Friday, December 08, 2017

Video: Start Your Impossible - The Inspiring Story of a Man Who Climbed Everest Without Arms

This video comes our way as part of a new campaign from Toyota that invites us to #startyourimpossible. It is the inspiring story of Sudarshan Gautam, who lost both of his arms in an electrical accident in Nepal, but then went on to become the first person to climb Everest without arms. Just a little something to think about as we headed into the weekend.

TOYOTA - START YOUR IMPOSSIBLE from Oliver Würffell on Vimeo.

Video: The Bears Ears - A Living Museum in 360º Video

There has been a lot of talk about the Bears Ears National Monument this past year, and particularly in the past week. What makes this place so special? Why it is of such importance to so many people? This fantastic video will help you sort it all out, and it does so by giving viewers a 360º view of the surrounding landscape. You'll need a browser that supports that type of video to get the full effect, but even if you watch it and just listen to the narration, you'll get a better understanding of why this is such a special place.

Bears Ears - A Living Museum from Patagonia on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Cauldryn Fyre Mobile Heated Water Bottle

One of the things that I've l liked most about the continued advancements in technology is that it has forced us to improve the batteries that go into our various devices. These more powerful and long-lasting rechargeable power cells have made their way into a wide variety of other product that either didn't use them before or didn't exist at all. Such is the case with the new Cauldryn Fyre Mobile, a heated water bottle that will redefine the way you think about hot beverages and cooking around the campsite, while on the go.

At first glance, the Cauldryn Fyre looks like a lot of other water bottles you might find on the market, It is sleek, made of stainless steel, and uses the vacuum-insulated design that has proven to be a winner in countless other models over the past few years. The 16-ounce bottle even has two openings for sipping a beverage or for pouring out more liquid depending on your needs.

But look a little closer, and you'll start to see how this product differentiates itself from the competition. For starters, it includes a built-in heating mechanism that allows it to warm a beverage completely on its own, or keep liquids hot for hours at a time. This heating element is so powerful in fact that it can even boil water all on its own. Simply plug the bottle into a USB outlet and set it to the temperature you need.

The Cauldryn Fyre comes in two different models, the standard version and the Mobile. The difference between the two is that the Mobile edition comes with a battery pack that allows it to function while away from a power source. An included battery pack means that you can have hot beverages on the go, even if you're venturing far off the beaten path. Taking a morning hike to the top of your favorite peak, but would like some hot coffee along the way? The Cauldryn Fire Mobile can handle that. Snowshoeing or backcountry skiing and want some hot cocoa? Check!

Men's Journal Presents the 20 Best Gifts for Adventurers

I may have shared my picks for the best holiday gifts for outdoor adventurers a few weeks back, but as we get closer to Christmas there are sure to be others. For instance, Men's Journal has posted its picks for the 20 best pieces of gear for the adventurer in your life, with some really great items we'd all like to find under our tree this year.
The list gets off to a rocky start – at least for me – by suggesting a rifle from Ruger, but I know plenty of people who wouldn't mind receiving that as a gift. Other items include awesome rain pants from Kuhl, iPhone cases from OtterBox, and a tent from Big Agnes, amongst plenty of other things. In fact, it is safe to say that pretty much whatever your favorite outdoor pursuits are, you'll find something you can use here, including a folding kayak from Oru and a waterproof duffel from Yeti (which also made my list!).

I won't spoil the rest of the items on the Men's Journal list as there is plenty to discover. Check out all of their picks by clicking here.

Patagonia Sues Trump Administration Over Bears Ears Reduction

Earlier in the week we talked about the Trump administration's plan to reduce both the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in size. That proposal was officially announced on Monday, calling for the greatest reduction of public lands in the history of the U.S. Now, a coalition of activist groups that includes gear manufacturer Patagonia is banding together to sue the President to prevent this move from happening.

The day after the announcement was made to reduce the size of the monuments the lawsuits started to be filed. At least three came on Tuesday alone, with others following throughout the week. By Wednesday, Patagonia had replaced its usual website homepage with a warning message saying "The President Stole Your Lands," which remains in place as of this writing. The company has also created a second page with information about this topic, including maps showing the new monuments before and after the reduction. There are also links that allow concerned visitors to express their concerns by sharing the info on social media, although those efforts have done nothing to convince Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to change course. In fact, he may be preparing to announce reductions to to other monuments as well.

Patagonia has been at the forefront of the movement to protect Bears Ears for years, and applauded the efforts of the Obama administration to protect the area last year. The company was also one of the first to step up to fight the President's move to review national monuments when it was announced earlier this year. Patagonia was also instrumental in getting the industries Outdoor Retailer trade show to relocate from Salt Lake City to Denver in large part because of Utah's actions against public lands.

The outdoor apparel manufacturer wasn't alone in filing lawsuits this week. A number of conversation groups, including The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and seven other groups are all part of one lawsuits, while at least five Native American tribes are taking part in others. These lawsuits are expected to take years to sort out, with the potential to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court as judges decide where the limits of executive powers lie. That will be a matter of debate for some time, with some arguing the President doesn't have the authority to make this move, while others say it is well within his jurisdiction.

For now, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante will remain unchanged while this issue gets sorted. What they will look like when it is all said and done will be very interesting.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Video: Let the Tiger Go - Saving Wild Tigers in Sumatra

The once thriving population of tigers in Sumatra have raced to the edge of extinction. These magnificent big cats have been hunted by poachers, who sell their skins and bones on the black market, where they remain in high demand. That has caused the Sumatran tiger population to fall to under 400 animals remaining in the wild. In this short documentary, we'll travel to Sumatra to see the team that is working to keep these creatures from vanishing. In the clip, we'll witness their efforts to rescue once such tiger first hand, as they battle ruthless hunters looking to make a quick buck at the expense of an entire species.

Video: Heli Mountain Biking in the Andorra Mountains

Heli-skiing has been a popular way to get into the backcountry for awhile now, so it only seems natural that mountain bikers would use the same method of transportation to more easily reach remote trails. In this video, we hop a flight with Andreu and Lluis Lacondeguy as they head out into mountains of Andorra to explore the region from their seat of their bikes. What they find, is one awesome adventure.

Receding Antarctic Glaciers Bring Cause for Concern

Throughout 2017 I've posted a number of stories about Antarctica's ice shelves are calving off massive chunks of ice sending icebergs adrift into the Southern Ocean. We first saw one of these events back in July, when a large section of the Larsen-C Ice Shelf broke away, creating a berg the size of Delaware. In September, a similar break-up occurred near the Pine Glacier as well. As you can imagine, these events have been watched closely by scientists, who view Antarctica as the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change. Now, there is even more cause for concern, as thing continue to confound and perplex researchers.

Typically when a large chunk of ice breaks away from the Antarctic, it tends to float north into the Southern Ocean, where the warming waters cause it to melt and break-up over a period of years. But, that isn't what happened with the piece from the Pine Glacier, which quickly broke up into 20 smaller pieces less than a month later. That means that the ice itself is already somewhat thin and fractured, and possibly that the water around it is starting to warm up as well.

Why is this such an issue? Because the Pine Glacier is already the fastest retreating glacier on the planet, and it contains about 10% of the water in the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet. When you combine that with the nearby Thwaites Glacier, which is also shrinking rapidly, you'll find that there is enough water to raise sea levels across the globe by 11 feet (3.3 meters). That would be disastrous to millions of people around the world.

The large sections of ice that broke off from Pine Glacier and the Larsen-C Ice Shelf actually serve as a buffer between the sea and the glacier itself. With those protective buffers gone, the melting of the glaciers is only expected to accelerate. While it will take decades for them to vanish altogether, resulting in that 11-foot rise in sea levels, it won't take long for them to begin brining those levels ups couple of feet. That alone would be devastating. Throw in the fact that there are plenty of other glaciers that are adding to the increase, and you start to understand why this is such a major concern.

Unfortunately, it may be too late to do anything about it. The Byrd Research Center in Antarctica reports that average temperatures near the Pine Glacier have already risen 2ºC or 3.6ºF. That may not seem like a lot, but in a fragile ecosystem like the Antarctic, it is enough to push things past the point of no return.

Introducing The Adventure Podcast

It's been a long time coming, and I've hinted at it on social media a couple of times, but I'm happy to introduce The Adventure Podcast at long last. The first episode is now available to download through iTunes or can be accessed directly here

The show looks to be a bit of an extension of this blog, sharing weekly news from the adventure world, discussing major topics of interest, talking about gear, and having interviews with interesting guests. It is co-hosted with my friend David Adlard, who has a rich background in the world of outdoor adventure as well having competed in several Ironman events and numerous adventure races, as well as working as a mountain guide and race director himself. Dave and I have known each other for a number of years and share a passion for the outdoors, exploration, and travel. We hope to bring that to you on a weekly basis in an audio format. 

We've labeled this first show as Episode 0 because it serves as a pilot of sorts. It is our first attempt at creating this type of content, and we're still learning the ropes some. As a result, the show is still a little rough around the edges, but you'll get an understanding of where we are coming from and where we hope to go in the weeks ahead. We've already learned a lot from making this one, so we hope to make some big leaps forward in terms of production quality with our next show. 

We have also set up a few social media outlets for those who would like to share feedback and learn more about the podcast. Our Facebook page can be found here and we're active on Twitter at @adventure_pod. We can also be reached by email at We would love to hear from listeners as we continue to develop the show, and one of the regular segments we'd like to include is answer questions sent our way. So, if there is something you'd like to ask, feel free to drop us a note. 

Other than that, Dave and I hope you enjoy the program. We're looking forward to having fun with the podcast format and hopefully offering some interesting and compelling content. 

Antarctica 2017: Maidens Halfway to the Pole and the Challenges of Going Solo

The 2017 Antarctic expedition season continues to unfold at the bottom of the world. Unlike our last update, most of the skiers are now reporting good weather, although surface conditions remain challenging with sastrugi and soft snow making for slow going at times. Still, the teams that we've been following closely continue to forge ahead, making progress toward their individual goals.

Ben Saunders has been out on the ice longer than anyone and he's being reminded of the challenges of going solo. Back in 2014 he made a round trip expedition to the South Pole and back to the coast with Tarka L'Herpiniere and the duo split duties breaking trail. That helped to give each of them a break from being the lead man, but perhaps more importantly also provided some companionship on the hardest days. On his current traverse of the frozen continent, Saunders has neither someone to split those duties with nor anyone to keep him company either. That has worn on him some, causing him to grow tired more quickly. As a result, he's being more conservative with his efforts.

Still, the British polar explorer continues to make good strides forward. He's been knocking off 12-14 miles (19-22 km) per day and now has 688 miles to go before he's done. That is still a considerable distance, but he has now passed the 85ºS mark and has his sights set on reaching the Pole before he begins his return trip to the coast at the Ross Ice Shelf.

Speaking of making good time, Scott Sears – aka the Antarctic Ghurka – has found his rhythm and is covering solid distances most days now. Yesterday he managed to cover 40.1 km (25 miles) in a little more than 12 hours of skiing. In Antarctic terms, that is flying and he should be very pleased with the progress. He also passed the 84th degree, and is making his way towards Thiels Corner on the edge of the Thiel Mountains. That's a milestone for anyone skiing to the South Pole as most make a turn there and begin heading more directly towards 90ºS.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Video: Wild and Wonderful - Deepwater Soloing Documentary

This video is the full 13+ minute award-winning documentary about PsicoRoc 2016, America's first deep water soloing climbing competition to take place on real stone. It is filled with stunning footage of climbers who took part in the competition, which was a groundbreaking event for sure. The clip also includes an amazing tribute to Hayden Kennedy and Inge Perkins, who won the female division.

Wild And Wonderful from NRAC on Vimeo.

Video: Krzsztof Wielicki Shares Thoughts on Polish Winter Expedition to K2

We've previewed the Polish winter expedition to K2 a couple of times already and we're still several weeks away from the team actually arriving on the mountain. But, this is certainly a climb that will draw a lot of attention in the weeks ahead, and this video gives us some insights into that adventure courtesy of Krzsztof Wielicki himself. The 67-year old climber is the leader of the expedition and has considerable experience on major mountains all over the world. This clip is an interview with the Polish alpinist who offers insightful thoughts on the challenge ahead.

Gear Closet: Yaktrax Summit Traction Cleats Review

A good pair of winter boots is essential for our outdoor activities during the snowier months of the year, but even the best footwear can struggle to maintain traction on slick surfaces covered in snow and ice. Thankfully, you can always add a pair of Yaktrax to your gear closet to help you maintain your footing when out for a run, walk,  or even just commuting to work. Traditionally however, Yaktrax hasn't offered a more technical option for those of us who venture further afield during the winter months, as their more lightweight options didn't always fare all that well when wandering in the backcountry. That all changed with the introduction of the Yaktrax Summit however, giving more adventurous hikers an option that isn't quite as technical as a crampon, but still provides plenty of traction when you need it most.

The Summit is by far the most advanced and technical product that Yaktrax has created to date. While most of the company's products simply pull on over your shoes and and are held in place by thin straps or elastic bands, the Summit actually uses a Boa lacing system to adjust the fit. This allows hikers to truly dial in the exact tension they need, then lock the crampon in place without fear of it slipping off. In real world testing, this proved far more effective, particularly when hitting a trail. While I've seldom had issues with Yaktrax's products on pavement, they've sometimes run into issues when using them staying on my boots in the backcountry. That isn't the case here, with the Summit locking into place and staying there.

Armed with 12 carbon spikes – each 3/8 of an inch deep – the Summit can provide outstanding traction on crusty snow and hard ice. Those spikes have a triangular shape that allows them to dig in on the ascent as well, providing a much better grip on uphill climbs. And because they weigh just 11 ounces each, the Summits don't add a lot of weight to your shoes either, allowing the wearer to travel surprisingly fast and nimbly, even on slick surfaces.

British Ultrarunner Completes 70-Mile Crossing of Desert in Kazakhstan

Photo courtesy of Mark Woodward
A British ultrarunner by the name of Jamie Maddison has become the first person to cross the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert in Kazakhstan on foot. The 29-year old endurance athlete spent 30 hours traveling 70 miles (112 km) while enduring intense heat throughout the journey, which took place in October.

Maddison began his run in a the town of Birlik, which located on the western edge of the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert. He made a nighttime stopover mid-run because the driver of his support vehicle was having a difficult time navigating in the remote area and was himself getting dangerously tired. The following day Maddison resumed his expedition, reaching the end point at a river that borders the desert, and plunging in to cool off.

In an interview discussing the expedition the ultrarunner says that there were certainly times when he wanted to give up. Just 32 miles (51 km) in he thought he would have to call it quits after exhaustion started to set in. After running up and down dunes for hours on end, and enduring 97ºF (36ºC) heat, Jamie says he could feel his vision closing in around him. He describes the experience as time slowing down and putting one foot in front of the other took a tremendous effort. He also says that when the expedition was over, there was much of it he couldn't remember at all.

Maddison also says that if he were to do things over, he would have went at a later time of the year when temperatures weren't quite so harsh. He has spent years traveling in Central Asia, so he felt prepared for the desert crossing, but even then the intense heat still caught him a bit off guard. For others attempting a similar challenge he recommends taking your time, studying and researching the region fully, and preparing as best you can for the challenges you'll face in the field.

You can read the entire interview by clicking here. Congratulations to Jamie on undertaking and completing this tough expedition.

Nepal Revises Climbing Rules, Bans Solo Climbs on Everest and Many With Disabilities

Nepal's Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has put fourth a set of new regulations for climbing in the country with some big changes coming to the mountains. The governing body that oversee mountaineering in Nepal has already forwarded its recommendations to that nation's ruling body, the Council of Ministers where it is expected to be accepted prior to the start of the spring climbing season.

Amongst the changes are a complete ban on climbers who are completely blind or have had a double amputation. The regulations also call for a ban on those who have proven medically unfit for climbing as well, although exactly where that line is drawn remains unclear. 

The move comes after former British Gurkha Hari Budha Magar announced his intention to climb Everest next spring. Magar lost both of his legs fighting in Afghanistan, but summited Mera Peak this autumn as a tune up climb for Everest. His story has already served as an inspiration to others across the world. 

Other new regulations include a complete ban on solo attempts to climb Everest, with the regulation requiring all climbers to take at least one guide with them to the mountain. The Ministry has recommending a continued ban on any climber younger than 16 years of age, and is also requiring expeditions to carry at least 15 walkie-talkies rather than the current number, which stands at 12. 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Video: Kilian Jornet Trains in the Northern Lights

We've been getting a steady stream of videos featuring Kilian Jornet recently, all of which have been outstanding. This one is fantastic as well, taking us once again to Norway where we join the Spanish mountain runner on a night training session with the Aurora Borealis gleaming overhead.

Video: Taking an Electric Mountain Bike for a Spin in the Backcountry

There was a point where I thought an electric mountain bike felt a bit like cheating. The extra pedal assist that they provide takes some of the challenge out of the ride. But, I've come to appreciate what an e-bike brings to the table, allowing more riders to enjoy the backcountry who might not normally get a chance to do so. In this video, we join pro rider Matt Hunter as he takes the new Specialized Turbo Levo Carbon for a spin through remote areas of British Columbia. As you'll see the bike performs well in this conditions. I was fortunate enough to get the chance to take this bike for a brief test ride a few weeks back, and came away very impressed. It is fun, fast, and efficient. I know what I'll be asking Santa for Christmas this year.

Gear Closet: Salewa MS Ultra Flex Mid GTX Speed Hiking Shoe Review

If you've been searching for an excellent hiking shoe for your light and fast adventures, your quest might be over. The new MS Ultra Flex Mid GTX from Salewa has everything that fast packers could ask for, wrapped up in a slick looking package that delvers a high level of performance both on and off the trail.

Tipping the scales at 11.5 ounces (23 oz./pair), the Ultra Flex is a boot that competes with trail runners in terms of overall weight. These shoes feel extremely light on your feet, and with their athletic fit, they allow hikers to be be nimble and quick, while also maintaining a great connection with the trail. Those who have wider feet might find the fit a bit too confining, but if you're like me, and prefer a shoe that provides stability and agility in one package, this is the boot for you.

The Ultra Flex uses a Michelin Ultra Train outsole to provide traction in a variety of conditions. Yes, that is the same Michelin that is best known for making tires, but that pedigree translates well for use in the outdoors too. I've worn these shoes in a wide range of situations, including completely dry and flat trails, to wet and muddy paths up and down hills. In all cases, I found the soles performed admirably, holding a firm grip on wet rocks, slick pavement, sand, silt, and mud.

Salewa also incorporated a Gore-Tex lining into the Ultra Flex boots, providing a nice level of water resistance in the process. I've worn these boots while crossing streams and slogging up muddy trails, and have come away with dry feet each and every time. I even wore them in a driving downpour, and yet not a drop of moisture made its way inside. That's pretty impressive for footwear this light and comfortable.

Himalayan Database Now Available for Free

The  “Bible of Expedition Mountaineering in Nepal," aka The Himalayan Database is now available for anyone to download. Previously, the information contained in the database was only available via a CD-ROM, but the record keepers behind this extensive resource have released the data online at where it is a free download.

Way back in October we shared the news that the database would be released to the general public for free. At that time, it was expected to become available in early November, but when that month came and went without an update, it seemed that the project may have hit a snag in its efforts to get the information into the hands of those who wanted to sift through its data. Now, just a few days into December, version 2 of the database is available to all.

According to the Himalayan Database website, the information includes records on more than 450 different peaks, over 9600 expeditions, and 70,000 individual climbers. It covers all expeditions from 1905 through 2017 on all significant Nepalese peaks, as well as data on the mountains that border Tibet, including Everest, Cho Oyu, Makalu, and Kangchenjunga.

Each expedition record contains biographical information for all members listed on the permit as well as for hired members (e.g., Sherpas) for which there are significant events such as a summit success, deaths, accidents, or rescue. The database also lists more than 10,000 references in media and literature to major climbs as well.

The Himalayan Database has been the labor of love for Miss Elizabeth Hawley, and American journalist who came to Nepal back in 1960 never left. Over the years, she compiled information on all of the significant climbs in the Himalaya, first by hand, and later using computers. That information grew into The Himalayan Database, and she became the foremost authority on climbing in Nepal. Now, at the age of 94, she has ceded the work over to others, but still plays a vital role in the project.

You can learn more about The Himalayan Database, and download it yourself, here.

Polish Team Prepares for Winter Ascent of K2

A few weeks back I took a look at some of the upcoming mountaineering expeditions scheduled to take place this coming winter. Chief amongst them was the Polish team that is targeting K2 this year, which as you know is the only 8000-meter peak that remains unclimbed during the winter season. Now, we're starting to get more details on this attempt, and it is safe to say that this team is incredibly serious about reaching the summit of the "Savage Mountain."

Alan Arnette has posted a story about the expedition, sharing some interesting insights into their approach to the climb. He notes that the squad will consist of Adam Bielecki, Marek Chmielarski, Rafał Fronia, Janusz Gołąb, Marcin Kaczkan, Artur Małek, Piotr Tomala, Jarosław Botor, Dariusz Załuski, and Denis Urubko. The team leader for the expedition famed Polish alpinist Krzysztof Wielicki, who is 67 years-old but comes with a wealth of experience. Wielicki lead the last Polish K2 attempt in 2003 and has summited all of the 8000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen.

Unlike teams in the past who have arrived on the mountain on December 21 – the first day of winter – the Poles are planning on reaching Base Camp sometime after Christmas. They'll apparently be bringing a lot of gear and supplies with them, as the team reportedly has 600 kg (1322 pounds) of cargo that is being carried by porters, while they'll bring another 400 kg (881 pounds) themselves. Alan also reports that the Polish Ministry of Sport and Tourism is backing the winter attempt on K2 with $275,000 in funds as well.

The current plan is to make the attempt up the Česen Route, although the Poles haven't ruled out scouting the Abruzzi Route either. If conditions prove better on one of those paths as compared to the other, this gives them the flexibility to change course. As Alan points out, their biggest obstacle is likely to be the weather, which is extremely challenging even during the summer months. Cold temperatures, high winds, heavy snow, and unexpected avalanches have all conspired to keep previous winter attempts from reaching the summit, and this season will likely be no different.

At the moment, we're still several weeks away from the start of the expedition, but the team is now hurriedly putting their last minute plans together, preparing for journey to Pakistan, and the long weeks ahead of them in a cold and inhospitable place. This climb will not be easy and will test them from day 1, and of course we'll be following it closely in the days ahead. It should be a fascinating adventure to say the least.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Video: Equal Footing - Redefining the Role of Women Climbers in the Wilderness

Head into the Wyoming wilderness with climbers Kim Havell and Julia Heemstra with this beautiful short film that comes our way courtesy of Osprey Packs. The video not only shows us two capable and experienced alpinists in their element, but gives us a glimpse of how female climbers approach the sport in a different way from their male counterparts. Along the way, the women reflect on their lives and what makes climbing together such a special endeavor.

Video: The Ridge with Killian Jornet

Those who can't get enough of Kilian Jornet's exploits are going to love this video. It follows the mountain runner up a tight, narrow ridge along Kyrkjetaket, a 1439-meter (4721 ft) peak located in Romsdalen, Norway. Not for the faint of heart, the ridge that approaches the summit is rather scary, with dramatic drop-offs on either side. The drone footage captured on this clip is exceptional, with outstanding scenery all around.

Video: Meet the Canyon Runner

With this video, we travel to the Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona where we meet Shaun Martin, an athletic director at a local school. He also happens to be an endurance athlete who organized an ultramarathon in the Canyon, which is a spectacular location to for outdoor athletes to push themselves to the limit. It also happens to be the only way for visitors to explore the national monument on their own without a Navajo guide.

Adventure Tech: Synavolt Expandable and Modular Portable Power Bank

I've said it many times before and I'm likely to say it again. Keeping our electronic gadgets powered up on the go can be a major challenge when traveling or living off the grid in the backcountry. Thankfully, we continue to see some fantastic new devices that can help us overcome this challenge, with fantastic new chargers and portable generators getting revealed all of the time. The latest to cross my desk is the Synavolt, a personal power bank that delivers unique functionality that I haven't seen before.

As a charger, there Synavolt comes equipped with a 20,000 mAh battery, which is enough to power a smartphone as many at 10 times over. It's also enough juice to recharge things like tablets, cameras, drones, and even laptops too. Plus, the Synavolt comes with three built-in USB 3.0 ports, making it a handy device to have with you wherever you go.

But what really makes this charger stand out from the competition is its modular design. Both ends of the Synavolt have expansion slots on them that allow users to add specially developed modules that expand functionality further. For instance, I've been testing the power bank with an AC inverter and a light, both of which allow it to do much more than a normal USB charger. The AC inverter allows me to plug in my MacBook while traveling and the light – which puts out 350 lumens – comes in handy around a campsite, in the car, or even at home.

Those modules are just the beginning however. Other options include a Bluetooth speaker, extra USB ports, a Qi wireless charging pad, a 12 V car adapter, and an additional 4000 mAh mini power bank for when you need an extra boost of energy. These modules snap right into place in the expansion port, draw energy from the massive battery itself, and expand the features of the Synavolt dramatically. It is a clever idea that takes the concept of carrying a power pack with you, but gives it some added functionality that you might have to carry other devices to normally have.

Trump Will Cut Size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments

One of the big political stories that the outdoor industry has been watching closely is how the current presidential administration will handle several national monuments. Shortly after taking office earlier this year, President Trump issued an executive order to have Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke review a number of monuments designated by his predecessors. Today, the results of those reviews will be officially announced, although we already know whats coming.

Trump is headed to Utah today where he will announce that he is cutting the size of the Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante in half. Both monuments sit on land that is ripe for development with a number of commercial interests ready to move into those areas. Trump supporters say that this would allow much-needed economic development for those parts of the U.S.

Today's announcement is likely to trigger legal action by local Native American tribes and environmentalists. There has been an outpouring of support from a number of different groups calling for the U.S. government to leave these monuments alone. Those pleas have been largely ignored as the Trump Administration moved ahead with undoing much of the work done by President Obama over the previous eight years. Obama designated the Bears Ears as a national monument using an executive order as the end of his term grew near, which was also controversial at the time.

At the moment, just Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante seem to be on the chopping block, but Secretary Zinke reviewed as many 27 monuments as per the President's orders. Those monuments stretch as far back as the Clinton Administration, with more potential cuts to their size coming. For now, we'll just have to wait to see if some of those other areas will get reduced in size too.

The controversy behind Bears Ears and other monuments isn't an easy one to sort out. While nationwide there is plenty of support for keeping these areas untouched, within the state of Utah plenty of people are in favor of doing away with the national monuments and having the state manage those lands instead. The feeling is that they can do a better job locally than the federal government has done thus far. Of course, there are also plenty of locals who favor commercialization and development of these areas too.

President Trump will be in Utah later today to officially make the announcement on the changes that he recommends. Those changes will have to first clear congress before they become official, but it seems as if there will be little opposition in the Republican controlled House and Senate. The legal battles are just about to start however.