Recent Travel and Outdoor Gear Finds

I’ve been known to obsess over the things that I carry with me. But that’s because I want to move as freely as I can, whether it be high in the mountains or through an airport. Having less, being lighter, and not having to worry about all the extras equals optimization.

When you travel a lot and live and work in the mountains, you need your gear to be minimal while also being the best tool for the job. In the last year, I’ve been living out of bags nearly nonstop. All around the Alps, the US, throughout Europe, and twice to the Himalaya. Whenever I’m on a lengthy travel program I find myself back in optimization mode. Lately, I’ve made some big changes in my systems and discovered some very good things that I thought I’d share.

* With the exception of FATMAP, for whom I am an athlete, and Patagonia, who I work as a photographer for, I am in no way affiliated with any of the things I’m recommending.

These are a few of my favorite finds.

Aeropress XL

An odd one for the list, but perhaps the most important. I have always struggled with finding a coffee making system for travel. It needs to be light, simple, hard to break, easy to clean, and flexible with what coffee and grind goes into it. And it needs to be able to produce more than a shot of Euro sized coffee. It needs to be an American quantity. And it needs to be quality. A tall order. 

I’ve used the Aeropress at home, dialed in my system thanks to James Hoffman,  and always loved the simplicity and taste. When  the XL size became available, it solved my longtime dilemma of loving the Aeropress, but never having enough coffee. Now, I have quality and quantity in a pretty indestructible system.

Windy

Are we still debating the best weather apps? Apparently, I am. This one deserves praise for being the most accurate app no matter where I go. The ultimate test was in the Khumbu Valley where the only forecasts that have ever seemed reliable came from custom expedition forecasting by experts who study precise locations.

I was in the Everest Region with some pro climber friends and they recommended Windy Premium. I had already noticed they were calling the weather perfectly each day and using the Meteogram for cloud and pressure forecasts.

I paid up and discovered all kinds of useful tools.

  • Meteogram : Especially useful in mountain regions. Weather info on a scale that also includes cloud deck elevation, a pressure curve, plus wind and precip by elevation.
  • One hour forecasting
  • Predictive radar
  • Comparative forecasts – see six different forecasting models for any area. This is especially useful if you travel to different mountain regions where some forecasts are better than others. Once you determine the most reliable model, you can switch to make that one the default.
  • A slider allows you to see wind conditions for any elevation – very useful if you are going to climb peaks and want to see how much wind you’ll be ascending into.

FATMAP

I’ve been using FATMAP for many years but it wasn’t until the fall of 2023, and again, in the Himalaya, that I realized just how good it truly is. The same friends who turned me on to Windy, all pro climbers and Chamonix based mountain guides, were using FATMAP to study the landscape for a climbing objective. I was there running and primarily scoping trails. Inspired by their determination to find terrain features, I started honing in on remote valleys without marked trails and voila, I discovered faint paths or enough detail of ground cover that helped me make decisions about routes. This changed my running plans as I was able to confidently explore new areas and access glacier valleys that ended up great for running.

Coros

This was a big update, and one I agonized over. I’ve been a Suunto user since the 90’s with years of data on their platform. Plus I knew the watch interface and app very well. But, even with their flagship model, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro, I was having a variety of issues. The chest strap heart rate monitor wouldn’t reliably or consistently work. I tried the Suunto and Polar straps, but both regularly failed to connect or provide consistent data. In addition, the wrist HRM function on the watch could not have been any less accurate. This started to sour me on a brand that charges so much money for a product that simply doesn’t work. Then the Suunto app updates seemed to introduce problems rather than fix them. And finally, my watch shut down while charging and I couldn’t get it to restart. The exact same thing happened to a friend, and her calls to customer service resulted in being told she’d likely have to buy a new watch if service couldn’t fix it. The watch was only 9 months old.  Thankfully, mine restarted on its own but continued to not work with any HRM, and a few weeks passed before hers resurrected as well.

Meanwhile, I had heard very good things about Coros and my own coach was heaping praise on how well the armband HRM functioned. After another run without heart rate data, I’d had it with Suunto and pulled the trigger – I ordered a Coros Apex 2 Pro.

Learning the Coros system took some time, but it was immediately obvious I was in possession of a very well made piece of tech. The app worked perfectly, seamlessly connecting to the watch and armband HRM. I immediately enjoyed accurate HRM numbers and the graphs revealed no drops in the connection. Plus, the armband is rechargeable, showing the charge right in the app – a feature I appreciate after loathing not knowing the battery charge in the Suunto strap experience.

I’m not going to list out what I prefer about Coros over Suunto because it is truly everything. Coros feels like it is a watch made by mountain athletes for mountain athletes. Okay, I’ll list one thing… Creating workouts that you can save in the app with their adjustable tiles is a gamechanger. For running, click on warm up and set time, click on training, define the workout using dropdowns, set the time(s). Click on cool down, set the time. Want to do a strength workout? Define the muscle group, choose from a massive list of workouts, select options. The app records what muscle groups you’re training, or neglecting, with a visual. 

There’s so much to love about this system. And I didn’t even mention how good the battery life is! 

Rehab Science: How to Overcome Pain and Heal from Injury by Tom Walters

With a nagging achilles issue, I decided to seek help. But many of my stopovers have been too brief to schedule a visit to the physical therapists I work with. This is my first achilles pain and I know to take it very seriously. Googling scares me. As a result, I’ve been confused about what to do because continuing running is not making it worse, but it’s not making anything better.

Social media has repeatedly reminded me of Tom Walters book Rehab Science. I follow Tom on Threads where he regularly shares great info while referencing his book. I decided to hit the buy button.

And wow, this is a piece of work. He nails the info athletes want to read about pain and injuries, both chronic and acute. Very detailed prevention, recovery and strengthening exercises are included for all the body parts we athletes typically need help with. I can’t report back on any results as I am still digging into this book and its hundreds of pages of info. But I can say this is a major educational resource to help prevent or recover from injury.

Patagonia Terrebonne Joggers

Thinner, lighter, and more packable than tights, Patagonia’s Terrebonne joggers recently got added to my go-to trail running pant selection. At 170 grams, they’re around 60 grams lighter than tights and easily slip on over running shorts. They pack into a tiny bundle, easily slide into a running vest, provide plenty of warmth and wind protection for cold starts to warm days, and ease the mind in case of “Oh shit” weather changes. Finally, the loose, casual fit is appreciated when you have to do post run errands and wearing tights is suboptimal. They are also ideal for travel, as you can go from transit to trail without a change.

Nitecore Battery Bank

This tiny little fella has proven to be one of the best finds to shave weight while traveling. Once again, I first saw the Nitecore in Nepal. Ultralight, super efficient gear was key for a month of solo travel. I noticed several other travelers using a super small carbon battery, the Nitecore NB10000. It weighed nothing compared to my Goal Zero yet had more capacity. At 150 grams, it has 10,000mAh vs. the Goal Zero Venture 35’s 290 grams with 9600mAh. I can charge my phone just shy of two times from a dead battery. It charges my Coros watch and Coros HRM strap to full without dropping one bar of power. It’s so small that I don’t hesitate to drop it into my pack whether I’m headed out for a long day or an entire trip where it’ll be needed.

Shokz Open Run Pro Headphones

Bone conduction headphones?

I’d heard about them, and suspected I spotted some when I saw a guy on a flight with his headphones seemingly falling out of his ears. But, I never gave them any consideration until a pair were handed my way by a friend so I could try. 

The whole bone conduction thing is like magic. The headphone is not in your ear, it’s in front, and you can simultaneously hear what it is you’ve got streaming and the birds chirping, cars coming, or feet crunching. Somehow it all balances out into a nice soundtrack. I will say that for me they’re better for podcasts than music as I can’t get my metal loud enough.

I’m a pretty regular headphone user, especially for dank forest runs and long flights, both of which I do on a very regular basis. My system has always been one earbud in for listening and one ear free for whatever might be chasing me.

I found only great reviews for the Shokz Open Run Pro, and then found they were on sale. I haven’t tried any other brands, but these sure make me happy. I do feel like I’ll only use them while active as the strap on the back of the neck doesn’t allow you to lean your head back on a seat’s headrest. But, I do find myself wearing them at home so I can be tuned into something I want to listen to and into what’s going on in the house -maybe a little rude, but better than noise canceling. 

The Shokz instantly pair with my phone and are fully controlled with buttons on the headphones. Finally, the battery life is great and the 8 hours Shokz claims seems realistic. 

By Dan Patitucci

Before you click away…. Is there anything you’ve found recently that deserves mention? Leave it in the comments for us all to consider

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