A Tribute to the Unsung Hero of the Omnigames: David Creech

David Creech wasn’t able to compete in the Columbia Sportswear Omnigames in Utah because of his knee injury, but he assumed a new role that truly contributed to defining the trip: Dave became the best photographer out of all our Omniten crew. He usurped every single one of us when it came to turning our Park City competition into still frames packed with action.

Documenting your journey is always difficult when you’re deeply focused on the adventure. We were all constantly on our phones, wearing our GoPros, and snapping cameras – but it still didn’t seem like enough. Dave gave us all a gift by taking beautiful photographs of our crew playing in the snow, preparing for the games, and goofing off.

Here’s just a small taste of the wonderful images shot and edited by David Creech of WildernessDave.com:

The dogs were ready to rock 'n roll during the Omnigames.  (Photo: David Creech)My Omnigames partner Derek Lorange and I, saddled up for the dogsled ride.  (Photo: David Creech)Casey of #TeamBeard looking handsome in the middle of a snowstorm at the Omnigames. (Photo: David Creech)Seth from #TeamBeard stokes a fire during the hot cocoa challenge at the Omnigames.While we were aiming arrows at targets in a snowstorm, Dave was steady aiming his lens at our foreheads furrowed in concentration. He captured our moments of thought when we didn’t realize anyone was looking, and photographed cheerful portraits of the teams as they soaked up every moment of the adventure.

He didn’t just take shots of us being pulled by dogsleds, navigating obstacles high in the air, and bonding with our teammates – he created images that illustrated our moments of triumph, personal challenge, celebration, and love. He made magic with his camera alongside the professional Columbia Sportswear photographers, and kept us all waiting with bated breath when he began uploading the final images.

Erika Wiggins aims her bow during the archery portion of the Omnigames.  (Photo: David Creech)Three of the Omniten ladies goofing off in the snow at Garff Ranch during the Omnigames.  (Photo: David Creech)One of my favorite parts of the Omniten trip: the ropes course at Utah Olympic Park.  (Photo: David Creech)Dave, thank you.

I think everyone will agree with me that your photography is beyond impressive. You made us all look good and seem impossibly badass – even if some of us missed the target, or didn’t spark a fire. Your beautiful photos let us all relive the Omnigames experience, and we owe you so much for the moments you captured. We’re all so lucky to have you as part of the Omniten family. The best part? On top of taking stunning photos, you’re also just a wonderful person to spend time with.

Omniten ladies showing off our pink Columbia Sportswear ski pants during the Omnigames.Crushing the notoriously tricky ropes obstacle during the Omnigames.  (Photo: David Creech)

Even I manage to look pretty badass when Dave Creech is behind the lens!  (Photo: David Creech)For more adventure photography, check out Creech’s website: WildernessDave.com
You can also show him some love on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Want more from Columbia Sportswear’s Omnigames event? Follow the #omniten hahstag on Twitter, and keep an eye on my Instagram and here on the blog for my perspective on the experience during the #7DaysofOmniten! I’ll also be sharing the best stories from my fellow Omniten crew as they dive into their own retellings of our weekend in Park City, Utah.

The Underdogs: A Guide to Surviving the Columbia Sportswear Omnigames

Here’s the thing: No matter how many rocks I climb, mountains I camp atop, landscapes I journey to – I will always be a Florida girl at heart. I’ve tried to shake it, but I just can’t seem to escape my Sunshine State roots. So when Columbia Sportswear revealed that they would be sending me (and 40 other inspiring adventurers) to Park City for a weekend of competitive snow sports, I knew I was in for a challenging adventure.

The #omnigames wasn’t just a challenge against my fellow #omniten – it was a challenge I had to fight against myself and my personal limits.

Rebecca and I geared up for the ropes course at the Utah Olympic Park.

I’m a total tank-top and cut-off shorts kind of gal. I do best when the sun is warm on my face and I can spend the entire day outdoors without a single shiver. Can y’all picture me getting hardcore while bundled up in ski equipment and more thermal layers than I could count? Here’s a little help with the visuals:

Upon arriving in Utah, a dusting of snow  accumulated on my plane as we taxied into the terminal. This should have been my first clue that I was in over my head. I ran around outside while we loaded up the shuttles, and kept my face pressed against the glass watching the flurries fall as we make the trek to Park City. It was beautiful.

I awoke on the first morning of the Omnigames to quite a sight: snow was gusting through our lodge with a newfound ferociousness that turned my “oh boy, snow, snow, snow!” into “uh-oh, better put my big girl boots on.” The beauty of the frozen landscape was suddenly quite intimidating. So, how does a totally unprepared, absolutely out of her element lady react when thrown into a land of snowstorms and ski slopes?

Here’s my guide to surviving the Columbia Sportswear Omnigames:

1. Team up with a loyal, adventurous partner.

The teamwork dynamic of the competition was left a mystery until moments before the event began. My team was the first to be created – by drawing two names out of a hat. My partner was Derek Loranger of 100peaks.com, a fellow Trail Sherpa blogger from California. We both met with wide-eyes – I’m one of the youngest, most inexperienced kids in the crew, and he’s much more mature and wise, but as the games progressed, we quickly bonded into a strong team. Our first day’s performance wasn’t exactly impressive – we started day two in last place – but we more than made up for it during ropes course and vertical skiing challenges that bumped us up to 9th place. Derek led our team with a strong show during the skiing portion, and I did my best to keep us both afloat during the ropes adventure. Many high-fives were exchanged, and our spirits remained high through any battle!

My partner and I on the dog sleds at Garff Ranch during the Omnigames.The dog sledding at the Omnigames.

2. Always go forth in the spirit of #TryingStuff.

Y’all, the Omnigames were no joke. You can get an excellent break-down of all the events from Patrick Gensel, but here’s the basic spread of challenges we were faced with: dog-sledding, shooting archery, building snow shelters and primitive fires, maneuvering ropes courses 55 feet in the air, and clocking the most vertical footage in 90 minutes. The ropes course is the only activity I knew I would dominate, so the rest of the Omnigames were spent just going for it. Did I shoot a single arrow that hit the target? Absolutely not, but I adored the experience of pulling my bow back and feeling the arrow zip past my fingers into the air. Did I make a fire while the snow was blowing sideways? Negative – but I’m redoing the challenge this weekend while camping! While going forth with the spirit of adventure, you have to be comfortable with the idea of failure, and always persevere with the determination to keep trying stuff.

3. Never give up.

Just before being split up into teams, Columbia Sportswear revealed what the prize of the Omnigames would be: the top five teams would form the new Omniten season and embark on a journey to Jordan in spring to explore the country while documenting the adventure. After feeling pretty decent about our first day’s events, my partner and I were slightly taken aback when the scores were read after the first morning and we came in dead last place – but that just provided extra fuel for our fire. We regrouped, amped up the determination, and rallied our hardest during the final challenges. The result? Our team bumped all the way up to 8th place, meaning that our chances of making it to Jordan were still alive. Giving up is never a good choice – you always have to keep charging forward and trying you hardest (even if you crash into a snowbank minutes after putting on skis).

4. Get creative.

Keeping it creative was one of the most important things that led to my team’s success during the Omnigames – and we weren’t the only ones kept on our toes. Even the Columbia Sportswear crew had to think outside the box when blizzard conditions forced us to alter the second day’s events (and they rocked it). As an adventurer, you’ve got skills and experience that can help you out in any situation. While building a snow shelter, I turned to my knowledge of knots to help secure our makeshift structure, and my partner dug deep into his past experience with summertime shelters to utilize those skills in a different season. And it worked – I would totally have slept in our shelter for an evening. When it came to the ropes course, I channeled every ounce of climbing know-how to help me balance my way across the obstacles.

Heidi and I on the ropes course at Utah Olympic Park during the Omnigames.

5. Remember what the adventure is really all about.

There’s no denying that every single person competing out in Park City really, really wanted to win a spot on the trip to Jordan – but most of us hardly let that overshadow what was really going on. We were reunited with friends we rarely get to see, sent to play in an unbelievable landscape packed with activities most of us have never experienced, and blessed with the opportunity to do it all while testing new gear. There was plenty of competition, but it was never trumped by pure camaraderie. When Derek and I struggled to get our fire going, opponents Beth and Justin quickly huddled over our grill and tried to help us spark a blaze until time was up. During the ropes course, Kristie and her partner Weston shared tips for making it through each obstacle. At the end of every competition, hugs and high-fives were shared by all. Like any adventure, the bottom line was sharing memories, pushing personal boundaries, and having a good time.

The final event of the Omnigames is still alive and awaiting a victor – it’s called “Charles Dickens,” and it is a challenge to retell the story of our experiences out in Park City. Keep your eyes on the blog for two more posts that highlight stories that go beyond the usual recap, and follow @TheMorningFresh on Instagram for #7DaysofOmniten – a little project that highlights my favorite images and mini-stories from the trip. 

A peek at Columbia Sportswear’s mysterious #omniten adventure to Park City, UT

I’m going to upfront about this: I have absolutely no idea what I’m getting into when I fly to Park City on Wednesday morning.

If you follow me on social media, you’ve been seeing a lot of the #omniten hashtag over the last two years – and lately,  #omnigames has become a new buzzword too. If you don’t already know, here’s the TL;DR version: I’m part of Columbia Sportswear’s inaugural Omniten ambassador program, and after an amazing trip to Sedona and Havasu Falls last summer, they’re reuniting my crew and the rest of the Omniten seasons for a mysterious trip to Park City this week for an event called “the #omnigames.”

While the details are sparing, we’ve all speculated plenty. Heidi Kumm suggests a little snow kayaking, Rebecca of Calipidder.com is banking on some bear wrestling, Heather from Just A Colorado Gal is scratching her head,  and Michelle has promised to make us homemade poutine. Basically, no matter what our itinerary ends up looking like – it’s going to be epic.

The #omnigames with Columbia Sportswear are on!

For those of you following along at home, here’s what I do know:

  • I’ll be flying into Salt Lake City on the morning of January 8th, then being shuttled to Park City where I’ll stay until Saturday morning. While there, we’ll be staying at the beautiful Hyatt Escala Lodge in suites with our respective Omniten crews. We’ve also been told to pack swimsuits for the hot tubs.
  • There will be at least one day spent out on the slopes. If you know me, you know that I am neither a skilled skier nor snowboarder, so I reckon there will be plenty of wipe-out photos of me. Columbia is providing all the equipment, so I decided to stick with skiing since I’m sorta-kinda-maybe okay at it.
  • On the 8th, Columbia Sportswear is unveiling the USA freestyle ski team uniforms. They haven’t officially linked it to the #omnigames, but we all have a feeling something is going on with that!
  • The Columbia team won’t spill all the beans, but “what we can say is that you’ll be eating well, testing gear, getting to know each other, playing in the snow, and…

I’m no winter sports gal, so I’m going to be severely under-packed and underprepared, but judging by the photos the early arrivals have been posting of the gear Columbia Sportswear is hooking us up with, my current lack of snow pants won’t be an issue for much longer. But forget the sweet gear, what I’m looking forward to most is reuniting with my Omniten family, meeting the new folks, and joining the crew for an unforgettable trip playing in the snow of Utah.

Want to follow along on the adventure?
Keep an eye out on the #omniten and #omnigames hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

That Time Columbia Sportswear Reunited the Omniten for Another Epic #TryingStuff Adventure

A little over two years ago, a crazy idea was born: What if Columbia Sportswear chose 10 strangers, all of whom were influential in the outdoor industry, and put them together to create an ambassador team who would test gear, build hype on social media, and embark on epic adventures? Would it work? It was a gamble, but they decided to give the #omniten project a go.

I was part of the inaugural omniten crew, and it proved to be one of the best experiences of my life. It began with that I thought was just a package sent to me with a pair of shoes to test out, and blossomed into a lifelong family cemented by an outrageous backpacking trip to Havasu Falls. Columbia Sportswear blindly threw ten strangers together (first at a huge media event in Sedona, then at the bottom of the Grand Canyon where we jumped off waterfalls all weekend), and ended up with the ultimate success: at the end of our trip, our eyes were teary as we hugged goodbye, and our connection has stayed strong ever since.The inaugural Omniten crew from Columbia Sportswear at Havasu Falls.

Now, I’m totally playing favorites, but I think my season’s crew yielded one of the best social experiments of all time. We’ve got a little mix of backcountry backpacker, vegan explorer, peak-bagging climber, coastal-life runner, cross-fit extraordinaire, snow-obsessed nomad, and homemade beer brewer blended with a hefty thirst for adventure – and somehow our unlikely ragtag group became a family. I’ve reunited with most of the original omniten during my yearlong trip, and they’ve been too good to me. Taking me hiking in Arizona, treating me to killer tacos in California, and even letting me housesit for a week in Colorado – these folks are some of my favorite people on the planet.

Heidi Henry and I celebrating after making it back to the rim of the Grand Canyon in one piece during our omniten trip to Havasu Falls.And now, Columbia Sportswear is bringing us all back together.

A few of our crew members have been fantasizing about the idea of a season-to-season challenge that brings all the omniten crews together (there was a lot of talk a la Road Rules vs. Real World Challenge) – and someone finally convinced Columbia Sportswear to turn that crazy concept into a reality. It started with a mysterious email requesting that we all block off a few days in January for an event now dubbed “the omnigames.” We didn’t know any details about the location, or the event – pure mystery.

Finally, Columbia Sportswear threw us a bone and sent another email with the coordinates 40.6443821 -111.49475970000003, which quickly led us to Park City, Utah. There will be a bit of snow sports (which means y’all will be treated to plenty of pictures of me falling in the snow), but with a large percentage of the omniten not being snow-folks, Columbia Sportswear is sure to mix things up. I’m nosy by nature, and did a ton of digging on what Park City has to offer for adventurers. There’s bobsledding, zip-lining, adventure courses (with a 65-foot free fall at the end, yee-haw!), cosmic curling, and more. Bring it on!

The omnigames are going to be epic.

As usual, I plan on taking everyone along for the ride via social media. I’m excited to finally meet the rest of the omniten crews, scope out some sweet new Columbia Sportswear gear, and play Olympic-style in Park City. Follow the #omniten and #omnigames hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for all the latest shenanigans.

Do you have any guesses about what the omnigames will entail? 
I want to hear your theories! 

Gear Review: Columbia Sportswear’s Powerdrain Cool hybrid shoes with Omni-Freeze Zero technology

After surviving my first backpacking trip up and down the Grand Canyon to Havasu Falls wearing only last year’s Powerdrain shoes from Columbia Sportswear last summer, I feel in love with the sneakers – and wore them to death.

By the time Columbia came out with their new generation of Powerdrains, my original pair had been through the ultimate test: three months as my sole go-to hiking shoes during life on the road. The only real visible wear were two holes – two soft spots on the toe area. Fittingly, this was one of the major improvements made to the new Powerdrain Cools, making me a very happy camper.

The Powerdrain Cool is a hybrid shoe that features the epic Omni-Freeze Zero sweat-activated cooling technology, which earned the Gear of the Year 2013 award from National Geographic Adventure. From the moment I unwrapped mine, they have been put through a gauntlet of outdoor tests, which they passed with flying colors.

Columbia Sportswear's Powerdrain Cool shoe with OmniFreeze Zero Technology.

On our first day together, I took my new purple shoes out for a trek up a chossy hillside where I was helping build a trail across a frigid creek crossing. I was immediately smug with the product when I watched the rest of my crew struggle to delicately balance from slippery rock to slippery rock while I just stomped right in and waded across. Omni-Grip “holds tight on any terrain”? Check.

As the product description promises, the Powerdrains moved seamlessly from the water crossing to the crumbly “trail.” I dug my way up a sandy wash, tromped across rocky piles, and admired the shoes as they collected a healthy layer of outdoor dirtiness. I’ve been wearing them nearly every day since, and they continue to perform.

This new version offers a few improvements over the old design – some of which I remember actually discussing with the head of design during my trip to Sedona last year, earning Columbia bonus points for really listening to user feedback. They beefed up the ankle padding at the back of the shoe, reinforced a few hot spots where the shoes often saw quick deterioration, and slimmed down the overall design for a sleeker (and for ladies, more feminine) look. Two thumbs up all around.Lounging in my ENO hammock at Joe's Valley.

The only issue with the new Powerdrain Cools has been a seemingly irreversible staining of the inner Omni-Freeze Zero lining due to my latest habit of spending weeks on end playing in red sanded deserts. Oops. I also made a slight mistake in wearing the Powerdrain Cool shoes while hiking in Great Sand Dunes National Park – the deep sand dunes kept relentlessly filling the drains in my shoes, leaving my feet surrounded by piles of sand. Double oops!

Want to get your hands on a pair of Columbia Sportswear’s Powerdrain Cool hybrid shoes? You can scoop all three colors on their official website, or you can head to a local retailer to get your hands on these versatile and reliable sneakers. I would highly recommend the Powerdrain Cools for folks who usually experience a variety of terrains during an adventure, or for someone who is into those wild mud races – I’ve heard nothing but good things from many users who wear them to those events.

Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Adventurers

During this season of gift-giving, there is no task quite as daunting as finding the perfect present for an adventurer. Unlike your cousin Betty, who is thrilled at the sight of yet another Bath & Bodyworks gift basket, outdoorsy folks seek practical and useful souvenirs from holiday exchanges. (Although, judging by the way we tend to smell, some heavily scented grooming products might serve us well, haha!)

Simplify your search for the ultimate gift for the outdoor explorer in your life with this holiday gift guide for adventurers – (the best part? All of these items are totally living-in-a-van worthy. But really, I’m taking ALL of these items on my yearlong trip, so they’re the real deal):

A Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Adventurers

  1. Columbia Sportswear Powerfly ($220) This down insulated Omni-Heat thermal jacket should be a stable of every adventurer’s wardrobe. It is suspiciously lightweight, and even comes with a tiny stuff sack for backpacking purposes, but this jacket is big on comfort and warmth. The Omni-Heat reflective lining uses your body temperature to amplify heat, making you up to 20% warmer.  Equipped with an Omni-Shield exterior to repel moisture, the Powerfly is versatile, protective, and the ideal companion for adventuring.
  2. Big Agnes Helinox camp chair ($89.95) If there is one item I have been coveting all year, it’s a camp chair. Often overlooked as an essential, having somewhere to park your rear end after a long day of adventuring is crucial to healthy levels of campsite content. The uniquely designed chair folds down into an impossibly tiny carrying case, eliminating the usual inconvenience of toting along camp chairs.
  3. Colcasac laptop case ($40-65) Any gift that delivers sustainability and planet-pleasing materials is a guaranteed winner for adventures. While a laptop case may not qualify as an outdoor essential, adventurers enjoy documenting and sharing their explorations almost as much as the experience itself. Made from hemp, bamboo, and jute burlap, these minimalistic sleeves are a fantastic off-the-trail item. (And they’re available for iPads, MacBooks, Kindles, iPhones, and even shoulder bags).
  4.  Tetonsports XXL outfitter tent ($100) This tent sets up in less than 30 seconds. Need I say more? No, no I don’t. Gift someone this tent, and they will forever think fondly of you as they pull up to a campsite at 2 AM and don’t have to worry about the hassles of setting up their tent. Automatic brownie points for life. | Check out my full review here.
  5. ENO SingleNest hammock ($54.95) When adventurers aren’t adventuring, we’re napping. I’ve had many a hammock in my day, but none have initiated a deep sleep quite as quickly as the ENO SingleNest. I opened up my new hammock, set it up between two trees, and woke up two hours later. They’re sturdy, light, and easy to pack into the attached compression stuff sack. Featuring quick-dry nylon, a 400 lb carrying capacity, and a tiny weight of just 17 ounces, these hammocks offer the perfect place for napping on the go – or in your backyard.

While these five items top my list of gift ideas for outdoor adventurers, other products worthy of mention include the Triple Aught Design Valkyrie hoodie LT, the Columbia Sportswear Reactor 35 sleeping bag, and the incredibly comfortable sleeping pads from Teton Sports. To impress the climber in your life, check out Mammut’s sweet Realization shorts.

Stay tuned for full reviews of
the Columbia Powerfly, Colcasac sleeve, and Big Agnes Helinox camp chair!

Review of Columbia Sportswear’s Reactor 35º Sleeping Bag (and Niko’s first guest post!)

Folks, by now most of you have realized that Niko is a man of few words. He’s not quite the Twitter type, and only just started making his first Facebook page posts (like this one about Access Fund’s Holy Boulders project), so when he told me he was going to write his first product review, I knew he must have really fallen in love with a piece of outdoor gear.

During my trip to Havasu Falls with Columbia Sportswear’s OmniTen team, we were gifted the most packable sleeping bags I’ve ever witnessed. It was so light that I hardly noticed it on my back while trudging up 10 miles of desert terrain to the rim of the Grand Canyon. Since then, I’ve taken my mummy-style sleeping back on trips to Rocktown in Georgia, and the Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition in Hound Ears, North Carolina – and it’s always provided me a vessel of cocooned body warmth and superior snuggle-ability. So really, it was no surprise that Niko decided to write his first gear review about it.  

Here’s what Niko had to say about the Reactor 35:

This summer when Katie returned from her OmniTen trip to Havasu Falls in Arizona, she brought back one of my new favorite pieces of gear, the Columbia Sportswear Reactor 35º sleeping bag (a special thanks to Will Rochfort for hiking it out of the Grand Canyon for me).

I’ve had the opportunity to use the bag over the last couple months on a couple of climbing trips here in the southeast, and despite the hot temperatures, this bag has been exceptionally comfortable to sleep in.

The Reactor 35 is an extremely light 100% nylon mummy bag that packs easily into one of the smallest stuff sacks I’ve seen. The dimensions are a mere 7.5”x17” – plus, this bag only weighs 2 pounds, making it the perfect companion on long multi-day hikes.

Don’t let the lightweight nature of this sleeping bag deter you – the Reactor 35 uses Columbia’s Omni-Heat thermal reflective technology to line the inside of the bag, which regulates your body temperature, providing a warm, dry night in the outdoors.

A few weekends ago Katie and I drove up to Pigeon Mountain to do some climbing at Rocktown. We arrived late and decided to spend the night camped out in the car. In the middle of the night, I woke up to find Katie hogging the entire hatchback, so I abandoned the car in favor of sleeping outside on a crash pad. I woke up expecting the familiar damp feeling from the southern morning dew, but I was surprised to find that the Omni-Shield outer coating kept me dry throughout the entire night.

Since having Columbia Sportswear’s Reactor 35, I have only been able to test it in temperatures around the high 40’s. I am looking forward to seeing what it can do when temperatures drop down here in the south and the climbing season really gets moving. Overall, I would highly recommend this bag to anyone who wants a light, functional, and generally well-designed sleeping bag.

Vortex yoga on Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona during Columbia Sportswear’s 2013 Preview event

On a scorching Sedona morning, I found myself perched on a little patch of dusty rock, cross-legged amid a collection of fellow females as we passed tiny bottles of frankincense and rose oil around our circle.

As we dabbed little drops of oil on our foreheads, a soft yet authoritative voice instructed us to affirm ourselves, to mull on our emotions, and to let it all go with deep, releasing breathes.

 Welcome to my vortex yoga experience on Bell Rock.

Like any brand, Columbia Sportswear used their Spring 2013 Gear Preview event to showcase their new designs and products – but unlike most brands, they required us to truly put their gear to the test. After wining and dining their audience of editors, journalists, gear junkies, and adventurers, Columbia sent our big group out on a variety of activities. We were able to choose between mountain biking, intense hiking, and vortex yoga.

Intrigued by this undeniably funky video demonstration vortex yoga in Sedona, I immediately opted to spend my ‘activity day’ out on Bell Rock practicing my downward dog.

Our group ended up being comprised solely of ladies, which made for a wonderful and intimate experience. Our instructor, Johanna, guided us along the trail towards Bell Rock as she pointed out the area’s distinct flora and desert features. After walking for a bit, we paused to gather in an energy circle for some initial breathing exercises beneath the shade of a tree – and at that moment, the spiritual journey of the vortex experience truly began.

I’m not a hokey gal – but the heightened sense of energy found at the vortex was undeniable. During the meditative portion of our afternoon, we gathered under another shady area, and plopped down on the rocks and dirt to enjoy a few breathing techniques and thoughtful moments that challenged us to overcome the usually buzzing in our brains in favor of a quieter and more reflective mentality. In my opinion, the time we spent thinking, releasing, and feeling was when the energy of the vortex was most noticeable.

Admittedly, when we finally began our yoga session upon the sprawling red boulders on Bell Rock, my spiritual bliss was overcome by my incessant need to document my adventures. Fellow OmniTen member Heidi and I ended up so occupied by our quest to obtain good photos and GoPro footage that we ultimately lost some of the spiritual flow during yoga.

Still, I had a wonderful morning hiking through the desert terrain with the ladies, learning a little bit about my body’s natural energies, and practicing my yoga poses while gazing out at the gorgeous Sedona landscape. I left feeling calmer, uplifted, and at peace with my mental chatter. Even Heidi agreed that she felt the effects of the vortex (coupled with Johanna’s excellent spiritual guidance) – and for a gal with the nickname “Banana Buzzbomb,” that’s quite a statement.

If you are ever in the Sedona area, and feel keen on getting in touch with your spiritual side, I would highly suggest taking a vortex yoga tour Yoga Life with Johanna and her assistant
A former New Yorker, she offers the perfect balance between an enlightened hippie and, well, normal everyday lady. She offered us great information about our chakras and energy flows, made sure every member of our group was comfortable, and yet still helped us push our physical and mental limits.
Our group was on a strict time limit, which caused us to have to be slightly more ‘aware’ during our meditative and yoga sessions — I can only imagine how much more fun would have been had if we had been with Johanna for the entire day. 

Want more vortex yoga fun? Check out Heidi’s post “Calm & Cool Yoga in Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero” on BananaBuzzBomb.com!

How to capture the experience of a lifetime in a single 20 second exposure photograph

There was no shortage of documentation during my trip to the Havasu Falls area with Columbia Sportswear and the OmniTen team. We shot heaps of footage with our GoPros, tweeted any time we had cell service, blogged during any downtime, and took thousands of photos with our respective cameras.

But nothing compares to this:

Photo by: Will Rochfort
http://WMRjr.com

I get goosebumps just looking at this beautiful snapshot – it perfectly captures the essence of our trip, the teamwork employed during our collective adventure, the eager spirit I encountered in every single person I traveled through Arizona with, and the beautiful family that is the OmniTen crew.

This photo was captured by the wonderful Will Rochfort during a late evening hike down to Havasu Falls from our campsite. It took us eight takes to get the shot just right, and the light sources were all headlamps – which felt appropriate, if you ask me. We got a little wet and dirty in the process, but that seems to have been the theme of our Havasu adventure.

We began the journey to Arizona with Columbia Sportswear as a group of total strangers. I only knew my nine OmniTen counterparts by the faces I had inspected on their various social media profiles. We had exchanged plentiful tweets, and a Facebook page was created to foster interactivity – but I didn’t know these people. It was mildly terrifying to board the airplane heading towards the Phoenix airport, knowing that I wouldn’t be greeted by a single familiar face.

And yet, now I can’t imagine my life without these people. We are a funky bunch – a vegan triathlete from Ohio, a handsome face who loves showtunes, a peak-bagging wonder from San Jose, a climbing couple with an unassuming charm; we’re weird. I would have never grouped us together, and yet, we were somehow bound through our OmniTen connection – and it worked.

By the end of our trip, we all shed tears at the thought of departing from each other’s company. There are some bonds so unique that one simply can’t bear the thought of letting them go. How many people do you hike 10 miles out of the Grand Canyon with, urging each other onward, and sharing a hidden nook for potty purposes? I don’t know about you, but taking a poop in the middle of the desert in front of someone you’ve only known for five days seems like a pretty big sign of true friendship. (You know who you are, and I’d gladly pop a squat with you any time!)

To my OmniTen friends, you light up my life. Thank you for the most humbling, inspiring, uplifting, and downright HOT adventure. We will meet again, and now we’ve got a challenge to make the next adventure even more memorable than the first. I love you all.

Turning sweat into a renewable resource with Omni-Freeze Zero gear technology – and a sweet, sweet neck gaiter.

A fan of thrifty scores and budget-friendly gear, it’s quite difficult for a brand to get me truly hyped on so-called innovations. I feel like I’ve heard it all, and I’ve never been a believer – until now.

The first two days of my Arizona adventure with Columbia Sportswear and the OmniTen team revolved around a fabulous industry event designed to preview the upcoming Spring 2013 line and unveil Columbia’s latest (and greatest) innovation: OmniFreeze Zero.

Since recruiting me onto their inaugural OmniTen team, Columbia Sportswear has wooed me with a range of excellent outdoor apparel. The Omni-Wick Evap feature in my Compounder Dry Shell has kept me dry through Floridian rainstorms; the Omni-Grip in my PeakFreak trail shoes quickly became a standard for my hikes and climbing approaches; and the Omni-Heat Reflective fabric in my new sleeping bag offers undeniably optimized warmth – but none compare to my adoration for the new OmniFreeze Zero products.

So how does it work?

First, check out the video.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNfLu3qfJUQ]

One of the first things you’ll notice about apparel infused with Omni-Freeze technology is the pattern of little raised blue rings on the inside of the fabric. These small circles use cooling polymer to create a noticeable cooling sensation when exposed to sweat and moisture. And it works.

In the spirit of Trying Things, Columbia Sportswear armed me with a variety of Omni-Freeze Zero products to put to the test during our three-day hike to Havasu Falls through the Grand Canyon. I received two performance short sleeved shirts (you can get a sneak peek of the mens’ version here), the Trail Dryer hat (a triple whammy with Omni-Shade UPF 40 sun protection, Omni-Wick evaporation, AND Omni-Freeze sweat activated cooling technology), and my personal favorite, the Freezer Zero neck gaiter.

During grueling hike to and from Havasu Falls in Arizona’s iconic Grand Canyon, temperatures reached over 100 degrees, and there was often no shade to be found. While both my hat and shirt contributed to keeping me cool during the scorching sections of the hike, it was my neck gaiter that acted as my true savior.

Rather than simply relying on my sweat, which I found to evaporate way too quickly in the dry Arizona air, I made a habit of keeping my gaiter wet with water from fresh streams or my hydration pack. It was unbelievably refreshing – and versatile. It served perfectly as a simple neck buff, but I really loved wearing it as a headband as well. Another great way to rock the gaiter is pulling it up over your ears and down your chin – it works great to keep dusty and sand out of your lungs. I’m accustomed to the humid air of the southeast, so pulling the moist, cool cloth over my mouth and nose acted as a great tool against the harsh dry conditions I was hiking in.

Seriously, get yourself the Freezer Zero Neck Gaiter.

You’ll have to wait until spring 2013 to get your hands on all the fabulous Omni-Freeze Zero gear,
but trust me, it’s worth the wait.