A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon



May 21, 2018

Then & Now: The Evolution of Outdoor Gear

The Outdoor Journal decided to raid their attics, storerooms, and basements to show how gear has changed over the years- from retro to metro.


The Outdoor Journal

Who says the seventies didn’t have style? Check out this groovy ski onesie. Whether it’s alpine or Nordic skiing, it didn’t matter back in the day. Retro skiers wore oversized, brightly colored dungarees, fluorescent spandex, a whole lot of flannel, and sometimes, nothing at all.

“Long’s Peak”, pictured above, is a Hong Kong-based brand from the 80’s that doesn’t even exist anymore. Fluffy, oversized, and warm, it did the job. Established in 1979, Nikko Sport is a combination of Japanese tradition, aesthetics, and technology. One of Asia’s pioneers in outdoor equipment, pictured above are the old school ski gloves. An outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturer headquartered in the UK, Berghaus was founded in 1966 by climbers and mountaineers Peter Lockey and Gordon Davison. Pictured above are the brightly colored (apparently a prerequisite for all equipment manufactured pre-21st century) Berghaus gaiters.

Canada Goose Men’s Ridge Shell Jacket: Best known for being the de-facto parka for South Pole explorers and scientists, Canada Goose products come with a lifetime warranty. The Ridge Shell is a hip-length, waterproof and breathable jacket with a 3-way adjustable hood.

Lowe Alpine Velocity XC Gloves: The Velocity XC gloves have ceramic-reinforced ‘Armortan’ leather palms made by Pittard leather, for better abrasion resistance. They’re also incredibly well-fitting softshell gloves for cool weather work. Possibly the best gloves in a category you can buy today.

Patagonia Men’s Snowshot Freeride Pants: Fully featured and focused on utility, these H2No® Performance Standard 2-layer shell pants have an articulated fit for freedom of movement and a smooth mesh liner for comfort and ease of layering.

Marmot Kompressor Summit: Marmot designed the Kompressor Summit Backpack for serious wilderness go-getters seeking a balance between lightweight packability and multi-season durability. This backpack weighs in at under two pounds and uses multiple small-storage options and versatile packing capabilities to ensure a well-balanced, well-organized load.

In the 1970’s, few pockets of climbers who were passionate about the sport, would strap on their colorful harnesses, which looked like they belonged at Woodstock, recruit their buddies, and climb a peak. They were the pioneers; the hipsters, the innovators, and they didn’t even know it. The adventurists of the 70’s are always viewed in awe- for being daring and adventurous, with limited means and awareness. Here, their climbing gear illustrates just that.

Created in the mid-1970’s by cave explorer Ferdinand Petzl, their climbing equipment has come a long way since the old-school, brightly colored harness pictured above. Founded in 1975, Boreal specializes in climbing and mountaineering shoes. Pictured above are Boreals’ big wall shoes, launched in 1984- the “Boreal Fire”. Founded in 1972 by research chemist, Paul Howcroft, Rohan is an outdoor clothing and footwear supplier. Pictured above is their first product- quick drying mountaineering salopettes. Founded and based in England following WW2 by Charles Parsons, and originally called the Karrimor Bag company, it made its reputation in the 60’s and 70’s. Pictured above is the retro Karrimor supercool climbing rucksack.

Lowe Alpine Crag Attack II 42: This is a pack obviously made by climbers for climbers. There’s a haul loop, easy-opening winter buckles, gear loops on the padded hip belt, ice ax loops, a bivi mat and ski loops.

Lowe Alpine Grid Pull-On: Made of ‘Aleutian fleece’, Lowe Alpine’s proprietary extra-durable and stretchy polyester fleece fabric, the Grid pull-on can be worn as a base layer next to skin, or as a simple mid-layer depending on the weather conditions.

[Check out Lowe Alpine products in India on Trekkit. A young company based in India, Trekkit empowers enthusiasts with state of the art outdoor equipment, with high-quality brands like Lowe Alpine, Rab, Craghoppers, amongst others.] 

Petzl Sirocco: The world’s lightest climbing helmet is such a featherweight that you won’t even notice it’s on your head. At a ridiculously light 168 gms, it’s got headlamp clips, a one-handed magnetic buckle, and visor attachment points.

La Sportiva Katana: La Sportiva’s Katana is a slightly LA extreme and stiffer version of the ever-popular Muiras. They fit the feet better, but are cambered and advanced enough to climb hard routes, yet be manageable for multi-pitch trad.

Metolius Safe Tech All-Round Harness: The Safe Tech harness lineup has two belay loops, both as a backup to the most crucial part of your harness, and to make rappels and belays easier. The brand also has a unique adjustment system.

Black Diamond ATC Guide: The Guide version of this belay device has that extra hole for the leader to use it in auto-blocking mode for one or two followers on a multi-pitch trad climb. It’s also burly and durable, and has those v-notches for added friction.

Omega PacificLink Cam: A revolutionary camming device from this US company, the Link Cam extends the range of one unit by nearly three times thanks to its single-axle trisected lobe with a camming ratio of 2.5:1.

This Gear Section was originally published in Issue 06 of The Outdoor Journal.


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Athletes & Explorers

Feb 15, 2019

Flow State: The Reason Why Alex Honnold and Steph Davis are not Adrenaline Junkies.

“When you’re pushing the limits of ultimate human performance, the choice is stark: it’s flow or die.”



Brooke Hess

Recently, while watching Alex Honnold’s film, Free Solo, I began questioning the motives behind why he does what he does. I imagine that like me, you asked yourself, what is the driving force behind his compulsive need to risk his life? Why does he have such a passion for free soloing difficult routes, while the rest of us sit paralyzed in fear, simply watching in awe?

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, the directors of the film (which has recently won a BAFTA and has been nominated for an Oscar), touched on Alex’s reasoning a little. For Alex, it is when he is climbing without a rope and is closest to death, that he actually feels most alive.

As an extreme sports athlete myself, with a background in whitewater kayaking, I can relate to this feeling. When I am kayaking a difficult and consequential rapid, my brain is 100% focused on the present moment. In the book, “The Rise of Superman” (if you haven’t read it, do so now), Steven Kotler discusses Flow State. Kotler describes it as being “so focused on the task at hand that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Time flies. Self vanishes. Performance goes through the roof.” Dr. Ilona Boniwell, a European leader in positive psychology, says, “The State of Flow happens under very specific conditions – when we encounter a challenge that is testing for our skills, and yet our skills and capacities are such that it is just about possible to meet this challenge. So both the challenge and the skills are at high levels, stretching us almost to the limit.” Flow State is very difficult to achieve. The perfect balance between challenge and skill must be met, and the result is a very elusive zone, which is tricky to replicate. In Kotler’s book, he describes action and adventure sports as the only way to consistently trigger this flow state. Flow state is often triggered by a sense of being close to death, which, in return, triggers the maximum sensation of being alive. Kotler describes it simply, “When you’re pushing the limits of ultimate human performance, the choice is stark: it’s flow or die.”

I remember the first time I experienced Flow. I was running Itunda Falls on the Nile River. Itunda is known for being one of the biggest rapids on the Victoria White Nile stretch of whitewater and is a rapid that, if not executed correctly, could be fatal. I recall Flow State kicking in as soon as I entered the rapid. My mind went completely blank, and I experienced a hyper-focused state in which every paddle stroke I took, every drop of water that hit my face, every little bit of it was a slow-motion, full experience. I felt nervous before entering the rapid, but as soon as I dropped in, my nerves faded, and I relaxed into a calm state of execution. While in that Flow State, I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do, perfectly. I made zero mistakes and had a perfect line through the rapid. It was the first time in my life that I felt I had 100% fully experienced something – not only in a physical sense but also in a mental and emotional sense as well.

“My favourite state of being.”

In a collaboration between The Outdoor Journal and Mercedez-Benz, I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of their sponsored athletes – free solo climber and BASE jumper, Steph Davis. When asked about Flow, Davis described it as, “the feeling of taking a deep breath, letting it out and feeling totally good and at ease with nothing else in my mind and truly in the moment.”

When performing high-risk activities, like BASE jumping, Davis says her brain has no choice but to enter a hyper-focused Flow State. “With BASE jumping and wingsuit BASE, getting there is pretty much guaranteed because it seems like there’s no choice but to enter that state of pure focus when leaving the edge – although it’s a pretty short-lived experience because BASE jumping is over very quickly.”

Read Next: Steph Davis: Flow, Focus, and Feeling in Control

The film, Free Solo, suggests Alex’s ability to achieve Flow State. When I spoke with Alex Honnold about the topic (also in a collaboration courtesy of his sponsor, Rivian), he shared a similar sentiment towards free solo climbing. “I think that has always been a big part of the pleasure in free soloing is that it forces you into that state more than other kinds of climbing do.” Alex says that he can tap into the Flow State while climbing with ropes as well, but it is rare and doesn’t come as easily.

For Davis, Flow State while free solo climbing isn’t as much a result of being close to death, but rather a result of getting away from external influences. “For me, a big factor for reaching focus, or Flow, is getting away from outside energy – so free soloing inherently works really well because you are alone.” No matter how she achieves Flow State, Davis can’t seem to get enough of it. “It’s my favorite state of being.”

The Science

According to Kotler’s book, Flow State originates in the brain. The release of five mood-boosting chemicals – dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, serotonin, and anandamide – creates a high that athletes, just like Davis, “can’t seem to get enough of”. It’s a wonderful experience – Flow State. So wonderful, in fact, that when you achieve it, it can become addictive. Dr. Ilona Boniwell describes the addiction to Flow State well. “Even activities that are morally good or neutral, like mountain climbing, chess or Playstation, can become addictive, so much that life without them can feel static, boring and meaningless. A simple non-gambling game on your computer, like solitaire, which many people use to ‘switch off’ for a few minutes, can take over your life. This happens when, instead of being a choice, a Flow-inducing activity becomes a necessity.”

Searching for Perfection

This addiction to Flow is different from an addiction to adrenaline. An athlete addicted to Flow is not an ‘adrenaline junkie’. They are not searching for that adrenaline rush that comes when you do something risky – like bungee jumping or skydiving. They are searching for perfection in what they are doing. Honnold says he is searching for the feeling of effortlessness. “When climbing feels good, when it feels effortless, when it feels flowy. That’s Flow State. And that is the appeal of climbing in a lot of ways is to get into that state. To feel like you’re doing something well and that you’re performing well.”

“I really belonged there and I wasn’t just scraping through it”

Davis says when she has had experiences BASE jumping in which something almost went wrong and she “got lucky” – which may be a situation where an adrenaline rush could be triggered – she is usually unhappy with that experience. “For me, it’s not really seeking an adrenaline burst. It’s more seeking the ability to do something that maybe should be impossible, and yet doing it in a way that’s actually pretty reasonable… When I’ve had those moments where it just barely worked out, and I almost felt that I got lucky, I’m usually really dissatisfied with that experience. I prefer to feel like I’ve entered the situation in a very calculated way. I’ve really prepared. I’ve gone through Plan B, Plan C, Plan D scenarios. I’ve tried to really think through everything that could ever go wrong and feel like I have a plan for that. And then when it starts happening, I feel like I’m very in control of the situation because I chose to get into it feeling like I’m really ready for it. To me, those are always the most satisfying outcomes. When I either land from a jump or top out a climb and I feel like, ‘wow, you know, I really belonged there and I wasn’t just scrapping through it’.” A perfect balance of challenge and skill.

But for Steph, addiction to Flow is not the main reason she continues pursuing these high-risk activities. For her, it is simply a way of life. “I’m 46 now and I’ve been climbing since I was 18, so my entire adult life I’ve been doing these sports in various forms… it is honestly really hard for me to imagine not being out in the mountains and the desert and just doing these things that I love doing.”

Thanks to Rivian and Mercedes for the interviews.

Cover photo: Vincent Kleine for She’s Mercedes.

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