Video: Attach a Fin to an SUP

It’s paddle season! And if you’ve been thinking about picking up a new Stand-Up Paddleboard, now might be the time to do it. But before you dive into the local pond with your new toy, make sure you put it together fully. Having the fin on right can go a long way toward the board’s speed and control on the water. Here’s how to put it on.

Stretch Out: 7 Yoga Poses for Paddlers

Waters have thawed, temperatures are rising, and the days keep getting longer. So, it’s time to dust off your paddling gear and head to your favorite aquatic playground, if you haven’t already. While you have plenty of things to think about as you prepare for the start of paddling season, be sure to give your body the attention it deserves, too. To help you out, here are seven yoga poses to practice before your first (or next) paddling sesh—or after. Or, if you’re on a stand-up paddleboard, you can even practice these poses while you’re still on the water.

Credit: Ashley Peck
Credit: Ashley Peck

Thread the Needle

Strong shoulders are key for paddling, whether you’re in a kayak or on a paddleboard. This pose is a great way to both wake them up before getting onto the water and stretch them out when you get back to shore.

Begin on all fours in tabletop pose, with your knees directly under the hips and wrists in line with the shoulders. Use an inhale to lift your right arm out to the side, and then, send it underneath the left arm as you exhale. In the process, bring the right shoulder and the right side of your head to the ground, as the left arm reaches out in front of you. Rest here for about 10 breaths before returning to tabletop and repeating on the other side.

  • Variation: To make the pose a little more “active,” you can reach the non-threaded arm up toward the sky, or rest the back of that hand on your lower back.
  • Variation: To make it a little more “restful,” either begin in child’s pose instead of tabletop, or ease the hips down toward the heels once you’ve settled into the twist.
Credit: Ashley Peck
Credit: Ashley Peck

Side Plank

As with most sports, core strength is also vital for paddling. Standard planks are an efficient way to strengthen both the core and your arms, but since paddling’s mechanics mean that one side of the body works at a time, side planks are particularly beneficial for kayakers and SUPers.

From tabletop, step back into high plank, with your feet together, and press through the heels to create a strong, straight line from the heels to your head. Shift your weight into your right arm as you rotate onto the outside edge of the right foot, and lift your left arm toward the sky. Keep your feet stacked if you can, or take one of the variations offered below. Hold for as long as you comfortably can, and then, repeat on the left side.

  • Variation: Take things down a notch by bringing the right knee down to the floor, so that your lower leg and foot point behind you.
  • Variation: Challenge yourself (and work your core a little more) by lifting up your left leg.
Credit: Ashley Peck


Sitting in your boat for hours at a time can lead to a stiff lower back. As well, keeping your arms raised in paddling position may leave your shoulders, chest, and arms feeling fatigued. Fortunately, cobra pose may help with all of that.

Lower yourself all the way to your belly from plank, with your legs together and stretched out long behind you. If you’re extra motivated, go ahead and throw in some push-ups here. Keeping your hands under the shoulders and elbows close to the body, press the tops of your feet, your thighs, and your pelvis into the floor, and push through the palms to begin lifting your upper body.

Lift yourself as far as is comfortable. You may be able to fully straighten your arms, or you may need to keep a bend in the elbows—either way is fine. Focus on opening up the front of your body by gently lifting your sternum while simultaneously “squeezing” your shoulder blades together. Hold for five breaths, and then, release back down to the floor on an exhale. Repeat two or three times. 

Credit: Ashley Peck
Credit: Ashley Peck

Down Dog Twist

Even though it may feel like your upper body does most of the work, your legs also play an important role in paddling. They help steer and stabilize your boat while you’re kayaking, and they’re kind of important when it comes to the “SU” part of SUPing. The beauty of down dog twist is that it stretches the leg muscles just like traditional downward-facing dog while also stretching out the shoulders a little more and helping build rotational core strength, which is where your paddling power comes from.

When you’re finished with cobra, press back up to tabletop. Then, begin working your way into downward-facing dog, but with your feet a little bit wider apart than the usual hip distance. On an exhale, reach your right hand back toward the left leg, taking hold of your calf or ankle—whichever feels best—and let your gaze come under the left armpit. Hold for a few breaths, return to down dog on an inhale, and then, repeat on the opposite side.

Credit: Ashley Peck
Credit: Ashley Peck

Chair Twist

Similar to the way down dog twist addresses the shoulders and core while stretching the legs, chair twist does the same while strengthening the legs. In addition, both of these twisting poses can help strengthen the lower back, which in turn helps you avoid paddler’s back pain.

Start in a regular chair pose (feet together or hip-distance apart, lowering the hips toward the floor, and keeping your weight in the heels) with hands at heart center. Use an inhale to lengthen through the spine, and then, bring your right elbow toward the left outer thigh on an exhale. Peek down at your knees to make sure they stay facing forward and are even with each other. Keep pressing your palms into one another to stretch out your shoulders, or spread your wings (right hand toward the floor, and left arm reaching high) to open up through the chest. Stay here for about 30 seconds, and then, switch sides.

Credit: Ashley Peck
Credit: Ashley Peck

Boat Twist

Even if it weren’t so appropriately named, boat twist would still be an important pose for paddlers to practice. Just as traditional boat pose improves core strength and balance, so, too, does boat twist—with the added benefit of working the obliques to continue building rotational core strength.

Bring yourself to a seated position with your feet flat on the floor. Inhale to lengthen through the spine, and then, exhale to lean back into boat pose with the knees bent and lower legs parallel to the floor. Keep your core engaged, and twist toward the right on your next exhale, reaching your right arm back and sending the left hand toward your feet. Hold for five breaths before returning to center, and then, repeat on the other side.

  • Variation: If you can extend your legs in boat pose, try crossing your right leg over the left, and holding onto the inside of your left foot with the left hand as you twist to the right. When you switch sides, do the opposite.
Credit: Ashley Peck
Credit: Ashley Peck

Half Lord of the Fishes

We’ll wrap things up with one more twist, since having a strong, fully mobile torso is so vital to both kayaking and paddleboarding. Again, even if half lord of the fishes didn’t have such a perfect name, it would be a pose every paddler should practice regularly. In addition to the benefits of the other twisting poses we’ve done, this one also provides a gentle stretch through the hips, which will feel particularly amazing after you spend the day sitting in a kayak.

Start seated with your legs extended in front of you. Hug your right knee in toward the chest, and then, cross the right leg over the left, so that your right foot is on the floor next to your left thigh. Bend your left leg to bring the left foot toward your right hip. On an inhale, sit up nice and tall. As you exhale, twist toward the right, pressing your right hand into the floor just behind you for support and bringing the left upper arm to the outside of your right thigh. Hold the twist for up to one minute, and then, repeat on the opposite side.

  • Variation: If bringing the left arm to the outside of the right leg is too intense, simply use the arm to hug your leg instead.

How to Portage: 7 Tips for Moving Your Kayak or Canoe on Land

It’s inevitable. If you paddle long enough, eventually, you’re going to run out of water. As a result, anyone looking to lengthen their trip to the next pond or lake, bypass a dangerous rapid, or even simply carry a boat from the car to the water is going to need to know one dreaded but crucial paddling skill: the portage. And, doing it efficiently makes the carry move along easily and quickly.

Credit: Marcus Johnson
Credit: Marcus Johnson

1. Don’t drag the boat

Dragging the boat across the terrain may seem like the easiest thing to do, but it could result in damage that ultimately shortens the amount of time you can spend on the water. You don’t want to get to the end of your portage, only to find a fresh hole in the hull of your new canoe. If you’re paddling with a partner, share the weight. If you are solo, make sure you have a boat that you can carry by yourself.

2. Share the weight

Whether you have a kayak or canoe, there are multiple ways to carry the boat. If you are paddling with someone, each of you grabbing an end is the simplest solution. If you are paddling two separate boats of the same length, carrying both at the same time, with one in each hand, can be even easier than supporting one, as the weight distributed on both sides helps with your balance.

To carry, insert your arm into the cockpit, and rest the cockpit’s side on your shoulder to balance the boat. This can save a great deal of arm strength, and on narrower trails, having the boat up high may be easier than carrying it in your hands.

In a canoe, use the center yoke to balance the boat upside down on your shoulders. However, be sure to practice getting the canoe up by yourself first and keeping it balanced. You wouldn’t want to pull a muscle out in the backcountry when you’re trying to lift.

For any of the shoulder-carrying techniques, it helps to bring along some foam padding, such as a cut pool noodle or your life jacket, to add some cushioning between your shoulders and the boat. Two people sharing one canoe can do something similar: Rest the seats on your shoulders, or even on top of a backpack. 

3. Plan ahead

Unless you’re scouting unexplored water on Mars, you should always have a map for your paddling trip. As you plan, look at your route to see where your portages will be and what type of terrain you will be crossing. Then, ask yourself a few questions: What is the distance of the portage? Will it go through the woods or on a trail? Is there a road that can be taken? Is it dirt or pavement? How much elevation change does the portage involve?

Having the answers will further help you bring along the right equipment and get a better idea of what’s coming.


4. Scout the portage

You might not always be able to answer those questions just by looking at the map, however. In that case, scout the portage without the boat before you go through it. Check for fallen trees that you may have to go over or under, as well as any number of natural obstacles. Sometimes, a planned portage route may have an unexpected gate or washed-out trail. It is better to find this out before you go through all the effort of carrying your boat halfway along, only to find the route impossible to pass.

5. Bail water

When you paddle up to the shore, your boat will likely have some water inside. Water is heavier than many people realize, so take a few moments to bail or dump it out. Your muscles will thank you later.

6. Carry your gear

Longer paddling trips may include a few bags’ worth of gear and food. However, keeping that weight inside during the portage makes the boat much heavier and more difficult to lift and maneuver. Instead, a dry-bag with straps that you can wear makes it much easier to move the boat on its own. If your bags are not wearable, on the other hand, consider making two trips to carry your gear and boat separately. Take your packs first, and consider that your scouting trip.


7. Use portage wheels

For especially long portages, wheels or a cart will be helpful. First, however, make sure you know what kind of terrain lies ahead. A cart with small wheels, for instance, will be almost useless on a rugged trail or sand. On the other hand, if you have a long road portage, wheels may save lots of effort and time.

But, be sure that you know how to secure the boat. In the middle of your trip, it’s not any fun to realize that you need an extra strap in order to keep the boat from sliding around. As well, remember that the portage wheels need to come in the boat with you. So, make sure you have enough carrying capacity and can firmly fasten them.


Being able to portage your boat helps you reach those difficult-to-access lakes and waterways, and can mean finding better fishing spots or a quieter campsite. In any case, have fun exploring, and try not to drop the boat on your partner!


Essential Gear for Kayak Touring

Kayaks create opportunities along bays, lakes, and rivers that allow us to experience the outdoors in a completely unique way. Gliding quietly through placid waters by rhythmically paddling can be meditative and brings us closer to wildlife that would typically feel threatened by hiking’s comparatively loud noises.

Of course, kayaking presents its own set of challenges and considerations. Although a significant amount of backpacking gear translates well to kayak touring, a number of kayak-specific pieces and concepts are necessary when you’re preparing for an extended amount of time on the water.

A word about touring kayaks: Storage requirements are a primary consideration when selecting the right vessel for a multi-day trip. A 12-foot, closed cockpit kayak offers enough storage for a weekend trip. With packable gear and food, a 16-foot kayak can handle enough supplies for a week-long trip.

Keep in mind that these are guidelines, and that paddler and gear weight, camping style, food selection, and paddling conditions all play a role in trip duration. Closed cockpit boats with hatches protect your gear from water and prevent gear loss if your kayak capsizes. Touring kayaks often come with a skeg to assist with tracking or a rudder to assist with both tracking and changing direction. While you can tour with a boat that has neither, a paddler with a skeg or rudder uses less energy in maintaining direction, especially in windy conditions.

Credit: Joseph Lasky


First and foremost, any amount of time paddling requires safety gear. Personal flotation devices are required by law in many places and are a universal best practice. Additionally, here some necessary items to properly outfit a paddle trip:

  • Bilge pump: Durable and easy to use, bilge pumps can quickly clear the cockpit of water you may take on.
  • Whistle: Kayaks sit low in the water and are difficult for boaters to see, so a whistle can help make your presence known.
  • Sponge: While bilge pumps remove most water, sponges can clear out low-lying water that a bilge can’t suction up.
  • Paddle float: Even paddlers with effective self-rescue techniques can benefit from the assistance of a paddle float when water conditions are rough.
  • Spare paddle: Any weather or area conditions that can break a primary paddle will likely require a high-quality spare.
  • Throw bag
  • First aid kit
Credit: Joseph Lasky
Credit: Joseph Lasky

Keeping Dry

With safety items out of the way, which pieces of gear let you make the most of your paddling time? If you are a backpacker or hiker, your standard compact gear is additionally useful for kayak touring. A compact tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, and cookware are all necessary for multi-day touring. Take a look at this article for some ideas on minimizing space and weight on your trip.


As far as paddle-specific gear is concerned, clothing and storage are two vital areas. Storage is simple: dry bags. Kayak hatches are never guaranteed to be waterproof, so dry bags effectively keep items dry that need to stay that way. These bags come in a variety of sizes and colors, with some companies offering clear options that allow you to see the contents without opening the bag.

I typically use separate bags for my tent, sleeping bag, clothing, and gear, while food is kept in sealed containers within a bear canister. Rather than storing everything in fewer but larger bags, using four smaller bags allows me to pack more precisely and access items more quickly. I use three 10L bags and one 20L bag. Keep in mind that bags larger than 20L may be difficult to squeeze through a hatch.


It is important to consider weather and water conditions when selecting paddle clothing. Warm conditions permit lightweight, UPF-rated layers, such as these. Cold weather and water conditions require layers that will keep you warm when paddling and in case of capsizing.

Two options exist: wetsuits and drysuits. Wetsuits trap a thin layer of water between your body and its material, usually neoprene, which is then heated by your body and creates an overall insulation system. Companies also offer separate, thin neoprene tops and bottoms, such as the NRS HydroSkin series, that are practical when a full wetsuit is undesirable.

In general, wetsuits work well for most paddlers in temperate summer and shoulder-season climates. However, during the worst cold-weather conditions, drysuits shine. An effective drysuit prevents water from entering at the wrists or neck, allowing its wearer to sport clothing layers underneath without fear of soaking.

Credit: Joseph Lasky
Credit: Joseph Lasky

Tips and Techniques

1. Treat Your Kayak

Treating your kayak with aerospace protectant spray will prevent sun damage throughout the paddle season. Additionally, this product lubricates rubber hatches, making access easier while you’re paddling.

2. Pick the Right Paddle

Paddles come in various lengths and styles. Your body type and paddling style dictate your optimal paddle length. Touring kayakers generally maintain a low paddling angle, which is less powerful and conserves more energy than a high angle. I use an Aqua-Bound Eagle Ray for my primary paddle, which is an efficient touring choice for my low-angle style, and a four-piece Sting Ray, a paddle with solid all-around performance for either high- or low-angle styles, for my spare. Since it is a four-piece, I can either strap it to my deck in a conventional fashion or slide it on top of my gear in the front hatch.

3. Balance Your Load

Do your best to maintain a low center of gravity and balanced weight dispersal when packing your kayak. A high center of gravity will decrease the boat’s overall stability, and unbalanced weight will impact the kayak’s tracking. Safety gear should be kept in an immediately accessible place (for example, on the deck). As well, I usually keep a bottle of water and an energy bar or another snack in my cockpit behind the seat for convenient access.

4. Consider a Spray Skirt

Spray skirts can be intimidating for many newcomers. But, you’ll soon find that they are practical, increase comfort, and create options in the event of a capsize. Skirts prevent water from entering the cockpit, keeping your legs drier and warmer. Many come with pockets for maps or snacks as well.

Importantly, if you are familiar with how to roll a kayak, skirts prevent flooding and allow you to roll when capsized. If you are new to skirts, please take the time to practice exits—dry first, and then wet exits—so you are well prepared to evacuate the boat in case of an emergency.

5. Don’t Forget Gloves

I consider gloves a necessary component for my overall paddling enjoyment. They prevent blisters and keep my hands warm during cold-weather paddles.

6. Wear Durable Footwear

While launching from a pleasant sandy beach doesn’t require much planning with regards to footwear, putting in or pulling up on a rocky coast does. Without proper footwear, you’ll find that carrying boats across rocky terrain can be painful and dangerous. Keen, Chaco, and Teva all offer durable sandals that alleviate this issue. Paddle socks made of neoprene are also practical and comfortable when you’re handling cool conditions.

Credit: Joseph Lasky
Credit: Joseph Lasky

This information should get you started on planning your next multi-day paddle. As always, please follow Leave No Trace principles when out in the backcountry, and be sure to post some of your ideas, advice, and kayaking experiences.

Explore Like a Local: Summertime Fun in Lake Placid, NY

The name Lake Placid immediately conjures images of winter sports, given that the Olympics have been held in this beautiful Adirondack town not once, but twice. Even today, it’s such a winter staple that numerous U.S. Olympic teams train regularly in the area. Summertime in the area can be overlooked, but the lack of snow and ice hardly diminishes Lake Placid as a destination, and you definitely don’t need to be an Olympian to take advantage of it all. With a plethora of hiking, climbing, paddling options, and more, Lake Placid is a true year-round outdoor destination.


Warm-Weather Activities

Hiking & Trail Running

With 46 High Peaks, or peaks originally thought to be over 4,000 ft., along with numerous lakes, the Adirondacks have many different trail types to choose from, particularly near Lake Placid. One popular, family-friendly hike is Cobble Hill, which is visible from town and just across Mirror Lake. A family with kids can make the summit in under an hour and enjoy views of town and the High Peaks area.

If you’re up for a longer hike and are looking for a big payoff, set out for Indian Head, a low summit with truly amazing views of Lower Ausable Lake (pronounced awe•SAY•ble). The land is part of the privately owned Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR), but hikers are allowed to access the three-plus mile dirt road that leads to the trailhead. Allow for at least five hours round trip and bring plenty of water! Public parking is available in the St. Huberts parking area on Route 73, south of Lake Placid.

The Ausable Chasms are a natural wonder of the Adirondacks, and hiking the area’s trails is well worth the $17.95 admission price ($9.95 for kids).


Rock Climbing

The Adirondacks have over 250 climbing areas, and Keene Valley, just south of town, serves as the epicenter, given its wide variety of climbs. Just a short drive away, the Beer Walls await both beginners and experts alike. Route 73 has convenient parking, and it’s a quick hike to the top of the climbing area. All the routes here can be led, but top-roping is the standard means of access. Climbing routes range in difficulty from 5.4 up to 5.13, and the views of Keene Valley are spectacular.

The EMS Climbing School guides lead climbing trips to all of the local spots and for all different levels of expertise. The school is located in the lower level of the town’s EMS store.



Let’s face it: This is Lake Placid. Whether you set out on Lake Placid proper or Mirror Lake, which abuts Main Street, this is one spectacular spot to hit the water. Surrounded by mountains in all directions and the town on one side, these lakes are remarkably beautiful. At dusk and dawn, prepare to be thrilled by the call of the loon and other indigenous creatures. Lake Placid allows motorized boats, while Mirror Lake is reserved for human-powered crafts (electric motors are allowed but rarely seen).

Our EMS store on Main Street backs up to Mirror Lake, and we rent kayaks, tandem kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) directly on the water. Seriously, you can launch a boat from the back of the store. How cool is that? Click here for more info.



In addition to the lakes, the area has other wonderful places to swim. A particularly scenic spot is at the base of the Flume Falls on the Ausable River, north of town. Park in the Wildfire Flume Trailhead lot, and walk a short ways down the river to the base of the waterfall. There, you’ll find a bucolic swimming hole, surrounded by small cliffs from which to jump. Folks have been known to string up an illicit rope swing, and the Department of Environmental Conservation dutifully cuts it down a few times per season.

Mountain Biking

Whether you want to ride the Olympic Cross Country trails, bomb down Little Whiteface, or hit technical single-track trails, Lake Placid has it all for beginners and experts alike. You can access some trails right from town, so pick up a local trail map to find the course that best suits you.


Camping Options

“Options” is the optimal word. The area surrounding Lake Placid offers traditional tent campsites, cabin rentals, canvas cabins, and lean-tos. As one convenient option close to town, the ADK Wilderness Campground sits alongside a lake and offers multiple camping options, along with restroom facilities, or hike into the wilderness itself for free camping with fewer facilities.



There are plenty of good post-hike food and drink options in the area, but as soon as you arrive in Lake Placid, head straight to Smoke Signals (campsite set-up or hotel check-in can wait). Choose a spot in its exposed brick interior or on the patio overlooking Mirror Lake; then, order marbled Brisket and a side of Mac & Cheese. You may not be hungry for a day afterwards, but you’ll thank me. If, however, that looks like too much to handle, the barbecue Tacos Trio, the Hanger Steak, and the BBQ wings are all terrific. Other excellent dinner options are Lisa G’s and The Cottage.

Assuming that you’re hungry the next morning, The Breakfast Club, Etc. awaits just down the street. As the restaurant is known for its hearty fare and Bloody Marys, you may have to wait a bit for a seat on busy weekends. I recommend the BC Röstis (pronounced ROOST•ee—it’s Swiss!). Picture a cast iron skillet on a slab of wood, filled with hash browns covered with bacon, covered again with cheese, and topped off with two eggs. Side effects include loss of appetite, rapture, and, in rare cases, food coma (easily cured by a nap).

As one compelling reason to visit in the summer, Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream is only open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. You pick the size and a cone or cup; they, however, pick the flavor. That’s because they make one flavor a day, always twisted with vanilla. There will be a line, but it moves fast. Donnelly’s is a bit of a drive (14 miles or 25 minutes) from Main Street in Lake Placid, but that gives you time to digest your lunch or dinner! Emma’s Ice Cream in town is also very good, and they allow you to choose your flavor.


All that and nary a mention of the area’s winter activities? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot for a summertime mountain getaway. Swing by the EMS store while in town to get local beta, upgrade your gear, pick up camping supplies, rent a kayak or SUP, or take a climbing adventure through the school. We hope to see you soon.

How to Make a Custom Map

Even in the age of GPS devices and cell phones that can pinpoint your location within feet, nothing is as simple, useful, and trustworthy as a good map. But maps haven’t been immune to the same technological advances that brought us our fancy electronics.

Rather than visiting a store to search through set USGS Quads, atlases, or pre-set maps, today’s adventurers have the ability to customize their own to their exact specifications. The type of map, its details, the trails and points displayed on it, and its area can all be tweaked and adjusted, so that when you head outside, you have the exact combination you need. To make your own, the data is out there, if you can figure out how to put it together.

What are “layers?”

Layers are map sections that can be examined on their own or, through a program, overlaid onto another map to compare and contrast details. For example, when you visit Google Maps, you can choose between street maps, satellite images, and even terrain. By adding traffic conditions or bicycle routes, you’re overlaying one layer on top of another to view even more data.

There are almost too many types of map layers to count, but these are some of the most commonly used ones:


Google Maps

With 1 billion monthly users, Google Maps is probably the most well-known mapping site. It offers three different layers, including Street, Terrain, and Satellite, and has a few additional ones that can be turned on and off, including bike paths and traffic.

If you are trying to get to or return from the trailhead, Google Maps is definitely the best choice for avoiding the traffic and then finding some food after. However, while it adds some vague trails, other stronger options can help you find your way in the outdoors.



Using U.S. Geologic Survey data, the basis for decades’ worth of maps, the USGS topographical map is the most common layer for reading and navigating the outdoors. At a basic level, USGS maps show you roads, dirt roads, and trails, as well as clearings and many other manmade structures. contains the full USGS map layer, which covers the entire country.

If you plan on traveling off the trail, a USGS or similar topographical map is a must-have for navigation. As you’re outdoors, use the elevation and land features to keep track of your position.

To add to the information you get from the USGS’ basic topo lines, layer in slope shading. Slope shading highlights based on the slope angle, which then shows where hills and mountains get more or less steep and helps you identify cliffs for rock and ice climbing. For backcountry skiers and snowboarders, this feature assists with planning approaches and descents while minimizing avalanche risk.


Satellite and Aerial Imagery

Satellite images show texture and visual details that most map layers can’t capture. If you plan to check out specific terrain features or vegetation cover, this type assists with examining these facets more closely. Both Google and Bing Maps have satellite imagery, but the latter uses images from late winter or early spring. This combination allows you to see through the canopy and get more detail in the forests than you would from summertime-only images. As a result, you can look at the area around the cliff to identify trails that might not be mapped otherwise—a benefit to rock climbers looking for approach and descent trails.

Bing maps also have bird’s-eye view aerial imagery, and Google Maps offers a 3D function. Both options create more up-close imagery and provide a perspective different from straight satellite views. In the outdoors, bird’s-eye view can be useful for inspecting cliff faces for climbing routes or even looking at new areas in more detail before you make the trip out.

As another asset, Caltopo lets you layer topo maps over a satellite image to see contour lines on top. Doing so might help you make better sense of an otherwise-2D image—for instance, before finding climbing slides in places like the Adirondacks. First, the satellite images allow you to see the slide itself and pick out your route, and then, the topo map adds terrain information and even trails before and after.


Map Builder Topo

Map Builder Topo is a Caltopo layer that uses USGS contours as a base, but then adds in a huge number of up-to-date trails and other waypoints. This layer is helpful for figuring out the best trails to get to where you want to go.

Caltopo allows you to add lines and waypoints, which can be measured for distance and elevation gain. If you are planning a hike, trail run, or even a paddle and want to know the route statistics, this tool gives you a good start. One fault, however, is it makes no distinction between hiking and biking trails. Thus, if you use it to go exploring with your bike, you might find yourself on gnarly terrain or trespassing on hiking-only trails.


OSM Bike

The Open Cycle layer uses many of Map Builder’s trails, but softens the contours. Here, color-coded brown and blue indicate hiking and biking trails, respectively. As a result, this tool is essential for developing bike touring and bikepacking routes.

In addition to trails, it also highlights popular roads for cycling, as well as bike paths and lanes. When you want to get off the bike, it indicates important landmarks, such as campgrounds, hotels, hospitals, bike shops, coffee shops, and breweries.

Keep in mind that Open Cycle Map is open source. As such, the cycling community constantly updates it with the latest trail information.

Almost all of the map layers above can be accessed on, one of the many free online mapping sites. So, before you plan to visit an area, take the time to review each map layer’s specific details. In doing so, you might even find something worth traveling to on its own.

Make Your Map

After you’ve decided on the layers forming your map’s core, you can customize it even further. allows you to add waypoints, tracks, and more facets, just like you would with GPS software like Garmin BaseCamp.

Then, once you have your map set up with all the data you might want on your hike, paddle, or climb, print it out yourself. Use Rite in the Rain or National Geographic waterproof printer paper for a durable, outdoor-ready map, and then, hit the trails!

Clean Waterways: The Guide to Greener Soaps

You can’t deny the benefits of Leave No Trace (LNT) camping and hiking. Most who enjoy the outdoors agree that carrying out everything you brought in is the only way to keep trails and campgrounds litter free and natural for your next visit and for others years down the road. Nothing is worse than arriving at a remote location after a great day of hiking, only to find a trashed campsite.

At a time when people are increasingly mobile and are seeking to explore more remote areas, the “pack-it-in, pack-it-out” philosophy is more important than ever. Some of the nicest campsites I have ever found have included a great view of a nearby lake, river, or stream. But, have you ever wondered how your camp might be impacting those waterways you walk beside, swim in, or enjoy paddling? For one, keeping your cookware and yourself clean on the trails with conventional soap has unforeseen consequences for water recreation, for wildlife, and for our waterways’ health.

Credit: Chris Sferra
Credit: Chris Sferra

What are Phosphates, and How Do They Work?

Phosphorus occurs naturally in soils and is one of the environment’s most important nutrients. Phosphates, however, are refined and used in most everyday soaps and detergents. These act as a builder, which enables the soap’s cleaning components to work. In action, this compound removes films, sweat, or grease, allowing you to get yourself or your dishes clean.

While algae and aquatic plants need naturally-occurring phosphorus to grow and survive, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Understand that phosphorus from humans doesn’t just come from soaps and wastewater. As rain runs off the land into waterways, large amounts further wash into streams and rivers.

In areas where agriculture uses phosphorus-based fertilizers, many nutrients end up in a body of water as a result. Excess quantities generate significantly more algae and aquatic plants, which then negatively impact wildlife and recreation.

How does this hurt waterways? Too many phosphates can harm water quality, clog up waterways with excessive vegetation, and create oxygen-deprived dead zones. Over time, this change creates dirtier water and reduces aquatic wildlife. Anyone who has tried to paddle along a lake or river with too much vegetation can relate to the frustration of constantly getting caught in the weeds or cleaning off a heavy paddle laden with plants every few strokes.


How Can You Apply LNT to Waterways?

1. Use phosphate-free and biodegradable soaps on the trail

EMS carries Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash and Dr. Bronner’s, two great all-purpose soaps in easily packable, small containers. Both are free of harmful chemicals and phosphates and are biodegradable. Soaps are usually deemed biodegradable if bacteria can break them down to at least 90-percent water, CO2, and organic material within six months. This simple step ensures you aren’t adding anything unnecessary to the land and waterways while you are out there enjoying them.

2. Less is more!

Both of these brands come in small bottles, and the soap is highly concentrated and designed to be diluted. So, save yourself a few bucks, and reduce your impact by diluting a few drops in a small pot before you wash your dishes or your face. If you follow this rule, that green soap will last for many more trips to come.

3. Employ the 200-foot rule

Biodegradable soaps cannot decompose properly if they are washed directly into a body of water. Instead, the breakdown from bacteria and microbes occurs in the soil. To ensure you are reducing your footprint, do your washing at least 200 feet away from a water source. Then, try to dump wastewater into a hole a few inches deep, which can be covered when finished. This way, nature can work its magic and break the soap down before it washes into the stream.

As outdoor-lovers, we are constantly looking for ways to go farther, lighten our loads, and reduce our impacts, so we can continue to do what we enjoy for years to come. As you gear up for warm-weather adventures, be a steward for your sport by using greener soaps and doing your part to protect the waterways we know and appreciate.

The Seven Carries Route in the Adirondacks. | Credit: Marcus Johnson
The Seven Carries Route in the Adirondacks. | Credit: Marcus Johnson

Winter-Summer Pairings: Shoulder Season Multisport Days

As we head into spring, many outdoor people find themselves conflicted on which sports to pursue. Should they get a head start on their favorite summer activities? Or, should they wring the last bit of life out of their favorite winter sports? Around this time each year, I find myself torn between the desire to get back on the trails (or rock) and—with the knowledge that, once the snow melts, it will be months before I can ski again—my love for spring corn. Luckily, New England is full of great opportunities for those of us who can’t decide what we want to do.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Bag a 4,000-footer and ski the resort

New England springs often offer cold nights and warm days. This means the snow is firm in the morning and soft in the afternoon, so the ski trails aren’t always in prime condition until later in the day.

Waterville Valley is perfect for days like this! With the Tecumseh Trail leading directly from the Waterville Valley parking lot to Mount Tecumseh’s summit, you can tag a 4,000-footer in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Being the shortest of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers, Mount Tecumseh is one of the easier hikes to tick off your list (roughly six miles round trip and with 2,500 feet of elevation gain). This leaves you with plenty of energy to enjoy the steep runs located off Waterville’s aptly named Sunnyside Triple trail in the afternoon.

Cliip a Dee Doo Dah (5.3) at Rumney. | Credit: Tim Peck
Cliip a Dee Doo Dah (5.3) at Rumney. | Credit: Tim Peck

2. Ski and send

Over the years, Cannon Mountain has developed a loyal following of skiers and boarders more interested in amazing terrain than in on-mountain amenities. If you’re like me and consider a chairlift an amenity, they even offer an $8 uphill pass that allows you to skip the lifts and skin uphill on designated trails. Even better, in good seasons, the mountain will close for the year with an abundance of snow still on it, offering great skiing for only the price of the calories and sweat it takes to get you to the top of it.

Coming from south of Franconia Notch in the spring, I love to blend a morning of earning my turns at Cannon Mountain with clipping bolts at Rumney on the way home. With an abundance of crags close to the parking lot, many of which get great afternoon sun, this trip is the perfect way to bid farewell to skiing and usher in climbing.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Mount Wachusett, multisport playground

For years, I was lucky enough to live close to Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts. While the mountain may be limited in terrain, it is in no way limited in opportunities for an incredible multisport spring day. Whether you’re skinning up the mountain before it opens, riding the lifts, or lucky enough to be getting turns after it has closed for the season, the skiing is almost always fun. As well, the mountain’s more limited terrain won’t have you feeling like you’re missing out as you leave to pursue other activities.

Much like Mount Tecumseh, Mount Wachusett’s summit is attainable simply by following trails leaving from the ski resort’s parking lot. Combining a morning on the slopes with a quick trek to the summit is a fantastic way to get your hiking legs under you without missing a chance to ski the soft spring snow. My favorite route has always been following the Balance Rock Trail to the Semuhenna Trail to the Harrington Trail to the summit.

Of course, as good as Mount Wachusett’s hiking trails are, the roads surrounding the mountain are basically tailor-made for cycling. After a morning on the slopes, I love to challenge myself with any number of loop rides that start in the ski resort’s parking lot and climb over the mountain. I like to descend Route 140 and hook up with Route 62. From Route 62, you can connect with Mountain Road to climb up and over Mount Wachusett.

If combining hiking or biking with skiing isn’t interesting enough for you, Mount Wachusett is also located only a few minutes down the road from Crow Hill, one of Massachusetts’ oldest and most notorious crags, and is roughly an hour away from some of New England’s most popular bouldering at Lincoln Woods in Rhode Island.

Although I am not big on playing in the water, one of my friends insists the ultimate multisport opportunity afforded by Mount Wachusett is the chance to play on frozen water in the morning and moving water in the afternoon. For those that don’t know, Mount Wachusett is roughly an hour away from popular surf spots in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.


While spring is the season in which we say goodbye to our favorite winter sports and welcome in our summer activities of choice, there are a few magical weeks where your outdoor options are almost unlimited, making it perfect for the person who wants to do everything.

Get Renewable: The Biolite CampStove

I won’t sugarcoat it: I took a leap of faith in bringing my new Biolite Stove along for this weekend’s trip, and I was a little skeptical. But, in this sense, skeptical doesn’t just mean a little suspicious of whether not it will work. Instead, it meant I might not be eating until tomorrow. Sure, it was just a weekend overnight in the middle of the Adirondacks’ Cranberry Lake, not a weeklong bushwhack through Denali. I could survive 24 hours off the CLIF bars and saltwater taffy I brought along, but it wouldn’t be super pleasant.

I trust gas. It’s always there, until it’s not. It always works, unless it doesn’t. And, it’s harmless, unless you count the environment. O.K., so it’s not perfect, but it definitely gets the job done. A stove that runs on sticks? It wasn’t without a couple question marks.

What if there weren’t any sticks around? What if there weren’t enough? Could I really cook an entire venison steak with sticks? Oh yeah, I didn’t just bring soup or something simple. I went all in. But, what better way to test a stove than when you need it to cook a big slab of meat to avoid going hungry? The pressure was on.

How It Works

The Biolite CampStove Bundle includes everything you might need for a gourmet backcountry meal: The stove itself, a 1.5-liter pot, and a grill that sits overtop the stove. The stove itself is a marvel, one in which 21st-century tech meets serious backcountry utility. The main chamber is where your fire lives, and it’s also where you drop in your biomass fuel, such as sticks, pinecones, pellets, etc. The yellow power module, which mounts easily to the side when you extend the stove’s burly metal legs, has two functions: Fans inside of it push fresh air into the fuel chamber, continuously stoking the fire and keeping it ripping while simultaneously using the fire’s heat to both run the fan and send power to an external-facing USB jack. That means the material you’re using to cook your meal is also keeping itself hot and charging your phone while you’re at it.

The stove packs down inside of the pot to be about the same size as another stove, pot, and fuel canister, which means, as long as there’s fuel nearby and you don’t need to bring Biolite’s ultra-efficient Biofuel Pellets, you’re not sacrificing any weight or volume in your pack. And, for car camping or paddling trips like mine, tossing in the grill top (or pellets, if need be) is a no-brainer.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Putting It To The Test

Although it might not be as simple as turning a nob and lighting a match to get going, even those not the most fire-capable will be able to get the Biolite roaring. Having your sticks ready to go helps, but the fan stokes the flames quickly and gets them hot easily. In fact, just about everything was easier than I expected, from just finding enough sticks, to getting the stove ripping. With the heat so concentrated (way more than a campfire), it needs far less material to get to cook your food than you would think.

Boiling water or heating up anything else in the pot was a piece of cake, and when I threw the grill on top, dinner came out more gourmet than anything I’ve ever eaten in the woods. The entire surface got hot enough to cook my steak, and temperature regulation was as easy as adding or withholding burning material or adjusting the vent’s opening between the grill and stove. Bon appetit!

In addition to the cost savings of not needing to keep repurchasing white gas or IsoPro™ canisters, plus the bonus of being able to charge my phone, headlamp, or GPS while I cook, the Biolite’s true beauty lies in getting away from polluting petroleum and keeping fewer aluminum canisters out of landfills. It just feels good knowing my backcountry cooking is completely renewable—and it’s a whole lot more fun.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Your Guide to New Hampshire Leaf-Peeping

It’s that time of year again! The weather is cooling off, kids are going back to school, and the leaves are beginning to change. If you’re lucky enough to be living in New England for this fall weather, then you have plenty of places nearby to go leaf-peeping. This guide will help you capture the very best spots in New Hampshire, the epicenter of New England’s fall colors.

The Great North Woods

The Great North Woods’ leaves are the first in the state to turn and peak. If you are in the area or are looking to visit, the “week of peak” lasts from October 2nd through October 9th. Take Route 3 up through Pittsburg and Colebrook to enjoy colors from the road. If you’re looking for hiking trails, visit Dixville Notch State Park or John Wingate Weeks Historic Site to soak in the amazing colors. Visit around dusk to catch the golden light hitting the trees!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann

The White Mountains

The White Mountains attract thousands to hike and take in sweeping views of the leaves! The “week of peak” this year is October 9th through October 16th. Taking a drive up the Kancamagus Highway, from Conway to Lincoln, will leave you breathless, as you see the vibrant colors contrasting against the mountains behind them. There are plenty of photo opportunities: panoramic views, covered bridges, and waterfalls.

If you’re looking for an easy hike through the Presidential Range, Lookout Ledge offers incredible views of Mount Adams’ and Mount Madison’s foliage. Lookout Ledge Trail is the most direct route to the summit, at about 1.3 miles with an elevation gain of around 1,000 feet.

Chocorua Lake offers a great opportunity for leaf-peeping by water in the Whites. Bring your kayak or canoe and paddle out to put yourself in the middle of it all!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann

Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee

The Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region in western New Hampshire’s “week of peak” will be around October 16th through October 23rd. Begin your drive in Claremont and follow Route 12A along the Connecticut River. You will pass old barns and covered bridges – a photographer’s dream! From here, travel Route 11 east towards Lake Sunapee or ride to the top of Mount Kearsarge at Rollins State Park in Warner.

Lake Sunapee is another great place to leaf-peep in western New Hampshire, as it’s the state’s fifth-largest lake. Break out your boat, and enjoy the array of colors surrounding you!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann

Lakes Region

The eastern side of New Hampshire – the Lakes Region – offers spectacular views of leaves peaking – not only from the roads and mountains but further reflected in the area’s many bodies of water. The “week of peak,” similar to the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region, will be around October 16th through October 23rd.

Driving through Holderness or Tamworth Village is beautiful any time of the year, and the leaves make it better! There are also many smaller hikes in the Lakes Region, including the ever-popular Mount Major Trail in the Belknap Range. Mount Major offers views of Lake Winnipesaukee, the surrounding Belknap Mountains, the Ossipee Range, and part of the White Mountains. If you’re looking to enjoy the leaves around Lake Winnipesaukee, take a cruise on the M/S Mount Washington!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann


Southern New Hampshire takes a bit longer to peak, but when it does, it’s always worth it. The Monadnock region peaks around October 23rd through October 30th. A suggested driving loop would be to follow Route 32 south through Swanzey to Route 119 in Richmond, and then follow Route 119 through Fitzwilliam, where you can pick up Route 12 and travel north to Keene. Another great drive is following Route 101 from Marlborough to Peterborough, or taking Route 10 from Keene north to Gilsum.

For hikers, Mount Monadnock is a moderate trek with 360-degree views encompassing all six New England states at the top, and will help you capture the fall foliage beautifully!

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann

Merrimack Valley

The Merrimack Valley region offers plenty of beautiful drives for people to enjoy the leaves peaking! This year’s “week of peak” will be around October 30th through November 7th. Route 101 through Bedford, from the Bedford Village Inn to the Amherst line, is a great way to catch the rainbow of leaves this fall. Route 111 through Salem and Windham also has plenty to offer. Or, as another option, take a drive around Henniker, Hopkinton, Concord, and Bow.

Credit: Hannah Wohltmann
Credit: Hannah Wohltmann


Last to peak but certainly not least, the Seacoast Region offers leaf-peeping opportunities in their “week of peak” from October 30th through November 7th. There are many places where you can experience foliage in this area: Drive along Route 101 east or Route 1 north along the coast, take a walk through College Woods in Durham, NH, or visit Odiorne State Park to hike the trails. Adams Point is another great place to soak up the colors right on the water. Wherever you are, Seacoast has plenty of places to enjoy, especially later in the fall season.


New Hampshire is one of the most beautiful places in the world to see the leaves change, whether you’re driving, hiking, or just enjoying the views on the water. Have a happy and safe fall, and don’t forget to share your favorite photos with #goEast for a chance to be featured!