Here are some tunes for your week, from our office to yours! Much love and listening!
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Kammok team member Lawton Cook writes about his first trip out to West Texas and why he can't help but go back for more. • • • "Finally, I wish to offer my opinion, just as a private visitor, that although the old saying that 'he who travels must be prepared to take away only as much as he brings with him' applies to all our great parks, it holds true especially of Big Bend. It is a desert-mountain country whose qualities offer an allurement, a satisfaction of soul, only if the visitor will put himself in the right mood, and will remain long enough to know it with some intimacy. He who drives in and drives out without letting the motor cool, may see, to be sure, some most interesting natural objects, but he will not know, and can never love, Big Bend." -Freeman Tilden, 1945 When you love a place so much, it can be hard to reduce every inch of it into a few words. I’ve visited Big Bend regularly over the last five years, but I’ve written very little about those experiences. Where do you start in describing a place that has such a commanding hold on you? The task feels akin to describing every inch of your best friend and lining out their deepest secrets, personality traits, and physical features down to the very last hair on their head. I want to tell you of the long afternoons paddling through stunning canyons, passing a bottle of sotol around a campfire as the Rio whispers in the night, walking dusty desert trails at sunset and continuing on after dusk, and waking to stunning views from high in the Chisos Mountains as the sun rises blood red over the Sierra del Carmen. I’ll just tell it how I remember it, the way I saw it for the first time. A few months after my wife and I were married in Austin in 2016, we were still living with a wonderful carelessness afforded by our lack of responsibility. No dogs, no kids, no obligations. We decided around 8 p.m. on a Friday evening that nothing was stopping us from driving seven hours to Big Bend for the long weekend, so we packed our Honda Civic and pointed west. It didn’t take too long for the endorphins to wear off, and the quiet slog of I-10 rumbled me to a sleepy stupor. We made it to Ozona before crashing in a roadside motel and then woke fresh the next morning and made for Fort Stockton. South of the I-10 turnoff in Fort Stockton, the Glass Mountains erupted from the Chihuahuan Desert like nothing else I’d seen in Texas. We stopped the car on the side of the highway so we could take pictures of these sub-6,000 foot peaks. Plenty of folks from the Mountain West, where 14ers mark the landscape, would be unimpressed by these lowlying mountains, especially given their inaccessible location on private land behind barbed wire fences, but I was blown away that such a place existed in my home state. After spending a day in Alpine and Marfa, we finally rolled into the north entrance of the park well after dark and found a campsite at Rio Grande Village. The next morning we woke to the pale Chihuahuan Desert, everything dust covered and dry, begging for rain. We peered over the banks of the Rio to catch a first glimpse at the muddy river below, not knowing in just a few years time we’d be in those waters, pulling our paddles through the current as our canoes pushed forward into Boquillas Canyon. From above we could see a few locals from Boquillas del Carmen on the opposite side, lounging in the shade of the mesquites, waiting for their friend who was fording the river on a skinny horse to meet them. He’d placed an assortment of handmade desert trinkets on a rock for tourists to purchase—ocotillos, roadrunners, and other desert plants made from twisted wire and brightly colored beads—with an empty pickle jar as an honor system cash register. This was my first time to see our southern border, and the peacefulness of the place, the quiet hush of the river below the sun-baked desert, subverted all other notions I had about this controversial line in the sand. When you live in a place all of your life, you get the feeling you know everything there is to know about it. But when you call a place as big as Texas home, you’ll soon find out driving across it that there’s much of it you’ve never seen—much of it you’ll likely never see. Not only that, but with opinions as big as the state itself, you also bring with you certain ideas and biases that don’t really bear out in truth. Like the idea that West Texas is all flat and brown, that mountains are far from home, and that the border is a place to fear. During that first visit to Big Bend, all my ideas about Texas were turned upside down. I kept asking aloud how no one had ever told me this place existed. How had I never, in all my 26 years in Texas, visited what I now believe to be the most exceptionally beautiful part of our state? It was a feeling of both incredible gratitude for being in the place and almost irritation for having not seen it sooner. Those feelings were only amplified by my first drive into the Chisos. Amanda and I drove towards the basin and watched as candelilla and ocotillo gave way to blooming sotol plants, and as we rose, to vibrant junipers and pinyon pines. The mountains glowed all around, crags of rock that seemed to belong somewhere else. The view of the mountains from the road were enchanting—guaranteeing I would be coming back year after year. We snagged a campsite in the Chisos Basin campground, not knowing just how incredibly lucky we were to nab an open spot, and hiked the always classic Window Trail for the very first time. It seems like we stretched that hike into hours, stopping often to examine a plant we’d never seen before or take a picture of a new view. The Window itself was mind blowing, and although it's one of the more touristy places on the map, it remains one of my favorite trails in the park. I mean, how could it not? That evening we shared our campsite with a couple who rolled in late without a reservation. They had a charcoal grill with them, almost like a fire pit, and we were grateful to have a warm blaze to sit around in the cool mountain air. We got to know each other over too much whiskey, and then retreated to our tents for one last view of the brightest stars I’d ever seen in my life. We wanted to do one last hike before making the drive back, but of course we woke late the next morning and didn’t have our campsite packed up until noon. A ranger at the visitor center mentioned Emory Peak when we went looking for advice, adding “But you really should have started earlier in the day. It’s about a six to eight hour hike, and it’ll be pretty hot. Bring plenty of water if you decide to go.” I tried to persuade Amanda to do anything else, but her heart was set on climbing Emory Peak. Even if we absolutely crushed the hike, we were still looking at a seven hour drive on the other side with work the next day in Austin. When I told her we couldn’t do the hike she put on the most pitiful face of disappointment. In the end we continued the “what the hell” theme we started the trip with. Sure, we can drive to Big Bend in the middle of the night. If we can do that, surely we can knock out this awesome hike and make it back home at 3am. I’ll admit that I agreed to the plan pretty begrudgingly, but usually when Amanda drags me into something, it turns out to be pretty memorable. The hike up Emory Peak and back is about ten miles. The park ranger told us to carry about a gallon of water each for the elevation gain and heat exposure, and I looked at our two Nalgenes with a feeling of complete inadequacy. Call it ingenuity or total noob move, but I bought a 2.5 gallon jug of water from the convenience store—the kind of jug with the spigot on one end and the handle on top—and strapped it to my Topo Designs Rover Pack for the long hike up. I don’t think Topo Designs would mind me saying this considering their pack was not designed to awkwardly carry a huge jug of water, but that was the most uncomfortable backpack I’d ever slung over my shoulders. It was like being in fourth grade again carrying a Jansport backpack crammed with every single text book, notebook, and pencil. Needless to say we invested in more appropriate gear after this adventure. We made it to the top of Emory Peak on wobbly, unseasoned legs, but we made it nonetheless. At the end of the trail, we scrambled nervously up the small rock face to the summit and touched the survey marker like we were crossing a finish line. I didn’t know it at the time, but from the top of the Chisos Mountains, we were looking at Elephant Tusk down below across the Dodson Trail and Santa Elena Canyon beyond. To the southeast, the Sierra del Carmen range stood watching over Boquillas just across the Rio Grande, and to the north, Santiago Peak emerged among smaller mountains, pointing the way home. On that day five years ago I looked out at a place completely foreign to me, nameless in every way. A 360 degree view of a Texas I didn’t recognize, but one I couldn’t wait to get to know. Five years later, I’m still no expert on Big Bend by any stretch. And in some ways, I enjoy that. I’ve been back for several paddle trips on the Rio and some hikes in the Chisos, and I still haven’t even scratched the surface of what this place offers. That means every time I go I get to put my boots in a new patch of dirt, learn something new, and be completely mystified. But I think if you asked someone who’d been going to Big Bend for a lifetime, they’d probably tell you they feel the same way. Our Palette of the Bend print draws colors from South Rim views high in the Chisos where the first light of day paints Big Bend with such brilliant shades that you wish the sun would stop so you could take it all in just a little bit longer. Beyond that though, this print represents our inability to capture just how grand this place is, from the resilient desert to the mighty canyons and all the way to the top of Texas’s most glorious mountain range. It’s a place worth taking your time in—a landscape that demands your attention with all its wonder, causing you to sit in silence and disbelief. It’s a feeling worth leaning into. And every time you go back, hopefully you’ll be just as amazed by this place as you were on your very first visit. Amanda and I hit the parking lot with exhausted legs and aching feet after a speedy hike down the Pinnacles Trail. We sank into our Honda Civic, kicking our shoes off on the floorboard and peeling off sweat soaked socks revealing ankles caked in trail dust. The sun set just as we passed the Persimmon Gap park entrance, and we felt pleasantly exhausted, proud of the adventure we’d chosen. We ate burgers in the Fort Stockton Dairy Queen before refueling with gas and heading east on I-10 for the long drive back, and we made it to our apartment in Austin at about 3am, ready to fall fast asleep after a job well done. Our first Big Bend trip was over, but we’d be back. I’ll leave you with this quote from Freeman Tilden, who describes my feelings of Big Bend so beautifully and succinctly: “Big Bend Park is the untamed, aloof, but never-ugly desert, with a whimsical river for deckle edge. Some folks say they do not like the desert. I wonder if they remained long enough to know? To me, the hours just before and after sunset, in this desert, in the shadow of the Sierra del Camens, when they redden to a deep crimson, and then fade to violet, with a finality of black velvet—and the moon comes rising behind the Chisos, and cleanliness and vastness enwrap everything—to me this is one of life’s moving experiences. Nobody really knows the desert who has not felt, seen, and surrendered himself to it, at dusk.” It’s time to head out west.
The Mantis All-In-One Hammock Tent epitomizes sleep versatility. Resort-level comfort and four-season adaptability combine for the most epic hang between two trees. Mantis is adventure ready for basecamp and backcountry, and easily sets up for a backyard nap. This thing can do it all—seriously. “I have taken the mantis out half a dozen times now. It’s become my go to hammock. It’s very well thought out and having a single pack for everything makes it light and small.” - Chuck H., Happy Camper Go-Anywhere Packability It’s time to lighten your load, camper. We know you’re always ready for the next big adventure, and with the Mantis All-In-One Hammock Tent, your kit will be too. The Mantis packs down smaller than your sleeping bag and is lighter than a one-person tent. Don’t need the rainfly or mesh canopy for this trip? Leave one or both at home for an even more compact carry. And when we say the Mantis will go anywhere, we mean it. It’s light enough for overnights in the backcountry, yet comfy enough for daily backyard hangs. Quick, Elevated Setup If you’re tired of trying to find the perfect spot for your tent, level and free of roots and rocks, then the Mantis is your solution. Elevate your campsite and sleep on cloud nine every night. The structural ridgeline takes the guesswork out of setup, providing the ideal hang every time. The knotless design means Mantis goes up in 60 seconds, allowing for more time on the trail and less time fidgeting with cumbersome tent poles. All-Weather Versatility You know what you need better than anyone, so we’re putting you in the driver seat with the Mantis’ versatile design. Take what you need, and leave the rest at home. The detachable Dragonet mesh canopy is essential in mosquito season, and the included rainfly makes for four-season adaptability. Pitch the fly close to the hammock body to stay dry through rain and snow, or use trekking poles for front-porch mode to wake up with a view. No rain in the forecast? Ditch the fly altogether and examine the night sky through the Stargazer panel. Whatever the outdoors throw your way, Mantis has you covered. Designed With the Camper in Mind After a long day on the trail, we know all you want is a comfortable bed to crawl into. The hammock body is made with our signature Gravitas™ fabric—silky soft and luxurious beyond comparison. Storage is a cinch with built-in pockets, and during our Father’s Day Sale, all Mantis purchases come with a free Ridgeline Organizer, giving you even more space for essentials like a water bottle and headlamp. Add one of our trail quilts and our Insulated Pongo Pad for an outdoor oasis like no other—resort level comfort between two trees.
At Kammok, we're on a mission to elevate time outside by designing adventure grade, better made gear. Gear supports our experiences outdoors, but producing gear creates carbon emissions that impact our planet and the people: from our families and neighbors to the factory workers on the front-lines of climate change overseas, and even future generations. We believe that climate change is so much more than solely an environmental or political issue—it's a human issue that affects all of us. If you’ve been with us for the past 10 years, you’ve heard these three words come up a lot: Adventure, Community, and Love. These three words drive why we do what we do at Kammok. It's a challenge and an adventure in itself to reduce our climate impact, and we do this for the love of our global community. We take responsibility for our footprint and are committed to reducing our future impact. Solutions to climate change exist, they just need funding. If we can drive investment into these projects, we can cut our emissions and get on the right path to a zero-carbon future and a balanced, healthy climate. Kammok is one of 230 companies that is committed to leading the way. We're proud to announce that today on Earth Day we are officially Climate Neutral Certified. We've spent the last three months working with Climate Neutral to measure our 2020 carbon footprint. We've calculated all of the emissions that it takes to make and ship our products to your doorstep. We then offset all 7,033 tonnes of carbon by investing in climate change solutions, including renewable wind energy farms and rainforest conservation. But the work doesn't stop there. Over the next few months, we'll be hard at work reducing emissions from the most impactful carbon contributors in our supply chain. We have plans in place to reduce emissions from freight shipping, partnering with Bluesign certified mills to ensure water and energy reduction in textile manufacturing, and incorporating recycled materials in existing and future product lines. More good things to come. A cleaner environment now means we are able to elevate time outside for future generations. Let's get to work. Sincerely,Greg McEvillyCEO & Founder
If you spend time outside, whether you’re hiking, camping, climbing, or mountain biking, chances are you frequent public lands. Luckily, through national parks and forests, state parks, and local trails, adventurers have the ability to explore everything from alpine habitats to deep canyons and everything in between. More and more people are getting outside and visiting parks at record levels, which is why it’s important for all of us to become good stewards of the ecosystems entrusted into our care. The following Leave No Trace principles are key to maintaining pristine wildlife in our parks, and they basically all boil down to one unifying point: Leave it like you found it. 1. Plan Ahead and Prepare This isn’t just a good idea to make the most of your camping trip—it’s also an essential aspect of Leave No Trace. When visiting national parks, become familiar with the “Plan Your Visit” tab on a park’s page. Each park is different, with special concerns and regulations that you should be aware of. Planning ahead also means reducing your footprint by visiting parks in smaller groups when possible and avoiding times of high use. Do your part today by becoming familiar with parks you frequent often or plan to in the near future. Here’s an example of a regulations page from one of our personal favorites: Arches National Park. 2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces The National Park Service has spent many years developing trail systems and campsites for our enjoyment. However, the purpose is not simply to give us access to wild places. By sticking to designated trails, visitors make less impact on the park and prevent degradation from erosion. The same principles can be applied to campsites as well. When you pack up in the morning, your campsite should essentially be unchanged. The best way to ensure this is by utilizing campsites already designated by the parks. In the backcountry, stick to marked campsites or other durable surfaces like rock, gravel, sand, dry grasses, or snow. You can also protect riparian areas by camping 75 steps away from lakes and streams. If you’re curious, you can also check out these two articles from the NPS about the history and current management principles of trail making. 3. Dispose of Waste Properly We’ve all seen the signs: Pack it in, pack it out. Comma splice or not, these words should be at the forefront of every visitor’s mind when exploring public lands. Even with the glaring signs at every trailhead, you’re almost certain to find trash from someone who came before you. We could write an entire article on this single principle, but here are a few basic tips to keep in mind. When packing food for your trip, dispose of any unnecessary trash ahead of time: Think produce stickers and packages within packages. For example, if you’re bringing cereal on the trip, consider recycling the box ahead of time and only bringing the bag. Meal prepping ahead of time can also be a great way to lighten your load and reduce the amount of waste in camp. In the backcountry, utilize freezer baggies to group meals and act as a waste receptacle to be disposed of properly when back at park headquarters. And remember, pack it out means pack it all out, including orange peels and pet waste. Utilize toilet facilities when possible—park maps do a great job of pointing you in the direction of a bathroom. When making overnight trips away from facilities, packing a bathroom kit is essential. A simple kit includes toilet paper, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a small spade. You should also bring a separate baggie for the disposal of paper products. For solid waste, dig your cathole 6-8 inches deep and 75 steps away from water, campsites, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole with the removed dirt when finished. Lastly, to wash dishes or yourself, carry water 75 steps away from any water source and use only small amounts of biodegradable soap if necessary. Scatter any strained dishwater. Consider using body wipes for personal hygiene. These are easy to dispose of and can be purchased from most outdoor retailers. 4. Leave What You Find This one is pretty simple. Imagine you’re a kid and your parents have dragged you into yet another antique store. “Don’t touch anything!” A pine tree certainly isn’t as fragile as fine China, but that doesn’t mean we should be carving our initials into one. Leave rocks, plants, and other natural items where they are—these aren’t souvenirs for you to bring home. The whole purpose of this principle, and every principle for that matter, is to leave parks in their natural state for other visitors to enjoy. Not to mention we want to preserve these ecosystems so that plants and wildlife can continue to thrive. 5. Minimize Campfire Impacts We’ve all seen in the news how damaging fire can be, which is why this principle is extremely important. Follow fire regulations at any given park, and simply don’t build a fire when and where it isn’t allowed. This goes back to planning ahead as well: If you think you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you need added warmth, pack the appropriate insulation. Bring along a small stove as well for any meals in the backcountry. Where fires are permitted, use park fire rings, portable fire pans, or mound fires. Always keep fires small and only use down and dead wood that can easily be broken by hand. When you’re done with the fire, let the coals burn to ash, put the fire out completely, and then scatter the ashes. Your goal is to remove any indication that a fire has ever been made. 6. Respect Wildlife Animals in parks are truly wild and should be treated as such. It seems like every year there’s a new video of someone approaching a bison in Yellowstone to get a closer look—a situation that never ends well. Beyond your own safety, respecting wildlife means helping them stay wild. That means never feeding animals, either purposefully or accidentally by leaving food lying around. Feeding wild animals can alter natural behaviors in ways that are damaging to the ecosystem. Store food items securely, dispose of trash properly, and use bear boxes where offered. All of these measures will help prevent wildlife from taking a liking to your trail snacks. 7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors Finally, be nice to everyone in the park. Just as you should leave parks in pristine shape for future visitors, you should also respect the ones who happen to be there at the same time as you. Yield to other hikers on the trail, step on the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack animals, and consider the fact that not everyone loves loud music. Public parks are for everyone. By following these simple guidelines, you’ll allow others and yourself to enjoy the outdoors in a way that benefits both you and the landscapes you visit. One final note on the Leave No Trace principles—our eighth rule if you will. Leave it better than you found it. This isn’t our attempt to implore you to beautify the landscape by planting flowers (please don’t do that). Instead, we encourage you to bring an extra trash bag along when hiking and camping. Even in pristine national parks, you’re bound to find litter left behind by visitors. You may feel like you’re not even making a dent in some of your park cleanup efforts, but every piece of trash picked up helps. If we’re going to be good stewards of the land we get to enjoy, we might as well go above and beyond the call of handling our own mess. You may even be surprised to find how addicting it can be to pick up other people’s empty beer cans. This year on National Camp at Home Day, we encourage everyone to start practicing these Leave No Trace principles. Go for a hike on your favorite local trail and pack out the litter you find along the way. When cooking your camp meal, take into account how much waste you’re creating and come up with a plan for packing it out in a backcountry setting. If you have kids around the campfire, teach them the importance of the seven Leave No Trace principles so they’re ready to hit the trail with you. We can all make a positive impact by thoroughly learning these principles and implementing them when the time comes.