I’ve always looked at the gear and clothing I use as tools in my kit. How will the tools work for a chosen job? In this case, the chosen job is how Joan and I spend time outdoors and what particular goal we have for the trip.
My preferred tools tend to work transparently with little futzing and just work. I want the tools to enable my outdoor experience and not become the experience itself. If I mess around with pack straps, fiddling with doodads, or adjusting whatchamahoosits, I will not like the tool—no matter what award it won via paid listicles or top ten clickbait affiliate marketing copy. Joan has similar thoughts, if not as said stridently as her opinionated and vocal husband. 😉
Another trend with gear and clothing for us is that we tend to purchase a new kit when there is a niche to fill (such as our biking around town, tweaking cold weather gear, or our existing equipment and clothing wear out). Just this past month, we’ve had to buy a new propane hose and regulator, replace some clothing, send back our well-loved and used wonder tent for a zipper repair, replace base layers, swap out the shock cord on another tent’s pole, and more. We use our gear, and Utah tends to beat on it. A lot.
So, we replace the gear and clothing. And occasionally stumbled upon something new that works.
Here’s what worked well for us that’s new in 2022. Now, this list has some “cheats” in the sense some of it got acquired previously but came into its own in 2022. And some items we already like (Joan’s Squak, my Etsy double-lined fleece mittens) are too new for us to give at least somewhat of a longer-term view. Maybe next year!
With all that in mind, here’s the gear and clothing we particularly liked in 2022 for our outdoor pursuits.
Much of Joan’s picks tend to reflect her ongoing tweaking of gear to deal with Raynaud’s and not overheating while doing so. Finding appropriate footwear that’s both comfortable and warm for her feet also makes a concern. Joan’s picks reflect those needs.
As predicted when I bought two pairs, I figured Joan would quickly enjoy using these rugged, oversized, easy layering and versatile layers for cold weather hiking out here on the Colorado Plateau. They accompany her on all hikes and backpacking trips once the mercury drops a bit. “Gauntlet style” for more coverage, easy on and off, tight seal with no futzing, and plenty large to accommodate a liner and mid-layer. Not the lightest at 4 oz, but certainly lighter than similar cold weather over mitts. We are not sure how waterproof they are for torrential downpours, but they have worked well for light precip, snow, and sleet. At only ~$8 a pair (with S&H), a great bang for the buck. I also keep a pair always stashed in my day pack.
A last-minute purchase at a hunting store in Cortez, CO, Joan finds the glomitts an essential part of her cold weather system in conjunction with our favorite liner gloves. . The fingerless mode allows her to access gear without completely removing the insulation, and the fleece-like lining makes for some fuzzy warmth. Wool has its own properties that work well for an outer layer. Many versions of this staple are available at hardware, auto, and hunting stores.
- Ugg-boot clones, discount shoe warehouse
On a trip to Grand Junction for the many services not available in Moab (sigh), I urged Joan to check out the discount shoe outlet at the local mall. Joan wanted warm boots not as heavy or bulky, and sometimes overkill, as bunny boots. Skeptical, Joan humored me. Joan has trouble finding shoes that fit her feet due to size and bunion issues and did not have any faith in finding boots in this non-descript shoe store. Well, lo and behold, she found a pair that fits, seemed comfortable, and was under $40. Score!
Similar to the popular Ugg boots, these fuzzy-lined boots may be thought of as one-piece mukluks (no removable liner) for cold, dry conditions that are light for around camp and make for easier packing. Easily one of the pieces of gear that Joan enjoyed quite a bit in 2022. No more cold feet; they are much less bulky and more comfortable than bunny boots. I suspect the core consumer of these boots does not wear them in the red rock desert too often. But Joan’s way cooler, in my biased opinion.
Unlike me, Joan likes her sun hoodies for cooler (below ~70F) hiking. They protect her skin, act as an insulation layer for her head when needed, and accompany her on many hikes. When Joan likes something, she buys two each if affordable. It’s telling that she immediately purchased a second REI-brand sun hoodie for her hiking rotation. She says it’s comfortable, practical, and looks nice.
- Old school wind pants
My old-school wind pants are one of my favorite gear for camp, ski tours, and (now) biking. The mesh liner keeps the pants off the other layers and assists with warmth and breathability, similar to grid fleece. They come on and off easily and make an excellent adjunct to differ different layers.
Joan saw the utility, bought a pair, and quickly utilized her pair in a way similar to mine. Much to my surprise, these old-school wind pants, though very useful, seem somewhat difficult to find now. But we found a pair by Sport-Tek for a reasonable price of under $25 on Amazon. Here’s hoping we can purchase a similar pair in the future.
We go on almost all our trips together and almost weekly. We tend to share gear. And, like many couples, we seem to purchase similar equipment and clothing. One later afternoon, a colleague of Joan’s called us twinsies just before we biked back home. Ha! So it goes. It also shows we both seem to have similar outdoor styles and value practical, affordable, and effective tools for our use.
At $11, this grease pot with a handle makes a budget-friendly pot for two (or one large appetite) that’s light at 5 oz and heats a liter of water. Perfect for our customary backpacking nightcap of rum and cider. I’ll keep it until Joan tells me to replace it.
Over the years, I’ve grown to like mechanical ventilation for wind and rain gear. My old-school anorak works beautifully for windy and cold ski tours, and I’ll only purchase primary rain gear with pit zips at this point. I’ve also found that WPB rain gear tends to wet out after a while and eventually lose its rain protection. Ditto for Joan.
We gravitated towards the Lightheart Gear rain jackets when it was time to replace our three-season rain gear. Very waterproof, generous pit zips for ventilation, keeps us dry in the rain; it works well, keeping us warm when it gets colder during later fall or early winter with a fleece, esp during breezy conditions. At around 6 oz, light in weight. And at $125, a competitive option, too.
Though we’ve used Luci Lights for a fair amount of years now, the candle lantern version makes for something new this year. At sub-3oz and only ~$20, a perfect luxury item for the longer nights we find during the later fall and winter months. The light gives off a glow reminiscent of a vintage candle lantern. But last longer, no need to pack in additional candles, no worries about bumping it, and we can charge it again as we hike during the day.
Joan and I now bike around town frequently. We minimize vehicle use during the week and will run most of our errands, including biking to workplace activities, by bicycle. The location of the home we purchased earlier this year makes it easy to get to Arches NP via bike path or a quick zip to the grocery store or other services in Moab. A vital component of these bike commutes means hi-vis clothing. We want to look like traffic cones! Now, I quickly found biking presents challenges, esp during cold weather, similar to ski tours. Meaning windy and cold conditions that sap away heat, and you need something breathable less you overheat and sweat.
A great solution ended up as a hi-vis windbreaker. Combined with a grid fleece, the Outto HiVis Windbreaker works well during cold weather. It provides just enough warmth for cooler weather or light rain paired with a base layer. Now, we don’t bike far (fewer than five miles at a time), so we don’t need higher-end bike clothing, which may or may not work that much better (much like hiking clothing!). The sub-$30 solution works well enough for us and provides the needed features. This particular jacket even converts into a vest for added versatility.
And, yes, it adds to the “twinsie” effect.
My picks tend towards replacements of items I’ve had, as I had to replace a fair amount key of clothing. So it goes for anyone who spends their free time outside!
I’ve never used neck gaiters (Buffs) other than during colder weather. The NxN neck gaiters (alas, they closed shop) work very well for my cold weather backpacking and at night. Three-season? I used a cotton bandanna. It works well, but only during the day, and is of limited use during cooler weather.
My former colleagues at The Trail Show kindly gave me a promotional neck gaiter. I realized it is lighter than a traditional heavier neck gaiter and almost bandanna-like in addition to being a slightly smaller size. I started using it with my hat of choice initially. But I quickly realized the utility as a neck warmer with my fleece hat, an adjunct to my other layers, or even a light hat on its own. It quickly became a favorite piece. And a similar promotional one became a favorite piece for biking due to its versatility. You can’t purchase this particular one on its own directly, but many similar lightweight material designs make some affordable and useful options.
My beater fleece jacket from 2010 gave up the ghost somewhere in New Mexico last winter. The zipper went kaput, and the fleece looked a little worn for wear, even for a beater. I like my fleece jacket for traveling or camping and find it very useful in all four seasons. Luckily we found a Big 5 Sporting Goods store, bought another inexpensive fleece, and I think I’m suitable for another 10+ years. There’s nothing special about this fleece other than it works. Pick up any affordable similar 200 wt jacket, and you’ll also be good to go.
Speaking of things going kaput, my beater down parka from 2005 finally leaked too many feathers with too many patches, and I needed to retire it. The Michelin Man style parkas are hard to find unless you purchase a deep winter-rated parka from outdoor companies; they tend towards the more fragile side, not the beater side. I’d instead not use my Montbell puffy around a two-burner stove in the desert sand! And somehow, these beater down coats available became “vintage” and more challenging to find.
I’ve long liked the military surplus current vintage of puffy pants for cold weather camping – durable, very warm, made of high-quality Primaloft, and relatively inexpensive, especially if bought previously issued.
I figured I purchase a similarly priced use version of the parka. Much to my chagrin, even used, they are expensive! The parka, made by the New Hampshire-based Wild Things Tactical, retails for $500, and I’ve seen them for $200+ on eBay. As luck would have it, during the summer of 2021, I found a genuine military issue one for $75, jumped on it, and now happily use it for my cold-weather camping quite well. I hope to get at least fifteen years out of this parka.
Long live the corporate schwag – Water bottles, key chains, USB sticks, clothing, and more. Go to a thrift store, and you’ll corporate branded fleeces, softshells, and, in the coming years, I wager, cheap puffy jackets. Suitable for camping, beating on, stuffing in the car or day pack, etc. A previous company gave me a puffy jacket that retails for $100, but I doubt they paid that much for it. I wear mine under a fleece jacket, which works well enough for camp, or I’ll throw it on during breaks. I’ve grown to like it much as similar beater gear.
Over the year, I’ve grown to like these mittens stashed in our truck for cold weather camping, the occasional nasty and wet conditions, and as some popular loaner gear. Only $18 a pair. Large enough to work well with my liner gloves of choice.
Initially purchased in 2020 for a volunteer role, I started using this pack (then called the “Daybreaker“) for my day hikes. Joan modified the pack for me to include a single and large buckle for more effortless closing and opening; I’ve grown to like the Wy’east pack for my day hikes this past year once my 2014 vintage day pack wore out. It’s heavier for a day pack at 25 oz, but it is versatile and can haul heavier and bulkier cold-weather gear and clothing. I added some Gossamer Gear hip belt pockets to increase the versatility.
A lot of gear and clothes wore out this year. We’ll see how much we replace in the coming year. Otherwise, we hope to use the above purchases for years to come.
Disclosure – Other than the corporate schwag puffy and the buffs, we purchased all the gear and clothing with our funds. Six Moon Designs did provide a discount for the day pack.