This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.
With no contests to win or judges to impress, two-time WSL World Champ Gabriel Medina has been doing his best impression of WFH––which basically just means getting shacked over and over again in Brazilian beachbreak. This two-minute edit features some absolutely ridiculous rides from Medina––that’s to be expected. But there’s one ride in particular that we just couldn’t stop watching.
At the 33-second mark, Gabe drops into a firing left-hander, tucks into the barrel, and locks eyes with GoPro dude. The man’s left arm is fully extended and eyes’ completely transfixed on Medina. For a blissful moment in time, this guy must have thought he was going to score the ultimate shot. That is, until the wave sucked him over the falls and straight down onto Medina.
Remember folks, never turn your back on the ocean.
Accidents happen. From pro climbers to casual day-hikers, playing in wild open spaces can be dangerous. Luckily, in some areas, there are organizations to help you get home safely if things go sideways. As more people get out to explore the backcountry, more incidents will happen. We talked with Teton County Search and Rescue as well as Banff Visitor Safety about what they wish people getting out into wild and remote areas would do to help prevent incidents and, in the unfortunate event, to make rescues more seamless. The fundamental place to start, of course, is preventing an incident before it happens.
1. Choose an appropriate trip for the current conditions—that’s where the advice begins for Conrad Janzen from Banff Visitor Safety. Always check the weather and conditions for your area and objective. If you can have someone (or some device) send updates while on your trip, this added measure can only help your decisions in the field.
2. Choose the best trip for the experience level of the group as a whole, says Janzen. Set yourself and your partners up for success. Of course things happen, but if you pick something within the group’s collective skill set and experience, you can manage yourself and your group with more ease. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean someone else can; many rescues occur due to over-estimated abilities.
3. Bring a paper map/route description and know how to use it (from Janzen). As we become more dependent on digitized equipment, we tend to lose our analog orientation skills (or don’t develop them in the first place). It might seem antiqued, but people have been using paper maps and compasses long before any GPS. When your batteries die, rely on printed maps to get home.
4. Tell reliable people where you are going and when you expect to come back, says Chris Leigh of Teton County Search and Rescue. This is a crucial piece of trip planning. If something happens while exposed in the backcountry, rendering you unable to communicate, your loved ones can greatly assist rescuers with this key information.
“Leave a detailed route plan with a reliable person in case you are not able to call for assistance,” Janzen adds. “Having the details of the trip plan, vehicle descriptions, and what equipment was taken on a trip can really help speed up searches and provide information on the potential urgency of an overdue person or group.”
5. Carry an emergency communication device. Just as important as bringing a backup map, Janzen notes how new devices have made communication so easy that they should become a regular part of your kit. A two-way communicator helps rescuers make the best possible decisions to help you.
“Also, know where you are and how to communicate it,” Janzen adds. “Being able to send accurate location information in the form of local place names, latitude-longitude, or other coordinate methods really speeds up emergency response times and helps rescue groups bring the appropriate resources.”
6. Stay put, especially after you contact search and rescue. Leigh points out that if you get into a situation where you’re lost, injured or cliffed out, rescuers ask that you please stay put. Yes, there are those brave stories of people who self-rescue from harrowing situations, but more often than not, meandering around while injured can make a bad situation worse.
“Try to be visible from the ground or air depending on what type of rescue is needed,” says Janzen. “Position yourself in open areas that can be seen from a distance. Make noise if you hear rescuers coming by ground. Wave brightly colored clothing and shine a light from a headlamp or phone toward rescuers if you are trying to be seen from a distance or from the air.”
7. Carry some sort of mechanism to start a fire. Leigh advises the need for backcountry travelers to bring tools to start fires, like either waterproof matches, or a little cotton wadded up in gasoline and contained. This can literally be a lifesaver for warmth and, potentially, for helping rescuers find your location. However, it is important to manage the fire properly and only useful below tree line (above tree line, rescuers should see you).
8. Bring spare clothing and an emergency tarp/shelter, says Janzen. Weather can change fast, so it is imperative to have the right clothing. Also, rescuers can’t always come at night, so if your incident happens in the evening, you will likely have to spend the night out. So be prepared for that ‘just in case.’
“Severely injured patients can cool very quickly even on a warm day,” says Janzen. “Insulate patients from the ground and cover them with warm layers to help deal with injuries. Warm clothing and a tarp also help lost or delayed people who end up spending an unplanned night in the field.”
9) Always take a first aid kit. Leigh points out what might seem an oversight. But there are so many lightweight, compact first aid kits now available, that there is literally no excuse not to carry one—especially if its content can help stop a bleed that otherwise could be fatal, or minimize other injuries to prep an injured party member for a rescue.
10) Bring a headlamp, Janzen notes, with good batteries. Many of us carry headlamps in our kits or cars; many of us don’t actually make sure they are charged, however, or have working batteries. Always check before you go.
This article originally appeared on Bike.com and was republished with permission.
When it comes to getting creative on two-wheels, few people can match the ingenious of Fabio Wibmer. The Austrian trials rider understands the power of creating viral trick videos––Fabiolous Escape, Wibmer’s Law or Home Office, anyone?
In this video, the 25-year-old dishes on where he finds his inspiration, how his crazy videos get captured, and why trying a trick 700 times is perfectly reasonable.
Todd Snyder isn’t getting into the whiskey game, but he’s definitely bringing it some style with a new denim jacket, made in collaboration with Legent Bourbon.
According to the brands, this one-of-a-kind jacket “redefines denim, a classic American staple, using the finest whiskey-hued Japanese woven fabric. Produced on old shuttle looms in Okayama and cut and sewn in the USA, the birthplace of blue jeans, the Bourbon Selvedge Denim Jacket is as unique as the bourbon that inspired it.”
Legent is a Beam-made Kentucky bourbon finished in a series of wine and other casks, as blended by Suntory master blender Shinji Fukuyo. Beam Suntory has never been in the sourced whiskey game, but we have to admit they do a damn good job sourcing these style partnerships. Meanwhile, Snyder is no stranger to great collaborations (just check out his line with L.L.Bean, which dropped this month). Snyder, likewise, was excited to work with the Beam Suntory-owned Legent brand.
“When Legent approached me to do this, it was a no-brainer. Having spent so much time in Japan allowed me to understand the nuances and precision of the culture and apply that to my work in the States, especially with denim.”
The jacket initially sold out in just a few hours with its release earlier this week, but Snyder has stocked some additional items as of this morning.
“The jacket sold out in just 12 hours, which shows how customers are craving more than just quality,” explains Snyder. “They want a storyline rooted in craftsmanship. So happy to see the appreciation for not only how things are made but where they come from. I actually had a few stashed away as gifts but pulled from my personal stock to replenish our website due to the demand.”
The TS X Legent Bourbon Selvedge Jacket is available for $248—at least until it sells out again.
If you’re a rock climber, or any sort of adventurer for that matter, chances are you’ve seen adventure photographer Drew Smith’s work. From the big walls of Yosemite to first ascents in Patagonia to ice climbs in Kyrgyzstan, the man has been everywhere. And he has the photos to prove it.
These days, you’re likely to find Smith’s work spread across the glossy pages of Patagonia’s beloved catalog or capturing the epic expeditions of The North Face athletes in remote corners of the world. Undeniably, he’s carved out his place as one of today’s most talented adventure photographers, thanks to his ability to keep up with elite climbers and document their exploits with breathtaking imagery.
Having success at what many would consider a dream job—being paid to travel the world and take pictures—aspiring photographers often ask Smith for tips on how to establish themselves in the industry, to which he responds by laying out a relatively simple roadmap: “Take your camera everywhere and go on adventures all the time. That’s what I did,” he says. “It’s not like I was trying to become an adventure photographer. I just felt like I had to be one.”
Of course, his journey was a bit more complicated than that. Recently chronicled in the short film A Young Man’s Road, produced by Firestone Walker Brewing Co., the photographer’s career trajectory could be likened to that of a pinball, ricocheting left and right.
Smith grew up working on his family’s ranch in Montana, and after high school spent a summer fighting wildfires. Then he gave college a try for two weeks before deciding it wasn’t for him. He recalls, “A lot of people think that means you’ll do nothing with your life and I hated that. So I decided I would just do as many things as I possibly could and really live life.” And so, an itinerant lifestyle began.
Smith was soon collecting an assortment of experiences wherever life took him: commercial fishing in Alaska, teaching English in Ecuador, guiding outdoor education trips in California, operating a snowcat in Jackson Hole, search and rescue in Yosemite, and the list goes on. “I’d try a job, and if I didn’t feel a huge connection to it, I’d do it for a bit, then move on,” he says. Eventually, his brother, who had gone to school for photography, gave him an old camera and urged him to start documenting his travels.
It was when working in Jackson Hole one winter that Smith broke his back snowboarding and compressed seven vertebrae. Forced to stay put for the summer, he met a group of rock climbers while working at an outdoor gear shop that introduced him to their sport. When he realized it took less of a toll on his body while still allowing him to push his limits and get the same rush as snowboarding, he was instantly hooked. Soon, climbing became the focal point of Smith’s life on the road.
“Quite often, I’d be traveling around rock climbing and I wasn’t making money off of photos yet, so I’d go back to these jobs doing construction or whatever and beat the shit out of my body,” he says. “I’d do that for a little bit and I just wouldn’t be happy. I didn’t feel like my life was fulfilled, so I’d quit and go live on the road, rock climb, and take photos, and that felt good. I’d do that until I ran out of money, then I’d go back to those jobs.”
After six years, he was still waiting for his breakout moment when he introduced his girlfriend to photography. Within a year, she was doing it professionally, which led to the realization that he simply wasn’t being proactive enough when it came to submitting his work. “I remember thinking if somebody really likes my stuff, that they’d approach me,” he says, “but it never happened that way.”
Upon landing a contact at Patagonia, he took a chance and sent in his best photos. “Then I got an email from the head editor,” Smith shares. “It was like ‘I really liked your submission. Please continue to submit and here is the info on how to request clothing.’ I got that email and started crying. I was like, ‘Holy shit! I’m going to make this work.’ ”
Since then, it’s been a wild ride, tirelessly crossing the globe on assignments documenting the world’s best mountain athletes for top outdoor brands and publications. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has put his international travel plans on hold for the time being (expeditions to Pakistan and Norway were both recently canceled), yet his nomadic life continues in remote parts of the U.S. where he can climb and keep busy with work.
Looking back on how he arrived where he is today, Smith points out an essential component to his success: his parents. “They couldn’t support me with money,” he says, “but they gave me a lot of support with love and made me believe that I could do whatever I wanted to. I’m very fortunate to have that. My parents just let me be me and find my path.”
In fact, his father’s influence is present in A Young Man’s Road. The elder Smith wrote and plays the opening song as the photographer shares a quote that his father imparted upon him: “Make goosebumps last as long as you can, and take advantage of cheap thrills.”
This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.
New York and New Jersey have a reputation.
Actually, we have a couple of reputations. And one of them is honesty.
Granted these are sweeping generalizations but that chill West Coast ever-positive demeanor doesn’t always jive with reality. Folks in New Jersey and New York tend to tell it like it is.
When the waves, the weather, the pizza or the Giants suck, we say they suck. (The rest of the country could take a lesson on mini-mall pizzerias.)
But when conditions do line up, we will be the first to wave our arms and claim epic.
After 15 years of hearing about an indoor wave pool, Skudin Surf at American Dream in East Rutherford, NJ, is open and the locals are calling it as it is.
“It’s not the biggest man-made wave. It’s not the longest. It’s not the punchiest. But it’s a one-of-a-kind surf experience,” says Will Skudin, pro surfer, surf coach and co-director of operations at Skudin Surf.
That’s not to say Skudin doesn’t dream big. He is from Long Beach, New York and for the last ten years has chased massive swells and competed on the World Surf League’s Big Wave World Tour with the most elite hellmen in the most harrowing seas around the globe.
Even being a professional big wave surfer from just outside of NYC, Skudin has taken a very realistic approach to his partnership at American Dream.
“We knew what we had here but it doesn’t really translate to photos,” explained Skudin, “We didn’t want to start hyping it up. You don’t see the potential until you ride it. We have the ability to create a lot of waves in a short period of time and a variety. Everyone who leaves here is laughing and smiling. They’re doing the marketing for us,” Skudin explains.
He is sharing the directing duties with Ocean City’s Rob Kelly, the most high-profile surfer representing New Jersey on the global scene for the last decade.
Being a surfer on this stretch of coast is an exercise in patience. In addition to few features like reefs, inlets, and points, the ocean will go from flat to heaving within a few stormy hours. On, off, or sideshore winds all blow hard and swells are short lived. You can wear trunks for four months, but summer surf is small and then the ocean can dip down to the 30s when it gets bigger.
And much like ocean surfing, a wave pool here faces some barriers, the first one being winter, which arrives in December and lasts into May. An outdoor wave pool’s season might only be six months, considering the risk of freezing pipes, which wouldn’t be a sustainable business model. So indoor is the only option. And since real estate here actually costs something as opposed to Lemoore, Ca or Waco, TX, space limits the quality.
But Skudin Surf makes up for that with quantity.
The park contract went to American Wave Machines, which designed the BSR Surf Resort in Waco, TX. AWM put its Perfect Swell” technology into action and really made the most out of the square footage. Lots of turns off the turnpike.
“We’re firing air compressors at different times to create a variation of waves. We have 14 waves out of the gate and every wave allows for a different maneuver or style,” says Skudin. And all of this is eight miles from Midtown, Manhattan, which can take 12 minutes or (since we’re being Jersey-level honest) 90 minutes with traffic.
The key is the number of waves the machine can produce. Skudin claims the pool can churn out a wave every 21 seconds, more than any other wave facility in the world. Essentially, there’s no waiting.
The basic performance wave names have created the acronym WAVES – Warm Up, A-Frame, Vortex, Epic and Section. Currently because of pandemic restrictions, the pool is only open for group rental “Sessions” by the hour.
“We make it a whole experience of magic moments. The technicians adjust the waves and we have it set up to music. We fire the first wave and then we make an announcement later that you’ve been surfing for ten minutes. The surfers have already had so many waves that they’re exhausted and everyone starts laughing hysterically,” says Skudin with a chuckle himself.
The wave is part of a massive complex that includes shopping, dining, an indoor theme park, theatres, mini-golf, an ice rink, as well as the Big Snow ski dome and apparently more coming in 2021 at the famed Meadowlands.
The sessions run $1,800/$2,100 for an hour session on a weeknight/weekend with a $600 discount for the second hour. There’s a 4% reservation fee. Custom coaching, photos and videos are added costs.
Folks from New York and New Jersey don’t sugarcoat it when they think something sounds pricey. But at over two waves a minute and the ability to split the peak, you can split the price among families, teams or groups, and surf your bagels off (native speak) for a reasonable rate while kids and beginners coast the whitewater on the inside.
“It by far exceeded my expectations,” said Tim Fitch, a Manasquan, New Jersey surfer and father of two, one of the first to ever patronize the wave.
“We had a great crew and that’s important. My daughter is 10 and my son is 12, with a bunch of our friends. It blew our minds. No complaints from anyone. We took 15 people and that was just about the perfect size; six to eight surfers out for 20 minutes at a time. Almost everyone agreed that the A-Frame split peak was the way to go. We had little kids and my wife riding the Rubber Duckies section on the inside. And that’s not to mention we had Skudin and Rob Kelly calling us into waves.”
Being in the NY metro area, it’s also close to millions of people. Skudin Surf is about an hour from Rockaway Beach or Manasquan. And unlike some other pricey parks, if you blow a wave or two, your trip isn’t ruined.
“I kind of think this park brings the fun back to surfing,” adds Skudin.
It’s not easy to stay motivated when training alone. But apathy is where the right watch can help keep you on track. Where old-school watches simply told the time and occasionally offered a stopwatch feature, today’s fitness watches can track your pace, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels, as well as monitor your sleep, play music, and surprisingly, much more. With so many options, it can be difficult to zero in on the watch that’s right for you. Here’s six of the latest worthy fitness watches on the market.
Rip Curl Search GPS 2 Best for Surfers Rip Curl has pioneered surf watches and the Search GPS2 is its most advanced watch yet. Featuring 1,400 preprogrammed tide locations, the watch tracks tide, wind, and swell, as well as your individual session. In addition to all the usual features you’d expect in a watch, the Search GPS 2 allows you to view your top speed, distance paddled, wave count, and session time, directly from the watch or through the Search App. Additionally, Rip Curl has partnered with Surfline Sessions, so you can easily relive each of your waves through your phone. The Search GPS 2 may seem like an extravagance, but once you strap it on your wrist, you’ll be hooked. [$299; ripcurl.com]
Apple Series 6 Best for Everyday Use Coupling fitness innovations and stay-connected technology, the Apple Series 6 helps prove once again while the brand consistently leads so many sectors: It allows you to track every detail of your workout while still being able to talk and text on the go. Standout features include health trackers that measure your blood oxygen or take an ECG on the go, fitness trackers that monitor your daily activity and workouts, emergency SOS and fall detection technology, and an always-on Retina display that ensures you can stay connected, even without your phone. In comparison to the Series 5, Apple’s newest model features a blood oxygen sensor, an altimeter, a compass, ability to measures both low VO2 and VO2 max, a screen that is 2.5 times brighter and a speaker that is 50 percent louder—all charging 20 percent faster. [$399; apple.com]
Suunto 7 Best for Multi-sport Coupling fashion with functionality, Sunnto’s latest multi-sport watch combines Sunnto’s versatile sports expertise with Wear OS by Google, a wearable operating system that brings the best of Google to smartwatches. The one-size-fits-all watch offers over 70 sport modes, free offline outdoor maps, wrist-based heart rate measurements, tracking and navigation, barometric altimeter for elevation readings, and sleep/recovery insights. In an effort to keep up on longer adventures, the water-resistant watch features a low power, always on sports display, plus a battery-saving GPS mode. [$499; suunto.com]
Polar Vantage V2 Best for Recovery Polar’s newest and most advanced multi-sport watch, the Vantage V2 is a sleek, waterproof watch that features performance tests, route planning, recovery tracking, and a smart fueling assistant. In addition to traditional smartwatch features, the Vantage V2 offers a running performance test, cycling performance test, leg recovery test, a training load pro, recovery pro, and nightly recharge (pictured). The recovery pro feature provides recovery feedback while the nightly recharge shows how well you’ve recovered from the previous day’s workout, allowing you to fully get in tune with your body and optimize your training. [$499; polar.com]
Fitbit Sense Best for Health Nuts Featuring innovative sensor and software technology, the Fitbit Sense is the company’s most advance health smartwatch to date. Like all of Fitbit’s watches, the Sense tracks daily steps and calories burned, but also includes the world’s first electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor to help manage stress, as well as advanced heart rate-tracking technology, a new ECG app, an on-wrist temperature sensor, and six-plus days of battery life. Other thoughtful features include a built-in GPS, on-screen navigation, a sleep tracker, interchangeable bands, and an entire mindfulness section available through the app. Included with all purchases is a six-month premium trial, which provides access to more advance sleep analytics, a 30-day wellness report, fun challenges, and hundreds of workout videos, mindfulness sessions, and guided programs. [$329; fitbit.com]
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar Edition Best for Endurance Endeavors Garmin knows GPS. And featuring a Power Glass solar-charging lens and customizable power manager modes, the Fenix 6 can get up to 14 days of battery life while indoors or up to 16 days when solar charging in smartwatch mode. Compatible with almost any sport, the solar watch includes animated workouts, wrist-based heart rate, advanced sleep monitoring, pace-pro technology, acclimation, respiration tracking, topographical maps, turn-by-turn navigation, and so much more. For long-haul adventures, the watch even offers an “Expedition Mode,” which is an ultra low-powered GPS reference that lasts for weeks, allowing you to keep track of your trip from start to finish. [$849; garmin.com]
This article was produced in partnership with Athletic Brewing, which encourages you to adventure without compromise.
Growing up in Vermont, Ryan Kempson spent most of his time outdoors, playing sports like basketball. Athleticism was always innate. After college, he stuck with an active lifestyle, passing his fitness knowledge onto others as a trainer. When he first decided to sign up for a Spartan Race with his brother, it served as a way to meet up, connect, and have some physical fun. Then he realized he had talent on the course. Fast forward a few years and this competitor still dominates the obstacle course racing scene. “The reason I still go after it is that it’s an adventure and a challenge,” he says.
While most of the courses Kempson runs span double-digit miles, the benefits of obstacle course racing goes beyond gaining endurance. “With obstacle course racing, we’re not really good at just one thing, but we’re pretty darn good at everything,” he says. “It forces you to address weaknesses, whether that’s carrying really heavy things, or climbing across monkey bars, or running on technical terrain. As a result, the training develops you into a pretty well-rounded athlete. You can’t focus all your training on one area or else you’re going to get left behind in a race.”
To train all aspects of his fitness, Kempson often turns to kettlebell training, kite surfing, and one major must-do: hill workouts.
The Benefits of Hill Workouts
First off, dashing up a mountain will get you stronger legs. “By running up and down a hill, you start developing this power in your lower body that translates into being able to propel yourself farther at a faster rate,” Kempson says. “It also breaks up the monotony of running in one plane of motion for so long.”
On the mental side, breaking up your workout by running hills and incorporating strength moves, like pushups and lunges, forces you to change paces and tires you out. Then you need the mental strength to do it all again. “It takes a little more focus and willpower to continue on,” Kempson says, comparing hill workouts to straight running. It teaches you to run when your legs are tired, too, which can offer a major benefit come race day or long-run day, when your legs feel heavy as you reach the end of the route.
How to Crush a Hill Workout
To train your legs to work in overtime when fatigued and incorporate some strength moves focused on pushing and pulling, Kempson offers a hill workout you should do outdoors once a week. Find an incline you can run up for at least 30 seconds and up to two minutes. Throughout the routine, you should work at a consistent effort—about a 6-8 on a scale of 10 for your rate of perceived exertion. “It should be hard, but sustainable, so you don’t need to take any rest,” Kempson says. “The idea is to keep moving forward, even though we have the tendency to want to take that break. But keep grinding along.”
Focus on form as you run, making sure to stand with tall, strong posture; pick up your feet, not just your knees, so you’re not shuffling. “Work on bounding up the hill—not doing short, choppy steps, but being powerful by lifting your feet, and driving your knees and hips” he says. “Practice being light on your feet to come back down, rather than just slamming your foot down and putting on the breaks with every single step.”
“The cool thing about hills is that they don’t lie to you—either you can get to the top or not,” Kempson says. If you can only do one round of this workout the first week, that’s OK; you’ll see your progress the more you stick with it. “And when you go back to your regular running, your legs will feel super strong,” Kempson adds.
Ryan Kempson’s Strength-Focused Hill Workout
Complete all the exercises straight through, without stopping. Once you complete 1 round, rest until fully recovered, and repeat 2-5 times.
Run up hill (shown above)
Do 10 pushups
Run up hill
Jog back down
Do 10-20 reverse lunges (with or without sandbag)
Run up hill
Jog back down
Do 10 pullups (on a tree, jungle gym, or any ledge you can find to pull yourself up)
Run up hill with a sandbag or light weight held across the shoulders or carry a backpack filled with water bottles
Jog back down
Finish with one sprint up the hill
Jog back down
Make sure to recover properly: Drink plenty of water, replenish depleted electrolyte and glycogen stores, and get a good night’s rest.
As it tends to happen with technology, the line between “consumer” and “professional” drones is blurring, and the DJI Mavic Air 2 ($799; dji.com) shows exactly how fuzzy the two terms have become. For entry-level shooters looking for awe-inspiring cinematic shots, it’s probably the best drone available.
My first-flight experience revealed how intuitive it is to use. After charging the battery, I loaded the DJI app on my phone, connected the controller, and punched the auto-takeoff button. The drone jumped to about eye level to await further instructions, and I scrolled through a menu of pre-programmed flight patterns that DJI calls Quickshots. I chose a sequence called “Rocket,” and the Mavic Air 2 blasted upward to deliver an extreme zoom-out. What started as a shot of me on my porch expanded to reveal my house, backyard, and then the whole neighborhood.
Other Quickshots include the Dronie (an angled ascent), Helix (a spiraling descent), and Boomerang (the camera flies up and away before coming back for a falling zoom-in shot).
That ease of use is the Mavic Air 2’s most impressive feat, hands down. For novice flyers, it saves a ton of frustration. Your phone serves as the monitor, and to engage the auto-track feature—which allows the drone to follow people, bikes, jet-skis, dogs, and so on—you simply draw a box around your subject and hit record. Thanks to 48 megapixel photos and 4K video at 60 frames per second, the Mavic Air 2 delivers beautiful shots.
The battery runs for about half an hour on a charge, which is excellent by drone standards. It’s actually about 10 minutes longer than the original Mavic Air. But it’s also about half the time I want when I’m any distance from a charging outlet. There’s no simple solution here; drone motors require a lot of power. But you can always swap-in backup batteries, which DJI sells for $115 apiece, or use a car charger, which runs $59.
My only real quibble with the Mavic Air 2 is one that I’ve come to expect from other drone tests: Like its predecessors, it’s too easy to crash.
I’m a fairly lousy drone pilot, and I have no plan to improve. So I need crash-avoidance features that protect my flying camera even when I can’t (or won’t). The Mavic Air 2 dodges branches and sign posts cleanly while moving backward or forward, but it’s not so reliable with side-to-side movements.
After my second time tangling the propellers in tree branches and watching the drone hit the ground, I finally referred to the manual for guidance. It turns out DJI’s Advanced Pilot Assistance System is disabled during left and right movements. That’s unfortunate. And while I love the drone’s Trace mode—the one where the drone follows you—the manual explains: “The aircraft can sense and avoid obstacles in this mode when there are pitch stick movements. The aircraft cannot avoid obstacles when there are roll and throttle stick movements.”
Huh. If that doesn’t make immediate sense, plan on crashing a couple times while you figure it out. Or you could try flying more cautiously than I do, which is probably smarter.
All told, the Mavic Air 2 is still the drone I’ll carry in my backpack the next time I travel or set off on a big hike. With the arms folded in, it’s about the size of a Chipotle burrito. At 1.25 pounds, it weighs about the same, too. That’s a powerful tool in a tiny package, and it’s my new favorite way to score larger-than-life footage.
I’m going to start this review by admiting that I’m just about as technologically inept as anyone I know.
My family and I are what you call “Old School.” I still ride a human-powered rusty beach cruiser, prefer manual transmission vehicles, regularly use my checkbook, and thoroughly enjoy pulling out my 35mm film camera for outdoor adventures. And my little clan is no different (even my two small kids). We don’t play video games, we don’t talk to Alexa, and our phones are several generations old. We’re comfortable with analog things, and up until recently, were timid to see what the tech world might hold.
That all being said, we were the perfect test subjects to turn our 50-year-old house “smart.”
However, with the headache of self-installation looming on the horizon, we weren’t too excited about the whole endeavor. That was until we found Vivint.
As one of the only smart home companies that actually includes professional installation, this was major selling point for us. I don’t like cables and cords, dialing in connectivity, optimizing range, etc. Things like that are above my pay grade, which is why I prefer to leave that to the experts. This system is designed to make the entire operation easy and affordable for the average homeowner, regardless of their tech savvy.
What is Vivint Smart Home?
With just about anything and everything you could want in a smart home, Vivint offers the complete package. From the sophisticated (and elegantly designed) smart hub that operates all of the smart tech throughout your home, to the exterior security cameras, smart doorbell, interior cameras, window/door sensors, smart thermostat, smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, vehicle diagnostics devices, and garage door control––you can customize whatever you wish to fit your home and family’s needs.
The best part? They install everything for you in a very professional manner with trained technicians that walk you through the whole thing. (Kind of like a senior giving a freshman the campus tour on the first day of school.)
It’s all integrated into one platform that you can control from the smart hub on your wall, or anywhere on the planet from the Vivint app on your mobile device. Get notifications in real time, be alerted when a person is detected lingering outside, and even protect packages when left on your doorstep.
Not to mention, 24/7 customer support is just a phone call away for any questions or concerns—they’ll even contact you if they detect any suspicious activity at your home while you’re away.
Why We Liked It
For starters, we were just stoked to be able to operate it (which is huge for my wife and I). Following a quick 20 minute walk-though with the technician to go over all of the operations following the installation, we were confident we’d be able to navigate all of the features on our own. (And since then, we’ve been breezing through the intuitive interface and easy-to-follow menu navigation.)
This system truly has it all. With two small kiddos on our hands, this system has given us peace-of-mind when it comes to their safety and security. We’re notified when a window gets cracked or a door opens. For two curious little knuckleheads, it gives us assurance that we know what they’re up to throughout the house at any given moment.
Not to mention, the door lock keypads make entry into the house a breeze. Even our five-year-old can lock the door when we leave and type the four-digit code when we get back (they really get a kick out of this whole operation). We haven’t had to bring keys with us when we go into the cul-de-sac to hang out with neighbors, and we can even lock/unlock all of our doors from down the street on our phone if need be.
The remote garage operation is one of my favorite features. Previously, we only had one opener for the whole house. So, if we lost that, we’d really be up the creek. But now, we can open/close and monitor the garage from anywhere. Have you ever left your house, been 10 minutes away, and then realized you weren’t sure if you closed the garage? Us too. Vivint eliminated that problem as our garage door is now visible and operable from our phones.
The smart thermostat is another slick feature. We can be laying in bed, feel a bit chilly, and immediately turn up the heat to a precise temperature with a few taps on our phone. (Same goes with A/C, if you have it.) You can even integrate this whole system with Alexa. Simply say “Alexa, tell Vivint to lock all the doors” before you go to sleep, and bada-bing, done. This also applies to the thermostat, garage doors, etc. It’s an awesome feature that we never knew we’d enjoy so much.
Probably the marquee feature for us is the security cameras. The full HD, night vision cameras have an ultra-wide field-of-view, which means you can monitor almost an entire block if you place it at a high vantage point. You can program the camera to notify you when a person walks by, when a person is “lingering,” when a package gets delivered, and the camera will even send out a deterrent sound should someone get too close (we opted for the whistle sound. It’s a stern yet pleasant noise that’s hard to ignore). You can speak remotely through your phone to the camera, as well as deploy a security alarm should something serious occur.
The smaller cousin of the cameras is the smart doorbell. It has all of the functions and capabilities of the cameras, but it’s conveniently placed right at your door with an electronic doorbell ring. You can speak to people at the front door through the smart hub, so you can communicate with delivery people, as well as show your disinterest to solicitors at a distance (one of our favorite uses). You can also set up an indoor camera(s) wherever you wish in order to keep tabs on what’s going on in the other room(s).
As for added security measures, all of the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are integrated and will alert you immediately upon a detected hazard. It’ll even notify the Vivint team, and they will contact emergency services should you not be home. This makes for much less worrisome travel.
When you leave, you can “arm” the alarm system and then control/monitor everything from your phone. Should someone enter the house and not be able to disarm within the pre-selected time frame, then yourself, Vivent, and the authorities will be notified. Again, it makes for much less stress while being away for extended periods of time.
For anybody looking to do short-term rentals with their home, this system is a must-have. It gives you the capability to monitor everything happening at your home, and even giving you the power to customize a “Guest Code” so they can let themselves in and control the functions of the whole house straight from the smart hub, without a fuss.
We’ve actually found ourselves being much more surveillent around the neighborhood since getting this system. Anytime we get notified that someone is lingering, or if a vehicle has been detected out front of our driveway, we leer out the window curtains like a couple of teenagers, waiting for the culprit to do something bad. However, they have not yet, and then we saunter back to the couch. But that’s hardly a nitpick of the system and more of a flaw with our nosiness.
If you’re in the market to get a smart home system, Vivint is the one-stop-shop. While we don’t really have experience with other systems out there, Vivint was simply a pleasure from start-to-finish. And we’ve gotten so used to the features, that I can’t imagine not having them anymore. We’ve been converted, and we couldn’t be happier.
If you’re new to all of this (as we were), then I’d suggest taking a good look into what Vivint has to offer. You won’t be left feeling sold short.