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Warm your head. Warm your soul.

Knitting at PRC

It’s that time of year again when we are looking forward to gift-giving. We all appreciate giving and receiving gifts. A hat is a great gift but we would like the gift to be more than just a hat. Our hand knit hats are made in Nepal. Every year in Nepal between 10,000-15,000 women and girls, most between the ages of 9 and 16, are trafficked to India. We have learned about this through our relationship with the Nepali organization Peace Rehabilitation Center (PRC). PRC is a charitable organization dedicated to fighting and preventing sexual exploitation and trafficking in Nepal. Another role that PRC plays is to help women learn a skill so they can be financially and self sustained in their community. Right now, PRC women are knitting the ‘PRC’ hat for Ambler.

Our hope for this gift-giving season is to give back to a worthy organization making change in women’s lives in Nepal. If you purchase any hat from Ambler’s website in the next two weeks (November 30th to December 14th), we will send 50% of the purchase price directly to PRC.  Here’s a chance to give a gift that not only will keep your head warm but will also impact the lives of women in Nepal.


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The Second Best Thing of 2011

Without a doubt, the best thing to happen to me in 2011 was the birth of our second son, Noah. I’m not a good enough writer to describe how great that experience was so I won’t try. What I do want to write about is the second best thing that happened to me in 2011.

After mumbling to myself too many times how ridiculous it is that I just drove my car the 1.9km trip from my home to my office I decided to commit to riding my bike for 30 days straight. That turning point came in August of ’11. After 30 days of commuting by bike to work and around town I realized just exactly what I had been missing. I won’t wax poetic here, but I have to say that the world is a different place when viewed from behind the handle bars instead of the steering wheel. I was hooked.

I did my best to stay on the bike as much as possible after the 30 days of commitment were completed. I was still commuting by bike 4 out of 5 days to the office and choosing to pedal around town as much as I could. The problem was that I still had the option of jumping in my car if I felt lazy, if the weather wasn’t ideal or if I needed to take a box of samples to the office.

The second best thing of the year happened in late October when my 13 year old Subaru required more repairs than it was worth and we said our goodbyes. Instead of replacing the car I decided to stick to the bike. We’re fortunate enough to live in a small town where biking commuting is pretty easy and I’ve made the transition to being a bike commuter every day of the week. We still have another car in the family so I haven’t fully committed to a car-free life, but we have jumped the mental hurdle of becoming a one car family.

There are some obvious bonuses of pedaling rather than driving; exercise, lower expenses, cycle-therapy to and from work, and a smaller carbon footprint. But it’s the added bonuses, the lessons that I’ve learned from becoming a one car family, that have made this the second best thing to happen to me in 2011. Here are the main things that I’ve learned from ditching the car and picking up the bike:

1) Life is just as good (or better) with less stuff
2) The status quo isn’t always better (also, “the status quo doesn’t like to lose it’s status“)
3) Don’t trade a good experience for convenience

Please don’t take this writing as eco-snobbery or a holier-than-though message. I was challenged by the #carfreeme movement on Twitter that the good folks at Pemba Serves have been advocating and I want other people (you) to experience the added bonuses that come from getting out from behind the steering wheel. Take the opportunity in 2012 to challenge yourself to choose the car less and the bike more. For some great inspiration follow the #carfreeme hash tag on Twitter and add your miles as you go. I’d love to hear back from you on what added bonuses you discover while getting out from behind the steering wheel.

All the best in 2012 and stay pedal driven!

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Bikes Provide An Answer

Nice infographic on what life could be like if more of us pedaled our bikes for daily commuting.

via FastCo Design blog

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Ambler in Ladakh

Our friends Carole & Peter spent some time trekking in Ladakh and brought some Ambler samples along with them to give as gifts. Here are a few of the great photos they brought back.

If you ever have a chance to go to Ladakh we highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful landscape with equally beautiful people.

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Gear Picks From 2010

Our VP of Product Testing in his Ambler prototype

It really is a dream come true to be able to work in the outdoor industry. From the time I was 15 and negotiated my way into a job at a local gear shop in Dallas, TX I’ve been a part of the outdoor industry in some way, shape or form. It’s a great industry filled with some pretty incredible people. We all tend to have a similar fetish, though, and it revolves around the gear we use when we go outside to play.

I do my best to use and abuse gear until there’s nothing left of it. Case in point: my 16 year old Patagonia Super Alpine jacket and 20 year old expedition weight Patagonia Capilene. If it’s good gear, it will last. This year I was fortunate to pick up a few new pieces to add to the collection and I thought I’d pass them on to you. These are listed in no particular order.

Outdoor Research Extravert Gloves These are the best every day gloves for the cold Canmore winter and perfect for backcountry skiing.

Backcountry Access Float 30 Avalanche Airbag Pack I am very happy to have this pack strapped to my back in the backcountry, as is my mother.

Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody This is a super versatile jacket that will get year-round use in the Rockies.

Fits Socks A new brand on the sock-scene, Fits is owned by one of the oldest knitting mills in the US. I’m pretty particular about my socks and these guys are on to something good. Order yourself a pair and see.

Human Gear So it’s a water bottle cap and some travel tubes, what’s the big deal? The simple details of Human Gear’s designs are fantastic. I’m stoked to see such good industrial design in every day items. The capCAP is probably my most used piece of gear this year as I’m drinking through it every day.

Icebreaker Superfine 200 L/S print shirt I’ve got a thing for merino and Icebreaker makes some really nice pieces of clothing. I’ve worn this shirt for a week straight without washing with no complaints from anyone in my family. Good, right?

Osprey Raptor 10 hydration pack I’m a brand loyalist to Osprey. I’m still rocking a 12 year old Osprey pack that has hundreds of miles on it. When they came out with their Hydraulics line of packs they knew what they were doing. It’s the little details that make this pack perfect.

I/O Bio Track Jacket No word of a lie, I wore this jacket every day for 2 months after I purchased it. I’ve lowered the number to probably 5 days a week now, but still haven’t had to wash it but once in 9 months.

Petzl CORE Battery I’ll be honest, I don’t actually have the CORE from Petzl yet. But this thing is awesome and I’m so glad to see it on the market. In my opinion, the head lamp is the most innovative and useful piece of outdoor gear on the market. There are so many applications for the use of a head lamp and it’s certainly one of the products that make me wonder what I did before I had one.

Ambler Vincent This is my favorite toque that we make. It’s 100% merino, warm, looks good and will fit a variety of head sizes. Do you want one? I’ve got a few to give away to the the first people who let me know what their favorite piece of gear from 2010 is and why in the comments. [Updated] Thanks for the great top gear picks of ’10. The Vincent’s have been depleted!

I’m not an advocate for over-consumption or materialism, regardless of what you think after reading this list. I live by the rule that if I’m adding a piece of gear to my life I have to remove a piece from the collection. It keeps me honest and keeps top-notch gear like those above in the great outdoors where they belong.

If you decide to pick up one of the pieces of gear from the list I recommend you check with your local, independent retailer to see if they have it or can bring it in for you. All the best to you in 2011!

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Solar Subsidies

If solar power received the same government subsidies as fossil fuels solar power would be cheaper than standard grid power. This infographic makes a quick and compelling argument to start treating renewable energy solutions as viable ones. Click on the image for a larger version.

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Social Design Project in Nepal

The University of Notre Dame’s Industrial Design department is doing some incredible things in Nepal. They are utilizing the skilled handicraft workers of Nepal to implement student’s designs to create products and jobs that are useful, sustainable and growing in demand.

There are some incredible things happening for the handicraft community in Nepal and we’re excited to see the world catching on to what they have to offer. This short video (really a Notre Dame commercial) touches on a few of the things these industrial design students are doing there.

(via Core77)

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Homemade Is Best

Carl Kleiner’s photography in the new Ikea cookbook ‘Homemade Is Best’ got me thinking about how the choices I make regarding the food that I consume would probably change if I could have a photograph showing me the portions and ingredients that it contains. Even better, how about a photo or infographic of all of the items that go into making the raw ingredients of my meals. That would probably make me think twice about that street corner burrito.

This un-finished product photography would work well for consumer goods as well. I’d like to see some products broken down into their elements similar to what Kleiner has done with the cookbook photography. We are so accustomed to seeing the finished product that we forget about what, exactly, is underneath the surface.

What are the un-finished product photos that you’d like to see?

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The Human Energy Company

Fortum from Rasmus Keger on Vimeo.

This concept is great for so many reasons. First and foremost, it is encouraging people to live a healthy lifestyle through fitness. I also like the connection it makes between our physical output at the gym and our energy consumption at home.

From a branding perspective, this is a brilliant idea. They’re creating consumer involvement and building a tribe while breaking down the perceptions we all have of energy companies. Another +1 for Scandinavia.

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Respect for Ground Effect

A friend recently showed me a Ground Effect catalog and I was instantly impressed. This New Zealand-based company makes clothing for mountain bikers that is well designed and focused on the part of the market that still likes to pedal up hill.

But what I like best about this company is that they come out and admit where they’ve fallen short in their products. It was refreshing to see the Products that Bombed section of their company history (scroll down a half page). Nice touch.

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