Your Opinion: The Best Hydration Packs

best hydration packs
My Camelbak is on its last leg. What should replace it?

I’m looking for your advice about the best hydration packs out there.

See, my Camelbak MULE is ratty and old. It’s salt-encrusted and engrodiated. It’s missing a zipper pull or two. The cat may have peed on it for all I know.

I’ve had it since it was among the best hydration packs out there. But a quick look at my local bike shop made me wonder if it’s not time to put the MULE out to pasture. Clearly, Camelbak is no longer the only legit choice. More than a few bike shop dudes around here talk up Osprey like it’s the greatest thing since the singlespeed 29er.

So, the guy who usually gives advice is turning to you: What do you think are the best hydration packs for long rides in hot weather? That means I need room for stuff like food and tools. I need 128 ounces. I’d also prefer a fairly neutral color – no purple, no salmon. Gimme greenish or tannish so when I hike, I can sneak around a bit.

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Check Out Halloween-Themed SCUBA Events

Halloween-themed SCUBA
Photos of some Halloween-themed SCUBA fun (courtesy of PADI).

Just about a year ago, I had no idea that there were any Halloween-themed SCUBA activities. My friends at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors set me straight.

And for a second year in a row, PADI has clued me in to some great Halloween-themed SCUBA events. First up, we have a course to get certified as a Zombie Apocalypse Diver. Police Officer Woody Tinslow, who is also a part-time employee as a dive instructor at New England Ski & Scuba, devised the course. The curriculum for the course covers SCUBA diving basics along with zombie biology and history, and survival, search and recovery skills. Now, I’m not sure if Woody adheres to the Max Brooks "Zombie Survival Guide" for his information on zombie biology and history. But if he’s taken his own approach, it’ll be interesting to see his spin on a cultural meme with no sign of slowing down.

“Um, does anyone else feel something chowing on their legs?”(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next up, we have a nationwide Halloween-themed SCUBA event that follows one of my personal rules: If something is hard on dry land, do it underwater to make it even harder. That’s right, an underwater pumpkin-carving contest.

This takes me right out of contention since my favorite jack-o-lantern carving tool is a Dremel (you should see the pumpkin guts fly when I go to town). Check out your local PADI dive centers to see if you can join the fun. Let’s not forget that pumpkins are buoyant, so you’d better have a plan for keeping that gourd from floating away. Bermuda Triangle, a brilliantly named PADI dive center in Greenville, SC, is just one of many places where SCUBA fans did some underwater carving. Bermuda Triangle’s event happened yesterday, but watch for others in the coming days.

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Things to See and Do in Chile

things to see and do in Chile
Chile (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

South American elicits various images as we mull over the possibilities of travel; from the rollicking and sometimes risky streets of Colombia, to the architectural magnificence of Macchu Picchu, we often think we have our tour plans covered – after all, what else is there to see? Chile rarely gets a look in, not quite holding up against the tourist trade of well-known cities and attractions, commonly mentioned but quickly forgotten in favour of BIGGER adventure dreams. Ignore prevalent attitudes for a moment and tune into the diversity, beauty and thrills Chile can offer those willing to delve deeper over its borders. You won’t regret it. And check this list of things to see and do in Chile to help plan your adventure.

Atacama Desert

things to see and do in Chile
Laguna Verde, Atacama, Chile Français : Le lac Laguna Verde, Chili. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though rarely featured on sanitised travel shows, the Atacama Desert is the second driest region in the world, rivalled only by the icy continent of Antarctica; a barren, forbidding wasteland of indescribable beauty, seam to seam sunsets and some of the most striking rock formations you will ever lay eyes on, Chile possesses a power over the sense many would have not anticipated – the natural artistry on display in the Atacama Desert will haunt you long after you leave. It’s certainly an outer this world experience, with many travel critics and writers trying to find a way to communicate the landscape to the unacquainted, settling on a galactic comparison: Mars on Earth. Its atmosphere is unsettling and quite wondrous. Be sure to visit Laguna Verde, a picturesque salt lake framed by the highest active volcano globally, the Ojos del Salado. And if you’re lucky, witness the yellows and purples of a flowering desert. It’s definitely a must for any list of things to see and do in Chile.

things to see and do in Chile
Moai at Rano Raraku, Easter Island

Easter Island

If you’re keen to adventure away from civilisation and cut yourself off from the rat race running your life, Easter Island is the perfect solution. Located in the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Chile and Tahiti, Easter Island is a sacred site of Polynesian history. The Moai statues are iconic, carved between the 12th and 15th centuries to embody deceased ancestors, standing atop of an ahu – important motifs of culture and tribal status, it is highly disrespectful to touch a Moai or step on an ahu. Instead, you must satisfy yourself with a few snaps and apprise yourself of the islands origins. It really is a fascinating lesson.

Torres Del Paine

Four seasons in one day is a commonly turned phrase when describing changeable weather – one never really expects to take it quite literally, though Chile doesn’t disappoint. The granite obelisks of Torres Del Paine reach for the sky in one of South America’s most expansive and lustrous national parks, often running the gamut from fine and pleasant, to cloudy and forbidding in less than 24 hours. Naturally panoramic, bountiful forests and glassy, sapphire lakes are framed by the snow-capped Andes ranges, radiating beauty and wonder. Take a tour on one of the many trails, and be calmed by the rushing rives and the panache of a pink flamingo – there exists a sense of awe around every bend, even if you get your feet a little dirty in the process.

From money to Cash Passports, getting sorted financially is easy if you follow this URL; in the meantime, start dreaming, planning and readying your spirit to ride the rollercoaster of the Chilean coastline.

  • Ten Great Desert Adventures
  • Crossing The Andes From Chile To Argentina
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Haunted Places in Arizona – An Expert’s Top 6

haunted places in Arizona
The Domes – one of the weirdest and coolest spots in Arizona. (Photo from

Want some expert info on haunted places in Arizona? Then you’ll like this guest post from Nicole, who runs the Haunted Arizona website. Here’s what she has to say!

Since I was a young child, I’ve been interested in ghost stories. Enough that, as an adult, I started my own website about them (specifically, about reportedly haunted places in Arizona, my home state). When I was invited to write a guest post on about my favorite haunted places in Arizona, I enthusiastically said yes! I will admit I was only asked to write about my top five, but it was hard to narrow it down, so the only logical thing to do, in my mind, was to throw in one extra.

#6. London Bridge, Lake Havasu City
There’s something fascinating about a bridge that was built in London now being in Arizona. Even if there were no supposed hauntings surrounding it, the fact that an entire bridge was removed from its original home in London, transported to Arizona, and put back up in Lake Havasu City, would still be an interesting tale. Add some ghosts into the mix — and not just any ghosts, but British ones — and it becomes something else altogether. The bridge is made of granite, which is said to be one of the best materials for storing residual energy, explaining why most of the paranormal activity at the bridge appears to be residual rather than what we consider spiritual or conscious entities. It is said that some of this energy, and therefore some of the apparitions, were transported from London along with the stones of the bridge. Reports of a British policeman and other ghosts are common, and ghost tour guides claim that patrons of their tour (which takes place daily) are frequently touched and witness ghostly activity on a regular basis.

haunted places in arizona
The Hassayampa Inn – beautiful, but a bit spooky in the right light. (image from

#5. Hassayampa Inn, Prescott
This is one haunted places in Arizona I’ve been hearing about for years, dating back to my days of recording TV shows like "Scariest Places on Earth" on VHS. The Hassayampa’s most famous story is about a young bride named Faith, who, on her wedding night, committed suicide by hanging herself from the bell tower above the honeymoon suite, after her groom left to buy cigarettes and never returned. Faith frequently haunts the hotel to this day, generally being kind to female guests who stay in her old suite, while male guests tend to have nightmares in the same room. There are many other ghosts reported in the hotel as well, including a young boy, and the "Night Watchman," a spirit in old west attire who seems to be checking the doors and windows to see that they are locked.

#4. Jerome Grand Hotel, Jerome
As someone who works in a hospital, they are often some of my favorite locations to hear of hauntings. The Jerome Grand Hotel was originally built as a hospital, giving it an entirely more interesting history than the majority of hotels out there. It is certainly not hard to understand why a hospital, or former hospital, would be haunted, considering the unfortunate amount of pain, confusion, sadness or frustration associated with many patients before their deaths. There are said to be at least eight different ghosts lurking in the hotel today, most prominently the ghost of an engineer who was employed by the hospital and who died in the boiler room by having his head pinned underneath the elevator car. Other ghosts from the hospital era include a nurse, and a young mother who died giving birth to a stillborn baby. It is said that the mother will not rest because she is still upset by her child being buried in an unmarked grave. The ghost of a miner has also been seen for decades, even by nurses and patients before the conversion from hospital to hotel. Hotel rooms that used to be inpatient rooms frequently have reports of labored breathing and coughing sounds, whether the rooms have guests staying in them or not.

haunted places in Arizona
Yuma Territorial Prison – what ISN’T creepy about an old prison?

#3. Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma
Like hospitals, prisons are another favorite category of mine when it comes to haunted places in Arizona. The Yuma Territorial Prison was used until 1908, when all of the inmates were moved to the current state prison in Florence. It remained empty and the building was abused for many years, and it is now in use as an historic state park (definitely convenient for us ghost hunters!) When the living inmates were moved to Florence, they left behind the graves of up to 119 prisoners who died during their detainment, eight of which were shot by guards while attempting to escape. The prison graveyard no longer has any headstones, but one recovered stone is now on display in the visitors’ museum (which has a lot of reports of activity, so if you get a chance to visit, make sure to stop in at the museum). The most haunted area to seems to be the Dark Cell, which was used for solitary confinement. A reporter from Arizona Highways magazine willingly let herself be chained up in this cell with as much historical accuracy as possible, but even she didn’t stay long before claiming there was a presence in the cell with her.

#2. The Birdcage Theatre, Tombstone
It’s almost difficult for me to give this one the rank of number two. It could almost be considered a tie for number one, and I’m sure some people would argue that the Birdcage is in fact the rightful owner of the first place title. Quite possibly the single most-haunted place in Arizona, this is the location you are almost guaranteed to see if you are, like myself, the type to watch a marathon of paranormal shows on TV near Halloween. Legend says that as many as 26 different ghosts call this Old West theatre their permanent home. This is the same number of murders that were reportedly committed during the eight years the theatre was in business, and it is said that there are over 120 bullet holes that still remain throughout the building. The amount of activity reported at the Birdcage is so much that I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I were to attempt writing it all. All I will say is that this theatre was considered one of the roughest places in the Wild West for the eight years it was open, and those who gave it that reputation seem to have remained as wild in death as they were in life. This is definitely one place that deserves your time if you feel the desire to research these haunted locations more thoroughly.

#1. The Domes, Casa Grande
I’m not sure what exactly it is about the Domes. I’ve researched the story of how and why these structures were built and abandoned, and it isn’t anything particularly spooky. Still, simply looking a photo of the place, even just an aerial shot from Google Earth, gives me a very strange feeling. Something about these odd, dome-shaped buildings in the middle of nowhere is extremely intriguing to me, enough that they even beat out the famed Birdcage for my absolute favorite haunted place. Don’t get me wrong, the stories surrounding the domes can get pretty sinister — skinned animal carcasses, concrete slabs covered with the dried blood of Satanic sacrifices, a menacing shadow person, things being thrown at visitors’ heads — but in all honesty, I’m not sure how many of the stories can be believed. Regardless of how much of this is true, there is just something sincerely creepy about the place, from the shape of the buildings, to the fact that they were abandoned halfway through construction, to the tunnels underneath them. Throw in the shadows, the whispers, the tapping on visitors’ cars, and the legends about the evil deeds that have taken place there, and this is a place worthy of #1 on my list of haunted places in Arizona.

All of these locations can be read about in more detail (including visitor information such as prices, hours, addresses, etc) on my website, Haunted Places of Arizona: You can also like our Facebook page at

5 World Airports You Wouldn’t Mind Being Delayed In

top 5 airports for delays
London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Photo credit: garybembridge)

Attention passengers, those flying on Aircraft BNE405 to Los Angeles, your flight is currently delayed. Every traveler has heard those words at least once throughout their life. Your mind flashes to what the next few hours might entail. A $10 bag of Peanut M&M’s, perhaps a stale egg sandwich,cramped and uncomfortable seats and the best? Restless children? For those in transit, this is a conceivable reality … unless you are in one of these five utterly amazing airports.

Heathrow Airport, London

Heathrow Airport has got everyone in mind, from business travelers to families. Those traveling with babies can reserve and collect baby food and milk at a reasonable price as well as entertainment, gifts, fashion, liquor and technology through their online store. Once you’re at Heathrow, the real fun begins. Terminal 5’s Heathrow Boutique offer complimentary personal shoppers and Thomas Pink will iron your brand new suit and put it in a flight ready bag. You could spend hours sifting through 11,000-square-ft of the world most popular department store, Harrods.

For the culture-minded folk, you can revel in a stunning gallery showcasing sculptures by emerging British artists. To put the cherry on top of a superb day of shopping, dine in at any one of the 105 restaurants that Heathrow has on offer. Our pick? Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food restaurant – watch the chefs in their element, whipping up fresh cod and gnocchi through a glass-enclosed kitchen. Tip: Those looking to buy in Duty Free, head to the Heathrow website before you go to scoop up one of the many special offers available to flyers.

Changi Airport, Singapore

If there’s one word to describe Changi Airport, it’s enchanting. This airport is for the child in all of us. Don’t worry, no one’s judging you as you glide down a 40-ft slide in your business suit. Nor does anyone care that you’re frolicking in the butterfly farm, because they are all doing the same. Take a breather in one of Changi’s nature gardens, catch some Z’s in their napping areas or rainforest lounge, or freshen up in the showers and day spa. The facilities are endless with entertainment lounges, music bars, swimming pools and free movie theatres. Serious business services are not forgotten here at Changi, there are 200 iPad agents, 550 internet terminals, free Wi-Fi, 856 free USB ports and power sockets and multiple business centres. Tip for business travelers, team up with a travel management company like FCm Travel Management to utilise the best of these airport services.

Incheon International Airport, Seoul 

top 5 airports for delays
Incheon International Airport – a great place to spend a few hours.

Entertainment is the key word at Incheon International Airport. Two movie theatres playing Korean and Hollywood blockbusters, an ice skating rink for the adrenaline seekers, an 18-hole mini-golf course are just some of the ways travelers enjoy their time in transit. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, you can camp out in one of seven magical gardens or delight in the impressive cultural centre with traditional music and dance performances. Massages, dry cleaning, free showers and free Wi-Fi are also on the long list of amenities available at Incheon International Airport.

The Munich Airport, Munich

While most airports aren’t known for being cheap or delicious, The Munich Airport is exactly that. It’s the only airport in the world that has its own brewery and it’s so good that even Müncheners go out to the airport just to pay it a visit. For those sick of falling asleep on benches, Munich has sleeping pods called Napcabs. These ingenious hideaway’s feature a small couchette, a flat-screen TV, desk and internet connection.

Hong Kong International Airport

top 5 airports for delays
English: Hong Kong International Airport building at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To round up our top five, Hong Kong International, the world’s best airport for two years running, really packs a punch. Located on the man-made island of Hong Kong Harbour, all the business and work facilities you could ever want or need are at your demand, but it’s the extras that will really keep you happy. HKIA has the world’s first IMAX theatre, an iSports simulator for car racing and basketball and an outdoor nine-hole golf course. Amongst the entertainment, you can seduce your tastebuds at HKIA’s Michelin star restaurants or try authentic cuisine at your favourite outpost.

Are there any airports not mentioned here that you would be happy to be delayed at? Tell us in the comments below.

This post is brought to you by FCm Travel Management, 


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Flights from Phoenix to London – Beyond British Airways

Flights from Phoenix to London
The daily British Airways flights from Phoenix to London seem an obvious choice. But are they really the best option?

At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, my home airport, the lone intercontinental flight is the British Airway 747 to London Heathrow. So that’s my obvious choice to London, right?

Well, not exactly.

Few people love British Airways. And it always seems this flight is priced higher than other routes to London. It’s a nonstop flight, which means a lower chance of delays or lost luggage.

Still, I’d rather pick one of two other flights from Phoenix to London, even if they involve a stop at Los Angeles International Airport.

Norwegian Air Shuttle is planning to add two weekly flights from LAX to London Gatwick (an alternative to Heathrow). Part of the attraction here is being very curious about what it’s like to fly Norwegian Air Shuttle on a long-haul flight. I really liked Norwegian when Sarah and I hopped among Sweden, Norway and Finland. And since Norwegian Air Shuttle will fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, I’m extra-curious. Reviews of its long-haul flights are mixed. That said, I think a good chunk of the traveling public looks for excuses to complain. My short flights were uniformly on-time, and the crews and ground staff members were all courteous and accommodating. I think this would be a good alternative to British Airways for flights from Phoenix to London, stop or not. It would likely be my first choice just for the curiosity factor.

And then there’s Air New Zealand. A short hop to LAX turns this into a great option for flights from Phoenix to London. I prefer the shiny new Boeing 777 Air New Zealand flies to the British Airways 747. The 777 just has a modern feel that you won’t see on many 747s. I’ve only flown two short legs on Air New Zealand, but those who have flown it on intercontinental flights have good things to say. Blogger Ben has high praise particularly for the LAX to London flight. Let’s see if you can find anyone to crow that much about the British Airways flights from Phoenix to London.

So if you’re OK with an extra stop, you might save some money and get far better flights to London. And there are plenty of other options on good airlines. Just spend some time looking around. Still, these two would be my top choices.

I also have plenty of other airline reviews and thoughts. See some of them here.

  • Norwegian Air to offer U.S. to London flights for $240
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Your Bike Frame – What it Says About You

bike frame
Muddy aluminum – the frame material of choice for the Average Joe.

I amazed a new mountain biker a few weeks ago. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t my riding that did it. It was a bit of trivia I shared – that you can actually buy a mountain bike frame made out of bamboo.

It’s a shocker for many, especially newer riders who think the old flavors of bike frames are aluminum and carbon fiber. I’ve made a list of bike frame materials I know about, and what they say about the people who ride them. Pitch in with your own in the comments!

Aluminum – You’re everyman, a card-carrying member of Average Joe’s Gymnasium rolling into work with Dockers and a pale blue shirt. Sticking out, making a statement? Not for you. Keep it real, keep it cheap, keep it real cheap. Your aluminum bike frame is common and functional. You won’t feel guilty about replacing it when the bell tolls for it.

bike frame
Bamboo – it looks cool. But not as cool as the rider thinks he is!

Carbon Fiber – Just put a revolving door on your garage: You’re going to ditch your carbon fiber frame soon – probably as soon as your brand of choice releases a new version that’s 21.2 grams lighter. You’re all about going fast. You don’t ride: You only train and race. When you go wild at parties (the few you get invited to), you share a bottle of Michelob Ultra with five friends.

Steel – Your bike sleeps beside you on your ratty futon You boast about how long your frame can last, about how any welder can fix it, how smooth it rides. You’ll shed tears when the $300 custom paintjob on your latest handmade, fillet-brazed wonder gets scratched. But you never bat an eye as your car drops parts in its wake while rattling down the freeway.

Titanium – Custom steel is not exclusive enough for you. So you tracked down a bearded Ukrainian recluse who used to weld ICBM fins to whip up a titanium bike frame for you -- back in 1993. You’re still riding it, and it looks just as good as the day you bought it. Too bad it doesn’t have disc brake tabs or suspension-adjusted geometry.

Bamboo – Well, hello, Mr. Fancy Pants! You’re bicycling’s Bono, cruising smugly on your very pricey, sustainably grown bike frame. You’re saving the world while oh-so-gently scorning those who lack the bank account to save the world like you do. You just better hope a panda doesn’t start munching your frame while you’re inside the local coffeehouse sipping a shade-grown, fair-trade caramel latte made with non-GMO soymilk.



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Arizona High School Cycling League Has Plan to Interest More Girls

Getting more women involved in mountain bike racing is an old challenge. It’s plagued event organizers and the industry as long as the sport has been around. Now the new Arizona High School Cycling League is taking a shot at it. After its first race on Sept. 29, I noticed a huge difference in the number of boys versus girls. I asked Mike Perry, Arizona High School Cycling League executive director, via Facebook about how the league plans to get more female high school racers involved. His answers impress me, and they go beyond the usual “awareness” message that I’ve largely tuned out. Here’s his answer in its entirety. What do you think?

It really is a challenge to get more girls involved, and it’s front and center on our priorities. We’re coming at it from a few angles.

Arizona High School Cycling League
Junior varsity girls riders Nicole Linebaugh (103) and Christine Clark encouraged each other through the first Arizona High School Cycling League event.

1) We have been very intentional about the composition of the league leadership and board to ensure both are representative of our communities. That means having women (and minorities) in key positions. For example, our Chief Referee is female, our Registration Manage is hispanic and our Merchandise Manager is a hispanic female. 2) Team scoring at our races is co-ed, the highest placed four riders on a team, and must include at least one girl and one boy. That gets the boys’ / men’s attention knowing that they need to have girls on the team to be competitive in the team category. 3) We’re working with teams to ensure they have females coaches in their ranks. Teams in more established leagues have told us that they’ve experienced firsthand that girls are more likely to join, engage and remain active in the team when at least one of the coaches is a woman. Roughly 25% of the participants who have gone thru our coach licensing have been women. 4) We’re putting on girls-only skills clinics and other opportunities. It’ll come as no surprise that group dynamics change when boys and girls are together when learning. Generally boys already have the advantage of more time riding and they want to show off, both of which can be very intimidating to the girls. Pros Chloe Woodruff, Krista Park and Pua Mata have all done girls-only events for the league, and we’ll continue to work with them (and others).

We’ll continue to do more as we learn and evolve; like I said, it’s a priority for us.

Congrats to the Arizona High School Cycling League for a successful first event – and good luck to the league and all its racers. Be sure to check out my race report on Yahoo! Voices. You can also view the race results on the league website.

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