Ever wish you had nicer furniture your living room? How about a blue 1965 Porsche 356 C and a blaze orange tent instead? There’s a pretty good reason that we — a largely irrational bunch — are not often trusted with large-scale home decor decisions. It’s mostly because, given free reign and a limitless bank account, we’d probably end up outfitting our place like the chaps over at Huckberry did with their Holiday Home.
The 2013 Pop Up Flea NYC shows off an overwhelming assortment of goods covering every aspect of a man’s wardrobe, from a beautiful Tiffany & Co-signed Rolex DateJust from Hodinkee to boots and leather goods from nearly every vendor at the show. Seriously, the PUF may or may not be the largest concentration of tanned hide ever assembled in one NY room. Together it’s a testament to locally made goods and quality craftsmanship — and desparately finding a way to slide you credit card across your monitor.
A Toast to...
Thanksgiving is sometimes one of those holidays so fraught with stress we wonder why the hell we don’t just head somewhere warm and spend our days sipping something with a novelty umbrella in it. Without fail, there will always be at least one less seat than you need on your flight home, at least one utterly awful dish, and at least one imbibing family member who ends up somewhere between Winston Churchill and mid-‘90s Robert Downey Jr.
But we all still do it. No ticket to Hawaii.
Think hard enough about your last Thanksgiving and there might just be a couple — or maybe a lot — of moments where things were really great. Maybe it was that *cough* perfect turkey, maybe it was the impromptu talent show put on by the kids table, or arguing about “Who invaded Spain in the 8th century” during the annual Trivial Pursuit game. However trite it may sound, it’s these moments that make everything else worth it. So to everyone suffering through extended-family prodding or poultry that’s less than savory: hang in there and be glad you avoided the urge to walk past your gate and hop a plane to Kauai. It wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as the fracas that’s going on at home.
From all of us at Gear Patrol: Happy Thanksgiving.
You know the feeling of peeling back the wrapping paper and catching a glance of a the best seller you’ve already received 3 copies of or a “scarf” that might be better tasked trawling for tuna. Whatever it is, you smile, say thanks and quickly divert your eyes to the next gift in the distance…
Put Your Hands Together
There are certain events in the watch industry calendar you can count on like clockwork. The beginning of the year sees the big fairs where new watches are introduced; as winter approaches, the awards are handed out to the best of the best. Last week the prestigious GPHG (“Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève”) awards, which honor the most innovative, beautifully designed and important watches in a given calendar year, were announced in Geneva. Several of this year’s winners were timepieces we’ve covered — and two of our own GP100 winners also took home trophies, including the grand prize. Coincidence? Depends who you’re asking.
Winter in New York
The title says it all — we’re on the hunt for two highly motivated individuals to support the GP team this winter/spring in a slew of editorial capacities. If you’re reading this post, then you’ve already got a grasp of what we do. Adventure, gear, storytelling: we strive to provide the whole package, and that all starts with our team.
From story development to unboxing, multimedia to social media, editorial development to news coverage, an internship at GP is anything but busy-work. We all share coffee duties, thank you very much. If you’ve been itching to get your foot in the door with innovative journalism in men’s media and live or are relocating to the New York area, then this posting is for you. Read on for more details and instructions.
Premier audiophile brands owe Doctors Amar Bose and Dre a begrudging thanks for opening the eyes of the public to the value of investing in a set of headphones. Thanks to their savvy marketing and branding, the luxury hi-fi headphone market is exploding as an entire generation of consumers look to replace their bass-blasting, noise-canceling sets with something more refined. Perhaps the most ready to profit is KEF, the British hi-fi manufacturer best known for selling six-figure sound systems. Their flagship M500 headphones ($300) capture the luxury bent of potential buyers and hold up their end of the elite audio bargain, all at a price well below the company’s mortgage-your-house standard fare.
The Meridian Audio Explorer ($299) is a portable USB DAC designed for the Jony Ive age that transforms traditional computer listening into a hi-fi experience with minimal fuss. It’s small, incredibly easy to set up, and designed to blend seamlessly with other high-end electronics you already own. It also retails for a reasonable $299, despite being made in England using the same exacting standards Meridian applies to gear with price points that make car dealers blush.
Abbey Road, to Go
It’s 2013. Zoom has held an iron grip on the portable recording industry for seven years and needs to improve on an excellent product. What do they do? They release the H6 ($400), a new recorder that takes everything that mobile maestros loved about the previous H4 and H4n models and adds versatility and power.
Look Ma, No Mirrors!
The underwater digital camera is certainly not a new concept; you probably picked one up before your honeymoon to take pictures while scuba diving. How’d that work out for you? Not too great, we bet, because while the underwater digital camera is clever in theory, there aren’t many companies who have made it worth our time and money. The lenses are cheap, the images are underwhelming, and face it: the cameras are homely as hell. Luckily, Nikon has decided to get serious about underwater photography — and photography in all sorts of rough conditions — with the new AW1 ($800), the first mirrorless digital camera that’s completely waterproof and has interchangeable, waterproof lenses.
It used to be that if you wanted superb audio, you’d have to shell out top dollar for a pair of clunky over-ear headphones. That’s all well and good when you’re sitting at home on Sunday night, quietly enjoying a glass of Scotch and listening to Schwarzkopf and Ackermann’s 1953 recording of Strauss’s “Vier letzte Lieder”, but what happens when you’re on the go? After all, if you’re going to pay $1,000 or more for something, shouldn’t you be able to show it off? Sennheiser’s IE 800 ($1,000) in-ear headphones have been heralded by many audiophiles as the best combination of sound and portability on the market.
We won’t all climb Everest. In fact, most of us won’t. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy a good weekend under the stars — we certainly do. But, while there are sleeping bags made for extreme conditions (and even ones that hang from trees or that you can wear), you’re probably after something more straightforward. You want something that’s built well, that’ll keep you warm on a cool night and that you can take anywhere: Kelty Ignite DriDown ($200). Hands down, the Ignite DriDown is the best of the best, a versatile, quality, bang-for-your-buck sleeping bag.
If there’s one constant in almost all mountain activities, it’s that sooner or later you’re going to come across nasty weather. It doesn’t matter if you’re chasing big walls in Yosemite, powder lines in Courcheval or summit days in the Canadian Rockies — staying warm is the difference between owning a harrowing expedition and bailing back to civilization with your tail between your legs. Patagonia’s Special Edition Encapsil Down Belay Parka ($699), a perfect fusion of purpose-driven engineering and uncommon design, is the most formidable backcountry armor on the market.
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.
Collectively we spend a lot of time running: we’re Ironman finishers, ultramarathoners, trail runners, joggers and ad-hoc sprinters, police fleers (seldom to never) and woman chasers (only when we know her). 2013 was a good year for running shoes of all stripes and three of them stood out to us. These shoes — the New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez, Hoka One One Rapa Nui 2, and Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra ($120+) — are drastically different in design, but each is free of gimmicks and encourages a natural running stride.
It seems like everything is becoming quantified these days. Not to be left out, the data-mining 94Fifty Bluetooth Sensor has made its way into one of America’s most popular sports. 94Fifty Bluetooth Sensor Basketballs ($300), made in partnership with Spalding, are the first digital sports products to be embedded with inertial motion sensors, serving up coaches and players with various metrics concerning ballhandling, shooting, jump-explosion, defensive foot-speed agility and athleticism.
See the Difference
February of 2009 was a sad month for videophiles: Pioneer, maker of the critically acclaimed Kuro (“Black” in Japanese) line of premium HDTVs with best-in-class blacks, announced that it was throwing in the towel. Carrying the torch for the ailing plasma market fell to Panasonic, who dutifully purchased many of Pioneer’s patents. While consumers saw plenty of bells and whistles grafted onto TVs launched in the following years, no set managed to best the Kuro’s picture quality — until now. Panasonic’s flagship ZT60 series ($3,000) has finally dethroned the king.
May the Force Be With You
Fitbit’s newly announced Force ($130) is one of the most advanced activity trackers released to date, greatly improving on the company’s earlier Flex product in particular. But its ultimate appeal and success with consumers may rely just as much on the Smart-Watch-like features that have come along for the ride.
Through the Looking Glass
Announced all the way back in September 2012, Tamron’s 70-200 f/2.8 Di VC USD ($1500) — one of the company’s gutsiest moves into the pro lens field — had plenty of time to be picked apart prior to its release. Though the lens was announced a year and a half after Canon introduced the second edition of their vaunted 70-200 f/2.8 IS, the Tamron was able to combine image quality and build that kept up with the competition at a significantly reduced price point. In May 2013, nine months after its initial announcement, Tamron’s bold product was released — and then vindicated by an outpouring of positive reviews.
While anything bearing the McIntosh signature blue meters is guaranteed to catch our eyes faster than Brooklyn Decker at the pool, the MT5 Turntable ($6,500) deserves special attention. That’s partly because its 5-pound, 1.5-inch thick silicon acrylic platter glows greener than the envy of all who gaze upon it. But this beautiful piece of audio machinery has much, much more than just some literal flash.
Backed by critically acclaimed exclusives, strong third-party support and the most popular online multiplayer component available, the Xbox 360 undeniably won the current-gen console war. The system resonated most with casual and hardcore audiences because of Microsoft’s popular Xbox Live service. Gamers found themselves drawn into a virtual universe where they could download popular titles from an overly populated digital marketplace, stream multimedia services like Netflix and Hulu and interact with players across the globe. In Live’s do-it-all mentality, Microsoft discovered the central core for its next generation console: The Xbox One ($500).
Hertz So Good
While we could list fascinating mechanisms devised by ingenious watchmakers ’til the cows come home, there’s one particular complication that’s rarely mentioned: dead seconds, where the second hand advances in increments of a whole second rather than a half or a quarter of a second. The Grönefeld One Hertz ($40,659+) accomplishes the dead seconds complication in a way that’s never been done before. To Grönefeld, this was a challenge, one that they decidedly nailed with the One Hertz.
Sailing timepieces are, despite their obscure use and narrow target market, very popular these days. Yet few are truly useful to a skipper angling for the starting buoy in a regatta — most are simple chronographs gussied up with some nautical colorways and branding. Officine Panerai knows a thing or two about sailing, having been a very active sponsor of a classic yacht regatta series for the past decade. So it comes as no surprise that when the brand released its first purpose-built regatta timer, the Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Titanio ($18,600), they got it exactly right.
A Class of Its Own
The term “affordable luxury car” never made sense. Either the car is not really affordable or it is not really luxurious. It’s a chimera, an oxymoron. Well, it was. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class ($29,900) breathes life into the fantasy with a unique combination of breathtaking design, high-tech amenities, a truly bespoke interior, front-wheel-drive performance and the convenience of four doors in a coupe-like body.
Supercars and sports cars are largely out of reach for the average human, much to our chagrin. But there’s great news for piston-lovers everywhere, too: hot hatches are here to stay, largely due to earth-bound prices, impressive speed in spite of their smaller displacement engines, and everyday practicality that dwarfs many sedans. The 2013 Ford Focus ST ($23,700) is the new hot hatch king, and for good reason. The 252 hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine and sport-tuned suspension ensure it’s fast in the straights and in the curves, and the sublime steering ups the pleasure quotient even further. Plus, it just looks fast. The hard part is stepping out of it after a spirited drive.
Quick Draw Specialist
A knife is a knife is a knife, right? To the unprepared, yes. But you can’t just pick one up from the local flea market and expect it to hold up when you need it most. In any instance, a knife is only helpful if it’s at the ready, but how often do you have both hands free during a one-man project? This is where the SOG Flashback ($100) shines. It’s widely known as the fastest assisted-opening blade on the market today and is also solidly constructed, handsome and impressively durable.
Initiate Ghost Protocol
In 2010, the crew of the latest Mission: Impossible movie called Charles Cole, Five Ten’s president, with one simple question: could he design a shoe that could climb up a glass wall? Cole and his team went to work on their Stealth C4 rubber, rebuilding it stickier than ever. The result? Rubber that is viscous enough to gain purchase on glass (just watch Tom Cruise use it in Mission: Impossible), while maintaining the durability to do battle with even the sharpest rock faces. We got a look at Five Ten’s Team VXi and Freerider VXi Element ($125), two groundbreaking pieces of footwear.
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.
Home away from home
A tent can be your portable backcountry palace or can just as easily feel like a nylon coffin with a view. Unless you’re looking to shell out a few thousand dollars to set up a basecamp in the Himalayas, the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 3 ($550) is your best bet for logging serious miles and catching serious Zs during your down time.
Apple and Microsoft dominate the laptop market with their respective Mac OS X and Windows systems, each exhibiting dynamic yet dissimilar user experiences. In considering the wide selection of convertibles and ultrabooks out at the moment, it only seemed fit to narrow down the top offerings from each computer platform. Here’s a look at the best laptops available now: The Acer Aspire S7 and the MacBook Air.