These days we have lots of beautiful indie magazines that are dedicated to travel, and many of them likely owe at least a small debt to Outside. First published in the late '70s by Jann Wenner (the founder of Rolling Stone), publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst III, and Jack Ford (son of President Gerald Ford), Outside developed a literary style of travel and adventure writing, paired with awe-inspiring original photography, that has made it one of the most influential voices on the subject.
Ready to sample some of the amazing stories that the Santa-Fe-based magazine has to offer? Start with the pieces we recommend, below!
1. "Murder on the Appalachian Trail" September 2015 Issue
By Earl Swift
Editor: Chanel Parks, @chanelinezp
This story tells the sad tale of Geoff Hood and Molly LaRue, a couple who were murdered while hiking the Appalachian Trail back in 1990. But the feature dives deeper into trail politics and the frightening things that can happen in the most beautiful of places.
Why I Love It: I'm a lifelong fan of Criminal Minds and Law & Order, so I never bypass an opportunity to read stories like this one. This particular real-life thriller drew me in because I grew up near the trail in Virginia and often visited the Appalachian Mountains. I'd never heard of this incident, let alone imagined that the serene setting could ever become a crime scene. I didn't put the magazine down until the last word… and then I read it again.
Opening Line: "It is a quiet, restorative place, this clearing high on a Pennsylvania ridge."
2. "Life's Swell" Fall 1998 Issue of "Women Outside"
By Susan Orlean
Editor: Mallory Rice, @mallory-rice
Did the film Blue Crush, featuring Kate Bosworth and a relentlessly optimistic soundtrack, set you down a path of surf-culture obsession some time around the year 2002? Yes? Then you will no doubt enjoy this profile of the impossibly cool surfer girls of Maui, which inspired the film. (And if you enjoy the profile, you will definitely want to pick up My Kind of Place, a collection of unconventional travel stories written by Orlean.)
Why I Love It: Orlean, a longtime staff writer at The New Yorker, depicts the girls in a way that makes them feel both otherworldly and like painfully familiar teens—and the way she deftly oscillates between those two conflicting qualities is what makes reading the story so much fun.
Opening Line: "The Maui surfer girls love each other's hair."
3. "Death of an Innocent" January 1993 Issue
By Jon Krakauer
Editor: Luke Crisell, @lukecrisell
Jon Krakauer's famous story about how (and, to an extent, why) 24-year-old Christopher McCandless died (if that's a spoiler at this point then I'm more impressed than surprised quite honestly) in the Alaskan wilderness in 1992.
Why I Love It: The article that preceded the 1997 book (Into the Wild), that preceded the movie (Into the Wild) ten years later, that preceded a whole litany of attempts (some of them extremely compelling) to dive even deeper into McCandless's story remains a journalistic touchstone for a reason. I didn't read it when it was published, but much later, and the last lines—echoing the first (below)—have stayed with me: "One of his last acts was to take a photograph of himself, standing near the bus under the high Alaskan sky, one hand holding his final note toward the camera lens, the other raised in a brave, beatific farewell. He is smiling in the photo and there is no mistaking the look in his eyes: Christopher McCandless was at peace, as serene as a monk gone to God."
Opening Line: "James Gallien had driven five miles outside Fairbanks when he spotted the hitchhiker standing in the snow, thumb raised high, shivering in the gray Alaskan dawn."
4. "The Killer in the Pool" July 2010 Issue
By Tim Zimmermann
Editor: Stefan Marolachakis, @stefanmymind
This story about the inherent danger in keeping captive orcas served as inspiration for the 2013 documentary Blackfish—a film on which writer Tim Zimmermann ended up serving as associate producer—about the ongoing mistreatment of the whales at SeaWorld. The article and film made such an impact that it eventually influenced SeaWorld shuttering their breeding program.
Why I Love It: As the proud owner of a pit bull rescue, I'm naturally drawn to any material about poor, mistreated creatures that get a bad rap.
Opening Line: "To work closely with a killer whale in a marine park requires experience, intuition, athleticism, and a whole lot of dramatic flair."
5. "(Near) Death in Venice" April 2010 Issue
By Wells Tower
Editor: Rebecca Bates, @re.beccabates
Writer Wells Tower and his brother, Dan, who never get along and whose conflicts (a common theme throughout Wells's work) often come to full-blown brawls, decide it's a great idea to compete in Venice's Vogalonga Regatta, in which they have to paddle a collapsible kayak 19 miles.
Why I Love It: From the start, things go badly: their hotel thinks they're lovers and puts them in a room with only one bed, they argue about where to practice putting the kayak together, and at times during the regatta Dan barely puts in any effort. But for all their hatred of the way the other operates, at heart they're still BFFs, and it's weirdly heartwarming: "This is Team Tower's other superpower, our ability to turn on a dime, from homicidal to earnestly genial."
Opening Line: "My brother Dan and I are 40,000 feet over the Atlantic, bound for Venice, where we will spend five days doing nothing much beyond paddling a kayak through some of the comeliest urban waterways on Planet Earth."
To read more amazing stories or to subscribe to the print magazine, visit outsideonline.com.