Let's take a look at some of our favourite outdoor gear for 2021:
We love our gear. From the smallest multi-tool to a family-sized cabin tent, quality outdoor gear facilitates our most treasured memories. And the best trips are the ones where you’re warm, comfortable, dry, satiated and generally happy to be out-of-doors.
Everybody has their choice picks for stuff from socks to shells. Including me—as the editor of explore magazine, I have the privilege of accessing a wide variety of outdoor gear for purposes of reviews, gear box acquisition and advertiser relations.
Almost all of it has been awesome. But if you spot me on the trail this Saturday, or at the campground on a long weekend, this is the stuff I’ll be sporting:
Patagonia P-6 Logo Trucker Hat
Yes, this may be the most capital-B Basic hiking accessory on the market—a badge declaring one’s “outdoorsyness”—however, it also might be the best trucker hat ever made. Not only is it stylish, comfortable and durable, but Patagonia has upped the ante by building the brim from 100 per cent NetPlus traceable recycled fishing nets, making the front from organic cotton and certifying it Fair Trade sewn.
- Pros: Look good, feel good
- Cons: $45 for a trucker is my price ceiling
Kodiak Skogan Mid Waterproof Hiker
I was stoked when I learned Kodiak—a Canadian company that pioneered waterproof leather—was producing a new day-hiker. The new Skogan Mid didn’t disappoint—with one caveat. It’s comfy, waterproof, grippy and flexible. I appreciate its 100 per cent recycled plastic lining, 100 per cent recycled plastic mesh upper and 50 per cent recycled laces. Sturdy rivets and full-grain leather hint at durability. But this is not an alpine scrambling boot nor a multi-day backpacker—the same softness that provides its comfort also reduces support and protection. However—for day hikes, from mild to moderate, it scores big time.
- Pros: Comfort, retro style
- Cons: Not for backpacking/scrambling
Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Shell Pant
I often hike in Lululemons simply because I can count on about two fingers the number of dedicated hiking pants I actually enjoy wearing. Cut that down to zero when searching for a waterproof-breathable shell pant. Until now—the redone Verglas Infinity Shell Pant fits well, moves well, protects well and even looks good. New is the PFC-free DWR coating and a LIFA Infinity membrane, which uses no chemicals or solvents. I live in a coastal temperate rainforest—so these things see year-round wear. (Men's and women's.)
- Pros: Bushwhack tough, rainstorm proof, articulated cut
- Cons: Investment required
Eddie Bauer Adventurer Trail 30L
If there is one item of gear I test too much of, it’s backpacks. I’ve worn them all—from shoulder slings to 80-litre brutes. And for my day hikes, even with a half-dozen packs in my closet, this is one I have regularly grabbed for three years and counting. Why? At 30L with an internal frame, plus compression straps—but weighing only 700 grams—it’s good for both fast missions and gear-intensive day-longs. Tons of pockets, slings and straps make accessories a breeze. The trampoline back is great for sweaty summers. But more than anything, it’s just damn comfortable.
- Pros: Ultimate comfort and utility
- Cons: Hip strap sits a little high if you're tall
Saucony/The Running Room
Mitts, this time of year? Yes—and high-alpine hikers and north-country campers understand why. These glove-mitt convertibles are so light and compact you can leave them in your backpack year-round and never notice until you need them, on a cold alpine summit or cool campsite night. I like that they’re DWR coated and touch-screen responsive. I really like the fold-out, hi-viz mitten-covering. And I really, really like the built-in fleece nosewipes (yes, I'm serious).
- Pros: Light, comfy and three-season usable
- Cons: Too light for winter
Klean Canteen Classic 27oz (800ml)
You know something is just right when, despite all your options, it’s the thing you instinctively grab on your way out the door. That’s the Klean Canteen Classic 27oz (800 ml). It simply works—the size is big enough for summer thirsts without being dead-weight. The sport cap is quick and comfortable to drink from, flowing enough for big gulps without drowning me. It’s powdercoated and looks good after years of use (I would know). And, of course, it’s made from quality 18/8 stainless steel and is BPA-free.
- Pros: Just a darn good waterbottle
- Cons: Non-insulated
Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Food Jars
(from $35; hydroflask.com)
How long have I been talking about Hydro Flask? Check out this article, from 2015. And yes—I still have, and use regularly, those two items. So I was very excited to see their new Vacuum Insulated Food Jars, available in three sizes (12, 20 and 28 ounces). I have young kids, so packing food everywhere I go is a must. These double-wall vacuum insulated, leak-proof, sweat-proof, wide-mouth, 18/8 stainless steel, BPA-free jars knocked it out of the park. Your first thought might be: will it keep my soup warm for hours? Of course! But it’s the opposite that sold me. Have you ever packed ice cream to a mountain summit in summer? You can now—and it’s life-changing.
- Pros: Indestructible and well-insulated
- Cons: A full set will cost ya
Helly Hansen Lifa Active Solen LS
There’s a lot to love in this long-sleeve summer base layer. At 140 grams, it offers a barely-there weight. Plus, it protects from the sun to the tune of 50 UPF—interestingly, it actually uses a fabric made from coffee grounds—and wicks away sweat faster than you can wet it. Speaking of wet, it’s solid as a watersports shirt too—I wear it SUP’ing. But the best thing? It is so buttery soft it’s a pleasure to slip on.
- Pros: Velvet soft with technical chops
- Cons: Sans insulation means summer-specific use
Folding Camp Utensil
I’ll keep this entry short because this is clearly an inside job—yes, I personally sourced this item for a past LTA Club Gear Box. And yes, we currently sell the overstock on our website. But trust me—I’ve been using mine for years without issue. It’s like an eating-specific Swiss Army knife, merging your utensils (including a very useful knife) into a durable, two-piece unit. Combined with the Hydro Flask food jars, this is all you need for a lunch setup.
- Pros: Tough and multi-use
- Cons: Heavier than some simpler options
XACT Nutrition Protein Wafer
(From $3; xactnutrition.com)
I’m going to confess something: I hate energy bars. Protein bars. Nutrition bars. Whatever you call them, I’ve choked them down for years—from my local trails all the way to the trains of India. Ask me what it’s my backpack and I’ll usually show you a Snickers. Until now. XACT Nutrition’s Protein Wafer is, bar none (groan), the tastiest protein snack I’ve ever eaten. It’s almost like a KitKat, with a crunchy wafer and chocolate coating. And hey, the 15 grams of protein and 18 grams of carbs are a bonus. I also quite like their Energy Fruit Bars, in apricot.
- Pros: You’ll look forward to eating it
- Cons: Good luck keeping them in your house for long