We’d been underground for five hours, as deep as 600 feet below the surface of the jungle in a cave the Belizeans call the Mountain Cow Cave. The cavern has been rebranded for tourists as the more picturesque-sounding Crystal Cave, though few tourists make it here. Unlike the more famous and accessible Actun Tunichil Muchnal cave, which sees thousands of visitors per year, Crystal Cave only sees a few hundred, most only peeking into its impressive foyer. I could see why. It was not for the faint of heart.
Five Oceans, Five Cameras
Nowadays, there are many options for underwater photography and videography available to the avid diver and occasional vacation snorkeler alike. These five underwater imaging options — everything from custom-machined metal housings to cameras that don’t need a housing at all — will serve you well on your next dive trip. What you shoot is up to you.
Get wet, stay warm
Patagonia has always been a company with one foot in the mountains and one in the sea — climbing and skiing one day, surfing and paddling the next. When they introduced wetsuits to their lineup a few years ago, it was a big leap for the company, but not one they were unqualified to make. In fact, their experience building warm, lightweight and bombproof alpine gear transferred well to wetsuits, which we found out recently while testing the R1 wetsuit during a week of diving in Belize.
Gear for the jungle and the reef
Packing for a tropical getaway usually only involves deciding what color swim trunks to pack. But when your plans include jungle hiking, cave exploration and scuba diving, things get a little more complicated. The key is versatility — you need gear that works underground or underwater just as well as it does topside. For our week in Belize we made sure everything we took did more than just one thing well. This saved space in our luggage and let us be nimble yet well prepared. Here’s a sampling of what we took.
An Offshore Account
After a long and fairly uneventful dive on an unnamed reef out in South Water Caye, I clambered aboard Splash Belize’s dive boat, shed tanks and weights and stripped off my wetsuit. The big diesels rumbled to life and Captain Malcolm steered toward a small island in the distance. As we drew closer, I could make out a few small panga boats and some activity on the beach. Then came a distinctive smell: barbecue.
Big Races, Fat Bikes
Fat bike races are a great tool for carrying fitness into the winter, building your base for the coming year, or letting out your inner nutso cyclist. During some of the longer hauls, riders should expect to carry everything from sleeping bags and tents to locator beacons and cooking infrastructure. Just a few years ago your race options were limited, but the rapid growth in the category has created a number of race options and formats to choose from. Here are some of our favorites.
Gear for the diehard winter rider
Fat bikes can effortlessly glide over snowy conditions like a set of snowshoes, and they’re cushy enough for riding in frigid temps without shattering your frozen tuchus. But the bike can only take you so far. Staying warm and dry — and returning home with all your fingers and toes — requires the right set of gear for when the weather decides to take a serious turn for the worse. These winter fat biking essentials will help you battle the worst Mother Nature can throw your way.
Big wheels keep on turning
Since 2005, loads of companies have introduced fat bikes in their lineups, spurring technical and design advances and bringing the fatties up to par with traditional mountain bikes. Case in point is the impressive Borealis Yampa XX1, a carbon-fibered, wide-tired beast that contains plenty more design features than meets the eye.
The Iditarod, by Bicycle.
The Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI) is the world’s longest winter ultramarathon by mountain bike, foot and ski. It follows the historic Iditarod Trail from Knik, AK, over the Alaska Range to McGrath and on to Nome. If you like to run and ride in severe winter conditions and sleep outside in the frozen tundra, then this is the race for you.
Ice cold Red Bull
While all eyes were on Sochi as the Olympics wrapped up, another exciting winter sports event was happening this past weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota: the Red Bull Crashed Ice championships. Crashed Ice is Red Bull’s (generally apt) name for the up-and-coming sport of ice cross. And though it may be a made-up sport invented to sell energy drinks, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see it in the Olympics one day.
Shed the winter coat
Dropping some extra winter weight or jumpstarting your fitness goals for summer is no easy task, especially if you’re staring down something crazy like your first Ironman 70.3 or GORUCK Challenge. Sure, you could shell out some cash for a personal Jillian Michaels or Tony Horton lookalike at your local Globo Gym, but unless you want to feel like a boot camp recruit or Biggest Loser contestant, there are better options. We’ve been testing a few home workout programs this winter to help keep our edge. Here are a few of our favorites.
Less Space, More Power
Twenty years ago a home gym required an entire basement. This was ridiculous. Our ideas about fitness have progressed in breadth and scope — generally toward functional workouts that have real-world application — and the equipment required has diminished in size and price. If you’re looking to set up the perfect home gym that gives you the opportunity for a huge variety of exercises, it helps to have a few more tools in your kit.
Go For A Spin
For cyclists, both trainers and rollers have their respective pros and cons. When Indiana-based SportCrafters introduced their “best of both worlds” Omnium Trainer ($449), then, we decided to give it a thorough testing during the harshest days of a particularly bad winter.
Beg for mercy, prep mercilessly
What’s that bright thing in the sky? Is that…is that the sun? We’re not done with winter’s worst yet, but a look back at some of our cold-weather pieces should help you fill out your much-needed wintry gear set. Only a few more weeks, folks. We’re almost there.
The Future is Gold
Thanks to Cold-War-era bias (and some legitimate concerns), the groundbreaking athletic technology developed for the 2014 Sochi Games played second fiddle to alleged (OK, verifiable) corruption and safety issues. However, we want to give credit where credit is due. From aerodynamic bobsleds to virtual ski-runs to crazy X-Ray goggles, the technology on display in Sochi threatens to outshine the physical feats of our planet’s greatest athletes.
WHEN GEARS AND SPRINGS STILL DETERMINED GOLD, SILVER AND BRONZE
The use of stopwatches to time Olympic events began at the first Modern Games in 1896 and ended in the 1960s with the coming of electronic timekeeping. Touch pads were quicker than timers’ thumbs and electric eyes became more reliable than human eyes. But these workhorse timers that fit so nicely in hand deserve more than a passing note. We take a look back at some Olympic moments during the golden era of mechanical timekeeping.
Insight from our man on the ground
I’m in Sochi this week, and guess what? I haven’t been blown up, my phone hasn’t been hacked, my hotel room is quite nice and the water from the taps isn’t brown. Instead I’ve seen some amazing athletes doing some amazing things on the ice and snow and had my preconceptions sincerely rattled.
Low Hanging Fruit
For anyone uncomfortable with pills, powders, shots and gels, Mother Nature offers an alternative way to stay healthy this winter. We’re talking berries, those tart little packets of juicy goodness. But beware: not all berries are created equal, and some go together better than others. Our resident fruitarian breaks down some of the most popular options.
World's Best Female Climber
Sasha DiGiulian is the best female climber in the world. In 2012, she became the first American woman (and only the third woman of all time) to climb grade 5.14d, only three steps below where the scale tops out. She’s graced the covers of 12 different magazines, received the Rubicon and Salewa Rock Legend awards and been sponsored by Adidas, Five Ten and Petzl, among others. The craziest part? She’s only 21. We caught up with the Columbia University undergraduate to talk about climbing, philosophy and piña coladas.
To Russia We Fly
Packing for a trip to Russia for the Sochi Olympics is no small feat. There’s weather, international travel, technology and a desire to stay light on our feet to consider. Gear needs to be tough, functional, lightweight and understated. Here’s a sampling of what we’re packing to use on a normal day in Sochi.
Adventure-ready multifunction watches
Mechanical diver’s and pilot’s watches may have been indispensable instruments for explorers in decades past, but nowadays, state-of-the-art wristwatches have shifted toward lightweight, battery-powered and largely digital pieces. These are wrist-top computers, designed for wear during mountaineering, skiing, sailing, surfing and flying. We rounded up six of the best for your next adventures.
We take our pick-up sports with a healthy dose of enthusiasm. A casual game of touch football is the perfect outlet for friendly competition, (a little bit of) athleticism and a chance to revel in some big-game moments like our favorite pros. Unfortunately, we somehow missed out on Peyton’s arm strength and precision. No matter. Simply being able to throw a football correctly keeps you involved in the game and might even get you the nod at the coveted QB spot. Get a ball, get a friend, and go practice these six easy steps the next time the sun shows up.
Speedskating — not to mention its thrilling short track sibling — is known less for its technical innovation and more for its excitement. Under Armour, partnered with Team USA and Lockheed Martin has set out to change all that. Come February 8th at 6:30 a.m. EST the USA men’s 5000m contenders will be the first to don the menacing and impressive Mach 39 Speedsuit in anger. We break down the high-tech super-skater suit.
In advance of the biggest American sporting event of the year, many people start thinking about placing a bet or two. For those who don’t know the difference between a fullback and a backpack, it’s a harrowing time. But, with a little education, you too can get in on the action.
Live From Salt Lake City
We like to get our hands on new gear early, and short of theft and corporate espionage one of the best ways to do that is by checking out Outdoor Retailer, a biannual product show for retailers, manufacturers and other industry pros. We were on hand at the Winter Market 2014 show at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT, where every brand with a stake in the great outdoors showed off their future cold-weather wares. Of everything we touched, tasted and saw, this gear stood out most.
A Jacket of All Trades
When we stopped by the Aether office and showroom to take a look at the second version of the Alto ($395) jacket, their crew handed us a sample and sent us on to their on-site testing facility — an industrial walk-in freezer — where we got a preview of how it would perform in the wild. Our adventures with the Alto would take us from chilly nights in Los Angeles to face-mashing wind in Detroit to a short stint inside New York’s polar vortex. And Vegas. That set of varying destinations is where the Alto, a true multipurpose jacket, is meant to shine.
A board meeting you want to be part of
Nostalgia is an attractive creature, and we often find ourselves getting sentimental over microbrews about our gear of yore and cool vintage finds. But like the skis we came across in Park City, neither the Snurfer nor the Burton Backhill were performance decks. Nobody back in the day was talking about carbon and kevlar layup or cambered medley — not sober, anyway. Today the construction materials and technology that go into snowboard making produce rides for every body type, terrain and personal preference. These five boards are some of the finest in each category.
These should come in handy
These, the five best winter gloves, will give you free range of motion, excellent grip and reasons to start conversations — all while maintaining a high standard of comfort. So whether you’re into something sporty, stylish, svelte or something else, we’ve found the right fit for you.
Killer Pow, Bro
Skis have become impossibly technical — not with complicated gadgets and moving parts, but other things that engineers geek out over like ski geometry, core materials and physics. In this photo essay we recall a bygone era of skis when color schemes were impossibly neon, patterns were questionable and bindings were more like door hinges.
Wreaking Havoc In A Winter Wonderland
We recently traveled to snowy and frigid Newry, Maine, where the Sunday River Ski Resort hosted the first-ever Red Bull Frozen Rush truck race. Pro 4 off-road racing trucks hit the slopes, racing up and down in a wild, aggressive, violent scramble over ice and snow, aided in no small part by spiked BF Goodrich tires. We rode along in a truck, watched drivers fly their trucks through the air like madmen daredevils and froze our tushes off all in the name of watching racing history unfold. Check it out yourself here.