Gadling Gear Review: Eddie Bauer Expedition Flannel Shirt

Eddie Bauer Expedition Flannel
Eddie Bauer

In the world of outdoor and travel apparel there are few names as recognizable as Eddie Bauer. For more than 90 years the company has specialized in making clothing that is designed for travel and adventure, outfitting some famous explorers and mountaineers along the way. The iconic brand has earned itself a reputation for making clothing that is tough, comfortable and dependable, while still managing to perform well in some of the harshest environments on the planet. Whether you’re hanging out on your front porch or traveling to the far corners of the globe, chances are Eddie Bauer makes something you’ll want to take with you. After all, if they can equip teams for the summit of Everest, they can probably keep you happy on your next adventure too.

One of the more classic items in the Eddie Bauer catalog is their Expedition Flannel shirt. This is one of those pieces of gear that easily passes my criteria for the kind of item that I want in my bag when I set out on trip. Since I tend to travel light, everything that goes into my pack needs to be something that is going to be comfortable when I put it on, useful in a variety of situations and will still look as good at the end of the trip as it does at the beginning. The Expedition Flannel does all of that and then some.Built from extremely soft polyester fabrics, this shirt has a trim cut that is designed to fit closely to the body, allowing the wearer to move without restriction while on the go. Any active traveler will appreciate this approach, as there are few things worse than wearing a piece of clothing that feels too confining. The fabrics also resemble traditional flannel in most respects but they perform on a different level than the flannel that we’ve all come to know and love. For instance, the fabrics that Eddie Bauer uses are designed to wick moisture away from the body, helping you to stay dry when you start to work up a sweat. This comes in surprisingly handy in both warm and cool conditions.

In terms of versatility, the Expedition Flannel is a winner as well. It has rustic good looks that make it equally good for strolling the streets of Paris or trekking in the Himalaya. Its classic design doesn’t wader far from the traditional but its use of modern color combinations is both refreshing and bold. It doesn’t hurt that is also packs extremely well, going in and out of your bag without collecting too many wrinkles – something I think we can all appreciate.

Since this is a piece of clothing created by Eddie Bauer, you know it has the durability to hold up to the rigors of the road. The Expedition Flannel was built to accompany you on your travels, whether that is down the block or around the world, and still come back looking as good as new. The level of quality in this shirt allows it to stand up to whatever abuse you give it and come away with barely a scuff on it. I’ve worn mine numerous times, for numerous activities, and it always comes out of the washer looking brand new. Whether you use this shirt for work, play or something in between, it is likely to be in your closet for many years to come.

This kind of quality doesn’t come cheap and Eddie Bauer is without a doubt a premium brand. The Expedition Flannel retails for $80, which puts it on par with similar shirts from competitors, although few of them have the EB pedigree. We all know that good travel gear is worth the price, however, and I think that is most certainly true here. If you buy one of these shirts chances are you’ll be remind yourself about your good taste and wise decisions for a very long time to come.

National Geographic Expeditions Celebrates 125th Anniversary With New Travel Options

National Geographic Adventures offers new tours for 125th anniversaryExactly 125 years ago today the National Geographic Society was officially formed. Its founders set out to create an organization “for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge” and considering everything that Nat Geo has accomplished over the years, I’d say they succeeded. The Society will celebrate this important milestone in a variety of ways throughout this year, including adding a number of special itineraries to their award-winning travel service, National Geographic Expeditions.

Exploration and discovery have long been at the heart of what drives the National Geographic Society forward and the trips that they have scheduled to celebrate their 125th anniversary reflect those values quite clearly. All told, there are ten itineraries to choose from, ranging from a seven-day excursion to Mayan ruins with Nat Geo grantee William Saturno to a 38-day epic journey through South America that includes stops in eight countries. Other options include a visit to East Africa to spot primates and a sailing adventure along Canada’s wild coast. There are even four specially designed photographic adventures that combine amazing destinations with photo workshops. Those destinations include places like the Grand Canyon, Tanzania and Morocco.

Of course, many of these itineraries are available from competing travel companies, often at a lower price. But what sets the Nat Geo Expeditions tours apart are the amazing men and women that you’ll have the opportunity to interact with along the way. For instance, on the photo expeditions you’ll hone your own skills by learning from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers, while the other trips are led by NG Explorers-in-Residence, writers, biologists and more. These extraordinary people can provide experiences and insights that simply can’t be found elsewhere.

Checkout the entire list of National Geographic Expedition tours on the company’s website and help Nat Geo celebrate its 125th anniversary in style.

[Photo Credit: National Geographic]

Ultrarunner To Attempt Round-Trip North Pole Expedition On Foot

Tim Williamson intends to make a round-trip expedition to the North Pole and backWhile one famous British explorer prepares to take on the Antarctic in the dead of winter, another is gearing up to challenge himself in the Arctic instead. Last week, endurance runner Tim Williamson announced that in 2013 he will attempt to travel solo and unsupported to the North Pole and then return to his starting point – completely on foot. If successful, he’ll become the first person to complete such a journey.

Williamson intends to launch his expedition in mid-January, setting out for the North Pole from Resolute Bay in Canada. That tiny Inuit village is one of the most northerly communities on Earth and a common starting point for explorers heading to the top of the world. Most of those other explorers depart from that point by first taking a chartered flight out to the remote Ellesmere Island, saving themselves hundreds of miles on what is an already long journey. But Williamson intends to begin and end in Resolute Bay, which means that if he is successful in this venture, he’ll cover more than 2200 miles on his round-trip journey.

As if covering all of those miles in the Arctic weren’t challenging enough, Tim believes that he can complete the expedition in just 100-120 days. Considering the extreme challenges he’ll face out on the ice, that would be a blazingly fast time. Those challenges include high winds, sub-zero temperatures, whiteout conditions, dangerous blizzards and wandering polar bears. Additionally, the Arctic pack-ice isn’t as thick as it once was and there are now large sections of open water that he’ll need to either navigate around or swim across. Traveling during the winter will help alleviate those obstacles to a degree, but the longer he is out on the ice, the more of an issue it will become.

Williamson says this is the kind of expedition that he is built for and his aptitude at long distance running will serve him well in the Arctic. That may be true, but this will be a challenge unlike any he has ever undertaken. Over the past two Arctic seasons, not a single person has managed to travel the full distance to the North Pole, let alone back again.

[Photo courtesy Tim Williamson]

British Explorer To Attempt Winter Antarctic Crossing

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is planning a winter Antarctic expeditionBritish explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is preparing for the expedition of a lifetime. The famed adventurer, who has already visited the North and South Pole, climbed Everest and ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, will soon undertake his most difficult journey of his illustrious career. In 2013, the 68-year-old will lead a team that will attempt to become the first to travel on foot to the South Pole, and back to their starting point, in the dead of winter.

The expedition will begin on March 21 of next year, when Fiennes and another skier, along with their support crew, will be dropped off on the Ross Ice Shelf to begin their journey to the South Pole. That date will mark the start of the Antarctic winter when daylight is practically non-existent and the temperatures can plunge to as low as -130°F. The plan is for Fiennes and his unnamed companion to ski to the Pole, flanked by two snowcats that will carry all of the gear and supplies necessary for a prolonged self-supported journey. The entire expedition is expected to take upwards of six months to complete and cover approximately 2000 miles.

Extreme cold and weeks of darkness aren’t the only challenges the explorers will face. High winds and intense storms could also hamper progress and they’ll begin the journey by making a slow, steady climb up to the Antarctic Plateau, a vertical gain of over 9800 feet. Surface conditions could also be problematic as large crevasses can sit hidden under the snow and ice. To help the support vehicles avoid those hazards, the skiers will drag ground-penetrating sonar behind them at all times. The sonar units will then relay information back to the vehicles, raising alarms to any danger that may lie ahead.

Many explorers consider an Antarctic winter expedition to be amongst the last big adventures that have yet to be accomplished and it is far from a foregone conclusion that Fiennes and company will succeed. This isn’t dissuading him from trying, however, as he hopes to use this endeavor to raise $10 million for Seeing is Believing, an organization dedicated to tackling avoidable blindness around the globe.

[Photo Credit: PA]

Inside The Urban Underground: Exploration Gets Personal

New Yorker Steve Duncan was so desperate to pass his college math class, he crawled through a tunnel to finish it. A computer assignment was due the next day and the software to finish was inside a building closed for the night. In a moment of desperation, Steve came up with a crazy plan: he could sneak inside. Having heard from a classmate about a collection of well-known tunnels connecting the university’s buildings, he resolved to convince the friend to guide him. After escorting Steve to the tunnel entrance, the friend offered vague directions, wished him luck and promptly left. As Steve recalls:

“He took off in the other direction and … here I was absolutely alone – it was terrifying and eye-opening, because every building on campus was connected by these tunnels. I passed the math class, but what always stuck with me was that first moment of being alone in the dark and being absolutely terrified but realizing that if I could face that, I had access to every part of the campus.”

Duncan had educational goals in mind when he entered the underground tunnels that night, but his experience kick-started an interest in an activity he continues to practice to this day: urban exploration.

Urban explorers seek to investigate the centuries of infrastructure created (and sometimes abandoned) by modern civilization: disused factories, historic bridges and unknown tunnels entered using legal, and sometimes illegal, means. The reason they do it is not as easily defined. Urban explorers come from a range of backgrounds, ranging from urban planners to historians to preservationists to architecture lovers, photographers and just plain old thrill-seekers all of whom are often lumped together under the banner of this general term. Just in New York alone, there’s the founders of the website Atlas Obscura, Nick Carr from Scouting New York and Kevin Walsh from Forgotten New York, along with countless others living around the world. These individuals, taken together, are less a community than a loose network of individuals united by a common love: re-discovering and investigating the forgotten and sometimes misunderstood detritus of modern day urban civilization

Yet the popularity of urban exploration confronts an interesting dilemma facing many 21st Century travelers: now that so much of what we seek to “discover” has been Google mapped, investigated and written about ad nauseum, how is our relationship with the concept of exploration evolving? And what does it tell us about the future of travel?

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Steve Duncan – Urban Historian, Explorer and Geographer
It’s been over a decade since that math class first brought Steve Duncan underground, but he’s continued to evolve his approach to urban exploration from his home base of New York City. Styling himself as an “urban geographer” and historian, Duncan continues to direct his energies towards understanding the unseen layers of infrastructure that constitute our urban environment – namely the sewers, bridges and subway tunnels of the Big Apple.

In more recent years, Duncan has gained increasing attention for his adventures, including a week-long expedition through the sewers under NYC with Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge and a short documentary made by filmmaker Andrew Wonder that follows him as he visits New York’s off-limits subway stations and climbs to the top of the Queensboro Bridge.

But Duncan’s urban adventures aren’t undertaken merely for thrills – they’re a means to an intriguing end. In fact, Duncan cares less about being the first to rediscover forgotten places than taking a fresh look at the urban environments we inhabit. Despite the fact more than 50% of our world’s population now lives in cities, Duncan notes, much of today’s travel media continues to focus on outward-looking explorations of far-flung places perceived to be “exotic” – for instance, the wild jungles of Borneo or the ancient temples of Jordan. Steve believes his own adventures constitute an equally exotic form of adventure – a new inward-focused method of exploration.

As he notes, “I’m not interested in going to places nobody’s been before, [but rather] I’m interested in how we shape places.” This life-long history lover views exploration not as a means for public recognition but rather as a way to better understand his personal passion for the ever-changing nature of cities. Whether or not he can “claim the place” as his is irrelevant – he’s more interested in understanding. As he tells it, “All exploration to some extent is personal. It doesn’t matter if someone’s been there before. If it’s new to you, it’s still exploration.”

Taken together, Duncan’s adventures constitutes a kind of inward-driven “time travel” – a concept in which the worlds of history, the growth and decay of cities and adventure travel merge together to define a new opportunity all of us as travelers can take to re-examine the everyday world around us as a source of curiosity.

Dylan Thuras – Cartographer of Curiosities

Not all stories of urban exploration involve spending weeks in tunnels under New York City. For Dylan Thuras, co-founder of website Atlas Obscura, a mind-altering childhood trip to House on the Rock in Wisconsin defined his early travel memories. The strange house is part museum and part hall of curiosities, filled with bizarre collections of artwork, carousel rides and giant biological specimens. As Dylan recalls, “the fact that this could be tucked away in the woods in sleepy Wisconsin made me feel like there were these magical worlds all over the place … if I just knew how to look, I would start to find these fantastical places everywhere”

Ever since that moment, Thuras and his co-founder Joshua Foer of Atlas Obscura have dedicated their website to altering travelers’ perspectives of the places worth visiting on their itineraries. To date they’ve built a worldwide, user-driven database highlighting more sites on all seven continents. As an example of the sites Atlas uncovers, Thuras mentions two sites in Florence, Italy – whereas the Uffizi Gallery is probably on most travelers’ radar, Dylan and Joshua also want to help you discover La Specola, the museum of wax anatomical models that contains a specimen of astronomer Galileo’s middle finger.

As Dylan points out, if an attraction isn’t listed on the top ten list in a guidebook “… it is easy to slip into anonymity, obscurity and disappear. I want to give people a sense that there is so much more than those ten things and that they might find that they have a better time if they venture into new territory.”

The style of exploration advocated by Thuras seeks to shift the context of the worlds we already know. That’s a far cry from the conception many travelers have in their heads of an idealized explorer discovering uncharted lands. Says Thuras: “This isn’t [exploration] in the Victorian sense of climbing the tallest mountain, or finding the source of a river … but in the sense that every one of us can find new and astonishing things if we look for them … it doesn’t always have to be about far-flung adventures.”

Urban Exploration – What’s Next?

Duncan and Thuras may appear to occupy different ends of the urban exploration spectrum, but their motivation stems from a distinct similarity. After years of endless exploring, categorizing and searching, both have arrived at the realization that our mundane daily worlds can be unknown places of curiosity and wonder. The challenge of getting there then, isn’t in the physical act of getting there. Explorers like Duncan do face large risks of injury in their wanderings, but it’s not on the scale of Ernest Shackleton, Captain James Cook or Edmund Hilary.

The difference in these explorers’ adventures thus seems to be a mental reframing of what we conceive of as exploration. Their perception of what is worthy of our consideration and interest as travelers is gradually shifting from the physical towards the mental. In the relentless search for finding the most far-flung undiscovered locations on earth, all of us as travelers have neglected to look right in front of our faces at the places we inhabit everyday as worthy of discovery. Unlike Steve Duncan the journey might not require a crawl through a sewer to appreciate, but ultimately it can be just as rewarding.