far from K2, Broad Peak has become a popular peak to acclimatize on in recent years before heading over to the taller mountain. Several commercial tams actually offer the two peaks as a double header for those coming to the Karakoram, as BP is a challenging climb, but not nearly as difficult as its neighbor. Stretching 8051 meters (26,414 ft) in height, Broad Peak is the 12th highest mountain in the world and it has several sub-summits that add to its appeal. The mountain is truly "broad" making a traverse of the peak a real challenge.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Video: Whale Sightings Don't Get Much Closer Than This

A group of whale watchers off the coast of Australia got more than they bargained for when this large humpback breached right next to their boat. The clip below captures the moment perfectly, which was followed by a massive wave dousing the passengers. When it comes to whale encounters, its tough to get much closer than this without getting in the water.

Video: A Dramatic Rescue in the Khumbu Icefall

This powerful and scary video will give you an indication of who dedicated the Sherpa guides on Everest truly are. The clip opens with a client crossing an open crevasse in the Khumbu Icefall when he loses his balance, going over the side of the ladder that is put in place to walk across. What follows is a dramatic rescue operation in which the Sherpa support team risk their lives to save the mountaineer.

Gear Review: Jackery 50-Watt Portable Solar Panel Review

Last week I posted a review of the new Jackery Explorer 240 portable power station. In that review I mentioned that one of the best aspects of the device is that it can be charged quite efficiently using Jackery's 50-Watt solar panel. In fact, in direct sunlight, the solar panel is capable of replenishing the power supply in just 10 hours. After using the solar panel a bit further, I thought it was worth sharing a full review of that product too.

If you've ever tried to use one of those small, ultraportable solar panels for keeping your electronic devices charged while hiking or traveling, you probably already know that they aren't especially effective. Yes, they can provide a small charge, provided they are left in direct sunlight all day. But strap them to your backpack and start to move around and you'll soon discover that most of them are pretty much useless. The 50-watt solar panel from Jackery is not one of those types of solar panels however. On the contrary, it is much more powerful and effective than those small models, although it does lose some portability in order to achieve its level of effectiveness.

Jackery's model ships with everything you need to covert light from the sun into energy you can use with your gadgets. It not only comes with a built-in 3-meter long cord with an Anderson interface – the standard for solar power – it also features two USB ports (one USB-A, one USB-C) too. This allows you to not only plug the solar panel into an Anderson-ready power station, it also lets you recharge devices directly from the panel itself. That can come in very handy depending on your specific needs.

Gear to Turn your Smartphone into an Adventure Filmmaking Kit

There is an old saying amongst photographers that says the best camera is the one that you have with you. Today, that often means our smartphones, which have evolved into some pretty outstanding pieces of equipment for capturing excellent photos. That said, if you truly want to get the most of that camera - particularly if you're a budding filmmaker – there are some add-ons that can really help you up your game, and Outside magazine has put together a list of the ones you'll want to have at your disposal you start to get serious about making your own videos.

In addition to adding better and more versatile lens to the smartphone camera repertoire, Outside also suggests a number of items such as a stabilization rig, filters, and a light. The list also offers options for an add-on microphone, a portable power bank to keep everything charged, and software that goes beyond what ships with your mobile device's operating system. An explanation of what these items can do for the filmmaker is also include, along with specific products to consider. For instance, when it comes to picking a stabilizer, the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 gets the nod.

The best part about most of this equipment is that it is small, lightweight, and easy to carry, meaning that one of the best part about using a smartphone isn't compromised. Carrying a full-size DSLR allows you to take some amazing photos and capture images that you might not normally get, but an SLR body and lenses are heavy and bulky. This gear for your phone will help close the gap some, giving you a mobile studio right in your pocket.

For my money, it is still hard to beat a really good dedicated camera and glass. That said however, it is amazing how far smartphones have come in terms of image and video quality. If you're an aspiring filmmaker who is looking to do some fun and adventurous outdoor films, there are very few excuses left as to why you can't work on your projects. Mobile devices, the software that runs the, and the cameras inside of them continue to get more sophisticated to the point that they are becoming an indispensable tool for just about any creative endeavor. If you already own one, and want to make films, there is no reason why you shouldn't be doing just that.

Check out the entire list of Outside's smartphone camera gear here.

Trailblazing Malaysian Female Explorer Heading Back to Antarctica

A trailblazing female explorer from Malaysia is preparing to head back to Antarctica this year. Sharifah Mazlina will lead a team of five the other women on 550 km (341 mile) journey to retrieve a time capsule that Mazlina herself put in place back in 20014 when she became the first muslim to travel to the South Pole.

At the start of the 21st century, Mazlina was a graduate student studying psychology who came up with an idea on how to mentally prepare yourself to take on life's most difficult challenges. Her professor heard her theory but told her she would have to find some way to prove that her ideas could actually work in the real world. To do that, she decided to test herself both mentally and physically by skiing alone across Antarctica. Three years later, she made the journey to the North Pole as well, becoming the first Malaysian to visit both extreme points on the planet.

While on her original journey to the South Pole she dropped a time capsule containing items that were personally and culturally significant to her at the time. Now, the goal is to go back and retrieve that time capsule, while simultaneously putting another one in its place. The new time capsule isn't expected to be opened until 2050.

2018 is the Year of Women's Empowerment in Malaysia, and to that end Mazlina is searching for five young women to accompany her on the return trip to Antarctica. She has received thousands of applicants from other would-be explorers who want to join her on this journey and has started the arduous process of paring those applications down. She is looking for women who are tough, dedicated, in good physical conditions, and can build a following on social media. She also wants them to be smart, educated, and well read, as the intention if for them to become role models for other women in Malaysia.

If all goes according to plan, Mazlina and her new team will travel to the Antarctic in November of this year and start their journey across the frozen continent. Between now and then, the women will undergo physical training to prepare for the challenges of the expedition and will gain the sills needed to survive out on the ice.

The 2018/2019 Antarctic season is still a long way off, but already there are some interesting stories to be told. We'll add this one to the expeditions we'll be following later this year.