Useful items for the outdoors person


My recent South Dakota trip had me using a variety of items.

Items I’ve had for as long as twenty years in some cases.

Items I’ve used that have shown their value over numerous trips, late night campsites on the way to trailheads and countless other times.

And I can picture using again and again into the future.

It occurred to me that these items are perhaps things other people may find useful as well.

This article is not a gift guide. I’ve already published two of those: One recently.  And another one in the past.  

Rather, I’ve listed some items I think most three-season+ outdoors people may want to have in their kit.

And I do mean the generic term outdoors people.  I did not write a list for thru-hikers, campers, backcountry skiers, ultra runners, adventure racers, climbers and/or day hikers.

It is a list written for people who do a variety of activities.

Maybe some of the above.

And sometimes even combined:

You mix and match activities. Or you do different activities based on the time of the year or just preference.

Some all-purpose gear is good to have in the kit. Gear items that will be used for years, have stood the test of time and work in a variety of conditions.

Here are some items I have found useful:

Hovenweep National Monument

A down coat made with the so-called low-quality fill of 650 FP down and encased in heavier nylon shell would not pass muster among the Excel Spreadsheet  Brigade. But it is an item I reach for consistently. Thrash it, use it, get it dirty and takes a beating. The heavy” zipper does well in desert sand and the lower FP down seems to more tolerant of a variety of conditions. Would I take it winter backpacking?  At this point, no. I have a lighter alternative.  But my Michelin Man-esque beater down coat kept me quite toasty while in -7F temperatures in December.  Very functional.

Where to get it? EBay, thrift store or similar.  No reason to buy a brand new beater puffy unless you manage to get a good deal on one. Get the Michelin Man style variety with baffle (think sleeping bag style) construction and not the stitch-through construction associated with modern “down sweaters.” 

  • Utility knife
from Bacho

from Bacho

Look, for three-season backpacking I use a simple Swiss Army Classic/ P51 combo.  And for winter, I take a no-longer-made Leatherman Kick in my repair kit. I rarely need anything different.

That is unless I need an all-purpose knife.

I’ve taken my Bahco 2444 on camping trips, have it stashed in my car kit and take it when I want to make something gourmet for a trip companion while backpacking.  As I wrote before about this knife: “Made by the famous Mora knife company for Bahco, this fixed blade knife is a stainless steel version of the well-known Mora Clipper.  Easy to maintain, very sharp, relatively light (sub-four ounces) and all around good utility knife. And for the bargain price of $15 or less. It is essentially a modern version of the traditional Finnish style of knife called a puukko.”   

A good all-purpose utility knife is a handy item to have in the kit. And for around home, too.  I have one in my junk drawer. Makes a decent kitchen knife in a pinch as well…be it at home or camping. 🙂

  • One burner propane stove

    I would not suggest making it your first backpacking stove as I did in 1996, however. 🙂

If you are road-tripping on the way to some cool destination, you are probably doing a quick camp or truck bivy.  You could use your standard backpacking canister stove when making a meal or heat up hot water for coffee. But I find it is is a pain to remove the stove and set up again for the trip. Plus who wants to use the isobutane fuel before the trip? Instead, I use a simple one-burner propane stove for about $30 that puts out a lot of BTUs, has excellent simmer control, works in moderate or even very windy conditions and the one-pound propane tanks used as fuel can be found pretty much everywhere.  I’ve had mine for twenty years now and it is a piece of gear I plan to use for many more years to come.  Pair with a simple cook pot , a pot grip, and a big Lexan spoon and you have a robust and basic cook set that will be of use for many nights. I use the pot for solo winter backpacking, too.

  • Two person tent

A traditional, as opposed to a cottage gear type tent,  is a good item to have in the quiver.   Overnight trail work projects? Some base camping? Road tripping? Or even in milder winter conditions in a pinch?  My old Kelty Zen has been used in many of these situations over the years.  The REI Half Dome is a good and reliable tent in this category as well. Not terribly expensive at $200.



  • Fleece

I’ve advocated fleece for a variety of conditions.  And a 100 wt fleece is perhaps my favorite piece of clothing.

With a 100 wt fleece, you have a piece of clothing that may be used in all four seasons.

But a 200 wt fleece is worth purchasing as well. A durable item that works in many conditions. For more frigid weather, I’ll pair with the 100 wt fleece or even just wear by itself. And it is a just a good general item for town use, on the way to other places or hanging out in camp.

No need to get something expensive. Costco even sells good fleeces for $10 now. My 100 wt fleece was purchased at Sports Authority and is still going strong. Amazon, of course, sells a variety of fleeces at reasonable prices in both 200 wt and 100 wt types.


These are a few items I’ve used consistently over the years and helps make a well-rounded outdoor kit. At least that is what I have found.

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7 years ago

I’ve got a couple of USMC Polartec 1/2 zip Pullovers made by Peckham. They don’t say what weight the fleece is, but I suspect that it is heavier than 100. You can find them on eBay for $20 to $30. I’ve been wearing these quite a bit lately doing chores outside and finding them quite comfortable. They have a hand warmer pocket in front which I have mixed feelings about. I seldom use the pocket and wonder if I might be able to use a seam ripper to remove it. Being fleece, they are bulky and don’t pack down well,… Read more »

Jeremy Werlin
Jeremy Werlin
7 years ago

Ha! My kit to a T. Well done. I might add that a few duck tape patches on the puffy will elevate your dirtbag status.

Jeremy Werlin
Jeremy Werlin
7 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

Hah! Didn’t look close enough. You the man.