No matter the destination or pursuit, there’s one unpredictable constant that entwines throughout the spirit of adventure — the ever-changing natural elements. Rather than limiting your lifestyle or altering your approach, we’ve compiled this list of 10 critical items that belong in your outdoor gear arsenal. Some you may be familiar with, some you may not be, but we’ve gone hands-on with all of them and they’ve managed to strike a chord. They’ll also make one heck of an impression for the adventurer or outdoor enthusiast on your holiday gift list.
Read on after the break.
By Justin Gural
When your fanatical photographic eye picks-up an angle, as ours does, the first instinct is to reach for your trusty SLR and bring home the image in its full-sensor glory. But when you’re staring down the gauntlet of Mother Nature’s fury, regardless if it’s rain, snow, dust or saltwater, you’ll have second thoughts about exposing your SLR to these damaging conditions. Enter the Nikon AW100, an armored point-and-shoot with a 16-MP CMOS sensor capable of HD 1080p video. In the field, there was never a hesitation to toss this amphibian into the pack or pocket for hikes and paddles, it even snapped photos diving as-is to 50 feet — manufacturer lists the depth limit at 33 feet.
Buy Now: $296
Magellan eXplorist 710
We often find ourselves traveling along the road less traveled, chasing the varying elements of adventure that stokes the spirit. Magellan’s eXplorist series of handheld, rugged GPS devices was created for such spirit stokers, and the eXplorist 710 is the pinnacle model which delivers both City Series turn-by-turn road navigation and highly-detailed Summit Series topographic maps. The 710 can essentially lead you from doorstep to summit, even stopping for an espresso or gear shop along the way. Users can toggle between 2D or 3D navigation, and the World Map includes a complete road network of the United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Australia, as well as major roads throughout the rest of the world. Its waterproof casing provides a sturdy build and solid grip, which houses a 3-axis electronic compass, 3.2-MP still/video camera and 3GB of storage.
Buy Now: $400
Fenix HP11 Headlamp
Depending upon your latitude, our precious daylight hours are shorter than ever this time of year. But don’t let the diminished fireball in the sky impede your passions, whether it’s a bike commute through town or an unanticipated summit after the sun dips below the horizon. While the Fenix brand doesn’t have celebrity status in the outdoor space (yet), they’re a premiere supplier of lighting for the tactical consumer — namely government agencies, military and police. When said agents need a headlamp, they reach for the Fenix HP-11. This headdy unit cranks out 277 lumens in high output mode for over three hours, and 133 lumens on medium for over nine hours. The rear battery pack provides the necessary stability for pounding singletrack or climbing the bootpack towards midnight powder turns.
Buy Now: $65
Brunton Sustain and Solaris Foldable Solar Array 12 Watt
For anyone who relies on handheld electronic gadgetry, there’s an inherent risk associated with dead and dying batteries — especially those who have a penchant for off-grid exploration. Solar power is a popular trend whether you’re on Capitol Hill or your local hill, and the Brunton Sustain and Solaris 12 combo is fully capable of creating and storing all the juice you’ll need for extending the battery life of your mobile devices. The water-resistant, rubberized Sustain can absorb and store a charge from the wall, car adapter or solar unit — such as the Solaris 12, which can also feed power directly into your USB-compatible cell phone, MP3 player, or digital cameras. Together, their compact design allows for a light, easy pack alongside the rest of your outdoor-prone electronics.
The North Face Enzo Jacket & Pant
Outerwear is an important survival component when you’re traveling into exotic mountain ranges in search of powder-choked peaks. In fact, the last line of defense against the elements in these harsh winter conditions might be your choice of layers, and The North Face Summit Series is built upon these principals. Head to toe, The North Face Enzo Jacket and Pant combination provides an athletic fit and a clean, popping design with fully seam sealed Gore-Tex Pro Shell waterproof-breathable protection. There’s no wonder the likes of Xavier de le Rue and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa put their trust in the Summit Series.
Burton Focus Pack
There’s a small population of our adventure world that believes your experience in the bush is meant purely for the soul, and only your mental recollection of these stories and visions should be brought home from the destination. For everyone else, who wish to capture the fullness of their experience and then share the story in its multimedia glory, a suitable large-volume camera and electronics pack should be in your arsenal. The Burton Focus Pack is 30L workhorse that was designed to perform both on the mountain and through the terminal. It boasts an array of secure internal and external pockets and stashes for all of the accessories; which recently included two laptops, two DSLRs, four lenses, two POV cameras, one P&S camera, water housings, tripod, three microphones, auto timer, portable speakers, field book, shades, SD cards, USB drives, a solar charger, batteries and all the plugs and whistles to connect the dots. The internal foam “box” is removable, which came in handy recently during an island-hopping assignment — easily transferring the equipment into a 40L dry bag.
Buy Now: $175
Lib Tech TRS Snowboard
A desired trait within the gear spectrum is versatility, and significant equipment — such as your coveted shredstick — is best built around this guideline. Of course, some niche items are best kept with its singular purpose, but that’s not the case, here. Recent attention within the ‘multi-purpose snowboard’ category has been focused on the Lib Tech TRS (aka. Total Ripper Series). This twin all-mountain freeride board is a clutch ride no matter the conditions, thanks in part to the camber-rocker construction known as C2 Power Banana Camber (C2BTX). Looking for an endorsement? Just ask Travis Rice. You’ll notice his turns appear effortless, his edges hold on ice (but don’t hold on rails), and there’s never a loss of stability or control in sketchy situations. Helicopter chase-party not included.
Buy Now: $560
Ski K2 COOMBAck
No matter the destination, whether it’s resorts, touring, catskiing or heli, you can’t control the conditions. It’s up to you to prepare for the conditions that lay ahead, both mentally and through gear selection, and some say Doug Coombs was a master of preparation. He made a career out of doing so; beginning in Jackson Hole as patrol, then founding Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, and finally leading Steep Skiing Camps in La Grave, France. The award-winning K2 COOMBAck was created and named in his accomplished honor, due in part to the ski’s ability to manage any and all conditions thrown under them. Eye-watering groomers, check. Bottomless pillow lines, check. Gentile touring laps, check. Coombs was a K2 athlete for over 20 years, and a legend in the ski industry. K2 is donating a percentage of all COOMBAck ski sales to Doug’s family, and another portion of the proceeds will fund the American Mountain Guide Association’s Chad Vanderham Endowment, which is focused on improving guide education and safety.
Buy Now: $650
Garmont Dragontail LT / GTX
Idioms are a culturally-driven form of expression that can often clear-up confusion or help drive home a point. For instance, we’re not going to beat around the bush, you’d be off your rocker come hell or high water to not put your best foot forward in Garmont’s Dragontail LT / GTX. Roughly translated, thanks in part to the repellent suede, Gore-Tex XCR lining, heel-lock fit, toe/heel bumpers and sticky-grippy Vibram sole, this approach trail shoe is a great option for both climbers and hikers. It’s tough enough to scramble upwards into the alpine zone, and equally at home on the train if you feel the need to peacock your latest trek. No smoke and mirrors, we’re talking reliable performance and durability until the cows come home. Idiom intended.
Buy Now: $135
Outdoor Research DryComp Ridge Sack
The art of packing gear for adventure destinations has changed dramatically over the past decade. Thanks to the restrictions and complications, and accompanying fees, put forth by airline baggage drones, streamlining your carry-on approach for trips less than a week duration can greatly improve your entrance and exit. Keeping it light and tight, you’ll want to include a catchall pack to support your multisport itinerary — from dayhikes to paddles, city tours to visiting ruins. The OR DryComp Ridge Sack is a roll-top compression pack that provides waterproof security, a sturdy, balanced load, and 34L of space for gear, hydration and gadgetry. It stashes aptly in the layers of your carry-on without any fuss, and you won’t notice its 16.4-ounce footprint whether in-transit or on your shoulders.
Buy Now: $125