The Gear We Can't Live Without

Staff Picks: Ben Bowers, Managing Editor


Buying Guides By Photo by Jarry Truong
Editor’s Note: As a collective, the Gear Patrol staff is a wealth of knowledge about products. This series is our way of showcasing and sharing our insights and endorsements. Our hope is that you enjoy it all — and perhaps discover something new you’ll love too.

Efficiency, versatility, ingenuity and reliability are the qualities I expect from great products. I also draw unhealthy levels of satisfaction from grand ambitions executed down to the smallest details. The goods I prize (mostly) mirror this formula. Bonus points are awarded if it’s sold in black, white or grey colors.

Nomad Universal Cable

Today’s tech powers will never agree on a common connection standard. Maybe it’s one giant cable selling conspiracy. Nomad’s Universal Cable takes the place of four different charging cables associated with popular gadgets including USB-C, Micro-USB and Lightening. But my favorite part about it might just be the integrated rubber cable tie.

Uniqlo Men’s Long-Sleeve Sweatshirts

Athleisure is on the way out for cool kids. I’m still seizing every opportunity I can to get away with wearing functional basics. While I can appreciate the premium sweatshirts made by brands like Reigning Champ, the risk of infant barf on my shoulders is just too high at the moment to justify the spend. Uniqlo’s version looks fine and has held up amazingly well after repeated washes.

Topo Designs Commuter Briefcase

I’ve hunted for a three-way briefcase (a.k.a versions that can doubles as backpacks) for years, looking mainly at Japanese brands that are tough to get a hold of here in the states. The credit goes to Zach Mader for turning me on to Topo’s take on the design, which I’m now comfortable calling the best commuter bag I’ve ever used. It’s rugged, expandable, surprisingly comfortable as a backpack and steathly enough to look natural in most business settings.

Fujifilm X-T2

This is a gift to my wife that I’m always guilty of stealing. It’s big enough to hold comfortably without being a burden like my previous Canon DSLRs. Having physical dials for all major settings also makes manual shooting easy and the photos right out of the camera look fantastic, eliminating the need for extensive edits.

Airpods

At a high-level, I’m pissed at Apple for pushing headphone technology towards a future defined by brand ecosystem lock-in and proprietary technology. I can also admit though that the perks of being an Apple loyalist these days have never been higher thanks to the W1 chip. Traditional Bluetooth pairing has always been a dumpster fire and the Airpods are insanely easy to use in comparison. They are easily the best product Apple has released in years, and when the wireless charging case launches, they’ll be even better.

Steelcase Gesture Desk Chair

Steelcase designed the Gesture to accommodate the new work habits that have evolved alongside smartphone and tablet usage. Specifically, the brand’s global study of 2,000 workers revealed nine new postures not adequately addressed by the best office chairs on the market — like leaning back to answer a quick text. I’ve used this chair in my home office for a little over a year and now have trouble sitting on anything else. Its so-called 360 arms which rotate easily into nearly any position you could want make other chairs feel like antiques.

Nike Air Hurache Ultra

I can’t call myself a sneakerhead because I don’t put in the time to hunt down ultra-hyped pairs. Shoes are a weakness of mine though and having a wife that works in the footwear business only makes things worse. Huaraches are a personal favorite because they’re comfortable and easy to slip on and off while still staying laced, making them great for travel. The TPU sole also cleans up extremely well with just a quick wipe of a wet cloth. I own four different versions of this shoe right now and am always tempted to pick up new pairs.

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

I decided to read this after learning Bill Gates recommended it as the most inspiring book he’d ever read. Despite what today’s global news blitz might indicate, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker uses 832 pages of extensive research spanning the course of human history to illustrate just how much progress we’ve made in reducing violence and establishing concepts of fundamental human rights across the globe over the centuries. More importantly, he deciphers the actual drivers behind these societal changes, presenting a roadmap for how we can make further improvement. There’s obviously still plenty of work left to be done and many recent causes for concern, but this book is an excellent source of perspective for anyone losing their faith in humanity today.

Marpac Dohm-DS All-Natural Sound Machine

This little wonder helps me fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. It’s my secret weapon for staying energized throughout the day.

Muji Nylon Round Makeup Pouch

My obsession with cable organization is a natural extension of my love of charging cables. It’s designed for makeup, but this wide-zip pouch from Muji is the best solution I’ve found for storing power supplies neatly and efficiently. It’s smaller than the standard Tumi pouches you might pick up on a Delta flight, yet it holds more. The internal pockets also make it easier to grab individual items without needing to empty the entire contents of the case to find something.

Outlier NYCO Oxford

Outlier’s Pivot Sleeve design helped launch a new generation of functional workwear built to perform just as well on a commuter bike as it did in the office. Over the years the brand has released a variety of different Oxfords that incorporate the cut, all of which I’d classify as some of the best work shirts you can own. This version, in particular, is versatile, durable and looks great. I’m on a mission to replace all of my work and travel shirting selection with these in time.

Perlon Watch Strap

I love the sportier look of Nato Straps because I hate the way the additional hardware and fabric looks on my tiny wrists. The Perlon watch strap seems to be strangely overlooked style by most watch owners, and I don’t know why. It offers a similar rugged vibe with the benefits of a traditional buckle.

The Grail: Linn Klimax LP12 Turntable

The Sondek LP-12 line made by Glasgow-based Linn stands at the top of a crowded list of iconic turntables. Its story is also in many ways a microcosm of everything I love and hate about the Hi-Fi industry. Stereophile magazine called it the second “most significant turntable of all time” and reviewers at Hi-Fi Choice voted it “the most important hi-fi components ever sold in the UK.” There have also been legal disputes over the originality of its iconic design and criticism that its legendary status was the more the result of smart marketing by a charismatic founder rather than true sonic superiority. Both of these could be true. Setting one up is also notoriously tricky, creating a cottage industry for pro “tuners.” I love it mainly for vanity reasons. The table’s mixture of solid wood and machined aluminum feels timeless. The Klimax is the premier modern incarnation of the table equipped with the best components. I’d rather pay even more for an original version produced in the late 70s which are known to have richer sound.

All Our Staff Picks In One Place

All the gear we can’t live without. Read the Story