Best Outdoor Gear
A Gear of the Year post? Already? That can only mean…. No! But yes, for us it’s the end of the season. After seven straight months of work, record heat, and dry conditions in the Alps, it’s high time we head to a certain Greek island for some steep limestone.
Similar to 2017, when we produced our Run the Alps Switzerland book, 2018 was another year spent trail and peak running. But this year, much of it was for Swiss Tourism, to fill our Elevation : The Alps Trail & Peak Running Resource, the creation of the Via Valais, and for a mix of brands and editorial clients. While it was mostly in the Alps, we also skied in Kyrgyzstan and spent a month in Nepal to run the 3 Passes Tour. With all the running we did, much of our favorite gear is running related. For 2019, I hope to see more climbing and cycling stuff on this list! But for now, we’ll share what gear we feel deserves mention and support.
I discovered this shoe late in the season and absolutely fell in love. It immediately became my go to shoe for long days, like the Via Valais, and for Way Ups where I’d do some big descents. It’s more cushion than I’m used to, which at first made me think they’d be best for easier days. Instead, they proved speedy for technical terrain, sticky on those rock ridges we like to do, and all while being the most comfortable shoe I’ve used.
More than anything, it’s the fit that one me over. The Arc’Teryx Norvan LD holds my foot in place like nothing I’ve felt. My toes are right at the front of the shoe, but no matter how much I pound downhill, they don’t get crushed because from arch to my heel, I’m locked in place.
Also, I’ve been experiencing some pretty severe achilles pain that I never feel when I wear this shoe. But then, I put something else on and it’s right back. So, I go right back to the Norvan, and I stay there.
I’m at 400km on my first pair and they are still like new. I even like them so much I ordered additional pairs. I don’t want to find myself without them. -Dan
When I first saw this pack, I knew it was destined to find a home on my back. Combining an absolutely simple design with Dyneema fabric, and made by Exped – of course it’s going to be great. And so it is!
Exped is a brand that designs perfect, let me repeat, perfect, gear. Instead of adding things to packs, they strip things away, and what they’re left with is just right. Their gear, and especially this pack, exemplifies what I like in outdoor gear. Simple, light, right.
Even with the pack being ultra-simple, you have the ability to remove the hip belt and back padding insert. Even simpler!
While this pack is not for everyone, it’s comfortable, but not luxurious. It is for climbers wanting a light pack that can be hauled, beaten, and abused. Rain will not get in. It’s white. I love it. The Whiteout line will be available in spring 2019. -Dan
Earlier this year, Trail Butter released single serves of all three of their flavors. This confused us because we thought the 128 gram packs were single serves. Seriously, how can you stop squirting this stuff down your throat once you’ve popped the top? Okay, so it’s probably a weight issue… I suppose the new, and true, 32 gram single serve really is a single serving. Trail Butter is vegan friendly, and always tastes good. There’s never a time you’re not in the mood for Trail Butter. Never. And nothing beats their Dark Chocolate Coffee combo during a run. Nothing. Can you tell we really like Trail Butter? -Kim
There are a lot of battery packs out there, but what makes the Goal Zero Sherpa 15 stand out is the super thin, sleek design with built in lightning and Micro USB cables. It’s 130 grams including cables. For every day out, I throw it in the pack, forget about it, and later have a, “Oh thank God” moment when I remember I have it. This summer, we drained a lot of phone batteries while working on some trail routing – the Sherpa 15 saved many days.
While I’ve found it charges my iPhone 7 from zero to full, and that’s it, it doesn’t even show drain when charging my Bindi headlamp. My only issue with the Sherpa 15 is that you can’t plug a USB cable into it for output, which means it can’t charge a watch if you overnight at a hut. Overall, it’s a great battery and the one you will be most likely to take – and that’s the most important point. -Dan
We lived in these for Nepal and all this summer and fall. Neither weighs much (Jacket 261g / Vest 193g) but provides similar insulation to much heavier puffys. Thanks to their breathability, you won’t find yourself approaching melt down if you have to leave it on for high exertion, or on days where you transition from hot to cold temps. The fabric is soft and cozy on the skin, and dries faster than anything I’ve seen. Basically, I suspect some magic is involved. Read our full review here. -Kim & Janine
I wanted these shoes as soon as I saw them. They just looked fast. Designed for vertical running, they’re super light (230g) with an emphasis on the up performance. The great news is that they handle downhill as good as the up. With aggressive lugs and a sticky sole, they give me confidence on steep, rocky descents. A sure pick for a VK or racing shoe. For more info, read our full review. -Kim
A great combination of super light and super simple, plus 200 lumens is just the right amount of light for me.
Unlike so many lights out there, with push this, tap that, hold for 3 seconds then double click… the Bindi is on and off. Well, click (on), click again (brighter), click a third time (brightest), click one more time (off). It weighs 35 grams and takes up no room in my pack. And, it has a double lock system so it cannot accidentally get turned on in your pack. The battery time is somewhat limited, you’ll get about 3 hours on a mix of medium and strong. It’s so light, I’ve paraded around the Alps oblivious to it still being on my head during the day. -Dan
Our workhorse. For Way Ups, long days out, or multi-day runs, this pack carries the extra weight that needs to go along better than anything we have ever tried. You can see all the freight we carried in the Osprey 15L pack for our 9-day Via Valais here, and read our full review. Plenty of pockets keep everything organized, especially in the front and at the hip. It’s the dream pack for multi-day tours. The hip belt adds stability while the extra wide shoulder straps compress the whole pack tight against your back. That extra weight is not going to budge or bother you. -Kim
Patagonia gear gets special mention as we’ve found that they have nailed their line for trail running. Simple, well thought out and timeless designs are what we like. The Strider shorts were our favorite thanks to a well fit liner and comfy waist band. The capilene running shirts, both long and short sleeve, are super thin, light and dry faster than any fabric we’ve worn. Their runner’s trucker hat is breathable and with a fit for facing in either direction. And finally, quite possibly the pack of the year for most trail running days… the all new Slope Runner for 2019. These vests feel more like slipping into a piece of clothing, have just the right amount of easily accessed pockets, and use a back material membrane that let’s the moisture from your back breathe without soaking the inside of the pack. Again, Patagonia seems to be using some magic in their products. With both the Slope Runner 4 and 8 liter models, Patagonia has hit a grand slam. -Kim
This camera has revolutionized my life. It’s the third Sony RX100 I’ve owned, and this time, in the same league as my Sony a6500 which is my primary camera for trail running work. While the previous RX100’s allowed me to go as light as possible while still getting images that our clients can use, now, I have a camera I can really use for work. The image files are beautiful and with similar tonal range and detail as the proven a6500. For speed, if I want to nail a running or ski photo on the first go, I can shoot up to 24 frames per second. And, the focusing is the most accurate I have ever seen, on any camera!
For me, it’s incredibly liberating to go for a run, and especially a Way Up, and only take this camera, which can live in the chest pocket of a running pack. I shoot more because it is always in reach, and I am confident the images will be perfect for most any need. Need more convincing? All the running images you see by us are either from the a6500 or RX100 MVI. -Dan
With the base of the new ski season falling from the ski right at this moment, we can’t forget one of our favorite pieces of winter gear, Julbo’s Aerospace up and downhill goggles. As the name claims, you really can skin in these goggles. Sure, you can skin in any goggle, but we all know it kind of drives you insane when they steam up or feel like your eyes are in a microwave oven. With the Aerospace uphill downhill goggle, the lens pops outward, opening up an air vent and allowing ventilation to keep them from fogging and air moving on your face. What Julbo calls the SuperFlow System really works. And with the perfect amount of contrast and tinting, they work in all conditions, uphill, and down. -Kim