Extreme Apparel for Outdoorsmen

Whether you’re trekking the Appalachian Trail or hitting the Amazon Basin for some synchronized swimming with piranha, what you wear plays a major part in your comfort and -- in adorably extreme circumstances -- your survival.

Clothing technology has come a long way since explorer Robert Scott ended up on the frozen foods menu on his trip to the South Pole in the early 1900s. If he was here today, he’d be really old … and he’d tell you how awesome modern, durable, high-tech, waterproof, laminate Gore-Tex jackets with synthetic fabrics are. They all allow perspiration to escape from the inside, and repel wind and water on the outside.

“Anything that helps keep your skin dry will keep you comfortable, no matter what temperature you want to operate at,” says Kim McKersie, a New Jersey-based outdoor apparel expert.

But despite these advances in synthetic fabrics, a classic natural alternative is still a mainstay in contemporary outdoor and adventure apparel.

“Wool is back in a big way,” says McKersie, who says Merino wool is optimal as a base-layer garment because it’s naturally antibacterial, and the latest generation of wool products (made by companies like Icebreaker, SmartWool and Ibex) and are softer to the touch than what people are accustomed to. “Pick up Smartwool’ s NTS (Next-to-Skin) Lightweight Crew at $70.00 for colder environments, and their Microweight Tee for $60.00 for more moderate climates,” says McKersie.

Tiered Cold-weather Protection
While most people know that layering is the most effective way to stave off the elements, McKersie says that they don’t realize that each layer offers a specific function. This comprehensive three-layer system is commonly used in most of today’s hiking and adventure outfits:

The Base: This layer’s primary purpose is to move moisture away from your skin so that it can evaporate. High-tech, man-made fabrics (like Polartec Powder Dry and Capilene) along with Merino wool and silk are the most effective fabrics for this purpose. McKersie suggests Terramar’s Body-Sensors Helix shirt -- made of micro denier polyester -- for $30.50, or their Filament Jersey Silk shirt for $46.50. Each is comfortable in both cooler and warmer conditions.

The Insulation: The next layer traps heat around your body. Versatile wool also works well here, along with goose down and synthetic fleece. McKersie suggests Smartwool’s 100-percent Merino wool Roundabout Crew sweater, $85, for light to moderate insulation. For moderate to heavy insulation, she recommends The North Face’s Denali Jacket made from Polartec 300 series synthetic fleece for $165.00 to $185.00. For those of you who enjoy sunning with the seals on the polar ice cap, she recommends Mountain Hardwear’s Phantom 800-fill goose down jacket for $250.00.

The Surface: McKersie has her favorite outerwear choices to keep out the cold air and points her cold weather vane at Marmot’s Palisades Jacket made with Gore-Tex for $285.00, and Outdoor Research’s Revel Jacket made with Pertex Shield for $165.00.

Where to Wear
You wouldn’t want to be caught dead in the wrong outfit in extreme elements -- which is exactly what could happen if you pick the wrong outfit. So don’t sweat it; just consider humidity and altitude when assembling your attire:

Jungle Rooms: “In a hot, humid climate like the rainforest, I recommend garments that offer lighter-weight, tightly woven fabrics with a looser fit,” says McKersie. “Try ExOfficio’s quick-drying Dryfly Flex Long-sleeve Shirt,” for $80.00. You’ll also want to check out Columbia’s Long-sleeve Silver Ridge shirt, which offers a sun-protection fabric and Omni-Wick advanced evaporation technology built right in for $50.00. “As you walk,” she continues, “you get a billowing effect, allowing your perspiration to escape.”

Desert Climates: For dry, arid conditions, McKersie also recommends loose fits like Mountain Hardware’s quick-drying Canyon Short-sleeve Shirt with an Ultra Violet Protection Factor (UPF) of 30 for $50.00, as well as their Mesa convertible pants with UPF sun protection of 50, for $75.00. The pants can be unzipped at the thigh for warmer temperatures.

Mountain Ranges: If you’re looking to attain altitude, McKersie advises using a wool-base layer using SmartWool’s NTS Midweight Crew for $75.00. “Add additional layers as needed,” he says. “Try Mountain Hardware’s Microchill Jacket, $85.00, or The North Face’s TKA Microvelour Glacier sweater, $50.00, and then top everything off with a lightweight, breathable laminate jacket.

So there you have it: all the fashion advice for today’s man about town … if that town happens to be either in the Himalayas or the Mekong Delta. Dress well my friends, or remember to disconnect your cable before you go.

Photo by Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash

Trade in Your Old Gadgets for Cash or Credit

Unless you’ve been living in a media blackout for the last couple of years, you have probably noticed that major consumer electronics retailers are falling over themselves to help you recycle and trade in your aging gizmos. “Our overarching sentiment is that we’ll take back any electronic device a consumer has,” says Best Buy marketing manager, Rich Yudhishthu. Up until recently, you probably just tossed your old cell phones or laptops into a drawer or closet and left them there until you had enough courage to actually throw them in the trash. But now you can effortlessly take Best Buy and other companies up on their offers and turn all your clutter into cash or credit toward the latest must-haves. Here’s how.

Best Buy
“If you want to go to all the time and trouble of preparing your stuff for sale and vetting buyers on sites like eBay and Craigslist, you’ll probably make more money,” notes Yudhishthu. But what we’re offering is a fast, hassle-free service that allows you to recycle or trade in your electronic devices via the Internet or instantly at any of our stores nationwide.”

Yudhishthu says Best Buy offers three options for customers with used devices. Older products with no real value can be taken to any store to be responsibly recycled. Better yet, you can trade in your newer, gently used electronics at your local outlet or online and get some return on your original outlay. Or if you purchased the company’s Buy Back Plan when the product was new, you’ll receive a guaranteed percentage of the purchase price when you turn it in -- from a high of 50 percent if it’s returned within six months down to 20 percent if you hand it back within 18 to 24 months.

Amazon Trade-In will not only take your MP3 players, GPS devices and other electronic equipment, but you can also milk some value out of your old textbooks, DVDs and video games as well. “Over a million products are trade-in eligible,” says Robin Mendelson, director of Amazon Trade-In and Warehouse Deals. “We not only take items that are in like-new condition, we’ll take items that are in good or just acceptable conditions too.” And according to Mendelson, if an item is received by Amazon Trade-In and is graded by staff to be in a better condition than the customer selected, the trader will automatically be paid a higher amount.

However, Mendelson cautions that different products have different depreciation cycles. So if you’re thinking of trading something in down the road, it’s important to stay aware of how long you’ve had a device and how well it continues to meet your needs. A laptop may retain some value for up to two years, for example, whereas a television might still be worth something for up to four. “Amazon’s trade-in value calculations take into account what other companies are offering,” adds Mendelson. “And they are adjusted accordingly to ensure we’re giving competitive value throughout the product lifecycle in each trade-in category.

Gazelle is the only one of the three companies that specializes exclusively in the trade-in and resale of used gadgets. “Maintaining and keeping your devices in good shape will help you get the maximum value out of them,” advises Gazelle’s chief gadget officer, Anthony Scarsella. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, he recommends staying on top of firmware and software updates, using protective cases and screen covers, and keeping things like chargers, batteries and other accessories with the device. Anything missing that is required for the equipment to operate effectively can have a big impact on the price.

“We have 22 different product categories and accept hundreds of thousands of items,” continues Scarsella, “But overall we focus on creating an awesome consumer experience. Our customers can trust that their confidential data will be erased or destroyed from anything they send in that has a hard drive or a memory card, and that payments are made within five days via check, PayPal or an Amazon gift card.”

In the End
One of the enduring problems with trade-in programs is that sellers and buyers often have vastly different opinions about the value and condition of products. So what happens if you rate your laptop as pristine, but the buyer thinks you’re out of your mind? All three companies offer free shipping. So if you happen to disagree about how much your junk is worth, you can either take less money or have your stuff shipped back to you and returned to dust-collection duty. Bottom line: You’ve got nothing to lose. So gather up your old crap and start trading!

Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

Best Electronic Drum Kits

For every guy out there who’s ever fantasized about being in a rock band -- OK, for every guy out there -- the dream has now become a little more accessible thanks to the arrival of electronic drum kits. We asked two veteran drummers for their thoughts on electronic drums in general, and which kits in particular get them jazzed.

“Early electronic drums were crude,” says Ray Brinker, a Los Angeles-based drummer who’s toured and recorded with some of the biggest names in the music business, including Ray Charles, Pat Benatar and David Lee Roth. “The sounds were very limited and the playing surfaces were hard and unforgiving.”

But that was then. “Electronic kits have progressed in quantum leaps,” continues Brinker. “They’re now extremely touch-sensitive, the feel of the heads is natural and the sound quality is pure. And with an electronic kit, you can control so many more variables when you’re recording in a studio. The result is a very clean-sounding record.” Brinker admits you do lose a bit of warmth with an e-kit, but in the studio, he says, there’s really not much difference between a good electronic drum kit and a nice-sounding acoustic set.

New York-based Mark Robohm has been drumming for more than 23 years, accompanying artists from Alicia Keys to Jay Sean, both in the studio and on tour. He believes electronic drums are great -- in their place. “When you’re learning, I think about 50 to 70 percent of what you need to accomplish can be done on an electronic set,” he says. “But I wouldn’t depend on them alone.” And as drummers become more proficient, adds Robohm, they care more about things like texture, feel and sensitivity. “As you grow as a musician, you find that electronic kits just don’t cut it. You’ll need to work with acoustic drums.” Though Robohm, like most pros, does use an electronic kit to augment his acoustic set, he doesn’t believe e-kits will ever replace acoustic drums at the professional level.

As far as which kits are best, both Brinker and Robohm recommend either Yamaha or Roland. Brinker thinks Roland has a slight edge, though, says Robohm: “It’s really less a question of brand and more about what level you’re buying in at.” Below are four kits at various levels and price points to get you started.


Incorporating Yamaha’s innovative DTX pads, this first-rate kit is designed to please even the most seasoned professional. The pads have a textured cellular silicone head that deliver a feel similar to an acoustic set.

Drum Brain: DTX900

Rack System: HXR4LD -- new expandable Hex Rack system

Price: The Yamaha DTX950K is not longer available and has been discontinued, but you can shop for other electronic drum kits here:

Electronic Drum Kits



It’s not Roland’s absolute top-of-the-line kit, but the TD-12KX is a lot of bang for the buck, and it offers plenty of features to satisfy an advanced drummer. Roland has upgraded the pads and hardware on this model and has also given it enhanced VEDIT features.

Drum Brain: TD-12 Percussion Sound Module

Rack System: MDS-12X -- newly designed and streamlined

Price: $3,999 at B&H Foto & Electronics

Shop Roland Drum Kits Here



 The rubber pads are a downside for some, but the kit also features a nice assortment of acoustic drum sounds, including new audio from their Oak Custom series drums.

Drum Brain: DTXP4

Rack System: RS-85 -- compact and foldable for easy storage

Price: $1,500 at Amazon.com


MOST AFFORDABLE: The Roland TD-4SX: V-compact Series 

This latest version of the TD-4S kit was created with affordability in mind. The kit has great feel and versatility for the price, and the company has outfitted this incarnation with newly developed 6.5-inch mesh pads for high-toms.

Drum Brain: TD-4 Percussion Sound Module

Rack System: MDS-4 -- includes rack, plus clamps and arms, for both pads and cymbals

Price: $1,400 at PSSL.com

Shop Roland Drum Kits Here


Shop Electronic Drum Kits


Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash