Outdoors gifts for the gear head in all of us
Most outdoorsy people succumb to gear head syndrome at some point. After all, it’s hard to resist something that is not only nifty and new, but can also keep you warmer, safer or more comfortable when you’re outside.
Case in point? Check out the following 14 pieces of gear. From a stink-free, 5-gram dish scrubber (you can finally get rid of that stanky little piece of sponge you’ve been using) to the ultimate kayak for surfing a bore tide, you’ve just gotta have ’em!
For you gram-counters out there, the Lunatec Scrubr weighs just a piddling 5 grams – and its quick-drying nylon won’t get scuzzy like that nasty old bandanna or corner of a sponge that you’ve been using as a dish rag. The textured mesh surface scrubs like nobody’s business, requires very little water to rinse off, and dries out in about 15 minutes. Buy online at lunatecgear.com.
No matter what you do outside, you need warm wool socks — and Darn Tough socks really live up to their name. They’re backed by a lifetime guarantee (seriously, no gimmicks) and are made of extra-dense fabric so they won’t turn into a limp, saggy mess with extended wear. Darn Tough makes socks for everything from hiking to cycling, running and gym use. Buy them at REI, AMH and Skinny Raven or online at darntough.com.
3. Hydrapak Stash collapsible bottles, $17.99
These soft, squeezable silicone bottles hold 750ml (25.3 oz) and collapse to just 2 inches tall when empty. The top and bottom lock together to keep the bottle collapsed, and can be nested with other Stash bottles so they take up minimal space in your pack. Buy them at REI and online at hydrapak.com.
This quirky little accessory turns your water bottle into a spray jet, mist shower… or my favorite, a water gun for soaking unsuspecting hiking buddies. Use it for a water-efficient way to rinse off your hands, clean pots, or squirt a refreshing drink into your buddy’s mouth (no sharing of cooties required). This brand-new gadget will be available for order from lunatecgear.com in early December.
This headlamp cranks out an impressive 250 lumens of light with a 312-lumen boost mode, but only weighs 7.1 ounces (including batteries) and regularly retails for $40 to $50. It also has a red “halo” light mode that you can turn on and off without toggling through the white light modes, and it uses easy-to-find AAA batteries. Run time is 12 hours on the spot high setting, which is pretty darn good for a high-powered headlamp. You’ll have to go online for this one; find a list of online retailers at bushnell.com.
It’s not easy to put a totally new twist on water filters, but the folks at GRAYL did it with a high-flow filter that works like a French press: Fill the outer cup with water, press the inner cup/filter unit down into the outer cup, then drink straight from the inner cup. You can get the trail version, which filters bacteria and protozoa, for $69.95. Replacement trail filters cost $19.95, or you can swap the filter out for a travel purifier that also removes viruses ($39.95). All available at REI or thegrayl.com.
The Cotopaxi Inca sports a clean design, with stowaway ice axe loops, an insulated hydration sleeve, ultra-sturdy 210D fabric and a clever trekking pole storage system. But the real selling point is its wide, padded shoulder straps that actually pull you into proper posture instead of out of it, and a luxe, cushy feel you wouldn’t expect from a typical frameless pack. (The Inca weighs 1 lb., 11 oz. and has a flexible frame sheet instead of rigid stays. It’s also available in a 16L version.) Buy online at cotopaxi.com; a portion of each purchase is donated to the María Imaculada Orphanage in Bolivia.
Tired of paddling? Hook a WindPaddle sail up to your kayak, canoe, SUP or packraft and sail off into the sunset. The Adventure model is designed for use in winds up to 30 knots, self-launches in seconds, has a low center of balance so it won’t unbalance your craft, and comes with a continuous steering line that you loop over your body so your hands are free to paddle; you can slip out of it in seconds. Buy at windpaddle.com.
The folks at Brooks Range have come up with a clever way to cut weight on a sleeping bag: Just pair the Elephant Foot, which covers you up to your armpits, with the warm jacket and hat you’re probably already carrying. This 850-fill bag, with DownTek treated down, is a friendlier version of the classic alpine climber’s waist-high half bag. It gets you down to 25 degrees for just 18 ounces of weight – a solid and super-light three-season bag up here in Alaska. Buy online at brooks-range.com.
Upgrade your ride without buying a whole new boat. The blades on Stellar’s Mid Wing kayak paddles are shaped like an airfoil, providing hydrodynamic lift – which translates to more speed – with every stroke. You can adjust the length by up to 10cm, and the feather angle is fully adjustable; a low-angle touring model is also available. Buy early because you’ll need to have them shipped up: stellarkayaksusa.com.
If you need a burly, hard-wearing boot that will go anywhere, from hunting to day hiking, try Hanwag’s classic (and aptly named) Alaska GTX boot. It’s versatile enough for anything but still flexible enough to walk in, and the yak-leather upper is unusually flexible and breathable without sacrificing its toughness. Buy wide or normal-width and men’s or women’s options online at hanwagboot.com or, if you want instant gratification, get the high-cut Trapper Top GTX hunting boot ($425), also available in wide options, at Barney’s Sports Chalet.
For your seriously competitive skiers, check out Salomon’s S-Lab Nordic skis at AMH – super-fast, pro-level skis that’ll take your game to the next level. They’re available in both skate and classic versions, and the World Cup 569 mold skate version is the fastest of the lot. AMH also has Salomon’s Equipe RC Skin classic skis. Meant for use in the tracks, these $400 skis have a chunk of mohair skin in the kick zone and a high camber (you’ll have to kick to engage the “skin”).
Think you’re used to seeing fat tire bikes around town? Check out the back wheels on this baby! Their extra width make this adult-size trike perfect for drifting, and the front wheel is pretty burly too. I bet you could adapt it to be a killer snow trike – but in the meantime, it’s just pure fun that’s guaranteed to get you lots of attention on the Coastal Trail. Can you imagining pedaling this thing from Bird to Gird? Buy online at highrollerusa.com.
This 18-foot racing surf kayak is also a capable touring boat. If money is no object, get thee hence and catch a killer ride on the next bore tide in this baby. It’s sleek, fast and surprisingly stable, so you can keep up your paddling rhythm without bracing. Outfit it with the WindPaddle sail mentioned earlier in this list, and you might just blow right past all those windsurfers out there. Pricing starts at $2,060 for a fiberglass version, or go for it with a $4,900 carbon-fiber laminate kayak. Find a dealer online at stellarkayaksusa.com.
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