Gear Guy

What's the Best New Summer Gear for $35 or Less?

The coolest outdoor toys don't always cost a fortune

Sometimes smaller is better. (Photo: Joe Jackson)

Outdoor Retailer, the twice-annual tradeshow in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a superb place to drool over all the high-end gear that will hit markets next summer. This time around, we checked out everything from a $350 purifier that can turn sewage into potable water to a giant $700 cooler big enough to sleep in.

Pieces like this are sexy, sure, but they're also wicked pricey. So we also spent lots of time combing the floor for the best new affordable gear. With a $35 limit, we found the following six items—all of which we wanted to stuff in our bag and start using immediately.

Goal Zero Light A Life Mini ($30)

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

The Light A Life Mini is the result of a collaboration between Goal Zero and tentmaker Big Agnes. The goal? To create a perfectly integrated tent light. This little hanging LED attaches to the roof of your tent with a carabiner, gives off a nice gentle light with its included diffuser, and runs for 20 hours on a single charge. String four together and hang them from trees to light up base camp, or purchase a set of colored caps (red, yellow, blue, green for $10 each), if you really want to get the party started.

Stanley Two-Cup Happy Hour Set ($35)

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

This two-cup set from Stanley has all the hardware you need to make sophisticated cocktails at your campsite. Plus, it comes in a tidy, easy-to-clean, nesting package. Two single-walled stainless steel cups rest inside a martini shaker and the cap doubles as a jigger and citrus reamer. I watched people make beautiful whiskey sours with this system during an OR happy hour and plan to add it to my car camping bin next summer.

Sunday Afternoons Northwest Trucker ($26)

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

Technical sun hats keep your head and face sunburn-free, but usually look terrible. Not anymore. This summer, Sunday Afternoons did a re-brand (they’ve been in the hat biz for 20 years): they now offer a variety of sun hats we actually want to wear, including the Northwest Trucker. These lids feature hand-drawn prints of beautiful destinations including Mount Hood and the Oregon Coast, and sold like wildfire at the show. (The company brought 300 samples to Utah, all of which sold out in two days.) One evening I counted 16 of these hats on attendees' heads.

McNett Tenacious Tape Tattoos ($10)

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

I always carry McNett Tape in my backpacking and ski touring packs because it’s better than duct tape for fixing tears in tents or outerwear (plus, it stays on in the wash). This year, McNett made its product more fun by cutting shapes into the tape. Instead of just slapping a boring swath onto the hole in your favorite jacket, you can now decorate the gash with tape shaped like everything from a sasquatch (our personal favorite), to a monster truck or chainsaw.

Yeti Rambler 10oz Lowball ($25)

Sometimes smaller is better. (Photo: Joe Jackson)

We’ve been using Yeti’s 20 Ounce Rambler for over a year, so our excitement was piqued when they offered this smaller version. Like its predecessor, the 10-ounce Rambler, dubbed the Rambler Lowball, is double walled (for insulation), made from kitchen-grade stainless steel (so it won’t taint the taste of your drink), and feels sturdy in hand. But unlike the 20-ounce version, which really pairs best with coffee, this new edition (which doesn't come with a lid) is made to keep coffee hot or liquor cold.

Hydro Flask Food Flasks ($29.99 for 12 ounce; $34.99 for 18 ounce)

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

Hydro Flask is largely responsible for the double-walled insulation craze that’s sweeping our industry, and each season the company adds to its already beefy line. At this OR, they showed off new Food Flasks with insulated lids (previous versions were un-insulated). These storage devices are now 30 to 40 percent more efficient, which represents about an hour and a half bump in heat retention. If you warm soup in the morning before your ski tour, it should still be hot at lunch.  



From Outside Magazine, August 2015
Filed To: CampingWine, Beer, and Spirits
Lead Photo: Joe Jackson
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