The Most Reliable Old-School Gear
We asked a group of professional athletes about the oldest pieces of gear they still use every day
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Gear is constantly getting more innovative, but nothing beats the classics. These are the pieces five pro athletes keep coming back to year after year.
Casio F-91W ($19)
Karl Meltzer, Ultrarunner
Karl Meltzer, who has placed first 38 times in 100-mile trail races (that’s a world record), says he doesn’t use any training apps—in fact, he doesn’t even bring his phone on runs. A black Casio F-91W watch is all he’s ever needed. “It’s very simple, has a light, and was ten bucks about 20 years ago,” Meltzer says. The Casio F-91W is such a classic that it has its own Wikipedia page. When Casio built the original, in 1991, the watch had few features—it was water-resistant and had an alarm—and the company hasn’t updated it since. Meltzer has never replaced it because, he says, “It still works and tells time.”
Petzl Grigri ($150)
Olivia Hsu, Climber
A longtime favorite of climbers everywhere, the Petzl Grigri is an assisted braking belay device. It’s designed to pinch the rope when a climber on belay falls, making it easier for the person holding the belay to stop the rope and the falling climber. Climber Olivia Hsu has had her Grigri since 1999 and still uses it. “It’s brilliantly designed,” she says. Petzl started selling the original Grigri in 1991, and 20 years later, the company updated the design to make the Grigri 2. Hsu says the new version works better with skinnier ropes—9.4 to 10.3-millimeter diameter, according to Petzl—but otherwise the design is largely the same. “Just lighter material and smaller diameter,” Hsu says. She took her Grigri 2 on a recent trip to Peru but still uses the original for gym climbing, where the ropes tend to be thicker.
Salomon Fanny Pack
Drew Petersen, Professional Skier
In summer, when he’s trail running, skier Drew Petersen straps on a fanny pack that’s 12 years older than he is: His dad bought it in 1982. It’s made from a durable pink canvas and features loud purple and yellow graphics and old-school Salomon logos. Petersen admits the main reason he loves it is the retro color scheme. “But ultimately, it works really well for spring skiing and summer hiking,” he says. “It forces me to bring only what I need. It stands up to spilled beers, exploded snacks, and overloading it with a full burrito.” Salomon doesn’t make fanny packs like it used to. Now the brand calls them “running belts.” The closest you can find to Petersen’s 1982 original is the Hydro 45 Belt, made from waterproof ripstop material and featuring a small zippered pocket and a water bottle holder.
Sawyer Mini Filter ($25)
Joe McConaughy, Ultrarunner
When Joe McConaughy set the fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail last year, one piece of gear he relied on was his water filter. Only two ounces and about the size of his hand, the Sawyer Mini Filter is super-durable, outlasting some of his plastic water bottles. The filter is easy to twist onto his everyday water bottle, so McConaughy could refill his water supply in a stream, attach the filter and cap, take a swig, and keep running. He still uses it all the time almost a year after he set the record—an impressive life span for a well-loved water filter. “Despite intensive use, it still works,” McConaughy says.
Patagonia Nano-Air Hoodie ($300)
Robin McElroy, Ski Patroller and Guide
Robin McElroy, a 12-year veteran on the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol, has worn her Nano-Air Hoodie on a near-daily basis for five years and counting—and “it’s still like brand new,” she says. Patagonia’s soft nylon ripstop shell with versatile synthetic insulation has a ton of stretch, making it easy to layer under or over a patrol uniform. She also wears it on her days off when she’s skiing in her Gore-Tex shell and in summer when she’s camping. “It’s a really good layering piece, but you can also just wear it to the bar,” McElroy says. “It’s comfortable and looks good. Breathable and functional.”