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The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

- John Muir

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Environment

Jun 05, 2017

The Sound of Silence: Film ‘Being Hear’ Turns Up the Volume of Nature

When it comes to preserving nature, the United States is in a scary place right now.

WRITTEN BY

Alyssa Fowler

However, the continuous work of world-renowned sound recordist and acoustic ecologist, Gordon Hempton has inspired two filmmakers to head into Olympic National Park, appreciate silence and ask themselves—and everyone who watches the ‘Being Hear’ film—what purpose does nature serve?

This is the time to be alive. This is when we will make the big decision.
Will we, or will we not fall back in love with planet earth.

Emmy-award winner Gordon Hempton has spent the last three decades traveling around the world, searching and advocating for silence—not the absence of sound, but the absence of human caused noise. His life’s work has appeared in films, soundtracks and video games, but has transcended far beyond that, touching and inspiring many to recognize his ‘silence activism’ through a film called ‘Being Hear’.

Without hesitation, two friends and filmmakers, Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen knew: “We’ve got to make a film about this guy.”

Being Hear: Teaser from Palmer Morse on Vimeo.

Palmer and Matthew met during their time studying film, Palmer being interested in cinematography and directing, while Matt being interested in sound. After having heard about Gordon Hempton’s work, Matt was able to spend some time learning from and being mentored by Gordon.

I remember Matt coming back after spending that time with Gordon and learning about nature’s sounds. These two loves: nature and sound.” Palmer told The Outdoor Journal in an interview. “Fast forward 4 years later and we made the film. We took a trip out together, I got to meet Gordon and spend time with him and in turn, learned a lot from him and that experience.”

Photo of Gordon Hempton, courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

It turned out to be an experience that would also touch and resonate with a large audience as Being Hear became Official Selections at Banff Mountain Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, International Wildlife Film Festival, and many more.

It has also given its viewers something unexpected along the way—not to mention relief from a sentiment and an overused ‘c-word’ that we at The Outdoor Journal have banished from our vocabulary when speaking about nature.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is really about action, ‘conquering’ the highest mountains and doing it faster than anyone else,” says Matt. “People almost took an audible breath when Being Here started to play. It’s not about this ‘conquer nature’ attitude, it’s really about appreciating our place in nature and how interconnected with it we really are. Being in nature and seeking silence and just being able to sit there by yourself really allows you to ask yourself questions and think in a way that you’re not able to when you go to work and grocery shopping. We keep bringing up this word meditative, but I think it’s really about being able to engage in metacognition and think about the world and what your place is.”

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While Palmer was going into this concept fresh and without preconceived notions or expectations, Matt was already “biased and loved it.”  That’s why he knew that they wouldn’t need the type of meticulous planning that normally goes into making documentaries—by simply arriving at Gordon’s front door, he was sure they would come away with something powerful.

“He’s very well spoken. We’ve had a lot of people asking, ‘who wrote the piece that he narrated in the film?’, but that’s just how his brain works. That’s how he speaks in everyday life—these beautifully put together thoughts. So I knew that if we went out there and just put a camera in front of him, we would come out with something really, really interesting. And we were lucky that happened.”

The raw clip of Gordon simply sitting in the forest and speaking is nearly 2 hours long. Not exactly easy to condense down into a 10-minute video, both digestible for our fast-paced world and at the same time effective, but they did just that. This while introducing a concept that is rarely on people’s radar—even those actively aware of how we affect our planet.

Photo of Gordon Hempton, courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

Speaking on the rarity of our appreciation of sound, Palmer says, “This is just my personal opinion, but when we talk about specifically environmental issues, a lot of the environmental crises that we have, climate change, etc., most of the rhetoric is rooted in what we see and what we deem as ugly, and a lot of the health risks associated with such. Listening, sound and audio, are not discussed. One aspect I would take away from the film is that sound is important. Listening is a really good indicator to figure out if an ecosystem is unhealthy, if an environment is not as it should be. Obviously if you’re going for a hike in Hawaii, it’s beautiful, but then you hear a big highway in the background. You can imagine how that is affecting any species in that area. So although what we see on the surface might seem beautiful and okay, there are a lot more layers and complexity to it.”

Although we’re always behind those sweating to keep national parks beautiful, the relevance of sound is something we don’t think about enough.

Both Matt and Palmer were pleased to notice that after watching the film, people appeared to really understand and appreciate the importance of sound, “and not only listening as a physical thing, but as a metaphorical thing as well. Gordon says, which is one of my favourite lines in the film: ‘be like the wave, accommodate all things’. And if you think about that phrase, in a few different ways, it really changes how you move about the world.”

The real issue is that the option of actually being able to go outside and find places to do so, to just listen, is something we have less and less of.

Olympic National Park. Photo courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

“The ability to go into nature and listen to those sounds as they appear is disappearing because the level of noise pollution is slowly increasing, due to population density and transportation, etc.,” says Palmer.

Needless to say, Matt agrees:

“We, in the United States, currently have a president who does not care about the environment. I am pretty biased, but every action that our government has taken in the past few months has been anti-preserving of nature. And that is very scary for a lot of us, regardless if you voted for him or not. Public lands are being auctioned off, the EPA is being cut. We are in a very scary place when it comes to preserving nature right now.”

Not to mention the most recent events of President Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement.

“My ultimate question with this film is what are our national parks for? And it’s not a question we can easily answer. I’m a firm believer that the National Parks in the United States are one of the greatest asset we have a country. There is so much natural beauty, and what do these serve? Being Hear is really just trying to get people to ask themselves that question: what are our natural spaces for?”

These extremely important, but difficult questions have continued to trouble, inspire the filmmakers in their future projects. We at The Outdoor Journal have promised to keep our discretion about their next endeavour, but will have updates with their latest plans as soon as possible.

Head to the Being Hear website for more information about the film and how you can see the full feature. For more on Gordon Hempton, visit his website, The Sound Tracker.

Feature image: Olympic National Park, courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

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Gear

Mar 02, 2018

Advanced Jacket Technology for the Adventurous – Columbia OUTDRY™ Ex Mogul Titanium Jacket Review

Stay Dry, Warm and Mobile with the Columbia Men's OutDry™Ex Mogul Titanium Jacket.

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WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

I venture south from Luxembourg into the snowy mountains of the Bas-Rhin region of France, passing through picturesque towns en route to hike among medieval castles. Given the assignment of creating an unbiased, non-sponsored review of the Columbia titanium jacket, I decided to field test it in the castle lands of France. I filmed my exploration of the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg to test the Ex Mogul on a snowy hike in below freezing temperatures.

I park in a wooded area and set out on foot in search of the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, a medieval castle in the Vosges mountain range.

As I step out of the car, I’m hit with a game-time decision: What do I wear underneath the Ex Mogul? The temperature is minus 3 degrees Celsius outside, so if I make the wrong call, I’ll be suffering by the time I reach the castle. Most winter jackets that I’ve owned in the past were a dual system. You pair a thin outer shell with a thicker fleece-lined undercoat. But what sets the Ex Mogul apart is that it’s a hybrid – it includes both the moisture blocking exterior (OutDry™) as well as a warming interior layer (Omni-Heat).

Today, I don’t want to juggle my layers. Typically, I’d get frustrated taking one off as my body heats up, then racing to put it back on when I turn a corner to face the wind. Although I have enough room to wear a hoodie underneath the Ex Mogul, I decide to wear only a T-shirt. There’s no turning back now. If the Ex Mogul can’t handle the cold, then I’ll be testing my mental toughness as well.

© The Outdoor Journal

I hike through knee-deep snow toward the towering structure set atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the Rhine. The morning sun does little to cut through the chill, but I push on. Despite the below freezing temperatures outside, the Ex Mogul does a great job of regulating my body temperature so that I don’t get too hot or too cold. There are ventilation zippers in each side that I can adjust during the peak moments of the hike when my heart is pounding in my chest.

© The Outdoor Journal

The first thing I notice when I slide into the Ex Mogul is that it feels like a soft, comfortable base-layer with a weightless outer shell. My hands slip comfortably into thumb straps or “comfort cuffs.” Honestly, these make me wish that all my clothing had them. The Omni-Heat inner layer efficiently retains body heat, so the overall weight of the jacket is minimal. The fact that it was designed for the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team is noticeable, as I felt free to scramble, climb and move in all directions.

The other thing I notice is that this jacket feels like technology. The advanced insulation on the inside is coupled perfectly with the stretchy, waterproof shell. The exterior of the shell has a resin-like quality, similar to a rainproof tent. Its OutDry™ membrane provides fully waterproof protection, even when drenched in snow. Wearing this jacket almost makes you wish that an ominous black cloud would rush in over the horizon and dump buckets of rain, because it feels so prepared for it.

Pros:

Dryness Guaranteed: Many times in the past I’ve gone skiing and become damp from head to toe even before lunch. So much so, that lunchtime break is not a quick pit stop to refuel – as I could hit the slopes all day – but mostly to dry out my gear by the fire. Those days are staying in the past now, because the OutDry™ technology is so effective that it really does deserve the trademark.

Drivability: When I get into the car with my other ‘fancy-schmancy’ jacket – I immediately rip it off because there is too much fabric to sit comfortably in the driver seat of my SUV. In contrast, the Columbia titanium jacket takes up much less space and allows my arms the range of motion to perform maneuvers on the wheel the way that only I, Tom Cruise and Jason Bourne can.

Comfort: If Christopher Walken was here, he’d say, “You’re gonna want more cowbell!” In that same vein, once you try on the Columbia titanium jacket, “You’re gonna want more comfort cuffs.” They’re a thoughtful addition to the expert design in creating a breathable membrane between you and the elements.

© The Outdoor Journal

Cons:

Tarp Texture: This might not come through in the photos, so I’ll warn you, the outer fabric of the coat is not like other coats. Depending on your taste, you might say that the texture is reminiscent of a rainproof tarp or tent. And if you’re being nasty, you could say its more reminiscent of a trash bag.

Rain Slicker Aesthetic: This jacket isn’t made by Hefty – it’s high-quality Columbia gear designed for expert skiers. But keep in mind that the exterior material makes it feel more ski specific or raincoat specific than for general, casual use.

Semi-fit Compromise: The semi-fitted silhouette could be baggy on certain body types. The jacket wears well on my compact frame. But if you have long arms and you’re on the leaner side of the spectrum, it could be too baggy. Some buyers might prefer a slimmer fit.

Weight: If you’re used to wearing a jacket system that pairs the outer layer with an insulated fleece, then you’ll notice that the Ex Mogul is heavier than your typical outer shell. On the flip side, it’s much warmer than your typical shell.

© The Outdoor Journal

Sustainability:

The Columbia titanium jacket is made from responsibly sourced materials designed to last for many seasons in all kinds of weather. Columbia’s Rethreads program gives customers a discount in exchange for used clothing and shoes (from any brand), which are then donated or recycled. Additionally, Columbia is a member of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which is an independent nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of factory workers and providing independent monitoring of factory conditions.

Final Say

The exterior layer of the Columbia titanium jacket feels like an impenetrable barrier to moisture. Meanwhile, the interior feels like a soft, warm base-layer. The jacket is light, fitted and allows for full range of motion. Bring on the rain and bring on the snow!

Specifications:

  • Made in Indonesia
  • Color: Black/Sage
  • Material: [membrane/laminate] OutDry (2-layer), [face fabric] 84% nylon, 16% elastane [lining] 89% nylon, 11% elastane
  • Insulation 60g Omni-Heat Thermal
  • Seams: Fully taped
  • Fit: Semi-fitted
  • Length: Hip
  • Center Back Length: 30in
  • Hood: Removable, adjustable
  • Pockets: [external] 2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest, 1 pass [internal] 1 goggle, 1 security
  • Venting: Underarm zippers
  • Powder Skirt: Removable, snap back
  • Recommended Use: All mountain riding, all mountain skiing, freeride/powder riding, freeride/powder skiing, freestyle and park riding, freestyle and park skiing, casual
  • Manufacturer Warranty: Limited lifetime

MEN’S OUTDRY™ EX MOGUL JACKET
$269.90
Find out more here

Feature Image © The Outdoor Journal

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