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’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
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
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.
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
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...
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
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
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.
Slowing down to the speed of fish
Fix it Dammit
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 —…
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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…