We’ve been meaning to put together a list like this for a while and here it is. Being in the outdoors alone is usually enough in and of itself but sometimes well made gear can just make the experience better. Great gear to us is when it doesn’t detract anything from our experience in the wild and only complements it, taking away little inconveniences that would otherwise distract us from enjoying our pursuits. When you’re exhausted, hungry and maybe a little scared dealing with poorly made gear can be the straw that tells us to turn around and give up, whereas exceptionally made gear that takes a burden off our shoulders can give us the motivation to push onward.
This list will likely change over the years so we will update with new posts as it does. It’s also not in any specific order.
Note: We have personally chosen and purchased all of these products. We receive no sponsorship to use them.
Our first Gore-tex hard shells (Our review here). Whether it be a day hike or an overnight trip through all 4 seasons these jackets are in our packs. On sunnier days they act as a wind breaker and when the weather turns for the worst, an all too frequent occurrence in the PNW, we use them to keep us dry and warm. Their bright colors would also aid in getting the attention of SAR if we were to get injured and call for help (I also like the color as it stands out well in photographs).
It just works. There are so many little features in the design of this jacket that it would be hard to give a quick synopsis of all of them, from the little pieces of sponge in the hem that stop the jacket from riding up when we have harnesses on to the multiple drawcords on the hood that allow it to be reshaped and configured on the fly depending on the conditions, needs and our activity.
We love them and feel naked in the mountains without them. They’re light, comfortable, functional and have never let us down. Some people comment that the price is too high, to them I say “you’ve likely never owned and used one of these jackets”. We’ve put ours through the wringer for close to 3 years now and I expect to get probably another decade or more out of them, at least. That kind of durability and reliability, coupled with Arc’teryx’s bomb proof warranty is why we love these jackets.
I reviewed the Marmot Quasar in December, 2012 (review here) and have continued to use it through Winter, Spring and into Summer. What can I say, I love it. It’s really, really light (238g’s). It’s hard to believe something this light is capable of keeping me as warm as it does. I used to carry around heavier fleece layers or my large winter down jacket for lack of other options, but now I just stuff the Quasar into my pack and go for day trips and overnight trips where the temperatures won’t be below -10’c.
The material feels really thin but is actually incredible durable. I’ve worn the jacket ice climbing, mountaineering and scrambling and it is showing no signs of wear. Another aspect of the jacket that surprises me is that it doesn’t bleed feathers. Everything else that myself and Spring have that is down (sleeping bag, jackets… etc) bleeds feathers through the seams or the material to an extent, but not the Quasar. I put this down to two factors, the strength of the material (Pertex Quantum) and the quality of the down (900 fill) which has less to no quills and barbs to poke through.
Also, I love the neon blue color. Contrasts well with my Orange Arc’teryx Jacket.
When we booked our ice climbing trip to Canmore, AB last Winter we decided to get some new crampons. After some extensive research and some advice from friends we settled on the Petzl Lynx Crampons for one big reason. Versatility.
Not only can you configure the front bail for boots with and without toe welts but you can configure the fronts points to be short, long, symmetrical, asymmetrical, dual point or mono point.
We found they just ate into the ice and provided a really stable platform to free us up to swing for our next ice tool placement.
We also love the LEVERLOCK heel bail. A problem we’ve noticed with previous crampons is that they seem to be designed for somebody in a warm environment with bare hands when in reality we are usually wearing gloves when putting crampons on and in the cold so our hands are a little stiffer. The LEVERLOCK system is designed to be simple and we found we could easily configure the heels of our crampons with gloves on without any issues.
We kinda got upsold and splurged on these goggles. Recently we took up skiing and had been using some cheap goggles that got scratched up easily and would constantly fog up. The range of vision in them was also limited to everything immediately in front of us. The Ski resort we had been learning at offered night skiing, which we loved. The runs were empty of people at night and we could head there after work to get a few hours of skiing in. The problem was our cheap goggles where designed for sunlight and made everything way to dark at night.
We got some advice from the sales rep at the store in the resort (Rookie mistake, we know) and he sold us the Oakley Airbrakes. At the time we had buyers remorse almost immediately as they are not cheap, but, after using them a few times we realized the old saying holds true “you get what you pay for”
It’s hard to express how awesome a pair of goggles can be. The range of peripheral vision in these goggles is amazing. They are extremely comfortable to wear and never fog up on us.
Their best feature though is that the lenses are interchangeable. Oakley has put a lot of attention into designing a lens swapping system (i.e. Switchlock) that makes it fast and simple to swap lenses with our big insulated skiing gloves on. It just works, and works really well. Now, when we spend a day at the Ski resort we start it with the dark lens to filter more UV when it’s Sunny and then can switch to the High Intensity Yellow lens when it gets dark or if it gets overcast.
This is going to sound really dorky but when Ski season ends and we have to pack our gear away we usually say: “You know what I’m looking forward to the most, having an excuse to wear those goggles again”. Highly recommended.
Here’s a short video we made when we just started learning to Ski. See these Goggles in action!
It’s an older GPS unit now but it’s a workhorse. I still see a lot of people using this model while out in the wild. Like with all our other favorite gear, this one just works. It records tracks accurately, gets a satellite sync quickly and has an excellent battery life (I use lithium AA’s). I also use it for navigating by road and finding restaurants and gas stations when passing through towns en route to our next adventure.
It’s great for telling us when the sunrise and sunset will be so we can set our alarms accordingly, and it’s also handy for guessing the names of nearby summits and then confirming them on my GPS. The topographical detail is amazing, plenty of times we’ve been able to avoid cliff bands and find easier routes up a mountain just from looking at the GPS map.
It has really taken a beating. I’ve used it down to -25’c and up to +30’c, dropped it numerous times in snow and mud and had it out in torrential downpours. I love it and don’t leave home without it.
I’ve used it many times when navigating in whiteout conditions such as the picture below.
6) Buff Headwear:
If you don’t already have one, get one. On almost every trip we have our buffs with us. We use them as neck warmers and face masks in the Winter, and headbands and wrist sweatbands through the Spring, Summer and Fall. We’ve also used them for eye masks when getting to bed early for an alpine start and a towel for soaking up some creek water to cool down our face and necks. The list of uses goes on and on and on… you get the idea. They’re cheap, light and have a multitude of uses, which is the perfect trifecta that all Outdoor Enthusiasts are looking for.
Watch this video for instructions on the many ways you can use a buff:
A less than glamorous item that likely spends most of its life stinking of sweaty socks but a crucial piece of gear in our opinion. We use them in our Scrambling, Mountaineering and Ski Touring Boots and have found that they definitely reduce stress and fatigue in our feet compared to the stock insoles that come with our boots.
They are also extremely durable in our opinion. I have one pair (i.e. Superfeet Orange) that I move between all my of my boots and they have lasted me over 3 years and show very little sign of wear and tear. Extremely happy with these.
Previous to buying this mattress we had been using large Big Agnes Dual Core inflatable mats. The Big Agnes mats are really comfortable, and we still use them a lot for car camping but we realized that bringing them into the mountains with us had a few drawbacks. 1: They’re heavier than is needed, 2: They take longer to inflate, 3: We’d need a bigger and heavier tent to house them, 4: They take up more space in our backpacks.
So, along with trying to cut down on our pack size and shelter size we decided to get smaller mats also. After some research we decided on the NeoAir XTherm.
Since buying them they’ve been used on all of our overnight trips into the wilderness. They pack down really small, are really light, quick to inflate and they keep us warm even through the depths of winter. They are pricey, but like I mentioned previously, you get what you pay for. This is a well made product that, in a world of manufacturers going stupid light and sacrificing function to shave off a few grams, manages to be really light and functionally better than a host of other mattresses for camping on the market.
I can’t express how much we love this sleeping bag. Myself and Spring both use it. It’s insanely light (1lb. 6oz or 624g’s), packs down into a ball I could fit in the palm of my hand, unbelievably comfortable and I’ve found the -1’c rating to be accurate for myself when using it with my XTherm mattress.
To get a sleeping bag this light I assumed I’d have to either sacrifice warmth or comfort. But this bag is half the weight of my last summer sleeping bag, more comfortable and warmer. It’s amazing. How they’ve managed to do this is by using 800 fill down and also making the bag constrict around your body using a special seam orientation and elasticized gathers in the material. This constriction reduces air pockets in the bag, which means you aren’t expending heat trying to fill empty parts of your sleeping bag. I imagined this constriction would feel claustrophobic but it actually makes the sleeping bag feel more comfortable than standard bags which don’t expand and contract as you move.
My next sleeping bag purchase will likely be the mont-bell super spiral EXP rated at -29’c for Winter use.
I’ve reviewed this stove on here before (MSR Reactor Review). What can I say, it continues to be amazing. We’ve used it on every camping trip we’ve gone on, from car camping on old Forestry roads near the trail-head of a hike to high in the rarefied air on Mount Rainier in Washington. It’s a workhorse and a show pony. It boils water really fast and looks good while it does it. Just twist on, ignite, boil, put away. I can’t describe how great it is to have such a reliable piece of equipment that provides us with such a vital resource, water. Most of our camping trips are near no running water sources so we usually have to melt snow and ice high in the mountains. Without an efficient stove system, the prospect of running out of water would be mentally draining as being even a little dehydrated can have a huge impact on the bodies ability to function.
Once this stove is in my pack I’m reassured that, regardless of weather conditions, it’s going to make water for us as quick as possible, and require as little energy from myself to do so. We love it!
Well that’s our list. If there is an item of gear or equipment that makes your experiences in the wild better or even just eases your mind a little we’d love to hear about them, either on our facebook page here: facebook.com/pebbleshoo or simply leave a comment below: