Water Treatment 101: When & Why Should I Treat Backcountry Water?

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The natural landscape is a dynamic place, and therefore so too are the qualities of the water supplies that flow through it. While an undeveloped water source may seem clear and clean, it can be carrying waterborne pathogens, microscopic agents that cause illness in humans. Popular backcountry camp spots are obvious high-risk zones, but places like the high alpine that see little human or animal traffic can actually be pretty low-risk. Still, the simple truth remains: The only real way to verify that your water is safe to drink is to treat it. And the effort it takes to treat water is minor compared to the complications of illness. Read More →

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Colorado’s Longs Peak: A Reward Worth The Suffering

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The boulder field, photo by Whitney Oliver

The boulder field, photo by Whitney Oliver

Story by Hilary Oliver 

When it comes to hiking, there are mountains—and then there are the mountains that haunt your fantasies. The legendary peaks that don’t come so easily. The ones with iconic shape, or stunning cliff faces. Longs Peak in Colorado’s Front Range is one of those mountains—one of the most scenic and challenging summits to bag without technical climbing.

I fell in love with Longs as a 16-year-old hiking it in jeans and a cotton T-shirt. We ran out of water. I ripped a hole in my jeans and got super cold near the summit. But the scenery and the experience hooked me. I’ve gone back several times since—with more mountain savvy and better clothing, for sure—which makes the experience a little less Type-2 fun. Here are my tips for making it to the top via the Keyhole Route and have fun doing it. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Summer Desserts

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Story and photos by Laurel Miller

A creek-chilled beer (or beverage of your choice) is a just reward at the end of a long day on the trail, but what to do when you’re craving something sweet that doesn’t come from a bottle (and no, Gummi Bears don’t count)?


Summer and early fall are the best times to bust out a backcountry dessert because at no other time is the array and diversity of seasonal fruits so abundant and appealing. Depending upon climate, space, and other logistical considerations, trail desserts can be as simple as fresh berries with store-bought biscotti, to grilled stonefruit with vanilla syrup, and mascarpone. In previous posts, I’ve provided details on how to curate and stock your backcountry kitchen, but the beauty of dessert is that it can be prepared at home, and doesn’t require special equipment or a strong back. And that, quite frankly, is pretty sweet. Read More →

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A Commitment to Safety: Inside MSR’s World-Renowned Water Research Lab

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Lab supervisor Zac Gleason enumerates how many viruses are alive in a water sample.

Lab supervisor Zac Gleason enumerates how many viruses are alive in a water sample.

Behind every MSR water treatment and hydration product is a team of scientists dedicated to researching, developing and testing the latest in water treatment solutions. Established in 1997, our on-site microbiology lab is crucial to MSR’s water program and the safety and reliability of our products. Initially founded to ensure quality control, today the lab’s world-renowned efforts stretch into research of new technologies, testing and development for the U.S. military, and contracts with nonprofit organizations working in developing nations.

The lab is located at our Seattle headquarters, in close proximity to our production lines, and is staffed by seven scientists with advanced degrees in chemical engineering, biochemistry, microbiology, environmental science and cellular and molecular biology. The world inside this small space is fascinating, with an incredible amount of scientific knowledge. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look inside.  Read More →

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What the Wilderness Teaches Us: Mentoring Urban Youth with the Big City Mountaineers

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Anyone who has spent time in the backcountry knows how transformative a wilderness experience can be. For over 20 years, the Big City Mountaineers have used wilderness mentoring expeditions to transform the lives of underserved urban youth, instilling critical life skills through backcountry experiences. In July, MSR category director Chris Barchet took some time off work to volunteer as a mentor and guide, and share his passion for the outdoors with those who wouldn’t have access to it otherwise.

For some youth, the five-day backpacking trips are their first glimpse into the backcountry. “They want to be there,” says Chris, “but they have to learn to commit to the responsibilities of it all. Read More →

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Skiing and Climbing Alaska’s Remarkable Ruth Gorge

Posted by & filed under Trip.

By Scott Rinckenberger

When I was invited on a mission to spend two weeks climbing and skiing the Ruth Gorge in Denali National Park, I knew I’d have to bring some pretty serious equipment. Fortunately MSR was willing to help outfit the expedition. I’m exceedingly thankful for the gear, but that’s not all I picked up from the MSR HQ before my departure. I also ran into a long time friend, and while I was being told to “be safe” by nearly everyone who heard the plan, it was the words from my friend Diane which put me on the right track for the trip – “Listen to the mountains.”

Our plans included climbing lofty alpine walls in the Ruth Gorge, and climbing summits from their less-technical sides for some dizzying ski mountaineering descents.  If you’ve never seen the Ruth Gorge, it is one of the world’s truly remarkable landscapes. The granite walls rise up 5000′ almost vertically from the glacier, giving the Ruth the feeling of an amplified version of Yosemite, with a floor of perpetually moving ice, and  the tallest mountain on the North American continent as it’s source.

I was joined by Alaskan locals Tobey Carman and Cortney Kitchen, Jackson Hole native Patrick Wright, and my longtime skiing and climbing partner, Matt Henry from Washington. As the official photographer for the expedition, I’ll let the photos tell the story.

After a three day wait and our share of beers in the town of Talkeetna, which serves as the jumping-off point for flights into the Alaska Range, we were granted a brief weather window and were able to get a Talkeetna Air Taxi flight to the Ruth. Photo: ©Scott Rinckenberger

After a three day wait and our share of beers in the town of Talkeetna, which serves as the jumping-off point for flights into the Alaska Range, we were granted a brief weather window and were able to get a Talkeetna Air Taxi flight to the Ruth. Photo: ©Scott Rinckenberger

Read More →

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Gear Archives: Diving Deep—The Evolution of the MSR® Snow Fluke

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Blog_Fluke Catalog pic_April 78 copy

Some people love snow flukes: skiers who want a low-profile anchoring device that fits in their packs; mountaineers traveling in softer or uniform snow conditions; rescue guides or climbing pairs who may need to anchor with only one free hand. As snow protection gear, the fluke definitely has its place, and it’s been part of MSR’s history from nearly the beginning.

It goes back to 1969, soon after Larry Penberthy founded Mountain Safety Research, Inc. to support the work he began with The Mountaineers of independently reviewing climbing equipment and making gear that was safer and easier to use. Penberthy published his findings in the Mountain Safety Research newsletter, which also sold third-party and MSR brand gear. The first two pieces of gear featured in the newsletter were Edmont cold-weather gloves and MSR first-generation snow flukes. Read More →

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The Unpredictable Alpine

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By Jewell Lund

“Should we take bivy gear?”

I peered up at the dauntingly sheer granite face of Mt. Huntington, the scale of which overwhelms base camp on the Tokositna Glacier. Standing so close to the mountain, I knew the colossal face was foreshortened. Traversing the systems all the way across the West Face could take a few hours, or more than a day. Who knew?

“Um. Bivy gear could be nice?”

The enormous west face of Mt. Huntington.Photo Jewell Lund

The enormous west face of Mt. Huntington. Photo Jewell Lund

This conversation has actually started via email a year ago. A friend had connected Chantel Astorga and me, knowing our mutual interest in alpine climbing. Pictures and ideas were bandied about regarding Mt. Huntington in the Alaska Range. We’d heard rumors of stellar rock quality and nightmarish corniced ridges, and most importantly promises of adventure. In November 2013, Chantel and I were in the same town and finally chatted in person. It was clear that we were inspired by similar objectives, and we decided to try climbing together. Mt. Huntington 2014 was written in the books. Read More →

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Fuels Around the World: Finding Stove Fuel In A Foreign Country

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Planning for an international adventure—whether it’s trekking in the Himalayas, bikepacking the Alps, or hiking through Pakistan—requires extra consideration of gear, especially stove options. While you can fly with your stove, you can’t fly with most common stove fuels. Which may leave you asking:

How do I find the stove fuel I need in a foreign country? And, what other types of fuel can I use?

Multiple things come into consideration when deciding which stove to take in the first place—region, trip duration and season all factor in. And it’s important to thoroughly research the specific locations you’re headed to (travel forums are a great place to start). But here are the basics to know when planning to take your favorite stove abroad with you. Read More →

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Best Camping Knot: How to Tie the Taut-Line Hitch Knot

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Whether you’re guying-out a tent, hanging a bear bag or tying a load to your pack, the Taut-Line Hitch is one of the handiest all-purpose knots for backpackers and campers. It’s so easy and versatile, in fact, that MSR Category Director Steve Grind wonders: “Why doesn’t every single outdoorsy person know and love this knot?”

Once set, the Taut-Line, a rolling hitch knot, can be adjusted to increase or slacken tension on an anchored line, and it holds fast and secure under load. Even astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery used this knot on their repair missions to Hubble Space Telescope.

Here are the four easy steps that will make you a pro at using this knot the backcountry.


Step 1: Anchor and Coil

Pass the rope around an anchor point, and run the rope’s free end parallel to its standing line. Coil the free end around the standing line twice, each time looping back toward the anchor. Read More →

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