WORD OF MOUTH
"If you can walk, you can snowshoe," goes the saying. Well, for once, they got it right. But snowshoes, a great excuse for getting outside in winter in much of this country (and during a record winter, no less), have gotten better and better. I was first exposed to the new breed of snowshoes nearly two decades ago, when I tramped across a Vermont field and then hurled myself down the side of Mount Mansfield in a field test of a pair of Tubbs Snowshoes. I still like Tubbs, a company with a long history that has continued to modify and improve their products. I just tried the new Tubbs Couloir series, which are extremely lightweight (a pair weighs less than five pounds), have bindings that (really!) won’t slip (critical) and are simply a lot more responsive than the shoes of old. If you live in a place where you can get out on the snow with some frequency, they’re worth it. REI has them for $239.95.
Forget your stylish leather briefcases and smart looking computer bags. The fact is that nothing does the carry-on job better than a well-designed backpack. It leaves your hands free for other things (the steaming Starbucks, your kids, other bags, flagging a taxi) and lets your back do the work. And as someone who seems to lug a backpack around for a living, I was happy to come across the Lowepro CompuDayPack. Lowepro is best known for making gear for professional photographers, which I decidedly am not. But I appreciate intelligent design when it’s applied to making my life as a traveler easier. This bag has the requisite padded computer section, and another to carry my movable office worth of papers, notebooks, iPod, cards and pens. But the secret weapon is the lower third of the bag, which unzips to reveal padded compartments for your SLR and various lenses. Or basically anything else you’d care to store down there, since the dividers are removable. eBags has it for $89.99.
Last winter in Wyoming, I became a fan of Mountain Khakis, a Jackson Hole-based company that makes casual wear that redefines the term "rugged." Their signature item is the Original Mountain Pant, made of 100 percent cotton canvas that’s woven from two-ply threads for strength and suppleness. The fabric is pre-washed and shrunk before sewing, which gives you an immediate broken-in feel. There are triple-stitched seams and heavy-duty bar tacks, a brass zipper and riveted metal button. In short, they’re instantly comfortable, virtually indestructible, and designed for outdoor living. Made for both men and women, they retail for around $70. Think of them as Carharts on steroids.