If you’re into the outdoors and own a car, chances are you own or have owned a Thule product for hauling your skis, bikes, kayaks and other outdoor gear. Nearly 80 percent of the company’s products for the U.S. market are made in the states, many of them at their Seymour, CT facility. We dropped in for a visit.
An Unlikely Expat
A Life Worth Saving
Gear worth owning is pricey, and repairs used to be the path of least resistance. Today, it’s actually kind of a pain. Yet reviving well-worn gear has major payoffs.
A tough ticker with a rich service history
From the Archives: Produced from 1968 to 1977, the Seiko 6105 combined toughness, an influential design and a rich history of use among service members in the Vietnam war.
13 Mile Chill
The sky is a slate gray on the cruise up I-95 to Hampton Beach, NH. I left Boston to catch a glimpse of a handful of New England’s athlete-contrarians, people who spend the summer dreaming of frigid waters, storms and angry seas. They’re winter surfers — and this is their season.
Armoring up for battle with frigid surf
When it comes time to hit the surf and temps are in the 30s rather than the 70s, the right gear is the difference between channeling Bodhi and becoming intimate with the symptoms of hypothermia. While it’s admittedly tough to be toasty in water less than half your body’s normal temperature, with the right kit you can at least pursue your hobby and live to tell about it. Below are our picks for the gear you’ll need for winter surfing.
Duds for fitness studs
There are a lot of great menswear companies making high quality clothes to fit most guys and most budgets. Perhaps unexpectedly, one guy who has been overlooked is the athlete. Most clothes off the rack are either made for the average American male (i.e., skinny shoulders and an expanding waistline) or the “in-shape” guy (essentially his waist is not larger than his chest). These ten brands make excellent clothing that flatters and athletic build, and we’ve picked out some staples for your wardrobe.
Comfort and sturdiness, put to the test
Over the years we’ve owned a number of different hiking boots in a continuous search for just the right balance of sufficient support, stability, and grip without being so rigid and heavy that they feel like Tony Soprano concrete specials. Recently we had the opportunity to try the BIOM Terrain Plus ($230) from ECCO, a brand we knew only as the maker of grandpa’s “most comfortable shoes you’ll ever wear!” Of course we were skeptical about where they would rate on that scale of comfort and stability — and, equally as important, whether we’d want to be seen wearing them on the trail.
The Bar, Raised
An active life is a fulfilling life, and part of maintaining an active lifestyle is eating healthy. In an ironic twist, one of the most challenging times to eat well is when you’re out exploring. Energy bars do their job, but usually with lots of sugar, saturated fat and other ingredients you can’t pronounce. Fractionated palm kernel oil while overlooking the North Kaibab Trail of The Canyon? Pass. Made from organic, humanely-treated beef, bison and turkey (both beef and bison are grass-fed), EPIC bars ($34) are also gluten-free, so those who’ve gone paleo can enjoy them without Grog turning over in his grave.
Grizzly Adams, you are not
Straight edge razors, Dollar Shave Club, electric, Mach 3, safety razors…for the clean-shaven out there, options truly abound. For those of us who opt for a little or a lot of facial hair, though, companies seem less inclined to provide choices. Keeping that beard trim and looking good is important regardless of season, particularly when research has shown women are more attracted to men with heavy stubble than their clean-shaven counterparts. In the interest of cleaning up this situation, we’ve rounded up our favorite beard trimmers.
Reality is looking pretty good
Most of the snowboarding industry’s technology slowly creeps forward with marginal improvements: things get better, but not way better. This year K2 dropped something that falls squarely into the way better category: their Ultra Dream Snowboard ($550), a cunning combination of the brand’s recent technological advances.
A boat is essentially pure freedom, and Sea-Ray’s 370 Venture ($390,000+), the brand’s top-of-the-line express cruiser, embodies this freedom with style in spades. The Venture 370 redefines a category of boat known for being sporty and fast-cruising while also flashing more amenities than a cabin cruiser. The secret to its success? Swapping traditional onboard V8s for outboard 300 hp Mercury engines.
In 1934, Hawley Bowlus decided to apply his knowledge to a new market: towable trailers. His efforts became the Bowlus Road Chief. While the design was industry leading, the floundering economy of the Great Depression hampered sales. After selling 80 trailers, Bowlus decided he’d be better off making planes and shuttered Bowlus.
When car collector John Long found one of the original 80 made in the ’30s, he decided to resurrect Bowlus and bring the Road Chief back to market. In 2013 he succeeded: for the first time in 79 years new Bowlus Road Chiefs were being made, lived in and gawked at. Today the Bowlus Road Chief ($100,000+) still blows away new and vintage competition with spellbinding style and updates aplenty.
Coat of Arms
Few items of clothing have remained relevant as long as the trench coat. Conflictingly claimed to have been created by both Burberry (in 1901) and Aquascutum (sometime in the 1850s), it’s been part of the public style lexicon since the British Army adopted it for officers during WWI (thus the “trench”). Well over a century later it continues to be offered in a variety of colors, lengths, fabrics and configurations from a myriad of companies. Innovation in a product this storied isn’t often seen — which is what makes American Trench ($725) so special and their Dark Navy Trench one of the best.
Taming the wake
For me, the reality of waterskiing has always been carving the lakes of Maine on my Dad’s late ’80s LaPoint O’Brien “professional” slalom ski. Then I got the chance to test the Connelly Prophecy ($1,300+), the most advanced ski in Connelly’s tournament series line, and learned just how far waterskiing equipment has advanced since my dad bought his ski.
Slopes? We'll take our water flat, thanks
Sprinkler, fire hydrant, beach or pool: they’re all great ways to cool off when the mercury spikes. Then there’s waterskiing. Often overshadowed by its alpine brother, waterskiing is a heck of a lot of fun and doesn’t require donning a neck warmer. There’s nothing like carving a perfect turn and throwing up a 15-foot wall of spray behind you, all under sunny skies and, preferably, with some bikini-clad babes close by. Here’s the gear you need to get there.
Not a buzzkill among them
One of the “luxuries” of being a home owner is having a yard — having the space to grill, garden, and maybe even build a moat (it is your castle, after all). Sadly, that yard is just waiting for you to turn your back so it can start creeping and growing past its carefully manicured boundaries. You need an arsenal to fight back; luckily, the weapons are a lot of fun, one of the many stress-relieving, get-it-done perks of being a man. Below are just the tools to help your yard from turning into a Discovery Channel episode of “Life after People”.
Mr. Gaffney's Gear
In the latest edition of Staff Favorites, we turn to one of Gear Patrol’s longest standing contributors, Mr. Jon Gaffney. The New England native was always a shoe in for the team thanks to his eye for craftsmanship, an obsession for photography and a hunger for physical challenge that at times made us question his sanity (in a loving, concerned way, of course). Luckily, he still knows how to properly relax, typically on a dock somewhere in Maine between waterskiing runs, which also happens to be his default answer to “where he’d rather be”. But you didn’t really need to read this to know any of these things. His favorites tell the story far more eloquently than we ever will.
Around the country, where people can’t easily access a natural body of water, they’ll flock to fake ones for some relaxation, fun, and relief from the heat. This is the seasonal blessing and curse of the fortunate few who own — or have access to — a pool. If you fall into this category and are already bemoaning your hosting duties to come, may we remind you of the wise words of
“Uncle” Ben Parker Voltaire, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Think that bowl of corn chips (“but they’re restaurant style!”) and playing some Jimmy Buffet from your puny laptop speakers answers the call? You are woefully mistaken.
It’s time to take your waterside shindigs to another plane. What we’re talking about is the kind of event that’ll haunt Charlie Sheen’s dreams and leave the neighborhood gabbing for decades. We’ve got your shopping list right here.
Stock up for Woodstock
Ah, the music festival. Concert after concert under the hot sun, huge fields of camping fans, available yet astronomically priced food, and port-a-potties stretching to the horizon combine for a strange breed of “roughing it” with large doses of civilization mixed in. Prepare properly and you’re in for the weekend of a lifetime; shirk the prep and you’ll be poor and plenty grumpy come Sunday night. Here are ten pieces of gear — appropriately fitting the chaotic and not at all fashionable atmosphere you’ll come to know and love — to get your music festival experience on track for “Epic!” status. We’ll leave the collapsible peace pipe to you.
Board optional, shorts required
Some of the best days of summer are spent out on the water — or at least relaxing, sipping beers and socializing near it. But what to wear? Board shorts are the safest (and best) bet in our book, providing the rugged construction necessary for water sports with a look and form — thanks to a rigid waistband, fly, snaps, ties and quick-drying, stretchy material — that also lends itself to an inland hike for boardwalk pizza. We’ve herded our five favorite board shorts of the year for your wearing pleasure here.
The good kind of shady
Finally the brightness of summer is on its way. Now, for the harsh reality: you’ve had plenty of time during the last five months of gray to forget where you left your last set of sunglasses. If you’re in need of a new pair, the beloved aviator never goes out of style, pairs well with everything from a suit to board shorts, and just looks damn good. Read on for the five best aviators for summer 2013.
Dover, Rock City
The Firefly Music Festival announced its lineup Tuesday morning for the June 21-23 extravaganza, which descends upon Dover, DE this year in only its second iteration. We were lucky enough to experience the event last year, and it was an impressive first showing, indeed. Make sure to get your tickets, on sale today, and read on for our photo essay of Firefly 2012.
Compact price, mid-sized features
Compact cameras are in trouble. Smartphones continue to don sexier optics, allowing the photographer in all of us to carry one less item and still get decent shots of our lunches/cats/sunsets. Not content to just fade away, manufacturers are ramping up the quality and features of their compact cameras to stay relevant. Taking cues from its larger-framed and sensored older brother (The XZ-2), the Olympus Stylus XZ-10 ($351) emerges from this crucible as a true pocket rocket.
Puts your igloo to shame
February 5 marks the official opening of the new Halley VI
Minnesota Antarctic Research Station, which replaces the 20-year-old (you guessed it) Halley V. Creating the new home of the British Antarctic Survey was a difficult project given the unique (a.k.a. wicked cold) weather on the southern-most continent. The end product is something straight out of science fiction.
Down With It
Depending on your activities of preference, winter is either your joyous playground or whitewashed personal hell. No matter what, staying warm is critical. Down jackets have been a preferred winter option for many years, and for good reason — they’re super warm (when dry), wick moisture away from your body, are packable down to small sizes for travel and have yet to be matched by any synthetic fibers. Here are our five favorite goose-based options to beat the winter freeze.
While we love a good baseball cap, we don’t always want to be advertising our favorite sports teams. Maybe it’s that we’re getting a little older and a little more refined, or maybe our team is just bottom of the barrel this year (if you ask us which one it is, you’re as likely to get a straight answer from Manti Te’o). That said, one of our favorite places for minimally branded ball caps, Fair Ends, just launched some additions to their already stellar range. The new set is offered in both camp (5-panel) and ball cap configurations, in either waxed cotton or flannel. Waxed cotton will shed the worst winter can throw at it, just like your favorite Barbour; flannel will help keep that dome a little warmer. The choice is up to you. We know which one is our favorite…
Writing Off the Wall
Since 1883 Kaweco of Germany has been applying their company motto “small in the pocket, great in the hand” in their efforts to produce high end writing implements. Case in point: the AC Sport Carbon Fiber Fountain Pen ($112), which embodies the company motto right down the last dotted ‘I’ and crossed ‘T’. The pen is…
While smartphones and google calendar might have replaced much of the functional need for a physical calendar these days, we’re still nostalgic for the analog. Following in the tradition of our Grandfather’s garage, our pick for 2013′s planner is the Custom Motorcycle Calendar from Bike Exif. What it lacks in Bettie Page pinup curves it…
Ledbury has been making some truly great shirts at reasonable prices the last few years. Recently they launched their first foray into men’s suiting with their new sports coats and blazers. Ranging from $595 to $675, they come in a number of different Italian milled wools. Most importantly, the cuts look to pick up on…
For the last two seasons, Michael Bastian has teamed up with Randolph Engineering, bringing to life his vision for sun- and eyeglasses, many of which were inspired by vintage Randolph frames that had long been shelved. While plenty of new classics have emerged from this partnership, the Norwich frame ($295) is a recent standout. The…