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What Tailgating Gear Do I Need for the Fourth of July?

After adopting the Declaration of Independence that fateful July day, our Founding Fathers opened their saddle bags and started kicking back ice-cold pints of ale. While Ben Franklin shredded summer tunes on his glass armonica, Thomas Jefferson challenged Alexander Hamilton to a game of corn hole.

Hey, it could have happened, right?

And even if it didn’t, there’s no reason you shouldn’t tailgate, car camp, or throw a backyard barbecue this Fourth of July. Here are seven pieces of made-in-America gear guaranteed to help get you in the summer spirit.

Iron and Resin INR July 4 Kool Kan

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Ventura, California-based Iron and Resin made these sturdy vinyl-coated foam coozies in a glossy red, white, and blue specifically for the Fourth. An interior plastic liner snugly holds a 12-ounce can. Plus, the Kool Kan floats, a major bonus if you plan to celebrate Independence Day near a large body of water.

Yeti Tundra 50

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Not only are Yeti cooler’s damn near indestructible, they also keep food cold for days thanks to a double-walled, rotomolded exterior and about twice as much insulation as most of their competitors. For tailgating, I suggest the Tundra 50, which can accommodate 32 beers.

Yeti manufactures coolers in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, and the Philippines. Want one of the coolers made in the U.S.? The company has a number you can call (512-394-9384) to make it happen. 

Chubbies 'Mericas Shorts

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The 'Mericas are manufactured in San Francisco and are cut from such soft pre-washed cotton that they’re comfortable enough to wear all day—without underwear.

That said, at only five-inches-long, I’d suggest going commando only with extreme caution. On top of the amazing flag styling, I also loved the elastic waistband with belt loops.

Liberty Bottle Works W.O.W Flag Bottle

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The key to safely drinking a lot of beer this Fourth? Drink a lot of water, too. Yakima, Washington-based Liberty Bottle Works produces made-in-America metal water bottles, made from 100 percent recycled materials.

Grooves in the cap coupled with knobs on top of the bottle make an easy-to-use lid that won’t leak. This aluminum stars-and-stripes water bottle was light enough to use in a hiking kit, but study enough to handle getting dropped on the ground.

Upslope Brewing Beer

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Yes, Budweiser has American Flag specialty cans, but who wants to drink the beer inside of them?

Boulder, Colorado-based Upslope Brewing rounded out its patriotic can colors—the red-canned Pale Ale is crisp and flavorful, while the blue-canned IPA is tongue-meltingly hoppy—with a 7.5 percent ABV limited release Belgian-style pale in a white can.

Therm-a-rest Trail Trekker Chair Kit

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Yes, most tailgating chairs come from Walmart. But I challenge you to think outside of the truck bed, and consider the Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair Kit made in Seattle, Washington.

Although you might sit lower than other members of your party, no one else will have a chair that weighs just about two pounds, can turn into a bed, and can be used on a hiking trip.

Leatherman Juice CS4

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The Juice CS4 has 15 tools to help fix any tailgating emergency, including: opening a beer; cutting a lime; or fixing your stereo.

At 5.6 ounces, it's heavy to take into the backcountry, but it's easy to slip into a shorts pocket for a day on the beach. We found the ridged aluminum exterior increased our grip dramatically when we used the 2.27-inch stainless steel knife, and like all Leatherman products, the multi-tool is made in Portland, Oregon. 

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Adidas miCoach Smart Ball

If you still haven't caught at least a twinge of World Cup fever, then you might as well be Ann Coulter (seriously, lady, you’re supposed to be pro America!).

Personally, it’s made us want to get back out on the pitch, even if we haven’t kicked a ball around since elementary school. To remedy our rusty skills, we’ve been been messing around with Adidas’s miCoach smart ball, which functions sort of like a friendly U11 coach.

Integrated sensors built into the size 5 regulation weight ball provide almost instant feedback about the speed, spin, trajectory, and strike point of our kicks to an accompanying smartphone app. And supplemental coach notes tell us what all that data means (though some are admittedly more helpful than others. Helpful: "To get a better power kick, the ball spin should be below 150 rpm." Less helpful, but encouraging: "It takes 10,000 hours to become proficient at a task").

Adidas also thoughtfully incorporated various challenges for once we master the basics, so we’ll be able to practice bending and knuckleballing like the pros. Our touches might be slower than they once were, but we’re going to crush the competition at next week’s co-ed rec game.


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Blowing Up: Inflatable Gear of the Future

Inflatable gear is nothing new. You probably even have a Therm-a-Rest or blow-up raft stored in your gear shed as you read this.

Now, designers are getting more creative with their inflatable designs. Stand-up paddleboards, tents, and even snowshoes can be set up with an air pump—or some powerful lungs. That means lighter, more portable gear for you.  

Black Diamond Halo Jetforce Avalanche Airbag ($1,275)


Few inflatable products have drawn as much buzz as Black Diamond's new avalanche-safety bag. The Halo Jetforce revolutionizes the airbag pack, making it more versatile and practical for most backcountry skiers.

Jetforce technology uses a battery-powered fan instead of a compressed-gas cylinder, so you deploy can the airbag multiple times on a single trip. You'll also save money since canisters are good only once before they have to be refilled, which can be expensive. They're also difficult to travel with because of TSA restrictions.

Klymit Ulaar Jacket ($295)


If there's an inflatable revolution, expect Klymit to lead the charge. The company has developed a seam-welding technology that allows it to produce products like ultralight cutout sleeping pads and inflatable pack rafts. It's even trying to replace old rigid backpack frames with air-filled ones.

The company's most impressive product to date has been its inflatable clothing, which was initially funded through Kickstarter. Both the Ulaar jacket and Double Diamond vest allow the wearer to dial in the amount of insulation using argon gas. The weightless compound provides better insulation than fibrous materials because it won't get wet and weigh you down. 

Heimplanet The Cave ($670)


Inflatable tents are no longer reserved for carnivals and used-car lots. Hamburg, Germany–based Heimplanet has developed expedition-worthy air-pole shelters.

Stefan Clauss and Stefan Schulze Dieckhoff founded the company in 2010 because they wanted a tent that was quick and easy to pitch even in bad weather or at night. They created the Cave, a geodesic structure of air chambers that can be inflated from a single point.

If a frame section fails, a built-in safety system allows the user to separate the chambers. (You likely don't have to worry about this, however: Videos show the tent holding up to 60 mph gusts.) As a bonus, the tent looks like something out of Battlestar Galactica.

Hövding Helmet ($410)



Swedish company Hövding set out to develop a bike helmet that acts like the airbag in your car. Dozens of sensors in the helmet monitor the cyclist's movement. At the first sign of an abnormality (read: a crash), the helmet inflates and covers the rider's head and neck. Crash tests show the helmet inflating in less than a second, well before the cyclist hits the ground.

Worn around the neck, the uninflated helmet looks more like a bulky scarf than a typical lid. Take note: This helmet isn't designed for mountain biking. "Since it's based on movements from people cycling normally in the city, it could be 'oversensitive' while cycling downhill or jumping," says company spokesperson Maria Persson.

NRS Baron 6 ($1,395)


Inflatable stand-up paddleboards make a lot of sense in environments from whitewater rivers to high alpine lakes. They're easier to transport, harder to damage, and lighter than their fiberglass counterparts.

If you're looking for a casual-float board, check out NRS's Baron line. At six inches thick and 358 liters of volume, the board could almost accommodate the whole family next time you take to the river.

Like many inflatable SUPs, the Baron inflates to 15 psi, which keeps the board rigid and helps it glide smoothly. The triple-fin setup is versatile enough for rivers, lakes, or even catching a few waves.

Billabong V1 Wetsuit ($TBD)


After nearly drowning at California big-wave spot Mavericks, pro surfer Shane Dorian wanted a wetsuit that would help keep him safe. So Billabong and maritime safety company Mustang Survival teamed up to design a special suit.

Dorian repeatedly tested the V1 suit in huge waves and found that his time held underwater dramatically decreased with it on. In 2011, the suits were distributed to a handful of elite surfers, but the research and development continued, and Billabong still doesn't know when the product will go to market.

In the meantime, other companies began to follow suit. Patagonia developed the Portable Self-Inflation (or PSI) vest, and big-wave pioneer Jeff Clark helped come up with the Quatic Inflatable Surf Vest. Few of the products are available to the public yet, but expect to see more prototypes this year and next.

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First Look: Whisky 70W Carbon Fat Rim and 45NRTH Vanhelga Tire

Whisky Parts Co., the boutique carbon bike and accessories manufacturer under the QBP umbrella, today unveiled the first-ever tubeless-ready, carbon-fiber fat bike rim.

The 70W No.9 Rim uses a double-wall construction for durability and ease of sealing, and a recessed channel to keep the rim tape clear of the bead hook for a clean seal. The 70mm-wide rims are optimized for tires between three-point-eight and four inches, though Whisky says they will work just fine with the biggest tires on the market.

Whisky teamed up with winter bike accessory specialists 45NRTH to craft a compatible tire. The result: the Vanhelga, a four-inch-wide folding tubeless-ready tire with chunky knobs, extensive siping for traction, and tighter bead tolerances to ensure a leak-free seal with the new rim. There’s also a new flat edge along the bottom of the bead, which creates more contact with the rim shelf.

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We received a test set of the rims laced to Salsa hubs, and the setup couldn’t have been easier. Included in the kit were valve stems and lightweight rim tape, and after we dumped in four ounces per wheel of sealant, the Vanhelga tires set up onto the rims with reassuring pops.

Many racers have already been running their fat bikes tubeless, but the broad range of rim and tire combos, plus the wide tolerances in tire production, has made sealing tricky and burping air common.

The fact that Whisky and 45NRTH have built these products in tandem should ensure that they provide better tubeless performance than anything else on the market. You can run these tires with as low of pressure as you want and not have to worry about blowouts or losing the bead from the rim.

Though the 70W should provide a suppler ride than comparable aluminum rims, the biggest advantage will be weight savings. We swapped the new wheels onto a bike that came equipped with Surly Marge Lite rims and Nate tires to shave exactly two pounds off the bike. That’s a massive savings in rotating weight.

Whisky isn’t the only company entering the tubeless-fat-tire market. Last week, Stan’s No Tubes announced the 52mm wide Hugo, an aluminum rim that marks the company’s first foray into the fat bike world.

The profusion of parts and bikes for the fat market shows that the trend continues to mature and catch on. In the last few months, RockShox debuted the Bluto, the first fat bike suspension fork, which was the precursor to Salsa debuting its sexy Bucksaw, the first production full-suspension fat bike. Both are good indications that fat biking is moving beyond just the snow and cold-weather niche. 

The 70W No.9 Rims will sell for $600 apiece and will be available this fall. Whisky also plans to announce complete wheel builds soon. The 45NRTH Vanhelga tires will come in two models, 120tpi for $155 and 60tpi for $125, and will go on sale in September.

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