10 Products That Just Won't Die
10 Products That Just Won't Dieby Rob de Luca
We (the editorial) have the privilege of seeing the newest, hottest, most techy gear every season. Often, thanks to exclusive trade shows and the industry grapevine, we see products long before they even hit the market. Sometimes, we even see stuff that never makes it to a store because it’s just too advanced for the general population. Like time machines, cold fusion generators, Phil Collins box sets…crazy stuff.
And yet, we still manage to drag out some seriously old-school gear when we head into the vast, semi-charted wilderness for weekend adventures. Some of it is tried, tested, and true—the kind we might pass down to our children when we blow out our knees for the 47th time. But some of it is the opposite—stuff that belongs nowhere near an experienced outdoorsman or woman. What is it that separates these two categories? Well … we took ten historic products, catalogued our attachments to each, and used our cold-fused-time-traveling computers to figure out just where they belong. Here they are in no particular order.
It’s huge, and it sits there like some giant yellow beetle trying to mate with our wrist. The Vector has a compass and a thermometer and—let’s see—a bunch of other stuff we’ve never used. Somebody told us it actually tells time. But it says “I go outside a lot” way better than our Kavu Strapvisor, which is hard to pull off in meetings without someone asking about our recreational substance use.
Survey Says: Upgrade. Have you seen what Suunto is doing lately? It’s time to trade the horny wrist beetle in for something sleeker, sexier, and with a lot more function.
It doesn’t take long to spot a Therm-A-Rest Ridge Rest on the trail—after all, it won’t fit anywhere, so this standby ends up rolled like a huge foam spliff on our pack, catching branches and spinning us around. Yes, the Ridge Rest is ungainly, ugly, and a pain to pack … but it also RULES. It’s cheaper than Chinese food for two, lighter than most inflatable pads, warm on cold ground, and it even makes a decent splint if someone breaks a leg.
Survey Says: Keeper. Some might call it the Retro Rest (if they can catch a breath after blowing up their pads), but we are totally keeping ours for winter camping, rocky campsites, and clumsy friends.
So the BPA thing has been a little unfair to Nalgene considering Nalgene has new ones, totally BPA-free, indistinguishable from the original. During the media circus, people discovered the Klean Kanteen and those Sigg bottles with the rad colors, not to mention CamelBaks and Platypus Bottles. Truth is, Nalgenes are a tad heavy and bulky for camping, even when clear of any fear-mongering carcinogenic rumors. Doesn’t mean we don’t have one sitting on our desk right now covered in stickers and full of cold agua.
Last word: Leave ‘er. As a daily, indestructible sipper the Nalgene can’t be beat, but for camping and hiking, we’ve switched to lighter-weight steel bottles or collapsible bladders. Sorry.
The oldest of the old-schoolers, duct tape is the grizzled miner with one eye that can fix anything. While we don’t adhere entirely to the “if you can’t duct it …” adage and we’ve never seen anyone fix an actual duct with it, we’ve used this sticky gray superhero to fix everything from bike tubes to ski poles to sporks, and we keep a roll at the bottom of every pack we own. There’s also a roll in the car, in case that crack in our rear brake light gets any worse.
Survey Says: Keeper. No doubt. And for chrissakes stop calling it “duck tape.”
Welcome to college—here’s your Denali Jacket; keg’s out back next to the six-foot funnel. Over the last ten years this fleece jacket has reached near-absurd levels of ubiquity, and inspired a million knock-off imitators. Yes, it’s warm, and the nylon shoulder and arm patches can take a beating, but it’s also heavy, too hot under a shell for anything but ice fishing or walking to class, and so bulky you’d be a fool to pack it for anything but car-camping.
Back in the ’70s when we used to visit the moon on a regular basis, a NASA engineer designed a boot with flexible ribs to solve tongue-kinking issues for astronauts. He used the same concept to develop the first Raichle Flexon, a goofy-looking 3-piece ski boot that went on to win hundreds of races and freestyle contests on the feet of many a skiing icon. Almost 30 years later, amid all the newest ski boot technology, people like Seth Morrison are still skiing the crap out of them, scrounging flea markets to find old pairs and spare parts, touting their progressive flex and unmatched comfort. That, my friends, is love.
Survey Says: Keeper. LINE Ski founder Jason Levinthal bought the old Raichle molds last year, and started making and selling brand-new Flexons under the name Full Tilt. The only significant changes to the original are new colors and fully heat-moldable Intuition liners. We are begging for a pair this winter.
Have you heard of Gore-Tex? If not, we the citizens of the planet Earth welcome you. Gore-Tex fabrics have become so synonymous with waterproof/breathable garments that they enjoy a near-dictatorial reign over the concept as a whole. Despite what some would see as an opportunity to cheapen production and maximize profit, Gore has remained number one because Gore-Tex fabrics still outperform the majority of their competitors. Gore is utterly dedicated, always researching and developing new technologies to keep us dry inside and out, and guaranteeing everything for life.
Survey Says: Keeper. But let’s see a true head-to-head, no-holds-barred test against eVent and every other serious competitor. We’ll still let you win at checkers, Gore-Tex. We promise.
The PreCip Jacket ushered in an era all its own: the advent of the sub-$100 rain shell. Before the PreCip came along, you had but two options: you could spring for a Gore-Tex jacket (over $200), or suffer in the heavy, sweat-trapping confines of a PVC rain slicker. The PreCip Jacket not only rescued a nation of future Gordon’s Fishermen from careers starring on The Deadliest Catch, it welcomed the masses to the technical outerwear wonderland, and even drove down the price of Gore-Tex garments. That’s a pretty heavy achievement for a piece of ripstop nylon lined with plastic wrap.
Survey Says: Keep ‘er or leave ‘er. For an inexpensive shell that’ll keep you dry in a drizzle, it’s fine … but for real protection, we’ve moved on. The extra cash is worth it for a truly waterproof breathable shell.
We still have nightmares about the mothball-infused hunter green wool sweater that would snake its itchy tendrils down to our skin, replicating the experience of a heroin addict at the 48-hour mark of cold-turkey rehab. It took us years of therapy to recover from our fear of sheep, and even longer to believe in the power of merino. Oh, what faithless fools we were! Wool has had an itchless renaissance thanks to companies like SmartWool, Ibex, and Icebreaker. Nowadays, we even wear it directly against our most sensitive parts because it manages moisture, temperature, and odor better than almost any synthetic. Perhaps we were too busy itching our nipples to notice the performance benefits.
Survey Says: Keeper. Get some merino socks or baselayer if you don’t have some already, and feel the warm, sheepy caress that won’t stink even after repeated wearing.
We’ve been trying to figure out the attraction to Oakley sunglasses ever since they stopped producing the Frogskins. Since then, we have been subjected to such atrocities as the Mars, the Thump, the Over The Top, and the mind-boggling Medusa … yet Oakley remains one of the world’s most popular brands, uniting nearly every demographic in a bizarre but undeniable show of diplomacy. With what other product besides, say, toilet paper could you possibly link Lil John, Michael Jordan, the X-Men, Tanner Hall, T-Pain, Dog The Bounty Hunter, and the entire personal watercraft community? In the future, we imagine a world of fabricated material names, united under a single flag bearing a giant metal “O.” Until then, the only excuse we can offer is that, behind all the idiotic designs and over-hyped ridiculousness, Oakley actually makes the best optics out there.
Survey Says: Ugh. Keeper. They cost a fortune and they link us to some of the most epic morons ever to walk the Earth, but we just can’t deny the lens quality.
So there you have it. We can’t take responsibility for what you wear, use, or bring along with you on your own adventures … really, we can barely look after ourselves … but you should know we have our eye on you. Next time you dive into your closet on a Thursday night, trying to find that huge flashlight or square-shaped sleeping bag for a trip to Yellowstone, and you feel a twinge of shame at the age or condition of your old whatever, remember this: the most important part of the outdoors is being there. Having the newest, flyest, lightest gear can help you enjoy yourself more and push your limits further, but it is most definitely not the point. Have fun out there.