The outdoor industry is size-ist. There, I said it. A vast majority of gear is built for a guy my size. At 5'10'', 170 lbs, with a size 9 foot, I am a perfect medium. Sample sized everything fits me right out of the box. Big dudes, like my friend Ryan Allred—we call him big Ry because he is 6'5'', 235 lbs, with a size 15 foot—find it woefully difficult to find any gear their size in some categories, much less the gear they want.
"What frustrates me is that if I do find something, it's always the biggest thing," says Big Ry. Which often isn't the highest performance. "Short guys get to have all the fun," he says. Big Ry has been huge and playing in the outdoors for his entire life. The 34-year-old owns Adventure Whitewater, a northern California whitewater rafting company, is a sponsored fly-fisherman, a backcountry, and resort skier, and is an avid backpacker. Out of necessity, he has become an expert in hunting out the best gear for big dudes.
Here is the list of seven we put together:
Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2XL
"In a two or three man tent I have to sleep diagonal," says Big Ry, which makes sharing a backpacking tent with his wife tough. He rejoices that he can sleep straight and lengthwise in the 25.5 square feet of floor space that the Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2XL's ($335) offers. It only weighs 7-ounces more than the Sierra Designs Vapor Light and is still impressively light at 3-pounds 12-ounces so you can accommodate your extra size and still pack light.
ENO DoubleNest Hammock
"I have never fit in a single hammock well," says Big Ry. He opts for as-light-as-he-can-find double hammocks from companies like ENO. The ENO ProNest ($65) is 8-feet long and can handle up to 400-pounds and only ways 12-ounces. Big Ry still prefers a double, like the ENO DoubleNest ($70). It only weighs 8-ounces more than the ProNest and is almost a foot and a half longer.
Jackson Karma Large
Whitewater kayaks, particularly playboats, are notoriously difficult for tall people with large feet to squeeze in to. The Jackson Karma Large ($1,199) has a 103 gallon capacity and has a weight limit of 300-lbs. It is just as high performance as its smaller counterparts—medium sized pro-kayaker Chris Korbulic paddles a Karma Large on all of his expeditions. Don't worry, it's not just for elite athletes. "It's comfortable, it'll float you well, and if you want to you can paddle the biggest whitewater in the planet with it," says Big Ry.
Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Pole
All that extra height makes for a much longer distance to fall on the trail. Ry likes to try to prevent this with poles like the Black Diamond Trekking Trail Back ($80) because they have an extremely long, 140 cm, maximum working range but can still collapse down to about two-feet for when you aren't using them.
NRS Czar SUP
The NRS Czar ($1,195) is only 9-feet long, but the inflatable SUP was able to float Big Ry extremely well because of its hearty six-inch thick 34-inch wide floor. He found it extremely maneuverable on rivers because of its short length and light weight. "One of the coolest things for a big guy is when you can use the short stuff, I never get to use the short stuff," says Big Ry.
Montrail Mountain Masochist II
"Footwear is the biggest challenge," says Big Ry. He has gravitated to Montrail trail runners and hikers like the Mountain Masochist II ($100) for years because they offer up to a size 15 and have a nice last for a large footed man. "European brands always have too thin of a last," says Big Ry.
SCARPA Maestrale RS
Having a ski boot that fits is critical to comfort as well as performance. There is no way you can cram your foot into a boot that is a couple sizes too small and have a good time. While finding good alpine boots, if your feet are bigger than size 13, is extremely difficult, finding a backcountry boot to accommodate massive feet is near impossible. This year SCARPA is making size 33 mondo shells (size 15 US) in all of the members of the Maestrale family. We like the SCARPA Maestrale RS's ($729) because they are a featherweight 3-pounds and seven-ounces per boot and still maintain a 120-flex.
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