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75km Countdown: The Ladders on the West Coast Trail

PureOutside - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 07:00

Ladder #… a lot

There are a lot of ladders on the West Coast Trail.

The number goes up and down as they do work on the trail be estimates put it around 70.

My feelings towards the ladders ranged from excitement to hatred. We’d come around another corner and sometimes I’d be happy to see another ladder, they added interested to the trail and meant we were dropping down into a river gorge.

The only problem with the ladders is that for every ladder you went down, there was an equivalent ladder up. If you went down 200 metres into a valley then there would be 200 metres of ladders lurking in the near future to get back up to the trail.

No matter how sick we were of climbing ladders by the end of the trail, nearly every ladder offered a great view of the lush green forest around you.


Categories: Hiking

The First Mud Pit of the West Coast Trail

PureOutside - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 08:00

This is one of many posts about the West Coast Trail trip I did in 2013. See the rest of the West Coast Trail posts.




Lots of it.

I expected to see a lot of mud on the West Coast Trail but I don’t think anything really prepares you for how much there really is.

The photo above is a mud pit not 50 metres in from the start of the trail. We had officially begun the trail and we had officially begun the mud.

Some of the trail is nice and dry. The south end is a lot of mud. If you take beach routes, you’ll be spared the mud. Beach routes have their own … challenges. More on that in another post.

Even knee deep mud is really just what you make of it. It doesn’t have to be that bad. A couple of girls we met on the trail were doing the entire trail in Chaco sandals. Pretty crazy in my opinion!

No matter how bad it can seem, they still managed to get through all the mud fine.








Categories: Hiking

The Pros and Cons to a Bigger Backpack

PureOutside - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 07:00

The West Coast Trail is long. It takes most people 6 or 7 days to complete. I hiked it last year with some friends.

At the end of our second day hiking we were beat. We were tired and sore and just wanted to sit and rest and not move a muscle. We had hiked a considerable distance the first day and the second and were starting to feel the kilometers on our feet and the pounds on our backs.

Multi-day trips are the only way to see some beautiful places but they do involve carrying a bigger backpack with more gear. The biggest change from day-hiking or even just walking around the mall is how much you are carrying.

Day hiking is great. You don’t need to bring much, your pack is light and everything is good. Hiking for multiple days, everything is on your back. And it’s much heavier than just a small day-pack. One of the biggest complaints I hear about multi-day backpacking is how heavy the gear is.

Do you have to carry an enormous pack with you when you go multi-day hiking? Does it have to be really heavy? Let’s look at a few of the pros and cons to carrying a larger backpack.

Pros to carrying a bigger backpackMore space

Bigger backpacks give you more space. Even the same backpack in small, medium and large will give you more litres of space as you move up in size. There isn’t much leeway for which size you choose though since it’s dependent on your height.

What you can choose is how many litres you go with. Do you get a 60 litre pack for a multi-day trip? Do you get a 70 litre? Do you go small and get a 50 litre?

70 will give you more space to pack in or to fill up on the way. If you need to carry gear for a friend, you might have space if you have a larger pack.

There is a downside to having more space that we get into in the Cons section.

So what can you do with that extra space?

More gear

With more space you can have more gear. You can bring more stuff with you on your hike, more creature comforts, more food, more dry clothes. This extra gear can make a hike much more enjoyable. Along with having more space, bringing more gear has a downside to it as well that you will have to balance out for yourself. We get into that in the Cons section next.

Cons to carrying a bigger backpackHeavier backpack

A bigger backpack means more fabric, metal and plastic to make it. Often larger backpacks have more padding so it’s more comfortable to wear. All these extra bits and pieces add up in weight. Bigger backpacks are heavier than smaller ones, even with no gear inside.

Heavier gear

Having more space and more gear with you is great for comfort and emergencies but there is a negative. The downside is that it weighs more. Every single thing you take adds more weight. When you are hiking many kilometres in a day, all this weight adds up to a pounding on your legs.

From experience I know that if you have space you will fill it. It’s like the backpacker’s version of Parkinson’s Law which says, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” The backpacker version says, “if you have space in your backpack, you will fill it.”

More to store

Bigger backpacks are, well, bigger. They take up more room in your garage, in your car, in the tent. When you are strapped for space then you’ll want to look closely at how much you really have to spare for a large backpack.


Now you have some decisions to make.

  • What gear do you want to bring?
  • How much do you want to carry?

For every item you want to take with you on the trip:

  • Is this truly a necessity or is it just nice to have?
  • For the necessities, is there a smaller lighter version of this you can take instead?
Categories: Hiking

Make your music run with you: TrailMix Pro App Review

PureOutside - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 07:00

Since high school, I’ve run to stay fit. At that time it was more just because we were forced to run in gym class but I liked it all the same. One thing I noticed quickly was music changed the pace of my running.

Getting into a good fast song, I would pick up my running tempo. Coming around to a slower song, I would slow my running down a bit. But only to a point, if an insane drum and bass song came on, there’s no way I could match that kind of temp and for slow songs, well, they just didn’t make it onto my running playlists at all.

The problem is trying to find a good pace. It’s not a good running pace if you’re always changing it. One song you’re fast, one song you’re slow. It might be good for fast and slow intervals but long pace runs, the music is going to wear you out.

I’ve wondered if I decide what pace to run, I could go out and find all the music and sort it by it’s tempo and just pick which speed of music I wanted to run to that day. This guy spent the time doing that and it’s a huge amount of work. I have my “new music processes” set up so that it’s as little work as possible. I wasn’t going to do the work manually so I thought I was just going have to suffer through different speed music on my runs.

But as with everything else these days, “there’s an app for that!”

TrailMix Pro

TrailMix is an iOS app for running (they’re working on an android version) that changes the tempo of your music to match your running tempo. You can also use it for walking.

iPhones and iPods have a gadget in them that’s called an accelerometer which detects movement kind of like a pedometer. Every time you step down while running, the phone picks that up. With this, it knows your cadence or how many times you step to the ground each minute. Throw in some other cool technology that allows them to change the tempo of a song without distorting the pitch and you’ve got an app that plays music at exactly the tempo you are running at.

Now you can go for a run and listen to music at the same pace you are running at, the app will match it up. You can also use the Cruise Control feature and set the tempo or beats per minute manually and then run to that. If you are aiming for a certain tempo and would like to run that tempo the whole way, then you can set it and forget it. Some runners will run to a digital metronome of constant beeps in their headphones so they know what to match with their running speed. Metronomes are the things that go tick tick tick so music players can stay on time. I can’t imagine what running with a constant beeping in your head would be like. I much prefer music!

Free version vs Pro

What’s in the Pro version that’s not in the free version?

Magic Shuffle – Automagically picks the best songs for your pace

Cruise Control – You can lock in a pace for a consistent workout, no changing pace to match your run, you have to match the music!

Enhanced stats – get more stats, time spent moving and average pace

Unlimited playlist capacity – 20 randomly selected songs from each playlist are available, all songs are available in the Pro version

No Ads – you can also disable Kiip rewards


Download free TrailMix from the App Store

Download TrailMix Pro from the App Store


Other good reviews of TrailMix Pro



Happy Running,

- Ross


Categories: Hiking

Book Review: The Avalanche Handbook

PureOutside - Thu, 03/06/2014 - 07:00

That feeling of being weightless, gliding through the dry, powdery snow. That feeling of wonder as you gaze at the snow-capped peaks surrounding you entirely. That feeling of relaxation as you realize there’s no work, no computers and no boss within 50 kilometers of where you are now.

Backcountry touring, whether on a splitboard or skis, is like you’re in another world entirely. Yes, it’s an incredible amount of work to reach the top of a snow-covered mountain using your muscles alone but when you touch that summit, when you realize there’s no one else around, you feel the satisfaction of pushing your body and there’s nothing else like it. It’s worth every moment.

Heading into the backcountry isn’t all rainbows and unicorns though, and with such a reward comes an associated risk. With all of the snow that falls each year, comes the risk of that snow moving, of conditions being just right that your weight on that snow will cause it to slide. Better known as an avalanche. Some days its a small risk. Some days it could send you to the hospital, or worse.

Snow science isn’t something easy that you can learn in one day. A huge number of variables come together in an almost unimaginable number of ways to create avalanches that can a metre or take out entire forests or towns. It isn’t magic though, and there are signs you can look for in the snow to forecast what might happen.

Since World War II researchers around the world have been pushing hard into snow science and investigating every possible idea related to avalanches and snow safety. This post is a review of The Avalanche Handbook, an avalanche manual that brings together the best in more than 50 years of avalanche research. The Avalanche Handbook doesn’t contain every single idea from all research but it covers the most fundamental of those ideas, what the authors thought most important.

To give you a quick idea of what The Avalanche Handbook covers, here is the Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 – Character and Effects of Avalanches
Chapter 2 – Elements of Mountain Snow Climates and Weather
Chapter 3 – Snow Formation and Growth in the Atmosphere and Snowpack
Chapter 4 – Avalanche Formation
Chapter 5 – Avalanche Terrain, Motion, and Effects
Chapter 6 – The Elements of Applied Avalanche Forecasting
Chapter 7 – Classes of Factors Involved with Evaluation of Instability and Forecasting
Chapter 8 – The ABCs for Backcountry Avalanche Forecasting and Decisions
Chapter 9 – Safety Measures and Rescue
Chapter 10 – Avalanche Protection

It’s not a light, fluffy pamphlet on avalanches, it goes in deep. The book starts with quotes from popular publications from around the world.

From Off Piste, “Perhaps the definitive book on snow science and avalanche mechanics…The author’s credentials are impeccable.”

From the Pittsburgh Tribune, ”The revised third edition of The Avalanche Handbook…could well save your life.”

From Backcountry Magazine, ”This book has been the bible for avalanche workers since the first edition came out in 1953…If you ever start to feel cocky about your avalanche forecasting skills, sit down with this gem and I will guarantee you will learn something new.”

From Outside Bozeman, ”The Avalanche Handbook is the uber text in the field of avalanche science.”

Textbook and Handbook

To be honest, there are parts of the book that read like a textbook, dense and slow. But other parts are as easy to grasp as, well, picture books. There’s the whole range. That’s why the quote above from Backcountry Magazine is so spot on. You can be at any level of your avalanche training and you could learn something new.

For the beginners, there are the important basics that get you started covering the fundamentals. For the advanced forecasters you can dig deep into the snow science details and all the research behind the techniques and ideas they recommend. And then everything in between. As you get more familiar with what they are talking about, you will advance and take in more information. I’ve only taken basic avalanche training and am in the process of learning more which means there is much in the book that I can’t even grasp yet. There is still lots I do understand and can take out to the backcountry with me.

Learning the ABCs

The ABCs for Backcountry Avalanche Forecasting and Decisions might be the best part of the book. The whole chapter covers simple, straightforward information with the goal of teaching you to make the right decisions in the backcountry in avalanche terrain. If you never get into avalanche terrain, then you can’t get caught in an avalanche. The chapter right after about safety measures and rescue is important reading as well. Rescue is simply a required skill and training that everyone going into avalanche terrain should have. Sadly some don’t.

If you backcountry ski or snowboard at any time, I hope you can take a look at The Avalanche Handbook. With all the science, you may not be able to grasp every single detail right now, but that just means you’ll be able to learn more for years to come.

Get details and download a free chapter from The Avalanche Handbook at the Mountaineers Books.

If you are looking for more avalanche information see the Canadian Avalanche Association  or the Island Avalanche Bulletin for Vancouver Island.

Warning: This or any other book is not a substitute for hands-on training with a qualified professional when it comes to avalanches. Get yourself into a course before going into any avalanche terrain. Reading books after you have some official training is a great idea though. The more you know the better. 

Ski safe,

- Ross

Categories: Hiking

Scouts Canada Looking for Volunteers in Nanaimo

PureOutside - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 18:59

Do you have outdoor skills that you would like to share with boys and girls ages 14 to 17?  

Scouts Canada, the leading youth organization in Canada, is searching for the right people to fill the roles of Venturer Advisor with a local Scout group.  If you have experience with multi-day hiking trips, canoeing on flat and white water, cycling, or climbing, and are willing to share your skills and talents, call today. The time commitment is an average of 1.5 hours per week plus a weekend adventure roughly every 6 weeks.

For more information on this rewarding volunteer opportunity, contact: Melissa Bond at or (250) 668-0983

Categories: Hiking

Newsletter? Yes! A PureOutside Newsletter

PureOutside - Sun, 03/02/2014 - 16:27

It’s official, the first PureOutside newsletter will be coming out this Thursday, March 6th. You can sign up on the PureOutside Newsletter page.

The monthly emails will have great photos, cool links and new contests for free gear. I don’t like reading huge emails and you probably don’t either so they’ll be short and sweet with links to all the good stuff.

No more remember to check the blog for the latest, now it’s just straight to your inbox. If you’d rather just get blog posts automatically, you can do that too on the blog post signup page.

Sign up for the newsletter, and get all the good stuff happening on PureOutside.

Categories: Hiking

Photo: Bridge 102 on the West Coast Trail

PureOutside - Sat, 03/01/2014 - 13:02

Bridge 102 on the West Coast Trail

The number of bridges on the West Coast Trail changes constantly as they build new ones, fix old ones and detour the trail around damaged sections. Estimates range from 130 to 150. There are many. Bridges were always a welcome change from the gnarled roots and mud pits that cover the rest of the trail. Until you find the angled, slippery, rodding bridges.


Categories: Hiking

Book Review: Backcountry Skiing – Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering

PureOutside - Tue, 02/18/2014 - 10:00

In preparation for this “winter” (those are big quotes), I’ve been reading through Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering from The Mountaineers Books. They are awesome folks and sent a couple books to review. Since ski touring is my latest obsession, I aimed for a couple books with snow in them. 


Interested in Ski Touring or Ski Mountaineering? Get this book.

Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering is an excellent book if you are just getting into ski touring or ski mountaineering or even if you have some experience but want to have a good reminder and refresher each winter. They cover every aspect of ski touring and ski mountaineering from the gear, traveling in avalanche terrain, skiing and mountaineering techniques and emergency preparedness.

From Backcountry Skiing:

“This book arose out of a desire to keep pace with the recent evolution of the skiing population, the improvement and proliferation of gear, and the development of new techniques. Our aim is to provide an in-depth explanation of all the various skills, knowledge, and techniques that are so crucial to safety and success in the diverse activities of ski touring and ski mountaineering – all in one place.”


Table of Contents

I list the table of contents here just because it’s useful to see what exactly is in the book. It shows how well the book spans ski touring and ski mountaineering. It’s an excellent reminder of what you need to know to play with either of these sports.

Chapter 1: Gear and Equipment

Chapter 2: Decision-Making in Avalanche Terrain

Chapter 3: Navigation

Chapter 4: Uphill Movement

Chapter 5: Transitions

Chapter 6: Ski Mountaineering Techniques

Chapter 7: Downhill Skiing Techniques

Chapter 8: Taking Care of Yourself and the Mountains

Chapter 9: The Mountain Environment

Chapter 10: Rescue Techniques and Emergency Preparedness

Glossary and other resources


What this book is not

This book is not a complete replacement for many other books and manuals. Entire books have been written on the content of every one of the chapters in this book so you can certainly go deeper. Avalanche safety and rescue techniques are a couple of the big ones that you can never know too much or have too much training or experience. The more the better.

This book is also not a replacement for hands on learning and courses, especially with the avalanche and rescue training. Those skills need to be learned from experienced professionals and then practiced and practiced and practiced. Reading more books can help you uncover new ideas or areas where you might need more training, but it’s no replacement for hands-on learning and getting your body used to the skills out in the field.

On the other side of that, this book IS a great introduction to the sports and a great refresher each winter if you already know most of the material. The best thing you can do when you start something is new is read every resource you can get your hands on to introduce yourself to the what you need to know in the future. You can’t learn all of it right away but just knowing what you don’t know can help you in the long run.


Who the author’s are and why they know their stuff

I read a lot and I always wonder who the people are that are writing these books. How much experience do they have? How much training do they have? Between the three authors I think they have an incredible amount of both those things. Here’s the short and sweet intro to each of the authors.

Martin Volken

  • Owner of Pro Ski and Guiding Service in Bend Oregon
  • IFMGA certifcation from Switzerland
  • Guiding mountaineering since 1992 in US and other countries
  • Several first ascents, ski descents and ski mountaineering traverses in North Cascades
  • Been on cover of Outside magazine
  • Involved in product development for K2 and Outdoor Research
  • Examiner for American Mountain Guides Association

Scott Schell

  • Certified AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guide
  • Guided extensively throughout States as well as Canada and Europe
  • Instructor and Trainer for AIARE
  • Former AMGA ski discipline instructor
  • Former manager of Pro Ski Service in Seattle
  • Usually has a camera with him and captures unique images as a photographer and mountain guide

Margaret Wheeler

  • Ski, Alpine and rock climbing guide, led trips throughout Europe and North America
  • Instructor for guide training for American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), serves on board and is president
  • AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) instructor and trainer
  • Member of several women’s expeditions, several first ski descents in India and Altai mountains of Mongolia
  • 2006 second women in US to complete international IFMGA/UIAGM guide certification

My Favourite Parts

I was very interested to see what they had to say about avalanches. I’ve recently started ski touring and avalanches scare the crap out of me. I try to read and pick up every bit of information and learning I can to refine my knowledge of the unpredictable beasts. A lot of avalanche safety is hands-on training but any edge I can get reading more is worth it.

The Threesome Packing Helper

The authors go over a great packing method they call the Threesome Method. It has nothing to do with the fact that there are three authors or doing something…else… while packing. Focus! Back to packing here.

They take the view that it’s safer in the backcountry when you remember all of your gear. That seems like a smart idea. Here’s an easy way to remember everything in 3′s.

From Backcountry Skiing:

Daylong Backcountry Skiing and Ski Touring

  • Skis, boots, poles
  • Maps, compass, altimeter
  • Transceiver, probe, shovel
  • Skins, ski crampons, repair kit
  • Food, drink, extra layer
  • Bivy bag, first-aid kit, cell phone
  • Base layer, midlayer, outer layer
  • Hat, gloves, googles
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, sun hat

Ski Mountaineering

  • Threesomes from daylong touring list
  • Harness, ice ax, crampons
  • Rope, ice screws, rescue gear kit

Overnight Ski Tours

  • Threesomes from daylong touring and ski mountaineering lists
  • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, shelter
  • Stove, pot, fuel

These aren’t the only things you’ll need to take, sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. You’ll need to experiment with how much you bring. More gear can be safer because you can use it if you get caught in an emergency but it’s also heavier, using up energy that you could be using for traveling farther and faster. The trick is in the 3s. If you remember one or two of the three then you’ll remember the third.



Avalanches are the scariest part of ski touring but a lot of training and learning around how you go about your planning before and during your trip will help immensely.

From Backcountry Skiing:

“Terrain selection is defined as the decisions we make about where we go. This is the ultimate application of our decision-making in the backcountry. You can’t get caught in an avalanche if you’re not in avalanche terrain.”


“Remember, good terrain selection is the key to not getting caught in an avalanche and correctly implementing travel techniques is the key to not having multiple people caught.”



These guys like their acronyms and rightly so, they make the important information so much easier to remember.

STOP is what they use to aid decision making pretrip, at the trailhead and throughout the tour. STOP stands for

Snowpack and Weather: Checking any avalanche bulletins and weather forecasts or snow reports. What are the concerns?

Terrain: Using any information you can find in books, photos, online or from friends or guides to aid you in your terrain decisions.

Options: What’s the ideal route? What are the alternatives or backups?

People: What are the skills and dynamics of the group? Ability? Fitness? Compatibility? Leaders?


Human Factors

Us humans aren’t perfect. A lot of decisions are made before and during ski touring trips and how those decisions are made and who they’re made by can affect the safety of your tour. We’re not perfectly logical. A lot of emotion and past experiences are involved in dealing with other people in your group. A variety of factors can come up when dealing with the other people in your group.

A couple common human factors can affect how your tour ends. Poor communication the group is a an obvious big one. If your group isn’t talking about important things between everyone and that information is just stuck in one or 2 peoples heads, there can be problems. Communication is very important with ski touring in mountaineering.

Other things like the “Blue Sky Factor” or the “Back to the Barn Syndrome” can lead people to misdiagnosing situations as safe when they’re not. The Blue Sky Factor issue comes up when the weather is fantastic. Everyone assumes the risk is lower when the weather is good. They are more careful when the weather isn’t so great. Risk can be just as high or higher when the weather is nice.

“Back to the Barn Syndrome” comes up when it’s time to head home. You’re almost home and you tend to focus on how good the beer is going to taste when you get back to the truck. The tour isn’t over till it’s over and the risk doesn’t go away until you’re safely in your car.


Dressing warm enough

One of the parts I was not expecting in this book was about caring for the mountains and dressing for backcountry travel. It totally makes sense to me now that I think about it. If someone were picking up a general ski touring book aimed at beginners or those looking to expand their knowledge they may not know a whole lot about how to dress most efficiently. When the cold temperatures out ski touring can make you extremely uncomfortable or worse, it’s important to dress properly.

From Backcountry Skiing:

“It’s a lot easier to stay warm than to get warm, and one of the best ways to stay warm is not to get too hot.”

Don’t get too hot. Don’t wait until it’s too late to take your layers off. Start touring when you’re a little cool. You don’t want your body to have to go to extremes to have to try and cool down by sweating profusely and then shock your system by taking all your layers off when you’re sweating too much. Then you’re body freezes and you’ll be trying to warm up then. Try and stay as even as possible, and not yo-yo up and down with your heat level.


The Mountaineers Books

If you think this would be a good book for you, swing by The Mountaineers Books and grab a copy.

You can download a sample chapter from the book. This an eBook version as well if you’d prefer to read on an eReader.



Categories: Hiking

One simple way to keep your camera at your fingertips while hiking

PureOutside - Thu, 01/23/2014 - 07:00

Imagine you’re out on a 3 day hike with some friends. The weather is good, the scenery is amazing and you’re making great time towards your destination. You have a digital SLR camera in your heavy multi-day backpack so you can show friends and family at home the myriad of colours you’re passing through. Every time you plod around the corner to another picturesque spot the same thing runs through your head.

“Wow, I should take a picture of that.”

“All I’d have to do is put down my  40 pound backpack, open it up, move things around to get my camera out, get it out of it’s pouch, take the lens cap off, turn it on, take a few photos, turn the camera off, put the cap back on, put the camera back in the pouch, put the bag back in your backpack, adjust your backpack, heave the 40 pounds over your shoulders, re-adjust your straps, make sure you haven’t forgotten anything on the ground and hustle to catch up with your friends who have already started moving.”

“Umm, on second thought, I’ll just remember this one and take a photo at the next stop.”

100 stops later and all you have photos of is camp and your friends eating lunch. Are those the epic photos you wanted from this trip?

That fancy digital SLR camera you bought to take amazing photos of scenery is sitting in your backpack the entire time because it’s a lot of work to take your bag off, take some photos and put it back on.

If there was only a way to keep your camera out all the time but your hands free so they can help you along the trail.

The Problem: That camera doesn’t leave your backpack

The Solution: The StrapShot

The Strapshot on an Osprey Talon backpack out hiking – photo credit: Lorne Collicutt

The Cotton Carrier Strapshot is a camera holder that easily attaches to one of your backpack straps. A small clip goes into the tripod mount on your camera which connects to the holder on your backpack strap. The Strapshot velcros around the backpack strap and clips or ties to the bag near your shoulder to prevent it from sliding down. The camera sits securely on the front of your chest to one side, ready for taking photos.

StrapShot attached to an Osprey Talon backpack

Your backpack strap is an ideal location for your camera because it’s so easy to access. There’s no taking your pack off, there’s no awkward stretching to reach behind you, and you’re not likely to smash your camera into anything.Every time you want to take a photo it’s a very quick process instead of the long drawn out endeavour that you had to go through at the beginning of this post to get your camera out of your pack.

The camera clips onto the Strapshot

It’s also nice and secure. When the lens on the camera is pointing down, it’s locked into the clip. When you turn it to one side, it unlocks and you can slide it out of the clip. This is the same kind of mount they have on their chest harness. A painless one-handed operation. They also include a tether just in case.

The Strapshot clips to your backpack and velcro’s around the shoulder strap

When you’re camera is accessible within seconds, you’ll be ready to capture anything that happens on the hike. Need a shot of that beautiful scenery before your friends start hiking again? Done. Need a shot of those animals scampering off into the wilderness? Done. Need a shot of your friends face-plant in the mud? Done.


I like the Strapshot because it’s lightweight and makes the whole picture-taking process much easier. Here are of the things I liked about the Strapshot:

  • It’s small and light – It doesn’t add much weight to your gear. Some of the chest mounted pouches and straps are much heavier
  • It’s secure – I never had a problem with my camera coming out but there is a tether just in case. The camera has to turn 90 degrees for it to pop out of the base and fall.
  • It’s easy to set up – Just put the velcro around your backpack strap and attach the webbing to the shoulder on your pack. Done.
  • It’s got small footprint – It doesn’t cover up any more space on your body than your backpack already does. I liked this hiking in the heat of the summer where larger chest mount straps and pouches take up a lot of room and trap the heat and sweat against your body.
  • This mount fits perfect for the one strap, cross shoulder bags like some of the camera sling bags. The only place to mount a camera on  those  is on the strap.


There are some downsides to the Strapshot. They’re usually a result of the unique designs, and you won’t get the Pros I listed above without some drawbacks.

  • It can be lopsided – Being on one strap and off to the side it can feel a bit lopsided. The bigger your pack and the smaller your camera and lens, the less this will be an issue. With my Osprey Talon 33 litre backpack and a Canon T1i with 18-200 lens, I didn’t have a problem with it. It was a bit awkward for my dad  with a smaller backpack and Canon 7d camera with the 70-200 lens (a larger camera and lens).
  • It comes off with your backpack – One of the benefits to the chest mount straps and camera pouches is they stay on after you take your backpack off. During breaks, you can take your pack off and still have your camera with you. With the Strapshot, your camera stays with the backpack. This is still a better situation than never seeing your camera because it’s hidden in your pack. Just don’t forget about it before you throw your pack on the ground!
  • It can get in the way of your arm – Because of where the mount was on my camera, I could only put mine on one side otherwise the lens pointed out and I would run into it with my arm.
  • No protection from the weather – You can get covers for the lens and camera though.

The Strapshot is a great little camera holder if you need something easy to set up and lightweight. If you have a one-strap sling bag, the Strapshot is definitely the way to go.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for chest mount options or better mounts for larger cameras, check out the Cotton Carrier 1 Camera Vest and the other options in 5 ways to carry a DSLR camera on outdoor adventures.

Win a free Strapshot!

Contest time! Cotton Carrier sent a Strapshot to give away with this post so one of you is going to win a new Strapshot Camera mount. All you have to do to enter is submit your name, email and the answer to one question in the form below. The contest will be open for 4 weeks and we’ll draw the winner on January 7th.

The contest is open to anyone in Canada or the US.


Discuss in the Forums

There is a discussion in the forums set up for you to talk about the Strapshot and other camera carrying systems here


More Links

Cotton Carrier

Cotton Carrier Strapshot

5 ways to carry a DSLR camera on outdoor adventures



Categories: Hiking

TevaSphere Shoe Review

PureOutside - Thu, 01/16/2014 - 07:00

If you’ve been anywhere near the shoe industry these days, you’ll notice lots of new shoes coming out. Some are huge and squishy and feel like you have 2 feet of foam attached to your feet (like the Hoka’s)  and others so thin with no support they feel like you’re running around in your bare feet (like the Vibram Five Fingers). Some people are advocating no shoes and to actually run barefoot. Then some are saying it doesn’t matter what you wear. 

Whatever your preference there is probably a solution that fits exactly what you want. Whether it’s cushion or control or weight or drying speed, the running shoe manufacturers have got you covered.

A new entry into the trail running market is Teva with their TevaSphere line. And remember it’s pronounced T-e-vah, not Teevah. I was blissfully unaware of how to say it properly until I started doing more research into their shoes and reading all the marketing material. I guess there are enough people out there that pronounce it wrong that they have to spell it out for us.

Ok. On to the gear review. Here’s what we’re going to look at:

  • What is the TevaSphere?
  • What I like about the TevaSphere’s
  • What I don’t like about them, and
  • Wrap-up: Who should try the new TevaSphere line


What is TevaSphere?

If you haven’t already caught on, TevaSphere is a new line of shoes from Teva. You’ve probably worn their sandals at one point in your life. I think everyone has had a pair at one point or another. They’re branching out now and they have some radical new running shoes. And I mean radical in the proper meaning of the word, not just, “It’s rad, d00d.” I got to review the new TevaSphere Speeds.



The “Sphere” in the name is all about the spherical heel they have. Most shoes have quite a sharp angle where the back of the heel comes down to meet the sole. When you put your foot down, the first part of the shoe to hit the ground is that point. According to Teva there are a couple issues with this. First, that point is too far away from your heel to be stable. The closer the ground your foot is the better. The second issue is that sharp angle forces your foot down onto the ground quickly instead of smoothly rolling onto it.

The TevaSphere rounded heel next to a Salomon CrossMax

The Pods

The second big innovation in these shoes are the “pods” on either side of the arch. They’re the first thing you notice with these shoes and they make them look a bit odd. The practical point of the pair of pods (too many p’s?) is to stabilize the shoe. They stick out farther from either side of shoe than the front or back of the sole, making them the widest part. This makes the shoes extremely stable.

The whole idea is having the rounded heel roll the foot into the stride, then the pods take over and balance side to side, gripping the ground, and giving you a more stable platform for your next push.

TevaSphere pods next to the Salomon CrossMax sole


What I like about the TevaSphere shoes

The Pods

Testing the TevaSphere’s I hiked the 42km Baden Powell trail over 2 days. It was a slow hiking pace so it took my buddy and I nearly all of both days. We went up and over several mountains. The trail was extremely rough in parts then easy double track in others. It was never flat. I thought it a perfect place to test out the stability of the TevaSphere’s.

One section was a massive rock field on an 35 degree slope. Not one of the boulders were small enough to pick up. Many were bigger than my car. There was not a flat, even surface to in sight.

The sharp edges of all the boulders and the incline slowed us down considerably. I noticed standing on the rock edges the pods were providing a lot of stability, much more than a normal shoe. Standing on the edge of a rock on the arch of a shoe would normally be pretty uncomfortable. The rock would dig into your arch and the throw you off balancing on the thinnest part of the shoe that has no tread. But it was quite the opposite with the TevaSphere’s. They were more than comfortable in that position. The nylon shank in the midsole offers good support in this situation as well.

Neutral foot position

No matter how you normally step, the rounded heel and pods on the TevaSphere will roll your foot into the right position. There is no other place for your foot to go.

Breathable uppers

The upper on the TevaSphere is all very breathable fabrics (unless you get the waterproof one). This lets them drain quickly after you’ve been tromping through puddles and streams. They are no sandal though. The shoes were a little squishy for a time after.

Grippy Spider365 rubber

The Spider365 rubber on the bottom sole is impressively grippy. On those rocks on the Baden Powell trail I  never noticed that I was losing grip, even at high angles. I haven’t had a problem with other trail running on slick rock and trails.

4mm Drop

From the front to the back of the shoe, they have a 4mm drop. That means the heel is 4mm higher than the toe. A lot of running shoes are transitioning to a lower drop in their shoes with some going right to a 0 mm drop, essential a flat shoe. That doesn’t mean the shoe doesn’t have support, it just means the heel and the toe are at the same height. The Vibram Five Fingers don’t have any drop to them (they hardly have any sole either!)

TevaSphere’s next to Vibram Five Fingers


What I don’t like about the TevaSphere shoes

They aren’t very minimal

There was some talk online about how the TevaSphere’s are minimal shoes. I don’t think I’d call them that. They are lighter than other runners I’ve had in the past but when you are comparing them to Vibram Five Fingers, they don’t even come close. They are lighter than many runners though so if you are looking for something to transfer into from your heavy running shoes, these might be for you. The nylon shank adds to the weight, as do the pods. On the other hand, I’d imagine the rounded heel saves a bit of weight.

Forced neutral foot position

This one is a bit of a double edged sword. If your foot rolls in or out much when you step, it’s going to take a bit to get used to these shoes. You can’t roll them much with the pods. They keep you in place and stable while on the trail but if you have never run like that in your life, it might be  be hard to stop cold turkey tomorrow. I pronate a bit with my right foot and I had no problem with running with them on the first day but I did notice the correction.


Who should have the TevaSphere shoes?

Hikers looking for a stable, lightweight shoe should definitely check these out. The stability and lightweight stiffness they have are a great option for hiking. There isn’t much thickness to the midsole though if you like thick-soled shoes.

If you’re a runner looking for a new shoe you’ll have to test these out a bit. The rounded heel and support pods aren’t for everyone. If they do fit with your running style, awesome, you’ve found yourself a solid pair of trail runners. If you roll your foot a lot in your step when running and won’t be changing that style, then I don’t think these are for you. My step is quite neutral so they worked well for me.

Also if you’re looking to transition into thinner soled, lighter weight shoes but don’t want to make the leap yet, the TevaSphere’s are a good stepping stone. They have a thinner sole than many shoes and a 4mm drop from heel to toe. They still have a good sole on them and a nylon shank for stiffness so don’t expect to be feeling every single rock on the trail yet. But maybe that’s what you’re looking for.



That’s it for this review. What do you think? Would you run with the Teva’s? Are they amazing? Do they have some work to do?

A huge thanks to Teva Canada for supplying the shoes to review.


Other Reviews

Reviewing outdoor products is such a personal thing to do. Everyone has different viewpoints and uses their gear differently. I know you want as much good information as you can find about products before you buy. Here are some other reviews I looked through
to get a well-rounded view of the shoes. But, when it comes down to it, you never know until you try.



Adventure on,




Categories: Hiking

Evoq Magazine Edition #1

PureOutside - Sat, 01/11/2014 - 08:00

2013 was a big year for PureOutside and 2014 is going to be even bigger. This post is about a few of the great things that happened in 2013 and a new announcement.

I’ve got a busy article ahead for you so let’s get into it. Let’s start off with a big day that passed recently.

Happy Birthday to PureOutside

November 25, 2008 was the first article on the site with the obligatory Hello World! It feels like ages ago. 5 years later, PureOutside is going stronger than ever. The site has a few new features as well.

PureOutside started with just the blog, stories about living an adventurous, outdoor life. That grew steadily over the past few years. Recently we launched 2 Epic Guidebooks. Hiking Mount Benson in Nanaimo and Hiking the Juan de Fuca trail are available now, with more coming soon. These new guides are all about taking guidebooks online, a much better place for guidebooks than paper.

The Trackr Trail Database is filling out with 20 trails now and lots more in the works. The Trackr Trail Database holds all the trail information for the MapVI Project. Every bit of trail information we can find for Vancouver Island will be going into Trackr.

Outdoor adventure isn’t going away any time soon so we’ll be sticking around to help you learn all you need to know to get outside for adventures of all sizes.

Over 200 Articles

There are over 200 articles on PureOutside. This will be the 200th  post that I’ve written. I can’t believe I’ve written that much. Adventurous friends have lent their hands at writing others. The site gets bigger every week with more and more information about adventuring on Vancouver Island.

If you want to write about your adventure for PureOutside, let us know.


Introducing Evoq

Evoq is a new digital magazine on PureOutside that will cover the people, places and products that make our beloved outdoor adventure lifestyle happen. Each edition will have interviews, feature articles, how-to and great photos. Nothing is too big or too small to be covered in Evoq. From sleeping in your backyard on a microadventure to expedition spending weeks in the wilderness, we’ll look at it all. Everything will show up here on the blog for now but we’ll be exploring new formats in the near future to make it easier to take with you and read.

Now on to the meat of Evoq Edition #1. SUPing and hiking are the main topics of this edition.


Evoq Edition #1



New upcoming plans for trips, upcoming articles and features for the site. In this edition: what the new format for a set of regular articles on the PureOutside blog is going to look like, a couple of (now past) trip plans for 2013, and a brand new Epic Hiking Guidebook for a Vancouver Island coastal hike.

Read Plans: July 2013 Edition



Where would we be without all our gear. Sometimes we we spend more time reading about gear than actually doing trips. Read more about the newest outdoor products in this Evoq column. In this edition we dove into reviewing the brand new crossover Hi-Tec Para Boot by dancing the night away at Mount Cain.

Read Gear Review: Dancing in Hi-Tec Para Boot.



In this Evoq column we meet some interesting people doing cool stuff outside. Chat with Jennifer Vroom about the new sport of SUPing.

Read Chat with VanIsle PaddleBoarding: What is SUPing?



The reason we go outside, the places. We wouldn’t be outside if it weren’t for the places we explore. This edition of Place we check out the Juan de Fuca trail, a meandering coastal hike on Vancouver Island.

Read The Juan de Fuca Trail: A Must Do Coastal Hike on Vancouver Island.



How-to. There’s a lot of it with outdoor gear. How do you do this? How do you do that? In the Process column we go over how to do the stuff we do. This edition covers an important tool in making food outside, the camp stove.

Read How to Choose a Camping Stove.



The best pictures from past PureOutside trips. Some of the sunsets (and sunrises) on sailing trips this year were incredible. This is one of them.

Read Sunset on the Salish Sea.



There can be a lot of time to think while you’re outside. We dive into some of these thoughts in the Ponder column. We try to tackle the question of how many sports you can do over the course of a year.

Read One Sport or Many?.



Upcoming stuff in the outdoor world. We find cool stuff coming soon in Pending.

Read Pending: Spine Trail, Stand Film, and the Epic Juan de Fuca Hiking Guide.



The internet is full of cool articles, videos, pictures and website. In Picks we list some of the best we’ve run across recently. This edition we picked new watches, adventure cameras, and one excellent outdoor blog.

Read the October 2013 Picks.


Till next time

Evoq editions will be a regular(ish) occurrence on the PureOutside blog now. They’re in a very basic format right now but they’ll be getting better and better. Stay tuned for more.



Adventure on,



Categories: Hiking