Most gear is full of compromises—jackets that are feathery light but don’t have enough pockets, hiking boots that are bombproof but breathe like plastic bags, and rooftop tents that are comfy but a total pain to install. Sometimes, however, you come across gear that’s perfect from the get-go: no tweaking necessary. After years of testing, here are five of our favorites that fit into that category.
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 60 Liter ($130)
The Black Hole bags are not the most exciting or feature-rich duffels on the market but they make this list for the following reasons. First, they’re absolutely bombproof, thanks to a 900-denier polyester ripstop outer that’s at home on top of your truck. Second, the Black Holes are weatherproof (though not submergible) so your gear won’t get wet sitting on your roof. Next, many of the Black Holes fold into their own pockets for easy storage. And finally, the Black Holes, especially this 60-liter version, are affordable. You don’t need to throw down a month’s rent to have a travel companion for at least a decade to come.
Black Diamond Iota Rechargeable Headlamp ($40)
Ten years ago, headlamps sucked. Nowadays we’re living through a headlamp renaissance. For me, the Iota is a perfect illustration of how far we’ve come. It’s tiny—just about an inch long and about two ounces—but throws 150 lumens, or enough for an evening trail run, an “Oh shit, we hiked too far and need to get back to the car in the dark” moment, or reading in your tent before bed. It’s also rechargeable, so you never have to throw down for AAAs, switches between low and high beams with a tap to the side, and will never leave you in the dark thanks to a battery-power meter on the front.
Electric Knoxville XL Sunglasses ($150)
OK, one confession: these are absolutely perfect for larger faces. Prefer to go smaller? The regular Knoxvilles are your jam. Regardless of your size, the Knoxville design looks smashing on any face thanks to a surf influence with clean lines. There’s plenty under the hood, too. Polarized lenses add visual clarity and cut glare, strong hinges won’t fail if you accidentally sit on the glasses, and the frames are made from a bendy but nearly indestructible Grilamid plastic, the same stuff companies like Dynafit use to make your favorite ski boots.
Peak Design Camera Leash ($40)
The highest compliment I can pay this leash is that it quickly becomes an afterthought. In other words, it does its job so well I never have to think about it. My favorite part: the quick-release that lets me snap the strap off in seconds so I can throw the camera on a tripod. Strap-length adjustments are buttery smooth thanks to an aluminum clasp that can be manipulated with one hand, and the seatbelt-style nylon webbing slides easily over my clothing and will take plenty of abuse. I prefer this ultra-skinny version, but Peak Design makes wider versions if you want more girth for a bigger camera.
Flint and Tinder Staywax Camp Shirt ($170)
This camp shirt is one of the few pieces of gear I can wear in the mountains and to a morning meeting. Made from a British-manufactured waxed cotton, it’s tough enough to put up with chopping wood, warm enough for cold, high-alpine nights, and water-resistant so I don’t have to worry in a drizzle. At the same time, it has a slim, simple cut that goes well with a pair of jeans and leather boots at the office. I know $170 is a lot of pay for a simple shirt, but once you see the versatility of this piece, and wear it everywhere for a year straight, you’ll gladly make the investment.