From left: Chouinard, Breeze, Woodman, and Gore.

The Encyclopedia of Gear

187 Amazing Stories About Everything We Use

A

Airstream to Aviators

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The original American road-trip trailer, designed in 1931 by Wally Byam, was inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.

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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.

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The surprising tendency for technical products and trends from the outdoor world to find their way into mass culture.

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The most valuable currency in gear marketing of the past 40 years.

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A category of gear that came into being in the late 1960s as more and more skiers ventured beyond resort boundaries.

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Sunglasses designed to protect a pilot’s eyes against high-altitude sun.

B

Backcountry.com to Bra, Sports

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Backcountry.com: Online retailer of a wide range of outdoor gear.

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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.

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BMW GS: An iconic adventure motorcycle introduced in 1980 to compete in the Dakar Rally race, the famed long-distance off-road endurance event.

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Bill Bowerman: A legendary Oregon track coach who cofounded the shoe company Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964; 14 years later, it became Nike.

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Sports Bra: A groundbreaking invention that lets women participate comfortably in a range of vigorous athletic activities.

C

Camelbak to Crowdfunding

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CamelBak: A hands-free hydration system that can be carried in a backpack.

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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

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Canned Beer: A usually cheap, thirst-quenching alcoholic beverage in a durable package, now commonplace on rafting and camping trips.

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Carabiner: A gated aluminum fastener used with rope and other equipment to arrest rock climbers’ falls.

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Catalog: A magazine-like print presentation of a company’s or retailer’s products.

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Chamois: A diaper-like pad first used by cyclists around 1900 to prevent saddle sores and chafing on their nethers.

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Chip timing: The practice of using a small wearable transmitter to track race participants’ times at regular checkpoints along a course.

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Jacques Cousteau: A French explorer and arguably the most prolific marine scientist and ocean conservationist of the 20th century.

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Crowdfunding: A method of raising capital to launch commercial ventures in which small individual donations are made through an online platform.

D-E

Denali Jacket to Elements of Adventure

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Denali Jacket: A popular performance fleece garment made by the North Face and commonly seen on mountaineers and college students.

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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.

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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.

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How a humble wooden fishing craft became the quintessential Grand Canyon ride

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Double Plastic Mountaineering Boot: A highly reliable style of footwear that prevents frostbite in alpine environments.

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Dropper Post: A mountain-bike component that can be raised or lowered with a button mounted on the handlebars.

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Duct tape: A cloth-backed metallic gray adhesive that fixes anything worth saving.

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Duluth pack: A heavy canvas rucksack, patented in 1882 by French Canadian Camille Poirier in Duluth, Minnesota, along the shores of Lake Superior.

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Dutch Oven: A large cast-iron pot and the campfire cooking vessel of choice for pioneers, cowboys, and river guides.

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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…

F

Fat Bike to Footie, Sick

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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.

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Fat Skis: Skis that are at least 115 millimeters underfoot.

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Fat shoes: Shoes with roughly 20 millimeters of foam underfoot

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Filson, a Seattle-based maker of high-quality leather goods.

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Surfboard Fin: A structural element, usually made of wood or fiberglass, attached to the bottom of a surfboard to aid maneuverability.

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Gary Fisher: A major figure in the development of mountain bikes.

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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.

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Sick Footie: A visual recording worth replaying for others.

G

Garmin Forerunner 201 to Gloves, Elk Skin

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Garmin Forerunner 201: The world’s first all-in-one GPS-enabled running watch, released in 2003 by Kansas navigation company Garmin.

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Gatorade: A sports drink formulated in 1965 for the University of Florida Gators football team and currently produced by PepsiCo.

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Gel: A sugary fuel used during races and serious training, typically packed into sealed foil pouches.

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Elk Skin Gloves: Hand protection made from the skin of the great wapiti.

H

Head, Howard to Hummer

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Howard Head: The founder of ski brand Head.

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Headphones: Any device used for playing music close to or within a wearer’s ears.

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Heart-Rate Monitor: A device that measures a wearer’s heart rate; particularly useful for monitoring exertion in athletes.

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Helmet: An apparatus designed to protect the wearer against head injuries.

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Hummer: The civilian version of the military’s Humvee off-road vehicle, which was produced by AM General from 1992 to 2006.

I-J

Icons to Jones, Jeremy

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These innovators-in-chief changed the way we play

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Jeep: A four-wheel-drive vehicle first produced for the U.S. Army during World War II.

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Jogging Stroller: A stroller that allows parents to run and, theoretically, get their toddlers to nap.

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Jeremy Jones: A pioneering big-mountain snowboarder and snowboard designer.

K

Kite to Knight, Phil

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Phil Knight: Cofounder of athletic-shoe company Nike.

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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.

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Swiss Army Knife: The world’s first consumer multitool, designed by cutler Karl Elsener with two blades, a screwdriver, and a can opener.

L

Leatherman to Lumbersexual

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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.

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Lifa Shirt: The first commercially available base layer made from polypropylene, released in 1970 by Helly Hansen.

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Lifetime Warranty: A company’s promise to repair or replace an item that breaks.

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Little Things: Those items that mark the difference between a miserable experience and a joyous one—pit zips on jackets being a prime example.

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Greg Lowe: Inventor of the internal-frame backpack.

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Lululemon: A yoga-apparel brand founded by Canadian entrepreneur Chip Wilson in 1998.

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Lumbersexual: A fashion-conscious male urbanite whose clothing and accessories project an aura of rugged manliness.