[The Outdoor Issue]

Gear up: 5 essentials (and sexy upgrades) for the great outdoors


Whether your idea of camping is an air mattress in the back of a suburban or a portaledge dangling from a mountain face, you can appreciate the difference the right gear makes. In categories that encompass survival and comfort, we’ve picked must-haves for those who want to get outside, and upgrades for those who live there.

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      Petzl Tikka R+ (Essential) Reactive lighting means beam output immediately adjusts to your environment. And the night-vision-preserving red mode means you’ll see the Blair Witch coming even if your battery dies. Did we mention it’s rechargeable with a simple USB? $80

      Petzl Ultra Rush Accu 2 (Upgrade) Running, skiing or biking at night is a lot easier when you have six LEDs illuminating terrain up to 550 feet away. It’s burly enough to take falls but elegant enough to work in terrible conditions and reserve power without you asking. $430

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      Osprey Viper 9 (Essential) Big enough for a day of activity but compact enough not to hinder your ride or run. The mouthpiece stays in the sweet spot thanks to a genius magnet. Ergonomics make it feel like part of you, and the “Shove-It Pocket” is just too good. $100

      Platypus GravityWorks (Upgrade) Yes, it looks like IV bags, but they filter water en masse with serious speed and ease. There’s no pumping—just scooping and hanging so gravity can work for you and a campsite full of your friends. Protozoa, bacteria and particulates, beware. $120

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      What have you

      Leatherman Wingman (Essential) If you never leave the house, this tool will still come in so handy. Pliers, cutters, blades, openers and screwdrivers are ready to spread peanut butter or cut twigs for kindling. The 25-year guarantee is nice, but let’s hear it for tiny scissors. $35

      Zippo 4-in-1 Woodsman (Upgrade) From the company that brought you the coolest lighters comes a backcountry tool of truly burly proportions. It’s an axe, bow saw, mallet and stake puller. We’re pretty sure that makes it apocalypse-resistant. $80

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      Garmin eTrex 20 GPS (Essential) Just the fact that you can see the display in sunlight makes this handheld navigator a gem. It takes dirt and moisture in stride and tracks using GPS and Glonass satellite systems. It finds you when you’re on a trip, and helps you plan the next. $180

      ACR Electronics ResQLink 406 Personal Locator Beacon (Upgrade) Using GPS, satellites and homing signals, this baby tells rescuers where to find you, and the LED catches their eyes. It transmits for 30 hours, and you can test it before you go for peace of mind. $280

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      Mountain Hardwear Hooded Nitrous Jacket (Essential) Without bulk or weight, the 800-fill down brings the heat, even when it’s wet. The jacket can be stuffed into its own pocket for easy packing and busted out for campfire-style situations without fear of wrinkling. $260

      Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 800 3-Season (Upgrade) It’s zipperless, there’s a down comforter built into the bag-style bed, and it weighs 2.8 pounds. Add the self-sealing foot vent, insulated hand pockets and sleeve to keep your pad in place, and it’s better than your actual bed. $400

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