Adventure Essentials Buyer's Guide: Top Gear To Go Beyond

June 03, 2015

  • by
  • Peter Reese

Facing a gear selection conundrum?  Active Junky balances utility against size and weight with eight adventure essentials that earn their way down the trail and around the world.

Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Kit:  Adventure’s New Edge

Gerber kit Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Kit Starting at: $59.39 Active Junky testers took this can’t-miss-it combo to field and forest.  The two blade options tucked inside the carry-and-cut case, bringing legit cutting power to food prep, campfire building and wilderness chores.  Unlike other backcountry options, these two knives clean quickly despite their easy, sure grips and full-tang build; unexpected control, strength and precision is yours at the skinny price point.  The 7” long, 1.2oz paring knife (3” blade) has a modified sheepsfoot point and flat belly to penetrate and slice meat, cheese, wood, cordage, canvas and leather.  Take charge of frequent tune-ups with the built-in ceramic sharpener as you get done what needs doing.

Best For: Use as full kit in car and paddle-in settings, extracting one or both knives for B.C. adventures

McNett Tactical Gruntline: No Stretching The Truth

Mcnett gruntline McNett Tactical Gruntline Because life is messy.  Because the perfect tent anchor is still 6” away.  Because the wind kicks up.  Active Junky’s sold on an under-$20 wonder for front and backcountry use.  Gruntline earned its weight (.06lbs) when pegging the Big Agnes Rattlesnake tent proved problematic on ancient Chilean lava flows; wrapped around a rock and clipped to itself was the perfect solution.  Holding up to 20lbs and stretching to 7’, McNett Tactical’s practical genius includes several tie and clip options with integrated hardware.  Testers only struggled to keep the snake-like Line coiled in packs at it wanted to escape confinement and get to work.   Unleash it to replace bungees, paracord and webbing straps.

Best For: Home, car and wilderness deployment with no apologies

Black Diamond Orbit: Lightweight Lunar Luminescence

Blad diamond orbit006 Black Diamond Orbit Lantern $22.05 - $26.96

If a glow from above inspires you to seek wild places, pocket the Orbit without hesitation.  Use the clever dual-ring clip to suspend the 105-lumen frosted globe when seeing fine details is crucial (ala map reading).  Dim as needed to conserve battery power, releasing Orbit from vertical duty to serve as a sensible 50-lumen flashlight around camp.  In Chile, Orbit and the larger Voyager set the course for adventure; small packing, easy operation and steady bases characterized both rugged models.  Wise travelers keep Orbit close even when primary lighting comes from a headlamp; venturing into the great Out There is smarter when you’ve got enlightened company to back you up.  Use these rechargeables locally, employing alkaline cells when outlets are miles behind.

Best For: Backpacking and rafting, reserve light source during group trips

Mammut T-Peak Headlamp: Under-$50 Precision To Pierce The Night

Mammut t peak headlamp Mammut T-Peak Headlamp

Without being overly dramatic, this headlamp is exceptional.  Mammut’s precision lens design gets the most out of three LEDs with 90-lumen max output.  At 72g with a trio of triple-A batteries, T-Peak punches through moderate fog and precip; boost beam distance is rated at 70m.  In Colorado and Chile, the sure-ratcheting head allowed both navigation and close-in camp chores without blinding trip companions.  Of underrated importance was the double-click switch to keep battery power intact until backcountry activation.  Single-button mode and level control takes some practice when wearing thicker gloves but switches crisply and confidently.  In the past, Active Junky’s succeeded with other, larger Mammut models; T-Peak cuts the weight without compromising the mission.

Best For: Fast and light travel without or without hood or headwear

UCO Titan Stormproof Matches: Time Is On Your Side

Uco stormproof matches UCO Stormproof Matches - 2 Boxes Lighters have limits.  Flint-and-steel fire starters take skill and patience.  UCO puts a torch in your fingers to redefine the match option.  Testers in Chile’s Lake District (filled with volcanoes as well) found Titan’s prowess almost hypnotic.  In damp conditions or when locating tinder or primer fuel pan took time, this one continued to burn strong.  Surpassing already-generous 15sec burn times of other UCO matches, this new 25sec model kept pushing when winds kicked up or materials needed pre-heating to ignite.  Few products in the $10 range provide such clear-cut advantages to frequent trekkers as this one.  Extra strikers come in each box in the event wet conditions neutralize the heavy-duty cardboard sleeve.  Caution is advised as Titan is serious medicine for balky stoves or campfires and deserves respect when handling.

Best For: All-season ignition insurance, impressing at backyard barbecues

NiteIze 4’ Gear Line: Taking Care Means Raising The Bar

Nite ize gearline Niteize 4’ Gear Line

Take the high ground (air, actually) with this mash-up wonder from NiteIze.  Combining their S-Biner, double-gated carabiner clips with Active Junky-favorite Gear Ties and lightweight webbing proves to be a potent combination.  Anywhere attachment inside tent, cabin or RV transforms overhead and wall space into 100% utility.  One tester, a former raft guide, saw Gear Line for what it was at first glance;  “let’s get everything out, up and drying – now.”  Waterproof and completely adaptable to horizontal and vertical configurations, this one does everything except take you on belay.  Active Junky advocates the longer, 4’ version to maximize options at 129g total weight.

Best For: Trips longer than a single night; garage or gear closet organization back home

Suunto MCB NH Mirror Compass: 36g To Save The Day (and Trip)

Suunto mcb nh compass Suunto MCB NH Mirror Compass

While the testing team has access to a plethora of GPS-based electronic options, there’s security in analog devices including navigation.  At only about $30, MCB NH musters sighting and magnetic declination adjustments normally found at well over $50; the “NH” version factors in northern hemisphere variables, while “SH” heads south of the equator.  Liquid filled but capable of floating, this Finnish-made model carries a lifetime warranty in tandem with a high-grade steel needle and jewel bearing.  The lanyard is a nice add while the whistle is more novelty than life-saver (unlike the compass which carries it).  Buy one for yourself.  Share it with the group.  Give one as a gift.  Learn how to manage when clouds and cliffs make the way unclear.

Best For: All activities, four season primary use or back-up

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter: Take Anywhere Hydration Personally

Lifestraw sq Lifestraw Personal Water Filter A top piece of gear out of Chile; no questions, no reservations.  Active Junky testers, parched from extended afternoon traverses of lava flows, dipped fast and drew deep when water came within range.   At under 2oz, this tube of deliverance requires only momentary, exhaling backpressure to clear the bottom filter.  Trekkers estimated the water weight savings at over 20lbs, to say nothing of the stove fuel conserved from tedious boiling duties.  Under $20 buys you up to 1,000 liters of instantly drinkable aqua, stopping waterborne bacteria and parasites while reducing turbidity down to 0.2 microns.  No chemicals and delivering a steady flow rate, LifeStraw can be stored indefinitely for on-demand use.   Moving parts are left behind, as are iodine, chlorine and BPA.  While it seemed silly at first, the neck lanyard proved essential while hovering over streams and ponds.

Best For: Domestic and international travel, emergency preparedness at home

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