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.
You might think: packing for the Sundance Film Festival, all I need are my spectacles, some comfy corduroys and a family box of Goobers chocolate-coated peanuts. That might be fine if you’re heading to Smitty’s Cinema in Tilton, NH, to watch That Awkward Moment with your friend Dennis, but not for America’s premiere independent film festival. This is Sundance, baby. This is A-list. This is Redford country. We had boots on the ground this year, and we packed to work remotely, hit Main Street in (relative) style and take the edge off back at the condo.
Precious metals, mountain gem
Park City’s reputation as a winter resort is outsized: It was the home of skiing and snowboarding events during the 2002 Winter Olympics in nearby Salt Lake City; it remains the training grounds for the United States Ski Team; and it plays host to the Sundance Film Festival. We came for the latter, but we found an idyllic mountain town where the sun shines almost every day, an unironic trolley rambles along Main Street and beautiful women wear leggings and fur vests. Need a little help planning a long weekend there? We’ve got you covered.
Be Safe and Have Fun
You’re going to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and you’re going to be fine. Still, you should always reduce risk. The following tips minimize your exposure to terrorist activity and will also offer protection against criminal elements during your stay.
Because You Can't Bobsled 24/7
When the Winter Olympics kick off on February 7th, we’ll have a correspondent on the ground, leaving the rest of us at the GP HQ to wonder why we can’t take a week off to watch sports, while the weather in Russia — Russia! — is warmer than New York City. We’re not bitter. In fact, to keep him safe, entertained and entirely prepared we’ve put together a quick pocket guide to Sochi.
Cold weather, cold smoke, cold beers.
Most of us calculate Paid Time Off based on formulas that are too sad to enumerate. Suffice it to say those hours rarely add up to week-long ski vacations at our leisure. But parse them out just so and you can be taking long weekends whenever the heavens open up. Make the most of it by choosing mountain resorts with bankable terrain and close proximity to an airport — like any of these 10 world-class ski areas.
Outdoor adventure in Kyrgyzstan
Combine partial nudity and breathtaking landscapes and you’ve got a recipe for a pretty good movie; throw in world-class alpinist Kyle Dempster, a bicycle and the Kyrgyzstan wilderness, well, then you get an unexpected and touching adventure film. Dempster set out in 2011 for a six-week trip in the Central Asian country, armed with a bicycle for transportation and a bag of climbing gear for soloing unclimbed alpine rock and mixed routes. The result is an award-winning film, The Road from Karakol, that’s raw, funny and insightful.
On the scene of America's biggest art festival
What exactly is Art Basel? You’re not alone in asking. Mixed messages are both a problem and an asset when it comes to the annual December event. Technically speaking, the festivities that culturally connected Americans learn about through New York Times writeups and a flood of social media humble bragging are officially known as Art Basel Miami Beach. We were on the scene to explore and try to define this captivating art wonderland
If you're between a soft and a hard case...
In the good old days of train travel a gentleman would have a cavalcade of steamer trunks in tow, housing all manner of wardrobe, knick knacks, accoutrement and what-have-yous. These days, a guy’s lucky if his rolling carry-on isn’t checked at the gate. Thankfully, weary traveler, technology is on your side. We’re pleased to introduce to you the best hard shell suitcases we would find, each a convergence of all the necessary requirements for travel, each unique in its own way.
Light, fast, local
There are big-name brands in the outdoor clothing market that turn out lustworthy, cutting-edge shells, baselayers and insulation pieces season after season. But every once in a while, we stumble upon a small brand doing things a little bit differently yet equally well. One of those is NW Alpine, based in that outdoor playground, Portland, Oregon. We got to test out three pieces of NW Alpine gear in the mountains this fall: the Black Spider Hoodie, the Fast/Light Pant and the Simplicity Jacket.
Business travelers used to have serious panache: Vasco da Gama traveled in a fleet of ships accompanied a few hundred men; Benjamin Franklin allegedly wore a rustic fur hat while serving as an ambassador to France; in the 1960s men wore three-piece suits in Economy. Today’s business traveler is less ostentatious but dangerously effective: he’s creative, flexible, mobile, well-connected and never ever sick at sea. Working all the time? Sure, but that’s a small price to pay for a life without borders. If that sounds like you, this is the gear you need.
Hiking Hut to Hut in the White Mountains
For thru-hikers of the AT, the White Mountains are a cruel joke, coming near the end of a months-long journey that begins in the gentle hills of Georgia. With nary a flat mile the trail follows the spine of the Presidential Range before exiting into Maine and the final miles to Katahdin. But while the Whites can be cruel, they are also kind. Among the rocky steeps is a series of huts where a weary hiker can find a soft bed, warm smiles and hot meals.
I came to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with too much confidence and they kicked my ass. With the trail’s highest point barely above tree line and only one thousand feet higher than the starting point of my June ascent of Mount Rainier, I figured hiking here would be easy. I was wrong.
Part II of III in The Mountain Series
For alpinists everywhere, including those confined to armchairs, the name, “Eiger” conjures up excitement, fear and dread. Considered the most daunting climb in the Alps, the mountain’s north face, the “Nordwand”, is a 6,000-foot sheer wall of crumbling, often ice-coated, rock that is continually scoured by rockfalls and avalanches. First climbed in 1938, it has been the scene of countless adventures, tragedies and one Clint Eastwood movie. The name and the image of the Eiger were etched in my brain for years, and I read everything I could about the mountain. So to see it there, across the valley from the sundeck of the Berggasthaus First, seemed like a dream; I could hardly take my eyes off it.
Not far behind the invention of the wheel, in terms of ingenuity, is the wheeled duffel. The problem is, most wheeled duffels are either good at wheeling or good at holding gear, but seldom both; that’s not to mention most have a hybrid appearance that neither looks stylish on the concourse nor rugged in the outback. But that’s not true of the Victorinox Swiss Army Alpineer Wheeled Duffel ($250), a bag we’ve dragged around three countries and four mountain ranges since June.
Gifts for the Continent-hopper
Your friend’s passport has addendum pages for the addendum pages and looks like Costanza’s wallet. It’s easier to count the countries he hasn’t visited than those he has. Travel-weary? Not a chance: this rolling stone likes to be moss-free, so we have the perfect collection of goods to keep your favorite road warrior in fightin’ trim. The tools below cover technology high and low, all to ensure the journey is every bit as enjoyable as the destination. The lucky recipient of your generosity will easily navigate airports, checkpoints (TSA or Syrian Free Army), and resort lobbies with aplomb, arriving refreshed and relaxed, ready for the work (and play) ahead.
Part I of III in The Mountain Series
The rotor wash from a Bell 212 helicopter is startlingly strong. Though I was getting used to the pick up and drop off routine — kneel, huddle together, cover your face — every time the helicopter landed I was nearly blown off my feet. Peering out the side window as we lifted straight up from a postage-stamp-sized rock atop a peak called “Kickoff”, I noticed that getting blown over here would have meant a very long fall. Note to self: don’t be the guy at the back of the huddle.
Helicopter travel is addictive. Though it’s loud and uncomfortable, it’s the swiftest and most scenic way to get from Point A to Point B in the mountains. There’s also a certain Green Beret appeal to being whisked off a remote peak by a Huey. Purist hikers and climbers may call it cheating (I used to be one of them), but reserve judgment until you’ve hiked for five hours and 5,000 vertical feet in some of the wildest backcountry in the world and can get back to the lodge in ten minutes for a beer by a crackling fire. I came to this newfound appreciation after a week of up and down in the Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia.
What's old is new
Retro gear is retro for a reason: modern outdoor gear design performs better than its forebears in almost all respects. But we still have a soft spot for the leather, wool, canvas alpine designs of the 1950s and ‘60s — you know, before things got all sleek and neon. After seeing two Gear Patrol favorite brands, Topo Designs and Howler Brothers, collaborate to design a classic climbing pack, the Klettersack ($189), we decided to go all Reinhold Messner and take it to the mountains to see how a retro style pack works in the environment that inspired it.
When it comes to flying, passengers seem to enjoy reflecting on the so-called “golden age of aviation” which, as far as we can tell, just means any time before present day. On any cross-country flight you’ll hear fliers reminisce on days of lax security standards as they’re digitally cavity searched or on the lost glamour of air travel as they’re entombed between the impressive combined girth of 17A and 17C. And it’s true. Flying today sucks. Even first class today sucks. Where’s the $1,000 value in a couple extra inches of legroom and three ounces of booze? Jet Blue tends to agree. The New York-based carrier just introduced an impressive new trans-continental service featuring their totally revamped take on first class: Mint.
A boutique hotel in Tel Aviv
On Friday morning the scene along Rothschild Boulevard is picturesque: Young parents push their kids along in strollers; beautiful women ride by on Tel-O-Fun rental bikes; kiosks on the street corners serve orange juice squeezed to order; people drink coffee and beer in sidewalk cafes; a group of men play petanque under the looming ficus trees. The weather is in the 80s and sunny with a breeze. Stretching from Neve Tzedek (Tel Aviv’s first neighborhood) by the Mediterranean to Habima Square in the heart of the city, Rothschild Boulevard is a slice of paradise in the Holy Land, and if you’re not paying attention you could walk right by The Rothschild 71, a new boutique hotel tucked back a few yards from the leafy street.
Turn it up to eleven
Luxury adventure company Eleven takes its name from the ‘80s “rockumentary” This is Spinal Tap. In the movie, band member Nigel tells new guy Marty that while other bands’ amps go up to ten, theirs go to eleven: one louder than ten. Staying at Eleven’s Scarp Ridge Lodge amid the Colorado high country of Crested Butte is, well, an eleven experience, full of luxurious comfort.
Island hopping in the North Atlantic
My bartering skills need work. Hungry and in search of fresh seafood at the farmer’s market, I sidestep locals blocking my beeline to the solitary oyster stand. Splayed out in front are seven mammoth slurpers of the Ruisseau variety. Countless foam coolers offer the promise of more, but the woman behind the stand brings sad news: the baker’s half-dozen of bivalves will have to do. They are the last she has.
I begin to trundle off, disappointed and craving more of the renowned Ruisseaus, when it happens: Nolan D’Eon, the man behind Eel Lake Oyster Farm, is apparently en route with a huge shipment of more oysters than I could hope to shuck. I blurt “gimme twenty” from behind a smile, newly-minted (molded?) plastic Canadian dollars flying from my pocket. If this were Seattle or Hong Kong I’d swear it was a setup, but in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, victory is mine.
Essentials for a Smooth Trip
Travel pros. You’ve seen them. You’ve envied them. They glide through check-in, make the body-scan look like a photo shoot and sightsee like locals. Sure, part of it might be their passport with 200 stamps, but the right kit makes a world of difference, too. Whether you’re embarking on a shuttle flight or a trip around the globe, there are a few pieces of gear that will improve life on the road dramatically. We’ve got ‘em.
Reliving the Adventure
If we had to pick a favorite communist country (don’t tell Joe McCarthy) it’d probably be Cuba. There’s something incredibly charming about our vision of the place. It might have been dreams of the weather, the Panama hats, the Buena Vista Social Club — or just the time-capsule aura that many of us associate with…
That wetsuit ain't for show
When I first received the invite for a Wilderness Collective trip I had many reactions, which were, in no particular order: “I haven’t camped since I was six” and “I hope the people don’t suck” and “it’ll be nice to go on a pleasant, Instagram-worthy tour off the coast aboard a yacht in order to roast marshmallows on an island”. Our destination would be the Channel Islands archipelago, eight land masses situated over 30 miles seaward from the shores of California’s coast. The multi-faceted trip would not, in fact, be about yachts and butler service. I didn’t know that yet.
Ketch of the Day
The nautical lifestyle, with its mix of refinement, adventure and expensive equipment, makes a natural fit for luxury timepieces. Officine Panerai does things a little differently than other brands. Rather than go for the cutting-edge carbon fiber multi-hull racing scene, the storied Italian watchmaker takes a more nostalgic view on sailing by sponsoring a series of classic yacht regattas up and down New England. We were invited to the first of the three American regattas, the Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta, in the charming maritime port town of Marblehead, Massachusetts. It was a proper mix of flapping Dacron, wooden-hulled 12-meter yachts and cocktails at no less than three proper blue-blood yacht clubs. Oh, and there were a few cool watches, too. Read on for the full photo essay.
Blue Water, White Death
The history of shark movies is littered with some good, some bad and some very ugly films. Before Sharknado, before Open Water, even before Jaws, there was Blue Water, White Death, which may just be the greatest shark movie ever made.
Diving’s Identity Crisis
There’s a popular saying among nostalgic dive bums that reads, “Remember when sex was safe and diving was dangerous?” Times have changed, and while I won’t comment on the hazards of promiscuity and the risks of STDs, I will say that diving has gotten too safe. Or at least that’s the perception — and one that, ironically, is keeping people from diving. What diving needs is a re-branding campaign.
Tagging sharks in the Bahamas
Sharks are hot right now, despite, or perhaps because of, their scarcity. People love them, vilify them, study them or eat their fins. Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” is one of the year’s most highly anticipated television events, up there with the Super Bowl or finale of “The Bachelor.” Still, they’re very endangered due to a combination of targeted fishing to satisfy the appetite for shark fin soup, pollution, coral reef degradation or as bycatch in nets and on long lines. This last method, which claimed an estimated 97 million sharks in 2010 alone, accounts for 80% of shark deaths annually and is the subject of an ongoing study being conducted by scientists at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas. We endured a bumpy ride in a tiny turboprop to visit this remote outpost and see what they were finding. Along the way we came face to face with this top predator of the deep.
Cue the “Jaws” theme
Despite the fact that that the world’s shark population is perilously shrinking, it is still possible to find places to dive with these magnificent creatures. And that may be just what they need most: seeing them at eye level cruising effortlessly against a strong current, always wary, always watchful, one learns to appreciate them for the miracles of evolution that they are, rather than as bloodthirsty killers. So strap on a tank, check the seals on your camera housing and drop in to the middle of the food chain at one of these destinations.
Just add water
While we love diving for its ability to transport us to an alien world, defy gravity and commune with nature, we also love it for the gear. Diving may be the most gear-intensive sport out there, with the possible exception of mountain climbing. Without your mask, you don’t see, without your tank and regulator, you don’t breathe, without your dive computer, you risk a nasty case of the bends. For our recent trip to the Bahamas, we packed along our favorite warm water diving kit, a collection of necessities, safety backups and just a little bit of style.