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REI Co-op Journal by Megan Michelson - 7h ago

Ancient cedar trees tower above the wide temple steps. Cordis Hall, from Boulder, Colorado, wanders through the tall red gate of Hida-Sannogu Hie Shrine in Takayama, Japan. Abby Mitchell, Hall’s fiancé, snaps a photo as they explore during a run-and-culture-fueled vacation in Japan.

The duo, both members of the adidas TERREX trail-running team, ran a race in Chichibu, several hours away, then stayed an extra week to explore the Takayama area by foot, including the temple. An easy way they work running into their trips? Errands. “In Japan, we had to pick up batteries, gear and food,” Mitchell said. “We grabbed a pack, phone and credit card, and made the purpose of our run transportation rather than pace. It’s a whole different type of adventure.”

Whether they’re traveling in the Canary Islands or Hong Kong for running races, they've become experts at weaving runs into their day. “If I don’t put running on my calendar and allot that time beforehand, it’s hard to organically go,” Hall said. “Sometimes, I have to wake up early, so I plan ahead and go to bed early.”

When they travel, the couple starts by seeking out running and outdoor stores for local beta on the best routes. If that doesn’t yield results, Google Maps shows green spaces, which often harbor trails. They use Trail Run Project, Strava and CalTopo to plan their run, including several backup routes, especially if they’re traversing remote trails or high mountains. GPS watches mean they can find their way even if they can’t read the country’s signage.

Ultrarunners Cordis Hall and Abby Mitchell do their research to plan a running route when they're in a new place. (Photo Credit: Raphael Weber/adidas TERREX)

Packing smart goes a long way toward a successful run in places far from home, said Nikki Sakelliou, vice president of marketing for lifestyle performance brand Vuori. She suggests bringing clothes that work for both exercise and leisure, can be worn for multiple days, wick moisture, dry quickly, are antimicrobial and pack easily. “Set your intentions that you’re going to be active outdoors. Even if you move your body for 20 minutes first thing in the morning, you’re doing something great,” she said.

Fortunately, running gear doesn’t occupy much luggage space. “If we’re traveling for less than two weeks, we bring one set of running clothes. We wash with them on, using soap, and hang them in the shower to dry for the next day,” Mitchell said.

Aside from running shoes, remember to pack a pair of closed-toe footwear for restaurants or museums with dress codes. If space allows, bring a foam roller or massage balls for recovery.

Sometimes it’s just easier to let the experts lead the way. Last year, Janji, a run apparel brand that supports clean water projects and local artists in countries around the globe, launched Nomadic Runs, group running trips that visit places like Bolivia, Mexico and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, because they recognized running is a powerful way to see a new place.

“You’re not limited by four wheels and traffic,” said company co-founder Dave Spandorfer. “You can take that turn into a picturesque side street. You touch and smell the city. Those in-between moments are what life is about. In five miles, you can cover a traveler’s full-day itinerary in a city.”

The post How to Run On Your Vacation appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

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Recipe: Pie Iron Breakfast Tacos
Submitted by: Amy
Hometown: Castle Rock, WA

What do you love about this recipe? I love this recipe for three reasons: Breakfast is my favorite food group, everything tastes better toasted, and a pie iron is not only small enough to haul around when you’re car camping, but it also makes your camp food look like you worked harder than you actually did.

Ingredients
  • 5 soft scrambled eggs
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 oz. package taco seasoning mix
  • 5-inch tortillas (12)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • Garnish: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, black olives, salsa, and sour cream
  • Add ground beef or any other meat if you desire
Instructions
  • Soft scramble the eggs on a stove top or over the fire.
  • Warm beans over the stove or fire in a pan and stir in the taco mix.
  • Use cooking spray or butter to generously coat the pie iron.
  • Lay one tortilla on the bottom of the pie iron.
  • Spoon in the soft scrambled eggs, beans, cheese and onion to desired amount.
  • Add a second tortilla over the filling and secure the pie iron. (Tip: Some people choose to butter the tortilla on the pie iron side.)
  • Cook over coals until tortilla is a dark golden brown.
  • Carefully open the pie iron to check the consistency.
  • When finished, add your desired garnish and enjoy!

_________

Submission Instructions

Do you have an extra unique camp recipe? What makes your camp recipe a stand out?  Have you found ways to take complicated recipes and simplify them for the outdoors?  Do you have a family favorite that has been passed down through generations? Challenge our hosts to reproduce it and get our community inspired to try it!  

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Why you love this recipe: 
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Submit your recipes to camprecipes@rei.com!

There are no prizes, but if we decide to use your recipe, you agree that we can use your name, hometown and any of the other information you provide without restriction to say more about you and your recipe, why you love it and when and where you last made it.

The post Campworthy: Pie Iron Breakfast Tacos appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

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With thousands of miles of trails spread across the state, Washington is well-known as an outdoor recreation hub in the Pacific Northwest. While the summer tends to be the busiest season with the best chance for sunny skies, hikers prepared for a little wet weather can also enjoy hiking in the spring or autumn. If you plan to hike in the winter, trade in your hiking boots to go snowshoeing or skiing. With national parks including Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Olympic and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, plus the many trail systems throughout the adjacent national forests, there are many year-round hiking options to explore. State and local parks and other recreation areas found in the greater Seattle area and along the coast into the Olympic Peninsula offer plenty of hikes, ranging from coastal paths and temperate rain forests to subalpine meadows with glacier-fed cascades and sweeping summit vistas. While it is nearly impossible to sum up the hiking opportunities in a state as varied in terrain as Washington, this list will get you started with 10 top hikes as rated by the Hiking Project community.

Hoh Rain Forest Loop
  • Location: Olympic National Park, 88 miles southwest of Port Angeles
  • Length: 1.4-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • Best For: A family-friendly hike in the iconic Hoh Rain Forest
  • Dogs: No dogs

Located on the west side of Olympic National Park, the Hoh Rain Forest is an unforgettable experience in one of the few remaining temperate rain forests in the United States, receiving an incredible 12 to 14 feet of rain annually. It is one of the park's most popular destinations, so don't expect to find much solitude unless you plan to venture deep into the interior of the rain forest. Despite this, you can choose from a couple different trails that wind through the impressively lush landscape along the Hoh River. If you'd like to extend your stay, the 88-site Hoh Campground is open year-round and operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Stop by the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center (about a two-hour drive from Port Angeles) for more information on the area. If you don't have an America the Beautiful Pass or an Olympic National Park Annual Pass, you will need to pay the entrance fee upon arrival.

The Hoh Rain Forest Loop is a short, family-friendly hike that combines several interpretive trails near the visitor center for a truly breathtaking tour of the Hoh Rain Forest. From the north end of the parking lot, start on the Mini Trail, a flat, paved, accessible loop that connects to the nonaccessible Spruce Nature Trail, a 1.2-mile mellow, wide and well-traveled trail that takes you through an amazingly verdant landscape, filled with trees, mosses and ferns. You may spot elk grazing in the underbrush. The Spruce Nature Trail is a lollipop loop, and at the junction you can choose to hike in either direction. Continuing counterclockwise as mapped, at about half a mile, the trail turns northeast to follow along the Hoh River. Here, you will have occasional glimpses of the blue water of the wide, meandering river. Looping back into the woods, you'll return to the fork and take the Mini Trail to return to the main parking area. If you are looking for a slightly longer hike, consider adding on the 0.8-mile Hall of Mosses Trail. For a true backcountry adventure, pack your overnight gear and head out backpacking on the Hoh River Trail.

Twin Falls
  • Location: Olallie State Park, 35 miles southeast of Seattle
  • Length: 2.3-mile round-trip out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy/intermediate
  • Best For: A mellow hike to a waterfall that the whole family can enjoy
  • Dogs: Leashed

Located outside of Seattle, Olallie State Park is a day-use area that is a great getaway for the entire family. With hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, fishing and bird-watching, you can easily fill a day at the park. Nestled on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, you will find a mix of rich forests, stunning waterfalls and sweeping views. The park is especially known for its many scenic cascades found along the creeks that weave through the trail system. The park is open daily from 6:30am to dusk in the summer and 8am to dusk in the winter. Be sure to pay your day-use fee at the automated pay station if you do not have an annual Discover Pass. This is a popular weekend recreation area, so be sure to arrive early or visit the park during the week to avoid the crowds.

From the Twin Falls Trailhead, the trail heads south from the parking area and is fairly wide and maintained. You may encounter some muddy sections depending on the time of year, but for the most part, this often used trail has a well-packed tread. The trail winds through the woods following along the South Fork Snoqualmie River. At about half a mile, the trail starts to switchback and climbs a bit more steeply before turning west. You will continue to climb for the next half mile until you reach Lower Twin Falls. Take the short detour on the Lower Falls Viewpoint Connector down a set of stairs to a viewing platform, which offers a particularly memorable vantage point of the Lower Falls. Continuing on along the Twin Falls Trail, you'll cross the river on a bridge, from which you have the best view of the Upper Falls snaking through the rocky canyon. The Twin Falls Trail continues on to a junction with the John Wayne Pioneer Trail for a longer outing, but most hikers will turn around at the Upper Falls viewpoint. As an out-and-back hike, you can turn around whenever you're ready.

Rattlesnake Ledge
  • Location: Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area, 35 miles southeast of Seattle
  • Length: 4.3-mile round-trip out-and-back
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: A heart-pumping climb to sweeping views
  • Dogs: Leashed

Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area is located within convenient driving distance of downtown Seattle and many other major metro areas around Puget Sound. It's a popular recreation area, and very busy on weekends. The 1,771-acre scenic area forms part of the southern mountain range of the Snoqualmie Valley and is located across the valley from the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area. Rattlesnake Mountain is home to a variety of landscapes, from cliffs and old-growth forests to riparian systems. The main parking area and Cedar River Watershed Education Center are located on the south end of the scenic area at Rattlesnake Lake. This parking area requires a Discover Pass, and the lot will fill early on weekends, so be sure to arrive early. Alternatively, in the summer, you take advantage of the longer days by heading out in the afternoon after most of the crowds have left.

The hike to Rattlesnake Ledge starts on the Rattlesnake Lake Service Road, a gated roadway that skirts around the northern edge of Rattlesnake Lake. When you reach the information kiosk, turn right onto the Rattlesnake Mountain Trail to begin the climb. In the next mile and a half, you will gain nearly 1,000 feet on a steady climb. There are a couple large, sweeping switchbacks that help ease the grade as you climb through the lush forest. The trail is mostly easy to navigate, although there are short sections of rocks and roots where you'll want to watch your footing. Just over two miles in, take the Rattlesnake Ledge Spur to head to the viewpoint. Here, the views of the surrounding mountains, forests and blue waters of Rattlesnake Lake open up in a panoramic expanse from the craggy pinnacle of Rattlesnake Ledge. Use caution along the ledge as the footing is uneven, and there are some sections with a large drop-off. If hiking with small children or four-legged companions, keep a close eye on them in this area. After soaking up the views, enjoy the downhill cruise back to the trailhead.

Skyline Trail
  • Location: Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park, 77 miles southeast of Tacoma
  • Length: 5.3-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: A moderate loop that packs in the highlights of Mount Rainier National Park
  • Dogs: No dogs

No trip to Mount Rainier National Park would be complete without a visit to Paradise. This section of the park, easily reached by paved road, is known for its stunning wildflower-filled meadows, sweeping mountain views, subalpine lakes and glacial snowfields that linger well into the summer. Here you’ll also find the historic Paradise Inn, one of two lodging options inside the park, and the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center. Paradise is tucked on the southern shoulder of Mount Rainier at 5,400 feet in elevation, so you may want to allow extra time for an easier hiking pace due to the altitude. While best in the summer or autumn for hiking, this area of the park sees its fair share of snowfall in the winter and is one of the prime winter use areas in the park (in winter the visitor center is only open on weekends). If visiting in the spring or autumn, be sure to check the road conditions before heading up. Regardless of what time of year you visit, the scenery is sure to be outstanding. You’ll need to pay the entrance fee if you don't have an annual pass.

The Skyline Trail makes a spectacular day hike. At about 5.5 miles round-trip, its relatively short distance packs a visual punch with subalpine meadows, panoramic viewpoints, waterfalls, glaciers and mountain views in all directions. Be sure to take the altitude and nearly 1,500 feet of elevation gain into consideration—the hiking, while not strenuous, may be a bit more difficult than the distance alone would imply. You can do the loop in either direction, but clockwise, as mapped on Hiking Project, will give you a steeper climb on the first half of the loop and a more gradual descent.

Leaving from the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center, the trail climbs steadily for two miles, passing through open meadows. You'll have views to the west and can take a short detour on the Glacier Vista Spur Trail to a stunning viewpoint of the Nisqually Glacier. Continuing on, the Skyline Trail turns east and traverses the lower slopes of Mount Rainier to reach Panorama Point, offering more impressive views overlooking the Paradise area and the Tatoosh Ridge in the distance. Past this viewpoint, the trail descends to a junction with the Golden Gate Trail. Stay left at this junction to continue past the Stevens-Van Trump Memorial—a memorial dedicated to the first recorded ascent of Mount Rainier in 1870—and Sluiskin Falls on the Paradise River. The trail turns back to the west and climbs briefly and gradually to Myrtle Falls on Edith Creek before returning to the trailhead.

Views along the Skyline Trail. (Photo Credit: Hiking Project contributor Chris Higby)

Heather/Maple Pass Loop
  • Location: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, 154 miles northeast of Seattle
  • Length: 7.2-mile round-trip loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: A lovely day hike with stunning views and autumn colors in season
  • Dogs: Leashed

Located in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, this hike tours the national forest on the southeastern edge of North Cascades National Park. Located just west of Washington Pass along North Cascades Highway 20, the hike starts from the Rainy Pass rest stop (on the right side of the highway if driving from Seattle). You'll need a recreation pass for your vehicle—you can pay at a ranger station on your way to the trail or at the self-pay station at the parking area. There are restrooms at the parking area. The best time of year to visit the North Cascades is from August to September once the snow has melted and the trail conditions are more reliable; however, this will also be the busiest season. While the trailhead may be crowded in peak season, don't be fooled by the bustle along the highway (you may meet thru-hikers along here as the PCT crosses Hwy 20 at the Rainy Pass area). A short hike into the area quickly becomes remote and rugged—come prepared with your Ten Essentials.

The loop can be done in either direction. If heading counterclockwise, as mapped on Hiking Project, you will have a more gradual ascent on the first half of the loop and a slightly steeper descent for the second half. From the trailhead, take the Maple Pass Trail #470 heading toward Lake Ann. You'll begin your hike in dense woods, climbing gradually on the trail. At just over a mile, the Ann Lake Trail will split to your left; to hike to the shores of Lake Ann, take this 0.6-mile trail for a short detour. To stay on the main trail, turn right at this junction and continue to climb until you emerge above treeline with Lake Ann below you on the left. The views start opening up and give you a taste of what's to come. At just over two miles, you'll climb to Heather Pass; this is a good place to stop to catch your breath and enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

Traversing along the top of Heather Pass, you'll follow a well-worn singletrack that winds through a meadow, where abundant wildflowers blossom in season, before turning to follow a stunning ridgeline trail that meanders along the edge of North Cascades National Park. The scenery here is outstanding, with green and wildflower-speckled slopes in the spring and summer and yellow larches dotting the red and orange underbrush in the autumn. Your ridgeline hike will top out at nearly 7,000 feet on Maple Pass before you descend a series of switchbacks. On the way down, enjoy additional views of Lake Ann to the northwest and Rainy Lake to the southeast. Take a moment to stop and count the many large and small cascades that drain into Lake Ann. In the spring, when the water levels are high, these waterfalls are quite spectacular. The descent along this section is steep in places, so take your time. Eventually, the trail re-enters the forest, and you'll come to Rainy Lake Trail #310, a paved path which you follow north to return to the trailhead.

Autumn colors along the trail. (Photo Credit: Hiking Project contributor kel)

Wallace Falls and Lake
  • Location: Wallace Falls State Park, 47 miles northeast of Seattle
  • Length: 11.1-mile loop
  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
  • Best For: A popular hike to a scenic waterfall followed by a peaceful saunter to a lake
  • Dogs: Leashed

Wallace Falls State Park showcases some of the beautiful lakes, streams, woods and waterfalls that the Pacific Northwest is known for. With 12 miles of trails and access to Wallace River, Wallace Lake, Jay Lake, Shaw Lake and the three-tiered, 265-foot-high Cascade Falls, the park is an ideal destination for hiking. In addition to the quiet paths through old-growth coniferous woods juxtaposed with the rushing rapids of the Wallace River, visitors can pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the park's two kitchen shelters or five sheltered and five unsheltered picnic tables (all available on a first come, first served basis). The park is very popular so be sure to arrive early as the parking usually fills by 11am on the weekends. If you'd like to stay overnight, reserve one of the park's five modern cabins or hike into the two secluded backcountry campsites which are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Otherwise, the park is open daily from 8am to dusk. If you don't have a Discover Pass, be sure to pay the day-use fee at the automated pay station.

This hike hits both highlights of the park, with a trip to the well-known Wallace Falls followed by a quiet amble up to Wallace Lake. From the parking area, start on the Woody Trail. This trail is a bit of a leg-burning climb and has just enough rocks and roots to keep the footing interesting as it ascends through the dense, moss-covered woods. The rocks can be slippery when wet, so watch your step. Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to stop off at the Lower, Middle and Upper Falls viewpoints—the Middle Falls viewpoint is particularly scenic and a favorite spot for photographers to capture the full glory of Wallace Falls. The Woody Trail ends at the Upper Falls where you will want to turn around and carefully make your way back down to the junction with the Old Railroad Grade. If you are looking for a shorter day out, an out-and-back to the falls is a popular option for a 5.6-mile round-trip hike.

Turn right on the Old Railroad Grade and right again to connect to the Greg Ball Trail. This trail winds through a shaded forest following along the North Fork Wallace River and is mostly smooth, though it climbs steadily for the next two miles before leveling off around Wallace Lake. This trail is not as popular as the Woody Trail so you can enjoy a bit more solitude even on a popular summer weekend. The final stretch to Wallace Lake transitions from dirt to a wide, crushed gravel path. The lake itself is a serene spot for a quick snack or longer picnic lunch. Once you are done enjoying the views, retrace your way down the Greg Ball Trail. If you would like to add a bit more variety to your return trip, take a right onto the Old Railroad Grade trail to make a loop through the woods before returning to the trailhead.

Wallace Falls. (Photo Credit: Hiking Project contributor Andrew Green)

Dog Mountain Trail #147
  • Location: Columbia River..
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When Shannon Gibson recruited athletes to join the women’s mountain bike team she was creating in 2010, she knew what she was looking for.

“I wanted to pick women who would support each other,” said Gibson. “I wanted people who could race and win and be kind about it.”

At the time, Gibson was a decade into her mountain bike racing career—and by career, it was a full-time passion. Her income, meanwhile, came from running her own therapy practice (for the Rolf Method of Structural Integration and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy) in El Paso, Texas, her hometown. “That’s been my gainful self-employment,” said Gibson, whose therapy practice is now a 30-year established business. “I would say the top five or six women in the pro mountain bike field have salaries, and everyone else has some sort of real job, maybe, or a part-time job. Women are great multitaskers.”

A former professional ballerina, who once danced in the Nutcracker at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago, Gibson was following the advice of a personal trainer when she picked up mountain biking in 1999. It let her spend time outside with her husky puppy and get some exercise. She was good at it, saying that it felt similar to ballet in terms of focus, balance and cardiovascular exertion. “I was a jumper and a turner, so I had good ‘explosivity’ and good high heart-rate capacity,” said Gibson. In the late 1990s, she won her first races in the beginner’s league, then upgraded to expert, and in 2003, she started racing professionally.

Shannon Gibson is the team's founder and equipment liaison. Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

The first woman Gibson tapped to join the team was Nina Baum, who she had met at an off-road race series in New Mexico. Baum was also a good multitasker, balancing cross-country and short-track mountain bike racing with a full-time job. Midweek, she was working in organic materials research and development at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she was experimenting with carbon fiber for aerospace applications, among other things. Through racing, Baum was breaking out on the cyclocross and 24-hour solo mountain bike race scenes and winning national championships.

The two became friends and race buddies, seeing each other at regional races and sometimes traveling together. Baum had been sponsored for Cannondale since 2005 and was on the company’s national team, but Gibson was a “privateer,” as she calls it. Gibson had a list of sponsors, yet she organized all her own logistics and travel for racing. When the opportunity came from Stan’s NoTubes to start a women’s mountain bike team, Gibson took it. The team launched in 2011, and a couple of years later, Baum connected the team to a sponsorship with Cannondale.

“Many cycling teams in mountain biking consist of one or two riders and the village who supports their endeavor,” said Gibson. “I really see a ‘team’ as a group of people gathered under a dedicated collaborative for the achievement of a common purpose. That purpose can be to win races, or to provide marketing exposure or to set an example of sport as service to one’s community.”

The Cannondale Kenda Women’s Elite Team does not pay its athletes a salary, but it does provide them with gear and it helps with race fees and logistics to travel to races. Importantly, it also acts as a vehicle for the athletes to become advocates for women in cycling. They host clinics and team rides. They are also integral in providing Cannondale with real feedback about the company’s women’s products.

“The team became known as being supportive of women,” said Gibson. “If you have all the things being equal of talent and hard work and motivation, sometimes what puts you over the edge is that extra feeling of being supported and being calm and knowing that you have it all together on race day.”

This season marks the team’s ninth, and many of the original racers are still involved. The athletes on the team represent a diverse mix of strengths and compete in Xterra cross-triathlon and long-distance, endurance mountain bike races.

Professional mountain bike racer Jennifer Smith is the team's manager and leader. Her daughter, Jade, is 5. Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

Jennifer Smith, a professional mountain bike racer from Gunnison, Colorado, joined the team in 2012 and is the current team manager and leader. She’s represented New Zealand—her home country—in three sports at world championship events: track and field, Xterra triathlon, and Olympic-distance mountain biking. At the Xterra World Championships, she has placed 4th and 6th. She has five top fives in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, placing as high as 2nd. When not competing, Smith is a coach, training cyclists, triathletes and high school students.

Smith is also a mom, raising her 5-year-old daughter, Jade. At a stage race in Moab, earlier this spring, Smith brought Jade along and hired a babysitter while she competed. It’s not especially common for athletes to bring their babies to races, she noted. “But I think that’s changing.”

“I was given advice years ago, that to be successful in this sport, you want to integrate it into your long-term lifestyle,” said Smith, who is riding the Cannondale Scalpel si, Fsi, and Super X Women’s Force 1. “I took that advice to heart, along with the idea that I do my sport because it provides a lens to evolve as an athlete and human.”

Vicki Barclay is an endurance and cross-country mountain bike racer, who specializes in stage and 100-mile events. She completed her PhD in infectious disease biology when she was 26, which was more than a decade ago. And now, when she’s not training on her bike or racing in the 15 to 20 events she signs up for every year, she works as a senior program manager in gene therapy for a biotech company in Philadelphia.

“I think that to be able to train and race while working full-time requires a certain mindset and a level of sacrifice,” said Barclay. “You have to love structure and also [have] the mental strength to settle into the fact that training is very repetitive, and sometimes feels mundane. But if you stick with it, and keep showing up, you’ll see results.”

Suzie Snyder is the Xterra USA Champion. Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

Based in Reno, Nevada, Suzie Snyder is the team’s new recruit, joining this year as she defends her 2018 title as Xterra USA Champion. Snyder grew up on a lake and says she was always a swimmer. She was originally competitive in running, phasing into triathlons. She started racing Xterra in 2003, which prompted her to pick up mountain biking. “I had to teach myself how to ride and just eventually got good enough at all three events to get my pro card,” said Snyder, who has been competing professionally since 2010. “I just love the sport, and I love that Xterra is mountain biking and trail running, rather than road.” Like her teammates, Snyder subsidizes her racing with a job. She uses her own experience as an athlete to help others as a endurance sports and strength and conditioning coach. Being able to connect with other athletes, and especially women, was one of her main reasons for joining the Cannondale Kenda Elite Team.

“As far as outreach goes, it gives you a greater sense of satisfaction that you’re doing something good for the community,” said Snyder. “Racing can be such an individual sport, that it feels selfish sometimes.”

As the team’s equipment liaison, Gibson is still integral to the team’s operations, even though she has largely retired from racing. At the beginning, Gibson remembers building “frankenbikes” for each of the racers because there weren’t the range of sizes in bikes to fit all the women on the team. Now, there’s a bike in Cannondale’s women’s product line to fit every woman. “That’s a direct result of the team,” said Gibson.

Four years ago, Baum left New Mexico’s laboratories to work at Cannondale’s headquarters in Wilton, Connecticut, as the women’s product manager.

“We had so many insights and observations from racing our bikes and riding our bikes and thinking about bikes all day long,” said Baum. “Knowing that some of that is going into future bikes, that’s a really cool, motivating feeling.”

The team provides feedback to Cannondale that helps steer women's bike development. Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

Baum kept racing for her first year in the job, but an autoimmune disease that deteriorated the proximal extensor muscles in her legs, including her quadriceps, and prevented her from competing on the bike. Still, Baum has stayed involved with the team, helping them organize and host outreach events and women’s bike clinics (they were at several REI Outessa clinics in recent years). As well, Baum has established an important and unique relationship between Cannondale’s women’s bike development efforts and the team.

The relationship goes two ways. Cannondale provides the team with updated models of the bikes. At the same time, the athletes have a direct connection to Baum and they provide feedback about the bikes—telling Baum that, perhaps, a lower front end would be better for their bike fit, or giving insight into how wheel size affects fit and handling, depending on the bike’s and rider’s sizes. That kind of information is valuable, and gets incorporated with other data Cannondale collects to inform the design and specs of the bikes. Dedicated, specific information from a single rider can sometimes be more interesting and valuable than an average calculated from many different users, said Baum.

“It’s nice to have that direct link,” said Baum. “There are often teams racing for a bike company and they don’t have the same interaction. I feel like it’s much more two-way, since I am the women’s product manager here and I am so tightly involved with them.”

Gibson, for example, rides the Cannondale Scalpel. Even though she’s not racing as much, she’s influential in her community (Gibson lives in Durango), according to Baum. “The feedback that I get from her now goes into the pipe for things that we’re doing two or three years in the future.”

With race bikes, there’s a lot of nuance to rider position and how it relates to wheel size, suspension tune and travel, along with other aspects of the bike’s build, said Baum. “I can tell them what the physics are,” she said. “Coming from the middle ground, and understanding what those compromises are from the riders’ standpoint are things that we don’t always see from the bike development side of things. That’s a super helpful data point that I’m able to get from being in close contact with the team.”

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

Immediately before Baum started working at Cannondale, women’s bike development fell largely to the teams that were working on umbrella categories, like road or mountain. (The women’s product manager role had been vacant for two years.) Baum recalls a long-standing assumption in the bike industry that women tended to have a shorter torso and longer legs than men of the same height. She opposed that thinking, saying that she saw variability in body geometry among women mountain and road racers, and people in general. “This never seemed right to me,” said Baum. The difference is more in the range of sizes. One of the accomplishments at Cannondale that she is most proud of is making the entire product line at Cannondale a much better fit for small riders, and specifically making extra-small-sized mountain, road and gravel bikes that fit women who are as short as 4-feet, 11-inches tall.

“Being able to make bikes that are perfect for that part of the population is really cool to me,” said Baum.

She also believes it’s important to create space for women by creating products that are built with women in mind. “Your product is sending a message about whether you want women to be a part of your group or not. And so that is the most important thing to me, making sure all of our bikes have really good specs for smaller, female people,” said Baum. “It’s the feeling that something was made with you in mind, and it’s something that you will gravitate toward. From that standpoint, we have a lineup of women’s bikes that I’m really proud of.”

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

For Baum, the coolest part of the team is how strong and independent each of the women are.

“Cycling is a very important thing for them. Racing is very important. But they have lives. They have kids. They have jobs,” said Baum.

Baum also loves the opportunities she and her teammates have to connect with other people at events. The team has a social media presence, but the greater value and service they provide is hands-on outreach. This year, their ride and clinic schedule will take them all over the country, from Epic Rides to weekly events in their hometowns with local clubs and high school teams.

“If you talk to a woman and give her a little tip on how to work her way up a rock ledge that she’s struggling with, you have a very intimate and positive connection with that person. When you get that solid, personal connection, it’s a lot more impactful,” said Baum. “You’re actually making them a better rider in that moment and that’s going to help them spread the love of riding in that moment.”

Editor's Note: This story was produced in partnership with Cannondale and REI. 

The post These Athletes Have a Direct Line to Cannondale Women’s Bike Development appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

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When Shannon Gibson recruited athletes to join the women’s mountain bike team she was creating in 2010, she knew what she was looking for.

“I wanted to pick women who would support each other,” said Gibson. “I wanted people who could race and win and be kind about it.”

At the time, Gibson was a decade into her mountain bike racing career—and by career, it was a full-time passion. Her income, meanwhile, came from running her own therapy practice (for the Rolf Method of Structural Integration and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy) in El Paso, Texas, her hometown. “That’s been my gainful self-employment,” said Gibson, whose therapy practice is now a 30-year established business. “I would say the top five or six women in the pro mountain bike field have salaries, and everyone else has some sort of real job, maybe, or a part-time job. Women are great multitaskers.”

A former professional ballerina, who once danced in the Nutcracker at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago, Gibson was following the advice of a personal trainer when she picked up mountain biking in 1999. It let her spend time outside with her husky puppy and get some exercise. She was good at it, saying that it felt similar to ballet in terms of focus, balance and cardiovascular exertion. “I was a jumper and a turner, so I had good ‘explosivity’ and good high heart-rate capacity,” said Gibson. In the late 1990s, she won her first races in the beginner’s league, then upgraded to expert, and in 2003, she started racing professionally.

Shannon Gibson is the team's founder and equipment liaison. Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

The first woman Gibson tapped to join the team was Nina Baum, who she had met at an off-road race series in New Mexico. Baum was also a good multitasker, balancing cross-country and short-track mountain bike racing with a full-time job. Midweek, she was working in organic materials research and development at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she was experimenting with carbon fiber for aerospace applications, among other things. Through racing, Baum was breaking out on the cyclocross and 24-hour solo mountain bike race scenes and winning national championships.

The two became friends and race buddies, seeing each other at regional races and sometimes traveling together. Baum had been sponsored for Cannondale since 2005 and was on the company’s national team, but Gibson was a “privateer,” as she calls it. Gibson had a list of sponsors, yet she organized all her own logistics and travel for racing. When the opportunity came from Stan’s NoTubes to start a women’s mountain bike team, Gibson took it. The team launched in 2011, and a couple of years later, Baum connected the team to a sponsorship with Cannondale.

“Many cycling teams in mountain biking consist of one or two riders and the village who supports their endeavor,” said Gibson. “I really see a ‘team’ as a group of people gathered under a dedicated collaborative for the achievement of a common purpose. That purpose can be to win races, or to provide marketing exposure or to set an example of sport as service to one’s community.”

The Cannondale Kenda Women’s Elite Team does not pay its athletes a salary, but it does provide them with gear and it helps with race fees and logistics to travel to races. Importantly, it also acts as a vehicle for the athletes to become advocates for women in cycling. They host clinics and team rides. They are also integral in providing Cannondale with real feedback about the company’s women’s products.

“The team became known as being supportive of women,” said Gibson. “If you have all the things being equal of talent and hard work and motivation, sometimes what puts you over the edge is that extra feeling of being supported and being calm and knowing that you have it all together on race day.”

This season marks the team’s ninth, and many of the original racers are still involved. The athletes on the team represent a diverse mix of strengths and compete in Xterra cross-triathlon and long-distance, endurance mountain bike races.

Professional mountain bike racer Jennifer Smith is the team's manager and leader. Her daughter, Jade, is 5. Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

Jennifer Smith, a professional mountain bike racer from Gunnison, Colorado, joined the team in 2012 and is the current team manager and leader. She’s represented New Zealand—her home country—in three sports at world championship events: track and field, Xterra triathlon, and Olympic-distance mountain biking. At the Xterra World Championships, she has placed 4th and 6th. She has five top fives in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, placing as high as 2nd. When not competing, Smith is a coach, training cyclists, triathletes and high school students.

Smith is also a mom, raising her 5-year-old daughter, Jade. At a stage race in Moab, earlier this spring, Smith brought Jade along and hired a babysitter while she competed. It’s not especially common for athletes to bring their babies to races, she noted. “But I think that’s changing.”

“I was given advice years ago, that to be successful in this sport, you want to integrate it into your long-term lifestyle,” said Smith, who is riding the Cannondale Scalpel si, Fsi, and Super X Women’s Force 1. “I took that advice to heart, along with the idea that I do my sport because it provides a lens to evolve as an athlete and human.”

Vicki Barclay is an endurance and cross-country mountain bike racer, who specializes in stage and 100-mile events. She completed her PhD in infectious disease biology when she was 26, which was more than a decade ago. And now, when she’s not training on her bike or racing in the 15 to 20 events she signs up for every year, she works as a senior program manager in gene therapy for a biotech company in Philadelphia.

“I think that to be able to train and race while working full-time requires a certain mindset and a level of sacrifice,” said Barclay. “You have to love structure and also [have] the mental strength to settle into the fact that training is very repetitive, and sometimes feels mundane. But if you stick with it, and keep showing up, you’ll see results.”

Suzie Snyder is the Xterra USA Champion. Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

Based in Reno, Nevada, Suzie Snyder is the team’s new recruit, joining this year as she defends her 2018 title as Xterra USA Champion. Snyder grew up on a lake and says she was always a swimmer. She was originally competitive in running, phasing into triathlons. She started racing Xterra in 2003, which prompted her to pick up mountain biking. “I had to teach myself how to ride and just eventually got good enough at all three events to get my pro card,” said Snyder, who has been competing professionally since 2010. “I just love the sport, and I love that Xterra is mountain biking and trail running, rather than road.” Like her teammates, Snyder subsidizes her racing with a job. She uses her own experience as an athlete to help others as a endurance sports and strength and conditioning coach. Being able to connect with other athletes, and especially women, was one of her main reasons for joining the Cannondale Kenda Elite Team.

“As far as outreach goes, it gives you a greater sense of satisfaction that you’re doing something good for the community,” said Snyder. “Racing can be such an individual sport, that it feels selfish sometimes.”

As the team’s equipment liaison, Gibson is still integral to the team’s operations, even though she has largely retired from racing. At the beginning, Gibson remembers building “frankenbikes” for each of the racers because there weren’t the range of sizes in bikes to fit all the women on the team. Now, there’s a bike in Cannondale’s women’s product line to fit every woman. “That’s a direct result of the team,” said Gibson.

Four years ago, Baum left New Mexico’s laboratories to work at Cannondale’s headquarters in Wilton, Connecticut, as the women’s product manager.

“We had so many insights and observations from racing our bikes and riding our bikes and thinking about bikes all day long,” said Baum. “Knowing that some of that is going into future bikes, that’s a really cool, motivating feeling.”

The team provides feedback to Cannondale that helps steer women's bike development. Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

Baum kept racing for her first year in the job, but an autoimmune disease that deteriorated the proximal extensor muscles in her legs, including her quadriceps, and prevented her from competing on the bike. Still, Baum has stayed involved with the team, helping them organize and host outreach events and women’s bike clinics (they were at several REI Outessa clinics in recent years). As well, Baum has established an important and unique relationship between Cannondale’s women’s bike development efforts and the team.

The relationship goes two ways. Cannondale provides the team with updated models of the bikes. At the same time, the athletes have a direct connection to Baum and they provide feedback about the bikes—telling Baum that, perhaps, a lower front end would be better for their bike fit, or giving insight into how wheel size affects fit and handling, depending on the bike’s and rider’s sizes. That kind of information is valuable, and gets incorporated with other data Cannondale collects to inform the design and specs of the bikes. Dedicated, specific information from a single rider can sometimes be more interesting and valuable than an average calculated from many different users, said Baum.

“It’s nice to have that direct link,” said Baum. “There are often teams racing for a bike company and they don’t have the same interaction. I feel like it’s much more two-way, since I am the women’s product manager here and I am so tightly involved with them.”

Gibson, for example, rides the Cannondale Scalpel. Even though she’s not racing as much, she’s influential in her community (Gibson lives in Durango), according to Baum. “The feedback that I get from her now goes into the pipe for things that we’re doing two or three years in the future.”

With race bikes, there’s a lot of nuance to rider position and how it relates to wheel size, suspension tune and travel, along with other aspects of the bike’s build, said Baum. “I can tell them what the physics are,” she said. “Coming from the middle ground, and understanding what those compromises are from the riders’ standpoint are things that we don’t always see from the bike development side of things. That’s a super helpful data point that I’m able to get from being in close contact with the team.”

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

Immediately before Baum started working at Cannondale, women’s bike development fell largely to the teams that were working on umbrella categories, like road or mountain. (The women’s product manager role had been vacant for two years.) Baum recalls a long-standing assumption in the bike industry that women tended to have a shorter torso and longer legs than men of the same height. She opposed that thinking, saying that she saw variability in body geometry among female mountain and road racers, and people in general. “This never seemed right to me,” said Baum. The difference is more in the range of sizes. One of the accomplishments at Cannondale that she is most proud of is making the entire product line at Cannondale a much better fit for small riders, and specifically making extra-small-sized mountain, road and gravel bikes that fit women who are as short as 4-feet, 11-inches tall.

“Being able to make bikes that are perfect for that part of the population is really cool to me,” said Baum.

She also believes it’s important to create space for women by creating products that are built with women in mind. “Your product is sending a message about whether you want women to be a part of your group or not. And so that is the most important thing to me, making sure all of our bikes have really good specs for smaller, female people,” said Baum. “It’s the feeling that something was made with you in mind, and it’s something that you will gravitate toward. From that standpoint, we have a lineup of women’s bikes that I’m really proud of.”

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Williams/Courtesy of Cannondale Kenda Women's Elite Team

For Baum, the coolest part of the team is how strong and independent each of the women are.

“Cycling is a very important thing for them. Racing is very important. But they have lives. They have kids. They have jobs,” said Baum.

Baum also loves the opportunities she and her teammates have to connect with other people at events. The team has a social media presence, but the greater value and service they provide is hands-on outreach. This year, their ride and clinic schedule will take them all over the country, from Epic Rides to weekly events in their hometowns with local clubs and high school teams.

“If you talk to a woman and give her a little tip on how to work her way up a rock ledge that she’s struggling with, you have a very intimate and positive connection with that person. When you get that solid, personal connection, it’s a lot more impactful,” said Baum. “You’re actually making them a better rider in that moment and that’s going to help them spread the love of riding in that moment.”

Editor's Note: This story was produced in partnership with Cannondale and REI. 

The post These Female Athletes Have a Direct Line to Cannondale Women’s Bike Development appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

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Going on a family hike is a great way to encourage kids to be active and connect with nature. But sometimes the reality isn’t Instagram-ready. Parents and caregivers, we’ve been there. There’s occasional whining, and getting through a hike may take a little bribery and a whole lot of cajoling. It doesn’t always have to be that way. Here are 15 tips to make hiking fun for kids:

Plan Your Hike Together and Talk Up the Adventure

Let kids have a say in choosing what type of hike you’ll do. Even if they’re too young to pick the location, you can give them choices: Should we walk by a river today? Climb some rocks? Search for the biggest tree? Build up anticipation for the adventure while giving them a sense of ownership over the trip. No one wants to feel like they’re being dragged along. Browse a guidebook or an app like the Hiking Project to help you plan together.

Assign Your Kids a “Job”

Kids love having meaningful jobs. On the trail, assign your kids responsibilities. Let them take turns leading the group. Give your child a printed map and put them in charge of navigating. Or dub them the medic and let them carry the first-aid kit.

Bring a Friend Along

Other kids can be the best motivators on the trail. Invite your child’s friends or another family to go hiking with you. Kids will become so busy exploring with their buddies they’ll likely forget to ask you how much farther it is. If you run into other kids on the trail, be open to letting your kids connect with them.

Incorporate a Navigation App

While the goal is to get kids unplugged and outside, using a navigation app on your hike can teach as well as motivate your kids. An app like Hiking Project allows them to see where they’re going, where they’re at and mark their progress.

Go at Their Pace

Let your kids set the pace of the hike, even it’s much slower than you would go. For kids, the journey is often more important than the destination. Factor in plenty of time for the hike so you don’t rush and have the luxury to check things out. A slower pace will allow you to see things at your kids’ level. They’ll want to touch and feel things and they’re inevitably going to find marvelous things that you have missed.

Expose Them to Different Hikes

Kids, like adults, may need several different experiences before hiking becomes second nature. Take your kids on a variety of hikes and gauge their reactions. If meandering through a dense forest doesn’t do the trick, find a boardwalk trail or a hike that starts high and gives you sweeping views. Or grab flashlights, headlamps or cheap glow sticks and hit a local trail at night.

Pack Lots of Snacks

Kids burn off calories faster than you think. Pack a variety of snacks. Ask your kids what they want to eat and have them help you pack snacks or carry some snacks in their packs. This may be a good time to break out favorite treats they have only on special occasions.

Make a Game of It

Whether you’re geocaching, playing “I Spy,” doing a scavenger hunt or playing 20 questions, use your environment as a prop for trail games. Tell a story or create an imaginary scenario on your hike; maybe you’re all superheroes who have to reach the “enemy base” before sunset and the only way to charge up your power is if you identify certain objects along the way. Use your imagination. Print out free scavenger hunt worksheets from the internet before you go. Read more in our article on Geocaching with Kids.

Offer Rewards

Consider giving your kids a reward like a small treat, hand stamp or sticker when you reach certain landmarks along the trail or if they identify a certain number of plants, trees or other objects.

Plan an End-of-Hike Reward

Let your child pick where to go for an end-of-hike reward whether it’s frozen yogurt or a favorite lunch spot. If their spirits are low, you can dangle this reward and talk it up as you’re walking. Tell them, “I can’t wait to go get ice cream. What flavor are you going to get?” You may get them talking on this topic for a while.

Leave No Trace

It’s never too early to teach your children about the principles of Leave No Trace to minimize their impact on the outdoors. Encourage them to look and touch but leave things where they are. Challenge them to see how they could apply the seven principles—for example, respecting wildlife, disposing of trash properly or being considerate of others—while you’re hiking. Find games and activities that you can do with your kids outside.

Chronicle the Trip

Take along a journal, sketchbook or a camera (instant cameras are great) and encourage your kids to explore and record their hike.

Let Them Carry Their Own Gear

Even the smallest kids enjoy carrying a (small) backpack. Give them just a few items like snacks or a whistle. Older kids may want binoculars or their own trekking poles.

Read Your Kids’ Cues

You know your kids best. If they’re hungry or tired, read their cues and take a snack or water break. Be aware of how far you are from the trailhead and decide when is a good time to turn around—even if you haven’t reached your destination.

Challenge Your Kids

Kids are often more resilient than adults may give them credit for. Start small at first but don’t be afraid to try longer or harder hikes as your family logs more miles. As you spend more time hiking with your kids, you’ll get a better sense of their abilities and will find that sweet spot between pushing them too hard and keeping hikes challenging enough to pique their interest.

Learn More: Hiking with Infants, Toddlers and Kids

The post How to Make Hiking Fun with Kids appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

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On muddy, sunny, rainy or all-of-the-above runs, it’s great to have a vest filled with water, extra layers and other trail run essentials. But finding your holy-grail vest can be difficult with the number of options out there. What’s most important is finding the right vest for you–one that fits your body (and your gear, and your distance) just right.

The right vest might change depending on the weather, the distance or the locale, which is why we’ve rounded up the best running hydration vests for whichever path, trail or road you take. To bring you our top picks, we looked to our customers. Each vest in our roundup is top rated by verified purchasers. That means they put in the miles for you, and came back smiling.

BEST HYDRATION VESTS Nathan VaporAiress 7L 2.0 Hydration Vest

Best for Shorter Training Runs - Women's 

MSRP: $150

Gear Capacity: 7 liters

Hydration: Comes with a 2-liter hydration reservoir.

When you’re heading out to train but don’t need to lug more than the Ten Essentials, some water and nutrition, a pack with 5–7 liters of capacity works well. The adjustable sizing system on this vest gives wearers a bounce- and chafe-free fit, keeping you comfortable and focused on training runs. Customers rave about the adjustable fit on this and the men's version of this vest, both of which are built to accommodate a range of sizes. If you’re an after-dark (or before-the-sun) runner, it features 360 degrees of reflectivity to help you stay seen while you pound the pavement (or dirt).

Osprey Duro 6 Hydration Vest

Best for Shorter Training Runs 

MSRP: $110.00

Gear Capacity: 6 liters (M/L; 5 liters for S/M size)

Hydration: Comes with a 1.5-liter hydration reservoir.

A top-rated, smaller-capacity pack, the Duro 6 is another excellent choice for staying hydrated during your routine miles on roads or trails. REI customer Madhav appreciated the storage in this vest, saying they “could easily fit in a puffer and loved the multitude of organizational compartments that Osprey is known for. The sternum strap offers a number of adjustable options and I could feel no bounce whatsoever. The pack by itself is super light and I hardly noticed it throughout my run.”

Ultimate Direction Ultra Hydration Vest 4.0

Best for Longer Training Runs

MSRP: $129.95

Gear Capacity: 10.32 liters

Hydration: Comes with two 500-milliliter collapsible soft flasks. Compatible with a 2-liter hydration reservoir (sold separately).

On longer training runs, you’ll want to carry plenty of water, an extra layer and enough food to keep you moving. Some runners also like to pack a bit more supplies than they think they’ll need, in case they run into someone on the trail in need of assistance or extra food. This Ultimate Direction vest is roomy and breathable, with plenty of pockets to help you organize your must-haves.

Hate taking your pack off mid-run? This vest’s on-the-move adjustability lets you easily tighten or loosen your fit without breaking stride. And if you aren’t a fan of using hydration reservoirs to carry your H2O, it also comes with two 500-milliliter soft flasks up front that shrink as you drink. The two-bottle option is great for mixing up your hydration—put electrolyte drink in one and water in the other to keep you fueled up for a several-hour adventure.

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set Hydration Vest

Best for Race Day

MSRP: $135

Gear Capacity: 5 liters

Hydration: Comes with two integrated 500-milliliter soft flasks. Compatible with a 1.5-liter hydration reservoir (sold separately).

Made from lightweight, stretchy materials that feel like a second skin, this Salomon vest is a great choice for race days. With 5 liters of capacity, it carries just enough to keep you moving from one aid station to the next without any extra bulk. REI customer RED 16E5 loved its distraction-free fit, saying “Due to a nagging neck/shoulder injury I needed something that would not bounce on the top of my shoulder. This fits the bill perfectly! I filled both flasks, loaded some extra gear and took off. Nothing sloshed, rattled, bounced or fell out.”

Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 4.0 Hydration Vest

Best Women-Specific Fit

MSRP: $134.95

Gear Capacity: 10.1 liters

Hydration: Compatible with a 1.5-liter hydration reservoir (sold separately).

The Ultimate Direction Vesta series dominates the women-specific fit game, and its latest update is no exception. This vest’s adjustability and fabrication allow it to easily and comfortably adapt to a wide range of body types, and is especially suited for those with larger busts. Its 10-liter capacity keeps you going on long days or in remote environs (if you want a little more or less capacity, Ultimate Direction also makes an 8-liter version and an adventure-ready 12.4-liter version). If you prefer to use all of this vest’s storage space for gear, fuel and extra layers, it also comes with 2 collapsible soft flasks, so you can run reservoir-free and still stay hydrated.

Ultimate Direction Mountain Hydration Vest 4.0

Best for Hiking 

MSRP: $154.95

Gear Capacity: 13.27 liters

Hydration: Compatible with a 2-liter hydration reservoir (sold separately).

Heading out for a day-long adventure at a slower pace? Your running vest could come in handy. If you plan on using your vest for both runs and hikes, it’s good to look for a larger-capacity vest so you have enough room for all of your supplies. This vest boasts more than 13 liters of gear storage and a movement-mirroring, adjustable fit for comfort on the long haul. It has plenty of convenient pocketing up front and on the sides so you don’t have to take it off to get your items out mid-hike.

“I've used a few different packs in the past for running longer trails where I might need a first aid kit, extra layers, snacks, etc. and this one is by far the best…I love the variety of pockets and stash places for everything from doggie bags to my cell phone, sunglasses, or keys.” – Stephanie, REI customer.

BEST HYDRATION VESTS FOR $100 OR LESS

We get it; not everyone wants to invest in a higher-price hydration vest, especially if it’s your first one. Luckily, REI stocks several vests that are $100 or less and still deliver outstanding performance. Fear not: A lower-cost vest doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality.  

According to REI senior gear designer Graeme Wagoner, the biggest differences between higher-end and more-affordable packs are mainly found in sizing and materials used. Typically, more affordable vests will have fewer size options—but with more points of adjustability to help you fine-tune your fit—while expensive vests are more akin to apparel. These three vests came with high customer ratings and glowing reviews, so they’re excellent options for budget-conscious runners.

UltrAspire Momentum Hydration Vest

MSRP: $79.95

Gear Capacity: 5 liters

Hydration: Has 4 slots (2 Front, 2 Back) for hydration flasks.

According to REI customer bcompa, this unisex hydration vest is “amazingly customizable.” Its smaller capacity and sleek styling make it a great option for short runs, races and exploring trails closer to home. Plus, it’s made with breathable honeycomb mesh that keeps you cool while you’re working up a sweat.

Nathan Quickstart 4L Hydration Vest

MSRP: $70

Gear Capacity: 4 liters

Hydration: Comes with a 1.5-liter hydration reservoir.

Designed for minimalists who want a low-profile and comfortable way to wear their water, this vest is a clean, pared-down option that performs well. It features an included 1.5-liter reservoir, adjustable straps, and a variety of stash pockets for things like your phone, keys and nutrition. Its unisex, one-size-fits-most design accommodates a wide range of body types, and its affordable price can’t be beat

Nathan Trail Mix 7L Hydration Vest

MSRP: $100

Gear Capacity: 7 liters

Hydration: Comes with a 2-liter hydration reservoir.

If women-specific vests tend to fit your body better, this 7-liter option from Nathan is an excellent pick. REI customer Elizabeth loved its fit, saying, “It’s SUPER ADJUSTABLE! …It didn't bind or restrict my movement and I could breath[e] and stretch as needed on my run.” Convenient pocketing and a little more storage space make it an easy choice for quick jaunts and longer adventures. Plus, it comes with a 2-liter reservoir, giving you easy access to hydration from day one.

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Hydration Vests Buying Advice How should a hydration vest fit?

Ideally, your vest should be snug while still allowing you to move, without anything poking or pinching. Annoying spots on the first wear will only turn into painful chafing later on. Wagoner says you shouldn’t expect to wear the same size hydration vest you wear in shirts or backpacks, since vests are designed to cling to your body and fit it more securely. When trying on a vest, secure the buckles first, adjust the straps and go back and forth between adjustment areas until the fit feels comfortable. And if you’re using a reservoir, the water should sit high up on your back.

Use the straps as a guideline if needed: you don’t want to bottom out any straps or, conversely, have tons of excess strap material dangling. You should always have the ability to adjust it further in either direction if needed.

For more information, check out our Expert Advice article, “How to Choose a Running Hydration Vest.”

What’s the difference between a vest and a pack?

There’s definitely some ambiguity between hydration vests and hydration packs, but generally speaking if there’s more coverage on your chest and it fits higher-up on your body, it’s a vest. Vests will have more pocketing in the front for easy access to stuff on the move, whereas packs could just have straps up front while storing all your gear in back.

Do I need a hydration reservoir?

You never need any particular piece of gear, so do what feels best for you! Some people are firmly set on Team Reservoir, some on Team Bottles and some folks use both. As long as you have enough water for your run, carry it however you prefer.

What’s the difference between unisex and women-specific vests?

REI senior gear developer Lauren Meyer acknowledges that despite the fact that these vest designations are gendered, body types exist on a really wide spectrum not solely dependent on age, gender, weight and more, so it’s all about finding what’s a just-right fit for you and your body.

A men’s or unisex vest is generally a better fit for a straighter body, while a women-specific vest will better fit a chest with more contours. The front paneling is designed to fit that curvature and prevent gapping, so it’ll feel a little more like a sports bra. Here’s a useful tip: the second strap should sit below your bust, according to Meyer. That being said, if it’s more comfortable having it up top, do what feels best and keeps your vest most secure.

Plenty of runners reach for unisex, women’s and men’s vests depending on what feels best for their shape. So if you find a pack that fits your body well, disregard the label and just enjoy the run.

Learn More: How to Choose a Hydration Vest

The post The Best Hydration Vests for Every Kind of Run appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

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Campworthy hosts Takiyah and Caela are taking a break from cooking to share their list of must-haves when packing for a multi-day camping trip. Declaredly "not light packers," they brighten up their campsite with items that range from vintage to new and strike a balance between form and function.

Packing List
  • Cooler (light and portable)
  • Pre-cut food (veggies, fruit, etc.)
  • Resealable containers
  • Drinkware
  • Extra bowls

_________

Submission Instructions:

Do you have an extra unique camp recipe? What makes your camp recipe a stand out?  Have you found ways to take complicated recipes and simplify them for the outdoors?  Do you have a family favorite that has been passed down through generations? Challenge our hosts to reproduce it and get our community inspired to try it!  

First Name:
Hometown: 
Recipe name:
Ingredients and instructions:
Why you love this recipe: 
When you last made it and where: 

Submit your recipes to camprecipes@rei.com!

There are no prizes, but if we decide to use your recipe, you agree that we can use your name, hometown and any of the other information you provide without restriction to say more about you and your recipe, why you love it and when and where you last made it.

The post Campworthy: Packing Tips & Tricks appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

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REI Co-op Journal by Chelsea Davis - 3d ago

This 6-part investigative podcast explores the past, present and future of wildfires by examining the devastating and controversial Eagle Creek Wildfire outside of Portland, Oregon. Hosts Graham Zimmerman and Jim Aikman, both Oregon residents, investigate the fire and what impacts it had, and continues to have, on the community as well as asking the question: what role do wildfires play in our lives?

The post Trailer: Wildfire Podcast appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

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Huddling beneath an overpass, sopping wet from the rain and freezing, a thought crosses my mind that day one of the TransVirginia Bike Route—a 550-mile, mostly gravel bikepacking route from Washington, D.C., to Damascus, Virginia—is perhaps a little harder than I was expecting. The first 63 miles are mostly flat, I’d assured my companions. The route begins on easy bike paths, I’d said. And, be that as it may, after a crack-of-noon start, a few wrong turns in D.C.’s labyrinth, and hours of spitting cold rain, I can’t help but wonder: Am I a sandbagger? 

Two years ago, I never would have put myself and “sandbagger” in the same sentence. When I’m kayaking, I take the conservative lines. When I climb, I sweep but never lead. When I ride, I’m the slowest to descend. But in the summer of 2017, I bit off a lot more than I’ve ever tried to chew: bikepacking the 2,700-mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Banff, Canada, to the U.S.-Mexico border. When my boyfriend and I set out from Canada, we’d only done one overnighter on our bikes. We finished in 44 days, during which time I endured more bonking, chafing and forehead tan lines than I ever cared to repeat. Or so I thought.

I could hardly resist the temptation to ride the TransVirgina Bike Route. It connects all of the best parts of my home state with forest service gravel and quintessential country roads. About one-fifth the distance of the Divide, it seemed like a relatively approachable adventure. David Landis, the route developer, provided the directions, itinerary suggestions, and lodging and resupply points. If you follow the nine-day itinerary, you’ll average a stout 5,800 feet of elevation gain per day. Two friends joined me. Dan is a 2018 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, and Wendy, despite being 20 years my elder, is probably my favorite ski-bike-travel companion. Wendy is along for the first two days, after which it’s just me, Dan and some 450 miles of open road.

I look over my shoulder to where the Washington and Old Dominion Trail leaves the safety of its protected corridor and crosses the road, which, at 5pm on a Friday, is a madhouse. Wendy, who had lagged a bit behind us, appears at the intersection. She stops, looks both ways, crosses. A car turning at the light doesn’t see her and narrowly misses her rear wheel. Beside me, Dan grimaces.

“Do you think she’s tired or bonking?” he asks.

“Maybe a little of both,” I say.

“Well, I haven’t crumbled yet,” he says, “more like, crumbling.”

Wendy joins us in the comparative luxury of the sheltered overpass. We have 15 miles to go till we reach the hostel at Bears Den. It’s been dark and cloudy all day and I worry about the final bit of road we’ll have to ride tonight, the same State Route 7 that’s roaring with traffic above our heads. None of us had anticipated any night riding, so with the exception of a few safety blinkers, we’ll be riding without lights.

We’ve planned to ride an average of 60 miles per day and finish in 10 days, a pace that falls somewhere between cushy and cruel. Though we’ll be pitching tents most of the way, roofed lodging exists along the route in case we need a break from the elements, which, by day one, we already do. My folks have promised to deliver pizza for our first night’s meal. The thought of that and a warm bed pulls me forward.

“One day we’ll look back on this and fondly remember how bad it sucked,” says Dan.

“Tomorrow will be beautiful,” I say, more to convince myself.

It’s officially dark when we pedal the last two miles toward the hostel. The rain has subsided but a heavy fog—so thick I can hardly see the mailboxes on the side of the road—is settling in its place. The strobe of my pathetic red blinkie does little in the misty gloom. We sprint across four lanes of traffic to the shoulder, which is wide and well-maintained but still uncomfortably close to the cars speeding 70 mph through the dark. Route 7 is one of the busiest roads we’ll ride, a necessary evil to linking up the quieter gravel and country roads. While it’s inadvisable to ride on a foggy mountain highway at night when you’re tired, hungry and cold, hindsight is 20/20. We follow the rules of the road, climbing single file on the far right side of the shoulder. I know we’re close, but I’m so disoriented, we might as well be pedaling in place.

We pull off in a driveway to break as a line of cars files past. Across the street, I catch the reflective glimmer of a sign. Squinting, I can just barely make out the words, “Welcome to Bears Den,” on the mailbox.

Along the TransVirginia Bike Route. Photo Credit: Jess Daddio

Even with dry clothes and a warm bed, I hardly sleep that night. The mountain is still shrouded in fog come morning. On our bikes, less than a mile from the hostel, I hear the zzzz of seat-pack-on-tire rub. I stop. Repack. Re-cinch. Two miles later, I hear another sound, this one a faint click...click...click coming from my rear tire. When I hop off to assess, I find the flathead of a nail sticking out menacingly from the tread.

Before the Great Divide, I had taken an introductory bicycle mechanics course, which, if anything, made me feel even more incompetent. The number of things that can go wrong with a bike is mind-boggling. In general, before setting out on a multiday bikepacking ride, it’s important to know how to fix a flat, maintain your chain, and make modest adjustments to your derailleur. At the very least, be familiar with the closest bike shops to the route in the event of a serious mechanical failure.

Fortunately, a quick plug in the tire and we’re off again, meandering along the swollen waters of the Shenandoah River. Like the fog burning away in the sun, my sour attitude begins to evaporate. It’s spring in the Shenandoah Valley and the forest is exploding in green. We cruise along rolling gravel roads lined with mayapples and blooming redbuds.

After 60 miles, we leave the urban jungle behind for good and cross into the George Washington National Forest, making camp along a creek. It’s our last night with Wendy, so we gorge ourselves on her leftover rations of chocolate and gin. Yesterday’s cold and soggy start seems light-years ago. Sitting by the fire listening to the sound of spring peepers in the night, I feel so intimately in tune with and at home in the woods, I wish I could ride my bike forever. But the sentiment is short-lived.

By noon the next day, the whimsical high has vanished. I’m sunbaked and weary from the morning’s 3,500 feet of climbing. When we stop for lunch at a gas station in Mathias, West Virginia, I can feel that my left arm is completely burned. I buy the only sunscreen available, an all-natural off-brand, fighting back tears when it leaves my tender arm an angry shade of purple. Note to self: You’re not as tan as you think. Never forget sunscreen.

We roll out on full stomachs beneath a blistering sun. In my desperate attempt to refuel and re-energize, I’ve eaten entirely too much. My brain and body are so sluggish, riding is the last thing I want to do. For two hours, I fight the overwhelming urge to abandon my bike and crawl into the fetal position to nap. Our camp is still more than 30 miles and another 3,500 feet of climbing away via some of the most unrelentingly chunky gravel roads of the route. Pavement turns to gravel turns to double-track littered with baby-head-size rocks. Our pace slows from 13 mph to 10, then 8, then 5. I think bitterly to myself that I could walk as fast as I’m riding, only to eat my words later when I have to push my 50-pound bike up the steepest pitches.

I am well-acquainted with the hike-a-bike. Many a time on the Great Divide I slummed my way up mountain passes, mentally and physically wasted to the point of tears. But in those lowest points, I discovered a very important weapon—a peanutty, caramelly candy bar, my “get out of jail free” card. When even the most moderate of hills feels impossibly hard, that salty sweet log of corn syrup (king-size, please) might as well be ambrosia.

I eat half my candy bar and save the rest for later. It takes us nearly two hours to gain the ridge. Even there, the going remains mind-numbingly slow. Road-wide potholes filled with tomato-soup-colored water divert us to the muddy peripheries where soft clay sucks at our tires. We decide to make camp early and within minutes of stopping our bikes it starts to rain. The humidity has already made my sleeping bag damp, but I crawl in anyway.

The author. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jess Daddio

The next morning is anything but sunny. Through a steady drizzle, we cautiously pick our way along overgrown double-track. Downed branches impede any suggestion of speed and threaten to rip the derailleurs from our bikes. My wimpy wind shell clings to my arms, saturated to the point of uselessness, and I force myself to remember that, like all type 2 fun experiences, this too shall pass.

Over the next seven hours, we climb another 6,400 feet. We break through the clouds only to descend in a total downpour. At a local gas station, we splurge on hot french fries and discover (but do not partake in) a local specialty, pickled possum peckers, the ingredients of which include pulverized possum parts and Cajun seasoning. I find all of this delightful, truly: the way the storm cell stalked us down the mountain, that my quads feel worse when I’m not on my bike, how the locals regard us with friendly incredulity, why crappy gas station food tastes so much better when you’ve ridden 60 miles to get it.   

Maybe I’m losing it. Or maybe, now four days in, I finally feel settled into the rhythm of bikepacking again, the physical and emotional roller coasters of every mile. Frustration, elation, exhaustion, ease, despair, curiosity—I feel it all, sometimes in the same breath. At 250 miles, we’re nearly halfway through and I’m so certain of finishing, I can practically feel the glossy paint on the caboose at the route’s end in Damascus.

But Dan has grown quiet. I can tell he’s digging deep. During the final push to our campsite, he veers off into the woods, doubled over. We flag down a car, conveniently belonging to the game warden, and Dan gets a lift to our camp at Shaw’s Fork where he spends a sleepless night battling a stomach virus.

I make my dinner in silence that evening and prepare for another day of riding, though deep down, I know we’re going home. When Dan tells me he’s done, I’m hardly surprised. I’ve been there before. On the Great Divide, I was so utterly spent I begged my boyfriend for a zero day, an early camp, just one night in a hotel. Which is why I don’t try to talk Dan out of his decision. It doesn’t matter how far we went or how hard we pushed. For me, adventure is about sharing experiences with friends.

Still, in the days that follow, I grapple with the turn of events, berating myself for not continuing solo while feeling anxious about the prospect of doing just that. Yet the thing about unfinished business is it has a way of digging into your psyche, reminding you (whether you like it or not) that your doubts and dreams are a part of the human condition, as are the failures and successes to which we all are subject.

The beauty of any outdoor adventure, as my friend Jennifer Pharr Davis, an Appalachian Trail record holder, reminded me, is that the universe, the trail, the route gives us what we need and not necessarily what we want. “It’s not win or lose, it’s not all or nothing,” she texted me. There’s a space between, for us winner-losers, the all-and-nothings, the unfinished-business people, that keeps us humbled, determined, but not quite defeated.

 

The post Unfinished Business on the TransVirginia Bike Route appeared first on REI Co-op Journal.

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