Best Duffel Bag – The North Face Base Camp Duffel

The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag
The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag

I recently purchased a North Face Camp Duffel Bag (Large) and absolutely love it.

Key Features:

  • Solid D-shaped zippered opening allows easy access to main compartment
  • Includes shoulder straps so that you can carry the bag as a backpack
  • Most of the bag is made out of durable water resistent denier polyester

Highlights:

  • Our rating: 
  • Very durable and water resistent
  • Simple and lots of room for your gear

Where to buy?

Best Day Hiking Backpack – Osprey Manta 25

Osprey Manta 25
Osprey Manta 25

Are you looking for a day hiking backpack? In my opinion, the best backpack for day hikes is the Osprey Manta 25 – hands down! I took this backpack on multiple day hikes and I absolutely love it. It is very durable, light and really comfortable to wear.

The Osprey Manta 25 is slim & long and fits snug onto your back, so that your arms are not scrubbing against it while hiking. This also makes it a great backpack for trail running.

My back tends to start sweating quickly and the Osprey AirSpeed suspension offers a great amount of ventilation between the pack and your back.

Check out another great review of the Osprey Manta 25 at Gear.com.

Key Features:

  • Packing Volume: 25 Liters / 1,300 cu.
  • Weight: 11 oz. (empty)
  • Pack includes a 3 liter Nalgene Hydration Reservoir with a 180° on-off pivot bite valve
  • Integrated rain cover and pole stowing system
  • Magnetic sternum strap buckle
  • Elastic stretch woven front pocket
  • Light alloy frame suspension
  • Tensioned breathable mesh fabric provides superb airflow through back contact zone.
  • Side crescents for side ventilation

Highlights:

  • Our Rating:
  • Light-weight, comfortable and very durable
  • Price range: $120 – $139

Where to buy?

Backpacking Boots – Salomon 3D Fastpacker Mid GTX

Salomon 3D Fastpacker Mid GTX
Salomon 3D Fastpacker Mid GTX

I recently purchased a pair of Salomon 3D Fastpacker Mid GTX hiking boots at our local outdoor store, Real Cheap Sports in Ventura, CA.

I tested them on a hike to Inspiration Point in Santa Barbara, CA. It rained quite a bit the week prior and the terrain was slippery and muddy. The boots offered great traction on the wet ground.

My ankles tend to get tired quickly and the slightly raised boot offers great support.

One of my considerations for purchasing the Salomon hiking boots was that I could wear the in the snow (water protection), but also during the summer (light weight).

Unfortunately after using the boot on several hikes, I don’t find it very comfortable. On multiple occasions, the boot gave me some severe blisters and that’s why I cannot recommend it.

Key Features:

  • Water resistant. Full GORE-TEX® construction to keep your feet warm and dry.
  • Weight: 16 oz.
  • Gusseted tongue to keep debris out.
  • Heel foam for cushioning.
  • Protective rubber toe cap with mud guard.
  • Molded EVA midsole provides cushioning and support.
  • 3D Advanced Chassis™ construction provides maximum stability and protection over harsh terrain.
  • Ortholite® sockliner cushions, is breathable, and is anti-odor/anti-microbial.
  • Contagrip® rubber outsole is a mix between density, compounds, and geometry in order to optimize grip and durability.

Highlights:

  • Our Rating:
  • Lightweight (16 oz.) and water resistant
  • Price range: $102.98 – $150

Where to buy?

Women’s Hardshell – Arcteryx Scarabee Jacket

I recently purchased the Arcteryx Scarabee jacket as a hardshell layer for skiing and snowboarding. I’ve been on a search for a great jacket for several years and so far have been very happy with the way this jacket fits and performs.

Women's Arcteryx Scarabee Jacket
Women’s Arcteryx Scarabee Jacket in “Volcano”

Key Features:

  • Made with Gore-tex Softshell fabric which has been engineered to pass the mostaggressive rain tests while still being soft to the touch and maintaining comfort and freedom of movement.
  • Adjustable powder skirt
  • Invisible Recco reflector rescue system
  • Helmet compatible stowable hood
  • Lots of easily accesible pockets with watertight zippers
  • Women’s specific design with a flattering fit and a longer torso

The first thing most people see with a technical hardshell is the price tag. Most hardshells seem to range anywhere from $200 to $600 dollars. I suppose this is what long deterred me from purchasing a hardshell, however after looking into all of the options I think investing in a hardshell is well worth it.

Hardshells are much more versatile than your average insulated ski/board jacket.

  • Quality of the fabric, seams, and zippers are unmatched which not only will keep you dry but also protect everything you want to bring with you on the mountain. It’s no fun to get home from a long day on the mountain to find your camera or phone completely waterlogged.
  • Gore-tex fabrics are engineered to be breathable so not only do they keep the water out they allow you to breathe and keep the sweat off your back which is key when your working hard at the resort or hiking a line in the back country.
  • The most obvious benefit is that the shell can be worn alone or easily layered for a variety of conditions. The Scarabee jacket provides full protection from wind and water on its own and for your average day at the resort you won’t need much more than a solid baselayer to keep you warm. For those extra cold days add a fleece or a light down liner and you will be good to go without adding too much bulk.

Highlights:

  • Our Rating:
  • Waterproof and very flexible
  • Price range: $299 – $329.97

Where to buy?

With all of the rain we have been receiving in Southern California I have also found that my Scarabee jacket makes the most stylish and functional rain jacket yet!

Best trail running shoes – Salomon XT Wings 2 GTX

Salomon Men's XT Wings 2 GTX Trail Running Shoe
Salomon Men’s XT Wings 2 GTX Trail Running Shoe

Are you looking for trail running shoes? I bought a pair of Salomon trail running shoes earlier this year and I think they are great for hiking and trail running.

Even though they are super lightweight, I have never gotten wet feet in them yet and I have been using them in snow-covered terrain on a multiple day backpacking hike. They offer fantastic traction in muddy and snow covered terrain.

The quick-lace system is very convenient and provides a snug fit. The shoe feels comfortable and I have never gotten blisters in them yet.

I found another very detailed review of the Salomon XT Wings 2 on Ransacker.co.uk.

Key Features:

  • Waterproof
  • Material: [Upper] mesh, textile, rubber; [Membrane] Gore-Tex XCR
  • Sole: [Footbed] Ortholite, molded EVA heel; [Midsole] triple-density EVA w/ Pronation Control; [Outsole] Contagrip
  • Arch Support: High
  • Lacing: Quicklace
  • Weight: [Pair, size 9] 1lb 11.2oz (774g)
  • 1 Year Manufacturer Warranty

Highlights:

  • Our Rating:
  • Lightweight and waterproof
  • Price range: $127.99 – $160

Where to buy?

The Ultimate Outdoor Vehicle

Last week, I bought a 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon Weekender Edition for our endless outdoor adventures to come. She seems to be in mechanically sound condition, but needs some good interior and exterior scrubbing before we take her on our first trip. We named the young lady “Tootsie Roll”.

The Volkswagen Vanagon is the ultimate outdoor vehicle, because it does not cost much to pick one up, that means you have more money to actually go places, and it has enough room to comfortably sleep in plus it stores all your outdoor adventure gear. It also is not very difficult to repair it yourself. There are multiple websites that list all kinds of tutorials on how to repair almost everything on that vehicle.

And a Vanagon just looks awesome!

Best Outdoor Camera – Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

I recently bought the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2. I have tested the camera now on multiple hikes, scuba diving in Bali and snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain. And so far I am very satisfied with my purchase.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 is shock proof, water proof, dust proof and freeze proof. On my trip to Bali, I took a bunch of pictures under water and the camera truly was water proof and fully functional after being under water for a long time.

The size of the camera is also great. It is just slightly larger than other non-rugged digital cameras currently on the market. I really enjoy the multiple modes one can select. From a fully automatic mode, to film grain to completely manual.

Key Features:

  • LEICA DC 28mm Wide-angle Lens
  • 4.6x Optical Zoom / 6x Intelligent Zoom / 9.8x Extra Optical Zoom
  • Shockproof, Waterproof, Freezeproof and Dustproof Protections
  • 14.1-megapixel High-resolution CCD
  • Beach and Surf Mode / Snow Mode / Sports Mode
  • Sonic Speed AF
  • Intelligent Resolution Technology
  • High Image Quality in High-sensitivity Shooting
  • Extended Battery Life – Approx. 360 Shots on a Single Battery Charge
  • MEGA Burst Consecutive Shooting in Full Resolution
  • HD Movie in AVCHD Lite
  • LED Light
  • High Quality Sound
  • Wind Cut
  • Zoom in Motion Picture
  • iA (Intelligent Auto) Mode for Movie
  • VIERA Link / HDMI Compatibility
  • POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) – Shake Detection
  • Face Detection AF/AE with Face Recognition
  • Digital Red-eye Correction (Red-eye Removal)
  • AF Tracking – Subject Detection
  • Intelligent ISO Control – Motion Detection
  • Intelligent Exposure – Light Detection
  • Auto Backlight Compensation
  • Large, 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot High-resolution LCD
  • Wide-viewing Angle / Intelligent LCD
  • High Dynamic Mode / High-speed Burst Mode (Still Images) / Panorama Assist
  • Mode (Still Images)
  • Macro Zoom
  • PictBridge Compatible – Direct Print Function

Highlights:

  • Our Rating:
  • Shockproof, Waterproof, Freezeproof and Dustproof Protections and yet a small and elegant design
  • Price range: $260.95 – $500.00

Where to buy?