Outdoor Gadgets

Adventure-ready multifunction watches

Multifunction Tool Watches for the 21st Century

Mechanical diver's and pilot’s watches may have been indispensable instruments for explorers in decades past, but nowadays, state-of-the-art wristwatches have shifted toward lightweight, battery-powered and largely digital pieces. These are wrist-top computers, designed for wear during mountaineering, skiing, sailing, surfing and flying. We rounded up six of the best for your next adventures.

Live From Salt Lake City

Best of Outdoor Retailer, Winter 2014

We like to get our hands on new gear early, and short of theft and corporate espionage one of the best ways to do that is by checking out Outdoor Retailer, a biannual product show for retailers, manufacturers and other industry pros. We were on hand at the Winter Market 2014 show at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT, where every brand with a stake in the great outdoors showed off their future cold-weather wares. Of everything we touched, tasted and saw, this gear stood out most.

Heads-Up on the Hill

Tested: Oakley Airwave 1.5

In 2012, Oakley partnered with Recon Instruments, maker of groundbreaking Heads-up Display (HUD) technology, to create the Airwave goggle and bring data and entertainment right into the wearer’s field of view, a la Minority Report. The second generation Oakley Airwave 1.5 ($649) launched at the end of 2013 with improvements across the board. We got our hands on a pair to test while shredding pow in Revelstoke, BC.

It's never too cold

Kit: Winter Running

It’s not like getting up for that pre-work run was easy during the summer or fall. Now it’s pitch black, relentlessly cold and the streets are covered with ice, snow and salt. But a brisk jog before sunrise is a one-way ticket to a fulfilling day, not to mention a long winter of staying fit despite a dining regimen of braised short ribs and mashed potatoes. The right gear will keep you warm, dry and, most importantly, stable when the ground beneath you isn't.

SOS for Less

Want This, Get This: Breitling Emergency or SPOT Messenger Gen3

If you’re like us, you have a long list of watches you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series Want This, Get This presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. This week, we offer two very different ways to save your skin.

Putting a Solar-Powered Purifier through its paces

Tested: SteriPEN Freedom Solar

Our attitude about drinking water is better safe than sorry, particularly when traveling outside the United States in places where water is known to be contaminated. We sent our correspondent to Costa Rica for the final installment of The Road to La Ruta armed with the SteriPEN Freedom Solar ($105). While the water in Costa Rica is generally safe to drink, the CDC warns of hepatitis A and typhoid -- and we didn’t want that coming back to HQ.

Own Your Wilderness Overnight

Kit: Multi-Day Hiking

It doesn’t take much to pack for a day hike: throw on a coat, pull on your boots and tuck a beanie in your back pocket in case the weather turns chilly. But if you’re heading into the woods for more than a stroll, a little preparation goes a long way, whether it be technical fabrics to combat inclement weather, a portable stove to heat your three square, or dominos to entertain companions after the sun sets. We’ve got a selection of gear to get you started on your next multi-day hiking adventure.

You axed for it

Get To Da Choppa: 5 Great Axes for the Field, Not the Mantle

We don't mean to split hairs here, but some axes are just simply better than others. You won't find any designer jobs on this list; those are for your mantle. No, these are utilitarian axes that cut right to the chase, because there are trees to be chopped, timber to be split. Whether you're a rugged outdoorsman, a weekend cabin dweller, a Middle-Earth dwarf or just a guy who has to clear some branches, these are the five best axes you'll find.

May the Force Be With You

Fitbit Force

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.

What's old is new

Tested: Topo Designs x Howler Brothers Klettersack

Retro gear is retro for a reason: modern outdoor gear design performs better than its forebears in almost all respects. But we still have a soft spot for the leather, wool, canvas alpine designs of the 1950s and ‘60s -- you know, before things got all sleek and neon. After seeing two Gear Patrol favorite brands, Topo Designs and Howler Brothers, collaborate to design a classic climbing pack, the Klettersack ($189), we decided to go all Reinhold Messner and take it to the mountains to see how a retro style pack works in the environment that inspired it.

Drink it all in

GP100: Vapur MicroFilter

Stagnant pools and sludgy streams are bacterial hotbeds that, when sipped from, can quickly turn the manliest of men into a quivering disaster. The Vapur MicroFilter ($53) employs hollow fiber technology to filter water through 0.2-micron openings working instantly to eliminate Salmonella, E. Coli and Cholera as well as the pesky protozoa behind Giardiasis and Crypto, resulting in a 99% pure mouthful of water. Now that's refreshing.

Pressurized hydration

Tested: Geigerrig Rig 500

It doesn’t take a degree in developmental psychology to know that guys have an enduring attachment to backpacks. Messenger bags, tote bags, duffels -- all great, but backpacks are hands-free, versatile and have more sophisticated storage options for gear and the lunch mom packed...or whatever. Faced with a quick international trip or a tough physical challenge, we’ve usually got a backpack in tow, and at the 20th anniversary of the Vermont 50 ultarmarathon, we leaned on the Geigerrig Rig 500 ($130) for our hydration and storage needs during an all-day run.

Power to the people

Tested: Stages Power X9

Power was the single metric I was looking to improve during the lead-up to La Ruta. I became power savvy by establishing my baseline watts at lactate threshold and VO2 Max during the F.U.E.L. testing we covered in Part II and then had the next six months to train against these numbers to improve fitness and manage nutrition on long rides. Yet I still had just one gap in my arsenal of gear: a power meter for my mountain bike. The Stages Power X9 ($700) is both new and affordable relative to other power meters, so I decided to give it a test run.

Gear worth its weight in...

Kit: Fool’s Gold 100

Competing in endurance mountain bike racing requires a significant amount of time on the bike. There are days when you eat your breakfast and lunch on the go, get on your bike before the sun comes up and even get lost in the woods trying to find six hours worth of trails. We all settle into distinct collections of gear to make the bike our home, but for us, this kit offers the perfect blend of performance, durability and comfort.

(Power) tenting tonight

Breakdown: Eddie Bauer Power Katabatic Tent

When you're hauling loads of climbing gear above twenty thousand feet, shaving weight is of the utmost importance. Multipurpose gear gets loaded up before any creature comforts even cross a serious climber's mind. The designers at Eddie Bauer and Goal Zero had this in mind when they teamed up on the new Power Katabatic Tent. We break it down.

Fast water, big trout

Kit: Fly Fishing the Rockies

Destination fly fishing for trout in the high country of Colorado is a little different than going for sunnies in the local pond. Your gear needs to be quite a bit more specialized and reliable; you need a way to get it all from the flatlands to the high country. We planned to fish mostly from a drift boat -- a specialized boat designed to navigate shallow rivers. But we were going to be wading, too. And in mountain rivers, which are bigger, faster and colder than rivers in the Midwest, wading takes on a new meaning -- and so does proper gear. Of course, we still had to catch the fish.

Fix it Dammit

Tools of the Trade: The Path to Bike Maintenance Nirvana

So your gleaming new bike is sitting in the garage, everything’s working just like you want it to and your happiness is approaching "clam". Best enjoy the moment, because sooner or later your trusty steed is going to need some kind of maintenance. When it does, you’ll hit a fork in the road-bike ownership road (a choose your own adventure if that’s more comforting) where you’ll need to decide how to fix this and the other future problems that will surely arise. As the GP Bike Maintenance Division sees it, you have three basic choices. Read on to see 'em and pick your poison.

Tomorrow's Gear, Today

The Best of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013

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.

Lighting Up the Backcountry

Tested: Goal Zero Solar

Even the most seasoned adventurer has had that terrible moment: miles from the car on an arduous hike back from the latest backcountry adventure, your headlamp sputters out on a moonless night. If you’d prefer to make it back to civilization in one piece -- and have a little luxury -- on your next mountain excursion, having back-up batteries and a solar charger goes a long way. We tested out some of Goal Zero Solar's newest back-up batteries and portable solar panels on a recent backpacking trip through the Uinta Range in northeast Utah.

The Gear for Rainier

Kit: Climbing Mount 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.

See you in T1

Kit: Ultimate Triathlon

For gearheads and Quantified Selfers triathlon is a chance to ride bikes that look like DARPA prototypes and collect more personal information about themselves than a Stasi collaborator, respectively; for Alphas it’s a chance to get ripped and grab bragging rights; for some people it’s just a fun way to get in shape. Whatever the reason, the tri gear is abundant. Sure, you could swim in your skivvies, hop on your Schwinn for the bike leg and run in some old Nike Mac Attacks -- but we'll do you one better with this kit.

An Ambit-ious watch for triathletes

Tested: Laying Bricks with the Suunto Ambit2 S

There are three reasons to wear the Suunto Ambit2 S, specifically: swim, bike, run. This GPS watch from Finland-based Suunto is designed specifically for the multisport athlete, capable of capturing all of the important data in each of the triathlete’s disciplines. All of this data can then be uploaded to an account on Suunto’s movescount.com, where you can analyze it, track progress over time and see how you stack up to other users. Jeremy Berger strapped it to his wrist for some grueling brick workouts.

Find your digital training partner

Computer Aided Drafting: 5 Innovative Training Technologies for Cycling

You can't manage what you don’t measure. That is true for endurance athletes tracking caloric expenditure and substrate utilization or weekend warriors just looking to stay fit. It is nearly impossible to know if you are getting stronger, faster and leaner without some tools for measurement. Thanks to our rapacious demand for data, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of devices and services to help improve performance, from GPS to power meters to physiological testing services. But even with all these advancements, we still find ourselves asking more of the the same questions: What should I measure? What do I do with the data? What technology should I actually buy? To help answer these questions we've got five training technologies that will help give context to your rides, improve your performance and best your training buddies.

You're welcome, snow

Tenom Sled

Anyone who's ever been a kid knows that winter-long reputations can be made and broken on the sledding hill. And any dad worth his salt knows that acquiring an unbeatable mode of downhill transport is his own personal responsibility -- one that's not to be take lightly. The little ones should be shuttled over fresh powder on something sleek, impressive and enviable. Something like the Tenom Sled (~$129), designed by Konstantin Achkov.

Cowabunga Camera

Soloshot Auto Tracking Camera Mount

One of the most glaring problems with surfing, biking, skiing and other sports is that you can't film yourself third-person while alone. How are you going to post it to social media and impress everybody? For the lone wolf type, the Soloshot ($479) auto tracking camera mount is the complete cameraman-sans-cameraman, perfect for your next DIY adventure film.

New winter gear

Best Gear of Outdoor Retailer 2013

Every six months all the major players in outdoor sports get together to show off their latest and greatest wares for the season. It's like Comic Con, except cool: Outdoor Retailer has been the launch platform for just about every groundbreaking piece of skiing, climbing, backpacking and paddling gear that's come to market. We were on the ground at this year's winter show, and here are the fruits of our efforts: the best gear of Outdoor Retailer 2013.

No cubes in this icebox

Black Diamond Ice Box

Guys like to climb stuff — trees, corporate ladders and, of course, icy mountains. The scarier, the better. The Black Diamond Ice Box ($80) is a great solution for storing lots of pointy gear that needs to be handy at a moment’s notice. The box holds four tools, a pair of crampons (stop giggling, dammit)...

Sick paddlin, brah

Three Brothers Paddle Boards

Northeast dwellers currently whimpering through this nasty cold snap may take solace in dreams of Three Brothers Paddle Boards ($1,200+). How can anyone not feel warm and fuzzy while imagining a calming upright cruise through warm coastal waters? Based out of Daytona Beach, Florida, Three Brothers hand shapes some of the best paddle boards —...

FISH ON!

ForTiTude Titanium Spinning Reel

ForTiTude Fishing's titanium spinning reel ($490) is stronger than the traditional aluminum and won’t rust or pit. This is especially vital in saltwater, where the elements attack gear like a piranha on a naive tourist's leg. The solid titanium construction is also 30% lighter than aluminum. That means slinging your Rapala at the weed line all day won't make you quite as stiff.

Serious Camp Solutions

Bush Smarts

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...

I ain't afraid of no snow

Kit: Best Winter Mountain Biking Gear

Winter is the time of year when we reflect on those epic single track rides that cleanse the soul and remind us why we ride in the first place. But it's also a season to remember that while you're sitting on the couch with your rig hanging on a stand your fitness is disappearing faster than the sun. Let's not let that happen. There's no need to hang up the bike when it gets cold.

Now we're really piste off

Kit: Backcountry Skiing Essentials

With record storms dumping fresh powder in the Rockies and Pacific Northwest, we couldn't think of a better way to ring in the New Year than celebrating with a trip to the nearest ski hill. What fun would a resort trip be without ducking under the safety ropes to sneak a few turns in the untouched backcountry? With that in mind, we've put together a list of gear that will be equally useful bombing through 20 inches of fresh powder and charging lines of freshly groomed corduroy snow inbounds.

Just in case

Putting SYSTM Smartphone Cases to the Test

A tsunami of protective cases soon follows every major smartphone release. Some are functional, some are stylish — but few are both, and most are forgettable. So when we were offered a trio of new cases from SYSTM to try out on an iPhone 5, we were understandably skeptical. A month of testing has proven...

Split the work

Homelite 5-Ton Electric Log Splitter

You've got your cabin. Built it with your own contracting work, on land you inherited from a rich second uncle. All that effort! And now you're expected to split your own wood for the long cold winter? Screw that. Ask grandma for the cash to buy a Homelite 5-Ton Electric Log splitter ($299) and relax with a Scotch on your wraparound front porch during all the free time you've earned.

Adventure-proof

Olympus TG-2

When you need a camera to schlep to the top of the Rocky Mountains, very few can get the job done like the Olympus TOUGH series. The line’s new 12MP Olympus TG-2 ($380) is no exception, thanks to the plethora of features loaded into this little shooter. For starters, you can take the TG-2 along...

The real gear you'll need to survive when it all falls down

Apocalypse Essentials: The Almost Serious Survival Guide

The world isn't going to end in 2012. But things could still get hairy sometime in the future. So, what would you need to carry on after the grid permanently dissolves? What are the necessities, and how could you improve your chances of accessing them over the long haul? As a team of curious souls, we decided to dive into the brain trust of the unsociably paranoid and prepared -- the sharers of secrets across dedicated survival blogs and forums -- in search of answers.

The connected outdoorsman's best friend

Wenger Portable Solar Chargers

A guy used to make it out of the wilderness alive with nothing but his wits and a sharp knife. These days, a stranded Average Joe sans cell phone might not make it to his next birthday, let alone his next Twitter feed update. Wenger has always made tools for the traditionalist survivorman; the master...

Get down(hill)

POC Receptor BUG Communication Helmet with Beats by Dre.

Music and snow sports go together like Rick Ross and cheese covered honeybuns, but squeezing your favorite cans inside a helmet is rarely a formula for comfort. The POC Receptor BUG Communication Helmet (~$330) skirts this dilemma by integrating Beats by Dr. Dre headphones into the helmet neck roll, which combines bass-heavy tunes with a...

Wear your heart on your wrist

Mio Alpha Heart Rate Monitor

Beyond catering to the fitness obsessed, this wonder watch would have been useful during that little apoplexia-inducing turkey feast we like to call Thanksgiving. Known as the Mio Alpha Heart Rate Monitor, this wristwatch on steroids “senses” the amount of blood under your skin and replies with a digital readout of your heart rate. Through...

It's not Jarvis...yet

Design Spotlight: Oakley Airwave Goggles

Oakley’s Airwave goggles are a new breed of advanced snow sport eyewear equipped with a heads up display that simulates viewing a 14-inch screen from five feet away when a user looks in the lower right corner of their peripheral vision. That description sounds confusing, but the important thing to remember is that the technology...

You Are My Sunshine

Design Spotlight: AE Light SolarMine Emergency Lantern

The Boy Scouts of America’s motto is simply “Be prepared”. They’re spot on: failing to do so can lead to some seriously bad outcomes when true disaster strikes. The AE Light SolarMine Emergency Lantern ($115) is made to give you light in exactly that unfortunate occasion, and having proved itself during Japan’s horrific 2011 earthquake...

Draw the Lines

XFire Bike Lane Safety Light

Biking in the city can be a wonderful experience, especially when the sun starts to fade and the world quiets down. Unfortunately, it can also be a deathtrap, overshadowing your pleasure with the fear of being made into road goulash by an oblivious suburban mom in an SUV the size of your 2nd grade classroom....