Top Three Brands for Outdoor Gear and Clothing

From Pinterest

A recent thread on BPL had the question of What are your three brands of gear?

As I did a mental inventory of my gear collection, I rarely buy gear based on a brand type.

But looking at my gear and clothing, there are three brands I do have predominately:

Brands that I seem to gravitate towards since I took my first backpacking trip back in 1996.  Brands that have stood the test of time for me and I do not hesitate to suggest.

Here are the three brands of gear I recommend and have used for many miles, bag nights, and sunsets experienced in the backcountry:

  • ULA packs.  Solid, no-frills, durable, workhorse packs that are affordable. The ULA CDT (stripped down) is my solo, three-season pack of choice. Off-trail, scrambling, bushwhacking (I swapped in a Robic pocket), and on trail jaunts, it serves my needs well. I ‘ve squeezed in six days of food.  The CDT also serves as my day ski tour pack of choice.  The ULA Catalyst is for everything else beyond three season solo trips:  Guiding, winter backpacks, overnight climbing trips I’ve done on rare occasions, hauling gear for others as needed, etc..  The ULA packs aren’t cutting edge, sexy, or fashionable. They are like an older Toyota Tacoma pickup: They just work. And work well. 


  • Military Surplus.  Then there’s the gear I’ve been using since almost the first day I ever started backpacking: Surplus.

    And often comes in these exciting shades of green!!!! From Pinterest.

Of course, not a brand per se. But a large umbrella made up of different manufacturers. And some of the gear and clothing is not strictly surplus. But often gear and apparel allowed to be used by military personnel,  typically made to the same military spec, perhaps from foreign armies at this point, or cheap knockoffs (beware!)

However,  the generic label of surplus fits many different items that seem to all get lumped together. And I tend to use a lot of it for my clothing and some gear. Some surplus would not look out of place in REI  other than the color (Polartec thermals or Polartec Fleece), others fit the look of what most people think of in surplus (boonie hat, BDUs).  As I wrote in an earlier article, there are lots of goodies in the surplus world that can be used.   Winter camping trips are more endurable with my Bunny Boots, the glove liners are stashed in a lot of my clothing, the old-school can opener is always on me, and my ugly puffy pants work well for winter backpacking.  And I haul much of the gear for a trip with a flyers kit bag. Surplus works for my overall kit rather well even with DCF gear, thin nylon puffies, or swankier clothing.


There you have it. Three brands of gear I’ve successfully used over the years. What do these three brands all have in common?

Simply put: They are brands that work for me. And I suspect will continue to be used successfully for many more miles, nights, and sunset views to come.

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