Field Dispatch, Spring 2014

From the Editor | Chris Collard

Spring is perhaps my favorite time of year. By now I’ve usually had my share of snowy overland treks and shedding layers of winter gear before crawling into my sleeping bag; my thoughts shift towards slipping on my Tevas and shorts, and heading for America’s Outback or the warm and inviting climes of Baja, Mexico. By spring we’ve also planned most of the upcoming gear reviews and adventure stories we’ll be featuring and this always inspires me to pull out the maps to start planning my next trip.

I’m excited about the upcoming Spring issue. Jimmy Chin, an award-winning photographer, a regular contributor to National Geographic and Outside, and the only guy I know of to ski from the summit of Mount Everest (and live), is contributing to Overland Journal for the first time. He’s long been one of my favorite photographers. This month Jimmy is sharing with us his epic overland trek and climbing expedition in the Ennedi Desert in Chad, Africa. I’d never heard of the Ennedi, but I’ve since found myself daydreaming about, well, how to get there.

Next up is one of the overland community’s emerging explorers, Ros Woodham, who penned In Search of the Northern Lights and Spring Tracks in the Pyrenees. In this issue she takes us on a trek through Morocco in her Land Rover Santana.

Finally, Dr. Jon S. Solberg, our Overland Medicine guru, and New Mexico Backroad’s Jake Quinones, lead us on a million-dollar treasure hunt north of Santa Fe in search of Forrest Fenn’s buried booty. It’s a great read, and fodder for any adventurer of the Southwest. Will they be cashing in their fortunes and retiring soon? You’ll need to read Southwest Treasure Hunt to find out.

If you’re a rider and have been contemplating a new full-sized adventure bike, I suggest you wait until you read our multi-month test of six of the newest offerings in the genre from BMW, KTM, Triumph, and Yamaha. Our findings may surprise you.

Circling around back to maps and planning for summer treks in the backcountry, this issue’s Classic Kit chronicles the history of maps and the founding fathers of the art of cartography. After all, if there were no maps, where would we be?

Cheers,

Chris

 

Topping Out in the Ennedi

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“I ended up in the Ennedi Desert the same way I’ve ended up in a lot of very strange places and situations around the world—with a call from friend and big wall climber Mark Synnott asking me if I wanted join him on his next expedition. Despite my better judgment, I’ve always said yes.” – Jimmy Chin

This issue of Overland Journal has been made more dramatic than ever thanks to the contributions of award-winning adventure photographer Jimmy Chin. His photo essay from a recent climbing trip to the Ennedi Desert in the Northeast corner of Chad, Africa, is a one of the more visually striking features we have ever printed. Not the typical overland adventure, it is a gripping view into the life of expeditionary climbers doing what they love to do most.

 

Adventure Motorcycle Shootout

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“While many “adventure” riders want a touring bike that looks adventurous, I believe true backcountry performance is one of the most important attributes.” – Scott Brady

In what can only be described as the most extensive evaluation of the year’s best adventure motorcycles, Scott Brady teamed up with Rawhyde Adventures in the backcountry of California to see which motorcycle reigns supreme. In the mix were industry leading offerings from BMW, KTM, Triumph, and Yamaha. The selection included the newly released KTM 1190 Adventure R as well as the most popular bike of the previous year, the BMW R1200GS. Over the course of four days, Scott and a team of testers put these bikes through their paces, and at times over the ragged edge. The end result revealed interesting insight with some models failing their reputations and others earning unexpected accolades. If you have a new adventure motorcycle in your near future, this is a must-read.

 

The Simple Things

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He seemed impressed with our bartering skills and invited us to share a freshly baked Berber pizza: flatbread stuffed with meat, herbs, and onion. It was delicious. However, when I spotted something resembling an eyeball I politely declined a second slice.” – Ros Woodham

Transporting us to the warm sands and craggy outcrops of Morocco, adventurer Ros Woodham recounts her travels in a 1984 Series III Land Rover. Her descriptions of the edge of the Sahara and the experiences she enjoyed make for a captivating read. From the port town of Melilla to the dunes of the Erg Chebbi, accounts of Berbers and oil leaks make this a classic overland story and one not to be missed.

 

Best of Breed: Portable Power Packs

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“Like little electronic jerry cans, power packs have become an integral part of our travels. Over the course of the past year, we tested dozens of power packs in real world scenarios selecting these six as the Best in Breed.” – Christophe Noel

Every issue we evaluate a different category of equipment we feel is relevant to the overland traveler. As more of us venture into the world equipped with a bevy of electronic devices, our need to keep those products charged becomes more challenging. Over the course of the last year, we tested the best power packs on the market. Several failed to make the cut, but the six featured in this month’s review have proven to be the Best of Breed. Which power pack is best for your laptop and which can power an entire campsite? We walk you through the options.

 

Field Tested: James Baroud Evasion Evolution RTT

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Twenty years is a long time to develop, test, and refine a product line, but that’s how long James Baroud has spent creating what many believe are the finest hard shell rooftop tents in the world. A native of France and an avid overlander, he believed many of the rooftop tents on the market were simply inadequate. They were either too delicate to endure the rigors of true overland travel, or lacked the features and appointments he felt all overlanders deserved. The culmination of his experience on the road, and the manifestation of his advanced vision, his Evasion Evolution rooftop tent is nothing short of exceptional.

Constructed of fiberglass fortified polyester with a high gloss finish, the Evasion Evolution’s shell is masterfully sculpted for optimal aerodynamics and exhibits none of the flex and instability that plagues many hard shell tents. At 122 pounds its lighter than many tents although it does require a sizable footprint at 78 by 55 inches. If there is one unassailable attribute of the Evasion Evolution it is the speed and ease of setup. With one hand and the time it takes to release the four latches, the internal hydraulic struts spring into action raising the top half of the tent as if by magic. To complete the setup, the ladder is affixed to either side of the tent base via two robust and secure connectors. As tent setup goes, it doesn’t get any easier.

The walls of the tent are made of acrylic-coated polyester which is 100% waterproof, UV resistant, and in keeping with the James Baroud ethos, extremely durable. The forward wall of the tent features a small triangular vent, but the three additional walls include full size doors backed with large mesh panels. With the mesh fully exposed, the ventilation is quite impressive and floods the interior with natural light. Although the ladder can only be employed on the two sides, the door at the rear of the tent serves as a perfect pass-through for shuttling items back and forth from the vehicle’s cargo area. Additional internal features include an LED light and a generously sized storage net on the ceiling for incidentals. To further improve air flow, a small solar powered fan expels just enough air to mitigate condensation and can be reversed to draw air into the tent for increased cooling. The plush open-cell foam mattress is covered in a polyester micro-fiber cover and makes for a comfortable night’s slumber.

Like all rooftop tents, returning the tent to its stowed position did take some practice, but once mastered, took no more than ten leisurely minutes with nominal effort. Finesse not force is the name of the game when collapsing the tent and presented no unusual challenges for a solo traveler. The Evasion Evolution is in a league of its own with its advanced design and supreme materials. $2699 www.jamesbaroudusa.com

 

Field Tested: Helle Eggen 

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In an age of 3D printing and automated production, it’s easy to forget the halcyon days of manufacturing when quality goods came to life only through the dedicated efforts of master craftsmen. Helle knives is one of the last remaining holdouts determined to not let the legacy of tradecraft slip through their skilled hands. Founded by brothers Steiner and Sigmund Helle in 1932, their knives are still produced in a small facility in Holmedal, Norway, much as they have been for more than seven decades.

A Helle knife is first and foremost a thing of utility designed for rigorous use in unforgiving environments. Revered by hunters, fisherman, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, these are not ornamental knifes but rather practical tools carefully balanced and shaped to behave like an extension of one’s own hand. The Eggen is one of their more all-purpose knives with a drop-point blade and generously sized handle for maximum control. The curly birch handle has a small finger guard and the grain of the wood is beautiful in a way only nature can be. The blade is constructed of Helle’s unique triple laminated steel for optimal sharpness; the alloy steel core flanked by corrosion resistant stainless steel polished to a high sheen. No knife is complete without a way to carry it, and the handmade leather sheath is a work of art in itself. Uncomplicated and made with precision, it is a perfect compliment to the Eggen.

The Helle manufacturing process is steeped in tradition with each knife undergoing 45 different manual operations before completion. The result is a knife of heirloom quality, destined to be passed down from one generation to the next.  $118 www.helle.no

Field Dispatch, Gear Guide 2014

Overland Journal: Gear Guide 2014 Preview

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The Expeditions 7 team traverses Europe and Asia. From Nordkapp to Magadan, their first circumnavigation of the globe is complete.

58-59Chris Collard joins the Land Rover Silk Trail Expedition and explores the back streets of Delhi, India.

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A lone woman on a motorcycle, Lois Pryce discovers the real treasures of Iran––its people.

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From the laboratory to the open road, the Overland Journal team compiles an exhaustive test of shocks. The shock that came out on top may surprise you.

 

Field Tested: The 2013 Ural Gear Up

ural_gearupThe history of motorcycles is invariably interesting, and the story of the Ural motorcycle is no different. In the early years of WWII, Russian strategists, knowing a Nazi attack was imminent, decided mobility would be of critical importance in keeping German tanks, storm troopers, and special forces held at bay. They needed a motorcycle, and the best example anyone could think of happened to be German. After covertly acquiring five BMW R71 motorcycles, and carefully reverse engineering them, the Russians had their own motorcycle, the M-72. Fearing their Moscow-based manufacturing facility was within easy reach of the Nazi Blitzkrieg, they moved the motorcycle factory eastward to the shoulders of the Ural Mountains which also happened to be a rich resource of building materials. The Ural motorcycle, as if extracted from the local mountains themselves, was born. Nearly 10,000 Urals were built during the war years alone making it one of the most ubiquitous motorcycles of the time.

More than seven decades later, that same motorcycle is available with the most recognized iteration of the Ural lugging around a boxy sidecar. Early in the year, Overland Journal was fortunate enough to add a 2013 Ural Gear Up to our test fleet and suffice it to say, it has become one of our favorite long-term projects. The Gear Up has a rugged, no nonsense design built with materials which still represent the war years when things were made to endure the rigors of combat. Defying its size, it is light, nimble, sturdy, and undaunted much like a WWII era Russian T-34 tank. It also goes nearly anywhere you point it, and with authority.

ural_dustWhat makes the Ural Gear Up so capable is its second driving wheel on the sidecar. That wheel gives the motorcycle a veracious appetite for traction allowing it to claw its way over rocks, ruts, sand, and mud. This is not to say it’s always a graceful machine. With little suspension travel, the Gear Up does on occasion get airborne, a scene not too unlike watching a hippopotamus jump rope.

The Ural of today may harken to the original machines stolen from Bavaria and hammered together in a dark factory on the edge of Siberia, but they are updated motorcycles built to modern standards. The Brembo brakes are paired to Sachs suspension components, and the engine is constructed with premium materials. For 2014, the Gear Up benefits from even more refinements, while still paying homage to the brawny legacy of those first machines.  www.ural.com

 

Landcruising Adventures and their Favorite Piece of Kit, a Vintage Coleman Stove

coleman_winchThis being our annual Gear Guide issue of Overland Journal, we thought we would not just feature new gear, but ask some of our friends currently on the road what piece of gear they value most. Few travelers are more versed in the inner workings of good gear than Karin-Marijke and Coen of Landcruising Adventure. On the road since 2003, they’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t. When asked about their favorite piece of kit, the answer came quickly––their vintage Coleman camp stove.

coleman_leadMany travelers spend hundreds of dollars on shiny new bits of kit, but their stove was cheaply acquired in an army surplus store more than nine years ago. Coen was determined to find a system that would allow them the ability to move the stove in and out of the vehicle as needed, and most importantly, would run on a simple fuel source readily available anywhere in the world––gasoline. This is technically well outside the design perimeters of the Coleman 425F stove, but that didn’t dissuade Coen from finding a way to make it work. As it turns out, the key to burning gasoline in the classic Coleman two-burner is to give it lots of love and care. Careful and regular cleaning is the key to the stove’s reliability as well as other unusual tricks like adding a drop of injector cleaner to the tank. These are things only learned on the road, or in our case, by reading through their extensive website.

star-trails-north-chile1Their Coleman stove can be used inside or outside their Land Cruiser for maximum convenience, with Coen’s favorite cooking station being the flat space above the winch on the front bumper. Paired to their oven accessory, their 425F even bakes fresh bread. That might be the best use of gasoline ever. In an age of shiny stainless stoves, many priced well out of reach of the average overlander, it is nice to see such common sense prevail in the form of a simple secondhand stove. www.landcruisingadventure.com

 

Filson’s New AEV Brute Double Cab Jeep

filsonaevbruteFor more than a century, Filson has been providing discerning outdoor enthusiasts with high quality products, handcrafted to exacting standards using only the best materials available. American Expedition Vehicles, although a much younger business endeavor, is unrivaled in their ability to create off-road vehicles in unique and attractive configurations. Their much lauded Jeep Brute Double Cab is such a vehicle and is now available with the full Filson treatment.

Built to conquer challenging terrain, the AEV Brute is expedition-ready with a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine, 3 inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KM2 tires, Warn winch, 3.5 inch Dualsport SC suspension system, and the full assortment of AEV upgrades from a vented hood to their iconic wheels. The custom paint, Horween leather seats, and limited edition badges evoke the legacy of the Filson brand, and the included Filson luggage means this truck simply needs a driver and a destination. As special editions go, the Filson AEV Double Cab Brute is without peer. www.filson.com

 

Overland Journal: Field Dispatch, Winter 2013

Overland Journal, Winter 2013 Prevew

36-37Frozen In Time: An Italian team of 12 attempt a winter crossing from Asia to North America, via the Bering Strait.

74-75To See the Elephant, Part II: Chris Collard and posse continue their 2,000-mile trek west along trails forged by American emigrants.

94-95La Croisière Jaune: In 1931 a group of french explorers set out to be the first to cross the Himalayas by automobile. Asa Bjorklund narrates this fascinating story, illustrated with stunning archive photography.

 

Cape Town To Goodwood in a Vintage Biplane

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In 1928, Mary Heath became the first person to fly solo from South Africa to the UK. This was an incredible accomplishment from a woman already know for a list of firsts. The first woman to obtain a commercial pilot’s license, she was also a record breaking Olympic athlete and all around go-getter. She was, and still is, an inspiration; certainly for modern day adventurer Tracy Curtis-Taylor.

Flying in an open-cockpit Boeing Stearman biplane, Tracy will attempt to recreate Mary Heath’s flight from Cape Town, South Africa, to Goodwood, UK. Her flight, scheduled to commence in November, will face a number of challenges. Flying at a top speed of only 95 mph, the Stearman has a short range of just 450 miles and an operating ceiling of just 10,000 feet. The ground based logistics combined with those in the air make this a daunting journey.

From all of us at Overland Journal, we wish Tracy nothing but clear skies and tailwinds.

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capetowntogoodwood.com

 

 An Interview with Forks author, Allan Karl 

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All of us at Overland Journal love a good travel epic and Allan Karl may have provided us with one of our favorite stories of the year. Crushed by the challenges of the daily grind, Allan loaded up his motorcycle and embarked on a three year, 62,000 mile expedition around the globe. His adventure is chronicled in his first book, Forks, taking readers on his journey with a stunning collecting of photographs, travel anecdotes, and recipes from the road. Part travel journal, part cookbook, Forks was funded by an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign in only nine days. I had a chance to chat with Allan to find out more about his trip and walked away from the exchange feeling inspired to take my own life-changing quest.

What was the inspiration for this trip? What made this something you had to do?  I found that working for the company I had co-founded was no longer fulfilling or challenging, and my marriage was failing. As an entrepreneur, I immediately started another company, but soon realized that there was more for me to do. My dream had always been to travel the world and my passions were always photography, writing, and motorcycling. I realized that these life changes were simply opportunities that allowed me to follow my dream and pursue my passions.

Someone gave me Neil Peart’s book, Ghost Rider, and after reading it I thought wow, I can ride my motorcycle from Alaska to Central America. I’d always traveled to Mexico, but beyond––it hadn’t occurred to me. So my original plan was to travel to Panama. I soon kept expanding that until I realized that there was no reason not to shoot for the world.

Before embarking on this journey did you have any reservations which you had to overcome, and how did you work past those hesitations? To be honest, I had no reservations at all. I think that after reading Peart’s book, then Ted Simon’s book, and looking back on the times that I’d taken trips to faraway places where I had actually rented motorbikes or off-road vehicles, I had this awakening that with a little more time, I could just bring my own motorcycle.

The only hesitation I had initially was traveling through Colombia. I planned to ship my bike from Panama to Ecuador as to avoid the danger. When I got to Panama and looked to Colombia, I realized that I didn’t sell nearly everything I owned to simply choose the safe route. No, I knew I had to confront my fears, face danger, and take chances. That’s the only way to realize all the possibilities. So in Panama I changed my plan, and decided to go to Colombia. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made during my journey.

Is there a place you’d like to return to?  I must go back to Ethiopia, Syria and Lebanon. These were some of my favorite places with the history, the people, and the culture. I wasn’t able to get into Iran due to visa issues, so I’m determined to get a visa and ride my motorcycle through Iran. British nationals can do this, Aussies and Germans can do this, most anyone else. But as Americans, only authorized tour operators can bring American’s into Iran. I can’t do that. I want to go alone.

You clearly have a deep appreciation for food. Can you remember your favorite meal from your trip?  So many. I think one really sticks out. I was in Uganda staying in a tent camp of sorts on the high banks of the Nile River. They cooked me a goat curry with bananas and other vegetables that was so flavorful and with the warmed flatbread, like Chapati, it was just right after a long day’s ride.

In Kenya, near the Somali border, in a town without electricity and not even on any map or GPS, I had another goat dish, boiled in spices and herbs with tiny potatoes and again, Chapati bread. Maybe I was just famished, but it was in a thatched-roof house, sitting on the dirt floor, and eating only with my hands. I’ll never forget that meal.

The dish that inspired my book is the Moqueca fish stew brewed in coconut milk and spiced with a unique Dende palm oil.  I had this dish several times in Bahia, and if it were not for me insisting on getting that recipe, my book FORKS might have never been made.

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As a solo traveler you had to find a way to quickly relate to strangers. What was your best icebreaker?  I’m amazed at how easy it is to connect with people – humanity. Two things that are fail free: First, smile and look into the strangers eyes with warmth and openness. Also important, learn at least one sentence in the local tongue.

The language can be tough. Cause if you spurt out a few words, be prepared for the stranger to unleash a barrage of fast talking and in such a dialect you’ll never understand. But the fact you try to communicate proves your eager to learn and embrace their culture and their language. Learn.

To learn more about Allan’s journey and to order your own copy of Forks, visit his Kickstarter page.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/worldrider/forks-three-years-five-continents-one-motorcycle

 

 J & R Guram, Crafting Campaign Furniture with Legacy 

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Only the most romantic overlanders appreciate the use of genuine campaign furniture where it was intended to be used––outside. Oft relegated as decorative pieces for home offices and living rooms, today’s campaign furniture seldom sees the glow of a campfire.  Renounced as ostentatious luxuries, most overlanders rely on metal and nylon furnishings, and that make sense. Does a campsite really need a rosewood night stand or a teak writing desk? Probably not, but that’s not to say there aren’t more useful campaign furnishings a modern overlander could employ in camp. Fortunately, campaign furniture is not lost to the ages. There are still traditional craftsmen making these timeless pieces. J & R Guram of India represent one of the most celebrated manufacturers of campaign furniture and their catalog is a beautiful journey through the pages of overlanding history.

Jeet a Raj Guram were raised in colonial cantonments all over India where the outdoors was a way of life and having been exposed to campaign furniture in their early years, the business of manufacturing what they knew, possessed, and remembered came naturally. Their comprehensive inventory includes a vast array of chairs, tables, cots and even writing desks. Using only the best wood, leather, and metal, J & R Guram’s furniture harkens to an era nearly forgotten by time. It’s easy to imagine the likes of Hemingway or Stanley in repose in one of their Roorkie Chairs, or Kipling scribing letters at his namesake table.

At a time when heirloom craftsmanship is increasingly hard to find, knowing J & R Guram are still in the marketplace is encouraging. People do appreciate the history of overlanding, even if they don’t take their campaign furniture outside.

jandrguram.com

 

 

 Wolverine Whitepine 1000 Mile Boot

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If you happen by the Overland Journal office, you might notice all of us have an affinity for high quality boots and shoes. We don’t sit still for long, so keeping our feet happy is important to us. In our never ending quest for the best, we discovered Wolverine’s beautiful series, the 1000 Mile Collection. In particular, the Whitepine caught our attention.

Seldom do form and function blend so well. Inspired by designs from the early 1900s, the Whitepine is a boot with a storied legacy and a classic appeal. Founder G.A. Krause created Wolverine more than 125 years ago with boots of unparalleled quality, much like that of the Whitepine. His early productions from 1914 were made with shell horsehide and were said to be so tough they could last 1000 miles. Their secret tanning process created a boot that was “soft as buckskin, but wears like iron.” These same attributes now adorn the Whitepine. The Goodyear Welt, leather-stacked heal, waxed duck canvas panels, and rich leather toe also make this one of the more attractive boots we’ve ever seen. For the overlander, these features offer more than just a pleasing aesthetic, they offer the promise of years of loyal service. Easily resoled, ruggedly built, the Whitepine’s work boot heritage makes it an ideal option for adventure travel. Hand crafted in the United States, all of the 1000 Mile boots and shoes are proof that American craftsmanship is alive and well. It also confirms that great designs are timeless.

wolverine.com

 

Helly Hansen Ask Weather Jacket

By Christophe Noel

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Even the most bluebird summers are visited by periods of rain and foul weather. Depending where you live and travel, the inverse may be the norm. When I lived in Haines, Alaska my typical summer could see continuous weeks of liquid sunshine punctuated by teasing moments of actual sunlight. We lovingly called those breaks in the clouds, sucker holes. Needless to say, in those environs a technical jacket was like second skin and even now I rarely leave home without a proper rain layer. Over the years I’ve found plenty of jackets to keep the rain at bay, but few have impressed me as a proper travel piece. That is until I met up with the Helly Hansen Ask Weather jacket.

The eponymously named Helly Hansen brand was founded in 1877 providing sea farers and land lubbers of the Pacific Northwest with protective garments made of fine oiled canvas. This is to say, they’ve been at it a very long time and it shows. Time and technology have advanced in lockstep and Helly Hansen now provides adventurers worldwide with an extensive array of weather ready options for all seasons. The Ask Weather Jacket is their answer to those in search of a lightweight, fully featured summer rain layer. I think it’s brilliant.

The first thing to catch my attention was the soft hand of the Helly Tech® Protection fabric. Unlike other jackets, the Ask Weather isn’t stiff and noisy. It’s supple and light, tempting me to doubt it’s ability to fend off even mild precipitation. Dubious in my advancing years, I find myself proven wrong with increasing frequency. The Ask Weather has kept me bone dry throughout several months of storms. Not to dismiss it’s primary purpose to keep me dry and happy, it is the Ask Weather’s many other features that have made it my favorite shell layer.

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If I were to distill my impressions of the Ask Weather to one word it would be – pockets. It has lots of pockets. I’m not a chronic organizer, but I do have an affinity for a fine assemblage of pockets, and the Ask Weather has plenty. Four bellowed pockets swallow keys, phone, wallet, and more with ease. The two lower pockets are backed with zipper-enclosed secondary pockets and an internal Napoleon pocket keeps critical items tucked safely away. The draw string waist pulls the jacket in close and the stowaway hood creates a tall collar capable of protecting my neck from blowing wind and spray. Reflective accents at the cuff and neck pay homage to the nautical heritage of the Helly Hansen brand, but serve a practical purpose when out and about in the low visibility of a rainy night. One of my favorite aspects of the Ask Weather jacket its trim and tailored cut. Many rain jackets fit like a spinnaker wrapped around a busted mast, to use nautical lexicon. The Ask Weather is sleek and lean. No bat wing sleeves or boxy torso, it’s a sharp looking jacket.

Summer may seem like an odd time to review a jacket, but not all summers are sunshine and sunscreen. You may not Ask Weather to bring you buckets of rain, but rain it may. When it does rain, I know which jacket I’ll reach for.

www.hellyhansen.com

Arizona to British Columbia on a Super Tenere

By Ray Hyland

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Many thoughts go through my head at the beginning of a long ride. First and foremost on this one was, “What the heck am I doing here? Why am I sitting on a motorcycle, struggling with a 40-knot crosswind, when I could be in an airplane at 30,000 feet, sipping a cocktail, and zipping back to my home and family?”

The answer of course, is that this was a trip I had never done before. And as an overlander, a trip you haven’t done is a bit like a climber coming around a corner, and seeing a big beautiful rock wall in the distance. The temptation is almost irresistible.

Now I should add a caveat here. I was riding between Arizona and British Columbia, a drive I have done at least seven times previously. The difference was that on my previous trips I was either driving a Land Rover Defender 110 (with an efficient but slow, small-displacement turbo diesel) or I was driving a Land Cruiser LJ78 (with another efficient but slow, small-displacement turbo diesel).

This time I was on a completely different animal, a Yamaha Super Tenere motorcycle. With a 1200cc, liquid-cooled twin, the bike was anything but slow. The other big difference was that this time I was alone. Usually I have my family along when I do this trip.

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I’ve always enjoyed this drive; the winding diagonal route means that almost the entire trip is in mountains, and what mountains! From the dry, crumbling landscapes of the Nevada high desert, to the vibrant young peaks of the Northern Cascades, the trip is a mountain-lover’s playground.

The trip started ominously. The riding gear I planned to test didn’t arrive on time, delaying my departure from morning to late afternoon. To make matters worse, when I was about to leave I discovered I’d left the key on earlier in the day, resulting in a dead battery. Trust me, pushing a 650-pound loaded bike through the parking lot to bump-start it is not the most fun way to start a long ride.

Once I got going, all the stress of departure melted away. Nothing to do now but enjoy the ride. Unlike driving a car or truck, on a bike I don’t even answer a call with my hands-free kit. I just turn the phone off, focus on the road and the scenery, and settle down to get intimately familiar with the bike I am riding.

This bike belongs to Touratech USA, and I had collected it from them at the Overland Expo two weeks earlier. It came with all the kit I could want: big aluminum panniers for my gear, skid plates, crash bars, extra lighting, wide pegs, a lowered seat, higher handlebars, and a tank bag. The only thing I didn’t have was a GPS. The bike was set up with a large bracket for a Garmin Montana GPS, but the actual GPS unit was back in Seattle. No matter, five minutes with an Allen key and the bracket was in a pannier, tucked in my shoe to avoid rattling. The tank bag had a big clear map case Velcro’d to the top, so I photocopied a couple of pages from the Hema road atlas, and tucked them into the map case.

Tenere 2

I figured the first night I would camp somewhere along the shores of Lake Mead just outside Vegas. I had a little Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock in the panniers, and if I could find a tree or a fence post for one end of it, the bike on its center stand would do for the other end. Since I had left so late I decided to stay on the interstate and make up some time.

If you’ve ever travelled Interstate 40 through Arizona, you’ll know that the speed limit is 75 mph, and the slower traffic is doing about 80-90. When I turned off the interstate in Kingman and started north on 93, I never noticed the big bold “65 mph” sign. (Driving an old diesel Land Rover or Land Cruiser, there has never been a need to pay attention to speed limit signs, as I never seemed capable of reaching the speed limit anyway).

So when I rocketed past an Arizona Highway Patrol cruiser on the roadside, I promptly slowed to 75 and waited to see if the lights came on. To my chagrin, they did, after he’d followed me for a few miles at a steady 75 mph. Once I’d pulled my helmet off, the conversation went something like:

Officer “Do you know how fast you were going?”

Me “80… ish?”

Officer “84.”

Me “Oops.”

Officer “Do you know what the speed limit is here?”

Me “75?”

Officer “65.”

Me “Oops.”

Officer “Are you on a cross country trip?”

Me “I’m testing the bike and some gear for a magazine.”

Officer “Which magazine?”

Me “Overland Journal.”

Officer “Really? I love Overland Journal!”

The conversation quickly became a discussion about bikes, camping spots, overlanding in Arizona, and my route to the Pacific Northwest.  I was sent on my way with a stern warning to pay greater attention to speed limit signs when I was on something that could in fact exceed the speed limit.

The rest of the evening was uneventful. It was pretty late when I crossed the Hoover Dam and I didn’t feel like sorting the hammock out in the dark, so I got a cheap $17 room in Vegas and was asleep before my boots hit the floor. The next morning I was up early and headed up Hwy 95 towards Death Valley while the air was still cool.

While the scenery was gorgeous and I was enjoying the view, the bike was running on knobby tires, and it would be a shame to spend all my time on pavement. But since I was riding alone and there was not a chance of picking this bike up by myself if I dropped it, I felt the prudent choice was to stay near the asphalt. After another hour of pavement I hit on a solution. The fence beside the highway had an ATV track running alongside it, that the rancher would use for inspecting his fence. Gravel, packed sand, exposed bedrock, and the occasional drainage ditch meant a little excitement, and a nice break from the highway. I had more than a few cars slow down to see what I was doing, as I stood on the pegs, dodging the occasional cactus or empty beer bottle, with a big grin on my face. I am sure they were thinking, “Why is he over there in the dirt? Can’t he see there is a perfectly good road right over here?”

dirt_track

All good things come to an end, and within the hour the little track disappeared. We strongly adhere to Tread Lightly principles at Overland Journal, and the lack of an established track meant that I was forced back onto pavement, just as I came upon the sign pointing the way to Mercury.

mercury

I’d never been to Mercury so it was tempting to go check it out, but then I remembered that Mercury is 48 million miles away, and this bike doesn’t have an extended-range tank, so I decided to leave that detour for a day when I had some jerry cans, although as I got a little further down the highway I came across a place where I probably could have picked up all the supplies I would need for an interplanetary trip.

area 51

The Tenere has a decent-sized tank, and I expected it to go between 200 and 250 miles before needing a top up, but I’ve learned in the past that even with half a tank, sometimes it’s good to top up when I can. Case in point, my map showed an intersection of two good-sized roads, and I remembered an old road-atlas having a gas station marked there. But since I needed to stop for a coffee and a bio-break, I topped off my tank early. Good thing too. When I reached the intersection, it was obvious there hadn’t been any fuel there for a long time, although it looked like other enticements to stop may have outlasted the gas station.

no gas

BarSluts

This is where I encountered the crazy crosswinds I mentioned at the beginning of this story. The high plains of northern Nevada are notorious for wind. As one friend remarked, “I remember riding sideways through Nevada.” I decided to get off the plateau and into sheltered valleys.

Crossing into California, I followed a series of winding little roads through the Cascade forests towards Mt. Shasta. The immediate difference in climate and topography was dramatic. Suddenly I was surrounded by giant evergreens, riding through dappled sunlight in the fresh and cool mountain air.

bigtrees

I decided to pull off next to a little stream to drink some water, and immediately I was in the most serene place I’ve been in months. Singing birds, big bumble-bees, and colorful dragonflies surrounded me, as I watched trout flit through the shallows of the babbling brook. Downstream I could just make out a lone fly fisherman casting a line. I could have spent the whole day there, but hunger made me press on.

brook

The road eventually took me to the little town of Mt. Shasta, where I ate and then turned north towards Oregon. After all the dust and heat it was nice to be close to the coast, and everywhere I looked I was shocked by the giant trees, vibrant flowers, and great coffee.

flowers

coffee

As I rode up the coast it was great to be surrounded by water, boats, and bridges again. Being in the desert for a few months always makes me appreciate the seaside.

bridge

Eventually I crossed into B.C., turned east on the Trans-Canada Highway, and headed for home. Our cabin is in the mountains, and as soon as I see Mt. Outram in front of me, I know I am home.

mountain

It took a few extra days, and there were no in-flight cocktails, but I’m glad I did the ride. I was able to stop and appreciate little details I’d never noticed before, and the rhythm of the road was very different on a bike. It felt like a trip I’d never done before, but then again, I guess it was.

 

Epilogue – While obviously not a trail bike, the Super Tenere is a solid all-rounder, able to cover thousands of miles effortlessly, explore moderate trails with the right tires, and even keep up with a couple of whipper-snappers in the mountains.

boys

 

 

Drift HD Ghost: The Perfect Point Of View Camera?

By Christophe Noel

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As my friend extracted himself from beneath his twisted mountain bike, dust yet to settle, he popped up and screamed, “Did you get that?” He was of course referring to the camera perched atop my head. In our media driven landscape it seems our experiences are only validated by our digital witnesses. If an event isn’t captured on an SD card, it didn’t happen. Point of view photography in the form of still images and high definition video has allowed us to share our experiences in ways we could have never imagined just a few short years ago. Within the realm of POV cameras, few rival the sophistication and ease of use of the HD Ghost from Drift Innovation.

New to the market in 2013, the Drift HD Ghost is setting new standards in POV technology. Never before have so many features been packaged in such a small unit. I have had the rare opportunity to use the Ghost over the span of several weeks and could not be more impressed.

The key features to the Ghost include a vibrant built-in 2” LCD display protected beneath durable Corning® Gorilla® glass. The replaceable seven element lens provides supreme optical clarity and can be rotated 300? for perfect shot set-up. The texturized camera body is secure in hand and waterproof to 9 feet without any additional housing. A two-way remote gives the user recording feedback via two LED lights which illuminate in four different colors depending on the status. Four buttons at the top of the camera body toggle through the very intuitive and easy to navigate menu settings and the removable battery can hold a charge for up to three hours ensuring you never miss the shot. The entire camera is a masterpiece of design ingenuity.

drift_display

For the action videographer, there is one feature that truly sets the Ghost apart. One of the challenges with recording action video is making sure you record only what you want, when you want. The Ghost features video loop-tagging. In tagging mode, the camera is constantly recording, but not saving any of the video being captured. A quick press of the remote saves video for a chosen duration, up to five minutes before and after the remote was pressed. With video tagging, there’s no need to sift through hours of video during the editing process just to find the few frames you want.

DCIM100DRIFT

In all reality, few of us frequently want to capture the moving action of a scene. In an age of social media and email, we prefer to share still images. The Ghost’s 10x digital zoom, self timer, and remote control ensure you never miss the shot you want, all at an impressive 11 MP. The Photo Burst mode can capture up to five frames per second and the time lapse mode gives a fresh new twist to sunsets, snowstorms, and anything else your imagination dares to make your muse.

DCIM100DRIFT

As if that isn’t enough to occupy the time of an avid photophile, the Ghost can communicate to your smartphone via the WiFi enabled Drift App for iOS. (Android App coming soon.) The Drift App allows users to view playback, adjust settings, and aids in shot set-up. For my testing, the Drift App proved an excellent tool that made using the camera easier than expected.

drift_app

From a user’s standpoint I found the HD Ghost to be a nearly perfect camera. One challenge with point of view cameras is getting them mounted to catch your actual point of view. The GoPro cameras I’ve used in the past stood off my helmet by six inches like the proverbial “birdie” everyone is supposed to watch. The HD Ghost is sleek, low profile, and unobtrusive. The adhesive and clamp mounts are simple to use and adjusted for quick and secure positioning. All in all, it is a fantastic camera. So, the next time your buddy crashes his mountain bike in front of you, can say without pause, “Ya, I got that.”

www.driftinnovation.com

DCIM100DRIFT

2013 Northwest Overland and Touratech Adventure Rally

By Marianne Hyland

lights

The 2013 Northwest Overland & Touratech Adventure Rally saw roughly 500 overlanders convene in scenic Plain, Washington (27-30 June).

The weekend featured respected presenters and authors like Pablo Rey and Anna Callau (13 years traveling the world in their van and still going strong), Rene Cormier (5-year world rider), rider-training sessions by Puget Sound Safety Off Road, Kristina Hall (certified Land Rover instructor) and technical workshops by WARN, ARB, Just Differentials and Konflict Suspensions, to name just a few. Touratech and the Northwest Overland Society mapped and led many popular trail rides every day.

Of course, everyone’s favorite activity is always interacting with other overlanders and admiring each other’s set-ups. Present at the rally were Land Rovers, Jeeps, Unimogs, G-Wagens, Fords, Land Cruisers, Subarus, Suzukis, BMWs, KTMs, Triumphs, Yamahas and many more, each uniquely configured to meet the owners’ needs.

The presenting sponsor, Ex-Officio, welcomed all with cocktails as did rally partner, Touratech USA. A raffle draw was held each night with handsome prizes generously donated by vendors. Apart from those already named, other prizes came from Overland Journal, Expedition Portal, Mountain Khakis, Ortlieb, MetalTech, Filson, SOG, MSR, and more.

Folks left the rally happy with many already making plans to book their vacations for the same week next year to learn more, and re-connect with new-found friends.

We were lucky to have many photography-enthusiasts at the Rally who were willing to share their images with us. Below is just a sampling.

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Above Images: Derek Thom

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Above Images:Don Stephanian

Overland Journal: Fall 2013 Preview

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Seeking the Wild Places in Patagonia: Ron and Vivian Moon

 

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Border to Border via the Continental Divide: Bill Alpsich

 

Iceland_800W

Crossing Europe’s Largest Glacier: Scott Brady

 

The Fall 2013 Issue of Overland Journal will also feature:

Ground Anchors: Chris Collard

Toyota Tundra Project Vehicle, part 2: James Langan

Highlights of the 2013 Overland Expo

and much more.

Eddie Bauer / First Ascent, Karakoram 20 Sleeping Bag

By Christophe Noel

For many people, the Eddie Bauer name evokes images of khaki pants, braided leather belts, and perhaps even a fine selection of throw pillows for the well-appointed suburban home. It is true, Eddie Bauer offers those things and much more, but they can also lay claim to some of the most advanced backcountry apparel and equipment available today. Those items, branded with the First Ascent logo, mean serious business. Designed with direct feedback from world renowned mountaineers like Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker, First Ascent products are ready to take on any backcountry endeavor you throw at them from your local wood to the icy ramparts of Mount Everest.

The Karakoram 20 sleeping bag from First Ascent is one of the finest sleeping bags on the market. Inspired by Eddie Bauer’s mountaineering bags from the 1950’s, the Karakoram’s vertical torso baffles provide a unique structure that moves with the sleeper for maximum warmth and comfort. As is fitting of a premium bag, the materials are top notch with 20-denier Pertex® Endurance Shell fabric wrapped around 850 fill premium European goose down. A full-length draft tube protects the entire length of the zipper from the ingress of cold air, and a neck baffle prevents warm air from exiting the bag at the shoulders. The well defined foot box, and highly sculpted hood maintain their shape even amidst the most restless sleep sessions reducing troublesome cold spots. It’s a masterfully crafted sleeping bag. Weighing in at just a shade over two pounds it is also exceptionally light and packs down to a tight bundle barely larger than a football. For the space challenged traveler, the Karakoram 20 is an excellent option.

In an era of frequent cost and corner cutting, it’s clear First Ascent is uncompromising in their pursuit of excellence. No detail was overlooked in the design or construction of the Karakoram 20. During our testing sessions, the Karakoram performed flawlessly proving it belongs in the rarified air of the world’s best apparel and equipment manufacturers.

http://www.eddiebauer.com/EB/First-Ascent/index.cat?cm_sp=navigation-_-top_nav-_-firstascent

$349

KTM 1190 Adventure, Taming the Beast?

By Christophe Noel

Almost a decade ago, an orange beast escaped from the dunes and rocky tracks of Africa’s Dakar Rally and took up residence in the civilized garages of motorcycle enthusiasts the world over. This race-inspired animal was the KTM 950 Adventure and it became an instant icon. Since then, the adventure bike scene has exploded with almost every manufacturer dipping a toe, or diving headlong, into the mixed-surface market. With the competition edging ever closer to reaching the bar set by the 950 and subsequent 990 Adventure, KTM has uncaged another animal with the newly released 1190 Adventure.

The 1190 Adventure is not just a punched-out 990, it’s an entirely new machine. Riders have long praised the 990 for its rawness and ability to produce adrenaline-pumping horsepower. The 1190 promises the same thrill, but with a level of refinement and precision that seems to be KTM’s new forte. If the 950 is a ferocious animal, think of the 1190 as a beast less likely to bite your hand off.

There are not too many motorcycles in the adventure segment with a superbike engine stuffed under the seat. The 1190 Adventure is built around KTM’s powerful 1195cc, 75-degree V-twin engine that rips out an impressive 151 horsepower. Twist your wrist with too much enthusiasm and you’ll dig a furrow fit for a row of corn. Taming all of that power is a new ride-by-wire ECU with four programed riding modes: Sport, Street, Off-Road and Rain. Traction control further reigns in the power with three settings for Sport, Street and Off-Road. For those wanting to evoke the raw fury of the old Adventure, the traction control can be switched off completely. Suspension settings are tuned on the fly with an optional Electronic Dampening System (EDS). Riders can chose from Solo, Solo with Luggage, Two-up, and Two-up with Luggage. If nothing else, there are plenty of electronic options to keep you occupied.

All of this power and poise is packaged in a bike that stripped of its color and markings could be  almost anything. To some dyed in the wool KTM loyalists, this could be problematic. KTM even succumbed to the beak when designing the front of the 1190 Adventure. It would seem that no bike is admitted into the adventure bike category without a prominent proboscis. At any rate, it’s a striking motorcycle.

These are interesting times in the motorcycle industry. BMW’s newly released R1200GS is now pumping water for the first time in 90 years, and KTM is wiring their bikes with more electronics than Sputnik. Some have argued that KTM’s new flagship adventure bike pushes the brand further towards the tarmac and away from their dirty roots. There is no doubt that in the last few years their orange letters have adorned some impressive road machines from their 1190 RC8 R superbike to their X-bow car. The 1190 Adventure is clearly aimed at the massive number of highway biased riders throwing a leg over adventure bikes, but who’s to say those adventures are less significant than the off-piste romps? Has the beast been too tamed? For those of us in North America, we’ll have to wait until 2014 to find out.