10 Pieces of Gear That Will Never Go Out of Style
Published on 09/11/2012
By Billy Brown
With every year that passes, there’s a host of new gear, new innovations, new inventions that are designed to enhance your time playing in the great outdoors. And while new gear is rarely a bad thing, it’s hard to overlook the tried-and-true classic pieces of gear that we’d never want to have to live without. Here are a few pieces of gear that we’ll always find useful.
We’ve been wearing wool base layers since the time of hobnailed boots. Back then, it was a necessary evil, what with the itchiness. Nowadays, the prevalence of merino wool has made wool an outdoors luxury item. The Icebreaker New Zealand wool is soft, warm (even when it gets wet), quick-drying, breathable, and heck, it even resists odor. Smelling good will never go out of style.
These geese know what they’re doing: down insulation is lightweight, warm (even when it gets wet), and it can packs down way smaller than synthetic insulation. Anyone who’s gone somewhere frigid knows the value of the down jacket, and until they find a way to synthesize a goose, down jackets like Eddie Bauer's MicroTherm are going to stay king for the foreseeable future.
It’s hard to improve on a classic, and for the celebratory shot on the summit, a good, tough flask is the way to go. We’ve taken Stanley’s Classic Flask up more peaks and on more trips than we can count. A wide mouth for easy filling (and emptying) and its tapered shape for a solid grip make the Classic Flask our pick for hauling our Maker’s around with us. Check out the Stanley Flask (Paste "55624" into search bar).
Nalgene’s Water Bottle
Nalgene’s classic cylindrical bottle has become synonymous with the outdoors. Following the BPA scare a few years back, Nalgene’s new and improved carcinogen-free bottles are still a solid choice for backcountry hydration. Just look at every pack in your local gear shop: the water bottle pockets look custom-made for Nalgene’s indestructible bottle. Even with the rise of the hydration reservoir, most hikers take a supplemental bottle along for the ride, and a good chunk of them are taking a Nalgene with them.
Synthetics materials can be more breathable, lighter, and they make hippies happy. But leather boots are just…leather. It’s tough, you can treat it to be waterproof, and like a fine wine, it just gets better with age. Breaking in a leather boot like the Vasque Bitterroot GTX is one of those experiences that most hikers can identify with, and one that future generations of hikers will appreciate (if not future generations of cows).
GORP (aka Trail Mix)
GORP stands for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts, but true beauty of GORP is that it’s whatever you want it to be. Generally a mix of nuts and fruit, you can adjust the ratios or swap in/out ingredients to make it your own. We knew a guy who just packed a bag of cashews and cranberries, while another guy would throw in chocolate nibs, banana chips, and almonds. Get creative – you can throw in all kinds of crazy crap. Trail mix is so ubiquitous that there’s an etiquette to sharing a bag. An extended stay outdoors just wouldn’t be the same without a bag of it.
It’s gonna rain. Or snow. Or hail. Pick your poison, really – the point is, nature’s always going to try to find a way to get you wet, and unless you’re at the lake, or on the river, getting wet is a great way to wreck your trek. Since GORE-TEX’s inception in (when) waterproof/breathable storm shells have been key to braving inclement weather. People can (and will) debate the breathability of any waterproof jacket, but there’s one thing we can all agree on – jackets like the Arc'teryx Alpha SV Jacket with GORE-TEX technology are a huge improvement over those plastic tarps/sauna jackets our granddads wore.
It’s a sweater for your head. Plain and simple. They’re warm, they (usually) look good, and they don’t take up much space in a pack. Before the rise of helmets in snowsports, just about all you ever saw on a snowboarder or a skier was some kind of beanie (don’t talk to me about earmuffs), and any fall/winter hiker will rock some form of beanie or another. Nowadays, the designs are getting more and more interesting, integrating headphones and full-face coverage, including this awesome faux-beard beanie.
Chaco sandals are just about synonymous with “outdoors.” You can’t spend 10 minutes in a gear shop without hearing someone go on about the Chacos they’re wearing and how they’ve lasted for 20 years, hiked to Macchu Picchu, rafted the Grand Canyon in them, crossed the Sahara, you get the point. Fact is, Chacos are tough, man. And they’re simple – a hard rubber sole, with a single piece of webbing winding through it, so you can adjust every strap to perfectly accommodate your foot. Plus if you’re hard-core enough to actually wear it out, they’ll replace the straps or resole the sucker for you, so that 20 years can turn into 40.
Of course coffee’s going to be on this list; a writer is making it. While it’s true that there are a few who abstain, it’s also true that some of us need coffee to keep our hearts beating. Not only is it the nectar of the gods, but coffee is getting easier and easier to pack around with you. While it’s still possible to bring along a French press and drink it the traditional way (link to the jetboil press), we love the convenience of Starbucks’ Via packs. Just pour it into hot water and it’s ready. Thank you, modern science.