Every summer the outdoor industry gets together to show off their latest products and innovations for the next season — and every summer we drool over the best climbing, hiking, and outdoor gear money can buy. If you spend hours researching your next ultralight backpacking kit purchase, geek out over climbing shoe rubber, or spend late nights planning your next backcountry camping trip, the Outdoor Retailer show is a mecca. We were on hand to scope out the best gear for this fall and next spring so you can be first in line when the time rolls around.
Tomorrow's Gear, Today
Pack it in
From easy day hikes to multi-day treks, a good pack on your back can make carrying a load a joy (relatively speaking), especially if you draw the short straw and have to carry the extra beer on a five day expedition through Zion National Park. The perfect pack is a simple one: it carries everything you need and nothing you don’t. In practice, this is much harder than it seems and involves careful planning and design. Beware of the old trap. If you have the space, you’ll try to fill it with something. Whether you’re throwing gear together for a short hike to your favorite fly fishing spot or taking a month-long stroll down the Continental Divide, less is more. With that in mind, we’ve picked the best backpacks to put a few miles on this season. Features like load distributing-straps, rainflys and easy access to hydration all made the cut. Heavy materials, unneeded space, and dead weight? Not so much.
Not exactly roughing it
The vintage polished aluminum of Airstream Trailers is as recognizable as the curvaceous body of a ‘Vette. Nowadays, they transport everyone from happy families to celebrities; Felix Baumgartner even holed up in one before his stratospheric leap. Previously unchanged in its 82-year history, the newly released Airstream Land Yacht ($140,000) brings a new level of sophistication in materials and design to this classic roving hotel room.
Because they’re there
Mountaineering can be an intimidating sport to get into: all that gear, the dizzying heights and tales of frostbite-blackened digits aren’t necessarily warm and fuzzy things. But if you have the urge to sample the rarified air up high, there are still some peaks that are accessible to the novice alpinist right here in the U.S. Once you’re actually prepared, check (at least) one of these beauties off your list.
The Gear for Rainier
To take on our recent ascent of Mount Rainier, we rounded up some of the latest and greatest mountaineering gear. And after two days, 9,000 vertical feet of climbing and weather that ranged from downright scorching to subzero wind chills, we’ve got a thing or two to say about each piece. So whether or not you plan to use any of this gear in your urban, or more rustic, adventures, you can be assured we’ve put it all through rigorous testing in a worse place. Just don’t take an ice axe on the subway.
Come June, those of us in the northern latitudes leave the hearth behind and burst into the sunlight to savor a precious few months of warmth, pressed for time before the days grow short again. This often entails going yet farther north, and in Minnesota, “up north” often means the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We spent a long weekend in a cabin outside of Ely (“Ee-lee”), a gateway town to the BWCA.
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.
Hone your inner survivalist
No, it’s not made especially for a zombie outbreak. The Lansky T.A.S.K. (Tactical Apocalypse Survival Kit) ($200) is aimed at avoiding (or taking down) whatever your own personal apocalypse may be. We break it down.
high and dry
To soothe the discomfort of a damp, rocky and generally pokey forest floor when camping, ground-bound tenters have to make sure they’ve come equipped, which is a drag en route. The Blue Ridge Camping Hammock ($140) combines the comforts of being high, dry and comfortably cradled during your next forest foray.
Great outdoors, great coffee
Something about sitting atop an unexplored peak to watch the sunrise while enjoying your favorite coffee just feels right. Maybe it’s the sub-freezing temperatures and obligatory wind chill, or it’s the all night trek catching up with you. With that in mind, we’ve got the best tried and true methods for brewing your favorite coffee for you next adventure, be it a weekend of car camping or a full blown backcountry expedition.
Stay warm in the woods
Nothing ruins a backpacking trip like a terrible night’s sleep (or a lack of clean underwear, but if you can’t figure that one out you’re beyond our help). A good sleeping bag is the key to staying warm and dry when you’re crashing under the stars — so you’re at your best crossing that next 8,000 foot mountain pass. Sleeping bag tech has made its way into the space age in the last few years: your 20-year-old bag from summer camp or the Boy Scouts is no longer up to snuff. Here’s our list of the best 20°F (or below) bags to ensure comfort and safety for three-season camping.
Tough as an actual axe
The Alpaca Guitar more like “I’ll pack a…” than the animal, but we’ll assume that’s what they were going for. The Kickstarter project is all about turning everyone’s favorite campfire fun into a nigh unbreakable, waterproof piece of hiking gear.
The M-65 waterproof fishtail parka was first used by the U.S. Army in the Korean War as a lightweight shell to keep soldiers dry. The design allowed soldiers to wrap the back of the coat around their upper legs for ease of movement and more waterproof surface. Recently the “hope I’m cool enough to stay here” Ace Hotel teamed up with Alpha Industries — known for military-inspired casual wear — to revive the storied coat. Retaining the classic M-65 style while updating it with a washed nylon shell, stay-dry seams and modern lines means you can throw this on and hike through unknown forest and muddy embankments before strolling directly into the board room, unscathed. Don’t whine to us if the muddy boots give you away, though.
Serious Camp Solutions
Holding on to heritage for dear life while still being picky about efficiency, quality and practicality is taking the tough path — but produces the kind of results we dig. Bush Smarts, a New York-based builder, designer and sourcer of prime camp gear, has created a library of outdoor gear that eschews flash and gimmick…
Best Made Co.’s latest camping accessory is made in the USA from solid white oak, duck canvas and solid brass hardware, producing a vintage aesthetic that would look right at home around both your grandfather’s campsite and yours. Since America’s not getting any lighter, the Camp Chair ($185) is built to support 350 pounds, both in chair or stool mode.
Don't carbonize these ones
Wondermade Marshmallows ($8) shatter the conventional s’mores mold with their diverse line of flavored addiction cubes sugary treats. Boasting a perfect spongy consistency, these handcrafted marshmallows challenge the pallet with a bouquet of unique flavors like gingerbread, peppermint, s’mores (s’mores inception?), pumpkin pie, Guinness and bourbon. A smartly designed box accomplishes the sole mission of…
A different kind of pole dance
If you’ve ever used trekking poles with friction locks, you know they can be fickle and finicky — slippage and tedious adjustment are par for the course. MSR’s SureLock TR-3 allows you to navigate frequently changing terrain with an on-the-fly two-finger length adjustment system. That means no removing the gloves or poles from your hands to unlock, adjust, and re-lock your sticks.
12 gifts for the adventure seeker
He shows up at Christmas dinner with new scars and less digits from his latest cage dives and winter Alpine ascents. His tales, most of them true, scare Aunt Betty to tears and enchant the kids. And while the adventurer’s gifts for you usually amount to a carved tribal trinket or a rock from a…
Big bucket bag
Backpacks are ubiquitous, and sometimes too many pockets just means… too many pockets. In the case of the Marmot Urban Hauler ($50), less is more. Based on a centuries-old Japanese fishing bag, the Urban Hauler is as simple as a pack can get, short of a brown grocery bag and duct tape. Made of UpCycled…
The classic hiking boot never grows old, but sometimes a bit of fashion-driven change is welcomed. After all, you sport most of your woodsy fashion flair at the coffee shop, dontcha? Less a couple inches of leather than your standard hiking boot, the Olukai Mauna Lalo ($225) hiking shoe is just the right combination of…
12 gift ideas for the active adventurer
The outdoorsman on your list is easily identifiable: he’s rarely home and smells faintly of man sweat and wood smoke when you do catch him between excursions. His particular passion falls within an extensive of range possible pursuits (noodling for catfish, anyone?), but one thing is for certain — he does them outside. His look…
Tablecloth and candles not included
After a rough day of solo backpacking and exploration, nothing rejuvenates like a good meal. Unfortunately, going it alone out in the field doesn’t always lend to the best of creature comforts. The Snow Peak Ozen Solo Table ($50) provides a level surface on the ground or in your tent and should at least make…
Jump starting your adventure kit
Whether it’s for your bug-out bag or your hiking kit, the fundamental survival items — knife, flashlight, multitool, your bag itself — make up 98% of what you’ll use and anchor your camp/hike/escape. The Gerber GO Bag ($274) gives you the whole kit and caboodle. Not only does it provide a laundry list of quality,…
Base camp beacon
Camping is one of America’s great pastimes, and some die-hards do it through all four seasons. But whether it’s 90 degrees and swampy or so cold the lining of your nose freezes, you’ll always need some good light shed on the situation. The L.L. Bean Lighthouse 30-Day Camp Lantern ($60) won’t just brighten things up…
Bright where you want it
Whether you’re in the great outdoors when the sun goes down or at home when the power goes out (thanks, Hurricane Sandy), proper portable lighting can make the difference between life and death — or at least help you figure out where your next meal (or bath) is coming from. Sometimes a flashlight (narrow beam)…
Cyclops with brains
The latest in automotive headlight technology is downright impressive. Adaptive headlights turn with the steering wheel, high-beams deactivate when oncoming traffic approaches and self-leveling low beams move when the road angle changes. Why can’t headlamps follow suit? No more complaining: the Petzl NAO ($175), an adaptive and rechargable headlamp, seems to work in conjunction with…
Short shorts not required, or desired
The North Face Back-to-Berkeley Low Down ($110) hiking shoes are a perfectly executed throwback to a simpler time, when bell bottoms and hang-glider-sized collars were all the rage. But their retro good looks belie the cutting-edge technology infused throughout: a waterproof suede and polyurethane coated ballistic mesh upper, an inner HydroSeal waterproof membrane liner, 100g…
At your beHEST
Once you start toting a knife in your EDC, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Cutting, prying, and oh-so-important meat-slicing — you’ve never had it so good. There are plenty of fantastic utility knives for that kind of work — but they don’t quite cut it when you move out of the concrete…