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The Leading Edge
What's new in the world of adventure? Everything. Equipment is lighter. Navigation is simpler. Pretty much any activity where fresh air and synthetic fabrics intersect is safer. A fresh, fun new school energy is knocking the stuffiness out of even the most traditional sports. Change is in the air—not to mention the sea, the mountains, and the terrain parks. We call it the Leading Edge, but it's already here. Welcome to the future of adventure.

One of the most powerful currents in outdoor recreation is the advent of featherweight gear. Tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, kayak paddles, footwear, outerwear—nearly every tool and toy used in the mountains, deserts, and waterways has been shrunk or in some way lightened by new materials and construction. It's hard not to see that as a good thing, especially when you feel less tired at the end of a long day. What's really impressive, though, is how the emergence of lightweight gear is converging with broader trends to push new ways of experiencing the outdoors. Lighter packs and shorter vacations are leading fun hogs of all persuasions to squeeze more action into less time—taking four days to cover a week's worth of distance, for example. Lighter gear is no longer just the means to an end. It's now a catalyst, too.

For the future of featherweight—including leading edge gear from Brunton, MSR, Patagonia, Petzl, Wenonah, and others—check out the December 2003/January 2004 issue of Adventure.

A few years ago, the fanciest electronic device on the trail was an altimeter watch. Today, GPS units, two-way radios, and digital cameras have all invaded the backcountry, as well as the byways of global travel. Since many of us hit the road to escape such beeping, glowing intrusions, all the technology can seem counterproductive. Yet, at least to some of the people some of the time, the benefits are worth it—and they begin at home. A devoted geek can now print custom topo maps, follow them with the help of a GPS unit, and recharge a satellite phone in camp. Even the best gizmos can't replace human judgment, though. No matter how good the autopilot, you still better know how to land the plane.

Garmin, HighGear, Magellan, Panasonic and others bring you the gadgetry to keep you connected in the December 2003/January 2004 issue of Adventure.

In decades past, surfers and divers "discovered" Palau, the coast of Thailand, and Belize's famous atolls. Today's new generation of globe-trotting athletes are still in the vanguard of adventure travel. Here are some of their picks.

Photo: Brad Ludden

Expedition kayaker and founder of First Descents, a kayak camp for youth cancer patients.

The Sichuan Province of China has huge potential. I was just there for thirteen days and kayaked seven rivers—six had never been run. It wasn't like we were struggling to find the first descents either. If we ran three rivers a day, we'd make three first descents. In China you are not allowed to carry anything on top of your vehicle—which is great and all, but sucks for kayakers—so we loaded up a decent-sized bus with six kayaks and seven people and headed for the drainages. What really excited me was the diversity of the place. Just within the Sichuan Province alone we'd see highland, mountainous people and lowland farmers; modern cities and older, culturally rich villages; and spectacularly diverse geography. We spent a few days down at sea level in some of the warmer, muggier areas and then head up to 14,000-foot (4,267-meter) passes and 11,000- to 12,000-foot (3,353- to 3,658-meter) towns. When kayaking we'd see every type and level of white water. There's steep creeking, sass white water, big water, play boating, Class I to V—everything.

Photo: Jamie Cooper

Professional white-water kayaker and co-producer of Tight Squeeze—the first all-women's white-water video.

New Zealand is one of my favorites for a lot of outdoor activities, but definitely kayaking. Access to the rivers on the South Island is pretty limited, but there are a few guys down there who own helicopters outfitted with kayak racks. They'll drop you off in the most amazingly beautiful places. The rivers are fairly difficult—dropping on average 130 feet per mile (25 meters per kilometer)—but the rock is smooth and the water is a beautiful glowing blue. When I go over, I head to the North Island and the Kaituna River first. It's a warm-water river that has, within a couple of miles, a slalom course, the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at 21 feet (6.4 meters), and, at the bottom, this really amazing play spot. Once it starts raining in the north, we head south to catch the South Island's rivers at their peak.

The future of adventure is here and now. Read the complete rundown in the December 2003/January 2004 Issue of Adventure.

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December 2003/January 2004

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