The second step to knocking off an item on your bucket list—after you've committed to the adventure in the first place—is one of the best parts of the entire pursuit: acquiring the gear to get you there. The tactile sensation of pulling on that pair of boots, taking a new bike for a spin, or whatever it is your bucket list requires instantly makes your quest that much more tangible.
Call it, and the rest of the gear on the following slides, the gateway drug to your adventure dreams.
Go Night Skiing
Giro Edit Helmet
You enter a surreal world when skiing under the lights (or poaching your local ski hill under a full moon)—a world where little bumps that are harmless by day can cause you to wipe out at night. Do your head a favor and strap on the Edit ($180). It’s one of the lightest helmets Giro’s ever made, fits like a glove, and comes with a built-in carabiner so you can easily attach it to packs. Oh yeah, it also has an integrated mount on the front to hold a GoPro camera so you can capture every powder turn against the black sky—or your yard sale after flubbing your first in-the-dark landing off a jump.
Do a Skimo Race
Dynafit TKT 6 MTN Boots
Twenty minutes into the uphill slog of a ski mountaineering race, you’ll understand why shaving weight matters—and why a boot made for going uphill and downhill is a godsend. At a svelte 5.4 pounds, the TKT 6 MTN ($750) features a seemingly impossible list of awesomeness: all-day and all-conditions comfort, superlative ergonomics in touring mode thanks to a steel cable enclosure that holds your foot in place, and enough lateral stiffness to drive even fat powder skis through the crud. Yes, there are better touring boots for downhill ripping, but the featherweight Dynafits will give you a better chance of summiting before anyone else.
Shred Chest-Deep Powder
DPS Lotus 120 Spoons
Put simply, it’s nearly impossible to screw up in deep powder with these skis, which are purpose-built for first tracks on remote heli-accessed mountains. And if you find yourself plowing through a heavenly morning of chest-deep freshies, the Lotus 120 Spoons ($1,299), with their convex (spoon-shaped) tip and pronounced rocker profile, will keep you from sinking into the fluff. The tech helping you stay afloat? DPS’s wide surface area and Pure3 carbon construction make the skis stable and lightweight. On firm, packed powder, the skis’ stiff tail, flat camber, and small sidecut will hold a respectable line—one good enough to get you back to the chairlift or helicopter.
Ski in Summer
Salomon X-Pro 120 Boots
If you’re splurging to ski South America this Labor Day, you’ll enjoy every single run if your feet are comfortable. In fact, they’ll demand it after having spent the past four months splayed out in flip-flops. With Salomon’s X-Pro 120 ($699), you can heat-mold nearly the entire boot—including the shell and cuff—to your foot in roughly 20 minutes. Once winter arrives and your feet stay shod all the time, you can redo the process. As for performance, the X-Pro’s all-mountain setup is perfect for intermediate and advanced skiers: The boots are stiff enough to handle most terrain.
Refine Your Cross-Country Technique
The North Face Regulate Jacket
News flash: The piece of gear that’s going to decide how much you enjoy your skate-skiing adventure is not your skis (well, maybe the wax on them), but the jacket you pull onto your torso. Chose poorly and you’ll overheat quickly.
Enter the North Face Regulate ($130), a sweat-wicking mid-layer that sheds heat like a radiator thanks to thin, breathable layers of fabric on the sides and underarms. A wind-stopping front layer fends off the chill that hits your chest while descending or when you turn around to head across a frozen lake into blustery wind. Of course, it won’t keep you dry in a wet storm, but we bet the Regulate will become your mid-layer of choice for all your snow-bound activities.
Complete a European Gran Fondo
Rapha Pro Team Jersey and Bibs
If you’re going through the expense to get you and your bike to Europe, the least you can do is adopt some Euro style so you don’t look like cycling’s version of the ugly American. That’s why Rapha exists. It’s what James Bond would wear if he needed to infiltrate the Tour de France to bust dopers.
Case in point: The Pro Team Jersey ($210) not only looks stylish, but also is packed with ride-enhancing tech, including a treated black fabric dye that somehow stays 48 degrees cooler than any other black threads. (That’s why Team Sky, in their all-black Rapha kits, can still crush it in triple-digit temps.) The jersey also has a 50-plus SPF rating, plus loops and eyelets to hold your race radio (or earbuds) in place. The Pro Team Bib Shorts ($290) use the same treated black fabric dye as the jersey, but you’ll appreciate the thick chamois most, especially at the end of your long day in the saddle over Europe’s cobbles.
Rock a Century in Four Hours
BMC Teammachine SLR01
Besides a paceline of cat 1 cyclists to tow you along the 100-mile course, you’ll want a race-proven bike that’s built for life at 25-plus miles per hour. That’s where the BMC Teammachine ($5,600) comes in. It’s our 2014 Gear of the Year pick, and it’s still a Tour de France–winning, team-issue race bike.
This year, the carbon frame has gotten stiffer—meaning it transfers more of your effort into propelling the bike forward and descends like a beast—and lighter, which you’ll appreciate while mashing up hills. The DT Swiss R-1650 tubeless wheelset shaves a few grams while delivering a plush ride. If you opt for the Dura-Ace 22-speed setup ($8,400 for the complete bike), you’ll end up with a machine that weighs a ridiculous 14 pounds—almost a pound lighter than the weight limit for bikes the pros race.
Commute to Work
Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody
When it comes to commuting, the weather often throws a wrench into your plans—especially if you’re wearing your work clothes to and from the office. Mornings are cool, afternoons can bring thunderstorms, and depending on the time of year, a mix of snow and freezing rain can make an appearance. That’s where this Black Diamond shell ($150) comes in handy. Stuff it in your pack and forget about it until the rain starts, when its combo of wind-breaking comfort, stretchy and super-breathable Schoeller soft-shell fabric, and ability to fend off water will be a godsend.
Ride a Mountain Bike Epic
Specialized S-Works Epic 29
Crushing the Leadville 100 is about powering through roughly 11,000 feet of climbing—all while huffing and puffing at elevations above 10,000 feet. You’ll want a bike with a light, stiff frame and large 29-inch wheels to cruise on the long stretches of rollers between climbs. Thankfully, Specialized knows what you need. Its 23.1-pound, full-carbon Epic ($10,500) is ridiculously light for a full-suspension 29er. It also has a history of success at the Leadville 100, and it was the first 29er to win a world cup and a world championship. In short, it’s bred for racing and for winning.
Smith Forefront Helmet
The honeycomb polymer under the plastic shell of the Forefront ($220) does triple duty: It keeps the lid super lightweight, its structure promotes airflow to help sweat evaporate, and it absorbs 30 percent more impact than the traditional foam used in cycling helmets, according to Smith. You’ll especially appreciate that last feature when you decide to huck the house-high boulder in Whistler’s terrain park. Smith being Smith, the company also designed the Forefront to play nice with specs, goggles, headlamps, and, of course, GoPro cameras.
Float an Endangered River
Aire 143R Raft
Incredibly stable, the commercial-grade 143R inflatable raft (starting at $4,237) is about as bombproof as it gets. It has large-diameter tubes, plus it’s self-bailing, a necessary feature when you’re tackling serious whitewater. Novices captaining their first whitewater run as well as expert oarsmen on three-week expeditions will love the 143R’s ability to haul 1,500 pounds worth of gear and people. It may not be the most “fun” floater out there, but Aire figures you’ll gladly trade that playfulness for peace of mind in Class IV+ whitewater.
Master Your Roll
Astral Brewer Shoes
When it comes to mastering your roll, you’ll likely spend a lot of time swimming and climbing up slick rocks to get back in the boat so you can try again. And again. And again. (You get where we’re coming from.) Protect your doggies with a pair of Astral Brewer kicks ($100), which marry skate-shoe style with serious water-shoe functionality. The upper features tough Cordura fabric in key stress points, mesh everywhere else for breathability, and drainage ports in the sidewalls, heel, and sole to quickly shed water. About that sole: Its rockered shape naturally articulates the foot into a kayak’s bow, and Astral’s sticky G.14 rubber helps you clamber around on slippery surfaces. Besides all that, it looks like something you’d wear to the bar to toast your mastery of the roll.
Snorkel with Whale Sharks
WaterWay Captain NEMO Power Fins
If you’re going to swim with the sharks, you better move like one. The 36.2-inch Captain NEMO Power Fins ($161) come in several stiffness options: stiffer for free-diving attempts and more flexible for casual snorkeling. The foot pocket, which you can get in a wide array of sizes, is designed to fit like a high-performance shoe. The result? A connection to the blades that’s stiff enough to transfer energy efficiently while not being too tight or inelastic to cause blisters. Pull them on the next time you drop into the water, and you’ll see why free divers and spear fishermen turn to these fins when they want to propel through the water like, well, a fish.
Win a Stand-Up Paddleboard Race
SIC Bullet 14 V.2 SCC
Are you racing on the open ocean or a flat-water lake? The answer could determine what SUP you chose. Or not. Our Gear of the Year pick, the SIC Bullet 14 ($2,799), is an all-water guru, able to handle wind-stoked chop, rolling ocean swells, and, thanks to its surfboard-like rails, small waves. When it comes to moving through water, the Bullet lives up to its name, transforming each paddle stroke into a long, straight glide. Simply put, it and it goes. Quickly. That’s aided by its 14-foot length and weight: This carbon-fiber beauty tips the scales at a svelte 27.5 pounds, light enough to let you realistically consider sprinting up the beach to the finish line.
Raft a Class IV+ Rapid
Kokatat Maximus PFD
Spec’d by whitewater legend Eric Jackson and his son Dane, the Maximus ($159) is an all-around PFD that maximizes flotation where you need it and maneuverability and fit everywhere else. To make portaging easier on the shoulders, Jackson designed the shoulder straps to be thicker and more padded than those of other competitors. The front flotation panel is suspended from the shoulder straps and not attached to the waist, so it moves with you as you paddle. That means you’ll be able to concentrate on fighting through a Class IV rapid rather than with your PFD.
Pimp Your Adventure Utility Vehicle
The Volkswagen Westfalia Syncro 4x4 camper is a legendary vehicle among the climbing, biking, and world-traveling set, thanks to its genius use of interior space for kitchen and sleeping arrangements and a relatively nimble chassis that makes quick work of tight switchbacks. The problem was the crappy, underpowered VW engine inside. Oddly enough, someone realized that a much more potent Subaru boxer engine fits quite nicely inside VWs and works with the transmission. Behold the Subagon, as it’s called by the conversion outfit of the same name based in Redding, California. The result: a van with gobs more horsepower (up to 230 HP), more sand- and mud-escaping torque, and Subaru reliability. Such a rare hybrid isn’t inexpensive—one of these babies will cost you around $80,000, depending on the level of restoration involved beyond the engine swap—but the cool factor is undeniable.
Hike a 14er
Ecco Biom Terrain Plus GTX
Relatively lightweight, the Biom Terrain Plus hikers ($230) fit like a glove right out of the box and will keep on trucking up and down the rocky scree fields and mild technical sections of Uncompahgre Peak. Ecco’s secret sauce? A yak-leather upper that’s three times tougher than normal leather.
Combine that with a grippy outsole that sticks on slick surfaces and an overbuilt protective toecap, and you’ve got a boot that will protect your feet from all the scrapes and scratches you face on the trail. Catch the fourteener bug after Uncompahgre? The Ecco should have no problem carrying you to the top of the rest of Colorado’s 14,000-foot-plus summits. All 52 of them.
Do a Multiday Backpacking Trip
Granite Gear Nimbus Trace
You could find the perfect pack for your through-hike on the Appalachian Trail, another for that long weekend of peak bagging in the Sierras, and still another for hauling creature comforts to a remote campsite. Or you could just buy the Nimbus Trace ($350) and not think about it again. Ever. We tested lighter and sexier packs in the Summer 2014 Buyer’s Guide, but none of them did everything as well as this big hauler. Cram it full with 65 pounds of gear and the payload will feel balanced and somehow easy (as easy as hauling 65 pounds can ever feel). That’s due in part to a maple-wood core inside the plastic frame sheet, which provides a more natural flex (think skis) that other competitors. Unlike lightweight packs that chase a few grams of weight savings while sacrificing durability, this pack’s Cordura fabric is built to survive decades of abuse.
Hole Up in a Cabin
Leupold BX-3 Mojave Binoculars
If you’re holed up in a cabin, you’re not going anywhere for a while. And that’s the point. You have a lot of time to soak in the views from the deck. Get a closer look with Leupold’s binocs ($440). The coated lenses offer incredible contrast and color fidelity in a wide range of light conditions—even dawn and dusk. Rubber eyecups make it a pleasure to spend hours looking through them, and the lenses can zero in on a subject as close as seven feet away—or the moose on the other side of the valley.
Plan a Winter Hut Trip
Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Toast your arrival at winter wonderland with a double of this smooth bourbon. Barrel aged for 10 years, Eagle Rare ($25) hits your nose with hints of orange peel, herbs, toffee, honey, leather, and oak, and then washes over your taste buds with a dry, oaky flavor. There’s a lot going on here, as opposed to simply lighting your throat on fire, as happens with lesser whiskeys. Connoisseurs have taken notice, awarding the elixir a gold medal last year at the World Spirits Competition. Bonus: We like it both for its taste and pack-friendly bottle that’s long and skinny rather than awkward and bulky (we’re looking at you, Blanton’s).
Race a Marathon
Brooks PureFlow 3
You could spend countless miles figuring out whether you should go with a minimalist shoe or a cushy trainer, but when it comes to Boston, you gotta qualify, and that means you’d better run fast. Our Gear of the Year winner, the PureFlow 3 ($100), offers the best balance of lightweight speed and cushioning, especially for runners who land on their midfoot.
That’s due to a plush forefoot and a relatively minimal heel with a six-millimeter drop. That drop gives excellent arch support that will last throughout the hundreds of miles you’ll log during training. (Note: Heel strikers will likely want to change their gait to get the most out of these kicks.)
Survive an Obstacle Course Race
Ironskull Fitness Kettlebell
Unlike most sports where coaches can precisely predict the conditions, obstacle course race participants have to be ready for anything, including the flat-out bizarre. That’s where the Ironskull kettlebell (starting at $85) comes in.
Used right, a kettlebell workout will shore up your core and upper body in ways no piece of gym equipment ever can, leaving you with a body that’s primed to crawl, climb, jump, twist, and pull—all at the same time, if necessary. You can even custom order the color of your k-bell to match the OCR-inspired tattoo that you’ll sit for after the race.
Run an Ultra
Marmot Kompressor Speed Hydration Pack
If you’re running 50 miles in the middle of nowhere and aid stops are separated by hours instead of minutes, you’d better be hauling your own water. Shoulder the Kompressor Speed Pack ($99) and, along with its companion water bottle that straps to the shoulder strap, you’ll be carrying 2.5 liters of agua (enough for roughly five hours of running) in a slosh-free reservoir. The pack eschews unnecessary pockets and straps, simply sticking to what it does best: haul water while staying snug to your body.
Complete an XTERRA Triathlon
TYR Hurricane Category 5 Wetsuit
Let’s face it, if you flail in the swim, your day is over no matter how awesome your full-suspension mountain bike is or how many months of hill repeats you ran. Buy some insurance and speed for the swim by donning the Hurricane Category 5 ($650) from the same company that designs race suits for Olympic swimmers. The full-body suit will keep you warm even in brain-crushing cold water and will make you more buoyant, so you can direct more energy to pulling yourself through the water. A stretch limiter on the front works like a girdle to keep the suit tight around your core, and a thin panel of rubber on the back zipper facilitates a super-easy exit.
Run a Beer Mile
Wherever you end up running your beer mile, the one thing you won’t have to worry about is keeping your beer fresh. That’s because you’ll have it stored in a 64-ounce Hydro Flask ($49), which the company promises will keep your beverage chilled and carbonated for roughly 24 hours—even if left in the hot sun. This tough growler uses a vacuum-sealed double wall of stainless steel, a powder-coated color layer on the outside, and a resolute screw-top lid to keep beer cold and bubbly.
Proof Ontario Sunglasses
Sure, you’ll go naked once you reach your deserted isle or mountaintop escape, but your mission to unplug will be a nuisance if you spend the day squinting into the sun. Allow yourself this one indulgence from civilization: a pair of Proof Ontario sunglasses ($125).
The wood frame, crafted from sustainably harvested trees, feels more natural on your skin than plastic. The polarized lenses cut glare, especially when you’re looking at water, and they boost sharpness everywhere. With these specs, you’ll not only see clearly, you’ll also see the world in its best light, which is kinda the goal when you’re taking the time to unplug.
Kill, Dress, and Eat a Wild Animal
Havalon Piranta-EDGE Knife
Assuming you’re following local game laws to hunt your prey, you’ll need a good knife to quickly field dress your kill. Try the Piranta-EDGE ($47). The 12 replaceable stainless-steel blades are much sharper than fixed blades. Plus, they’re nimble (think surgeon’s tool rather than burly Buck knife) and will save you time—no need to stop and sharpen your knife when it gets dull, just pop in a new blade in seconds. The open construction of the plastic handle saves weight and eases cleanup. Thanks to the knife’s sharpness and dexterity, you’ll likely make this your go-to blade for everything else you need to slice, shave, or cut—even after you return to civilization.
Omega VERT VRT350
You may be on a cleanse, but you still need to consume the proper fuel. Omega’s VERT VRT350 ($380) can help. Instead of simply liquefying everything with Formula 1 engine–like RPMs, this compact, space-saving juicer takes its time, churning its blades at a relatively slow 80 rotations per minute.
The idea is to salvage as much of the food’s healthy enzymes, prevent oxidation, and allow your juice to be stored in the refrigerator for three days without going bad. A choice of two screens—fine and course—lets you control the amount of fiber you want to slurp down. If you want to extend your cleanse, the Omega will go right along with you: it’s built to put up with nonstop commercial use.
Eat an Invasive Species
Sriracha Sauce and Vodka
If you’ve settled on eating something that makes you squeamish, you can always reach for a trusty bottle of Sriracha sauce ($3), aka rooster sauce, thus named for the rooster on the bottle. Its mix of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt will instantly overpower any unpleasant flavor or texture your palate comes into contact with.
If you also want to kill any germs that may be hitchhiking their way into your stomach, you can knock back a fiery shot of UV’s Sriracha Vodka. Granted, it’s likely that the flavored vodka will taste worse than whatever delicacy you’re eating.