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.


NEMO Fall Backpacking Trip 2013

Our annual NEMO fall backpacking trip was earlier this week. We took the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the Eliza Brook Shelter, and camped overnight. The next day we hit South Kinsman, traversed over to North Kinsman and exited via Fishin’ Jimmy Trail to the Lafayette Campground. There was a little of everything on this trip: some good old fashioned New England hiking (lots of steep, lots of up), whisky, hot chocolate, late morning frost covered summits, fall colors, fly fishing, and a cold beer waiting for us at the end. The smiles are just that much bigger at the end, with those in our hand.



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Bet You Never Thought of Shock Cord This Way

The elastic shock cord inside your poles helps make setup quick and painless. Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but the shock cord is more or less a giant rubber band, except that instead of being in a loop, the shock cord is linear and runs the length of the poles.

The length of shock cord is less than the total length of poles, so that the elasticity causes the poles to “snap” together when unfurled. While this isn’t necessarily a new thing in the industry, it’s an important part of set up so you can set up quickly, don’t lose poles, or mix up their order (this matters more for variable diameter pole sets, obviously). There are two secrets to getting the shock cord right in NEMO products: material type and length.

From a materials standpoint, the rubber in the shock cord needs to retain its elasticity over the lifetime of the tent, as well as for the environment of use. For cold weather tents, we generally switch over to a different shock cord whose rubber can still be compliant at extreme temperatures. From a length standpoint, we use an algorithm to determine the length of shock cord for each pole set so that the aluminum ferrules self-assemble with appropriate force. If the length of shock cord is too short, there is a constant force stretching out the shock cord which will wear out the material prematurely. If the shock cord is too long, then the pole segments might not fully assemble, compromising the structure’s strength. 

If you’re eating up all this information and yearning for more, check out this video from physics grandmaster, Richard Feynman, about a completely different way to think about rubber/elastic bands.

Comfort at the Extremes – NEMO’s Suzanne Turell Talks with Outside’s Gear Guy about Canon™-40

As the new Canon™-40 Sleeping Bag went into production this spring, Outside Online’s Gear Guy Bob Parks checked in with NEMO’s Design Director Suzanne Turell about the inspiration behind Canon’s innovative Thermal Regulating features—and walking the fine line between keeping mountaineers warm and comfortable at the extremes.

An excerpt from Outside Online “Gear Guy” – Friday March 08, 2013

The day we talked with design director Suzanne Turell about the process of making the Canon, her office was busy with prototypes for tent pole clips coming off the 3-D printer, and meetings with the design and engineering team working on plans for products three years out.

When she and the other designers sat down to make a sleeping bag for very cold temps, they looked at the jackets of polar explorers, which often have an extended head covering.

“The hoods are made to roll forward, so that you get this long opening in front of your face that you can close,” explains Turell. “The idea is to warm the air that you’re breathing. Otherwise, your lungs aren’t ready for the big jump between temperatures.

” The designers realized they were on to something when they saw the documentary Cold at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. “The film showed people sleeping in negative-70 air or something ridiculous, and they were choking on the air while they were sleeping, says Turell. “It was painfully obvious that you need something more than the gear currently offered.”

Soon after creating the prototype for the Canon, one tester reported a flaw that the design team couldn’t ignore. “He said the bag was warm,” recalls Turell. “But in some ways it was too warm because when it wasn’t negative-40 degrees, he couldn’t vent it properly.”

The designers, who are all avid campers, knew the phenomenon all too well. “It may be zero degrees or negative 20, but you’re in a bag for the extreme cold and get really sweaty. Your sleep gets interrupted,” she says. “We’d all experienced this in the company, and so it was a light-bulb moment. We all started thinking about ways to compromise the baffles [the columns of insulation sewn into the fabric] so that they would let out the warmth in a controlled way.” The designers’ solution was to place a zipper that spreads the baffles apart but doesn’t let air flow through the wind-cutting fabric.

Polar explorer Robert Neary

Polar explorer Admiral Robert Peary in his arctic furs.

Stove Pipe™ Tunnel Hood keeps a pocket of warm air near your face so breathing is comfortable in the bitter cold.

Stove Pipe™ Tunnel Hood keeps a pocket of warm air near your face so breathing is comfortable in the bitter cold.

Adjustable Thermo Gills™ vent body heat at your core without letting cold air rush in.

Adjustable Thermo Gills™ vent body heat at your core without letting cold air rush in.

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