8 Toys That Have Fundamentally Changed How We Play Outside

If our Santa Fe office was on fire, this is the gear we'd save


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We test a lot of nice gear at Outside. Many of our offices are overflowing with the best stuff from this season and next, but it’s rare that we land on an item that becomes a fundamental tool in our daily kit. To honor such game-changing equipment, we asked our editors what gear they couldn’t live without. Here's what they said. 

DPS Yvette 112 Skis and Dynafit Radical Bindings ($1,300 and $340, pictured above)

I hate tele skiing. Don't get me wrong: an old-school tele turn is a thing of beauty and freeing the heel on a deep powder day basically guarantees you endless, glorious face-shots. I have a lot of respect for tele skiers. Trouble is, I suck at it, and I don't believe in wasting good pow turns flailing away when I could be locked and loaded. That's why my first alpine-touring setup—the DPS Yvette 112 with Dynafit Radical bindings—was such a game-changer. Suddenly, I could skin up a lovely line, then twist the heel piece, click in, and rip. Now I spend as much time in the backcountry as I do at the resort—and have developed a new love for earning my turns.—Axie Navas, senior editor

Polar V800 GPS Watch ($450)

(Jakob Schiller)

I really hope nobody saw me as I struggled up a steep hill during the first run I took with a Polar V800 GPS sports watch. I was driven crazy, at first, by how slowly the watch said I was running, and the sounds of frustration were probably audible from a hundred yards away. This friggin’ thing was lying to me. As my training volume went up, however, so did my appreciation for a watch that kept a close eye on things. Because of the GPS, it was easy to keep an accurate mileage count everywhere I ran, including on the obscure dirt trails that make my hometown of Santa Fe a runner’s paradise. Because of the heart-rate monitor, I could finally plan a decent interval workout or tempo run—and pace it properly, without resorting to guesswork based on the 5K times I ran in 2004. Three marathons and an Ironman later, me and the watch get along just fine. While I’ve never been drawn to the nerdy, technical side of running or triathlons, it’s impossible to deny how useful it is to have a machine that gives you a structured, long-term look at your progress, without interrupting the point-A-to-point-B simplicity that makes endurance training such a joy. My goal is to be faster. And like it or not, machines don’t lie.—Reid Singer, assistant editor

Thule T2 Classic Bike Rack ($400)

(Jakob Schiller)

Mountain biking is awesome, but schlepping all the gear is not. Roof racks are particularly difficult to deal with: I always had to remove my front wheel, add a thru-axle adapter to the fork, and then huff the 30-pound trail bike on top of the Subaru. To speed things up, I recently upgraded to a Thule T2 Classic hitch-mounted rack. It may sound silly, but I can confidently say that no other piece of gear has changed my life as much as that hinged piece of steel. It's a breeze to install, has enough clearance for the trunk to open with two bikes loaded (when they're folded down), even accommodates fat bikes, and is ridiculously easy to use. I’ve only had it or a month but have already spent significantly less time fumbling at the trailhead and more time riding. —Bryan Rogala, video production manager

New Balance Boylston Training Shirt (Discontinued)

(Jakob Schiller)

Two years ago, I jumped into the world of competitive trail running. I found myself getting much deeper in the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara, California, and realized that my gear had to change, too. Instead of a singlet and handheld water bottle, I needed a hydration pack and running shorts to prevent chaffing. So I went to the local running store and bought a bright yellow, now-discontinued New Balance Boylston Training Shirt off the sale rack. It was light, comfortable, moisture absorbent, and kept my Ultimate Direction pack from inflicting any damage. Fast-forward to today, and I have worn this shirt on every long training run and in every race. I've run in it—and subsequently washed it—easily over a hundred times. In fact, it's the only short sleeve running shirt I own, and until it rips in half, I don't see any reason to buy another one. I think bright yellow might be my color.—Wes Judd, assistant editor 

Bontrager ION 700 R Bike Light ($120)

(Jakob Schiller)

Albuquerque is no Amsterdam when it comes to bikes. Or, put another way, many drivers in this mid-sized desert city don’t understand how to coexist with anyone on two wheels. They make left turns in front of you, drive too close, and get pissed off if you slow them down. As a safeguard I’ve always run a rear blinky, but now I also use a front light so they can see me coming. My favorite, by far, is the Bontrager ION 700 R. With 700 lumens on full power, plus 450-, 200-, and 50-lumen modes and two blinking patterns, it immediately gets oncoming drivers’ attention. Even the 200-lumen setting is bright enough to illuminate a bike path, and the battery lasts long enough that you only need to charge it once a week, even with daily use.—Jakob Schiller, associate editor

G3 Scapegoat Split-Board ($850)

(Jakob Schiller)

The first part of this winter sucked: I had to boot-pack up the ski area with my snowboard on my back if I wanted to hop on our regular staff dawn patrols. My coworkers were fast and happy. I was slow and frustrated. But then I got G3’s Scapegoat split-board and everything changed. Thanks to the carbon construction, it weighs just over five pound, so I was suddenly just as fast as everyone on skis. On the way down, the paulownia wood core was snappy for ollies and zippy for edge-to-edge carving. The rockered, powder-specific shovelnose floated even on the deepest days, and the narrow tail and set-back stance made kamikaze trees way less scary. By now I have at least 40 dawn patrols on this board and look forward to even more next season.—Jon Gugala, editorial assistant

Apple Watch ($350)

(Jakob Schiller)

Normally, I can’t help but obsess over numbers. It’s a key part of my job as Outside’s online editor to track traffic to our stories, plays to our videos, and loads of sales-related stats. But not on the bike. After I stopped racing, the computer came off. I craved the purity of riding and training by perceived exertion and time. The only problem: I was getting slower and fatter. Way fatter. So I bought myself an Apple Watch. One year later, I’m faster and fitter than I’ve ever been, largely because of the Activity app’s three rings: blue for standing time, red for all-day movement, and green for actual exercise. I still can’t believe it, but trying to close those rings helps me step away from the computer for a lunch ride, get out of bed for a morning CrossFit session, or leave work early for a hike. The best part? There’s still no computer on my bike.—Scott Rosenfield, online editor

Saxx Vibe Boxer Modern Fit ($32)

(Jakob Schilller)

It’s hard to overstate the magic of boxer briefs. By some tailoring alchemy, two flawed and competing designs were merged to create a whole new dimension of the male undergarment experience that is far greater than the sum of its parts. If you’ve never tried them, you must. You’ll notice the difference almost immediately. When was the last time something changed the way you walk, the way you sit? How can you quantify the lack of discomfort? Indeed, boxer briefs are a cornerstone of 21st century fashion. For example, try to imagine the ascension of skinny jeans without them. And who do we have to thank for this glorious invention? The boxer brief is officially credited to Calvin Klein designer John Varvatos, whose Eureka moment arrived in the early 1990s after cutting the legs off of a pair of long johns. But the guy who put them in front of our faces for the first time? None other than Marky Mark.—Greg Thomas, associate editor

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