Travel Blog

Top 10 Guest Photos 2016

Happy New Year everybody! We love this annual photography competition – every year we gather around a couple of big screens and let the imagery soak in, over a hot cuppa. It’s truly inspiring to see the adventures and creativity from all our travellers. And it’s safe to say, debates ensue as we do our best to select a winner. That’s why we always select the top 10 photos, so you get a chance to see how difficult our decision is.

Once the winner is chosen (read on below to find out who that was…), one of our team get the lucky task of letting them know they’ve just won a 2 for 1 deal on any of our Active Adventures – that’s here in New Zealand, Nepal, Europe and throughout South America. If you’re coming on an adventure with us in 2017 be sure to take your camera, because you may be the next winner!

See the 2013 Top 10 // See the 2014 Top 10 // See the 2015 Top 10

Here’s our top 10 for 2016, in no particular order:

1. Stan Jacobson, Patagonia Hiking Adventure ‘Condor‘ trip

Stan is no stranger to our annual photography competition, as a finalist in 2014 with his group photo at Taquile island, as part of his ‘Jaguar’ trip. All of his photos are amazing, in fact one of his Patagonia images made it to the cover of our new South America brochure, whilst another is the cover on our Facebook page.

2. Boris Diskin, Ultimate Dolomites Adventure ‘Dolomiti‘ trip

Our 9-day ‘Dolomiti’ trip offers up some of the most stunning mountain views anywhere in the world. But it’s more than just a pretty face, as our clients discover the “inside mountain” experience of the World War I tunnels of Lagazuoi.

3. Dennis Wilson, Everest Base Camp Trek ‘EBC‘ trip

Just when you think the views can’t get any better, you’ll venture round the next corner, and you’ll have to reassess your thinking all over again.

4. Rebecca Washlow, Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar‘ trip

A great selfie, under a blue sky canvas, whilst hiking the Lares Inca Trail in Peru.

5. Mitch Pfeiffer, South Island Explorer ‘Kiwi‘ trip

The world’s only alpine parrot – the native “Kea” is found in most mountain areas in the South Island. We often have to warn our clients to not leave their socks on their room balconies, as these cheeky birds steal them!

6. Eugene Ngo, Galapagos Land and Sea Adventure ‘Tortuga‘ trip

Iguana aerobics session in full swing on San Cristobal in the Galapagos.

7. Louise Burpee, Mont Blanc Circuit ‘Tour du Mont Blanc‘ trip

Sweeping meadows, cows, delicious wine and cheese… Oh, and incredible mountain vistas – that’s the Mont Blanc region. The hiking isn’t too bad either!

8. Jeremy Chambers, Essence of the South Island ‘Tui‘ trip

You’d be forgiven for thinking this shot of Milford Sound was an oil painting. A trip here is an assault to the senses. We’ve used this image countless times on our website, it’s just so perfect. Kudos to Jeremy and congratulations on being the 2016 Active photography winner! 

9. Ed Dahlberg, New Zealand Biking Adventure ‘Weka‘ trip

The many moods of Lake Pukaki at the foot of Aoraki Mount Cook – rolled into one fine image.

10. Eugene Ngo, Galapagos Land and Sea Adventure ‘Tortuga‘ trip

On the chase or being chased? A dramatic shot, captured in one epic split second!

Source: New feed

5 Amazing Outdoor Experiences in Ogden, Utah (That Don’t Include Skiing)

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If there’s a more raw, more awesome (in the literal sense of the word), more hardcore outdoor destination in the country than Utah, we haven’t found it. And we’re including Alaska, Montana, and even Boca Raton (kidding). While the state boasts some of the best ski resorts in the United States, there’s so much more to it.

Of the state’s first settlement, Ogden, Al Capone once remarked that it was “a bit too rowdy for my taste”. It’s that kind of town. So it’s no surprise that Ogden is at the epicenter of Utah’s coolest alternative (read: non-ski-related) experiences. Here are just five of our favorites:

Welcome Sign in Ogden, Utah

Welcome Sign in Ogden, Utah

Search for ET at North Fork Park

We’re huge space geeks. I mean huge. With the recent opening of a handful of certified dark sky parks around the country, we were stoked to hear that Utah scored a coveted spot on the list. Just north of Ogden, Weber County North Fork Park offers more than 1,000 hectares of pristine dark sky territory. It’s unique among similar parks, however, in that it’s so close to an urban center and boasts an immense focus on wildlife and investing in local, dark-sky-inspired artwork. As a bonus, it also features a long list of must-have park amenities including campsites, hiking trails, and horse corrals. So, you can come for the stargazing and stay for … everything else.

Lose the Skis and Go … Fat Biking

If you don’t live on or near the mountains, you’d be forgiven for not knowing about fat biking. The niche sport — which utilizes purpose-built bikes with fat (get it?) tires designed to tackle soft, unstable terrain like snow, mud, and sand — has taken off in recent years. Ogden, in particular, was home to the inaugural USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships, so they know a thing or two about the sport. Due to the event’s success, Ogden developed their own dedicated fat bike race called the Sweaty Yeti. Amateurs looking to dip their toes (and tires) into the scene will find a handful of dedicated fat bike shops downtown for daily rentals.

Snowmobiling Utah

Snowmobiling Utah © Steve Jurvetson

Get Lost Snowmobiling

By the numbers, the outdoor opportunities in and around Ogden are jaw-dropping: “over 170,000 acres of National Forest land, three ski resorts, over 210 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking and 13,000 acres of lakes connected by pristine rivers.” The list goes on and on and on. In the summer, this means awesome hiking, biking, fishing, and kayaking. Come winter, it’s all about snowmobiling! Visitors should check out ClubRec for everything from rentals to trail maps to guided tours of the impossibly large backcountry.

Experience Via Ferrata at Waterfall Canyon

If you’ve ever wanted to climb a mountain, but have been scared off because it involves actually climbing a mountain, via ferrata (literally “iron road”) is for you. The unique mountain-climbing method was developed during World War I to allow Italian soldiers to quickly scale nearby mountains to defend their hometowns. It ditches typical complex ropes and knots in favor of a series of cables and metal ladders to which you’re attached. Safely clipped in, you’re able to experience (almost) all the thrills of mountain climbing without the pesky risk of, ya know, falling to your death.

Ice Climb Malan’s Falls

Ice Climbing

Ice Climbing

There’s no shortage of ice flows and smears that crop up around Ogden each winter — all of which make the area a phenomenal destination for ice climbing. However, the most famous and notable is Malan’s Falls. The falls bear the distinction as the first vertical ice climb in the country and today offer no less than four pitches of WI5. As an added bonus, the southwest-facing nature of the climb provides an unusually — and pleasantly — warm vertical. The falls are easily accessible by following the 29th Street trailhead, and then on passed the signs to Waterfall Canyon. Visitors will also find a number of excellent guided tours via Bear House Mountain Guiding — one of the area’s best guide outfits.

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Exploring Estonia’s Wilder Side: 4 Bucket-list Worthy Adventures

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Sadly, Estonia isn’t on the radar for most American travelers. In fact, according to a very scientific survey that I conducted, more than 90% couldn’t find it on a map if they tried. It’s a shame because the country is a place of beautiful and bold contradictions. Its people have embraced the convenience and ease of technology (for everything from election voting to healthcare), while maintaining a deep connection to nature.

The latter isn’t surprising. Estonia is home to some of Europe’s most breathtaking scenery. While the country is tiny relative to its neighbors, the diverse landscape stretches across more than 1,500 islands, beautiful forests, and pebble-covered beaches. Its long and dramatic history has left the countryside dotted with ancient castles, stunning churches, and hilltop fortresses. All of which is a goldmine for nature-loving, adventure travelers!

Lahemaa National Park, Estonia

Lahemaa National Park, Estonia © Pjotr Savitski

Lahemaa National Park

Seventy kilometers east of the capital city of Tallinn lies Lahemaa National Park — the country’s oldest park of its kind. Its massive size — 725 square kilometers including 250 square kilometers of sea — make it the largest in Estonia and one of the largest in all of Europe. This makes for a wide array of explorable terrains and an excellent variety of outdoor opportunities. To the north, the Gulf of Finland offers pristine space for kayakers and beach-goers; inland, even the most experienced hikers will find the wild, rugged terrain challenging; and the park is replete with wildlife including lynx, wolves, and bear.

Vilsandi, Estonia

Vilsandi, Estonia © Johan Viirok


Even among Estonia’s long list of islands, Vilsandi stands out. At just nine square kilometers, it’s hardly a blip on the country’s map, yet it’s fast becoming one of its most popular destinations. Accessible almost exclusively by boat or kayak (although some trucks are actually able to reach it too!), it’s a quiet, pristine place that’s changed little since Dutchman Johann Doll “discovered” the island after escaping his sinking ship off its rocky shores in 1703. In particular, the island is a popular spot for tens of thousands of migratory waterfowl and Baltic grey seals.

Suur Munamägi, Estonia

Suur Munamägi, Estonia

Suur Munamägi

Hikers interested in “peak bagging” will find Estonia’s landscape less “mountainous and craggy” and more “slowly undulating”. The country’s highest peak, Suur Munamägi (literally “Big Egg Mountain”), stretches to a reasonable — and adorable — 318 meters (1,043 feet). While it won’t top anyone’s bucket list for “technical climbing”, it’s still a lovely setting to behold. Ask the locals about the folklore surrounding the series of five towers — one of which included a five-person bar — erected atop the peak’s summit during the last two centuries. Today, it’s capped with a 346-meter (1,137 feet) observation tower that provides unobstructed views of up to 50 kilometers in every direction.

Haapsalu Bishop’s Castle

Outdoor buffs that enjoy a bit of history with their exploring will love Haapsalu Bishop’s Castle. The stunning 13th-century structure is one of the best preserved castles in all of Estonia. While some of the installations — a children’s playground in the castle moat and a giant chessboard — may seem a bit hokey, the castle itself is stunning. Visitors can climb the 38-meter-tall bell tower which is said to be haunted by the White Lady, arguably the country’s most infamous ghost!

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Sportneer +20F Ultralight Sleeping Bag Is Like a Portable Travel Cocoon

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Shopping for sleeping bags (and other camping gear) is a daunting task. Like buying a mattress. Or a car. Every company throws R values and loft fill numbers and who-knows-what-else at you until you don’t know which end is up.

So, we appreciate a company that keeps it simple and — even more importantly — affordable. The Sportneer Ultralight Sleeping Bag is one such product. The manufacturer was kind enough to send us a review sample for a sneak peek. Here’s what we found …

Sportneer +20F Ultralight Sleeping Bag

Sportneer +20F Ultralight Sleeping Bag

The Skinny

In the company’s own words, the Sportneer Ultralight Sleeping Bag is:

… made for the outdoors. It’s lightweight and compact, making it easily portable to take on the go. It’s wind and water resistant to endure the weather and designed for extreme temperature and pressure. Made with 100% silk cotton for ultimate comfort and breath-ability and has an extended leg area for more foot room.

The Traveler’s Take

Novice outdoors(wo)men are often inclined to “over” buy their gear. This results in overspending on an alpine level sleeping bag, for example, that’s rated to 40 below zero when the user isn’t likely to ever encounter a scenario in which that’ll be necessary.

Sportneer +20F Ultralight Sleeping Bag

Sportneer +20F Ultralight Sleeping Bag

Sportneer’s Ultralight Sleeping Bag strikes a balance between temperature rating and weight. As the name implies, it’s rated to +20°F — an ideal temperature rating that’s good enough to cover the vast majority of adventure travelers. Unless you’re traveling somewhere that’s very remote, most desert, backcountry, and wilderness camping isn’t likely to go much lower than that. This is all thanks to a brushed micro polyester lining for optimal comfort, breathable liner, and 100% silk cotton fill to keep you warm and cozy.

Another thing we love is the weight — or lack of it. The bag weighs under three pounds and packs down to a paltry 14.5″ x 6.5″ inch tube. So, it’s compact enough to throw in your pack without occupying too much space.

Sportneer +20F Ultralight Sleeping Bag

Sportneer +20F Ultralight Sleeping Bag

Lastly, the bag features a few bonus extras that we dig. A smart interior pocket is designed to stash small valuables that are better kept on your person (e.g. wallet, smartphone, passport, etc.). Plus, the foot area offers a 3D design that provides additional foot room and a more comfortable overall fit.

Did we mention it’s also only fifty bucks?

Check out this video review for a closer look:

Pricing + Availability

Available now for less than $50 USD from Amazon.

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4 Must-Have Gadgets for Your Upcoming Fall Road Trips

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Fall is officially here and — at least here in the United States — that means: it’s road trippin’ season! (Actually, every season is road tripping season as far as we’re concerned, but fall is our favorite season so …)

Fresh off a handful of awesome road trips this past summer, we’ve been winnowing down our list of “must-have” car camping gadgets. Here are just four of our latest favorites:

#1: Pelican Elite Coolers

Pelican 20QT Elite cooler near a stream in New Hampshire

Pelican 20QT Elite Cooler in the Wild

At home or in the woods, we love to cook. But, without a proper refrigerator or a way to keep our foodstuffs cold, it’s virtually impossible. Enter Pelican’s Elite line of coolers. If you’re unfamiliar with extreme coolers, they work just like you would imagine. The Elite line can keep your cold goods cold for days or — under ideal conditions — as long as a week. In our experience, and with a bit of clever cooler handling, we found that we were able to keep our ice frozen for about 3-4 days. Read our detailed love letter to our Pelican 20QT Elite Cooler.

#2: BottleKeeper

BottleKeeper on the Beach

Aside from “refrigeration”, clean water, and (maybe) a bathroom, beer is undoubtedly the next most essential road trip item. More specifically: cold beer. You could pack a koozie for this purpose, but this isn’t 1998. Beer-related technology has advanced and we now live in a world where anyone even remotely serious about craft brew should invest in a BottleKeeper.

It’s a straightforward product. The exterior looks remarkably similar to a stainless steel Sigg water bottle. But the bottom screws off to reveal a neoprene-lined interior designed to swaddle your beer bottle like a newborn baby and keep it cold for hours. They’re available in a handful of colors and a variety of sizes (to fit standard, stubby, or fancy 22-ounce bomber bottles). We heartily recommend buying one of each (or more if, ya know, you actually travel with friends).

#3: Skeeter Beaters

If it’s not obvious, we love car camping. For a variety of reasons, sleeping in your car is an awesome way to extend a road trip almost indefinitely. But, especially in the warmer southern states and with two people in the car, it can quickly become uncomfortable. It gets hot, stuffy, and can feel like the walls are closing in even for the most non-claustrophobic person.

Skeeter Beater Window Screens

Skeeter Beater Window Screens ©

Skeeter Beaters get around all of that. The dead-simple screens are made of thick mesh netting sewn into a heavy duty fabric border that attaches to the windows of your car/truck with magnets. The result: crisp, fresh breezes all night long!

Like so:

Bonus: one pair folds down into the size of softball and they keep bugs out too!

#4: LUCID 4-Inch Folding Mattress

A recent study (that I made up for this post) proved that we spend at least 69% of our lives sleeping. In short: it pays to invest in a good mattress. Just because your car camping doesn’t mean it has to feel like you’re sleeping in your car. Sleeping bags are essential, of course. Add a proper roll-out mat or inflatable camping pad and you can at least count on a decent night’s sleep.

LUCID Folding Mattress

LUCID Folding Mattress

But, if you want to sleep like royalty in your vehicle, no matter where you are, a proper folding mattress is the only way to fly. LUCID’s brand of folding mattresses is fantastic! We spent the better part of two weeks in the wilds of Pennsylvania on their full-size variant and we couldn’t have been happier. They boast the added benefit of folding up to a relatively compact footprint, making them an ideal “camp couch” for inside your tent for the other 31% of your life when you’re not snoozing.

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Our first ‘Dolomiti’ trip

Our final European adventure for 2016 wrapped up just a few days ago – the skies were clear, the meadows were green, the hiking was fantastic and the Dolomites proved their status as the most beautiful mountain range in the world.

Active Adventures Dolomiti trip

See the full album here!

With 13 past Active Adventures travellers, we explored the Alta Badia valley, the Fanes Sennes Braies Natural Park and the peaks and valleys surrounding Cortina. Its difficult to describe the Dolomites without breaking out the superlatives and grandiose terms, simply because there’s no other way to describe what you see and experience around every corner – “I don’t think Ive ever seen a more perfect setting”, “you’ve got to be kidding me”, “OK, my mind is blown”, “I just need to pinch myself and make sure I’m not dreaming.” These were just some of the comments we all heard ourselves making along the way. And let’s not forget the hiking and biking amidst this perfect back drop! Our days were also complimented with incredible local food and wine and comfortable, elegant accommodation, and even the occasional musical performance from local groups.

I’m slightly jealous that I may not be guiding this trip again for a wee while – that will be left in the very capable hands of Richard, our local guide, and Mike – our long time Active Adventures trip leader who now resides in Austria. If you’re joining this trip in the future, you’ll meet these guys, and no doubt share the same experiences! – Phil

Hiking with Active Adventures Europe

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The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: A Photographic Journey

It was around the early 2000’s when we started exploring the notion of running our style of adventure trips in Peru. One of the old hands at Active, Phil Boorman, had already spent years in Costa Rica surfing and teaching, as well as guiding groups overland through South America. So, combining his local knowledge with our team’s experience guiding adventure tours in New Zealand, Active Adventures South America was born.

One of the signature itineraries, which has stood the test of time proving to be popular year in, year out, is the Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar’ trip. Over the past 15 or so years thousands of guests have shared this 14-day experience with us, exploring Peru on foot, by bike and in a kayak. Of course, one of the bucket list destinations in Peru is Machu Picchu, and the Classic Inca Trail is the favoured way to reach this ancient citadel. The trail is well worn, which adds to the appeal, as hikers seek to follow in the footsteps of ancient Inca.

If you’re considering hiking the Classic Inca Trail yourself, don’t sit back and put it off! Lock in your spot, as hiking permits are limited and always sell out. Once you’ve got your spot secured, sit back, relax and enjoy our photo journey to Machu Picchu (and do a little hiking training to get in shape, if you’re not already!) All the photos you’ll see here are from our guests, taken during their ‘Jaguar’ trip.

The Journey to Machu Picchu begins in Cuzco

Having spent a couple of nights in Cuzco already and having hiked and biked in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, you’ll be nicely acclimatised and ready to hike! Topped up with any last minute hiking supplies, your group will leave town to make your way back through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to the start of the trail at Piscachuca.


Photo credit: Summer Zimmer ‘Jaguar’, April 2009

Your hike begins at Piscacucho, or Kilometre 82

Eager and bristling with anticipation, there’s time for a fresh-faced group photo before the hiking begins. You’ll notice all the wooden hiking poles – those are available at the trail head, and widely used due to the ban on modern hiking poles with sharp points (as they degrade the historic track). You’ll hike through a few little villages, dip down into shaded river valleys and take in  your first views of the huge peaks that will emerge even more as you hike further.

Classic Inca Trail

Photo credit: Jen Cha ‘Jaguar’, November 2008

The trail winds its way up as you head towards Dead Woman’s Pass (4,400 metres or 14,435 feet)

Along the hike you’ll be rewarded with contrasting environments, as you gain altitude towards Dead Woman’s Pass. You’ll leave the shaded canopy of the forest and follow the winding trail up through a beautiful mountain pass with stunning panoramic views. There’s plenty of celebration as you reach the top. You’ll have worked up a thirst and will find yourself adding the layers of clothing back as breeze whips over the pass here! A short hike down the other side to Pacaymayo means a hot cup of coca tea, lunch and a chance to rest up for the remainder of the day and take in the views!

Hiking on the Classic Inca Trail

Photo credit: Stan Jacobsen ‘Jaguar’, September 2014

Time for a rest and a chance to take in views of the Rio Cusichaca

Above the tree line at Pacaymayo, you’ll want to have your sunscreen handy and plenty of water at your side. During the main season, from May to September the days are dry and sunny, ideal for hiking!

Resting on the Classic Inca Trail

Photo credit: Jane Marek ‘Jaguar’, June 2009

Along the way, admire the cobbled steps and Inca bridges, built over 500 years ago

After a cup of tea or coffee brought to your tent, you’ll be ready for the hike to Wiñay Wayna – the 3rd and last campsite on the trip. This is where you’ll enter the eastern side of the ranges that descend to the Amazon basin. There are several fascinating Inca fortresses to explore as you descend down into the cloud forest. And even the trail itself offers plenty of incredible glimpses into Inca craftsmanship, such as this bridge. There’s a sense of anticipation at Wiñay Wayna camp, as the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu are only a matter of hours away – it’s an early start the following morning!

Inca bridge

Photo credit: Mandy Gatesman ‘Jaguar’, May 2010

Arriving at the Sun Gate…

After a hearty breakfast, you’ll hike in the dawn light towards the Sun Gate. Intipunku is from the Quechua language; ‘inti’ meaning sun and ‘punku’ meaning door, hence  ‘Sun Door’ or  ‘Sun Gate’ as it’s often called.


Photo credit: Carrie Lehtonen ‘Jaguar’, October 2013

… For your first glimpse of Machu Picchu, as the fog lifts

At this spot, as the fog lifts, you’ll get your first view of Machu Picchu – it’s a surreal moment and a fantastic reward for your efforts. When Machu Picchu reveals itself, it’s an incredible sight. Even our long term guides who have hiked the trail dozens of times still get a rush every time they see it.

Views of Machu Picchu

Photo credit: Rochelle Coleman ‘Jaguar’, July 2010

The day warms by the time you arrive at the ancient citadel

Once you arrive at Machu Picchu, you’ll be joined by a local guide who’ll show you around the ancient city. As you arrived early (before the visitors from Machu Picchu town below), you’ll have plenty of time to explore the many passageways and stone structures.

Triumphant at Machu Picchu

Photo credit: Marian Walrath ‘Jaguar’, April 2013

Huge smiles for a picture perfect postcard!

A trip to Machu Picchu would not be complete without a group photo!

Group celebrating at Machu Picchu

Photo credit: Rebecca Washlow ‘Jaguar’, July 2016

Explore Aguas Calientes (now known as Machu Picchu town) after hiking the Classic Inca Trail

After three nights camping on the trail, it’s a welcome treat to return back to civilisation. Here you’ll have time to pick up any souvenirs and have a look around before we board a scenic train ride back to Cuzco.

Machu Picchu Town

Photo credit: Kristy Woodward ‘Jaguar’. March 2011

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Pelican Elite Coolers: Like Refrigerators for Your Road Trip

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2017 is shaping up to be “The Year of the Epic Vagabondish Road Trip“. Our plans for a cross-country drive are shaping up nicely and, with that, we’ve been digging deep into the perfect road trip gear.

We love to cook at home and one of the biggest challenges we’re facing is how to keep our cold foods, well, cold. We’ll be camping for a good portion of our trip — sometimes far off-grid — so we’ll be without electricity. Which means portable refrigerators aren’t an option.

Enter: the “extreme cooler”. Or Pelican’s Elite coolers, in particular. These beasts are designed for maximum ice retention (10 days under ideal conditions). To be honest, I was a bit dubious of that claim. But, since Pelican was kind enough to send us a sample, it was the perfect opportunity to put one of these through its paces.

We tested Pelican’s 20QT Elite Cooler on two recent camping trips, including a 10-day road trip through the wilds of Western Pennsylvania. Here’s what we found …

The Skinny

According to Pelican:

You will never need another cooler (unless you want one of our other sizes). Our engineers have crafted the toughest mobile cold storage unit possible, with no detail overlooked. Reinforced corners and thick walls insulate better for longer ice retention while protecting from impact. Superior stainless steel hardware and built-in UV resistance protect for a lifetime.

Here’s an overview of the pertinent features:

The Traveler’s Take

It’s clear Pelican is very confident in the Elite’s abilities. And it’s easy to see why. Straight out of the box, it feels extremely durable. The exterior features a rugged, rock solid body of extra thick polyurethane. While this is first and foremost about ice retention, it also ensures that the cooler will probably outlast you.

It’s so sturdy, in fact, that it’s achieved a bear-resistant certification from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (I swear that’s a real thing). Plus, with heavy duty latches and a built-in lock hasp, no one is dipping into your beer stash unless you invite them.

Pelican Elite Cooler

Look how much this lady is enjoying her tasty ice cold beverage

But what about the ice retention? First off, the “10-day ice retention” claim seems totally legit. Keep in mind that this is under completely ideal conditions which include you not opening the cooler for that entire time. Still, it gives you a good idea of what the Elite cooler is capable of. Realistically, many factors affect these figures: the ambient outside temperature, the temperature of your food, the size of your ice cubes, how often you open the cooler, and on and on.

Over the past few months, we’ve learned a good deal about keeping ice icy. We started off by placing our food in the bottom of the cooler and pouring the ice over the top of the contents. The ice-to-food ratio was about 1:2 (that’s about 33% ice to 66% food and drinks). The ice only lasted around two full days tops. Once we switched to block ice, that time doubled.

Pelican 20QT Elite Cooler (tan)

Pelican 20QT Elite Cooler

In the real world, we were able to extend the ice retention to about four days. We could likely stretch that to five if we were very conscious with how often we opened the top. That may seem far short of Pelican’s 10-day claim. But, keep in mind that includes opening the cooler several times a day, moving things around, taking food out, putting room temperature food in, etc. That means four whole days of ice cold milk, beer, bacon, eggs, and more bacon — all without electricity.

And that? That makes for a pretty sweet road trip!

A few additional miscellaneous features we like:

  • Standard 12-ounce beer bottles stand up straight in the cooler
  • The integrated bottle opener is a nice bonus
  • Molded-in tie-down channels allow for easy securing to a roof rack
  • The handles and latches are made for gloved hands (great for winter camping)
  • Non-skid feet means it stays put in the back of our truck
  • And of course, the cupholders

Pricing + Availability

Shop now in a variety of sizes starting at $200 (USD) from Amazon.

The Bottom Line

Straight away: these heavy duty coolers aren’t cheap. But, if you’re looking for the closest thing to a mobile refrigerator (that doesn’t require electricity), Pelican’s Elite Coolers are just the trick. We are extremely happy with our 20QT Elite (and all of the ice cold treats it’ll guarantee us on our upcoming roadventures).

The post Pelican Elite Coolers: Like Refrigerators for Your Road Trip appeared first on Vagabondish.

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Lensbaby’s Velvet 56 Lens Delivers Buttery Soft Travel Shots

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I firmly believe that photographers fall into one of two camps. There are those who’ve never heard of Lensbaby. And there are those who have a suitcase full of Lensbaby lenses already.

If you’re in the former camp and are new to the company, they offer an extensive line of purpose-built lenses for creating highly stylistic photos. One of their latest creations — the Velvet 56 — is a prime (fixed), manual focus lens designed for buttery (you might even say “velvety”) soft shots, be they macro, portrait, or even landscape.

The company was kind enough to send us one to test-drive and here’s what I found …

The Skinny

Lensbaby describes it as “the most versatile portrait lens you’ll ever use.” In their own words, the Velvet 56 provides:

… a vision of the world you’ve never seen before. With a buttery smooth, vintage glow at wide apertures, you’ll create rich, dreamy, and intricate images—perfect for everything from magical macro scenes to intimate, soulful portraits.

Check out this 90-second overview:

The Traveler’s Take

Straight out of the box, it’s easy to see why Lensbaby is a well-respected manufacturer. The Velvet 56 feels sturdy, heavy, and well-built like the lenses crafted in the mid-20th century (before everything went plastic). The all-metal construction includes a metal front lens cap and rear mount cap, all clearly designed to take a beating (though I wouldn’t recommend it). Naturally, as a prime lens, the form factor is incredibly compact making it a no-brainer to toss in your pack.

With a bright, maximum aperture of 1.6 and a minimum focusing distance of just five inches (!), the lens is purpose-built for bright, tack-sharp macro photos with ultra-precise detail. Like so:

Macro of a praying mantis on a branch

Praying Mantis, up close and personal © Jennifer Bates

… yet the versatile design also allows for stylized landscapes and portraits as well.

Ducks in a field (shot with Lensbaby's Velvet 56 lens)

Ducks in a Field © Joye Ardyn Durham

The look evokes some of the most “film-like” digital photos I’ve ever seen, particularly for portraiture.

Young girl playing with a cat (shot with Lensbaby's Velvet 56 lens)

Girl Meets Cat © Emma Wood

It’s clear the lens isn’t for everyone. Purists who spend their careers chasing razor sharp images (which isn’t a bad thing) will pooh-pooh the out-of-focus vintage glow as too soft for their taste. One could also argue that these effects can be found in post-processing.

Me, I’m all about finding new, creative avenues to explore, especially when it comes to my travel photos. I appreciate the challenge! Besides, how many folks on Instagram boast photos like these? Sometimes it’s good to stray from the pack!

Pricing + Availability

Available now from Amazon for a variety of cameras for between $500-600 (USD).

The post Lensbaby’s Velvet 56 Lens Delivers Buttery Soft Travel Shots appeared first on Vagabondish.

Source: travel blug

Best time to go to New Zealand?

You know, it’s going to be great whenever you come to New Zealand, and people will travel here for different reasons. So if you’re coming here to ski, you probably don’t need our advice! Although… for what it’s worth, September is better than July!

That said, this is a question we’re asked A LOT, so we decided to come up with six compelling reasons to travel here at certain times of the year. And the good news is, these periods all fall outside of peak season!

Autumn Colours

New Zealand is green. There’s no two ways about it. You can’t really go anywhere without being confronted with rolling green hills and vast swathes of native forest. Even the waters of the Marlborough Sounds have a stunning emerald green colour. But we’ll not be accused of being so one dimensional! No. Not even when it comes to the colour of our landscape. In addition to the widespread green we enjoy here, there are a couple of areas you can take in shades of orange during our Fall months – Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes District and the McKenzie Country near Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.Best Time To Go To New Zealand

Best Time To Visit New Zealand

Autumn colours in Arrowtown – possibly one of New Zealand’s best Fall season locations

Cheapest Flights

Contrary to popular belief, New Zealand has more than one international airport. While Auckland airport takes care of most of our international arrivals and departures, there are six other international gateways. Most of which are no larger than the baggage claim area of LAX, but we only like to be grandiose and go over the top when it comes to things like scenery, our rugby team, and hospitality. Other international airports include: Wellington, Rotorua, Queenstown, Christchurch, Dunedin and uncle Bob’s farm shed on the West Coast.

Best Time To Go To New Zealand

Best Time To Come To New Zealand

Ok, so it’s not an international flight. But the good news is, this flight is free! As part of your ‘Tui’ wilderness experience

Lambing Season

Spring is a great time to be in New Zealand. Every August to October, the 40 million sheep in New Zealand multiply and become quite a few more (sorry – we can’t find the stats on this one). Our green landscape becomes dotted with tiny white lambs figuring out how to walk and follow their mother around the paddock. They’re also dropped in the deep end, so to speak, figuring out how to avoid ending up on the dining room table come Christmas time (roast lamb is especially popular as Christmas dinner in New Zealand). So if you want to see new born lambs before they’re part of the December menu, you’re best to visit in our Spring time.

Best Time To Go To New Zealand

Best Time To Visit New Zealand

A quintessential photo of New Zealand rural life – taken from Braemar Station, looking directly at Aoraki Mt Cook

Southern Lights

The northern hemisphere has the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) and we have the Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights). Whilst the best time to get a view of this phenomenon (caused by the collision of gaseous particles in the atmosphere) in New Zealand is during our winter months, you should know that we’re actively lobbying Wikipedia to have the “Australis’ removed from the name. Just like all great New Zealand phenomena, Australia tries to steal the limelight. Not these lights though – they’re all our own!

If you’re keen to learn more, we recently bestowed our South Island wisdom on Expedia for their article, ‘Chasing the Southern Lights in New Zealand’, to help those who have taken up the quest of chasing the Southern Lights.

Best Time To Go To New Zealand

Best Time To Come To New Zealand

One of our Active coaches steeling the lime light on this occasion, on a stary night in the South Island

Rich Marine Life

With over 9,400 miles of coastline, there’re a few fish here. With a small population, strict commercial fishing rules and marine environment protections in place, it’s fair to say there’s an abundance of marine life. No more so than in places like the Bay of Islands, Kaikoura and Milford Sound. During our summer months you’d be hard pressed not to encounter some sort of fish, sea lion or dolphin while exploring our coastline.

Best Time To Go To New Zealand

Best Time To Come To New Zealand

The marine life in the Poor Knights Islands is incredible, whether you’re snorkelling or diving

Penguin Hotspots

Most people only associate penguins with Antarctica, but New Zealand is home to three penguin species – The Yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho), Fiordland crested penguin (tawaki) and the Little penguin (korora). You’ll find penguins in greater numbers in the South Island from August to February. Take note, seeing a penguin in New Zealand still makes you hear Morgan Freeman’s voice in your head. It’s unavoidable but who doesn’t like Morgan Freeman?

Best Time To Go To New Zealand

Best Time To Come To New Zealand

A yellow eyed penguin, found along parts of the East Coast of the South Island. Cute eh!

See all of our New Zealand Hiking Tours

Source: New feed