Review: Cotopaxi Cusco 26L Backpack

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

There’s a throwback trend in the bag world these days. Designers are making backpacks that look like they were built in the 1970s or 80 because that’s what’s in. The problem, I’ve found, is that many of these bags also carry like they were built 30 years ago. They’re uncomfortable and favor fashion over function.



The Cusco 26 from Cotopaxi, on the other hand, has stuck the perfect balance. It looks like a piece you might be happy find in your parents’s attic, but it also borrows from modern backpack design to ensure you can wear it for hours on a hike in the mountains or while running through an international airport to catch your flight.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

The bag has a narrow cut, so it hugs your body and stays in place when you’re moving around. The straps are thick and padded, and a breathable back panel helps prevent a sweat spot from developing on your shirt. Inside there’s 26 liters of room—plenty for school books, or lunch and extra clotting on the trail—plus a padded sleeve that will fit up to a 15-inch laptop. The nylon/cotton canvas outer material is water resistant so you won’t ruin your computer if it starts raining and all the zippers are nicely accentuated with leather pulls.

Like other brands that donate part of their their profits for good, Cotopaxi has partnered directly with several non-profits around the world that receive a portion of the sales from every product the company sells. For the Cusco 26L, each purchase funds an on-site tutor for one child for a week at Qosqo Maki, a non-profit in Cusco, Peru that provides educational support and occupational training for children on the street and families living in poverty. You get a great backpack, a deserving organization gets much needed funding.

The Elements

  • Mashes styling from the 1970s with functionality from the 21st century.
  • Affordable.
  • A portion of the profits funds educational and occupational training for people in need in Cusco, Peru.
Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Salomon Freeski TV Drops Season 8 Teaser

Some people might be addicted to Netflix and HBOs shows. We’re addicted to Salomon Freeski TV. We wait anxiously for every new episode during their winter series.



Season 8 starts October 7th and there will be twelve new films released bi-weekly that take us to Japan, France, Iceland, Italy, Canada and New Zealand.

Bring it on.


Review: Millet Rock Hopper Approach Shoe

El Valley, Element.ly gear photos.
Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

On the streets of Chamonix, France it feels like the majority of people are wearing climbing boots and Gore-Tex jackets. That’s because this small town is surrounded by the French Alps and a cable car leaves straight from town and deposits people on a glacier right at the foot Mont Blanc. All those people you see walking around are either heading toward or coming from some of the most spectacular and well known climbing routes in the world.



You see climbers wearing all the major brands, but Millet seems to be a local favorite. That’s probably because Millet is French, but it’s also because the company makes great product. Look around for the most grizzled, sun-worn climber and probably more than half the time he, or she, will be wearing some piece of Millet apparel.

Now, I can’t claim to be a grizzled climber. But I too have come to love Millet products. I’ve used several of their jackets over the years while hiking, backpacking and skiing and I’m currently wearing their Rock Hopper approach shoes.

I’ve been using the Rock Hoppers as my normal every day kicks because approach shoes are versatile. If I’m out reporting or making pictures, I can go almost anywhere. I’ve used them while shooting bike races in the forest, photographing skaters in a local drainage ditch and on my daily walk to the park with my daughter.

Out in the field I’ve abused the shoes and they haven’t blinked. The Vibram sole will likely last for years, the rubber toe guard keeps the front of the shoe from tearing and they fit like a glove. My favorite part, however, is that they’re nicely styled. I still scream “outdoor guy” with them on, but I can wear them to dinner and not look totally obnoxious.

The Elements

  • Built to last.
  • Ultra comfy.
  • Designed for adventure and dinner dates.

New Kit Protects You During a Fall

When you eat shit on a road bike, road rash is what you get. Pavement against skin is not a pretty thing.

SCOTT, working with Schoeller, is trying to solve this little problem with their new kit, which has a much higher abrasion resistance than normal fabrics thanks to carbon yarns and ceramic printing.

Watch the video and you’ll see what they mean.

We’ve heard that even though the fabric is much stronger, it doesn’t lose any breathability or wicking capabilities.

Sign us up. We’re ready to ride it.




Review: Bumbleride Indie Stroller

Bumbleride Indie Stroller
Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

The Bumbleride Indie Stroller is a lifesaver for new parents. I’m not kidding.

When things start to fall apart at home—our daughter gets cranky, is teething, just about any derailment—we load her up, go for a walk, and life is instantly better. She loves this stroller and so do we.

We’ve used it for about a year now, and we’ve easily put 100 miles on the wheels, both in the dirt and on the pavement. When our daughter was younger we’d slip her car seat onto the included attachment and take off. Now that she’s bigger, she riding in the normal seat, clipped into a harness.



We mostly walk with the Indie, but you can also lock the front wheel in place and go for a jog. The back brake, which makes sure the stroller doesn’t accidentally go tumbling down the hill, is foot activated and easy to use. There’s an included water bottle holder, plenty of storage for jackets, bottles and other baby items and nice big canopy to keep the sun out. When not in use it folds in half to take up less space.

The Indie isn’t the lightest stroller on the market at 20 lbs, but we haven’t had any problems getting it in and out of the car and it stores nicely in the garage.

The Indie is pricey, at $500 ($300 on sale), but it’s built to last. We’ve abused it plenty—throwing it into the back of my truck, walking down rocky dirt roads, spilling all varieties of food stuffs—and it’s never once showed signs of wear. The only piece of maintenance I’ve had to do is slime the tires because Albuquerque, where we live, is full of nasty goatheads.

At the moment our daughter weighs about 20 pounds and this stroller is rated to 45, so we still have plenty of walks rolling our way. That’s good news, because my daughter assures me we’ll need it.

The Elements

  • Easy to use, easy to store.
  • Versatile. Great for babies and toddlers.
  • Durable. You can abuse it and it doesn’t flinch.

Gravel Worlds Roll Through Nebraska

Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska
Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska

I couldn’t stop thinking about the Gravel Worlds after the race popped up on my radar a few months ago. Gravel racing, an endurance event on predominately gravel and dirt backcountry roads, is super popular among a certain part of the cycling community, so I talked myself into buying a plane ticket to check it out. That, and I’ve never been to Nebraska, so I thought I might kill two birds with one stone.

A day before the race I drove the 153.3-mile course to check out potential photo locations. My course recon went well but out there in the middle of the American heartland I thought to myself, ‘How in the world are people going to race this course if it’s already difficult enough to drive?’ Having now watched the race, I still have no idea how they managed to do it.



Almost all of the 146 starters finished, but their times and their bikes varied a lot. The overall winner finished in eight hours and 23 minutes on a tricked out Specialized. The last person to cross the line completed the race in 21 hours and 41 minutes and they were riding a cargo bike. People also road mountain bikes, fat bikes, single speeds and almost any other kind of bike you can think of.

Regardless of the bike, it was clear that everyone, including myself had a ton of fun. It was one of the friendliest and most laid back races I’ve ever attended. That’s because at the Gravel Worlds there are no finish line cameras and no podiums. Instead there’s just a big party at Peter and Jane Reinkordt’s farm, mandatory pit stops that require everyone to buy a Poweball ticket, pizza as fuel, and amazing small town America scenery.

Don’t get me wrong. The competition was fierce and the roads were brutal (two finishers from the same team I spoke with had five flats combined). But the people are what made the race so unique. The level of support and the camaraderie amongst the participants was amazing. I’m definitely hooked and can’t wait to suffer out there in the Nebraska dirt on my own bike sometime soon.

Stephen Lam is an editorial and wedding photographer based in San Francisco.


The Great Arm Warmer Review

specialized therminal 1.5 arm warmers
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

On the surface it might seem kind of silly. Me, sitting here, writing a review about a pair of arm warmers in the middle of the summer. But if there is one thing I have become an expert about in my 15 years in Northern California, it is the art of the layer.

I have me some knowledge about arm warmers, leg warmers, and knee warmers. I am even well-versed in the world of arm and leg coolers, or what Rapha calls arm screens.

You see, leaving the house in sunny weather and finding yourself battling Karl the Fog a short while later tends to make you embrace the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.

Which brings me to the Specialized Therminal 1.5 Arm Warmers.

I received these arm warmers in grab bag at a Specialized press soiree. There were much better goodies in that sack of swag: a jersey, water bottles, some Equator coffee and packets of energy mix, so at first I looked right past them.

But sometime later, knowing I would need something on a blustery summer ride through San Francisco, I dug them out from the bottom of my kit heap and pulled them on. I never thought I would be so excited about a pair of $35 arm warmers.

The Therminal 1.5 are the not most expensive arm warmers out there, nor are they made from the most technically advanced fabrics. But they offer articulated arms, amazing gripper gripping and plenty of warmth without overdoing it. I now root around in my warmer collection looking specifically for this piece of kit and I look forward to whatever variable weather the city wants to throw my way.


Skirting the Darien Gap by Boat, With Motorcycles

The Stahlratte

Jesse Drerup of Canada laughs and sips a beer as the 111-year-old Stahlratte makes its way through the San Blas Islands.

The Stahlratte

The Stahlratte crew loads six motorcycle onto the boat in Carti Panama.

The Stahlratte

The Stahlratte crew loads six motorcycle onto the boat in Carti Panama.

The Stahlratte

Jesse Drerup of Canada and Nicolas Vargas of Chile laugh aboard the Stahlratte and they sail through the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama.

The Stahlratte

A french tourist jumps off the bow of the Stahlratte as she sits anchored in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama.

San Blas Islands

Cruising past a village in the San Blas Islands.

San Blas Islands

The first night anchored in the San Blas Islands the Stahlratte crew laid out a spread for all of its passengers to create kabobs while hanging out on the pristine beach of a nameless island.

San Blas Islands

The first night anchored in the San Blas Islands the Stahlratte crew laid out a spread for all of its passengers to create kabobs while hanging out on the pristine beach of a nameless island.

San Blas Islands

Passengers of the Stahlratte enjoy a fire after cooking dinner over it in the San Blas islands of Panama.

San Blas Islands

The sunset on our first night in the San Blas Islands was stunning.

San Blas Islands

Passengers of the Stahlratte mingle on an unnamed island off the cost of Panama a few days before setting sail for Colombia.

The Stahlratte

Passengers enjoy breakfast on the top deck of the Stahlratte as they pull into the port of Cartagena Colombia.

Port of Cartagena

The Stahlratte pulls into the port of Cartagena Colombia after completing its journey from Carti Panama.

The great Pan-American road trip from Alaska to Argentina looms large in the minds of motorcycle adventure (ADV) riders and right in the middle of that journey is a gap in time, progress and the modern world. It wasn’t until my boyfriend and I began planning our own Pan-American ADV trip that we learned about this place.

The Darien Gap per square mile is one of the most dangerous patches of untamed territory on the planet. The 54-mile wide wilderness joining Panama and Colombia took Loren Upton and Patty Mercier 741 days to cross back in the 1980’s and they were batshit crazy and incredibly lucky to get through unscathed.

You cannot ride a motorcycle across this region, so you’re left with two options: plane or boat.

In the spirit of adventure we chose boat, which would also be cheaper than flying. The most highly recommended boat option we found was a historical vessel named the Stahlratte.

The crew makes their schedule available well in advance so it’s easy to schedule your trip around their arrivals and departures at various ports. For under $2,000 we were going to be able to ship both our bikes and ourselves between the two countries in about four days with all meals included.

The day before we sailed out of Panama we met up with a group of Canadians and one other American. We all liked each other immediately and looked forward to sailing together. One more biker (Chilean) would join us the next morning before we headed out to meet the boat.

Rolling through Panama as a group of seven motorcyclists at dawn felt totally badass until we got lost outside of town and ended up being a half hour late.

Captain Ludwig chided our tardiness as we hurriedly prepared our bikes to be lifted by a wench onto the deck of the boat as the other non-motorcyclist passengers looked on. The Stahlratte will graciously cover the full value of your motorcycle if it is damaged during the loading or unloading process (not all companies do), which gives you some piece of mind as your bike is briefly dangled above salt water.

The Stahlratte crew is mostly German and they all lived up to the stereotype by speaking flawless English and running a totally organized operation. However, I did not see any of the crew fully clothed at any point on the trip and I’m not sure if Captain Ludwig owns pants.

The first day and a half of the trip was spent anchored in the San Blas Islands where our most stressful task was the occasional re-application of sunscreen. We also snorkeled in the perfect water and took turns on the rope swing hanging off the side of our boat. When the re-application of sunscreen got too stressful I threw a hammock over the bow of the ship and laid underneath the shade it created swinging back and forth in a thick net just below.

A few hours before sunset on that first night, the Stahlratte crew used a dinghy to move BBQ supplies to the tiny unnamed island we had dropped anchor beside and stoked a fire where we grilled kebabs of chicken, beef, bacon and vegetables. Beers were ice cold and just $1 usd each. It was an indescribable postcard perfect day and a half.

The boat departed from the islands early on our second full day aboard the ship as I slept in. When I did wake up, I was hit with the worst motion sickness of my life. I stumbled in blind panic up from the hold to vomit into the rolling blue ocean. I get dizzy re-imagining it now as I type this.

Vomiting was a fact of life for the next 10 hours as I laid flat on a wooden bench nibbling saltine crackers doing my best to overdose on Dramamine. My nausea was unusually awful among the passengers but it’s worth consideration when you are deciding between boat and plane.

As the sun started to set on what I remember as one of the longest days of my life, I felt well enough to make my way below deck (clutching a plastic bag just in case) and passed out in a miserable sweaty heap. The next morning before I even opened my eyes I could tell the sea was different, friendlier.

Coming up from the depths of the boat I was greeted by the early morning tropical air and the port of Cartagena glowing softly in a gentle haze. Cartagena is a beautiful city and arriving to it by boat makes seeing it for the first time particularly special.

As passengers we were given a little while to wakeup and eat breakfast before the crew started the practical business of getting us to the shore.

Once you arrive to Colombia the Stahlratte will provide you and your fellow motorcyclists with a hostel recommendation and a map to get between the necessary government offices and a fixer to handle the import paperwork for your bikes. The whole process should only take a few hours and once completed you are free to explore the rest of South America.

Photos: Alex Washburn / Element.ly


Our Favorite Gear From OR, Part 2

Here’s our second batch of favs from the recent OR show in Salt Lake City.

goTenna

goTenna

The goTenna ($150 for two) was probably the most innovative device we saw at OR and we suspect lots of people will be using them outdoors very soon.

GoTenna pairs with your iPhone or Android via Bluetooth and allows users to communicate with other goTenna users via text even if there's no cell service or wifi.

To do this, goTenna uses long-range radio waves. The company says the range depends greatly on the surrounding terrain, but in ideal conditions they can work up to 50 miles apart.

To be clear, goTenna does not allow a user to communicate with a regular cell phone. But they're affordable, so the expectation is that if you need to communicate, you make sure the person you want to talk to has one of the devices as well.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Salomon S-Lab X Alp Carbon GTX

Salomon S-Lab X Alp Carbon GTX

Kilian Jornet hepled designed the new S-Lab X Alp Carbon GTX ($300) mountaineering shoe from Salomon. That says a lot right there.

Jornet is famous for taking just a couple hours to run up mountains that take normal people days to climb. The bar he sets is silly high.

He wants The S-Lab X Alp Carbon GTX on his feet because they're super lightweight but can take a crampon. They also have a Gore-Tex liner to keep him dry, an integrated gaiter, and enough insulation to keep him comfy all the way down to 20 degrees.

We're not Kilian Jornet. But we very much look forward to testing these to see just how fast we can move when we're not being held back by a heavy pair of mountaineering boots.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Big Agnes mtnGLO tent lights

Big Agnes mtnGLO tent lights

Big Agnes's mtnGLO line of tents ($200-$600) made us have one of those "why the heck didn't we think of that" moments.

What they've done is sew a lightweight string of LEDs into the lining of various tent, so instead of having to turn on your headlamp, you just turn on your tent. The lights weigh almost nothing, give off enough light so you can get ready for bed, and have a super long running time on just two double A batteries.

Big Agnes is also selling a string of lights that you can add to your normal tent, pictured here.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Osprey Aura AG

Osprey Aura AG

"Revolutionize" is a word we like to stay away from. But it's appropriate here because Osprey has indeed revolutionized the pack with their new Anti-Gravity Suspension system, featured in the Atmos AG and Aura AG ($260 for the 65L version).

What the company has done is build a suspension system that literally wraps around your body like someone hugging you. Instead of having to make tons of adjustments to get the pack to conform to your body, this suspension system does it for you. You still have to adjust some straps for the perfect fit, but we've never used a pack that felt so comfortable, right from the start.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Black Diamond Ember Power Light

Black Diamond Ember Power Light

The Ember Power Light from Black Diamond will permanently live in our hiking and backpacking kits. Permanently.

There's nothing groundbreaking here, but BD has smartly mashed a flashlight with a USB charger, combining two of the most important things we rely on out in the woods.

And knowing BD, this thing will be reliable and last forever.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Therm-a-Rest EvoLite

Therm-a-Rest EvoLite

The EvoLite mattress ($120) from Therm-a-Rest caught our attention because it's a hybrid. It uses alternating foam and air channels to reduce the weight of traditional foam mattresses while amplifying loft. All told there are two inches of loft, which means you'll have an extra-comfy pad that's also plenty light (1 lb. 1 oz) and plenty packable.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Salewa Speed Ascents

Salewa Speed Ascents

As you can see from the photo, the Salewa Speed Ascents ($140) have camber. Or put more plainly, they're bent in the toe and heal.

This curved, or rockered design, is for people who are running up or down hills because it helps the shoe meet the angle of the hill more head on, ensuring better traction.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly


Our Favorite Gear From OR, Part 1

OR Summer Market

OR Summer Market

Dentists have conventions. Tech geeks have conventions. Gun lovers have lots of conventions.

None of these other conventions, however, can hold a candle to Outdoor Retailer, the twice-annual outdoor industry gathering at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. That's because no one knows how to have fun like outdoor lovers. The people who show up to OR throw themselves off cliffs or freeze their asses off in the mountains for fun, so when they get together it goes off.

We recently spent a couple days at OR drinking beer, not sleeping enough and looking at the products brands will be releasing for next summer. There were thousands of new gadgets being pitched, but here's a gallery featuring the products we're most excited about and look forward to testing when the prototypes become production models.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Smith Overtake

Smith Overtake

Here's why we love the new $250 Overtake road helmet from Smith.

It uses Koroyd (those tubular things you see in the vents), a breathable material the company claims offers 30 percent more impact protection than traditional EPS.

It's super aerodynamic. Almost as aerodynamic as the Specialized Evade, which is a big deal because the Evade is considered an industry leader in aerodynamics.

It's beautiful.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Mio FUSE

Mio FUSE

The $179 Mio FUSE does a lot of things that we care about. Most importantly, it's a heart rate monitor on your wrist that's ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible so it will sync with devices like the Garmin 1000. Be gone annoying heart rate monitor across your chest.

The FUSE is also a performance monitor that will track your steps, calories, pace, speed and distance, so you can get rid of your other, inferior fitness tracker.

We appreciate it when companies find a way to combine multiple devices into one and look forward to riding, running and living with the FUSE on our wrist.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Arc'teryx Alpha2 FL

Arc'teryx Alpha2 FL

Arc'teryx makes bad ass jackets, packs and harnesses. Now they make hella nice shoes as well.

They'll be rolling out eight models next year, but the crème de la crème is the low-cut approach Alpha2 FL ($270), which works a lot like a ski boot, with a shell and a swappable Gore-Tex liner. The shoe comes standard with a low-cut spring/summer liner that’s more breathable, but people can also buy a high-cut winter liner that's insulated.

In addition to swapability, liners are also a smart feature because they offer better waterproofing, are washable, and dry faster.

The shell of the shoe is made using lamination, which means there's no stitching. No stitching means you can beat the shoe up even more than your regular pair of hikers and they'll be just fine.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Eddie Bauer BC Cubed Jacket

Eddie Bauer BC Cubed Jacket

Light is definitely right in the outdoor industry these days. Everyone is making a super feathery shell that packs down to nothing but offers plenty of protection for when the winds start whipping or the rain starts falling.

What sets the Eddie Bauer BC Cubed ($499) apart is that it's more durable. So you get an ultra lightweight jacket that you beat the crap out of.

It's tough because it's built with Cuben Fiber Laminate, a non-woven material made of Dyneema fibers. And Dyneema, by weight, is much stronger than steel.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Hydro Flask Beer Pint

Hydro Flask Beer Pint

Hydro Flask has taken its double wall vacuum insulated technology and applied it to the beer pint ($21.99).

Hell yes.

If you've ever used one of their other products, you know just how well they work, so we look forward to enjoying icy-cold beers all the way to the last sip.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

Nau Acoustic Short

Nau Acoustic Short

Nau makes some of the nicest commuter stuff on the market and we can't wait to pedal around in the new Acoustic short ($130).

The shorts are made from a softshell material with a DWR finish, which means they're comfortable, have a nice range of motion, and won't soak out when the rain starts falling.

In terms of design, the Acoustic shorts are clean and understated, which is exactly what we want when we're out cruising around on our way to the local pub.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

adidas Outdoor X King

adidas Outdoor X King

The Outdoor X King mountain running shoes from adidas are just prototypes and in possible development for Spring 16.

They grabbed our attention because outsole is made from Continental's well-known and well-loved X King mountain bike tires. The shoe also features seamless welding, which insures durability.

If these shoes perform under our feet like the tires perform on a bike, they could quickly become a cult favorite.

Photo: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly