Lust List: Road-ripping camping gear edition

By

FULLSCREEN

Road trips are great for testing your nerves — and your gear.

I took the Kahney family on an epic road trip across the American West this summer, visiting a half-dozen of the United States' most spectacular national parks. We covered thousands of miles, with six of us crammed into a Land Rover LR3 that had overstuffed storage units strapped to its top and back.

We weren't prepared for the vast distances, but we were prepared for the torrential monsoons and the blazing heat. And somehow we never lost our sense of humor: Here's my son at Zion Canyon in Utah, goofing around for a cruel joke pic to send to his grandparents ("We nearly lost one!").

Having the proper gear helped. Here's a rundown of the best camping and outdoors gear we road-tested during our month-long trip.

Land Rover LR3

The Land Rover LR3 is the best car I've ever owned. It's big, fast and very, very capable. My wife hates it. She calls it the “Assholemobile” because it’s the U.K. version of a Hummer, but I love this luxe SUV.

It's a great vehicle for a big family like ours (we have four kids). Ours is a seven-seater, with a third row that folds up from the rear storage area. The cabin is light and airy with huge, widescreen windows. It has command seating, which is great for lording it over other vehicles on the road.

It feels big and safe. It's got gadgets galore, from the crazy-sophisticated, computer-controlled air suspension to a console icebox for keeping your sodas cool. The superior sound system rattles the windows. The big V8 is so quiet you can barely hear it, yet it hauls the beast onto the freeway like a 747 taking off — even fully loaded.

We used to own a Discovery II — it was, alas, a bottomless money pit — but the LR3 is much improved reliability-wise now that Land Rover has come under Ford's ownership. Shocker: Late-model Landys (approximately $12,000 to $25,000 used) are somewhat reliable. Even the car snobs at Jalopnik call it "shockingly good." At 100,000 miles, everything works perfectly except the seat warmers. This is partly thanks to the previous owner, who rushed it to the dealer every time an interior bulb blew. At 100K, the LR3 is just getting broken in.

Primus Firehole 100

A camp stove needs to be reliable and tough. For this trip, we ditched our trusty old Coleman stove for the Primus Firehole 100. We needed a bigger stove that could feed six hungry campers.

The Firehole 100 is pricey ($169.95), but it's bigger than most and solidly built. Its two burners put out 24,000 BTUs — enough to boil two big pots of water in a few minutes. The fuel line is built-in (we've lost detachable fuel lines in the past) and the burner knobs are recessed to stop them from snagging packs. There's a big plastic handle for easy carrying, and the wind breaks are magnetic and double as prep areas. But the thing I liked best? The piezo igniter worked every time!

REI Hobitat 6 tent

REI's Hobitat 6 tent is a spacious car-camping tent that's surprisingly quick and easy to set up and break down. My teenage son managed to put it up on his own the first night working with a feeble flashlight. After that he became very proficient at putting it and pulling it down, though a 10-minute job became a five-minute one with some assistance from his siblings. Once up, the Hobitat was big and sturdy. We never staked it down or used guy wires, but it stood firm in several thunderstorms and didn't leak a drop.

Unfortunately, the Hobitat 6 is no longer available, but REI's Kingdom 6 ($439) is very similar.

Jacaru Summer Breeze hat

My mother brought me Jacaru's Summer Breeze hat as a gift during a trip to Australia. I didn't like it at first — it's too cowboy — but over the years it's grown on me. It's proven perfect for almost every outdoor occasion, from grueling hikes to boozy afternoon naps after a day swilling the old amber nectar by the river. It's pretty lightweight and its wide brim is good for keeping the sun's rays off my pasty British skin.

Made of cowhide and PVC mesh, it's nearly indestructible. It's been trampled, chucked and swept down the river, but it shows few signs of wear. The Jacaru Summer Breeze hat is available by mail order for $69.00 AUD (about $64).

Waze maps app

At one point during our trip, Apple's Map app sent us 100 miles down a backroad only to have us do a U-turn at a gas station and go back exactly the way we had come. Enraged, I immediately downloaded Waze, a reliable mapping app that includes a killer feature — crowd-sourced traffic alerts.

The free Waze app (available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone) allows other drivers in the area to report things like police, accidents, stopped cars and traffic jams. I found it spooky reliable. The app beeped and chirped whenever we approached a speed trap or a vehicle stopped on the shoulder. There were no false positives and directions were solid and reliable. Waze even has a ton of features I didn't use, like crowdsourced cheap gas alerts and the ability to share drive times with contacts. The only thing I don't like is the cartoony icons.

Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir

Camelbak might make the best bottles, but the best hydration packs are now made by Osprey. We had a trio of 3.0-liter Osprey Hydraulics Reservoirs ($36) for our hikes, and they proved reliable lifesavers.

The Osprey bladders have a stiff backing plate and rigid carrying handles, which makes filling and handling them easier than other bladders. They slipped easily into and out of our backpacks, and didn’t flop everywhere when being filled. The large cap also helped (and the oversize opening made cleaning and drying a snap). The bite valve works better than Camelbak's design, and the lockout is easy to use.

Advertisment

Camelbak Eddy bottle

After years of drinking out of squeezy cycling bottles during exercise, I really fell for Camelbak's Eddy bottle. Unlike cycling bottles, you don't have to tilt your head back to drink: You just bite on the Eddy's silicon valve and suck up water via the internal straw. There are no spills or side squirts and you can gulp down gallons at a time.

The Eddy is a well-designed water bottle: It's easier and faster than any I've ever tried. During our hikes, we had several Eddys to supplement our hydration packs. They proved durable and reliable. They're easy to refill, fit in most car cup holders, and have a handy carrying carabiner loop built into their lids. The bite valve is exposed and got dusty on hikes, but at $16, the Eddy can't be beat for hiking, trips to the gym or everyday drinking. I even water the houseplants with it.

100 percent free of BPA and BPS, the Eddy bottle comes in a range of colors, materials and sizes, from 400ml to 1 liter ($13 to $30).

Old Navy Swim-to-Street shorts

Dirt-cheap and lightweight, Old Navy's Swim-to-Street shorts are my new favorite summer attire. They're absolutely perfect for baking-hot weather.

Made of a 70/30 cotton/nylon mixture, the shorts dry out in no time. That makes them great for hiking rivers or swimming in lakes; they're dry long before you get back to the car. They have enough pockets to carry money, phone and keys, and are easy to wash in the sink and hang over a balcony to dry. $12 on sale.

Alite Mantis Chair

Alite's Mantis Chair is a lightweight, collapsible camp chair that's easy to transport and easy to sit in. It's made from elasticated aluminum tent poles, with four little legs that make the seat quite firm and sturdy. Its large nylon seat is surprisingly comfy for long periods of time.

The Mantis is easily dismantled and stuffed into the bottom of a day pack. It weighs just 1.6 pounds but will support up to 250 pounds. At $120 list, it's not cheap — but we picked up a broken one (which I repaired) at REI's semi-annual garage sale.

Elkies

It goes without saying we took our iPhones with us everywhere. They were perfect travel companions, great for capturing family photos as well as wildlife — and sometimes both at once.

Photos: Kahney family archives and Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Shiny new toys for the two-wheeled set

FULLSCREEN

It's summer somewhere. Get out and ride.

PARK CITY, Utah — It’s now officially summer (although you couldn't tell it by the snow here last week). That means it’s time to talk about our favorite warm-weather tech obsession: bikes. We recently flew to Utah to check out the newest offerings from several of the most important bike companies. What follows in the gallery above are the items we’re most excited about. There’s everything from battery-powered, full-suspension mountain bikes to ultra-aerodynamic wheels and jackets that glow in the dark. Time to step away from your computer, put down your phone, turn off your tablet and get outside.

Smith Optics' Overtake helmet

Smith Optics is known for its shades. But the company launched a pretty damn nice mountain-bike lid, called the Forefront, last year And this week they rolled out their road bike helmet, which is called the Overtake. Like the Forefront, the $250 Overtake uses Koroyd (those tubular things you see in the vents), a breathable material the company claims offers 30 percent more impact protection than traditional EPS.

In addition to solid protection and ventilation, the Overtake is also plenty aerodynamic — almost as good as the Specialized Evade, which is a big deal because the Evade is considered an industry leader in aerodynamics. As you might expect, the Overtake is designed to integrate with the company’s frameless Pivlock sunglasses, and kudos to the design team because the helmet comes in 12 different colorways, including bright pink.

CamelBak Kudu 12

CamelBak’s new Kudu 12 mountain-bike-specific pack will keep you hydrated but will also add some protection if you wreck balls. The $200 pack has a flexible, lightweight and removable impact pad that fits in a pocket in the reservoir compartment and cushions your fall if you land on your back. The pad itself is designed for enduro racers and meets even higher motorcycle standards, but the company says it’s “geared toward anyone who is doing any kind of technical riding where you just want a little extra protection.” The pad, or insert, is rated for multiple impacts so you won’t have to throw it away even after you’ve landed on it several times.

Like all of CamelBak’s bike-specific products, the Kudu 12 has some nice features, like a wide hip belt for support, a tool kit and an outer flap specifically designed to hold your helmet when you’re not on your bike. The bladder holds 3 liters, which is plenty for several hours out on the trail.

Zipp 404 Firestrike Carbon Clincher wheels

These ultra-lightweight carbon wheels will set you back $3,600 — they're more expensive than most midlevel road bikes. It’s a mind-boggling amount of money, but Zipp has put a lot of work into pushing the limits of wheel efficiency, so they’re charging a premium. According to the company, the biggest development in the 404 Firestrike Carbon Clincher is a better way to handle vortices, pockets of low pressure that form behind your wheels and yank them sideways, making you work harder than you should.

To deal with this, Zipp placed a set of dimples on the rim that shed vortices more quickly and reduce that sideways movement. Simply put, these wheels cut down on the turbulence your bike would otherwise feel out in a crosswind, which means you can go faster and farther with less energy. Our trip up and down Royal Street to Deer Valley's midmountain seemed to prove that whatever Zipp is up to works. The wheel spun up quickly, felt light, had great braking power and was not in the least bit affected by the early morning wind gusts.

Sugoi Zap jacket

This $150 jacket will make your mom proud of you. That’s because she’ll know you’re doing everything you can to stay safe when you're out riding your bike in traffic. During the day, Sugoi's Zap jacket looks just like a regular rain shell. But at night, micro-glass beads on the face fabric glow whenever they’re hit by car headlights. Paired with a front and back light on your bike, the jacket should catch the attention of even the most unaware driver. Other bike-specific features include a longer tail and longer arms for full coverage when you’re hunched over in the saddle. It’s not the jacket you want for long rides, but it’s perfect for commutes.

GT Bicycles' Grade adventure road bike

Those of us who dream of KOM wins on Strava and out-sprinting our friends to the city-limits signs tend to lust after bikes ridden in races like the Tour de France. Thing is, most of those whips are designed for the type of riding most of us don’t really do. Instead, what we like to ride at Cult of Mac are bikes from the adventure category. These bikes are still designed to be wicked fast, but they’re also a lot more comfy and much more versatile than a pure race bike.

Our newest obsession in this category is the Grade from GT Bicycles. The top model is full carbon and the frame design is a lovely mix of elements that provide plenty of power transfer, but also create a plush ride quality (taller head tube, slightly lower bottom bracket, longer wheel base, etc.). You’d have no problem racing this bike, but it’s really designed for people who just want to get out and ride (perfect for centuries, gran fondos, etc.). "We’ve loaded up on features that matter to the kind of rider who rebels against what road riding 'should' be," GT said about the new Grade. GT also designed the bike to take tires all the way up to 35c, allowing riders to get off the pavement and onto dirt roads. If you’re not sold yet, the price is also right at $3,300 for the top build. Stop thinking about the Pinarellos that Team Sky is riding and buy this bike instead.

Fabric ALM bike saddle

This full-carbon saddle looks wicked uncomfortable — like your ass would hurt after two minutes — because it’s paper-thin and only covered by a strip of padding. But looks can be deceiving. According to the Brits who run the operation, the ride quality is actually quite plush, thanks to special built-in carbon leaf springs that Fabric designed in conjunction with airplane manufacturer Airbus. Like all carbon bike products, the $330 ALM has a fine-tuned ability to dampen your ride and keep your tuchus happy. We’ll believe it when we ride it later this year, but for now we’re at least intrigued by the potential of this ultra-lightweight, ultra-slimmed-down saddle.

Advertisment

Lapierre Overvolt FS 900 Mountain bike

Who in their right mind would want a $5,500 electric mountain bike? That’s what we asked the first time we saw the Lapierre Overvolt FS 900. But then we rode the silly thing and realized it’s a hoot. It’s not meant to be ridden like a motorcycle — you’re still supposed to pedal — but the Bosch motor and 400Wh battery will supposedly give riders two to three hours of assistance and make climbing and cruising easy as pie.

People who might be toast after 45 minutes can now go out and ride for a couple hours. Riders who want to concentrate on picking their line on the way up a technical section don’t have to worry as much about pedaling. Those who just want a little added speed now have it. We’re not ready to give up our pedal-powered steeds, but we see how this electric contraption might help some people get out and enjoy a little more single track. "This bike is not going to displace regular bikes, but it definitely augments the market," said Larry Pizzi, who works with Bosch.


Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac