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It’s already the second week of July, and with summer fully upon us, it’s time for Canadian Geographic’s best of summer 2013 gear list. We’ve reviewed lots of cool stuff this year, but these are a few pieces of gear that stood out. A lot of what you’ll find here is multi-purpose, great in summer, but useful other times of year too. I love products that multitask well. They help control the costs of the gear that make outdoor recreation possible, help limit our activities environmental impact and free up space in our cars/backpacks/coolers. Win. Win. Win.
1. Princeton Tec’s Vizz Headlamp
Whether you prefer to campfire sit on a Saturday night, or to pick your way through an unmapped cave passage, a headlamp is essential summer equipment. There are lots of headlamps out there, and Princeton Tec’s Vizz is one of the best at a price that doesn’t break the bank. ($47 at MEC) The 105-gram lamp has tough construction, is light enough to take on a month-long trek without ever cursing the weight, and (importantly) it clings tightly to its strap. I’ve lost several lamps this way, but my Vizz is still going strong. Maybe best of all, the Vizz is waterproof – like really waterproof. I took family members to Lusk Caves in La Pêche, Quebec and waterboarded them beneath subterranean waterfalls just to be sure. The headlamp is doing well.
2.Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest
When temperatures soar in the summertime, keeping active requires careful planning. To stay healthy, you need to stay hydrated. Short of dragging around an all-terrain IV stand on your trail runs, Ultimate Direction’s Adventure Vest is the probably the best way you’ll ever find to keep hydrated. It holsters two water bottles on your chest, and has space for a 3-liter bladder in behind. And it’s got a ton of pockets for whatever else you’re packing – GPS, power bars, smart phone. Best of all, the vest clings firmly to your body even when you’re bouncing all over the place.
3. Merrell Evera Chase cycling heels
Cycle commuting is a great life choice. It’s environmentally friendly, great exercise and connects you with your surroundings. As a fashion choice however, it’s a bit less of a no-brainer. Safety trumps style, or at least it used to. Merrell’s Evera Chase is a stylish heel with the sole (and soul) of a hard-core cycling shoe. My reviewer was a bit skeptical of this shoe’s cycling chops when she saw it. It looked way too good to be functional, but after getting it out onto Ottawa’s streets (and into the city’s pubs), it quickly became clear that safety isn’t sacrificed for the sake of femininity. No longer must bicycle-commuting women choose between evening footwear and a possible slip off their pedals.
4. Mountain Hardwear Shaka Backpack
Backpacks are a pretty personal thing. What’s right for one person can be totally wrong for someone else. I put the Mountain Hardwear Shaka Backpack on a few different walkers, and they’re in agreement, it gets just about everything right. It comfortably distributes weight, has pockets in the right places, hidden safety pockets, an integrated system for hydration packs and even has helpful safety numbers printed on the inside of the top pocket. The pack breathes well, fits well and delivered.
5. Nozone’s Capkini and skort.
There’s only so many times you can re-apply sunscreen, and it’s about 10 fewer times than that you would actually want to. Even if you’re a hyper-diligent with the SPF, you can still end up get sneaky burns in the summer sun. Most clothing only makes you more uncomfortable in hot weather, but Esquimalt, BC-based Nozone makes shirts, shorts and covering bathing suits that lets you keep the sun off your skin and keep cool at the same time. Their Canadian-made Capkini has a high necked, short sleeve top that covers the vulnerable shoulders and chest area in UVA/UVB 50+ material. The Capkini and skort combo allows for activity such as hiking in combination with water play. No covering layer is required and if you are travelling that means you’ve one less layer to pack. You 1, sunburn 0.
6. Outdoor Research Whirlwind hoodie
Summer in Canada isn’t all fun in the sun. There are rainy days (and even weeks) to put a damper on the good times. Problem is, most rain gear is way too warm for the summer months. At worst, it can feel a bit like you’re suffocating. Outdoor Research’s Whirlwind hoodie solves this age-old conundrum. It’s ultra lightweight and breathable, but also wind resistant and rain proof. It wicks sweat when the sun is shining, and keeps you dry when it’s pouring. The Whirlwind has a fantastic design for activity, flowing with the body and never impeding movement.
7. Sea to Summit — Hydraulic Dry Pack
When the weather gets steamy, Canadians have a secret weapon: more than 3 million lakes and countless rivers, streams and ponds to cool off in. Of course, with all that canoeing, canyoneering and poolside drinking, it’s hard to keep your stuff dry. That’s why Sea To Summit’s Hydraulic Drypack has quickly become my indispensible summer accessory. No matter what I’m up to this summer, I’ve got my Sea To Summit Pack on my back.
8. Keen Tunari CNX Shoe
One part sneaker and one part wetsuit, Keen’s Tunari CNX minimalist shoe is just about perfect for summer. I’ve gone directly from fording rivers to meetings at the office and not skipped a beat, though I concede that no one really bats an eye if I show up for work dripping wet. I’ve found the thin soled Tunari CNX to be equally functional and comfortable (comfunctionable?) while wandering the city, scaling sheer-walled badland canyons to get a good look at dinosaur bones and crossing mountain streams that are ice-cold even in July. Comfunctionable shoes, what more could you ask for?
9. Detour Fremonster Flap Pannier
OK…so you know you should be safe while riding your bike — and you know you’ve got to be visible to do that, but — and it’s a big but – you don’t want to look like you ought to be directing traffic rather than riding through it. The bright design of Detour’s Fremonster Flap pannier will help you pull off the cyclist look without veering into air traffic controller territory. Its yellow, flowered design will help make you visible to motorists, and it isn’t only a pannier. Once you get where you’re going, it easily converts to a shoulder bag that makes no compromises. It’s stylish, and its interior organizing pockets make bringing a separate purse unnecessary.
10. Willand Outdoor Ultralight 100, zipped together as a two-person sleeping bag
Unzipped, the Ultralight 100 is light and warm. It’s a highly functional bag, but not an especially notable one. Yet Toronto-based Willland’s contribution to summer gear is so much more than that. It may seem simple enough, but in my experience a two-person, zip-together sleeping bag that is light, compact, easy to put together and has a drawstring that lets you make things nice and cozy is without real precedent. Impossible…or so I thought; Willland made it happen. At $88 each, these bags compress to a tiny size and can be zipped together easily even after a few beers, which – fittingly enough – is exactly the time that many of us end up wanting to zip sleeping bags together. $88 well spent.
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