Yoon’s Favorite Outdoor Gear of 2020
2020 may have been bad for pretty much everyone and everything, but for me, it was amazing for getting outside. Yeah, I wasn’t able to travel to fish as much as I’d liked (although I did make one semi-irresponsible trip to Colorado to chase big browns) and yeah, I wasn’t able to camp with big groups of friends, but hey! I was able to camp alone for once! That’s a win right?
These are the gear picks that helped me maintain sanity through the year, whether it was in the office, out in the backcountry, or in the back of my truck.
Napier Backroadz Truck Tent 19 Series – $199.00
This is my absolute favorite outdoor gear item of the year. For $200, I converted the bed of my F-150 into a cozy tent with the security of three hard walls. It takes less than 10 minutes to put together and stowing away is a breeze thanks to the packing cube that it comes in. The tent itself fits a double bed air mattress almost perfectly and there are all sorts of little gear pockets and hanging hooks for dangling lanterns or camp things that needs to be accessed quickly.
Bestway 12” Air Mattress with Built in AC Pump – $29.94
Why is this cheap $30 mattress from Walmart on this list of high tech, game changing outdoor gear? Because it fits perfectly into the bed of my F150 and inside the Napier truck tent that’s why. It’s like these three products were made for each other (though I doubt there’s a partnership between Napier, Walmart and Ford). The bed is so perfect for my bed (pun intended), so perfect that one time, I had my wife sit inside the back of the tent and drove around town while she enjoyed all the sights and scenes from outside the tent door (more like she was the sights and scene). Seriously though this bed is amazing. Now on cold camping days, you’ll need to line the bed (so between you and the mattress) with a heated blanket of some kind because it will suck the heat out of your body through the night. I mean it’s still an air mattress. Although if they added a heated component to this mattress, that would be a game changer for winter truck camping.
Selk’bag Nomad – $249.00
I remember when the Selk’bag first came out a few years ago at Outdoor Retailer back when it was in Salt Lake City. My friends joked that it would never take off. “Who comes up with this stuff?” they said. “Who would wear a sleeping bag?” they said. “Why?” they said. Well jokes on them. The Selk’bag Nomad has absolutely taken off and made many happy campers with their warm recycled bottes with thermal properties similar to 550 fill power down. And in the case that you overheat, simply open the vents and zippers and zip off the booties and you’ll be 1000% cooler than anyone at your campsite.
Ignik Heated Blanket – $129.99
A few weeks ago, I went camping in the Ozarks and temps got down to about 50. That ain’t that bad, I told myself. Until about 3 AM when I woke up freezing in my tent. The next night, I recharged the 12V battery, and let the Ignik’s lightweight but thermally efficient carbon fiber strands do its thing, which is keep you warm and toasty through the night. I turned the setting to the lowest level and it kept me warm all night and was possibly, the best night of camping sleep I’ve had in my life.
Kuju Coffee Starter Pack – $19.00
Hot camp coffee is a must. The Kuju Starter Pack has six different flavors of pour-over coffee and even comes with a free enamel mug. The coffee packets anchor to the mug, making pouring that much easier. Sample coffees from Ethiopia, Papua New Guinnea and West Sumatra, all from your campsite.
Zenbivy Light Quilt + Light Sheet – $299.00
I call this one brilliance in a bag. While the sleeping bag has been reinvented many times over the decades, the Zenbivy actually got it right. Not every camper sleeps the same way every night. The Zenbivy allows you to convert the bag into a mummy, a a traditional box, or a blanket, all with a couple quick clips of buttons. I found myself starting off in mummy mode then converting to box mode as my tent warmed up. And as soon as the mood was set with the wife, I turned it into blanket mode (which was not successful btw).
Otterbox Venture Cooler 65 – $349.99
Every serious car camper needs a serious cooler. The Otterbox Venture Cooler 65 comes ready to include internal shelving, a dry box, and an external cutting board (all sold separately). I’ve been able to pack an entire weekend’s worth of food and still have ice by the third day (they say it’ll hold ice for 16 days!). I’m a pretty simple guy and I eat the same thing every single day for breakfast and lunch, so theoretically, I could live for about a month on what this cooler will pack!
MSR Reactor 1.7L – $239.95
Most of my camping trips are actually fishing trip where camping is necessary to beat out the other anglers. I typically get an alpine start, wake up at the butt crack of dawn, get some quick food in (key word here – quick) so we can hit the river before our competition can take our coveted spots. Speed is of utmost importance – I don’t have time to make my daily ritual of yogurt and MCT oil and all that jazz. This little stove boils water in under a minute, which means mealtime takes about 5 minutes, 1 minute to boil water, 2 minutes to heat the food, 2 minutes to scarf down boiling hot calories. I’ll usually eat some turkey sticks while on the river then when we get back to camp, I’m starving. Again, speed is of importance when the last real meal I’ve eaten is breakfast. This stove gets the job done.
Hest Pillow – $79.00
In the past, I’ve substituted a camp pillow with a jacket, Nalgene or whatever crap I find in the back of my truck that isn’t flat. This poorly planned method has led to some serious neck aches which is no bueno when you’re fishing a 14 or 16 hour day. The Hest pillow folds down pretty compactly, but not so much that loses its cushiness. Some people even use the Hest as their home pillow. Not sure I could replace my RDS Certified Downlinens White Goose Down Perfect Down Pillow, but it’s a million percent better than a Nalgene.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Solar Lamp – $25.00
The SNBC Luci 2.0 solar lantern made by MPOWERED (but branded by SNBC) is my go to lantern that I hang up in my truck tent. Because it’s solar powered, you don’t have to worry about it losing batteries (just leave it outside while you’re out) and the LEDs last forever (like…I left it in my bag for a month and pulled it out at night and it still shone brightly). It does require a little lung strength to blow this thing up, but that’s have of the fun of it, especially when I get to show off to my wife at how strong my lungs are. She’s super into that.
Mountainsmith Zerk 40 – $219.95
The Zerk 40 is Backpacker’s Editor’s Choice of the year for backpacks. And I can see why. The outside is made of a material called 200d Spectra Double which is code for – it’s frickin strong and mind blowingly light. Kind of like spider silk, except it’s a backpack. This bag is a game changer, breathable mesh paneling, tons of cool pockets for water bottles and shit, and a strap that’s designed to hold a bear cannister. But the lightweight nature of the bag is what amazes me (barely over 2 pounds). With a cavernous top load, I use this 40 liter bag for way more uses that I thought I would.
Victorinox Hunter Pro Alox – $99.99
The Hunter Pro Alox is a real man’s EDC, which of course, I am one of (I think). With a five inch locking blade and Alox rivets for better grip, this knife is my favorite tinder shaver, log splitter and the occasional very manly task like opening mail. Overall, the Hunter Pro Alex is my favorite EDC of the year. The clip allows me to throw it on to any pants I wear and the removable paracord is there in case I really get into a bind. And design wise, the shiny red body and silver cross is is a head turner for sure.
Peregrine Radama 4 – $269.99
There’s times when I camp with the wife and she doesn’t want to sleep in the bed of a truck. That’s when I bust out the Peregrine Radama 4. It’s tall enough to stand in and the vents keep the tent nice and moisture controlled. Last spring, I got caught in a rain storm while camping in Colorado with the wife. My sister and brother in law had a hard time keeping water out of their cheap Walmart tent while my wife and I we were cozy as kittens, wrapped up in our fleeze blankets and warm sleeping bags. I’m definitely a fan of this tent for its ease of setup and approachable price point.
MSR FreeLite 2 Ultralight Tent – $489.95
Then there’s times when I want to camp in the backcountry or even, in a cave in the Ozarks. My friend owns this piece of land that surrounds a massive cave. One nigh, we decided to set up a battery powered projector, got some beers and used this tent as our lodging for the night. At just under 3 pounds, this versatile yet roomy tent is my favorite ultralight setup for days when I need to throw a tent in a backpack.
Patagonia DAS Parka – $449.00
People who know me well know that I wear the same exact thing every day. I also eat the same thing every day. It’s not often that piece of apparel makes it into what I call my “permanent collection.” Actually about 90% of apparel that PR folks offer me, I reject because I don’t need any more clothes and I already know it won’t make it into my permanent collection, making it pointless for me to review. The DAS Parka is different. This parka is the warmest jacket I’ve ever worn and knowing that it’s backed up by Patagonia’s repair program, I know I’ll wear for the rest of my life. The insulation is made of Primaloft Eco (75% post consumer recycled content) and Cross Core aerogel (35% post consumer recycled content) and I could go on and on about this jacket but it’s probably better you read the full Patagonia Das Parka Review here.
Kodiak McKinney 6 Inch – $164.99
You know you’ve found the right outdoor boots when you can wear those same boots to a job site. Since 1910, Kodiak has been making waterproof, seam-sealed boots that can handle the harshest of work conditions and coldest of campsites. The McKinney 6 inch won’t stink either. The SOS (Smell Out Science) technology will keep the boots smelling fresh, no matter what you step in during your outing.
Livsn Flex Canvas Pants – $99.00
Andrew Gibbs, my buddy who founded Livsn, is a buddy of mine from the days when he ran the show at Fayettechill. He told me about these pants a some time ago I got stoked on their mission of making environmentally clothing that would last a lifetime but forgot about them until recently. So I was with my buddy Sean and he was wearing a pair of these Flex Canvas Pants and said they were the best pants he’s ever worn (which is a big deal. He’s picky with outdoor gear). I reached out to Andrew who sent me a pair, and after wearing them mountain biking for a day, promptly bought 6 more pairs. These will replace all my mismatching pants and I hope to never buy pants again for the rest of my life.
Beyond Clothing Celeris Long John – $70.00
I actually received this item last year and it took a while for me to fall in love with them. Today, these high performance sweats have replaced all my baselayer pants and I pretty much wear them for anytime I need to run in the cold (which is actually quite a bit). It has breathable sweat panels (kind of like the Patagonia R1) which regulate temperature and keep you from getting sweaty in the pants. No one likes getting sweaty in pants. And they keep you toasty warm at the same time.
Beyond Clothing Celeris Pullover – $80.00
I got this midlayer at the same time as when I got the long john’s and actually did fall in love with it. Again, it has the breathable sweat panels so it keeps you warm but when you start perspiring, the space between the panels allows moisture to seep out, keeping you from getting soggy cold while sweating outside. No one likes soggy cold either.
RANDOM OTHER STUFF
ENO SkyLoft Hanging Chair – $124.95
Covid has definitely wrecked a lot of offices and has for sure wrecked many houses. But that’s not a good reason to let it wreck your body while working! Earlier in the year, I hung two Lounger Hanging Chairs from underneath a loft that I work in. The loft has giant windows and an amazing view of our downtown. All day long, I’m able to work on projects while passerbyers watch me jealously as I sway back and forth in my comfy floating chair. That’s almost as good of a feeling as the chair itself.
Tenkara USA Sato – $250.00
In 2020, I caught more fish on this rod than I did on my 4 WT, 5 WT, 6WT, 8WT and 8WT switch rods combined. And that means a lot because I caught a lot of fish on my normal western rods. The reason I caught so many fish with my Sato is pretty simple; I keep it in my truck at all times in case a fishing opportunity presents itself. It takes me about 10 seconds to rig up versus a Western setup that might take 10 minutes (if I have to replace leader or worse, snip off the welded loop and tie on a nail knot). I’ve even caught a 20 incher this year on the rod and it handled the landing with ease. While I don’t use my tenkara setup in many fishing environments, for some environments, there’s no beating a 13 foot retractable drag free tightline rig.
Ledlenser MH11 Headlamp – $159.95
A couple years ago, I took a cheap NiteIze headlamp on a night fishing trip and it broke on me. That was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life because I had also lost my phone and was basically stumbling around in the dark using moonlight as my guide. Ever since then, I’ve been preaching the message of having a reliable, unbreakable headlamp that has loads of battery life. I’ve been on several trips with the MH11 (not as light dependent as the night fishing trip) and I don’t think I’ve recharged it once. Oh and the lumens on this thing. It’s like I’m shining into the wilderness with the high beam from my truck.
Archer Components – $369.00
After almost two years, I’ve FINALLY finished my hard tail; carbon frame, carbon wheels, wireless dropper and of course, wireless shifters (hey, that’s a lot to save up for!). The D1x is so much faster at shifting than cable shifters which may not sound that important, but when you’re on a hardtail thrashing the pedals uphill and you have a split second to shift without overloading the geartrain, fast shifting can mean the difference of peaking over the hills or stumbling off backwards on your bike and looking like an idiot. It’s also an unsafe position if people are behind you, which tends to be the case for me. I’ve loved the improved performance of quicker shifting and am not sure if I could ever go back to cables!
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