The Value Proposition

The Best Bang for Your Buck Gear


August 23, 2019 Buying Guides By

At Gear Patrol, we spend a lot of our time with lavish objects: the burliest vehicles, the fastest bicycles, the prettiest dive watches, the smoothest espresso machines. But the truth is that once we’re done putting these things through their paces, we send them back to where they came from. (It’s okay, we don’t have enough space in our garages as it is — actually, none of us have garages).

We love getting our hands on the upscale stuff, partly because it gives us a better appreciation for the things that we can actually afford. It helps us discern luxury for luxury’s sake, and also quality at a bargain. That’s what we’re exploring here — the objects that feature the highest degree of excellence at the fairest price, making them worthy of space in our non-existent garages. In other words, these staff-approved picks offer the best bang for your buck.

Darn Tough Tactical No-Show Cushion Socks

You might ask: “Seventeen dollars for a pair of socks, you might ask? Are you crazy?” Yes. However, these darn tough Darn Tough socks are backed up by a lifetime warranty. Yes, the insane Vermonters who make them will actually replace the socks when they wear out, which means that they literally last a lifetime. Now that $17 doesn’t sound like such a bad deal, does it? —Oren Hartov, Associate Editor

Honda Civic Si

Gearheads often banter about the idea of the “one car” — the sole model you would buy to check as many boxes as possible. This usually takes the form of some six-figure speed machine from AMG, Porsche or BMW. But for the money, no car offers the combination of driving involvement and everyday versatility that the Civic Si sedan does.

The Civic Si’s 205-hp turbo engine makes it quick, but it’s that combined with the six-speed manual gearbox, limited-slip differential, active dampers with MacPherson Strut suspension up front and multi-link suspension in back that make it fun. On a more reasonable front: there’s room for four grown adults inside; it gets nearly 40 miles per gallon on the highway; a 450-watt stereo with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto means those road trip miles will breeze on by. Sure, it may lack some luxury features, but for a starting price of $24,300, more than $12,000 under the average new car transaction price, it’s practically a steal. —Will Courtney, Editor

Volcom Vorte Slim Fit Jeans

I’ve worn lots of jeans over my years of working for men’s lifestyle publications, including many that cost hundreds of dollars. And there are certainly some at those high price points that boast corresponding quality. But often these jeans score higher on style than they do on durability. Meanwhile, my Volcoms cost just $60 to $70 (depending on color), and they seem to last forever. I’ve bought several pairs and wear them regularly to do everything from office work to motorcycling to socializing, and they unfailingly look and feel fantastic. Raw selvedge heads may turn up their noses at these humble dungarees, but the rest of us will smile silently as we save our money for Scotch and steak. —Steve Mazzucchi, Editor

CRKT Squid, Black with D2 Blade Steel

I’ve had a CRKT Squid as a regular part of my adventure kit for years now. I’ve found it to be a reliable go-to for a one-hand-opener that’s basically indestructible. It’s easy to sharpen by hand and looks just as good clipped to my pocket in the wild as it does alongside my watches and wallet on my dresser. —Kyle Snarr, Head of Marketing

Cole-Parmer Dust It

All gear gathers dust. Watch collections, keyboards, display ports, fishing reels, nooks, crannies. Dust finds a way. The Dust-It makes little noise and compared to the Aerosol versions, is eco-friendly and will last far longer. That said, it is not as much fun to use upside down as the Aerosol version. —Tim Murray, Account Executive

Lezyne Steel Floor Drive

A bike pump is something one generally buys out of frustration. Something is flat, needs air and you’re left without the correct tool for the job because either a) you have never owned a bike pump, or b) your previous shitty plastic bike pump crapped out or got so bad you threw it away.

I generally don’t jibe with the whole “buy it for life” movement — I think it’s an oversimplified approach to how people consume things — but this Lezyne pump has replaceable parts, is made of honest, simple materials and costs an entirely reasonable $60. Buy it in a moment of peace and try not to think about how beautiful the far more expensive Silca Superpista Ultimate is. —Henry Phillips, Deputy Photo Editor

Sunski Dipsea Sunglasses

Buying $20 sunglasses from the local bodega can be tempting when I’ve forgotten a pair at home or realized that my last pair is all scratched up from getting thrown in my suitcase again and again. But the truth is, those just don’t last that long. Plus, I end up spending more money, in the long run, trying to find new ones that can replace my old ones.

Sunski’s Dipsea shades are just $58 and work through sweat, rain, wind and snow. I’m partial to the tortoise, but there are six different frame colors to choose from. Sunski created sunnies that would last longer than a gas station pair, plus provide you with much more sun protection. On top of all that, the resin is made from scrap plastic, meaning these are sustainable too. And if you forget to put the sunglasses back in their case before tossing them in your gym or overnight bag (as I often do), each pair comes with a lifetime warranty, so you can count on getting them fixed. For $58 it’s hard to find a better looking and better-priced pair than Sunskis. —Meg Lappe, Staff Writer

Seiko Prospex “Turtle”

You simply can’t deny the value proposition that Japanese watchmaking superstar Seiko is known for. The “Turtle,” nicknamed for its case shape, is not only comfortable and fun to wear (as well as to match with different straps), but it can probably last you for multiple decades. The brand’s fit and finish are regularly compared to Swiss watches costing much more, and a hardy automatic Seiko movement powers the Turtle. On top of all this, it’s just got a killer classic look and will be recognized and respected by in-the-know enthusiasts. That’s pretty hard to beat, even at its roughly $500 retail price, but it’s frequently discounted, offering an even better value. —Zen Love, Associate Staff Writer

Opinel No. 8 Folding Knife

Opinel’s No. 8 folder is simple: a 3.35-inch 12C27 Sandvik stainless steel blade, a wood handle (beechwood is the classic choice), and a swiveling collar lock. But it has what many other knives don’t — heritage. Joseph Opinel made the first version of the No. 8 back in 1890, and it hasn’t changed a whole lot since. It’s handsome, versatile, iconic and, somehow, less than $20. —Tanner Bowden, Staff Writer

The Gear We’d Buy If Price Was No Object

The gear our staff is dreaming about right now. Read the Story

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