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Towns and Trails: Our 5 Favorite Pieces of Gear from the Last Decade

I love lists, and I love gear. So naturally coming up with an end-of-decade list of our favorite gear was something I just had to do. (Ok, ok, TECHNICALLY it really isn’t the end of the decade yet, but let’s ignore that.)

For the most part, my definition of a good piece of gear is pretty simple. It just needs to do its job. I want my rain jacket to protect me from the rain… if it does that, without causing me hassles or other problems, I chalk it up as a good piece of gear and don’t think about it otherwise.

However, occasionally an item comes along that is so good at what it does, or does something in such a new or improved way, that I can’t help but appreciate it each time I use it. This was the case for each of the following items.

Our 5 favorite pieces of gear from the last decade:

  1. Jetboil Personal Cooking System
    Quite simply, one of the best pieces of gear I have ever owned. The Jetboil is simple, compact, light, and “just works.” It changed the way I think about cooking in the back country. I used to DREAD breaking out the stove, setting it up, priming it, unpacking the pots, cooking, cleaning up, and then putting everything away. It was all such a hassle to me. The Jetboil took that process and simplified it to the point where I barely even have to think about it. Now granted, this might not be for those who fancy themselves back country gourmets (although they do make accessories for that), but if you want something to quickly boil water for you without making a production out of it… this is the stove.
  2. big agnes seedhouse sl2Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2
    After our 2004 thru-hike of the Northville Placid Trail, we continued our quest to shed pounds from our packs. We sought the most lightweight, yet versatile, gear we could find. The Seedhouse SL2 is sturdy, dry, durable, and a breeze to setup. It strikes a perfect balance between weight and features, making it, without a doubt, the best 3 season backpacking tent we have used.
  3. Salomon XA Pro 3d Ultra GTX Trail Running Shoes
    I gave up on traditional hiking boots near the beginning of this decade, and since then I have been on the quest to find the perfect all-purpose trail runner. I finally found them last year. The Salomon XA Pro 3d Ultra GTX is such a versatile shoe that it is now my casual road shoe, my trail runner, and my hiking ‘boot.’ I even wear them in mild winter conditions with crampons – and they look nice enough that I have no problem wearing them around town. Light, stable, versatile. The best shoe I have owned.
  4. The Big Agnes Sleep System, (via the Horse Thief SL)
    With its integrated sleeping pad and layering possibilities, the Big Agnes “sleep system” has changed the way we think about sleeping on the trail. More importantly though, it has provided some of the most comfortable nights we have ever had in the woods – followed by rested, energized mornings. It is hard for us to imagine going back to an old bag and pad combo.
  5. Chubb River HornbeckHornbeck 10’5 Kevlar Canoe
    There isn’t much I find more peaceful and relaxing than a quiet paddle on calm water. However, I hate loading and carrying around 50+ pound boats to do it. While still in Boston, we lived about 150 feet from a lake and owned a relatively lightweight kayak (about 49 lbs)… yet there were still days when I looked at that thing and decided I just wasn’t up for lugging it down to the shore on my shoulder. Call me lazy. The Hornbeck 10’5, weighing in at only 16 pounds, solved this problem. It is an absolute joy to portage and a snap to load onto the car. I can’t think of a better compliment to pay a piece of gear than to say it helped you enjoy the outdoors more frequently… and that is what the Hornbeck did for me.

Special Mention

The “wonder shorts.” Don’t ask me what brand they are, or where they came from, but I have this bright orange pair of shorts that I LOVE wearing while hiking, swimming, paddling… you name it. You can probably see me wearing them in 80% of the photos I post during summer month activities. I don’t know what the hell I’ll do when I finally wear them out beyond repair.

Honorable Mentions

So those are some of our favorites. If you have a piece of gear that you can’t live without or that changed the way you enjoy adventure… let us know!

Where to buy

You can visit the Hornbeck Boat website here:

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