Category Archives: Reviews

DeLorme topo maps: Essential for the outdoor traveler.

Since posting my article on dispersed camping a few days ago I’ve had quite a few questions on HOW one goes about finding places to camp on public land. Today I’m prepared to answer that question in the form of a gushing review of the DeLorme’s Atlas and Gazetteer series.

I’ll admit, when I started my review of these priceless books-of-maps, I couldn’t figure out why they went to the trouble of calling them “Atlas and Gazetteers”.  So fancy-schmancy… what was the point?  Being ever the resourceful one, I decided to find the answer.  I called Olivia.

“I dunno”  she informed me.  “Look it up.”

So I did.

Atlas: /’atles/  A book of maps or charts.
Gazetteer: /gazi’ti(Ə)r/   A geographical directory of places containing information on things like mountains, waterways, camping areas, historic markers, state and national parks, roads etc.


Put them together and that’s exactly what we have here:  A book of amazingly detailed, large-format topographic and informative maps.

Because Atlas and Gazetteer is too long to keep saying I will here-to-fore refer to these publications as A&G.

I’ve been a fan of this A&G series for a very very (very) long time.  It’s amazing how often we use these them. They go everywhere with us, they even have a permanent spot in the back of the van underneath the mat so that if we’re out of the house, so are they.

They provide information on camping, hiking trails, cities, and most importantly, back roads! And they have a version for all 50 states.

How do I use them?  Well, let’s take some hypothetical situations that (strangely) mirror real ones that may or may not actually happen on a regular basis. Here is a small portion from this sample page. (note the A, B, C correlations to the map). (more…)

If you give a kid some Chacos: A review of the Z1 Ecotread

The folks at Chaco were nice enough to hook up a few of my favorite outdoor kids with a pair of Chacos last spring. After putting their shoes to work all summer these kids are ready to talk about how THEY view their new footwear.

We asked Ari (age 5), Adan (age 4), Cohen (age 5), Jackson (age 7) and Tobin (age 7) what they thought of their Z1 Ecotreads.

Where’s the coolest place you’ve worn your Chacos?

Adan: Sea world, Papa & Nonnies [Grandparents], rocky mt natl park, and soon the first day of school.
Jackson: Lake Tahoe
Cohen: The beach
Tobin: Cape Cod
Ari: To my friend Evas house and to Bone Canyon to find dinosaurs bones [aka sticks].

What’s your favorite thing to do in your Chacos?

Adan: Go on hikes and run really, really fast in them.
Jackson: Swim out to the big rock [at Tahoe] in them.
Cohen: Riding my bike and going to the beach
Tobin: Walk
Ari: Hike and splash in the water.

What do you like most about your Chacos?

Adan: I can get them wet & muddy
Jackson: The adjustable straps
Cohen: I like them because they make it so I don’t have to wear shoes.
Tobin: Green thingie – [he means the pattern of the webbing]
Ari: They help me climb up steep hills.

Is there anything you don’t like about your Chacos?

Adan: If I wear them for days and days the straps rub a sore spot.
Jackson: No
Cohen: This is what I don’t like about them. I don’t like it when the sand gets in them
Tobin: Mostly that they gave me a blister.
Ari: They sometimes don’t get enough sticky on the bottom of them and I slip down steep hills.

If you could pick one superhero (or the equivalent) to give a pair of Chacos to who would you pick and why?

Adan: He-man, cause his boots look to hot. [Of course Adan’s parents think its because He-Man’s going for the minimalist look]
Jackson: Thor, because he could use a new pair of sandals.
Cohen: The incredible hulk because they would make him kick stronger.
Tobin: Green Lantern because he’s green.
Ari: Spiderman, because he could put web slingers on his Chacos. (more…)

A walk to remember: Reviewing Hi-Tec Harmony WP Boots

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When I was maybe fourteen or fifteen, I fell in love with my hiking shoes.  It likely wasn’t the first pair I’d ever owned, but it’s the first pair I remember.  We bonded, those boots and I.  I thought of them as a buddy.  An integral part of my naturalist being.  They made me hike faster, climb better, and gave me greater stealth.  And when I finally retired them after years of scrambling, running, sneaking, and exploring, I saved them.  Placing them reverently in the shoe box in which my new hiking boots arrived.  Just in case.  They’re still in my mom’s basement somewhere.

They were Hi-Tecs.  Blue and grey, mid-ankle high, with easy-to-tie laces.

So when asked Lindsey if she or I wanted to review a pair of Hi-Tecs, I was only too eager to remake the bond I’d had with that first pair.  I went with the mid-ankle Hi-Tec Harmony (WP) boots.

They arrived in the mail three weeks ago, and I have been aggressively putting them through their paces.  Obviously, there was no way I could take pictures of my feet, so, alas, I had to travel to Reno and see Lindsey.  So that she could take pictures of the shoes, of course.  No other reason.

On the plus side: (more…)

Road ID Bracelet: Hope it never comes in handy

My husband commutes 16 miles a day by bicycle. Come rain, snow, sleet, hail or most often in Reno, wind, he’s out there pedaling. Most of those miles are busy non-bicycle friendly roads. When we moved here we invested in brightly colored clothes, safety lights, and a life insurance policy.

Most recently Joe added another item to his safety repertoire. A Road ID Bracelet. It’s a bracelet that shows his name, along with phone #’s of people to contact incase of an emergency (and medical info if necessary).  If he’s unconscious along the side of the road I’ll be the second to know about it (after 911 hopefully).

I’m mentioning this because the bracelet is actually really cool, and could make a good (albeit slightly morbid) Fathers Day gift. It’s not only applicable to bikers, but runners or hikers as well. Joe’s also been doing some backcountry trail running. Alone. Sometimes at night. He doesn’t carry his ID when he runs.

Joe tells me the one he has is really quite comfy. I think it’s pretty hip. Just hope it never really comes in handy.

Chaco: A love story that began in 2001…

Going for a new tan line. My first pair of chacos over my Teva tan. Circa May 2001.

I like to think the story of how I became a Chaco Ambassador dates back to just past the turn of the century. The year was 2001. Y2K had proved a fluke–my computer still worked as it should.  The stock market hadn’t crashed.  Aliens hadn’t landed.  And I was more than a little disappointed. It was also my last semester of College.  My future, empty, and vast as a future without Y2K catastrophes, awaited.

I was planning a move to a little desert town in south-central Utah by the name of Escalante. I had landed a job on a research crew studying the native bee population in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. I knew the job involved a lot of hiking, backpacking, and observing in extremely hot weather, in a country replete with sand.  So I  purchased a brand new pair of Tevas (my sandal of choice since the late 80’s) to celebrate the occasion.

I packed up my ’85 Corolla with all my belongs.  My hope chest, a 20-gallon blue cooler, sat in the back, nestled between my trusty sleeping bag, a bag of clothes, and a water jug. I set my sparklingly clean new shoes on top of the car, under the kayak mounted on my homemade 2X4 roof rack. I ran into the house to bid adieu to my roommates. And I hit the road!

Somewhere around mile 14 something else hit the road. I saw a foreign object fly off the roof of my car and land smack dab in the middle of the highway. (more…)

There’s an outdoor app for that…

I got an iphone just before Christmas.  I love it… mostly because it works all the time.  But as an added bonus, it turns out iphones are like swiss army knives where you get to choose the tools and gadgets it has.  (Bejeweled, anyone?)  I’ve been looking at outdoor apps a lot (I got an app store gift certificate for Valentine’s Day) and thought I’d share with you the myriad choices available to the nature-lover… I’ve included both those useful to the iphone-folk as well as the droid-folk. Of course, I put several under each numeral; these apps achieve the same end-goal, but go about it slightly differently.  I’m all about providing options! (more…)

Gift ideas for the outdoor baby girl!

In honor of my own baby shower a few weeks ago I’m posting 12 gift ideas for outdoor families welcoming little girls. Most of these  products (or a variation of them) I now own, others are still on my wish list. Never has pink and purple looked so good!

1. Smartwool Booties 2. Patagonia Apron Dress (or let’s be honest, anything from Patagonia would have been a hit in my book) 3. Nova Natural baby hammock 4. Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots 5. Down Bunting 6. Klean Kanteen 7. Merril Sky Jumper Shoes 8. Nalgene Grip’n Gulp 9. North Face Beanie 10. Patagonia Baby Sun Hat 11. Ergo Baby Carrier with Infant Insert 12. Kid’s Mountain Goat Adjustable (I actually got ‘baby girl’ this for Christmas, both my boys have one, we’re big fans)

Outdoor books for the advanced reader

Here it is!  The final installment of our list of books about nature and the outdoors for your kids!  So far we’ve covered books you can read to your little ones, intermediate readers, and now we progress to advanced books, for the avid and proficient reader.

This was the hardest list yet for two reasons 1) advanced reader and adult book are hard to distinguish between (and in many cases are the same thing) which means that 2) there were a heckuvalot of books to choose from!  I’ve narrowed it down to ten (and okay, so I cheated and included a few extras) that are mild enough for the younger mind, who may be able to read adult literature easily, but may not be able to process some of the more… shall we say… complex outdoor themes found in books for adults.  For that reason I left off several good books that had any blatant political overtones about the natural world (i.e. Edward Abbey, much as I love him), a few of my favorites that had adult language or themes (Touching the Void, Botany of Desire, etc.).   (Perhaps I’ll do an Adult reader list down the road?)

It is interesting to compare the three lists.  The book list for the younger reader shows an emphasis on nature, and changing seasons, and animal life.  The intermediate reader list emphasized adventure and survival.  This list has a little of both–but what is most distinctive about this list is that all but one of the books listed are true stories.  There are very few fictional nature stories for advanced readers (as far as I can tell).

I’d be interested to know of any that you’ve come across!

1.  My Family and Other Animals (and the rest of the series by Gerald Durrell)..    I’ve only read one of the series Durrell wrote, but I was so captivated that I fully intend to read the rest!  This story masterfully chronicles life after his mother moved the whole family to the Greek island of Corfu when he was a boy.  His stories of his family are perfectly meshed with stories of the natural history of the island.  Did I mention that it’s hilarious?  Durrell went on achieve distinction as a zookeeper and establisher of wildlife centers.

2.  All Creatures Great and Small by James Harriot.  I read this book when I was 13… it’s where I learned the word ‘flatulence’… a condition an English bulldog was suffering from, much to the dismay of his ladylike owner.  Harriot was a veterinarian who worked with creatures of all kinds.  He also has a knack for telling a story, and they (almost) always end happily and making you love the character of your own pet just a little bit more.  If you like this book, Harriot has three others along the same lines, I think. (more…)

Books for the intermediate reader

books about nature

It’s time for the second installment of outdoor and nature books for children!  Unlike the first list, this list is books that kids can read to themselves, or that you can read together on long car rides; much like the first list, these are books you (and your kids) will enjoy reading.  Many of these books are ones that I read as a kid… ones that I could not put down, and thought about for weeks afterwards.  These are the books that made me love reading.



It’s interesting how the subject of outdoor/nature books changes as the audience’s age-range changes.  In the list of books we posted a few weeks ago of books you can read to your child, there seemed to be a focus on natural observations–noticing the changing of the seasons, enjoying a winter walk, the animals that live near a water hole.  As kids age, the books about nature start to focus on surviving in nature–the emphasis changes so that it isn’t so much about appreciating nature, but using it.  This isn’t all intermediate nature-ish readers, but many of them.  I would be interested in your thoughts on why…  I threw in several books about animals, another theme common in newer as well as classic children’s stories.

And now, to the list! (more…)

Outdoor books you can read to your child.

How many of you are familiar with this scenario:

It’s bedtime.  Pajamas are on, kids are clean (enough), and last sips of juice are done.  It’s time to read a book or two before the kids are off to the Land of Nod and you are off to watch the Walking Dead.  They pick out three books for you to read them and lay them ceremoniously before you.

“What was that noise?” asks your little one.

“What noise?” you say.

“That horrible whining groan I just heard come out of your throat.  And why is your face all pinchy?”  they ask.

Because laid before you are three boring, silly, horribly unentertaining books, picked up by you on a whim the last time you were at the library book sale.  Books you’ve regretted ever since.  Books your child, for some inexplicable reason, loves.  We feel your pain.  Especially the pain that comes from finishing one of these offenders only to hear your young one say: “Again!”.

We humbly present to you our top ten most favoritest read-aloud kids books.  We picked books that are as much fun for you to read as they are for your child to hear.  Elaborate and entertaining illustrations, carefully constructed rhymes or lyrical prose, and themes that focus on the natural world.  These are the sort of books that you finish and slam shut with some flourish, wanting to say ‘aaah, that was good’… and then wait (hopefully) for that tiny voice beside you: “Again!”.  Many of these are books that a beginning reader can follow along or read to you. (more…)


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

    I don't blog alone! Meet outsidemom contributer Olivia