Our Gear Guy’s 5 Favorite Summer Items
These pieces have been in heavy rotation for years
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It isn’t officially summer in my house until my wife and I have the Z-shaped tan lines on our feet that a couple of days spent wearing Chaco sandals delivers. Those sandals, and all my other gear, lives in bins organized by season that I rotate from my garage to my closet to keep everything manageable. While some items like running shoes get worn year round, others undeniably make me think of summer. Now, we’re halfway into the season, and the following five items have been in heavy outdoor rotation for months.
Chacos Z1 Classics ($95)
I’ve tested dozens of water shoes and sport-specific sandals for Outside over the past decade. Even after hundreds of hours spent measuring drainage ports and analyzing grip grids on soles, the sandal I wear most is the same one I relied on during my decade as a raft guide: the Chaco Z1 Classic. The single webbing strap is remarkably durable and hugs the foot like a good friend until the day it completely fails—which for me was roughly three years when I was river guiding and is about a decade now that I am a weekend warrior. The grip has never let me down, even when portaging over slippery rocks while carrying a heavy raft. I’ve also never gotten a single blister from the Z1s despite dozens of miles of technical hiking and hundreds of river miles.
Yeti Gallon Jug ($130)
I rolled my eyes at this very spendy liquid vessel when I first agreed to test it four years ago. After I deemed it worth the price tag, I used it for the remainder of that summer as I sat in the heat for a swiftwater rescue gig. Its ability to keep a gallon of water so cold that it hurts your teeth for a full sunny weekend made it an essential part of my summer kit. Four years later, I’m still using the same jug during every car-based adventure in the heat.
Patagonia Capilene Cool Hoody ($55)
It is remarkable how much more enjoyable incredibly hot days can be with a solid sun shirt. I learned long ago that I had nearly double the energy in the evening if I kept the sun off of my skin and face and that practice continues to this day. I still use the Capilene Cool Hoody that won a summer sun-shirt test I conducted two years ago three to four days a week. It is stylish, keeps me comfortable in triple digit temps, and has held up for two summers of heavy use. On the hottest afternoons, I keep the neck of my sun shirt wet and the hood up. It works like a swamp cooler, and I swear it drops my perceived temp by ten full degrees.
Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat ($40)
There’s no way around it: I look silly when I wear this full-protection sun hat. I recently showed up to a pool play date with my daughter in the Adventure Hat and my wife introduced me as her “husband, the dermatologist.” The other parents asked if I was about to lecture them on how harmful the sun’s UV rays are. They can joke all they want—the mixture of remarkable breathability from the strategically placed mesh, comfort from lightweight materials, and complete protection from the sun make it a staple in my summer kit. I refuse to do yard work in any other hat, and I love it so much that I am happy to be teased when wearing it socially.
Hydro Flask 22-oz Tumbler ($35)
It’s 98 degrees outside and I just had to wrestle with my raft and trailer in direct sunlight. When I came inside, I drank an absolutely frosty cup of water out of the same Hydro Flask Tumbler I reviewed back in 2018. I have been teetotaling for the past few months and have found that a bubbly non-alcoholic beverage—I vacillate between soda water, Mexican Coca-Cola, and kombucha—in this vessel over ice brings me as much joy in the heat as the coldest beer ever did. It is a distinctly summer piece for me now because the extra size makes it better for cold iced bevvies than hot ones (even though I did drink unhealthy amounts of coffee from this in the sleep-deprived first year of my daughter’s life).