The Gift of Gear
By Everett Potter
The Ideal Duffel: Eagle Creek
I’ve been a fan of Eagle Creek bags and packing systems for years, but even I was pleasantly surprised at how cool their Cargo Hauler Duffels are. They come in four sizes – 45, 60, 90 and 120 Liters — but regardless of the size, they weigh virtually nothing because they’re made with a fabric called Bi-Tech- Armor Lite. They can bulk up when needed and then compress to a very compact size when empty, a godsend for city dwellers who don’t have luxuries like basements and garages to store their travel gear. I’m partial to the 90L, which like all of them is equipped with gear pockets, grab handles, and tie-down daisy chains. I’ve used it for carry on for gear and also checked it full with water shoes, dirty clothing and a fair bit of sand after a recent trip to Maui. The ultimate test? The fact that the bag made it all the way back home, surviving a couple of sets of baggage handlers. When it popped out on the luggage carrousel at JFK, a bit scuffed but none the worse for war, I knew it was a winner. It’s $109 at Eagle Creek
Holiday Spirits: Hydro Flask
You’ve seen them everywhere: they come in a dizzying array of sizes and a rainbow of soft toned colors, with an instantly recognizable logo. Hydro Flasks are simply the best made beverage bottles and thermos’ I’ve ever some across. They’re not only styling, but they’re solid, seemingly indestructible and best of all, they don’t leak. The Hydro Flip cap on my 12 ounce coffee thermos ($21.95) won’t open if I get jostled in the midtown mayhem that passes for the holidays here. The simple 12 ounce standard mouth water bottle ($21.95) is my go-to for travel (and you get a handle to boot) while the 12 ounce hot food flask ($29.95) is an ideal size for food-go on a plane or wherever. There’s even a small insulated drinking cup for a backyard whiskey and water in winter, not to mention a selection of insulated growlers up to 64 ounces for the traveler in your life who counts on visiting a microbrewery or two on their next trip. https://www.hydroflask.com/
Ultimate Stocking Stuffer: Night Ize 3-IN-1 LED Mini Flashlight
Night Ize makes LED flashlights, headlamps and lanterns, not to mention a wide array of phone holders for your dashboard, multi-tools and bike safety reflectors. But it’s their lights that I especially like, which are solid and affordable. A case in point is the 3-IN-1 LED Mini Flashlight, which is a flashlight, lantern and safety light, all for $11.99. For backpacking or for stashing in your car, it’s ideal. Nite Ize
If it FITS, Wear it
Okay, I hear you, socks for Christmas, yadda, yadda. But wait, FITS are aimed at runners as well as hikers who like a great fit and a little bit of style on the trail. These U.S.-made socks have a variety of trademarked distinctions, like their Full Contact Cuff, Dynamic Toe Cup and Heel Lock. That’s all tech-speak for how snugly they’ll fit your foot. FITS makes a range of colorful socks for both men and women for daily duty, but it’s their sporting socks, if you will, that I’ve tested on the trail. Like their Light Low Runner ($16.99) and their Medium Hiker ($21.99). They also make ski socks as well as Tactical socks, designed for the military (with discounts for servicemen) and sold to the public. I’d call them great stocking stuffers, but you already figured that out. FITS
In the Mood for Merrells
Merrell Men’s Capra Bolt Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot is a mouthful but I wore these incredibly lightweight waterproof boots every day on a recent trip to Alaska. I find Merrells to be instantly comfortable and the Capra Bolt were no different. They are rugged, comfortable footwear with a breathable mesh lining and reinforced toe cap and it got me through some muddy uphill trails in the Alaskan coastal rainforest. Yet there were also light enough that an impromptu race in Seattle to catch a connecting flight was effortless. Light breathable and flexible, they’re almost like a great running show with very good ankle support. They have a list price of $140, they’re currently on sale at Merrell for $83.99. They may be a tad jazzier, color wise, than what I usually where. But at this price, I’m not complaining. Go to Merrell.
Pack it In: Granite Gear Lutsen 35L
When you’re ready to graduate from a backpack to something a lot more ergonomic, efficient and designed for a multi-day trip, consider the Granite Gear Lutsen 35L. It’s a prime example of Granite Gear’s innovative and fully adjustable Re-Fit System technology. In short, it allows you to custom-fit the backpack to your frame. It has an adjustable hip belt and torso length, thanks to a hook & loop system, which allow you to customize your individual fit in a few minutes. F.Y.I. hip size and torso length are probably the two most important decisions in a comfortable backpack. The 35 liter volume of this pack is the smallest of the Lutsen series (it comes in 45L and 55L versions as well) but there enough room for a multi-day excursion into the wild.
In addition to the capacious main compartments, there are a couple of zippered pockets on top, a hydration port and an internal hydration sleeve, two zippered hip pockets, and side pockets that could accommodate a pack rod and a water bottle. The 35L comes in at 2.9 pounds, light enough to load up to its 40 pound capacity and take off for the backcountry. The retail price is $179.99. Granite Gear Lutsen 35L