There are some things, that people just cannot do without.  Whether it be morning coffee, or their favorite television show, life just wouldn’t be the same without these things we’ve come to love and rely on.  I have gear like that.  Sure, I managed to get along before them, and I’m sure I’d find a way to continue on in their absence, but now that I’ve discovered these things, it’d be pretty hard to go back to living without them.

These are the things that I don’t just kinda like, or I’m fairly happy with.  These are the things that I tell me friends that HAVE to have.   These are items that I literally cannot say enough good things about and I truly do not believe there is anything better out there.

So here’s 5 things, in no particular order, that make my life so so much easier when I’m outdoors:

5. Montrail Mountain Masochists –  I’ll admit, I originally picked up these trail running shoes, not because I planned to run in them, but because I liked the way they looked.  Back in 2009, I wanted a comfortable and rugged looking shoe to walk around for my trip to Dublin, IRL.  Upon arriving in Dublin, my friend Clint, ultrarunner extraordinare, noticed I was wearing them and went on to tell me that they’re his new favorite trail running shoe.   Several trails runs afterward solidified what Clint told me on that trip, these are serious trail shoes.  They provide phenomenal support, which is important when you’re a 230lb runner who’s putting down 30-40 miles a week.   They have nice sized lugs that grip slick or loose surfaces when I’m running in Great Fall, but they’re not so big that I can’t spend a significant time on-pavement as well.  I can go out and pound out 15-20 miles in these guys and my feet feel fantastic afterward.  I’ve tried and failed several times to find a replacement or upgrade to guys, and every time I end up just getting another pair of Masochists.

4. JetBoil Flash Stove – To call the JetBoil Flash a stove is selling it short.  It’s not just a stove, it’s an entire cooking system.  Packed down to the size of a small coffee can, the Jetboil system consists of a high-powered stove, fuel can, an adjustable tripod and an insulated cooking vessel that can boil a quart of water in 90 seconds(!).  The best part is, with the little handle on the cooking vessel, you can actually eat whatever you’re cooking directly from it.   No need to pack extra stuff!    You only need to see how this whole thing fits together when stowed to see all the thought and engineering behind its design.  Absolutely brilliant!

3. REI Quarterdome Tent  – The Quarter Dome  is a lightweight (4.5lbs), well-featured, and stable three-season tent that’s versatile enough for everything from lightweight backpacking to extended base camps stays.  It will comfortably sleep 2 people, or 3 people if they’re small or very intimate.  It’s a cinch to setup (even in the dark, which I discovered on one trip!) with the color coded poles and snaps, it features numerous little pockets to stash personal items and it does a great job of keeping the weather out.  Oh yeah, and REI has it on sale right now for $199.   Score!

2.  MSR Mini water filter – Have you ever seen one of those commercials for bottled water where they show a crystal clear waterfall with ice cold water flowing over it?   They usually have some zen sounding voice over saying something like “From the freshest waters of Lake Punkatanka, we bottle our water and bring it to yada yada yada…”  You get the idea.    Well, imagine being able to actually drink that kind of water, still ice cold right from the river.  That’s what you get with the MSR Mini.  Its name does it justice as it really is a fairly small device.  About the size of a can of soda and weighing only about a 1lb, it attaches directly to a wide mouth Nalgene type bottle and allows you to pump water directly from a stream or river, while removing all the nasty bacteria and pathogens that could potentially make you ill.  And how does that water taste?  Like the freshest waters of Lake Punkatanka….

1. Casio Pathfinder PAW-1500 Watch/Barometer/Thermometer/Altimeter/Compass –  I love electronic gadgets.  You only need to look as various devices in my work bag (iPad, iPhone, iPhone, Macbook, etc) to see that.  That love extends to wrist worn gadgets as well.  I’ve wanted to have a really cool outdoor watch for some time, and when my friend Doug got one of these a while back, and I immediately coveted it.  It’s a great looking watch, especially if you’re into things that look tough and rugged, but it’s got far more going for it than just good looks.  It’s also an altimeter (good up to 30k feet, in case you need something on your way up to the summit of Everest), a barometer, a compass and a thermometer.  It shows you the phases of the moon, the tides and it’ll even update the time from Atomic Clock.    Oh yeah, it’s also solar powered, so you never have to worry about charging it or replacing pesky batteries.    And judging by the size of the instruction manual it comes with (read HUGE), it probably does a whole lot more that I’m not even aware of!

What are the things you can’t live without when you go outdoors?