My Marietta: Outdoor adventures are easy when you have the right gear

By Joy Frank-Collins

Special to the Times

Even though lately it seems like Mother Nature forgot to flip her calendar from January, warm weather is just around the corner and with it is the chance to finally get out and get active.

But sometimes, getting out there can get a little confusing. For every activity, there’s an endless supply of equipment to accompany it – some useful and some, not so much. Fortunately, the Mid-Ohio Valley is a fantastic place to explore the great outdoors and is bursting at the seams with local experts willing to cut through the noise and share the gear that they can’t live without.

With a 3.5-mile paved bike path running along the Ohio and Muskingum rivers and scores of mountain bike trails dotting the county, cycling is an exciting sport that is accessible to people of all skill-levels.

Michael Uhl, of Williamstown, is the ride captain for the Blennerhassett Cycle Club. For him, it all comes down to the bike. The Pinarello Dogma, to be exact. He likes it for its performance capabilities and the material, which makes it very light weight (around 17 pounds).

“That particular bike has won the last four Tour de France races,” he said. “I like it because it is so stiff and light. Most of the energy you put into it is used to propel you forward. I’ve had many bikes and none compare to this one. It’s all carbon fiber even the wheels.”


No matter what bike a person chooses, they’re not getting very far if they get a flat tire. Which is why Bill Laner of Marietta Adventure Company said his most important piece of equipment is a compact tire pump, extra tire tube to fit their wheels and a tire lever.

“They’re small, so you can carry them with you,” he said, “And they keep you from having to walk.”

Laner said learning how to perform easy maintenance on a bike, including changing a tire and replacing a tube is important.

“It’s a pretty simple thing for anyone to be able to do,” he said.


No matter what the activity – staying hydrated is the key to getting staying healthy and maximizing enjoyment. That’s why Rebecca Young, manager of the Ohio River Wildlife Refuge in Williamstown, never takes a hike without her hydration pack.

Made out of a plyable rubber, the pack slips into her daypack and has a hose for sipping that keeps her hands free while on the trail.

“It’s just really handy. I’ve had it forever and it keeps me hydrated on a warm summer day,” she said.

The hydration packs are available in a variety of stores and come in several sizes and designs specific to a number of outdoor pursuits.


For Bill Thompson III, the editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, the most important piece of outdoor equipment is the object that helps him pursue his passion better.

“Definitely my binoculars for birding, which I’m always doing,” he said.

His chosen pair are Zeiss Victory SF 10 x 42 binoculars, which are the first designed specifically for birding by a major optics manufacturer.

“They are top of the line optics that just make birding/nature observation even more enjoyable because the view is crystal clear and bright,” he said.

Bird Watcher’s Digest is now carrying these binoculars, as well as similar equipment in their new optics store.


Like Thompson, outdoor photographer Bruce Wunderlich counts the equipment that provides the images he makes, cameras Nikon D500 and D750, as his most beloved. However, a close runner up is his tripod.

“A good sturdy tripod can be the difference between a nice sharp picture and a blurry one,” he said. Wunderlich is known for capturing stunning night scenes over Marietta. For night shoots like that, a tripod is essential. His favorite one is the Benro TMA28A MACH3 Aluminum Tripod, available through MidWest Photo in Columbus.

“Their friendly and knowledgeable staff is always very helpful to me,” he added.


Aside from being a member of the friendly staff at Marietta Adventure Company, where she is assistant retail manager, Jessica Talbott also serves a kayak guide for the bike and paddle shop in downtown Marietta. Her most-revered piece of equipment is a literal life-saver, her personal flotation device (PFD).

“The PFD is extremely crucial in your overall experience,” she explained.

Aside from the obvious – it’s vital for safety and it’s the law – it turns out not all PFDs are created equal.

“Kayak-specific PFDs have an open-cut armpit area that allow for full arm rotation,” she said. Range of motion is important for a sport that relies on arm movement to paddle. In addition to the arm room, “half-back” styles are also important for kayakers and helps them sit comfortably when paddling.