Buying Guide: Gifts Under $200


This one is stuffed with all the accoutrements: a blanket, sleeping pad, some boots, a knife, and short story about four dudes and the greatest base layer of all time.  These five gifts are straight from Indiana Jones’ wish list.

Rumpl Down: I’m moving away from traditional sleeping bags for most 3 season adventures.  A good down blanket is tough to beat in terms of its flexibility, its warmth to weight ratio, and its comfort.  Make the mountains more like home, or make home more like the mountains by opting for a down puffy.  I like what Rumpl did with the original, but this just takes it to another level.  There are other higher performing down blankets out there, but at $199 this is hard to pass up.

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated: It’s probably the most technologically advanced pad on the market.  No joke.  Sea-to-Summit spent four years designing these pads; they use a liquid extrusion process to apply a waterproof TPU coating to the 40D nylon which is so durable, they haven’t had a reported delamination yet.  It’s a dual chamber pad, which means if you puncture one side and aren’t able to field repair it with the included patch kit, you’ll still have another chamber to sleep on.  It’s got an R value of 5, which is plenty warm enough to sleep directly on snow should you choose to do so, thanks to a heat reflective sliver coating and synthetic insulation.  It also inflates in ~20 seconds manually, or you can opt to get the Air Stream Pump Bag, a 20 L sil nylon dry bag (which you’ll want anyway if you’re backpacking)  with a male valve adapter that fits directly to the female inflate valve on the sleeping pad so you don’t even have to blow up your pad! Regular size pad weighs 25.5 ounces. Video demo here from Cabela’s.

Danner Mountain 600: I’m really excited to see Danner come out a good looking hiker at a reasonable price.  For the Mountain 600, Danner teamed up with Vibram –never a bad move–to reach a younger demographic.  I grew up in a hand-me-down pair of 8″ work boots from Danner and have longed for an 8″ Grouse and 10″ Canadian since then.  The Mountain 600 brings all the respect and heritage the Danner name holds to younger consumers at a realistic price point with modern outsoles.  For weekend rambles and transitions from work to play, these look like real winners to me.

Zero Tolerance 566 or ESEE 5: Fewer things are more useful than a good knife.  I’ve been carrying my ESEE 5 into the woods now for four years and it hasn’t skipped a beat. I can’t speak highly enough about it for wood processing and general outdoor use. Baton, smash, pry, hammer, whatever.  The .25″ thick spine runs the length of the knife essentially making it a crowbar with an edge.  It’s amazing.  Carrying a one pound piece of steel with a five inch blade is a little conspicuous around town though, so for your urban adventures the ZT 566 makes a great companion. The 566 is addicting to open. It’s absolutely buttery smooth.  It’s also flawlessly weighted and built like a tank on a frame lock–considered the most structurally sound of all the locking mechanisms. (I typically carry a small fixed blade, but some laws prohibit the concealment of fixed blade knives, regardless of their blade length, so I suggest shopping for folders by lock type.) The Benchmade AXIS Lock and the SOG Arc Lock are also very solid.

Patagonia R1 top/bottom: An anecdote: I wore my R1 hoody on a hike to Colchuck Lake in The Enchantments March 7-8, 2016 with my buddy Will, who wore his R1 full zip.  If you know the area, you know how brutal that is early season.  The road to the trail head is closed because there’s still feet of snow on it, so you have to add another four miles one way.  We saw that there were some skin tracks up the road from where we parked so we decided to leave the snow shoes in the trunk.  We regretted that decision as we arrived at the trail head, and the skin tracks joyfully turned around to enjoy the closed road that drops some 1,500 ft. back to the parking area.  We pushed on.  Feet of snow, another 2,200 ft. of gain, and zero degree wind chills could not stop us from a truly epic camp site atop the frozen shores of Colchuck.  We pitched camp and warmed ourselves and watched the light play on the mountains until it was dark.

We finished what was left of the whiskey with our breakfast and watched two gnarly dudes ski down Asgard Pass on the final day of their winter tour through The Enchantments.  We thought we were hard.  These guys had been at it for three days. Will took some photos as they came across Colchuck to say what’s up.  Guess what they were wearing? Gnar Dude 1 had on a R1 half zip and Gnar Dude 2 wore a R1 hoody.  True story.  Nobody else in area but four dudes wearing the exact same fleece.

Those who know, right?  Pick up the R1 pants and take it all the way to comfort town.

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