Going Solo – and Debuting the Tufly – in the California Sierra

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“Aren’t you afraid? You know, of going to these places by yourself?”

I recently went to Death Valley National Park, and I decided to hang out in Alabama Hills for a few days before returning home. This is hands down my favorite place to camp in California, and it’s not just because of the breathtaking views of the Sierras. You may feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but the charming town of Lone Pine is just 15 minutes away. When I drove in for coffee and a shower, I didn’t feel as though anyone questioned who I was, but rather, they wanted to know more about what I was doing. They weren’t worried about me, and they certainly didn’t think I was nuts. They were intrigued. This was progress. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt judged for being a solo female traveler, and I’m finally beginning to see a shift in the public’s perception.

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With the rise of social media, more and more women are getting outside — and getting vocal about what it means to them. And they’re not just inspiring other women to push themselves and explore more. Men are starting to pay attention as well. Whether it’s a photographer whose style someone wishes to emulate or a genuine interest in someone’s backcountry adventure, traditional gender boundaries have started to dissolve into one another over the last few years. I’m thrilled to be part of that movement, and I can’t wait to watch it continue to pick up steam. It’s not about defining men vs. women — it’s about seamless inclusion and respect.

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This trip marked my first time pitching the brand new Tufly tent, which was designed by women (and with women in mind). There are certain features that reflect that, but these are things anyone can truly benefit from. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter who built it — what’s most important is how strong it stands. Big Agnes is donating a portion of the tent sales to SheJumps, which is a nonprofit whose aim is to encourage more women and girls to find themselves outside. To me, that makes an even stronger statement, and it’s one of the reasons why I do what I do. I want to be heard, I want to grow and I want to inspire others to do the same.

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Everyone is going to have a different path for finding themselves, but I’m a big believer that nature will teach you far more than anything you’ll ever learn in a classroom. Taking in a serene landscape is the best kind of therapy, but camping and hiking show you how to handle stressful situations and use your resources when things don’t go according to plan. There’s no chapter in any book that will give you the answer to that. You just have to do it. Oh, and it certainly has nothing to do with whether you’re a man or a woman.

Words and Images by Elisabeth Brentano, @elisabethontheroad

Gear Maintenance Tips From Customer Service

It’s February, and in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado the snow is falling and we still have a couple of months of ski season left. We’ve yet to start thinking about the summer months of cool nights and warm days because we’re still doing our snow dance. Alas, now is the time to start preparing for sleeping in the dirt and under the stars. Repairs and maintenance of gear is inevitable.

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In an ideal world, if any of your gear needs repairs the best time to have it fixed is at the end of the season before you store it away, and the syndrome of “out of sight out of mind” takes over. The reality is that while camping season comes to an end we’re all so busy getting ready for winter that our gear ends up waiting on necessary repairs.

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Getting tents, sleeping bags and other items repaired in the winter is another great option. Having your gear repaired down time means you’re ready to go when that first impromptu camping trip pops up. Here at Big Agnes, we enjoy repairing gear in the off season so we can have a quicker turn-around, and a lower workload come busy summer months. We perform repairs on ripped tents and sleeping bags, repair zippers that do not want to stay closed, and replace broken or bent segments on pole sets, as well as hubs and shock cords. All of these repairs are done by our in-house repair technicians whose goals are to perform professional repairs in a timely manner to get you back outdoors at a minimal cost.

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It’s never fun to send your favorite tent out to get repaired no matter how quickly it’s returned to you. Some simple upkeep of these items can greatly reduce the need to send your tent to get fixed. For example: zippers. Zippers can wear down if there is dirt and dust caught in the zipper teeth (a frequent occurrence if camping on the beach or in the desert). The dirt and dust acts like sand paper and will wear down the slider which causes the zipper teeth to not connect and open up. This can be prevented with brushing the zipper teeth with a fine toothed comb/toothbrush or by using McNetts Zip Care. Another scenario is UV damage. This can cause your tent to become brittle and tear more easily. A personal favorite solution is the Solar Proof Spray which not only adds a layer of UV Protection (like sunscreen does for your skin), but also helps revitalize the water-resistant coating. Just feel like washing the tent to get the dirt and grime off? Try Nikwax Tech Wash. More care tips for Big Agnes products can be found on the FAQ page including bag washing/re-lofting, zipper care, etc. Big Agnes recommend Nikwax products to be used on our tent fabrics.

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Just like everything else in the world your camping gear needs a little TLC to perform to its full potential, and taking care of matters before the camping season hits means you’re ready to hit the trail as soon as they dry out.

-Nikki Flamio, Big Agnes Customer Service Representative

 

Photo Credit: Devon Balet

How to Prepare for Winter Adventure in the Backcountry

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Whether you’re out for a day of backcountry skiing, a snowmobile tour, or a full-on winter camping adventure, being prepared for an emergency is a must. We reached out to Diamond Peaks Ski Patroller, Tom Bates, to get his opinion on what essentials to bring any time you venture into the wilderness during the winter months.

As producers of top quality camping gear, Big Agnes understands the importance of being prepared for any situation. That’s why we strive to cater to each and every type of camper, backpacker, bikepacker, and adventurer. From the lighest, zipperless sleeping bag to the warmest, most comfortable bag, our 1 lb. 7 oz. Fly Creek HV Platinum 1 tent to the Battle Mountain four-season shelter, we help you succeed in all your outdoor aspirations.

There are 10 essentials that all backcountry guides and survivalists resort to. These include:

  1. Map – hard copy or electronic (Phone or GPS)
  2. Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver), with signal mirror
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Headlamp and spare batteries
  6. First-aid supplies
  7. Fire starter – at least two types, and basic supplies for emergency shelter. Bates carries an ultra-light emergency bivy and a reflective tarp with grommets and 550 parachute cord
  8. Communication device [cell phone, multi- band, two-way radio (programmed with local frequencies), satellite text messaging device]
  9. Knife (and Multi tool)
  10. Extra food and water, and some form of purification. (Bates carries a Jet Boil stove for melting water and purification tablets for running water.)

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When traveling during the winter in terrain with the potential for avalanche activity there are some additional needs:

  1. Avalanche transceiver with fresh batteries and a replacement set
  2. Avalanche probe
  3. Avalanche shovel (with a metal blade)
  4. (optional) Snow saw (for instability tests, cutting branches for structure, and fire)
  5. (optional) Snow pit kit

**These tools are only useful when you know how to use them. We recommend educating yourself and becoming familiar with your gear before entering the backcountry. Consult with your local gear shop to inquire about clinics and classes.

Whether you’re planning on spending the night or not, you should always be prepared for the chance you may have to hunker down. Bates recommends bringing enough clothing and essentials to survive at least one night in the backcountry. When you’ve planned for an overnight, a warm sleeping bag, pad and extra food is paramount to a successful camping experience.

Part of being prepared also means mapping out your travel. Bates explains that a common mistake people make in the backcountry is not looking at the terrain (avalanche forecast, topography, etc.) they are going to before they get there. Other situations that can get people in trouble include:

  1.  Not making a travel plan and letting responsible people (not on the trip) know where you are going and when you will return.
  2. If you are lost with no ability to determine your current location or your target location, stop and stay where you are. Your travel plan will let responders narrow the area to search.

Backcountry gear and technology is improving at an exponential rate. Perhaps the biggest and best addition to backcountry safety is the avalanche airbag pack. A number of companies are starting to make these, and they are sparing skiers’ and snowboarders’ lives every day. Bates agrees that airbags are a great piece of gear to bring along. Yet, he warns that whenever you have a safety device that can make as big of a difference as the airbags can make there is the possibility of users taking more chances than they normally would have without the device. He adds that it’s important to remember that just because you end up near the surface of an avalanche debris pile doesn’t mean you won’t be killed by trauma on the way down. He urges skiers and riders to do proper snow testing before dropping into any line.

Click on the links below for more detailed backcountry information provided by the National Ski Patrol.

Backcountry Safety:

http://nsp.org/NSPMember/Safety/Backcountry_Safety/NSPMember/Safety/Backcountry_Safety.aspx?hkey=2176bd18-d6ef-4b9a-80e0-f3492f0875b7

Equipment/Clothing Checklist:

http://nsp.org/NSPMember/Safety/Equipment_Clothing_Checklist/NSPMember/Safety/Equipment_and_Clothing_Checklists.aspx?hkey=eb6370cc-9f8f-44ef-ba7c-91f8473cc88e

 

Photo: Noah Wetzel

Photo: Noah Wetzel

“Ski Hard, Ski Fast, Ski Long”

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Aaron Rice at the base of Volcan Lanin on the Argentina/Chile border PC: @madelinececilia_

On January 1, 2016, Aaron began chasing his goal to earn 2.5 million self-propelled vertical feet. He crushed his goal and continues to surpass that number as he travels the globe earning his turns. Big Agnes is a proud supporter of Aaron and his passion. We sent him off with warm, functional jackets to help him brave every weather condition under the sun. We were able to catch up with him while he was in the Southern Hemisphere this fall, earning more turns in Argentina. Here’s what he had to share with us:

Aaron finding amazing conditions. PC: Gary Smith (@garyalsmith)

Aaron finding amazing conditions. PC: Gary Smith (@garyalsmith)

“Some places are magical. Refugio (hut) Frey in the Patagonian Andes, outside of Bariloche, Argentina is one of those places.

There is a 3-5hr hike in. Generally the hike begins below the snow line in a temperate rain forest. Hiking through bamboo with skis on your pack, it’s hard to imagine any good skiing nearby. Within a couple hours there’s snow on the ground and skinning is the most efficient way to travel.

Bushwhacking and stream hopping through the bamboo PC: Aaron Rice @airandrice

Bushwhacking and stream hopping through the bamboo PC: Aaron Rice @airandrice

The bamboo disappears, replaced with an empty under-story and massive lengas (trees similar to the beech trees in North America).

Aaron skinning through the bamboo forest on the way to Frey. PC: Leigh Frye

Aaron skinning through the bamboo forest on the way to Frey. PC: Leigh Frye

Before long, from the bottom of the ancient, tree filled glacial valley, ridges can be glimpsed high above. There is a sense that maybe there’s some skiing in the alpine world above, but you’re still not quite convinced. After hours of slow moving, with a packed weighed down with 5 nights of food, the trees begin to thin and massive granite spires poke out in the distance. In the time it takes to absorb your surroundings you break through the tree line and are standing in a saddle overhanging the valley you’ve finally escaped!
And then there it is, The legendary Refugio Frey! Perched in the saddle for the past 50 + years. Built from hand-cut stones, sourced from the rock it sits on, built to withstand the nightly onslaught of the Patagonian wind. Behind Frey is the reason to travel halfway around the world. On one side of Laguna Toncet sits Frey, on the other are 1-2,000′ granite towers with couloirs, bowls, aprons, cliffs, cornices, and more couloirs! It only takes a few days of good weather to get your bearings at Frey, but if you ever get bored of skiing the lines visible from the dinner table, there are endless additional options in any direction.

A crowded Refugio Frey a dusk PC: Rylan Cordova (@rylanreport)

A crowded Refugio Frey a dusk PC: Rylan Cordova (@rylanreport)

So far this Southern Hemisphere winter, I have taken four trips totaling around 20 days at Frey and the other surrounding refugios. Basing out of huts has allowed me to access amazing skiing and not have to compromise on continuing to gain vertical feet. Often, “easy vert” and good skiing are at odds with each other. I try to pick areas where this is not the case. The Wasatch, for example, provides some of the best powder skiing in the world and some of the easiest access. Waking up at Frey, having a cup of tea and some oatmeal and walking across the lake to the stellar couloirs is a pretty hard set up to beat! Since arriving in Argentina at the beginning of July I have earned another 400,000 feet and am at 1.8million human-powered vertical since January 1st and about a month away from breaking the record!
Back at Frey in the evening everybody is stoked! Skiers from Europe, North America, locals from Argentina, and the Refugieros (caretakers) all sit around the dinner table eating and drinking home brew, comparing runs, laughing and playing music. When you picture an ideal post skiing hut experience you may not know it but you actually just picturing Refugio Frey on any given night!”

Skinning into the sunset PC: Aaron Rice @airandrice

Skinning into the sunset PC: Aaron Rice @airandrice

How to Layer for Adventure With Help From Big Agnes Apparel

As the overnight temperatures plummet and the flurries pile up, our mind and bodies begin the same seasonal transition. Winter is here and it’s time to prepare for adventures in the elements. The crew at Big Agnes looks forward to this time of year just like the rest of the world who thrive off winter and all the beauty and adventure that comes with it. As we prepare, the excitement of ski movies, powder days, and the latest and greatest gear fills our digital screens and workplace conversations.

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The 2016 Big Agnes Apparel features our best line of jackets to date. From synthetic to down, hooded to non-hooded, skirts to scarves, and the warmest kid’s jacket available, we love getting to test and tout our new duds. That being said, there are proper ways to layer for the coldest of days whether you’re ripping groomers on the mountain, earning your turns in the backcountry, or taking your furry friends on a stroll down main street.

A first thermal base layer is important to keep you insulated and dry, even after a heavy sweat session. Beyond the first layer, some people prefer a second long-sleeve layer, while those who are a furnace on their own go to a vest layer over the base, a thin synthetic layer, or straight to a mid or heavy-weight jacket depending on temperature and time of season.

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This is where Big Agnes’s women’s Late Lunch and men’s Ways Gulch down vests come in to play. When you’re arms are moving, they are more apt to stay warm from blood flow. Your torso is what can get cold from a wind chill or an un-zipped jacket in attempt to defrost. Vests play the perfect roll for a cozy mid-layer on a negative-degree day, or the fitting outer layer for a bluebird cruiser day in spring, a backcountry lap session, or for skate skiing hot laps. With 700 fill power DownTek water repellent down and Insotect Flow vertical baffles that contour to your body, a Big Agnes vest is sure to become your layering best friend.

In our technology driven world, choosing synthetic versus down can be as difficult of a decision as to what side of the mountain to hit first on a blower powder day. Synthetic and down both have their advantages, and some of it simply comes down to personal preference. Big Agnes has every synthetic or down jacket option available. Whether your concern is weight, water resistance, insulation, packability, or a hood for added protection, there’s a jacket for every occasion.

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PC: Noah Wetzel

 

Pair a women’s Marvine or Yarmony or men’s Ellis or Farnsworth lightweight synthetic jacket with a vest underneath for the coldest of days when you’re preparing to work up a sweat and shed layers as you go. Insulated with 60g Pinneco Core™, which is designed to be more breathable, thermally efficient, and sustainably engineered than other insulation options, these synthetic jackets sport a relaxed fit and a stylish slanted-quilt design which eliminates bulk and allows for layering underneath.

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Throw on a Big Agnes Hole in the Wall or Shovelhead men’s or women’s down jacket as your main, outer layer. With 700 fill power DownTek repellent down these mid-weight jackets will feel as cozy as the down comforter on your bed, yet without increasing bulk. Similarly, the women’s Long Draw Parka features the same fill and construction with a full-length feature for added lower-body warmth and style to boot.

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On a sun-soaked day with deceivingly cold temps, be warm and dry in a women’s Hot Sulphur or men’s Dunkley Belay synthetic jacket featuring 120g Pinneco Core insulation and Insotect Tubic construction providing supreme loft and thermal efficiency for maximum insulation.

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PC: Nathan Leavitt/WildRoots Outdoors

Last and certainly not least is outfitting your little rippers so they are heated and happy no matter the outing. Our Ice House Hoodie uses 650 fill DownTek water repellent down, Insotect Flow vertical flow baffles, plus Flow Gates with uniform insulation for the most technical down jacket available from size XXS to XL.

Whether you’re deep in the backcountry, chasing your grom down the bunny hill, or biking home after a spirited night on the town, Big Agnes offers a jacket for every temperature and adventure. Learning how to layer is an art that will save you from miserable experiences that you don’t wish on anyone. Be the educated one, dress appropriately and share your knowledge with others!

CHASING FALL (AND FINDING WINTER) ON THE ROAD IN JAPAN

We asked Big Agnes Ambassador Elisabeth Brentano to document her recent travels to Japan. Here’s what she came back with…

At this point, my Big Agnes gear probably needs its own passport. It’s been licked by Icelandic horses, spent countless nights in the California dirt and even traveled all the way up to Canada, so I figured taking it on my maiden voyage to Asia was the logical thing to do.

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A few months ago a friend asked if I wanted to go to Japan to shoot autumn colors. Before he could even finish his sentence, I had already responded with an enthusiastic, “YES!” and plane tickets were booked within a matter of days. Packing light and smart, however, was a bit more of a challenge. Not only were we going for two weeks, but temperatures were everywhere from 19 to 60 degrees. Great. In addition to 18 pounds of camera equipment, I had to cram camp gear, puffers and all the rest of my winter essentials into my oversize backpack and duffel, which was no easy feat.

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During our three-hour drive from Tokyo to Nikko, we saw bursts of red, orange and golden foliage everywhere. We were hoping to camp in Oze National Park, but the main sites were all booked, so we stayed in a modest AirBnb instead. After nearly an hour of fiddling around with the buttons, we finally got our heater to power on, but the room didn’t feel any warmer, so we gave up and tucked our sleeping bags into the blankets on our futons. While I was super bummed we didn’t get to camp in Oze, my Mystic 15 bag definitely saved me from freezing my buns off that night, so clearly there was a reason why I packed it!

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The next morning we got our first peek at the 318-foot Kegon Falls, and we came back to this waterfall several more times, because well, have you seen it?! It’s stunning. Unfortunately the fall colors in Nikko peaked a few days before we arrived, but it was still an incredible sight to see. In addition to matcha green tea lattes, and we also got our first taste of winter weather. Nikko was so chilly, fingerless gloves weren’t cutting it, and I gave myself a major pat on the back for bringing every jacket I owned on this trip. I had my Shovelhead for the really frigid days, while my Yarmony was perfect for sunny afternoons in the warmer regions of the country. My rain shell was used twice on this trip, and during the mildest weather, I was able to get away with a base layer and my Lucky Penny Vest.

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After freezing my face off in Nikko, Kyoto’s weather was almost balmy, and we spent several days exploring the parks in Arashiyama, including the magical (but super touristy) bamboo grove. After getting our fill of tempura, matcha ice cream and all kinds of delicious sushi and sweets (not to mention a ridiculous day with the deer at Nara Park), we headed to Fuji.

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Seeing lenticular clouds over the peak of this mountain was one of those things I wished for, but never in a million years did I expect it to actually happen. I hate cold weather, but I’m willing to put up with numb fingers and snotcicles if the view blows me away. Just before 8 a.m. my friend made a pot of green tea and loaded the Fuji webcam on his laptop, and from the Lake Kawaguchi angle, we could see a clear view of the mountain — and a fat stack of lenticular clouds on top of it. We raced out the door (no time for tea when there are lenticulars!) and we were able to capture this sight just in time. I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to see this with my own eyes.

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On this morning we got totally skunked for sunrise, but the way the fog and light joined forces and moved around Lake Kawaguchi was so dreamy, it totally made up for the rain earlier in the day. The fog was so thick, I never got a clear look at the duck behind this egret, and I probably snapped about 200 frames of this majestic white bird as he hunted fish off the shore. It snowed in the Fuji area the day before we arrived, and the weather was pretty moody during our time there, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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I’ve dreamed of seeing Mt. Fuji for a long time, and getting up close and personal with this sexy stratovolcano was easily the highlight of my trip to Japan. When I come back, I’m going to make sure I do an overnighter in a hut on a nearby mountain, and I’m determined to climb to the top of this 12,300-foot beauty. Oh, and now I know to book a campsite at Oze National Park well in advance. I guess I better start planning!

 

 

Big Agnes Recognized as Outside Magazine’s Best Places To Work

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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (December 2, 2016) – Big Agnes®, the award-winning manufacturer of tents, sleeping bags and pads, has been named as one of Outside Magazine’s “Best Places to Work”. The company is recognized for offering employees a powder clause, discounted gear and ski passes, and providing an all-around great place to work in the mountains.

“It’s great to be recognized a second time by Outside for providing one of the best places to work,” says Bill Gamber, Big Agnes co-founder and president. “We have dedicated significant time and effort to create a staff culture that is grounded in playing outside and using the gear that we sell. From our regular company backpacking trips, to getting out to ski and ride together, we make sure to keep a healthy balance that helps us retain great employees.”

Outside’s “Best Places to Work” project celebrates the innovative companies setting a new standard for a healthy work-life balance. The list was compiled with the help of the Outdoor Industry Association and Best Companies Group. The yearlong selection process began with an outreach effort that identified a wide range of non-profit and for-profit organizations with at least 15 employees working in an office in the United States. Participating companies were sent confidential employee-satisfaction surveys and employer-questionnaires to collect information about benefits, compensation, policies, job satisfaction, environmental initiatives, and community outreach programs. The experts at the Best Companies Group then analyzed the results and selected the companies that best enable employees to pursue active lifestyles while also supporting their social and environmental contributions.

This is the second recognition Big Agnes has received from Outside Magazine as one of America’s Best Places to Work, the first in 2013. Last year, Big Agnes’ sister company, Honey Stinger made the list.

About Big Agnes: Named for a peak in the nearby Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, Big Agnes®, Inc. is located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and produces award-winning sleeping bags, pads and tents.  Big Agnes is the exclusive distributor of Helinox trekking poles and camp furniture in North and South America. For more information, visit www.bigagnes.com or call 1-877-554-8975.

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Photo Credit: @devonbalet

Opting Outside on Black Friday

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We here at Big Agnes are lucky to spend every Black Friday out of the office and among the outdoors. This year we have joined up with REI and their campaign to #OptOutside. We reached out to see what our employees are planning to do the day after Thanksgiving, to choose the beautiful outdoors over an overcrowded day of shopping.

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“I will be joining Devin Dummit (who worked for our repairs team for four years) to hike the Lowest2Highest Route (Badwater Basin in Death Valley to Mt. Whitney- literally the lowest elevation point in the lower 48 to the highest elevation point in the lower 48 in 125-ish miles). We are thankful for the physical and mental health to be able to strap on a pack and the privilege to live in a country with beautiful, natural spaces to be enjoyed by all. My Thanksgiving dinner will be Oreos dipped in Biscoff cookie butter (heaven on earth).” – Kathleen Lynch, Customer Service Rep.

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“I usually try to go hard-water (ice) fishing just after the Thanksgiving holiday. The Delany Buttes Lakes in North Park are usually the first lakes to ice up near Steamboat Springs, and there is typically a safe 3 to 5 inch layer of ice by then. I usually go ice fishing with my 84 year old friend, Keith, shown in the picture holding up the stringer of (my) rainbows. Last year, I also started taking  my buddy, my pal, & my friend, Dude, a 4 year old golden doodle.  Keith, by the way, was the USA National Champion in Ski Jumping in 1956.  Yes … we walk on water!” – Greg Fritz, Director of Finance

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“With any luck there will be snow on the ground to tire out our toddler. Outside isn’t really an option on days when we aren’t at work, it’s a necessity to entertain and guarantee a good nap. So it’s off to the sledding hill or a good mud puddle for us.” – Katie Hughes, Marketing Manager

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“I usually go to strawberry park hot spring the day after thanksgiving to soak out the meat sweats.” – Jessica Barker, Creative Services Manager

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”Our opting out is a bit different. I know the general idea it is to get out into the wild.  But you might note that wild is a subjective term. The annual food fight is indeed a wild event in our neighborhood. The year this photo was taken the theme seemed to bridge the gap from gangsters to elves to ? But our fearless leader is there as is Max so might be a fun one. Only if you do not have enough already.” – Carla Mumm, Dealer Services Rep.

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“So my usual #OptOutside on black Friday consists of walking my dog in the morning–she is a big backer of the cause. Then it’s time to hit the slopes to make some turns for as long as the legs will hold out. After that it just depends on how the weather is rolling. Sometimes I can sneak in a bike ride in the afternoon and then finish, of course, with more dog walking/hiking with Molly. It’s her favorite; and with big paws she can’t online shop anyway–keys are too small.” – Rob Peterson, Marketing Specialist

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What will you be doing on Black Friday? We hope you choose to spend the day with Mother Nature and Give Thanks for all that she grants us every day. Happy Thanksgiving from the Big Agnes family!

Keeping Kids Cozy and Content all Winter Long

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The Clark family lives in the Great White North and can be found in down jackets and wool hats most of the year. As a family, they carve out big chunks of time for self-propelled adventures. They dress for winter whether it is on cycling adventures in Patagonia, or when paddling across the high arctic. Find out why Outside Online called the Clarks “The Most Adventurous Family in the US” at: http://www.outsideonline.com/2094321/tips-most-adventurous-family-us. We asked Dan about his sure-fire techniques to keeping his kids warm and smiling all winter long during any adventure. Here are his tips for every age:

How many of us dream of a carefree winter vacation away from winter and our children? A week of relaxation at the beach is one solution to the cabin fever that sets in during the dark months of winter, but there are other options closer to home. Why not bundle up the whole family and be active this winter skiing, skating or snowshoeing?

Here are a few simple tips garnered from a decade of family adventures in the white stuff.

Age 0: Timing is Everything

If changing a diaper or breastfeeding outside on a frosty day isn’t your idea of fun, make sure you start your adventure clean, fed and sleepy. Nap time can be a great time for a winter walk or snowshoe. Babies are most comfortable snuggled next to a parent, so leave behind the stroller and opt for a baby sling of some kind. Toss the baby in a snuggly, and zip up a Farnsworth Jacket or something similar. Pick an insulated jacket with a relaxed fit that will comfortably wrap around baby and parent.

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Age 1: Snuggled in Comfort

Toddlers can be a bit hard to fit inside a jacket, so a stroller on skis may be your ticket to winter exploration. Be aware that kids get cold fast, so build them a plush cocoon inside your favorite stroller or sled. A sleeping bag like the Little Red 15 will allow you an extra hour of cross country skiing in the cold, especially if you put a few hot water bottles in the bottom.

Ages 2-3: Patience Pays Off

Once your toddler is off on his/her own adventures, be prepared to play games within sight of the lodge. We enjoyed a few seasons learning balance on skis and socializing in the staging area in front of the lodge. Young kids don’t have much endurance, so make short forays outside and then warm up inside with a snack and hot drink before heading back out. Know that the time you put in at this age will make a huge difference teaching gross motor skills and instilling a love of winter in the years to come.

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Ages 4-5: Mini-Athletes

Once kids start moving on skis, skates and snowshoes, there is no limit to the fun you can have as a family. Your imagination may be the only limitation! Keep in mind that kids still need a little help at this age. We continued to use our stroller as an option for a tired kid, either inside or towing behind. This allowed us to go further afield and explore places beyond the range of kids travelling entirely under their own power. Kids that are working hard often get too warm in traditional snowsuits, so mid-weight insulated jackets like the Ice House Hoodie are a good compromise for many active winter sports.

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Ages 6+: Try to Keep Up

Kids that are six and older suddenly become capable athletes. Once our kids reached this age, they started seeking out the jumps and consistently pushing our comfort level. They have had a few spectacular crashes, but a soft cushion of white is a forgiving medium and they usually come up snow-covered and smiling.

Call to Winter Adventure:

It is never too early to get kids outside in winter. These curious little beings are up for almost any adventure, especially if it means spending some quality time with their parents. They will be happier for the time outside in the white stuff, and so will you!

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Campfire Chronicles:
Justin Reiter’s Pro Tips for Winter Camping

CampfireChronicles-LogojustinWe caught up with Big Agnes Ambassador Justin Reiter, who has a slew of hobbies including mountain biking, road biking, golfing, yoga, camping, and most notably known for being a Vice World Champion Snowboarder and Mountain Athlete. We were stoked to get the time with him. When he isn’t traveling from adventure to adventure, he likes to call his Big Agnes tent home for days at a time in the snow-covered mountains where he currently resides.  Here is a little advice from Justin on the dos and don’ts of winter camping:

Winter camping can be an intimidating venture. However with prior preparation, proper gear and a few tips, anyone can enjoy the solace of a starry night in the snow. Read up, gear up, escape the summer crowds, and enjoy your favorite places having them all to yourself.

Setting up your site:

Once you’ve picked the ideal camp location–maximizing your view and minimizing your exposure–pack down the snow where your tent will be. A three or four-season tent will provide a bit more insulation for a frigid night. Your tent needs to be on a firm surface to avoid damaging the bottom. Also, pack down a large area surrounding your tent so walking around isn’t hindered by constant post-holing. The more time you take to establish the campsite the more enjoyable your experience will be. If the snow isn’t too deep you can also shovel down to the dry ground. Utilize the snow you remove to build a wall on the windward side of your tent. This will act as a barrier should the wind pick up. A well-staked tent is a happy tent. Using dead man’s anchors and ALL of your guy lines will ensure your tent is solid. Setting up camp is hard work, so be sure to regulate your temperature as you go. Layer appropriately to avoid sweating.

*Keep your hands warm while working. Bring rubber dishwashing gloves that will fit over your outer gloves to keep them dry.Justin12.3.15.7

Sleeping:

Once your tent is pitched it’s time to make your comfy warm sleeping nest. Utilize two sleeping pads. On the bottom, a closed-cell pad will provide a lightweight additional barrier against the cold. Above that, place your Big Agnes sleep system: an Insulated Air Core pad and the correct temperature-rated bag for the conditions, like a Storm King 0. Always bring a warmer bag than you think you will need. Dry sleeping clothes are essential. Keep extra long underwear, socks, and a hat that are designated to be slept in. If the liners of your boots are removable place them in your sleeping bag while you sleep at night. You’ll thank me in the morning when they are dry-ish and warm.

*Staying hydrated will help your body maintain warmth, but also make you have to pee often. Bring a designated “Pee Bottle” for late night tinkle times. No one wants to leave a comfy warm tent to venture outside for a wee. The bigger the opening, the better; no need for midnight target practice.Justin 12.3.15.3

Water and Warmth:

Exposure and dehydration are your two biggest enemies while winter camping. I love using a Jetboil for its simplicity and speed. A hanging Jetboil harness works great to cook and boil water/snow for water in your tent. When cooking, keep the vestibule open and the tent well ventilated to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. When boiling water make sure you pour a few ounces of water in the bottom of the pot then add snow slowly allowing it to melt and collect gradually. This will avoid melting the bottom of the pot due to the intense heat. Make sure your water bottles are full before bed so you are ready in the morning to whip up some hot coffee, tea or cocoa. Store the water bottles upside down and off of the snow. The hanging harness also works as a makeshift candle holder through the night to increase the warmth in your tent and limit condensation. Bring slow burning emergency candles to light while you sleep. Before you embark on your camping adventure build a vessel for your candles to hang in your Jetboil hanger.

Winter camping truly allows you to connect with your environment. Though it demands more preparation and gear, the reward is greater. The views are grander and the trails are lonelier. It will require more of you and as a result it will give you more. The intimacy in nature lies not in the fact that we venture into it but that it ventures into us.

-Justin Reiter

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