Approximate Reading Time: 8 minutes
OK, its more than 7 really cos I keep adding them... You are stuck in a sweaty carriage going to or from work, perhaps you don't even remember which. rocking from side to side you look out of the window at the green fields and sunshine... If only you could be Out there!
Well, at least your ears can be! Do you know how many podcasts there are out there catering for your love of all things outdoors? No, well neither do I but there are quite a lot and consider that the podcast format is sure to grow and grow in the coming years as traditional media doesn't cater for our mobile lives.
As you may know from previous articles I am big podcast fan but it is also a medium which eats into your time, especially if, like me, you are not able to concentrate on two things at once. Its not just in order to escape from the daily grind that I like to plug some quality poddage into my ears. Although I am a fan of mother nature's sounds I also like listening to some podcasts whilst out for a walk or indeed a long run, except those last few minutes when you want to crank up Eye of the Tiger and imagine yourself leading out the pack in the final lap of the Olympics 10k.
One of the problems with podcasts is the need to be selective. When combined with other activities that require concentration, such as reading an email, I find that podcasts tend to go in one ear and out of the other so I cannot listen to them whilst working, for example. The point is I don't listen to them all day long and therefore I need to be choosy. So here are some notes on a few outdoor / mountain sports podcasts that I have been dipping into recently inorder to sort the wheat from the chaff. Enjoy.
The Dirtbag Diaries
Category: Adventure Sports / Outdoors
Average run time: 10 - 35 mins
Style: Stories / Adventures
From regular shorts (podcasts lasting around 10 to 15 minutes) to longer tales of adventure The Dirtbag Diaries pulls together interesting and amusing personal stories from the trail which amuse and inspire.
A recently poignant one for me was "Green Light". In this episode Fitz Cahall tells of a long
standing obsession with The Brothers - the main peak from Olympics National Park, outside his home city of Seattle. It resonated with me because this object of his desire is the backdrop to his life and work;
"I see it stuck in traffic. I see it from meeting rooms in downtown Seattle. I see it from my evening runs that I use to stay in shape for my days in the mountains."
I have lived and worked amongst the mountains and not exploited this opportunity. I have stared at them from an office window. I bought a house with two terrasses, each with a
mountain view, and still they remained a backdrop, one which I would look at lovingly and longingly but seldom ventured into except in winter, when the rush of half a day snowboarding and a few beers appeared to relieve the stress of work.
"It was fun, but it was always the easy option, rather than strapping on my boots"
When I first moved to Innsbruck I had sworn to myself that I would be out walking every
weekend, in fact it was only on very rare occasions that my partner and I made time for this. More often than not work seemed to interrupt me and so proximity to a PC was preferred to the open spaces and clean air of Tirol. I remember one month, due to some ongoing problems, I worked 25 days consecutively from 9 am until 9 pm.
Downtime was spent socializing and trying to forget the problems of the ever-encroaching
job or going to watch my partner play sport and then getting sucked into the social life surrounding it. The occasional weekend stands out, but most drunken early mornings are forgotten. Don't get me wrong, it was fun, but it was always the easy option, rather than strapping on my boots and spending a whole day doing something I knew I would remember forever.
With hindsight I was "wallowing in the constraints, responsibilities and duties of life". So Cahall puts it in The Dirtbag Diaries. This daily clutter "is capable of grinding our dreams to a halt".
It's important to cut through this. Maybe be a little selfish. Ignore the schedule from time to time. Hit the trail.
Category: Adventure Sports / Outdoors
Average run time: 30+ mins
MTN Meister gives the listener a regular interview format with a wide variety of "outdoor people". Examples of recent pods include an interview with Aaron Gwin (Downhill Mountian Biker), Billi Bierling (Climber and assistant to Miss Elizabeth Hawley of Himalayan Database fame) and Elyse Rylander, Director of OUT There Adventures, an organization that promotes diversity in the outdoors by introducing and mentoring young members of the LGBT to the pleasures of the wilderness. Now you don't get much more varied than that.
It might be a little US-centric at times but that does not make the interviews less interesting. The episodes I have listend to are pretty inclusive and it feels like a reasonable mix for the newbie and the seasoned outdoorsman / woman.
Category: Climbing / Exploring / Wild Places
Average run time: 25 - 30 mins
Style: Stories / Adventures / Interviews
This is a real little gem of a pod. Since first listening I read that the host, Christopher Sleight, is a radio producer. Apologies to him for not knowing but anyway it comes as no surprise when you listen to an episode of Mountain. The production is great; it sounds like a 30 minute BBC Radio 4 program, with superb editing and always interesting and above all intelligent.
Sleight is most often out doing something; climbing, caving, talking to people, which makes it a unique podcast and probably uniquely difficult to actually make coherent. It is a triumph; journalism and personal stories in an eminently consumable size. I hope the standard is maintained and it is one I will definitley squeeze into my busy pod schedule on a permanent basis.
Favourite eposide is The Angel of Camasunary in which photographer Duncan McCallum tells the story of a chance meeting with a young woman in a dark bothy and the ensuing love / infatuation. It's poetry.
The Outdoors station
Category: Outdoors / Adventure Travel
Average run time: 30 - 45 mins
Style: Interview / Adventures / Discussions
The Outdoors Station describes itself as the UK’s longest running award winning podcast "dedicated to the self powered traveler". It covers an almost limitless variety of activities providing they share an enjoyment and respect for the outdoors and the world's wild places. Although I am new to it, it has in fact been running for over 10 years and has provided a vast catalogue of back episodes to fill my days! Joy!
It is very good; no exaggerated introductions that have you reaching for the 15 second skip button. Indeed the voice of Bob Cartwright (the interviewer) is so soothing that even the promotional elements of it are not irritating. The interviews are informative, with intelligent questioning, particularly the last question of the podcast which is always the same, and one I have used when interviewing candidates for a job. No spoilers here... listen to it to find out!
I have enjoyed a few of the more recent ones but is worth going through the back catalogue to pick out a few that suit your taste as well as subscribing. If you are in any doubt as to whether you will find something that covers your own field of interest I assure you, you will. Back to Bob Cartwright for a second:
"We talk to anyone with the same passion for the outdoors and this includes a wide variety of activities. Be it – skiing, hiking, boating, walking, kayaking, canoeing, biking, adventure travel, climbing, equestrian activities and running".
o, as you can see I, and indeed you (if you download this podcast), will not be short of inspiration for some time to come. Long may it continue!
The Enormocast: A Climbing Podcast
Category: Rock Climbing / Mountaineering
Average run time: 1+ hr
Style: Interview / Adventures / Discussions
Chris Kalous is the host of this now legenedary mountain podcast. It's bi-monthly and has been going 2 years with a wealth of stars of the climbing world appearing.
One word of warning is something which has become endemic in longer format podcasting and that is the long rambling intro. I don't mind an advert and a quick intro but I prefer to get right into the interviews - anything else is eating into my pod-time! I guess seasoned podcast listeners are all used to fast-forwarding those bits.
Anyway back to the actual podcast. It has a focus on rock-climbing and sticks generally to the one hour interview format (give or take up to a 10 minute intro) allowing time to be relatively in depth. The style is a friendly conversational and when discussing mountains and climbing Kalous tends to look into the why as much as the where and when. For me, listening to the roots of people's obsession with mountains and climbing is always fascinating - and I use the word obsession advisedly.
Even though I am not rock climber listening to the likes of Paul Piana talk on their chosen realm of work and life is immensely interesting.
Tough Girl Podcast
Category: Adventure Sports / Exploration / Physical Challenges
Average run time: 45+ mins
Tough girl is much more than an adventure sports podcast. In each episode Sarah Williams hosts an interview with an inspiring / motivating female adventurer.
The format is a straight forward interview with an eclectic mix of women from all areas of adventure sports, exploration and others who have simply taken on extraordinary physical challenges. Often the theme within these stories is one of moving away from the run of the mill, 9-to-5 working lifestyle in pursuit of a more satisfying life. It is quite a loose interview format but I have found most to be of interest... then again as with all podcasts I end up cherry picking those which feel like they migh tbe up my street.
Boys, don't be fooled into thinking this is just for girls.
For me one of the most inspiring things about this podcast is the host's own story. Williams worked as a banker in London for a number of years before becoming dissatisfied with this and found a new vocation, taking on challenges such as climbing Kilimanjaro, taking part in the Marathon Des Sables and making her passion also her work.
Doing what interests you and makes you happy in life cannot be underestimated from the point of view of fulfillment but also, in my opinion, it is unrivalled for maintaining good mental health! In a small way this is something I have been working in the last year or so of my life and The Armchair Mountaineer is part of that. So three cheers for Sarah Williams and others in her mould.
G.O. Get Outside
Category: Hiking / Adventure Sports / Outdoors
Average run time: 1 hr
Although not as established as some of the podcasts featured in his article (it's up to somewhere around episode 30 at present) G.O. has had enough time for it to have found its style which can be quite entertaining. It certainly stays on the lighter side in the episodes I have heard. To me it feels evident with whom the host is a friend as there is plenty of joking around. Occasionally it gets in the way of the chat (wow, I sound like Alan Partridge) but generally the rapport is good and consequently the conversation keeps flowing nicely.
I have listened to 3 episodes in the last couple of weeks and each has been chock-full of the interviewee talking, which is either a sign of a decent host or good guest selection... or maybe both.
The interviewees I have listened to have been Alex Staniforth, Kristina Frost and Shawnte Salabert.
The only person I had heard of was Staniforth and his tale is kind of familiar but not uninteresting. Unfortunately I don't think the podcast really explored what is potentially most interesting about his life, namely his personal and health struggles, rather than one trip to Everest base camp and another aborted attempt to climb the world's highest mountain - albeit during the recent Nepalese disasters, in which he was caught up.
Having said that the other two race along and provide a vibrant, friendly and entertaining conversation on the outdoors and the guests personal experiences. I recommend it for those who are enthused by hiking, climbing but perhaps have the kind of lifestyle that means they don't get outside as often as they might like.
In short, if you are looking to maintain motivation during the working week in order to make the most of your free time to enjoy the great outdoors, I think you might like this one!
First 40 miles
Category: Novice Backpacking / Hillwalking / Camping
Average run time: 30+ mins
Style: Chat / Tips / Reviews / Stories
The First 40 Miles is very much a podcast for the novice and breathes all that beginner-enthusiasm into the subject matter. In fact the strap line of the podcast is:
"If you're new to backpacking or hopelessly in love with someone who wants you to love backpacking, then this podcast is for you"
It's difficult to sum it up better really, as the husband and wife team of Heather and Josh Legler guide you through topics from how to remove pine resin from your hands, what to do if you hear an SOS call as well as gear reviews and tails from the trail. Occasionally an episode will be dedicated to one subject (e.g. Water ep. 68) which provides a good focus on a number of different areas, again aimed at the more inexperienced thru-hiker.
If you are a veteran backpacker, I think it is just too lightweight for you (in a bad way). If you are a beginner I think it is a good introduction but I have listened to 5 episodes and I do feel that there is some unecessary filler from time to time, although the episodes are not very long. Also the giggling at each other's jokes is a little grating at times, especially when they are a bit lame but... you know what, I don't want to come across as cynical. It has its place - its upbeat and maybe its helping people get outdoors!
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