I get a little tired of reading gift guides littered with junky trinkets that will eventually make their way to the Gear Swap, but I also understand the need for your Aunt Betty to send you a little Christmas sugar that she can afford on her meager social security check.
But what if your Aunt Betty owns a Williston tater farm and secured her oil rights early?
Then you, my friend, are in business.
Send this link to Auntie and all her friends in her Dakota bridge club because Santa’s going to make sure you are GEARED. UP. this Christmas.
All fun aside, I have included items that I think are engineering marvels, products reflecting aesthetic beauty, or otherwise offer extraordinarily high levels of performance. Whether spending the money is worth it to you or not, well, that’s a decision only you can make!
Petzl Ultra Rush Headlamp: $500 & 760 Lumens
It really is 760 lumens.
Petzl is going after thrill seekers looking to go fast at night when nothing short of a massive flood lamp will prevent you from toppling head over heels while screaming downhill at 50mph on bike or ski. This should open up more than 50 hours a week of new adventure activity, tap into an untold market of those who aren’t really into daytime adventures, and cause an entire industry to explode wide open.
Key Metric: 9.3 oz w/battery ($54/oz.)
Benchmade Osborne Axis Folding Knife – $285
When you look at photos of knives online, it’s hard to appreciate what separates those that simply feel good in your hand from those that have a magical quality to them. The Benchmade Osborne falls into the latter category. A carbon fiber handle and CPM-S90V SS blade combine to make this a precision tool that will be hard to leave behind even if you’re a gram counter.
Key Metric: 2.9 oz ($98/oz.)
Buy Now: REI
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Duffel Bag – $595
I spent $14 on my first expedition duffel in 1986. It was made of lightweight Cordura, with a Chinese zipper. It weighed less than two pounds. I used it for 10 years until it was stolen from my car. I replaced it with an obscenely heavy whitewater raft-fabric bag that has been just as trustworthy while still not breaking my bank. So when I heard that Hyperlite Mountain Gear was releasing a six hundred dollar duffel bag, I was laughing so hard tears were coming out.
But then, when I received a media review sample in the mail, I had to cry again – this time, tears of joy. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Duffel is a work of art: clean lines, simple yet solid engineering, impeccable manufacturing, seemingly indestructible fabric, and for its size, remarkably light. Now, I’m crying again – due to separation anxiety, as the bag gets sent to the next poor media schmuck who’s gonna experience the same emotional roller coaster ride I did.
Key Metric: 41.8 oz ($14/oz.)
Buy Now: Hyperlite Mountain Gear
MSR Carbon Core Tent Stakes – $30 per 4
If you only have thirty bucks but still want to live high on the hog, then this product may just be up your alley.
I have to admit that I’m a sucker for really, really light stuff. Especially when that light stuff actually works. The MSR Carbon Core Tent Stakes fall into that category for me.
I used to be a fan of 6″ x 1/8″ titanium skewer stakes (0.23 oz, or so…) but their (lack of) holding power limits their versatility. I now carry a “mixed stake” kit that includes a few skewers, a few aluminum V-stakes, and a batch of MSR Carbon Core stakes. The MSR Carbon Core has a large diameter for terrific holding power in a variety of soils, saves weight with a carbon inner tube, and has an aluminum tubing veneer encapsulating the carbon which vastly improves its strength over a standard carbon stake. From an engineering perspective, these are some of the most beautifully designed stakes on the market.
Key Metric: 0.2 oz ea. ($37.50/oz.)
La Sportiva Stratos Cube Alpine Touring Ski Boot – $3,000
These boots weigh 555 g apiece – 19.6 ounces per boot. The La Sportiva Stratos Cube SKI BOOT weighs less than my first pair of trail running shoes.
Of course, this is a product reserved for the most elite randonee racers in the world, not backcountry Joe’s like you and me.
Unless of course, we have an Aunt Betty with some oil in her backyard…
Key Metric: 39.2 oz/pr ($76.53/oz)
Buy Now: Backcountry.com
If you want to understand a little bit of the culture behind the crazy people who would spend $3,000 on an ultralight ski boot, watch this video from La Sportiva about ski mountaineering gear, or just subscribe to backpackinglight.com and hang out here for awhile.