Back in 1978, a letter in Outside's first issue stated that the magazine was "dedicated to covering the people, sports and activities, politics, art, literature, and hardware of the outdoors." The magazine is driven by the search for innovative ways to connect people to the world outdoors.

Those goals are definitely being met if the current issue is any indication. Even dedicated couch potatoes can delight in living vicariously through first-person accounts of such activities as rollerblading around Paris or biking in the Single Speed World Championships, a decidedly different mountain bike "race" where it's not unusual to see competitors in "Helga" wigs, fishnets, feather boas or wearing nothing except cotton briefs. 

I scoped out the magazine at an airport newsstand. It's hard to find a magazine worthy of a three-hour flight, I discovered. I'm sure I would have been bored silly with many of the titles. Fashion, food and celebrity-focused titles seemed to dominate. With summer's golden days of sunshine waning, Outside seemed like it might offer some options for making the most of what we have left of the warm-weather season.

The article "Wild Escapes in the Great Lakes" details some great options, although if you're out of shape physically or short on cash, most of the recommendations won't work. Diving, fly-fishing, kayaking, hiking, climbing, biking, sailing and canoeing are the authors' activities of choice in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario. I was exhausted and in need of a short nap just after reading about their exploits. Surely there must be something fun to do in the Great Lakes region that isn't so labor-intensive? 

There are other activities detailed in the magazine where reading and not doing is perfectly fine.  Like fishing for musky or muskellunge, which can just stay far beneath the waters as far as I'm concerned.  It's not that I don't have an appreciation for fishing -- I spent many summer mornings in Kentucky fishing with my uncle when I was a kid -- but these fish are nasty. They've  "been known to eat ducks, muskrats, and -- so they say at the tavern -- the occasional dog-paddling poodle."  The magazine clearly has some talented and funny writers, which can save what might otherwise be a very niche-oriented subject.  Who among us has ever been musky fishing or even wants to go?  Raise your hand.  I rest my case.

Way more my speed was the story about a Bolivian wildlife refuge where "vacationers" can adopt a rescued jaguar and take it for daily walks on a leash. Written in the first person, the article was spellbinding. As much as I love kitties big and small, it left me rethinking booking myself on such a vacation (sorry, enemies). "It's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt," assails one critic of the refuge. So the writer obviously put his life on the line to research this piece. It's not the kind of journalism you might typically expect from an "outdoor" magazine, but it fits the mission of connecting people with the world outdoors.

The cover story about "The best places to live," detailing "20 perfect towns that have it all," is a great resource for vacationers as well as nomads. The bonus graphic that accompanies each town profiled offers a nearby location that's also worth checking out.  I've been to Cincinnati, but hadn't heard of Yellow Springs, Ohio, which was built as a spa town to capitalize on the nearby mineral springs.

There's lots of great art throughout the magazine. In some cases, the photo is the story, such as Krystle Wright's amazing shot capturing Benn Gibbs backflipping off a 1,500-foot cliff in Australia's Blue Mountains National Park. BASE jumping is definitely a sport most people (read: me) would probably rather enjoy vicariously, and Wright's photograph left me breathless.

The how-to aspect of the magazine offers equipment, fitness and nutrition tips for both novices and experts alike. There's a great piece on running shoes with photos and succinct reviews. If you're into fly-fishing, a one-page piece shows you everything you need to be outfitted. Another one-page piece deconstructs a mountain bike shoe.  I'm always one of those people eyeing the athletic shoes and trying to figure out what's different about them, so this is neat. Now I know why a particular pair (Shimano's SH-M310) costs $380 and therefore will not end up in my closet.

I've never been what I'd consider a "jock," but Outside left me wanting to try new activities. The common thread throughout all the stories and photography is the joy that people feel in moving their bodies and connecting with the outdoors. It's really quite contagious.


Published by: Mariah Media Inc.

Frequency: Monthly

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1 comment about "Outside".
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  1. Andrea Learned from Learned On, LLC, September 11, 2009 at 9:39 a.m.

    I agree, Tanya! If the magazine leaves a few more people wanting to try new activities - it has real purpose (beyond being an ad vehicle), and is, coincidentally more "sustainable" in a magazine-dying world.

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