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My Best Man, the Grizzly

Brutus the Bear poses for pictures, scarfs down cake at best friend's wedding

Naturalist Casey Anderson's wedding to actress Missi Pyle looked like a scene straight from Dr. Doolittle. There may not have been a crowd of talking animals, but the best man was an 800-pound grizzly named Brutus who bent over to kiss the groom on the cheek in wedding photos.

Just how does a giant grizzly bear become someone's best man? It began seven years ago when Brutus was a cub and couldn't be released into the wild. Anderson saved the bear from being put down and founded the Montana Grizzly Encounter, a grizzly rescue and educational sanctuary near Yellowstone National Park.

Now the two are practically inseparable and Anderson told Good Morning America "He's my best friend.  He gives me unconditional love." Brutus is also a dinner companion, a hot tub mate, and a wrestling buddy for Anderson, leading to an enduring friendship and a few broken ribs.

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Monday, May 04, 2009 in: News & Events, Weird & Funny
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Utah Fossils Get Blasted

The best way to unearth dinosaur bones? Blow 'em up.

When researchers at Utah's Dinosaur National Monument were frustrated by the impenetrable rock thought to be encasing rare dinosaur fossils, they tried everything to get to the bones. They brushed, hammered, and even jackhammered to no avail.

It was time to bring in the big guns—Rocky Mountain National Park's hardcore blasting crew.

Earlier this month, the crew brought in handset explosives for a three-day sandstone blast-a-thon at the rock-hard quarry, DNM 16. The site has previously enearthed a complete sauropod skull—extremely rare because most of these dinosaur skeletons are found, for reasons that baffle scientists, without their heads—and other cool bones.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009 in: News & Events, Weird & Funny
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Active Volcano Diving

Sound extreme? It is. Just watch this modern-day, Russian Superman

When you're sitting in a tiny airplane about to jump into the gaping crater of a live volcano, what do you think goes through your mind? Apparently not second thoughts for Valery Rozov, the 44-year-old Russian who showed no hesitation before diving headfirst into Russia's active Mutnovsky Volcano.

After hurtling out of the plane, Rozov had to make a dicey landing onto a narrow shelf of ice. Deviating a few feet could have meant certain death—he was surrounded by too-thin ice sheets and smoking hot lava.

We have to admit, even though it does seem pretty stupid, it's also just so cool. If Clark Kent had been a Nascar driver instead of a reporter, his Superman suit probably would have looked something like this:

You conquer that volcano, Red Bull man. Our entertainment depends on it.

—Morgan Keys

Russian Superman jumps into volcano (Daily Telegraph)

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Thursday, April 23, 2009 in: News & Events, Weird & Funny, Video & Media
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World's Highest Cricket Game

State official nearly ruins cricket game scheduled for Everest

For a group of British cricket players bound for Everest, the biggest obstacle to date hasn't been the rigorous training or long travel days—it's the Nepalese state officials. The team had already been granted permission to play on the Gorakh Shep, a plateau just below the Everest base camp, by the Minister for Forest and Land Conservation. Upon their arrival yesterday, however, the chief national park officer refused them entry because the area contained rare flora and fauna.

For all you high altitude, flat bat enthusiasts, there's no need to despair. The teams were granted access today to carry out the most extreme game of cricket ever played.

On April 21, Team Hillary and Team Tenzing, named after the first mountaineers to summit Everest, will compete in a Twenty20 style game of cricket. Cricket is intense enough—just ask any of your British friends—but there are a whole new set of obstacles when you're playing at 5,165 meters. Breathing at this altitude is like breathing through a straw and doctors warn of illnesses associated with running around at such a high altitude. They've been practicing in wooly hats and scarves to prepare and will be playing with a pink ball rather than the traditional white one to avoid an extreme scavenger hunt.

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Monday, April 13, 2009 in: News & Events, Weird & Funny
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Smarter Than the Average Bear

Six-mile stretch of Appalachian Trail closed due to clever and hungry bear

You know that bringing food inside your tent in bear country is a big no-no and since you're so responsible, BACKPACKER reader, you also are well-versed in the skills necessary to hang a bear bag, right? Well, if you're hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, all this outdoor know-how may not be enough to deter a certain hungry bear.

Numerous AT hikers have reported a black bear that will stop at nothing to get a good ol' human meal, including chewing through ropes suspending bear bags and stealing backpacks full of tasty treats. It's become such a problem that the Forest Service has closed a 6-mile stretch of the AT between Neels Gap and Tesnatee Gap to overnight camping in order to discourage the bear.

Rangers hope that by taking away the bear's food supply, it'll eventually get hungry and move on to getting dinner the old fashioned way, leaving hikers and their grub alone. If you've seen your share of Sunday morning Yogi cartoons, however, you know that nothing stands in the way of bears getting their paws on some "pic-a-nic baskets!" The bear will most likely find different campsites down the trail to rummage for some snacks, a problem that may also surface if it's relocated.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009 in: News & Events, Nature & Wildlife, Weird & Funny
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April Fools' Milk Duds

Jon Dorn's homemade milk dud recipe is exactly that—a dud

Remember Jon Dorn's fantastic milk dud recipe from last Wednesday? Clever readers (or anyone who's ever used a food dehydrator) might've taken notice of the date and realized that his scrumptious homemade candy morsels were craven fabrications. For shame, Jon!

Hopefully, no one's actually tried out the recipe over the weekend, but if you did, we sincerely apologize for the sour-smelling, rank result you likely produced. (If by some magical chance this completely false recipe actually worked, do let us know.) But if you were taken in by that sly dog Dorn, don't feel bad: Plenty of BP staffers swallowed the big lie hook, line, and sinker when he brought in a bowl of his "own" milk duds—which were actually store-bought. Here were some of the reactions, with names redacted to protect the gullible:

"Great! I can't believe Jon made these!?!"

"I think Jon's Milk Duds are tastier than the store bought duds (although it's been awhile since I've eaten them). I love their chewiness and light vanilla, they're bigger than the ones at the store."

"Absolutely delicious - AND, I STILL have ALL my teeth AND all my fillings in!" Read Full Story...
Monday, April 06, 2009 in: Weird & Funny, Trail Chef
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Hiking Mistakes on the Twitterverse

BACKPACKER Twitter followers chime in with their goofy tales of hiking misfortune—what's yours?

Dumb trail mistakes—we all make 'em. Why, in my foolish youth, I can fondly recall busting out off-trail in the foothills of Denver only to find myself cliffed out as the sun was setting. I had to navigate by cell-phone light around drop-offs covered in ball-bearing slick pebbles, even as I could hear the gentle hum of cars from a nearby highway. I was less than three miles from a coffee shop. Embarrassing.

Luckily, I'm not alone, and BACKPACKER fans in the Twitterverse decided to share some of their backcountry blunders, too.

Explore_It: "(I) Put a flat rock in the fire to use as a hot plate, rock exploded, sent shards at my 2 buddies while I was gathering more wood."

veela_valoom: "When I went hiking in Cumberland Gap, me & my dad were hiking along just following the trail, ignoring our map & guide book..We reached a rest center. We looked around, got some maps, went to the restroom. We thought we were close to our we were taking our time & relaxing. However, when we looked at the information display we noticed a "You are here" dot...And discovered we were in Kentucky, but our car was in Tennessee. We had unknowingly hiked two trails. So we had to hike all the way back to Tennessee, to drive back home to Kentucky. (Wasn't too bad b/c not a long hike)"

juskuz: "mixing instant oatmeal in the pouch = good... well ok idea - mixing hot chocolate in the pouch = bad idea"

All in all, these mishaps weren't soooo bad; nobody ended up in The Pulse, after all.

Anybody else have a particularly funny or instructive backcountry blunders? Let us know in the comments section below, or follow us on Twitter and contribute to the stream.

And remember: What doesn't kill us makes us stronger (if not necessarily smarter).

—Ted Alvarez

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Thursday, April 02, 2009 in: Weird & Funny
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Video: Sequoia vs. SUV

Here's a hint–the biggest tree in the world wins

This video is a month old or so, but it's worth it: Visitors to Sequoia National Park in California parked their Jeep in a shady grove of monster trees and promptly took off to hike among the sleeping giants. Not more than a few minutes later, though, they heard the telltale crack of branches and whump of a falling tree—only super-sized in scale.

Apparently, Sequoia's Ents had had enough of all the rumbling SUVs in their forest, because when the hikers returned, their car resembled a crushed soda can. Let's go to the tape:

Gotta hand it to the hikers—they took it pretty well, and almost seemed proud that their car got owned by one of the biggest trees in the world. Guess it could be worse...they could've been in the vehicle. You could say making the decision to hike saved their lives.

—Ted Alvarez

Sequoia Smashes SUV Car (Finley Holiday Films on YouTube)

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Monday, March 30, 2009 in: News & Events, Weird & Funny
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iPhone vs. Stick

In a survival situation, what comes out on top—Apple's must-have gadget or a caveman's tried-and-true tool?

Raise your hand if you're one of those obnoxious folks who ostentatiously pull out your iPhone in a darkened setting, just so you can feel other people's seething jealousy when they see the pale blue glow of the Jesus phone reflecting off of your face. (It's OK to admit it—you're among friends. Plenty of BP staffers are guilty of all charges.)

Lots of people have joined the iPhone club, but how many people still use a stick as a wilderness survival tool? That caveman standard might've fallen by the wayside, but it still has plenty of uses: Hunting implement, navigation aid, and even bathroom helper. But how does it stack up to an iPhone, what with the addition of GPS and a boatload of outdoor-centric apps?

The goofballs at decided to pit the two against each other in a no-holds-barred wilderness challenge. The results might surprise you: Read Full Story...
Wednesday, March 25, 2009 in: Weird & Funny, Gear
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Redneck Guide To Camping

Thanks to these cutting-edge wilderness techniques, our jobs are in serious danger

It might have a corporate sponsor, but this wilderness camping tips video is so well-made and expertly conceived that our Skills Editor might have to watch out—expert woodsmen Rusty Barefoot and Larnold Jernigan, Jr., just might steal her job. Check it:

"The pansies down at the outdoor store down at the mall like to hike for miles to their campsite, carrying all their belongings in some crazy foreign backpack."

Hey—I think they're talking about us.

—Ted Alvarez

Guide to the Good Life

via Outdoorzy

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Monday, March 23, 2009 in: Weird & Funny
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