There’s nothing wrong with drooling over that new $700 Gore-Tex shell, but not all adventure gear requires a second mortgage. Here, we’ve found 20 kickass items, from essential to frivolous, that are cheap enough to buy on a whim but quality enough to last for years.
Field Notes Notebooks ($10 for 3)
Carrying a notebook is essential for those moments when an important thought comes to mind. We like Field Notes because they’re compact enough to fit into your pocket but durable enough to withstand abuse on the trail. Each little notebook contains 48 pages—plenty of room for haikus on your next walkabout.
The PackTowl weighs almost nothing, absorbs four times its weight, and dries much faster than a normal towel. Dry off, wring it out, use it again. Always carry one on your backpacking trips.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap 32 Ounces ($16)
Few things are as versatile as Dr. Bronner’s. It can wash your dishes, your hair, and your privates—all while keeping you entertained with the fine print on the label. Weird stuff.
Stanley Adventure SS Flask ($20)
You should have a flask with you at all times. This beauty holds enough booze to share (eight ounces), doesn’t leak, and can stop bullets. OK, we made up that last part. But everything else is true.
Luci Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Lantern ($20)
The solar-powered Luci weighs just 4.4 ounces and is collapsible, so there’s no reason not to bring it car camping or backpacking. Use it to light your table for dinner or your tent for bedtime reading.
Collapsible Coffee Dripper (From $9)
Don’t forgo good coffee in the woods. Put a standard coffee filter with grounds into this collapsible cone that fits directly over your mug. It’s super light (2.4 ounces) and super cheap.
Snow Peak Titanium Fork ($10)
Is it weird to find a spork sexy? This thing is made from titanium, weighs less than cotton candy (0.5 ounces), and handles both soups and solids. Mind blown.
E-Merse Clear Waterproof Phone Case ($20)
You paid $100 for that hard-shell phone case that’s totally, completely waterproof. But is it really? Maybe we’re paranoid, but on paddling trips, we like to double up on waterproof coverage with this ripstop sleeve that keeps the river out and still allows us to take photos and use the touch screen.
Black Diamond Mojo Chalk Bag ($20)
A chalk bag is a chalk bag is a chalk bag, right? Maybe. This one stands out because it’s made from repurposed fabric scraps from Black Diamond’s factory floor.
Opinel #8 Knife ($15)
This knife, from French company Opinel, comes with a beech handle and stainless-steel blade and looks like something you’d hand down to your firstborn. Thankfully, it’s priced at a point where you can buy more than one, so your second- and third-born children won’t feel left out.
Darn Tough CoolMax Micro Crew Cushion ($19)
If you’re not wearing a wool sock when you hike, you’re punishing your feet. It’s not so much the fit or the feel (both of which are great). It’s how fast wool wicks sweat. (We don’t like sweat because it can cause blisters.) Darn Tough also guarantees your socks for life. Wear a hole in them, and they’ll give you a new pair.
MSR Alpine Chef Knife ($17)
If you like to cook in the backcountry—beyond instant meals, perhaps even using fresh ingredients—you need a solid kitchen knife. The Alpine Chef has a large, stainless-steel blade yet weighs just 3.5 ounces.
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (Starting at $12)
Traditional drybags can be heavy because of the rubber closures and dense materials. But this version is featherweight, thanks to the Ultra-Sil material that creates watertight protection at just a half-ounce. We put this bag inside our larger bags to protect phones, wallets, and cameras in case of rain.
Park Tool I-Beam 2 Bike Tool ($17)
You won’t be able to take your bike apart and put it back together in the field with this mini tool, but it does have enough hex wrenches and screwdrivers to fix most minor problems on the trail. Upgrade to the I-Beam 3 and you get a chain tool and tire lever as well.
Vapur Water Bottle ($16)
The Vapur has some qualities a lot of other collapsible water bottles don’t: it stands on its own when it’s full and has an easy-drinking wide-mouth opening. You can even put it in the dishwasher.
Suunto Clipper Compass ($20)
Believe it or not, you can spend a fortune on a compass, which is one of the ten essentials that should be in everyone’s pack at all times (see also Stanley Flask, above). If you don’t want to shell out several benjamins, Suunto’s Clipper will get you headed in the right direction at a reasonable price. Bonus: it clips onto your watch or the edge of a map.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter ($20)
If you’re on an extended camping trip, you’ll want a larger purifier. But this should be in your pack for backcountry day hikes, because giardia sucks, bro.
Adventure Medical Kits ($19)
Adventure Medical Kits stock all the right necessities for common injuries (burns, fractures, blisters, etc.) and pack them all into a watertight bag.
Klean Kanteen Insulated Tumbler ($18)
This tumbler is made from stainless steel with double-wall insulation and comes with a lid to keep the splash down, making it perfect for morning coffee or evening cocktails.
Blackburn Click Rear Light ($15)
You should always ride with a rear blinky—day and night—to make sure cars don’t run you over. We particularly like the Click’s easy rubber connection that makes it a snap to move the light from one bike to the next.