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Best Outdoor Products - 2

We put out a call to our local outdoor crowd asking for best / favorite products and the good ideas have kept rolling in. A lot of excellent products that you might consider for yourself or others were listed in the first installment of this article. Here are a lot more recommendations from active locals.

Mike Rolfs (skier, climber)
  • Jetboil Sol Titanium, $150. "For winter hikes, this stove lets me carry dry food that weighs less. It also allows me to melt snow for water, thus carrying only one liter of water is reasonable, no matter how long the day (or days). For summer, I enjoy the convenience of a light stove that is quick to fire up and easy to stow. No dirty fingers from priming a white gas stove, no cool-down wait, no problem turning it off between cups of coffee. In winter, I use one small fuel canister per day per person. In summer, one small canister lasts several days."  (Nathan Woodward also places a seal of apporval on the Jetboil Stove: "Nice to carry when ski touring as it relieves 'water anxiety'. About the size of a Nalgene bottle and I'm pretty sure it weighs less.")

Photo: Mike Rolfs happily showing off his second love.

  • Platypus Platy 2-Liter Water Bottle, $13. "Weighs almost nothing.  Usually stored empty and rolled up in, protected in the hydration pocket in my pack.  This is handy for gathering water for camp, or for an extended period with no water access.
  • Osprey Exos 58 Backpack, $219. "Very lightweight, but with the capacity to carry ski boots inside with overnight gear.  External tensioned mesh back and aluminum frame keep the pack off my back which keeps me cool."
  • Black Diamond Whippet Ski Pole. $100. "For summer skiing, many slopes are firm with unpleasant obstacles below.  Even moderate slopes could result in uncontrolled slides into dangerous terrain.  I carry either a whippet or a light axe on all summer snow adventures, but I prefer the whippet because I can use it while skiing."
  • Thermarest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad. $130 - $180. "Weighs only 8 oz. (Size Small) and provides a comfortable cushion. Keeps my hip bones off the ground. Part of an excellent ultra light sleep system. I use the short size pad which supports me from my hips to shoulders. I empty my pack and use it as the pad under my legs and feet." (Editor's Note: Hanne Beener even has given high remarks to the likes of the Thermarest NeoAir Sleeping Pad: "I was very skeptical of these flimsy-looking pads at first. I started seeing a lot of them used on a scraped off patch of bare dirt—no groundcloth or anything—and these mattresses did not pop. Impressive, and LOTS of comfort. Also, the bag you store the mattress in can actually be used as a pump.")
  • Olympus Mountain Gear Telemark Tech System (TTS) binding, $399. "I think this is the best skiing telemark binding out there. In addition to skiing great, it's tech toe has the same advantages as the Dynafit tech touring binding for touring efficiency and releasable safety. The heel retention system is adjustable and active, and it allows telemark skiing without the duckbill. I use the discontinued Scarpa F1 boot with this system.  There are other telemark boots with tech fittings, but none that meet modern touring standards for weight and range of motion in walk mode.  I fear that when my stash of backup F1's is gone, I will be forced to switch to AT for backcountry touring, but until then, this system is unbeatable for telemark mountain access."
Scott Stroming (bicyclist, kayaker, skier)
  • "As I become more recreational and less competitive,and more budget conscious and less fashion conscious, I find myself migrating toward gear that is useful for many outdoor activities. That being said, I have some 'favorite' items that are not really brand specific. I recommend any sort of windproof fleece neck gaiter, good for any cold weather activity. I also recommend full-side-zip fleece pants (mine are from Marmot) and full-front-zip breathable lightweight waterproof shell (mine is a North Face). My waterproof shell also pairs nicely with other warmth layers worn underneath like a fleece-lined jacket. Additionally, I tend to use bike jerseys for many non-biking things like skate skiing or hiking. For kayaking, I really like my fleece head-to-toe suit worn underneath my dry suit."
  •  Garmin Edge 500 Bike GPS, $250. "As far as a 'fun' product, I really like my Garmin Edge 500 Bike GPS device because it has a lot of cool features including heart rate monitor, temperature, percent grade, and ascent/descent. I use it while biking but also put it in a breast pocket when hiking or skiing and it tracks my activity. It's also waterproof. The fun part is downloading it onto Garmin Connect when you get home, and it automatically overlays your trip onto a topo map -- this gives you data points, so you can see how fast you were going or how anaerobic you were at the more memorable points of your trip. It also lets you see what trips other folks have downloaded in your area. It's not an essential product,but is awfully entertaining to use and makes getting outdoors even more fun."

Carin Smith (hiker, snowshoer, whitewater kayaker)

  • "Miscellaneous essentials for me include: Advil, Chapstick, sunglasses straps, and a sun visor – the kind with the strap made of curly elastic material. More specifically I love my Merrill hiking boots, Chaco sandals, Gu Paste (I would hit the wall without it), and the MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes (described in the first installment)."
  •  Black Diamond Ultra distance hiking poles, $160. "I was recently given a pair of these specifically because I've complained hiking are too heavy and cumbersome. These are super light and very compact when folded up. I love them!"

Bill Wicheta (hiker, rock climber, mountaineer, mountain biker)

  • Black Diamond Spot Headlamp  $40. "I don't like battery packs in the back, they seem bulky and the power cord is a point of weakness. The Spot has 3 AAA batteries in the front and it has two brightness settings, red light, lock-off feature, and several other features. The new version puts out 110 lumens of light on high beam -- that's why the older version (90 lumens bright) is currently on sale at many stores."

  • Mountainsmith Vibe TLS Small Lumbar Pack, $30.  "I have used one for years when trail running and city running, especially while traveling. I can park somewhere and not leave my valuables in the car because this pack fits my wallet, cellphone, keys, and even a compact camera inside. I also use it running here in Wenatchee when I am on-call and must have my cell phone with me. I have also used the bigger fanny by Mountainsmith, the Day TLS ($84), for years, and it's great when you want more capacity for mountain biking, cross-country skiing, or trail running. You can carry an extra clothing layer, a slightly bigger camera, and/or a water bottle on your hips rather than having a more cumbersome pack bouncing on your back."
  • Sea to Summit Delta InsulMug, $17. "This is my new favorite backpack mug that I've been using for over a year. I want some insulation with a top to keep my drink warm, thus am not interested in the featherweight costly titanium mugs.  It's very compact."
  • Sea to Summit Head Net, $12. "Some people say, 'bugs don't bother me.' Well, they do bother me. Although DEET minimizes the numbers of bites you'll get, sometimes it's nice not to be nearly inhaling bugs with every breath. This item is featherweight, small, and cheap. On those trips where I've really needed it, it was best used with a brimmed hat that kept the netting off my face."

  • Mountain Hardware Butter Balaclava, $20. "My favorite balaclava is the Mountain Hardware Butter Balaclava. It is so compact, I often shove it into pant pockets out on climbing excursions where it is handily available to whip on and off as needed. OK, it's not for Everest, but it can make a big warmth difference with a minimal weight addition. I find myself often using this at night in my sleeping bag, too. I also use this for running in cold weather. I own a couple of these because I hate not to have one on hand."
  • Feathered Friends Daybreak Hooded Jacket, $275. "The Daybreak Hooded Jacket is expensive, but it is so light and compact (9.5 oz) you can always have that extra layer along on those trips when it's not cold enough for a big down jacket. It's even light enough that you can bring it along with a heavy down coat -- makes you ready for really cold conditions."
  • Feathered Friends Helios Down Pants. $240. "I have used these pants for years. They let me skimp on sleeping bag weight and bulk (I often bring a 40-degree bag), as I sleep in these pants (13oz), a down jacket, and a balaclava. Then you have the advantage of wearing these around camp on cold mornings or evenings. The main drawbacks are the price and the fact that they aren't water proof. I love the side zips."
Steve Godfrey (hiker, backpacker, snowshoer, cross-country skier)
  • Tarptent Cloudburst 3. $319. "A 3-person backpacking tent that's lightweight enough (3 lb,1 oz with stakes) that you can use it as a two-person tent."

Nathan Woodward (whitewater kayaker, backcountry skier)
  • 550 Paracord. $6. "Very packable piece of equipment. I think it's always worth carrying 50 feet of the stuff for random needs and gear repairs."
  • Patagonia Women's Ultralight Down Hoodie. $349. "A hooded down jacket is probably the most useful insulation layer you can carry virtually any time of the year. A bunch of companies make something similar. I think the hood is critical, because then you don't need to mess with a hat."

  • Black Diamond O1 Telemark Binding. $300. "It seems as if there are not many tele-folks left for touring. This binding skis as well as any telemark binding I've ever used and still has a free-pivot touring mode. It's also pretty easy to find under $200 new and in the $100 range used, so it's cheap as bindings go."
  • CREE XML T6 Bicycle Headlight. $20. This light is pretty well made and, Holy Cow, it's super bright (1200 lumens!). This rechargeable light delivers far-and-away the best lumen-per-dollar ratio of any on the market. If I were a real serious night rider I'd go with two lights, one on the helmet and one on the bars. I haven't gotten even close to draining the battery yet and I've done 2 hour rides with it. I find climbing on the lowest light setting and descending on the brightest setting is ideal. I find the best way to carry the battery is to toss it in a hydration pack. The WIde Angle Lens, $5, for this light is a critical part for making the light good for mountain biking. Out of the box the light is too focused and does not spread out well. With this light diffuser, the light is far more usable."

Dan Dietzman (bicyclist, runner, skier)

  • Defeet Duraglove Wool Charcoal$23. "My most used product is the Defeet Wool Duragloves. Being wool, they work in multiple temperature ranges. I use them for ski touring and running in the winter, road and mountain biking in the spring, winter and early mornings. They are my go-to glove for cyclocross racing, and even for upland bird hunting."

Sharon Lunz (rafter, sea kayaker, whitewater kayaker, cross-country skier)

  • Exped Synmat 7 M Air Mattress. $129. "My most appreciated outdoor gear upgrade was purchasing an Exped air mattress. Realizing that between a Grand Canyon trip and a long sea kayak trip  I would be spending five weeks sleeping on the ground  during a recent summer, I asked around for recommendations something more comfortable than my Therm-a-Rest. A friend let me borrow the Exped mattress and I love it. I sleep as well as I do at home, which I could no longer say for the Therm-a-Rest. It is well worth the extra effort to inflate it, and with the insulation, it is super warm. There is no going back to anything else!"

Mike Bills (runner)

Terry Sorom (hiker, paddler)

  • Meindl Lightweight Hiking Boots. $220. "I've had more than a usual amount of difficulty with footwear over the last ten years, presumably because feet change with age. However, I bought a pair of boots from Cabelas last year and they have been great. Hiked in Croatia and to Buck Creek Pass this fall with no problems. The boots were pricey ($220) but miserable feet make for a miserable trip. So these are worth it... I think."

John Plotz (rock climber, mountaineer, skier)

  • Belay Goggles$90. "I love to lead climb for the physical and emotional challenge of it. I thrive on engineering protection points that will hypothetically keep me safe in case I fall. But most of all, I lead climb because I hate belay duty! I've spent too many hours at the bottom of cracks belaying my partner  with my neck craned painfully upwards. Over time, this can cause me significant stiffness and discomfort when your partner refuses to finish his endless lead. This prolonged cervical compression cannot be good. Enter the belay goggles. This nifty tool looks like a normal pair of glasses but with the lenses flipped down in front of the frame.  They use light bending prisms that allow the belayer to keep his/her neck in a straight, neutral position while belaying. It truly is a godsend, and  there are many brands available at decent prices. And if any of my climbing partners are reading this, just because I have a pair of belay goggles doesn't mean I will be willing to belay more."
  • Petzl Mini-Traxion. $84. "A lot of my regular climbing partners have 'regular' lives beyond climbing. I have never quite understood this, but whatever. It does pose a problem when I can't rouse them to climb with me 5 days a week. In those partnerless times, I am never denied by my Petzl Mini-Traxion. This device, when placed on a rope anchored above me, gives me a self-belay. And with it I can actually log a lot more vertical feet of climbing than I do when I climb with another person. Bah! Who needs 'regular' people anyway?" (Editor's note, John wrote an interesting article describing how he uses the Mini-Traxion to climb three or four times more rock alone than when climbing with a partner...not that he's anti-social or anything.)

Larry Goldie (Owner & Lead Guide at North Cascades Mountain Guides)

  • Petzl E-Lite Emergency Headlamp. $30. "This little one-ounce lifesaver can get lost in your pocket, live for ages in a first-aid kit, reside in the top lid of a pack or occupy the glove box of a car. For all its smallness, it still provides enough light to hike or ski out of dark places. It's something I am almost never without."
  • Voile Ski Strap 9" - 25". $3 - $6. "Use one to hold skis together, repair almost anything, turn your jet-boil into a hanging stove (with some cord), help create a backcountry sled, form a lower grip on your ski poles, be a power strap on your ski boots, and - if you file a point on the end of the metal piece - clean out the pin holes of your Dynafit boots." (Editor's Note: Nathan Woodward also gives the Voile Strap high marks as a simple product with scores of uses.)

Tina Rieman (hiker and skier)

  • Snowpeak Stove. $50. "I love my tiny little Snowpeak stove. I’ve been using it for at least 8 years and one fuel canister will last a week of backpacking if we’re careful, using it for coffee, tea, oatmeal, and freeze-dried dinners. I have a small MSR Duralite pot (D 7" H 2.5") and the full stove and accessories fit into it, along with a bunch of matches in a small ziplock bag, and a lighter, and an aluminum piece that wraps around the stove and acts as a wind shield. I take one large fuel canister and one small one for a week's backpacking trip. This stove even works well in the Beartooths of Montana where we hike above 10,000 feet. Once we cooked fish on it for six people when we didn’t have firewood. Lots of folks we know use the JetBoil, but I love my little Snowpeak."

Mike Endsley (hiker, skier)

  • Merrell Gore-Tex Moab. $135. "My favorite outdoor product is the Gore-Tex Moab from Merrell. They're tough, keep my feet dry, fit my feet perfectly and have great "gription" for most, if not all, of my outdoor adventures. I'm not the most hardcore outdoor enthusiast, but it feels good to know that I can cover pretty much anything in my outdoor quiver with these shoes.  I'm now in my second pair. The first pair, which I bought seven-ish years ago, are enjoying their retirement in my yard work wardrobe - they just don't quit."

Freeman Keller (hiker, skier, climber, paddler)

  • Luci Lantern. $15. "Sherrill and I were so impressed with the Luci lantern that we tested for WenatcheeOutdoors that we ordered four more to give as stocking stuffer Christmas gifts. The totally cool thing about Luci is that it wasn't developed to be a high tech product for the "got to have the latest gizmo" crowd, but rather as a portable, inexpensive light source for people who live off the power grid, mostly third world and poorer parts of the world. Luci goes with us on every camping trip and if we ever would have another power outage I'm sure would be the first thing we would grab to light the house."

Neal Hedges (canoeist, hiker)
  • LL Bean Ultralight Wind Jacket$69. "Years ago Diana and I bought LL Bean wind shirts, ¼ zip, for $20.   They are very thin uncoated rip-stop nylon. Simple and functional.   We still have them but they are wearing out – mine has a piece of duct tape holding it together. "

Sarah Shaffer (rock climber, mountaineer, snowshoer, hiker)

  • Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters. $75. "I love my OR waterproof Crocodiles (Gortex). I have used them for hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, and approaches for alpine climbs. I have noticed they keep my shins warm during snowy cold days and have yet to have my boots wet or my legs wet while wearing them. They fit comfortably over my boots or my water proof keen shoes."
  • Marmot Waterproof Storm Shield Jacket. $100. "My waterproof shell rain jacket by Marmot has kept me warm and dry during many days climbing, hiking, and doing alpine climbs. It is great because it is breathable and with a base layer underneath it is perfect for the uphill grinds to keep you from getting to sweaty. It doesn't feel like a plastic bag over your body either, it works fantastic for breathability. I have had this jacket for at least 3-4 years and have worn it while climbing scraping it against rocks and it has yet to have any leak issues when raining."
  • Mountain Hardwear Nilas Down Jacket. $550. "I also am a huge fan of my down Mountain Hardwear jacket, I call it my winter puffy because it will keep me warm on the coldest of days. I use it for belaying, snowshoeing, and when I know I am going to be standing in the cold. I don't think I have ever been cold while wearing it. It is also ruggedized by reinforced arm paneling so it is less like to tear if you catch it on a tree or shrub. I have had it for two years now and have yet to get any sort of hole or tear in it."

Curt Haire (rock climber, ice climber, mountaineer)
  • Petzl Multi Hook. $13. "One simple piece of steel that is all at once a nut pick, a v-thread tool, and a wrench. This is one superb piece of work - and if they could figure out how to incorporate a blade, this would be the only tool a rock-climber, ice-climber, or alpinist need ever carry."