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Outside Podcast

Outside's longstanding literary storytelling tradition comes to life in audio with features that will entertain, inspire, and inform listeners. We launched in March 2016 with our first series, Science of Survival, which was developed in partnership with PRX, distributors of the idolized This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour, among others. We have since added three additional series, The Outside Interview, which has editor Christopher Keyes interrogating the biggest figures in sports, adventure, and politics, Dispatches, a diverse range of stories on newsworthy topics, and Sweat Science, which explores the outer limits of athletic performance.

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When Nature Gets Heavy Metal

Search a major online music platform for “nature” and you get a lot of stuff designed to help you relax. Recordings of chirping rainforest creatures, gently tumbling waves, a pulsing didgeridoo—it’s what you expect to hear during a massage treatment. The reality, of course, is that nature is often far from tranquil. It can be barbaric, dissonant, and downright metal. In that spirit, this week’s episode presents two tales that pay homage to nature’s thrasher tendencies. The first involves a threatening predator that was fought off with Metallica. After that, we’ll hear from a professional hard rocker who attempted to be the hero of a shipwrecked crew, and shared his experience at a live storytelling event hosted by The Moth.  

29mins

4 Dec 2019

Rank #1

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The Only Time It's OK to Jump Off a Chairlift

At some point, almost every skier or snowboarder who has sat on a stalled chairlift has wondered, Could I just jump off here? The resounding reply from the experts is no, no, no. Don’t jump off the chairlift. Not ever. In addition to the high risk of getting injured yourself, you’re putting the people on other chairs around you in danger in ways you don’t understand. So stay put, and wait for the lift to restart. Or, in those rare instances when the chair really is broken, wait for ski patrol to get you down. But there are those truly unique cases when breaking the rules may be the only option. In this episode, we tell the story of very unlucky snowboarder who was forced to make the worst kind of choice. 

31mins

22 Jan 2020

Rank #2

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Science of Survival: A Very Old Man for a Wolf

One day in 2005 or 2006, a young wolf in Idaho headed west. He swam across the Snake River to Oregon, which was then outside the gray wolf’s range. After he established a territory, he became the most controversial canid in the state. Dubbed OR4 by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, he was the alpha male of the first pack to live in Oregon in more than half a century. For years, biologist Russ Morgan tracked him, collared him, counted his pups, weighed him, photographed him, and protected him. Environmentalists rejoiced. Cattle ranchers called for his death. OR4 continued making bold raids on livestock and became known for his enduring competence as a hunter, father, and survivor. But nothing lasts forever.

43mins

24 Apr 2018

Rank #3

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Dispatches: The Wrong Way to Fight Off a Bear

The odds of getting seriously injured by a bear in North America are slim. There are just a few dozen bear attacks on the continent every year, and only a handful of them put someone in the hospital. But bear-human encounters are on the rise, in part because more people than ever before are heading out into bear country. This year in particular there have been a lot of stories of people fighting off attacks in dramatic ways, including that guy in British Columbia who ended up killing a black bear with a hatchet. But Colin Dowler has the most incredible story of them all, and his tale offers potentially lifesaving lessons for anyone venturing into the wild.

30mins

1 Oct 2019

Rank #4

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The Outside Interview: The Simple Secrets to Athletic Longevity

Everyone gets older, but not everyone bows out of competition in middle-age. Journalist Jeff Bercovici wanted to know: Why? Why do some athletes flame out in their 30s and 40s, while others are still going as senior citizens? Is it genetics? Special training? Diet? And could amateur athletes achieve similar results? Outside editor Chris Keyes talks with Jeff about his new book, Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age, and what it takes to reverse the effects of getting older.

37mins

26 Jun 2018

Rank #5

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Science of Survival: The Everest Effect

On the morning of May 25, 2006,  Myles Osborne was poised to become one of the last climbers of the season to summit Mount Everest. The weather was perfect, and it seemed nothing would stop his team. Then a flapping of orange fabric caught his eye. He believed it to be a tent—until the fabric spoke: “I imagine you’re surprised to see me here.” The speaker was Lincoln Hall, who'd been reported dead the night before. He was gloveless, frostbitten, and hallucinating—but alive. Osborne's expedition was faced with a dilemma: would they stay and help Hall, giving up the summit and endangering their own lives? Or finish this once-in-a-lifetime journey that had been years in the making? We explore the choice they made and look into the fascinating science around how we make decisions in high-risk environments—and live with them afterward.

34mins

7 Mar 2017

Rank #6

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The Dawn of a New Sports Bra Era

Recent years have seen all kinds of major progress in outdoor sports equipment, from maximalist running shoes to electric bikes to crazy-lightweight camping gear. But the most important breakthroughs of all have been in the design and manufacturing of sports bras. New research and technologies have paved the way for an advanced class of support systems that are comfortable, look good, and fit a wider variety of bodies. In this episode, we talk to Outside associate editor Ariella Gintzler about her feature report on the state of the sports bra, then take a look back at the game-changing invention that started it all.  

33mins

5 Mar 2020

Rank #7

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Science of Survival: Struck by Lightning

Most of the time, when lightning makes the news, it’s because of an outlandish happening, seemingly too strange to be true. Like the park ranger who was struck seven times. Or the survivor who also won the lottery (the chances of which are about one in 2.6 trillion). Or the guy who claimed lightning strike gave him sudden musical talent. This is not one of those stories. This is about Phil Broscovak—who was struck by lightning while on a climbing trip with family in 2005—and the reality of life post-strike. In this intriguing episode, we investigate lightning strike recovery and the confounding, bizarre science that only hints at what Phil and other survivors endure. “You become a bag of shattered glass, really,” he says.

42mins

11 Apr 2016

Rank #8

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Science of Survival: He That is Down Need Fear No Fall

Falls are the leading cause of death in the backcountry. Nothing else comes close. And while many are freak accidents that amount to nothing more than bad luck, some are more nuanced and interesting—and personal. If you found yourself stuck at the bottom of a canyon with a broken leg, what would you do? And why? In this episode, we go inside the thought process of a real-life survivor—one who happens to host a podcast about survival.

45mins

19 Dec 2017

Rank #9

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Science of Survival: Cliffhanger, Part 1

Since colliding into a Bolivian mountain in 1985, Eastern Airlines Flight 980 has been frozen inside a glacier perched on the edge of a 3,000-foot drop. With wreckage now melting out of ice at the base of the cliff, Dan Futrell and Isaac Stoner travel to the debris field at 16,000 feet, battling altitude sickness and a roller coaster of emotions in search for 980’s missing flight recorder.

34mins

18 Oct 2016

Rank #10

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Sweat Science: Loving the Pain

There’s no more painful pursuit for a cyclist than the hour record.It’s just you, by yourself, on a bike, going as far and as fast as you can in 60 minutes. Eddie Merckx, considered by many to be the greatest pro racer in history, called it the longest hour of his career and only attempted it once. Others describe it as death without dying. When her father passed away, Italian cyclist Vittoria Bussi decided she wanted this record for herself. For her father’s memory. For history. When she started training, other cyclists asked her, “Are you ready to die for the hour?” Soon she would discover that in order to succeed, she would have to completely change her relationship with pain.

38mins

11 Dec 2018

Rank #11

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Science of Survival: The Devil’s Highway, Part I

Thirst is an unpredictable threat. In its early stages, it’s much like mild hunger. For centuries, hydration was as much superstition as science. But historical events at Devil’s Highway—a notoriously deadly path in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona—are proof of dehydration’s deadly risk. It was 1905 when Pablo Valencia, a gold prospector in his 40s, came stumbling into a geology camp, desperate for water. Valencia had spent the past six days wandering a 110-degree desert, where water sources can be separated by 100 miles, alone. He shouldn’t have been alive, but he was. Geologist William John McGee helped nurse Valencia back to health, bearing witness to the excruciating reality of what happens to the body while dying of thirst. In this episode, we dive into the history of a desert that claimed thousands of lives, as well as the ways this particular tale has forever altered modern understanding of the limits of dehydration.

27mins

3 May 2016

Rank #12

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Dispatches: The Woman Who Rides Mountains

Maverick’s, the monster surf break off the Northern California coast, has long been a proving ground for the world’s best big-wave surfers. But the contest held there most years has never included women, despite the fact that female surfers have been dropping in on giant swells for decades. In fact, the inaugural event at Maverick’s, held in 1999 and called Men Who Ride Mountains, took place several weeks after Sarah Gerhardt caught her first wave there. She wasn’t a professional surfer—she was a graduate student at the nearby University of California at Santa Cruz, where she had just started a Ph.D. in chemistry. Fast forward to today, and Gerhardt was one of six women invited to compete in a Maverick’s event. Outside contributor Stephanie Joyce caught up with the pioneering athlete to talk about her remarkable path.

30mins

17 Apr 2018

Rank #13

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Science of Survival: Struck by Lightning

Most of the time, when lightning makes the news, it’s because of something outlandish—like the park ranger who was struck seven times, or the survivor who also won the lottery (the chances of which are about one in 2.6 trillion), or the guy who claimed lightning strike gave him sudden musical talent. This is not one of those stories. This is about Phil Broscovak—who was struck by lightning while on a climbing trip with family in 2005—and the confounding, bizarre science that can’t fully explain what Phil and other survivors endure in the aftermath of a strike. Originally broadcast in 2016, this episode is one of our favorites.

42mins

11 Jul 2018

Rank #14

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A Long-Shot Bid to Save the Monarch Butterfly

Conservationists hoping to protect a threatened wild species tend to take a standard set of actions. These can involve political campaigns, lawsuits, and media outreach. But sometimes it’s the unexpected approaches that can make the difference. Over the past several years, artist Jane Kim has been creating large-scale public murals of the monarch butterfly, an insect that’s in a state of crisis. Recent surveys indicate the that the population of the western monarch in California has plummeted to below 30,000, down from 4.5 million in the mid-1980s. Kim’s latest work is a painting in San Francisco's Tenderloin district that wraps three sides of a 13-story building and includes a 50-foot-tall monarch. It’s suddenly one of the most dramatic features in the city’s skyline. The question now is whether this extraordinary piece of public art will spur the actions really needed to save the species—or become a tribute to a once beautiful butterfly.

29mins

5 Feb 2020

Rank #15

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A Wild Odyssey with the World’s Greatest Chef

At midlife, food writer Jeff Gordinier felt like he was sleepwalking. His marriage was crumbling, and he’d lost his professional purpose. Then he got a curious invitation: René Redzepi, the superstar head chef and co-owner of Noma, in Copenhagen, one of the world’s most influential restaurants, asked Gordinier to join him on a quest to Mexico to find exceptional tacos. Thus began a yearslong series of global adventures—foraging for sandpaper figs in Australia, diving for shellfish in the Arctic, seeking cochinita pibil in a remote part of the Yucatan—that reawakened Gordinier passion for both life and food. In his book Hungry, Gordinier describes how Redzepi’s raw energy and philosophy of constantly moving forward were an intoxicant as well as a kind of medication. For this episode, Outside’s Michael Roberts spoke with Gordinier about the wildest moments along his journeys with Redzepi and his new habit of saying yes to just about everything.

34mins

8 Oct 2019

Rank #16

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Dispatches: Getting Past Our Fear of Great White Sharks

Recent months have seen a media frenzy around the return of great white sharks to the waters surrounding Cape Cod. And with good reason: over the summer, great whites were routinely spotted off the iconic vacation destination’s most popular beaches. In 2018, a Cape boogie boarder died after being bitten by a shark—the first fatal attack in Massachusetts since 1936. But behind the headlines about freaked-out tourists and angry locals, the real story on the Cape is about how we learn to live with fear—or, just maybe, get past it. Produced in collaboration with our friends at the Outside/In podcast, this episode investigates the extreme reactions we have to living alongside one of the world’s most terrifying predators.  

44mins

25 Sep 2019

Rank #17

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When 18 Tigers Were Let Loose in Zanesville, Ohio

Now here’s a mind-boggling fact: there are more tigers in captivity in the United States right now than all of the wild tigers in the world combined. This is due to loopholes in the laws governing big-cat ownership in this country—and it’s a dangerous problem. Besides tigers, people keep lions, cougars, leopards, and other big cats as pets. It’s not great for the cats that are locked in cages and basements, but it’s really not great for the people nearby when, inevitably, those cats get out. Because then what do you do? Today, we have the story of what police officers were forced to do when a man named Terry Thompson let loose 18 tigers, 17 lions, 8 bears, and a handful of other animals, and then shot himself. Nine years later, not much has changed in the way of regulation. It’s the first episode of a powerful four-part series from Longreads called Cat People that is coproduced by former Outside Podcast host Peter Frick-Wright.

27mins

18 Mar 2020

Rank #18

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Science of Survival: Drinking Yourself to Death

Water is life, we’re told. But what if you drink too much? As it turns out, there’s a little-discussed flipside to dehydration called hyponatremia—and it's been on the rise, killing athletes and otherwise healthy people every year. And while you may think you know how much you need to drink, chances are you're wrong.

33mins

30 May 2017

Rank #19

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Science of Survival: A Very Scary Fish Story

The swamps of Alabama are one of the most biodiverse places on earth. They’ve been called America’s Amazon for the remarkable number of species of fish, turtles, mussels, and other aquatic creatures that live there. Not so long ago, the Alabama sturgeon was a staple of life in these parts. The funny looking fish swam here for millennia, migrating hundreds of miles up streams to spawn. They were caught and eaten in the tens of thousands. Then, a decade ago, they vanished. To the protectors of Alabama’s swamps, this presents a terrifying question: If the rivers can no longer support sturgeon, what does that say about the water we swim in and fish in and drink?

28mins

25 Jul 2017

Rank #20