Going up with the G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins.
Going up with the G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins. (Grant Baldwin)
Gear Guy

Staff Picks: The Gear That Changed How We Play Outside

Outside editors and writers weigh in on the one thing that made everything easier and better

Going up with the G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins.

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My garage is packed with cool gear, but I can point to very few pieces and say, “That truly improved how I experience the outdoors.” The one thing that qualifies? You’ll find it below, along with other choices from the Outside staff.


Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp ($20)

(Black Diamond)

At the ripe old age of 24, I bought my first headlamp, an orange Black Diamond Gizmo ($20), at a Seattle REI—my group’s last pit stop before a backpacking trip in Olympic National Park. Maybe this could save my life, I thought. Maybe my friends would actually kill me if I mooched their headlamps for a full week. Heading out to hang the bear canisters on a dark night, not an hour after spotting an entire black bear family nearby, I knew I was right. No longer would I be the idiot who hopelessly aimed her phone light down a darkened trail, thinking it was just as helpful as 90 lumens. Back home this week, while on a post-work run, I passed a spot where I once bonked my head on a fairly obvious tree branch just after sunset and shook my well-illuminated head at the fool I used to be. —Erin Berger, associate editor

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1970s Pflueger Medalist Reel (Free)


The gear that changed my life was a Pflueger Medalist reel and a Fenwick six-weight fiberglass fly rod, both from the 1970s. My dad received the combo as a wedding gift and sent it to me when I was living in a tiny little town in Michigan on the edge of the Manistee National Forest so I could start fly-fishing. I had no idea what I was doing, stomping around in those little sandy-bottomed streams, scaring every fish in the river. But without the rod and reel, I probably wouldn’t have become that dubious character: an angler. I truly have no idea what I’d do with my summers if I didn’t fish. —Jonah Ogles, articles editor

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G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins ($160)


Everyone knows how cool Dynafit bindings are, but I’d give equal credit to the G3 Alpinist Climbing Skins ($160) that I use on the local skin track for uphill skiing. These have made it possible for me, a runner, to get a decent winter workout without dodging traffic or splashing ankle-deep into a series of ice-cold puddles. I used to hate working out in the winter. Now it’s all I want to do. —Reid Singer, associate editor

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Kokotat Gore-Tex Dry Suit ($1,000)


I took pride in how well I could brave cold water as a raft guide and whitewater kayaker in my teens and early 20s. When I was 24, I kayaked through a snowy Seattle winter in a hole-riddled Rip Curl wetsuit my parents had gifted me for my 16th birthday and an old splash top a friend had given me out of pity. I may have been tough, but I was also completely miserable. The following year, I decided to spend $1,000 on my first Kokotat Gore-Tex Dry Suit even though I was still living out my truck and essentially broke. The suit kept me warm and dry, but it also helped me retain energy so I could stay out longer when shivering friends in dry tops had to tap out. As I’ve gotten softer with age, it’s the one piece of gear I refuse to do without during winter or early season multiday raft trips. —Joe Jackson, columnist

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Black Diamond Creek 35 Pack ($170)

(Black Diamond)

My choice would be the Black Diamond Creek 35 Pack ($170). As my climbing rack and equipment list grow and grow, this thing has more than accommodated everything. The cinch closure up top allows me to expand the storage when needed, and the rope strap and helmet bucket mean both can be carried atop the bag without a hitch. But the truly genius touch is the top-to-bottom side zipper, so I don’t have to unload everything from the top to reach something buried at the bottom. All that, plus the pack feels secure and balanced on my back, even when fully loaded. And there are tons of little loops for clipping gear to and an outer flap with multiple pockets for carrying carabiners, wallet, cellphone, and the like. —Will Egensteiner, associate editor

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Scarpa Maestrale RS Ski Boots ($730)


I grew up telemarking and held on as a knee-dropper until 2012. That was the year I got my first pair of alpine touring boots: the Scarpa Maestrale RS ($730). Out on the skin track, I was shocked at how much lighter the RS felt than my brick-like tele boots. But I was even more surprised on the down. Instead of having to muscle through turns with my quads burning and a heel in the air, I was able to turn almost effortlessly, thanks to the locked-down pin bindings and the stiff construction that transferred all my power to the ski. I was actually skiing, not just surviving. What’s more, Scarpa recently updated the design, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair. —Jakob Schiller, associate editor

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Lead Photo: Grant Baldwin

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