One of the first columns Paste Travel established when the section launched a year ago was the Gear Geek series. Intrepid traveler, steadfast writer and equipment junkie Nathan Borchelt has been at the wheel week in and week out to provide readers with an insider’s insight into the latest gadgets and excursion necessities. His love of layers, bags, shoes and pipe-dreamy tech must-haves is matched only by his continued commitment to the hallmark of any proper travel section: service. This magazine and gear geeks everywhere are lucky to have him.
At this late hour, many of us are still hoping and praying that those last gifts—for the hardest to please on our lists—will fall from the sky and tie up the shopping season with the neatest of bows. Though we won’t be in your homes to help you wrap those final packages (frankly that would be pretty creepy), the Paste Travel team is certain this “Best of” Gear Geek compilation will provide the last-minute inspiration needed to finish the year strong for you and the adventurers in your life. The items in this selection cover every season, every weather condition and every type of expedition.
Happy Holidays to all the Gear Geeks in the Paste Travel family. Thank you for making 2015 a stellar year and we’re looking forward to traveling with you again in 2016.
1. Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Pack (120L) $159; 2. Grain Audio Headphones $199; 3. Filson Field Bag $284; 4. Eagle Creek Pack-It Small Garment Folder $24; 5. Cube Light $30; 6. Carry-On Cocktail Kit $24; 7. SealLine Urban Backpack $149 (Small); 8. Uli Zettian Paddleboard $1,395; 9. Snow Peak Collapsible Coffee Drip $30; 10. REI Evrgn Campfire Rocker $100; 11. Go Girl $10; 12. Ostrichpillow $125; 13. Danner Mountain Light Hiking Boot $360; 14. Ray Ban Aviator Classics Sunglasses $150; 15. Columbia Outdry Extreme Diamond Jacket $400; 16. Pendleton Fremont Jacket, $475; 17. Grovemade, $39; 18. Topo Designs, $169; 19. Bradley Mountain, $54; 20. 4. Du/er L2X, $129; 21. Inkdot, $25 and Up; 22. Thomas Bates Deerfield Leather Money Belt, $35; 23. Nau Stylus Dress, $95; 24. 100 Deadly Skills, $11; 25. Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens Kit, $80.
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If you scoff at the idea of any sorta wheeled luggage, the Black Hole is the perfect, old-school duffel. Built from Patagonia's extremely weatherproof 1,200-denier poly fabric, this thing is bomber, with stashable shoulder straps, a host of daisy chains for lashing on additional gear, and handles at the top and each end. Inside find a foam-padded bottom and a cavernous 120 liters of storage space. It's also the cheapest option on this list.
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Grain Audio Headphones: These solid-wood over-the-ear headphones rely on more than just their refined aesthetic. The FSC-certified walnut ear cups employ wood's naturally acoustic properties to deliver a rich, bass-heavy sound via 2x40mm loudspeakers without any sort of trickery like fake bass boosts or weird mid-range tweaks. As with most over-the-ear models, you get some passive noise cancellation, and the headphones also have an inline mic and remote.
Grain Audio Headphones
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It doesn't get more classic—or rugged—than the Filson's Field Bag. Constructed of water-repellent, 22-ounce twill, you get three snap-down stow pockets, two side pockets, and a storm flap that's secured by all-brass buckles. The leather is of the highest quality, sourced from the same fabrics used in horse bridles—so every part of the pack will age with you. In a few years, the bag will become a visual testament to all your hard-earned travels.
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After you endure one unplanned night without your checked luggage, you'll start packing a spare outfit in your carry-on. This small folder keeps that backup apparel separate and neatly organized. The origami-like construction unfolds to offer 14x9-inch of wrinkle-free packing space. Then you just re-fold the stretch compression wings and slide the garment folder against the back of your backpack or shoulder bag and forget about it. Until the travel gods remind you that a spare shirt awaits.
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Simple and sleek, the two-inch Cube Light boasts 100 lumins of LED illumination at the highest of three settings, with a three-hour life via three triple-A batteries. It's built for serious applications, with a spotlight and lantern settings and a splash-proof case. But you can also use it to add a bit of atmosphere when camping, road-tripping, or partying in your hotel room.
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Time have a real drink in transit. These two cocktail kits are outfitted with everything you need to transform small airplane liquor bottles into a stellar Old Fashioned or gin and tonic—without having to deal with a mustachioed hipster judging your knowledge of bourbons. The former comes with a spoon/muddler, bitters, and cane sugar, while the latter--a real summer cocktail classic--includes a half-ounce jigger and tonic syrup that's worlds beyond whatever option migth sit in the serving cart. Both kits make two drinks, and each comes with a recipe card and a linen coaster.
Carry-On Cocktail Kit
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To keep your essentials dry, look to the world of paddlers, whose use dry bags that can handle full submersions in the whitewater. The Urban Backpack employs the same watertight protection in a more fashionable profile. The RF-welded pack doesn't have seams--one of the easiest ways water gets in--and uses a water-tight roll-down closure to lock out the elements. Shoulder and waist straps help distribute the load, and external clip loops lets you attach various accessories. The inside is simple--17 liters of storage in the small size, 37 liters in the big one--with no additional organizational pockets. But you could always get their Backpack Organizer to introduce a bit of micro-organization. Or just stash your entire day pack inside.
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The popularity of stand-up paddleboarding can't be denied, but the extreme SUPers (yea, that's a real thing) will appreciate the year of research that went into designing the Zettian. The super-light, super-tough board can stand up to serious river whitewater, with a slightly higher volume and a quad fin setup to improve stability and maneuverability. It weighs a feathery 24 pounds, inflates to a full nine feet, and comes with a hand pump, gauge, center handle, and a D ring to attach a leash.
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Camping shouldn't mean that you have to endure cowboy coffee; steeping grounds in a boiling pot over a fire may feel like the right way to rough it, but getting grinds stuck in your teeth ain't glamorous. It just sucks. Instead, go with this stainless-steel pour-over brewer. All it takes is some ground beans, a paper filter, hot water, and a bit of patience. It weighs only 4.9 ounces, and folds into a thin 6.756-by-5.5-0.5-inch package.
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This lightweight, collapsible camping chair adds a bit of front porch luxury to your campsite. The fabric sling sits on durable aluminum poles and offers full back support, and the bamboo rockers are wide and long enough to keep you rockin' without worry, even as the evening turns to night and things start to get rowdy.