The Encyclopedia of Gear
187 Amazing Stories About Everything We Use
Airstream to Aviators
The original American road-trip trailer, designed in 1931 by Wally Byam, was inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.
Founders of the Recreational Equipment Co-op (REI), which the couple started in their West Seattle home in 1938 as a way to help climber friends gain access to cheaper ice axes and harnesses by ordering bulk gear from Europe.
The surprising tendency for technical products and trends from the outdoor world to find their way into mass culture.
A category of gear that came into being in the late 1960s as more and more skiers ventured beyond resort boundaries.
Backcountry.com to Bra, Sports
Base-Camp Duffel: A large, 155-liter bag often seen loaded on yaks in Nepal’s Khumbu region for a few simple reasons: it can take a beating, it has straps that convert it into a backpack, and mountaineers know that it can carry all their gear.
BMW GS: An iconic adventure motorcycle introduced in 1980 to compete in the Dakar Rally race, the famed long-distance off-road endurance event.
Bill Bowerman: A legendary Oregon track coach who cofounded the shoe company Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964; 14 years later, it became Nike.
Camelbak to Crowdfunding
Camouflage: A varying pattern of earth-colored prints designed to obscure the wearer from view, worn by hunters and members of the U.S. military
Canned Beer: A usually cheap, thirst-quenching alcoholic beverage in a durable package, now commonplace on rafting and camping trips.
Carabiner: A gated aluminum fastener used with rope and other equipment to arrest rock climbers’ falls.
Chamois: A diaper-like pad first used by cyclists around 1900 to prevent saddle sores and chafing on their nethers.
Chip timing: The practice of using a small wearable transmitter to track race participants’ times at regular checkpoints along a course.
Jacques Cousteau: A French explorer and arguably the most prolific marine scientist and ocean conservationist of the 20th century.
Denali Jacket to Elements of Adventure
Denali Jacket: A popular performance fleece garment made by the North Face and commonly seen on mountaineers and college students.
Direct to Consumer: A business model in which a company sells its products via its own website, catalog, or store, reducing retail markup and passing the savings along to the consumer.
Dithering: The intentional degrading of a satellite’s signal to discourage unauthorized use, which deterred citizens from tapping into the Department of Defense’s Global Positioning System, or GPS, for ten years.
How a humble wooden fishing craft became the quintessential Grand Canyon ride
Double Plastic Mountaineering Boot: A highly reliable style of footwear that prevents frostbite in alpine environments.
Dropper Post: A mountain-bike component that can be raised or lowered with a button mounted on the handlebars.
Duluth pack: A heavy canvas rucksack, patented in 1882 by French Canadian Camille Poirier in Duluth, Minnesota, along the shores of Lake Superior.
Dutch Oven: A large cast-iron pot and the campfire cooking vessel of choice for pioneers, cowboys, and river guides.
The raw materials that make up the tools for hiking, running, paddling, skiing, and cycling. These 36 building blocks are indispensable to the design and function of gear, from mankind’s first wool layer to the latest lab-born membranes. (Some things just look better in print. To see this in all…
Fat Bike to Footie, Sick
Blimp-tired bicycles were developed for one of the most grueling endurance races in the world. But then everyone else realized how much fun they were.
Surfboard Fin: A structural element, usually made of wood or fiberglass, attached to the bottom of a surfboard to aid maneuverability.
Fly rod: A skinny stick, usually 6 to 13 feet long, used in conjunction with a reel, a line, and hand-tied simulations of in-sects to catch fish.
Garmin Forerunner 201 to Gloves, Elk Skin
Garmin Forerunner 201: The world’s first all-in-one GPS-enabled running watch, released in 2003 by Kansas navigation company Garmin.
Gatorade: A sports drink formulated in 1965 for the University of Florida Gators football team and currently produced by PepsiCo.
Gel: A sugary fuel used during races and serious training, typically packed into sealed foil pouches.
Head, Howard to Hummer
Heart-Rate Monitor: A device that measures a wearer’s heart rate; particularly useful for monitoring exertion in athletes.
Icons to Jones, Jeremy
Jogging Stroller: A stroller that allows parents to run and, theoretically, get their toddlers to nap.
Kite to Knight, Phil
Kite: A lightweight aircraft—often erroneously considered a toy—propelled by the wind and controlled by a user on the ground via a line or set of lines.
Leatherman to Lumbersexual
Leatherman: A multitool invented by Tim Leatherman after wishing he had a pair of pliers while working on a rust-bucket Fiat with a pocket knife during a 1975 European road trip.
Lifa Shirt: The first commercially available base layer made from polypropylene, released in 1970 by Helly Hansen.
Little Things: Those items that mark the difference between a miserable experience and a joyous one—pit zips on jackets being a prime example.