This Is Good
From outdoor showers and real cowboy steaks to New Zealand's wimpy wildlife and cops on SUPs (seriously), the picks in our third annual Editors' Choice list all have one thing in common: perfection.
1. Detroit Manufacturing
In particular, startup bike brands Detroit Bicycle Company, Detroit Bikes, and Shinola. The latter builds exquisite city bikes in a former GM building, using lugged steel frames hand-crafted at the legendary Waterford Precision Cycles factory in Waterford, Wisconsin. The three-speed Bixby runs $2,500.
2. A Better Hoodie
One that’s tough on the outside and soft on the inside. One that lasts. One that’s made in the USA. American Giant sews its cotton hoodie in a Northern California factory but keeps the price reasonable by selling it exclusively online. $79
3. Dogs That Heel Off-Leash
At all times. Without fail. Even when distracted by rabbits, bikers, and all the bad-behaving mutts on the trail.
4. Cops on SUPs
Last summer, the police department in Truckee, California, began doing daily patrols on Lake Tahoe using stand-up paddleboards. Not because it was hoping to crack down on abundant water-born crime, but just to have some positive interaction with the community.
But only when used to describe a specific moment from a recent mission, as in: “I don’t think I’d shimmy across that ridge again—it was too sporting.”
6. Bic Lighters
7. The Sounds of Pure Pleasure
The hissing of your skis as they slice through powder. The vibrational hum of a sailboat when you’re really ripping. The low roar of a propane lantern at a campsite.
8. Super Slo-Mo
As shot by Vision Research’s HD Phantom v1610, which can slow down action-sports sequences to a glacial pace: water droplets quiver, muscles twitch, and wipeouts become epic Muybridgean disaster studies.
9. Gravel Grinders
As the exploding number of endurance bike races on unpaved roads have been dubbed. They’re long (often a few hundred miles or more), loosely organized, and primed for misadventure.
10. Outdoor Showers
11. Limited Access
Case in point: the north end of the cliff-strewn top of the Bridger Bowl ski area in Bozeman, Montana—known simply as the ridge—is reached via a short rope tow. But you can’t use it. It’s there for ski patrol, in case of an emergency. If you want to ski Bridger Gully and the Apron (and trust us, you do), you have to sling your skis over your shoulders and boot-pack your way up. You have to earn it.
12. Underdoing It
In 2011, rising pro triathlete Jesse Thomas won California’s highly competitive Wildflower half Ironman riding a borrowed bike and wearing $5 aviator shades he bought at a drugstore. He’s worn the same shades in every race since, winning Wildflower again in 2012.
13. Overdoing It
Like Airstream’s 27-foot-long Eddie Bauer Trailer ($80,000). You’d need a giant truck to pull it, but it’s decked out like a modern home (recessed lighting, stainless-steel appliances) and has a rear hatch large enough for a couple of boats and a whole peleton of bikes.
So much more pleasing to the eye than blazes, signs, or any other kind of trail marker.
15. A Sturdy Webbing Belt
And pretty much everything else made by Topo Designs, which sews its backpacks by hand in Denver, Colorado. $42
More exciting than simply hiking, not as involved (or scary) as roping up. The best way to cap a long ascent in the mountains.
17. A Big Eddy
Especially when it’s really, really big and located right where you need it most: above a gnarly rapid.
18. The Reckless Audacity of Young Men
19. Quality Steaks From Modern Cowboys
Like a T-bone from the guys at family-run Crystal River Meats in Carbondale, Colorado. The cowboys do everything on horseback, and the cattle are raised on open pasture, eat only grass, and aren’t pumped up with hormones or antibiotics. You can taste the difference.
20. The Lonely Call of the Loon
Straight up. Nature’s original energy gel still packs a punch.
22. A Decidedly Simple Watch
Timex’s Weekender Slip-Thru can’t tell you your heart rate, your GPS coordinates, or the barometric pressure. Which is probably why wearing it makes us feel so relaxed. $48
23. Wet Wipes
24. New Wool Socks
Like L.L.Bean’s Wool-Blend Raggs. $19 for two pairs.
25. Zing Bars
The only truly healthy (low-glycemic carbs, lean protein) chocolate bars that taste (almost) as good as regular chocolate bars. $3
26. Well-Stocked Aid Stations
Nothing helps you endure the pain more than salty snacks, PB&J wedges, and watered-down energy drinks served up by smiling, cheering volunteers.
27. Cutting It Down Softly
The rechargeable Stihl MSA 160 C-BQ chainsaw has 36 volts of cutting power but is quieter than a Prius. Which is another way of saying it’s cordless, yet manly. $350
28. Big, Scary Animals
That keep us from feeling invincible when we're hiking, swimming, camping...
29. Growing an Unruly Moustache
And, when necessary or on special occasions, temporarily taming it with Man’s Face Stuff wax. From $9.
1. A Tough, Classy Duffel
Call it a train bag, a weekend bag, whatever. Best Made’s waxed-canvas-and-nylon Gear Bag will last forever and looks better with age. $240
2. Digital Topos
Apps like Mophie Outdoors (iPhone only; $30 annual subscription) let you download high-definition maps to your phone and navigate via ubiquitous GPS signal, even when you’re out of range of a cell tower. Double your iPhone’s battery life and protect it from the elements with Mophie’s Juice Pack Pro Outdoor Edition ($150). Of course, when the screen goes dark, you’d better have....
3. Basic Navigation Skills
That is: a traditional compass like Silva’s Guide 426 ($23), a printed map, and the knowledge to use them.
4. A Bit of Color
Especially when it livens up classic designs, like Clark’s iconic desert boots. $119
5. Namibia’s Land Management
Some 42 percent of land in the country is now under conservation management, the most in the world.
6. Licking the Spoon
7. Packable Hammocks
Because the only thing better than lazing around in your backyard is lazing around at a sweet campsite with an incredible view. Eagles Nest Outfitters’ DoubleNest hammock has room for two, packs down to the size of a softball, and sets up in a few seconds. $65
8. Zombie Runs
Say what you will about the obstacle-racing craze and about events like the Run For Your Lives 5K, in which you must dodge zombies trying to “kill” you by grabbing the flags from your belt. They still remind us why we compete in the first place: for fun.
9. Just the Right Number of Gears
When it comes to mountain biking, we’ve often thought that one gear (a singlespeed) isn’t enough, but 24 or 27 (the standards) is too many. Apparently, the bike wizards at SRAM agree. Its new 11-gear XX1 group eschews the finicky front derailleur and instead pairs a single chainring with a gargantuan 11-speed (10–42) cassette. The result is simpler, lighter, and just right for almost all the riding we do.
11. Affordable Skiing
As envisioned by the Mountain Rider’s Alliance, a grassroots organization investing in “mountain playgrounds” owned and operated by locals, primarily for their own use.
12. Forests in the Sky
Or at least over the interstate. Earlier this year, Los Angeles sculptor Stephen Glassman had an epiphany: What if the billboards cluttering L.A.’s neighborhoods were home to plant life instead of advertisements? Others liked the idea. At press time, Urban Air, the non-profit he founded to install bamboo planters on overhead structures around the city, was successfully funded on Kickstarter.
13. The Flying Tomato's Wild Night
When Shaun White was charged with vandalism and public intoxication last fall after pulling a hotel fire alarm and destroying a phone, we ... weren’t surprised. Or even concerned. It was like having your overachieving, always-gets-away-with-it little brother finally screw up. You love him more because of it.
14. Fancy Marshmallows
Are they the next cupcakes? Who knows? Who cares? They’re delicious. Especially the Maker’s Mark bourbon-flavored ones from Wondermade. $7.50
15. Gear Co-Ops
Why schlep your ice ax to Chile when you can rent one from a local climber? Why let your tent gather dust in your closet when you can loan it out for a little cash to a fellow adventurer? A new wave of sites like Gearlending and WeekendSwap do for gear what Airbnb did for lodging.
16. Hats With Pom-Poms
Our favorite hat company, Coal Headwear, gets it right with the Freezin. $20
17. Drinking Right From the Stream
But when doing so would be unwise....
18. Waving the Ultraviolet Want
Instead of fouling crisp mountain water with chemicals or futzing with filters, you can use SteriPen’s little germ-and-virus-killing pen-light to zap the wee beasties in seconds. The ingenious device works just as well on sketchy overseas tap water as it does in the backcountry. From $50.
And everyone else working to broaden the demographic of people who venture outside. Including all the badass outdoorsy women found at....
This non-profit was established on a simple principle: to encourage women of all stripes, from sponsored athletes to newbies, to take their outdoor pursuits to the next level.
21. Elkskin Gloves
For $15, the unassuming, uninsulated gloves from your local feed store will serve you just as well on the mountain-bike trail as in the garden. Add a bit of Sno-Seal and they’re even up for spring skiing. Unlike cowhide, elkskin is thin, tough, and flexible. Once broken in, they’ll fit like, well, you know.
22. Swiss Public Transportation
Hey, Amtrak, did you know that trains go everywhere in the Alps, quickly and on time?
23. Nostalgic Road-Trip Music
Different landscapes have their own distinctive rhythms. And just as Lyle Lovett makes Nebraska more interesting than it is, and Gordon Lightfoot plays best in the Upper Peninsula, when you’re heading far from home you need the soundtrack of your youth on board.
24. Your First Passport
25. Coming Clean
Good on ya, Tyler.
26. A Proper Riding Jacket
Thank you Nau, Outlier, Swrve, and other pioneers. Because of you, brands like Levi's now make citified riding apparel. The Commuter Trucker jacket is water-resistant and a bit stretchy, with shoulder gussets and extra-long sleeves for a comfier fit on the bike. It performs surprisingly well in nasty weather and looks just like the company's iconic denim jacket. $128
Check out the first half of our 2013 Editors' Choice Awards.
56. Resisting the Urge to Grow an Ironic Moustache