2014 Sneak Peek: Cosmo Lite Series

We’re psyched to launch our new 2014 products, and figured it was about time we had a sneak peek into the new lineup. Check back often in this space over the next 4 weeks as we intro some brand new gear.

From the beginning, Cosmo Air has always been one of the office favorites. The foot pump is fast, you save the pad from gross saliva-filled air, and more importantly, you save your lungs from exhaustion. But we wanted to lighten the load—every ounce adds up, and backpackers are looking for comfort on AND off the trail.

The new Cosmo Lite series trims a full six ounces off our first generation Cosmo air inflatable pads. This series comes in both Air and Insulated (Primaloft) versions, 20″x72″ dimensions. 

COSMO_20R_LITE The amount of foam in the foot pump affects how quick you can set up the pad. The more foam, the more volume of air that can be pushed into the pad. But more foam = heavier, so we streamlined the shape and dimensions of the foam in the new foot pump to balance delivery of air with minimal material.
Astute eyes might also notice a few other details in the pump.
COSMO_pumpWe’ve cored out the foam to further minimize material weight. There’s also a single air intake valve as opposed to the double air intake valve found on the original Cosmo. The one-way air intake valve is used to refill the foam with air once you step on the pad. Generally, when you have more foam material, you’ll need quicker ways to refill that foam with air. And because Cosmo Lite has less foam than the original Cosmo, you don’t need both air intake valves. 

The other big difference is that all pads in the Cosmo Lite series use our Airlock Elite fabric. 
closeup_LITE_20RThe ultralight 20D polyester is specially optimized for high strength lamination and welding. The back surface of the fabric has a ultra smooth cire finish for maximizing the bond strength and surface area contact with the airtight TPU lamination. The face side of the fabric is finished with a light DWR. 

Much like the original Cosmo series, the Lite series pads have lateral baffles that run horizontally to give you a flatter and better sleep experience. The pad is a plush 3 inches to accommodate side sleepers. And lastly, the head end of the pad has a raised pillow baffle to offer more support and prevent your pillow from sliding off the end. 

Stay tuned for the next sneak peek!

It’s Popular for a Reason

Arguably one of the most classic of the classic climbs, Mark and Janelle Smiley recently took on the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock. As Janelle says, with killer views of Sentinel Rock, North Dome, El Cap, it’s popular for a reason.

The climb is also living proof of the evolutionary nature of climbing ratings. When the Yosemite Decimal System was originally established, 5.9 was the highest rated climb. There are clusters of climbs established in the 1960s (and prior) that are clustered around a 5.9 rating because of the general unwillingness to breach the 5.10 mark. Climber (and all-around badass) Jeff Johnson notes, it can be “physical, awkward climbing in the Valley … 5.9 can get you into all sorts of situations.” el cap pano from MCR

The Smiley Project: Stuck in Steck Salathe

If it’s not immediately apparent, Mark and Janelle Smiley are committed. They’re tackling North America’s 50 Classic Climbs, but not just merely checking it off a list; they’re committed to learning from every experience. And if completing all 50 classic climbs isn’t enough, they are not beyond revisiting old sites to climb in better style, use better technique, and perhaps even send a few routes in the process. So this is how they found themselves back at the Steck Salathe Route on Sentinel Rock, three years after their initial ascent.

This 16-pitch route’s crux is definitively the “Great Chimney”. Or as Mark Smiley describes it, vertical caving. 

And like all great expectations, not all are met with success—especially when you get stuck for an hour inside the chimney and need to be hauled up the climb by your partner. 

 This is the start of the Narrows. Allen Steck and John Salathe climbed the outside of the wall on the first ascent in 1950, which avoids the lion’s share of the squeeze chimney. Janelle and I had followed the first ascentist on our first ascent, so we had not been in the slot. This go, we decided to give it a try. Janelle took the lead and did a wonderful job, as did Ian and Jed. They each took roughly 30 minutes to get up this 60 foot section.

I went last. I had sent (climbed without falling or resting on the gear) every pitch to this point and didn’t want to blow it here at the last crux.

Walking my legs up the far wall I was able to get my head, chest and stomach into the narrow section just fine. Now, the problem was that I now had to get my legs from the wide part to the skinny part. This requires some kind of double chicken wing arm bar move.

I am as flexible as a brick. This personal attribute did not help me make any upward progress. Things got ugly. After flexing every muscle in my body and going nowhere, 20 times in a row, I ran out of gas and took on the rope. I blew the send. I was mad. Then I got stuck, and got really mad. The ego spanking I was taking made me madder yet.

There is a section that is so tight, when I’d turn my head from the left to right, my nose would scrape on the wall. Then the backpack that I was trailing started getting stuck below me. It too was a little too wide with two helmets clipped to it.

I lost it. Started screaming at the world. Not my proudest moment.

Eventually I fought my way up, while Janelle performed crevasse rescue on me with a 3:1 pulley. It was miserable. You can’t even call it climbing, more like hangdogging on top rope, only your belayer has tied the rope to a car bumper and is driving slowly away, effectively towing you up. To make things worse, Jed filmed it all. I guess I asked for that one.

Third time’s a charm right?

NEMO gets (Dover Middle) Schooled

We all remember what middle school was like… and try not to think too much about it. But the teachers at Dover Middle School are doing an incredible job bringing a little something different to the table. 

We originally started talking to the teachers at the middle school about ways to raise interest in STEAM—the vaunted quartet of Science, Technology, Art+Design, and Math—through the lens of the Outdoors. There are real challenges in this though. For one, there is the magnetic pull of computers, tv, video games, and other devices. Also, many of the students just haven’t spent quality time outside, so they have fears of the dark, animals, insects, cold, etc. 

We put together the NEMO Design Challenge as part of a 6 week after school program. The first week, the students had a behind-the-scenes tour of NEMO. We showed them the range of jobs at NEMO that involve STEAM subjects, taught them about the design process, showed them examples of quick prototyping methods using cardboard, foamboard, foam, wire, tape, wood, etc.  

And then we presented them with their design challenge: design a toy that helps people enjoy the outdoors. 

Over the next few weeks the students learned about the outdoors, used some gear, and worked with their teachers and mentors from University of New Hampshire to generate a lot of ideas, prototype concepts, and build a final prototype. In the last week of the Design Challenge, the students came back to NEMO HQ, presented their idea and prototype to the NEMO design team, and survived experienced their first design critique

To be honest, we weren’t sure at the beginning of all of this how psyched the kids would be to learn about design and prototyping. But once we got the crit started, we were blown away by how engaged they were with the different projects—by the questions they asked, and the creativity and thought behind some of their ideas. 

We’re hoping that the takeaway is much more than all the different ways you can use cardboard and tape. For most, this is the first seed of realizing that they can come up with their own ideas, engage with the outdoors, and improve their experience. Every company starts somewhere, often with this first seed. And imagine realizing all of this when you are in Middle School. It’s certainly a head start from where we all first started. 

Adventures in the St. Elias Range

We’ve been proud to support Pete Dronkers on his adventures for a number of years. This spring, Pete and his team of four, embarked on an expedition to the Saint Elias Range.  Often referred to as The Icefields, this area is the largest ocean of ice in all the world’s non-polar regions, and contains the highest mountain in Canada and the second highest in North America. 
The idea for the trip spawned from a single black and white photograph in the American Alpine Journal. And from there, the plans led to an exploration and summit of the South Face of Lowell Peak. After 3 days of bad weather trapped at base camp, the team then finished off their journey with a first ascent of Mt. Alverstone NE 5. 

What happens when you’re going stir-crazy at base camp, trapped in bad weather for 3 days? Pete describes how to pass time: 

Finally, after four days of generally sunny weather, the bad weather moved in and trapped us for three days. It was then that I decided to put a long-envisioned dream to the test—to build the most elaborate base camp arrangement of my life. While the others fine tuned their snow block walls, excavated wind driven snow from within them, and built additional walls around the entire camp enclosure, I began digging a snow cave from within the vestibule of our three person tent. By the end of the first storm day, the cave was established. From a 2 foot deep recess from within the vestibule, one side contained a spacious boot cellar, while the other side led down 6 feet deep into a 3 person snow cave, requiring a large snow block step to aid with the descent. The cave became our cook cellar, which was connected to the vestibule and the boot cellar, which was then connected to the tent in a multi-level snow condominium. Fantastic!  

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Wanderlust: an etymology

We’ve always loved the term wanderlust—the very act of just saying the word inspires a sense of exploration and adventure that makes you desperately itch to get away.
wanderlust3Like most words that somehow manage to express the unexpressable, wanderlust has German roots—see schadenfreude, or even better, herbstlaubtrittvergnugen. If you want a hint on that last etymological doozy, see our primary inspiration for this post from Ben Schott. 

wanderlust2As it turns out, wanderlust is also a German word, derived from the terms wandern (to hike) and lust (desire). The verb wandern is a false friend, meaning that it is often mistranslated as a very similar looking word in English, wander (thanks Wikipedia). In German, wanderlust (pronounced with a “v”), refers to enjoyment of hiking or strolling about. The English meaning, of course, refers to a broader desire to travel or explore the world. 

Incidentally, the German term for wanderlust is fernweh, literally meaning “crave for travel”. 

The “Wild” Effect is For Real.

Credit Cheryl Strayed‘s best selling memoir of hiking the PCT, Wild, or not, but the resurgence in backpacking and thru-hiking is palpable. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that much of the PCT is ungodly beautiful. Tent at Lake Virginia
The New York Times has put out a wonderful piece explaining the nuances of the “Wild Effect”:

Since “Wild” has appeared, the trail has beckoned to many women who, like Ms. Strayed, needed a change in their lives and believed they might find it on this challenging, sometimes lonely route, seeking the combination of “promise and mystery” that Ms. Strayed described so enticingly. One of these is Linda Blaney, 53, a self-described “very burned out” blackjack dealer at the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore resort. She picked up “Wild” and felt an almost immediate connection to the author. “She had relationship issues, and I was in the same boat,” Ms. Blaney said in a recent phone interview. “I couldn’t stay married, have been married and divorced three times. And she talks about her mother … and we have similarities in that area.”

Ms. Blaney, who had day-hiked avidly but had not done much more than that, read of Ms. Strayed’s huge backpack (in the book the author nicknames it “Monster”) and her ill-fitting shoes and thought to herself: “If this woman can do this, any woman can do this. I can do this.”

It’s not just the women too.

“At least half of my fan mail is from men,” Ms. Strayed said. After all, much of “Wild” is universal. “One strand of this story doesn’t have to do with the wilderness at all,” she said. “It’s grief and loss and how to bear what we cannot bear.”

Much like Kerouac’s On the Road inspired an entire generation to find personal meaning and belonging, and Krakauer’s Into the Wild inspired the next next generation to step away from civilization in the name of exploration, Wild is inspiring the new wave of the Everyman to get outside.

In fact, it’s really not even about the people who already get outside, camp, hike, etc. For those people, it is all too easy to interpret Wild as a guide for what not to do in the outdoors. The bigger takeaway is that it’s not about being an expert; it’s about finding yourself through nature, and there’s no message more universal than that.

Ms. Strayed pointed out… “I’ve given people permission; that you do not have to be an expert to walk into the woods,” she said, adding that some backcountry critics are elitists who think there is just one way to do things: their way. “There’s a phrase used among long-distance backpackers, and it’s ‘hike your own hike,’ ” Ms. Strayed said. “Some people are going to be doing 40 miles a day and carrying 8 pounds on their back, and some are going to be carrying 80 pounds and barely making 10 miles a day.” The important thing is getting out there however you can, she said.

Mountain Bikes to Trout Streams

I recently returned from a trip with Neil and Ian Provo, using our mountain bikes to connect a few of the best trout streams across the north slope of the Uinta Mountains in Utah. We carried everything we needed in our 35L Camelbak packs, including Camelbak All Clear for water purification, Orvis rods and reels, NEMO Equipment tents, bags, and pads, Goal Zero solar panels and battery packs, Clif bars and other camping food, Jetboil, and anything else we needed. We went as light as possible, only bringing our Teva Pivot shoes for riding and Original sandals for fishing and camp footwear. It ended up being a pretty all-time adventure, complete with perfect weather, torrential thunderstorms, amazing pristine singletrack, hundreds of log crossings, route finding, camping, fly fishing, and more. As they say, we had the best of times, we had the worst of times. In the end though, it was an adventure that I will never forget, and hope to repeat in the future in another zone for even more good times! Stay tuned in the future for a full print and web article plus video. Big thanks to our sponsors of the trip for making it possible: Diamondback Bikes, Orvis, NEMO Equipment,, Goal Zero, Teva Shoes, Camelbak.

Nice view through the burn area of the High Uintas. photo1
Ian going over one of many down trees. These are not high use trails that we found. photo2
Neil with one of many stream crossings. photo3
Me about to fish a small section of river. photo4
Hike a bike up an old trail at 10,000 feet in the fog and rain to a high plateau where we camped. photo5
Sunrise at 10,500 feet, 6:30 am. Last day of the trip and we survived a nasty thunderstorm the night before! Little did we know that 30 minutes later another crazy storm would roll in that morning. photo6
Wake up call! Our Obi tent kept us warm, dry, and comfortable the whole trip and was light enough to carry around easily. As you can see here I’ve got plenty of room in the ultralight one person tent, and I’m 6’3″. photo7
We had impending thunderstorms rolling around us most of the trip. It didn’t rain all the time, but it did rain every day. As you can see, my tires were a bit packed up here from the ride in to camp the night before on a dirt road, in the rain, in the dark. Check out how I used my Diamondback Mission Pro to tie down the NEMO tent.

Typical camp setup during the day, drying stuff out and charging our GoPros and other cameras with the Goal Zero nomad panel so we could document the trip. photo9
Here’s a shot of Ian on one of the more fun sections of trail, railing a berm on the Diamondback Mason FS! photo10 Words by: Eric Porter

Rain in the Canyons: Testing Shield Gear When It Matters

In the first part of September, with a crew from Arc’teryx and some industry friends, we embarked on a trip to Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park for a few days of canyoneering and gear testing for our Shield military/tactical line and Arc’teryx’s LEAF line. The weather forecast called for highs in the 70’s with 50% chance of rain each day. Must be like those afternoon thunderstorms that are common in the mountains are common in the desert of UT too, right? Nope. After flying into Salt Lake City from all parts of the country, we caravanned in a couple of Suburbans for another 3+ hours to arrive at The Rim Rock Patio in Torrey, UT, just outside of Capitol Reef National Park. Standing around the outdoor table enjoying pizza and local beer, magnificent red rock cliffs lining the horizon, we watched the purple skies darken, the wind pick up and the rain begin to lightly fall. The forecast was now 60% chance of rain each day. Our guide, Steve Howe from Red Rock Adventures and Backpacker Magazine, took us to our campsite and outlined plans for the next day. Surely it would dry out in the morning. patio_campsite1 Throughout the night, the rain fell steadily, even heavy at times. The next morning, it was still raining. The red clay was now red mud, and with every step, our shoes sank inches into the moist earth. Standing under the Bugout we had brought, just in case it sprinkled one night, we grabbed coffee and homemade bacon, eggs and bread made graciously by Steve’s wife, Jen.
camp2Discussion shifted from the weather to how well we slept. Each of us had chosen a different NEMO Shield tent along with a Rhythm 25 Spoon Shape sleeping bag, Cosmo Air with Pillowtop SE, and Fillo SE pillow. While the rain did not let up throughout the night, we were warm, dry and comfy in our individual quarters. We had brought a mixture of Advanced Linking Combat Shelters with signature reducing GORE fabrics, Switchblade 1P, Losi Combat 2P and 3P SE tents, Tanto SE, Tenshi SE, and Coda SE. In fly colors ranging from Alpha Green to Coyote to MultiCam to Kryptek Highlander, it was really interesting to see how well they blended into the desert environment.

The most updated forecast called for rain, heavy at times, throughout the day. It didn’t look like we would even catch a glimpse of the sun. What was normally a dry creek bed below the plateau our campsite sat upon, was now rushing with orange muddy water. In his 20+ years living in this part of UT, Steve had never seen rains like this.

Since canyoneering was out of the question for the day, we decided to drive east to our backup hiking route planned and check out conditions along the way. We saw big examples of flash flooding on the creeks running along the road and at the trailhead we were supposed to start from. Because the river was already swollen over its banks, we decided that was not a good option in the continuing rain. A ranger at the trailhead said Highway 24 was washed out just east of us. Steve and Chris Denny, our event coordinator, had an A, B, and C plan based on weather and flash flood potentials for the days we’d be out. We were now on plan F. We decided to make for higher ground and hike the Fryingpan trail and then jump off onto some secret slick rock sections, all in the pouring rain. Our Arc’teryx GORE-Tex jackets and Mattock Dry Socks kept us bone dry.
hikingAfter a good hike with views of the swollen creeks below, we got a brief break from the rain and took advantage by doing a little rappelling on a practice cliff near The Cockscomb, a sandstone fin around the unincorporated hamlet of Grover.

We returned to camp, put some fresh clothes on and headed up the road to enjoy a local BBQ dinner (under the dry cover of a pavilion), compliments of Gulf Coast native Duane Platt and his wife at Sand Creek RV Park. That night, back at camp, the rain and wind picked up, gusting at times, making us contemplate whether those rock anchors our tents were guyed to were solid (thankfully, they were). More than one of us had a moment of panic, at around 4:30 am when the rain picked up and the sounds from the once dry creek below seemed to increase to a thunder. I got out of my tent and shined my headlamp down; the water was still at a safe distance below, so I crawled back into my warm sleeping bag and went back to sleep.

Steve took pity on us the following morning and arrived to camp late, with a fresh pot of coffee, but no breakfast. “We’re heading to my house for breakfast today,” he said. We all gave a little cheer. After a longer than usual breakfast, we headed back down the road to the Meeks Mesa area. Thankfully, the rain stopped and the sun even showed itself for long enough to take a pleasant hike along an abandoned livestock trail to the top of the mesa. The break didn’t last long though, and the group was able to see first-hand, flash floods developing in most washes on their way back to the trailhead.

We were lucky on our last night, before flying home the next morning, that we booked a hotel room and dinner out. While we didn’t get to do the many canyoneering routes we had traveled so far to rappel into, we all had a great time. Our guides live and play in this area and were able to show us secret gems that provided great day hikes with magnificent views. And like Cam said on one of our NEMO backpacking trips – ‘there is no adventure without adversity’. It’s safe to say we had an adventure and we sure did get some great gear testing in. But I can’t wait to head back to see the canyons in a drier state. Photo credit Steve Howe/Red Rock Adventures and NEMO Equipment, Inc.