Editors Note: We recently asked some of our Wenatchee Outdoors team members what their favorite pieces of gear are for 2021. Our team members are tried and true outdoor gear-testers…read on for an inside scoop into what our team is enjoying this year.
Mike Endsley: I recently picked up a Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket and couldn’t be more pleased with the purchase (it is listed for $249 on the Patagonia website). While it’s no head turner with its minimalist design, the Nano-Air more than makes up for it with the perfect amount of warmth and flexibility in a super lightweight and packable package. So far, it has served me well as a daily driver to the office while keeping me warm layered up on cold, windy days on the coast. I’m looking forward to making it a part of my layering program for ski days this winter and it will absolutely be a part of my shoulder season mountain bike arsenal. Great purchase, I love it!
Keri Davis: I love Food For The Sole backpacking food. It doesn’t give you the weird tummy troubles normal dehydrated meals can cause and tastes delicious. Prices for each food package range from $6 to $13 depending on the item. It is also a mother-son owned business.
I also highly recommend a classic piece of gear Crazy Creek Original Chair. This chair retails at $59.95. It rolls up tightly which makes it extremely portable. The chair works great for backpacking trips while you savor the view, sitting in the Wenatchee River in the summer to stay cool, or in the back of pickup truck at a trailhead after any outdoor session while you enjoy a hard-earned beverage. It’s a great back saver at home if you are on the floor often with pets or small children. My sister uses hers in her canoe and for a tent mattress pad. They’re durable, affordable, and made to last with a lifetime warranty. I can see why their slogan is “perfecting just sit there.”
Sarah Shaffer: For meandering hikes, chicken coop tending, family walks, sledding, snowball fighting and for the cold fall and winter days I am loving the Classic Ultra High Bog Boots. They are rated down to -40 Fahrenheit, so they keep my feet nice and toasty along with my calves on the coldest of days. They also keep the snow out because of how tall they are. They retail for $135 and are easy to slip on and off, even for us wider calf ladies, they have accommodated us with a wide calf option.
I also have been using the Buff Coolnet UV Multifunctional Headband almost daily during fall, winter and spring months. I like to wear it over my ears to cut the wind while skate skiing, around my neck during hikes and up and over my head and neck on the coldest of days. It is just enough of a layer to break the wind and keeps me at the right balance of warm and cool during outdoor cardio workouts on cold days.
Andy Dappen: Because I’m somewhat tight, I’m most enamored with outdoor gear delivering exceptional value, regardless of where that gear comes from or who makes it. The exceptional-value quotient (EVQ) is what has drawn me to a few outdoor items sold by Costco, an outlet most people don’t associate with outdoor gear. An offering I wrote about last year for a similar article, was the Kirkland Merino Wool Trail Sock which delivered 6-pairs of high-quality, durable, crew socks for $20. This year’s version of that sock, which costs $23 for 6 pairs, is slightly different than what I purchased and tested. However, given my experience with the Kirkland brand (excellent), Costco’s return policy (superb), and the good online ratings from the buyers of the current sock, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase this year’s Kirkland Merino Wool Blend Sock. The new sock is made from yarns blended with merino wool for insulation (57%), nylon for durability (40%), and Spandex for a snug but comfortable fit (3%). My Merino Wool socks from last year are a similar composition, are still going strong, and will see me through several more years of use before needing replacement. That’s great EVQ.
Over the past four years most of my outdoor pants have slowly been replaced by various brands of ‘tech pants’ purchased at Costco. Several of the pants, bought in various colors (gray, olive, and brown), are made by Weatherproof Vintage and I use them for hiking, canoeing, and rock climbing. These have jean-styled pockets and one zippered rear pocket, and are woven from threads that are 95% nylon, 5% Spandex. The pants cost $19 several years ago and are listed online at Costco.com for $21.99. Another tech pants that is sold seasonally at Costco (spring and summer) is made by UB Tech, and is sold in various colors. I use a khaki version of this pant for summer hiking and canoeing. These pants are 94% nylon and 6% Spandex, have several zippered pockets to secure possessions, keep mosquitoes from biting through in bug season, and cost $19. A final pair of khaki-colored tech pants made by Gerry and available seasonally at Costco (late summer and fall) are great for cross-country skiing and winter walking because they are fleece lined. These pants are woven from nylon-Spandex threads, sport open front pockets and zippered rear pockets, and cost $21.
All of the aforementioned pants are well-sewn with reinforced stitching in stress areas, hide dirt well, have practical pockets, offer some zippered pockets to safeguard wallets and car keys, and stretch nicely to accommodate movements. In other words, all of these pants receive high marks for function. Meanwhile, my more fashion-conscious 30-year-old daughters have given them all the thumbs-up for style. They think their father is looking spiffier than normal and I haven’t minded a few complements from my kids. Function and fashion at a very low cost – the EVQ is off the charts!
Finally, I’ve spent quite a few evenings thumbing through the newly released Classic Cascade Climbs – Select Routes in Washington State (Mountaineers Books, $35) by Jim Nelson, Tom Sjolseth, and David Whitelaw. This ‘guidebook’ is much more than just an updated version of the Selected Climbs in the Cascades guidebooks that Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfield wrote in the 1990s and early 2000s. The new offering combines the guidebook information of a hundred of the state’s best climbing routes on 60 different peaks into an artful presentation whose photographs hold their own with any coffee-table photo book. Classic Cascade Climbs gives climbers all the access details, route topos, descent information, time recommendations, and gear tips needed to go out and actually tackle the featured routes. But the layout surrounds the how-to information with stunning color and black-and-white images. Those images make you want to sit on the couch and thumb through the book time and time again. Paradoxically, those same images also prompt you to get off the couch. They inspire you to call your climbing partners, use the information in the book, and get after some of the peaks. (The book is available at the Riverfront Rock Gym in Wenatchee.)