Gadling gear review: OutThere AS-1 Pack

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is that I get the opportunity to test a lot of outdoor gear. I’ve been fortunate enough to put sleeping bags, hiking boots, clothing and much more through their paces, and in the process I’ve learned a lot about how those products differ and what distinguishes the good from the bad. After awhile, some of the gear starts to look the same, as one manufacturer copies another in an attempt to add new features or options to their equipment. That’s why it is so refreshing when you find new, innovative products that do something a bit different.

That’s exactly what I found in the AS-1 Pack from a company called OutThere, a start-up looking to challenge the big boys in the outdoor space. The AS-1 was designed by Mike Kloser, a world champion adventure racer, who has spent years competing in some of the toughest endurance events, in some of the harshest environments, on the planet. Kloser knew exactly what he wanted and needed out of a backpack, but since no one made what he was looking for, he went out and built it himself.

When using the AS-1 the word that kept coming to mind was versatility. The pack does so many things, and does it all so well, it is hard not to be impressed. Make no mistake, this is a backpack designed for the hardcore sport of adventure racing, but it brings a lot to the table for adventure travelers and backpackers looking to go light and fast as well. For example, the pack is made from lightweight, yet durable, water resistant fabrics, which help to protect the important gear inside, while shrugging off all the punishment that comes along with travel.The AS-1 features 30 liters of internal storage space, with room for an additional 10 liters in external stowage as well. It includes an incredible array of pockets of various sizes, all of which are easily accessible and help to keep travelers well organized while on the go. In fact, there are so many pockets, that I kept discovering new ones the longer I used the pack. You’ll also find both internal and external hydration bladder sleeves, trekking pole/ice axe loops, and two removable hip pouches that are perfect for snacks or a small camera. Integrated compression straps make it a snap to carry skies or a snowboard, while four mesh elastic pockets provide plenty of room for carrying water bottles too.

Of course, all of these options aren’t very useful if the pack isn’t comfortable to wear. Fortunately, the AS-1 excels in that area as well, thanks to a plethora of options for adjusting the fit. The easy to adjust shoulder straps, working in conjunction with a floating hip-belt and strategically placed compression straps, give you the ability to customize the pack to fit your body perfectly and once you have the fit set to your needs, it stays in place exceptionally well. The AS-1’s back panel is well padded and designed to keep air flowing between the pack and its wearer, a combination that will be much appreciated on those long days on the trail. All of this adds up to a backpack that can easily carry large loads, without sacrificing comfort.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the AS-1 Pack was designed for use in adventure racing, a sport, which mixes trekking, paddling, and mountain biking through remote areas of the planet. For that particular use, this is without question the best pack available. But I think active, adventurous travelers will appreciate its versatility and attention to detail as well. For example, I wished that I had had this pack with me on a trek through the Himalaya last year and I know that backcountry skiers, climbers, snowshoers, and other outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy it as well. The AS-1 is one of those rare pieces of gear that you can purchase and use in all kinds of ways, making it a bargain at $189.

Reality television show Expedition Impossible debuts in June

A new reality television show entitled Expedition Impossible is set to make its debut on ABC this June, pitting 13 teams of three against one another in what looks to be an adrenaline fueled competition through remote regions of Morocco. The show, which seems to combine elements of The Amazing Race and the sport of adventure racing, comes to us courtesy of Mark Burnett, the mastermind behind Survivor.

The official website for the show offers little in the way of information about the competition, although I would expect that it will be updated as we get closer to when it first airs. But in the trailer video, which you’ll find below, we see teams not only trekking through the desert, rock climbing, and kayaking rushing rivers, but also solving puzzles and working through other challenges. The video actually conveys an intensity to the race that isn’t present in other realty shows of this type.

For Burnett, this looks to be somewhat of a return to his roots. Back in the 90’s he produced an adventure race known as the Eco-Challenge which had coed teams of four racing against one another on foot, mountain bike, and kayak through some of the most remote places on Earth. Expedition Impossible seems to have a similar theme, although it is much more approachable for the masses than Eco-Challenge ever was.

So? What do you think? Is this going to be worthwhile adventure television for the summer months? I guess we’ll find out on June 23 when the first episode airs.

Patagonia adventure race looking for photographers

Aspiring photographers take note. The Wenger Patagonian Adventure Race have teamed up with the U.K. version of National Geographic Traveler to offer adventure travelers and photographers the opportunity of a life time. They’re giving away a trip to Chile to experience the race first hand, and cover it, as one of the race’s official photographers.

The next edition of the race will take place February 8-16 of 2011, and will feature coed teams of four trekking, navigating, mountain biking, and kayaking their way across hundreds of miles of Patagonian wilderness. You could be there to experience it for yourself, simply by going to the contest entry page, filling out the form, and uploading three sample photos that you’ve taken. From the entries, race organizers will select a winner, who will receive round trip airfare to Chile, as well as accommodations and ground transportation while in country. They’ll also receive full access to the race course, where they be tasked with capturing the excitement and drama of the race, set against the dramatic back drop of the Andes Mountains.

Patagonia is amongst the most beautiful and remote areas in the world. It has long been a popular destination for backpackers, climbers, and paddlers looking to experience one of the last untamed wildernesses on the planet. For the past seven years it has played host to the Patagonian Expedition Race, which is a competition like no other. This year, it will feature 15 coed teams racing through Chile’s wild expanses, as they battle each other, the environment, and some of the most unpredictable weather on the planet.

Even if you’re not on hand to experience Patagonia itself, be sure to go back to the race’s website in February to follow all the action as it unfolds.

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge underway

The fourth annual Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge is underway in the United Arab Emirtates. The six-day long, stage based, adventure race pits coed teams of four against one another as they compete on foot, mountain bike, and kayak across a course designed to test their endurance, smarts, and navigational skills.

The race actually got underway on Friday with 50 teams setting out on the first of four stages that are spread out over the course of the six day event. The first two stages were just a warm-up for today however, as the teams are currently taking on a desert stage that combines a 58 mile mountain bike leg and a 75 mile trek that requires them to navigate their way through a sea of endless sand dunes in the dead of night. Tuesday marks the start of the final stage, which will involve more than 80 miles of sea kayaking.

As of this writing, the three-time defending champions, New Zealand’s Thule Adventure Team, is in the lead once again, but with three more days of racing to go, the championship is still up for grabs. The winners of the race receive $40,000 in prize money and bragging rights for another year.

Over the past four years, the ADAC has been the final race of the season for adventure racing teams across the globe. This year is no exception with the event rounding out a busy year for the sport, which has suffered a bit with economic conditions over the past few years. 2011 is shaping up to be an excellent year for adventure racing however, and these amazing endurance athletes will have plenty of opportunities to compete in some of the most remote and spectacular settings on the planet.

[Photo credit: Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority]

Moab promises adventure and fun this fall

For many outdoor enthusiasts, Moab is the epicenter of adventure in the western United States. Located in eastern Utah, the city is home to 5000 residents and serves as a great home base for travelers who visit the region in search of an adventurous escape. The area boasts some of the best hiking, paddling, and mountain biking found anywhere in North America, and Moab’s proximity to the Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, makes it all the more appealing for a getaway. With a host of other great activities on the docket for the fall, now may be the perfect time to plan your visit.

Fans of mountain biking and endurance sports will find plenty to keep them busy throughout October and November for instance, the 24-Hours of Moab bike race takes place October 9th and 10th, pitting 550 individuals and teams against one another in an event that last for one full day, on a course designed to challenge their skills and break their spirits. If that event doesn’t quench your thirst for mountain biking however, you can return later in the month for the four-day Moab Ho-Down Bike Fest, which runs from October 28 – 31, and features multiple races, a crazy bike jumping contest, movies, and more.

Perhaps you prefer your bikes have a motor instead of pedals? In that case you’ll want to check out the KTM Adventure Rider Rally, which will be held on October 15-17. That event offers off road riding for the motorcycle crowd and includes technical training and riding seminars, guided rides through the surrounding wilderness, a BBQ, and much more. The rally has been held in Moab for seven years, and gives motorcycle enthusiasts an opportunity to ride some of the best trails in the west in a safe and fun fashion.

As if that wasn’t enough adventure to draw you to Moab, the city will also play host to the Checkpoint Tracker National Adventure Racing Championships. This event will pull in some of the best adventure and endurance athletes from around the country to run, ride, climb, and paddle their way through a hundred miles of the region’s amazing backcountry. The 24-hour long race takes place on October 29 and 30.

For those who simply enjoy taking in the scenery in a more relaxed manner, consider the Plein Air Festival which is going on now through the 9th of October. This more staid event features dozens of artists who descend on Moab, and the surrounding area, to compete for prize money in a variety of categories. There will also be a number of workshops with those same artists providing demonstrations and instructions on how to paint. Visitors can also enjoy an art walk, awards show, and two distinct auctions.

Finally, the beginning of November brings the Moab Folk Festival, which takes place November 5-7 and features plenty of live music and workshops as well. Tickets are available here and you can checkout the line-up of musicians and bands that will be on hand by clicking here.

Will all of these great events taking place this fall, Moab is sure to have something for everyone.

[Photo credit: Tom Johnson, Sedona Magazine, via WikiMedia]