Gadling Gift Guide: Gear For The Adventure Traveler And Outdoor Enthusiast

Few people appreciate great gear as much as adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. They demand good performance, often under the harshest of conditions, and they’re usually willing to pay top dollar for the best equipment. Their exacting standards can often make it a challenge to find them the right gift, particularly when they already have a closet full of gear.

If you have someone on your holiday shopping list that fits the description above, then take heart. Here are some excellent suggestions for gifts that are sure to delight the adventurer in your life.

Eureka Tetragon Tents ($95-$370)
The key to any great camping outing begins and ends with a quality tent. After all, if you’re not able to get a good night’s sleep, you’re probably not going to enjoy the rest of the experience either. The new Tetragon series of tents from Eureka has everything you need to sleep comfortably in the great outdoors. They are spacious, lightweight, provide plenty of ventilation, and will keep campers dry when that unexpected rainstorm rolls in at 2 a.m. These freestanding shelters are tough and durable, which makes them the perfect option for backcountry escapes. Available in six sizes, ranging from a small two-person option up to a palatial version that sleeps ten, the Tetragon is a classic camping tent at an affordable price.

Brooks Range Mojave Down Jacket ($299)
When it comes to cold weather adventures, nothing beats a good down jacket for keeping us warm when the mercury begins to plummet. The problem is that traditional down doesn’t perform well in wet conditions, becoming a clumpy, cold mess that is virtually useless. That isn’t the case with the new Brooks Range Mojave jacket, however, as it is one of the first products on the market that uses a new water-resistant down from a company called DownTek. This revolutionary new jacket performs incredibly well, even in the worst of conditions, keeping the wearer warm and dry when traditional down gear would have failed. This is the future of cold weather gear and your favorite mountaineer, winter backpacker or skier will undoubtedly love this amazing product.Pyle GPS Watch with Wireless Heart Rate Monitor ($150)
Designed for the runner or cyclists who obsesses over their performance, this watch is a high-tech marvel that will give them everything they need to track progress over time. The included wireless heart monitor makes it easy for outdoor athletes to pace themselves while working out and the built in GPS accurately tracks distance, route and speed. This timepiece allows for five different profiles for use in different activities and the screen can even be customized to display just the information that is important for the current workout. Water resistant to 100 feet, the watch includes an electronic compass, interval timer and much more. Pyle managed to deliver all of that functionality in a package that is far more affordable than similar offerings from the competition.

Guerrilla Tags ID Systems ($30-$35)
Outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers don’t seem to mind taking a few risks to pursue the activities they love, but unfortunately those activities can sometimes lead to untimely accidents. Guerrilla Tags offer a bit of insurance during those unfortunate incidences by providing the name of the person involved as well as their emergency contact numbers, known allergies, blood type and so on. That information is engraved by hand on a metal tag that is then worn either as a bracelet around the wrist or as dog tags around the neck. This is one of those pieces of gear that you hope you never need, but you’re glad you have it nonetheless. They even make great gifts for loved ones who never travel abroad or participate in risky outdoor sports as it never hurts to have this information close at hand.

Hydrapack Tamarack ($110)
Compact and comfortable, the Tamarack hydration pack makes a great travel companion for everything from day hikes on local trails to excursions to the far corners of the globe. It features thickly padded shoulder straps and back panel, plenty of storage capacity for essential gear and a host of pockets to keep it all organized. Durable and tough, this little pack is capable of carrying up to thee liters of water in its included hydration bladder, ensuring the wearer always has plenty of liquids close at hand. That same bladder seals up tight to prevent leakage, is resistant to punctures and is surprisingly easy to keep clean.

Liberty Sport Trailblazer Sunglasses ($139)
A great pair of sunglasses should be essential gear for any outdoor adventure and Liberty Sport makes good looking and functional frames for nearly every kind of activity. But the Trailblazer is an especially good choice because they are versatile enough to be used while running, cycling, hiking or just about any other active endeavor. The large, wrap-around lenses provide plenty of coverage and protection from the bright sun and the fit is snug enough that you don’t have to worry about them falling off at an in opportune time. They even come with a set of cleverly designed magnetic eye cups that when installed seal off the outside world, keeping dust, snow and other debris out of the eyes. This is an especially great option for travelers who may routinely find themselves in demanding environments.

Schwinn Quick Release Collapsible Basket ($20)
Here’s one for the not-so-serious cyclist who enjoys riding their bike everywhere but could use a convenient and safe way to haul more stuff with them when they go. This collapsible basket securely attaches to any set of handlebars while riding, but quickly detaches upon arrival at your destination. Made out of durable polyester fabrics the basket is tough enough to survive exposure to the elements while providing plenty of protecting for the contents inside. A drawstring top extends that protection even further while ensuring that the precious cargo never accidentally pops out.

GoPro Hero 3 Action Camera Black Edition ($200-$400)
A few years ago a little company called GoPro released a lightweight and rugged video camera that was perfect for capturing or favorite moments while mountain biking, snowboarding and rock climbing. They didn’t know it at the time, but the company had launched an industry and inadvertently created a market for the extreme sports viral video all in one fell swoop. Today, the GoPro Hero 3 remains the top action camera on the marketing, capturing video in full 1080P and 12 megapixel still photos. The device can even pair with a smartphone via Wi-Fi for remote control functionality and for instant sharing of videos on social media. GoPro even managed to greatly improve low light performance for capturing the best shots no matter the time of day. All of that comes in a package that weighs just 2.6 ounces, giving aspiring filmmakers a powerful tool that easily attaches to helmets and handlebars to capture all of their spectacular adventures.

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[Photo Credits:Eureka, Hydrapak, GoPro]

Gadling Gear Review: Brooks-Range Cirro Hoody

I’m the kind of person who really prefers to travel light. In fact, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways that I can shave ounces off my pack weight, while still being able to carry all the items I need for my journey. The trick is to be able to adopt this minimalist approach without compromising on the performance of your gear. That’s not always an easy thing to do, which is why I truly appreciate a great piece of travel apparel when I find one. I recently came across just such an item in the form of a new jacket from Brooks-Range, that is a perfect cool weather companion for the traveler who needs versatile and lightweight outdoor gear.

Brooks-Range is not a particularly well known brand with the mainstream, as they tend to focus on a few very high quality products for specific, sometimes niche, markets. Their customers tend to be mountaineers, adventure racers, and long distance trekkers, who have come to appreciate the company’s no-nonsense approach to making equipment that offers everything they need, with very few unnecessary frills. The company has earned itself a reputation for having an eye for detail and producing high quality products, which has earned it a loyal following amongst adventure travel junkies.

I was lucky enough to test out the new Cirro Hoody, a very lightweight jacket that is perfect as a stand alone outer layer on spring and fall hikes at altitude, or as an insulating layer under a winter shell in the colder months. When I first pulled on the jacket, I was immediately struck by how warm it was, even though it felt like I really wasn’t wearing much of anything at all. The jacket weighs in at a mere 12.4 ounces and it packs down to an incredibly small size, which means it is a great piece of gear to keep in your pack at all times, even when you don’t think you’ll need it. The Cirro makes for a perfect emergency jacket for those days in the mountains that start with excellent weather, but end with an unexpected storm. It’s on one of those days that you’ll appreciate the jacket that you forgot you had even put in your backpack.
The Cirro fits snugly without impeding your ability to move, which is a much appreciated design element when you’re out on the trail. It also features a well designed hood that helps to keep you warm and dry in bad weather, but can also be detached and stashed into the collar when not needed. A pair of zippered pockets, one on the outside and one on the inside, keep small gear items, such as a multi-tool or iPod, close at hand for when you need them. Form fitting elastic cuffs are a simple addition that you’ll appreciate on colder days as well.

The jacket gets high marks for keeping even heavy winds at bay, and it has an uncanny knack for staying warm, even while wet. But some may be put off by its simplistic, minimalist design that lacks zippered pit-vents or an internal pocked for a water bottle – features found on more expensive jackets from other manufacturers. Also, as mentioned, this is a cool weather jacket, not a cold weather one. While I personally think it’ll keep me warm well below freezing, you’ll want to make sure you have a proper outer shell for any sub-zero adventures.

With those few caveats in mind however, this is a fantastic piece of gear to include in your outdoor excursions. It is warm, lightweight, and very comfortable. All perfect ingredients for the adventure traveler who is looking to travel light, without sacrificing any kind of performance. (MSRP: $189)

Gadling gear review: SteriPEN Sidewinder

SteriPEN is a company that has built its reputation on providing products that ensure hikers, backpackers, and travelers safe drinking water no matter where they go. Their products, including the SteriPEN Traveler, which we reviewed here, use ultraviolet (UV) light to kill off 99.9% of all bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and other harmful elements that can find their way into our water. But most of their purifiers are powered by batteries, which can be difficult to come by when traveling through remote areas, and have a penchant for going dead when you need them the most. The company has found a way around that however, in the form of the Sidewinder, a purification system that is powered by a hand crank, and never requires batteries of any kind.

The first thing you’ll notice when you remove the Sidewinder from its box is that it is large, especially when compared to SteriPEN’s other products. That is due in part to the fact that it comes with a 32 oz (1 liter) BPA-free bottle, but the hand crank system is not especially small either. Prior to beginning the purification process, the bottle is filled with water. and then clicked into position on the Sidewinder itself, with the UV light completely immersed in the water. The entire unit is then flipped over, and you’re all set to begin making clean drinking water.

From there, you simply begin turning the crank to generate the power necessary to illuminate the ultraviolet light, and in theory, 90 seconds later you have water that can be safely consumed. I say in theory because it takes a bit of practice before you get the hang of the process, as you must turn the crank at the proper speed in order to get the UV lights working properly. Fortunately, SteriPEN included a pair of red LED’s on the Sidewinder which illuminate when you’re turning the crank too slowly. When the lights are off, you’re doing just fine, and you’ll know you’re finished when the UV lights turn green as well. It is a simple process, but one that requires some practice before putting the device to use in the field.

Once you get the hang of it, the Sidewinder has the potential to provide plenty of drinking water for an indefinite backpacking trip through just about any part of the world. But just because the water is free from harmful bacteria doesn’t mean that it necessarily tastes any better. SteriPEN has helped to address that issue as well by including a pre-filter to help remove particulates from the water prior to purification. The filter fits on to the top of the bottle and is a much appreciated addition to the package and further indicates that SteriPEN has a good understanding of their customers needs.

While the Sidewinder is a well designed and built products, it does come with a few caveats for anyone considering it for their next adventure. For starters, as I mentioned above, it is quite large, which makes it a less than ideal option for those looking to travel light. I personally found it a bit too bulky for my pack, much preferring the smaller Journey LCD, which I carried with me through Nepal last year. It also requires a good deal of physical work to actually purify the water, asking its user to turn the crank for 90 seconds, at a rather brisk pace, for each liter of water cleaned. Considering you’ll need several liters of water per day, possibly more depending on your destination, you may end up getting quite a workout while you’re on the go.

So just how good are the SteriPEN purification systems? In my personal use of their devices, I have yet to contract any kind of water borne illness or suffer any ill effects, even while traveling through locations where several of my companions fell victim to a variety of maladies. The UV light seems to work as advertised, although it is impossible to prove a negative, and perhaps I’ve simply been fortunate. I highly doubt that however, and a SteriPEN purifier of some type will be mandatory gear for all future travels to remote areas across the globe.

Which SteriPEN I take with me is a bit open for discussion however. While I appreciate the eco-friendly nature of the battery-free Sidewinder, its larger size poses a bit of a problem when lugging it around on longer treks. But if you’re going to be camped in one place for an extended period of time, it is a fantastic option for sure. For those requiring a more compact and lighter weight purification system, I’d give the nod to the aforementioned Journey LCD or Traveler however. Either way, you can bet you’ll have safe drinking water no matter which device you use.

The Sidewinder comes with a $99.95 MSRP, which is more expensive than iodine tablets or other similar purification options. But on the other hand, SteriPEN’s approach is also much more reliable and safe as well. Having used both options, I’ll stick with the UV solution for my future water purification needs.

The ten essentials of hiking and why you need them

Hikers and backpackers are no doubt already familiar with the “Ten Essentials”, which is a list of important items that we should always carry with us when heading out on to the trail. The list has had several iterations over the years, but the original can be traced back to a Seattle based outdoor club in the 1930’s. The club, known as the Mountaineers, came up with the list of items that were most important to our survival while in the backcountry and over the years it spread to other outdoor enthusiasts across the country. Since those humble beginnings, the list has grown to almost mythic status, and while times may have changed, it is still as relevant today as it was when it was first created.

Here are the ten items that everyone should carry with them on a hike of an significance.

Navigation can be vitally important while in the wilderness and it is important, even in this day and age, that you have a good quality, and up to date, map with you when you hit the trail. Sure, a GPS can provide much of the same information, but any good outdoor enthusiast will tell you that you shouldn’t rely too much on those electronic devices. They can fail to get a signal under thick tree cover and when their batteries are dead, they are only useful as a paperweight for your map during a wind storm. It’s not enough to just carry a map with you however, you must also be able to read it properly too. That is an important skill that should be developed before heading too far off the beaten path.

Compass (or GPS)
Being able to use a compass is an important aspect of navigation as well and being able to use one properly goes hand in hand with being able to navigate with a map. A good compass is inexpensive, small and lightweight and could potentially be a life saver if you ever become lost in the woods. That said, this is the 21st century, and despite what I said about GPS devices above, they are certainly a worthy addition to your pack, provided you don’t become too reliant on the device and also know how to use one properly. For instance, you can learn to conserve battery life by using your map to navigate and simply switching on the GPS from time to time to check your direction and plot a course. Personally, I’d recommend having both with you, but given a choice, the good ol’ reliable compass is your best bet.
Sunglasses and Sunscreen
Sunglasses and sunscreen are important for staying healthy and comfortable on the trail and are useful in all seasons, including winter. While we all understand how important protection from the sun can be during the warm summer months, the reflection of the sun off the snow in the winter is just as hazardous. Sunglasses can help prevent snow blindness and protect the eyes from flying debris or errand tree branches. Sunscreen keeps the skin from being fried by the suns ultraviolet light, but remember to apply it well in advance, as it isn’t much good after you’ve already been scorched.

Extra Clothing
This is one of those items that most people tend to forget about, but once again it can be a potential life saver. Carrying extra layers can help protect against hypothermia and allow for some versatility should weather conditions change unexpectedly or some odd accident occur. For instance, you could be hiking along a river bank, slip and fall in, and suddenly find yourself soaked to the core. Depending on the weather conditions, and the distance you need to hike back to safety, extra clothing could quite literally be the difference between life and death. Many climbers caught on a mountain during a freak storm have learned this lesson the hard way while others have survived because the brought seemingly unnecessary gear with them on their trek.

First Aid Kit
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising the number of people who hit the trail without even some simple band aids in their daypack. Your personal medkit will likely vary depending on the length and nature of the hike, but it should have, at the minimum, the ability to treat simple cuts, abrasions, insect bites, and burns. I personally have several different first aid kits of varying sizes that slip into my pack on a moments notice when I’m heading out on an adventure that is more than a couple of hours in length.

Having a source of illumination may be the last thing on your mind when you start out on a hike in the bright morning sun. But once again, unforeseen consequences could prevent you from making it home before dark, and if that should happen, you’ll be glad you packed a light to help find the way. A headlamp works best as it leaves your hands free to help guide you along in the dark or to carry other things, but a flashlight will do nicely in a pinch as well. Modern lights are efficient, bright, and inexpensive. Add a small one to your pack and chances are you won’t even notice that it’s there, but you’ll be glad it is should the need arise.

Matches (or Lighter)
Depending on weather conditions, the ability to start a fire could potentially save your life. Bring either a set of matches or lighter along on your hike just in case. If you do bring matches, be sure they are either the waterproof variety or stored in a good waterproof container, lest become useless in a sudden rain storm. The ability to start a fire might not be just for warmth however, as it can be used to signal a search party as to you whereabouts should you become lost or injured in the backcountry.

Matches or a lighter are only part of the equation when it comes to building a fire, as you also need something that can help you quickly and easily ignite whatever it is you’re burning. Once a match is struck, the best firestarters will burn easily and for more than a few seconds, while providing plenty of heat to get things going. There are a number of good firestarters available, including dry tinder but one of the best that I recommend is a few cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. This is an easy, cheap, and very lightweight solution that also happens to be highly effective.

A knife has always been an a very versatile tool to have with you on any extended hike. They can be used to shave wood for the fire, cut through cloth or rope, perform minor field surgery, or even slice the evening meal. Modern multitools, such as the Swiss Army Knife, can do all that and a lot more thanks to the fact that they often incorporate multiple blades, screw drivers, cork screws, scissors and more. Those tools can be used to repair gear on the go and offer more options for when those unexpected occurrences crop up once again.

Extra Food and Water
Finally, you should never head out on to the trail without bringing some extra food and water along with you. Even if it means simply throwing a couple of energy bars or an extra sandwich in your pack, you may be glad you have them should your day on the trail extend longer than expected. Hydration packs and good water bottles have made it easier than ever to bring plenty of water with us as well, but you may also consider packing some kind of water treatment option too. A bottle of iodine tablets can make most water drinkable, even if it doesn’t help the taste or a device like the Steripen Traveler, can be invaluable in this area too.

So there you have it it. The classic list of the ten things you shouldn’t leave home without on any hike. There are a few other recommendations that could be added, such as insect repellent or an emergency blanket, as well, but this is the list in its purest form, and the one that most hikers and backpackers follow when preparing for their next trek. Perhaps you’ll consider each of these items carefully before preparing for your next trek too.

What other “essentials” do you put into your pack?

National Geographic names Gear of the Year for 2010

If you’re looking for advice on the best outdoor and travel gear available today, you might as well get it from National Geographic Adventure.To that end, the organization has posted its selection for their annual Gear of the Year awards, pointing a spotlight on a host of new and innovative products that are sure to make your next trip a more enjoyable one.

The list contains 32 great items ranging from gloves to jackets to sleeping bags and just about everything in between. There are suggestions for hot new cameras, a couple of pairs of boots, skis, and even an electric motorcycle that is both fun to ride and environmentally friendly.

While the list of products may be very diverse, they all share a few things in common, namely great design and good use of modern technology. Some of the products that earn the “Gear of the Year” honors include the DeLorme Earthmate, a device that combines a hand held GPS system with a specially designed SPOT Satellite Messenger, that allows you to send text and Twitter messages, not to mention update your Facebook status, while traveling through some of the most remote places on Earth. Gerber earns a nod for their Ultimate Knife, endorsed by Bear Grylls himself, while Patagonia offers up an incredibly warm down-filled sweater that weighs just 10 ounces. How’s that for traveling light?

Travelers looking to upgrade their cameras will want to check out the Canon Powershot S95, which now seems to be the point and shoot camera to beat and the new Nikon D3100 which is getting rave reviews in the budget DSLR arena. And if you’re looking for a new way to carry all of your gear, you might want to check out the Exchange 26 duffel bag courtesy of Briggs & Riley. Nat Geo gives it high marks for being lightweight but still able to carry more than other luggage, while still maintaining a high level of quality and good looks.

As a self confessed gear hound, I can’t help but love these kinds of lists. They not only help me to select the gear I’ll be traveling with in the near future, but they keep me abreast of trends in the industry as well. The problem is, I sometimes get severe gear lust, prompting me to want everything on display.

So, what has National Geographic just added to your wish list?