2016// my favorite things
Every year I get a few new pieces of gear. Whether it's camp gear, a household item, or something I carry everyday, I try to invest in quality products that will last a while. Ultimately, things don't make you happy, but the right things can help make your day and travels more enjoyable, comfortable and convenient. So here are a few of my favorite things from 2016...
Like the name says, this speaker is tough. I've taken my Fugoo backpacking, camping, to the beach, canoeing and more. It's been dropped, kicked, spilled on, and completely submerged in water, but it keeps on cranking tunes. Not only is the Fugoo tough but the battery life is a dream. After using it every night during a week long camping trip, I finally had to recharge its battery. It puts out great power for its size and the speakers are multi-directional. If you like to listen to music in the great outdoors this is your new best friend. I love it so much I got one for my brother as a gift.
I can't say enough about this tent. It's lightweight, packable and extremely dependable. The UL2 means it's an ultralight 2-person tent. Big Agnes makes some of the best tents on the market and the Copper Spur is consistently ranked among the best backpacking tents you can buy. I bought it for backpacking because it has a trail weight of just 2lb 12oz but still has plenty of room for two campers and two entrances. Each entrance has its own vestibule for storing gear. Rain and wind is no problem either. I've spent an entire night in a torrential rain at Lake Powell, AZ without a single drop of water getting inside. It is also super easy to set up. The less time making camp, the more time you have to enjoy your surroundings.
As you may know, I enjoy a glass of bourbon. This is one of my favorites and one of the 5 bourbons we chose to have at our wedding last year. The reason it made this list over other favorites is the price point. You can find a bottle of Eagle Rare for under $30 at most liquor stores. If you're unsure about bourbon or just getting into it, Eagle Rare is a great choice and it won't break the bank. Check out a review from The Whiskey Wash.
I originally bought a pair of rogue stretch camp pants on The Clymb and I loved them so much I decided I would get married in them. My groomsmen and I all wore them on my wedding day. I love the comfortable stretchy goodness of these pants so much I wear them at least four times a week. They are durable, so you can hit the great outdoors in them or dress them up for a night out. Most importantly, they have a gusset which you didn't realize you needed until you put these pants on. I will be buying these pants as long as Wilder & Sons keeps making them.
I bought this jacket at REI on a whim after I failed to pack anything warm for a trip to New Mexico. I thought I was going to be in the desert and soon ended up at chilly elevations so I stopped in REI and found this on sale. I thought I would wear it for a couple of days and return it but I fell in love and couldn't part with it. It's comfortable, lightweight and super breathable. You can wear it around town on a chilly day, put it on for a hike or for a run in cold weather. The fabric is soft and stretchy which is good for higher output activities where you want more range of motion. The Nano-Air is very breathable and treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellant) so you can take on light rain or snow and stay dry and warm. It also comes in a hooded version for a little extra warmth out in the elements.
Hands down, this is my favorite lens. There are a few lenses I really love and use at every wedding I shoot. My 24mm and my 58mm are among them but, for me, nothing beats the imagery I capture with my 45mm tilt-shift. Nikon makes a few focal lengths of this lens: 24mm, 45mm, and 85mm. I rented two of them before purchasing and decided to go with 45mm. It's the perfect focal length for me. It allows me to shoot wide and tight. I love to shoot wedding day portraits and landscapes on the hiking trail. Tilt-shift lenses take time to get used to but with practice you can create really unique images with this lens. They are not very forgiving though so practice is key. The 45 is super sharp as long as you nail your focus and can also be used as a macro lens. See a few photos I shot with my tilt-shift here. Photographer extraordinaire, Sam Hurd, wrote an excellent review of this lens that you can check out here. They're not cheap but if you're interested in photography and want to experiment with tilt-shift lenses I say go for it and start with this lens.
Yeti makes great gear but it's also expensive. However, this is the best water bottle I've ever owned and I am not disappointed with my purchase. As advertised, this bad boy keeps cold things cold and hot things hot. I use it everyday at home just to drink water but it also comes in handy for road trips, camping and backpacking adventures. Do you want to make a whole bunch of coffee when you wake up at your campsite? Put it in the Yeti, your coffee will stay warm. I have the 36oz bottle which I think is the perfect size, however Yeti also makes 20oz and 64oz bottles. The 36oz will hold a bottle of wine if you like or 3 beers. If you're heading out on the river and want to keep a few beers cold without having to bring a cooler, put it in the Yeti. This past summer I topped it off with a couple of cold brews before a backpacking trip with dad and my brothers. After driving out to the park plus another 5-hour hike we shared a couple ice cold beers after we set up camp.
Backpacker Magazine named this boot one of their editors' choice top picks so these boots sold out quickly. My local REI was out of them so I ordered a pair on Ebay only to find out later that they were being shipped from Italy where La Sportiva is located. Eventually they arrived and the Synthesis are the most comfortable shoes I've put on straight out of the box. I was shocked at how cozy they were without a break-in period. I'm a sweaty footed hiker but the Synthesis uses Gore-Tex Surround to allow breathability while still keeping the boot waterproof. With each step the boots actually vent through the footbed to keep out moisture. I love the combination of comfortable lightweight waterproof breathability.
I got the Arc'teryx Tecto FL as a gift and a great gift it has proven to be. The FL stands for fast & light so this is a minimalist jacket that is lightweight, packs up small, and has high waterproof breathable performance. The jacket came with a small pouch and it packs up to about the size of a Foster's Oil Can. I can take this jacket everywhere. It's an everyday carry item for me in my backpack so when an unexpected rain shower hits I always have it with me. It keeps me dry and is great at cutting wind as well. This jacket is great for quick hikes, runs and packing light. It has one single arm pocket that can hold keys, a driver's license, or any small items you may need to carry. There are no waist pockets so you may want a less minimal jacket for colder climates or if you're going to be in the rain frequently and need more room for your personal belongings.
Osprey created there Anti-Gravity suspension system for this pack which is essentially one continuous webbing that extends across the entire back and down into the waist belt. The first time I put it on, I was shocked how the Atmos hugged my back and distributed the weight evenly across the frame. The webbing also holds the load off your back which allows for excellent ventilation on hot days. Storage space is great with plenty of pockets within reach while you're on the trail. The over-sized hip belt pockets are big enough to stash trail snacks and even a point and shoot camera. Super happy I got this pack and so is my back.
I hate traditional camera straps. They're not bad if you are shooting one camera for a short period of time but eventually the weight of the camera will start to hurt your neck. As a wedding photographer shooting two cameras, it was impossible to use regular straps. I would always take mine off which lead to me misplacing cameras during a wedding day. My Moneymaker completely changed my wedding days. My cameras are always by my side and the weight is on my shoulders instead of my neck. As an added bonus, I've gotten a ton of compliments on them because they're stylish and resemble gun holsters. The one down side is their range of motion. Having a camera on a leather strap means there are limits to where it can go. Sometimes I can't hold the camera high enough overhead or I have to lay down flat on my belly to get it down low. Overall, if you're a wedding shooter these are highly recommended.
If you're thinking about getting a duck boot you can't go wrong with L.L. Bean. You should order them immediately because they are always back-ordered. Partly because of their popularity and because they are hand-stitched right hear in the U-S of A. You just can't rush that kind of quality. I throw these boots on anytime it's wet outside. They are the perfect combination of style and functionality. I also own a pair of L.L. Bean's Shearling-Lined winter boots and they keep my feet nice and toasty in the cold. I am firmly on team L.L. Bean when it comes to duck boots. Pro tip: try them on in-store before you buy them online because they run big. I'm typically a size 10 but my duck boots are a size 8.
A real man's hair wash. The cool effervescence of Duke Cannon's tea tree formula will wake you up in the morning and put a few extra hairs on your chest. As Duke says, "Duke Cannon has no interest in salads, male capri pants, or products of inferior quality." I feel damn clean when I use this wash and you will too. They also sell a Big Ass Brick Of Soap and a portion of all proceeds supports veteran causes which is something I can get on board with.
I get plenty of flack for my Chubbies shorts because of the amount of thigh I show. My wife is probably going to kill me for including Chubbies on this list, but I had to! Chubbies undeniable style, combined with their performance stretch material is a dream for my thighs. Instead of feeling constrained I have a full range of motion for swimming, running, and squat thrusts. They make performance stretch in bathing suits (which you can see above) and everyday shorts which I love as well. The performance stretch line of shorts is comfortable for any activity. Just remember, "Sky's out, thighs out."