We are heading into that particular buying season, and as such I like to put together some thoughts on gifts and other things (affiliate links on some, but not all of these). But this year with all the craziness around and weird shipping times from places like Amazon, I thought I would put up a guide from some places I like that live outside that realm, and from there pick some of the cheaper options you can get from these places which provide excellent value considering the place you are buying from.
So, here we go.
You might only think of GORUCK as the place to go spend loads of money on backpacks, but they offer some other gear which I think provide even greater value, while still being really awesome items — often my preferred items:
- Shadow Pockets ($12-20): They are really inexpensive clamshell opening pockets. They have a lid and a pocket so you can unzip them, flip the lid open, and your items are more or less in a little tray with sides to get to as needed. They are single layer 500D Cordura with a nice YKK zipper (single) and a webbing handle. They have a spot for a patch as well, which I find handy if you are using more than one pocket so you don’t need to open them to see what’s inside.
- Wire Dopp ($25-30): my preferred charger carrying tool and it’s a great bit of kit. I have two of the standard size, and one is a backup just in case. Every time I try to replace this with something else, I come back to this. I don’t personally find the mini version as compelling, but to each their own. This holds a ton of gear. The inside of the taco fold is mesh with three compartments. The outside is 1000D Cordura with a spot for a patch. It’s good stuff. Easy to work out of, get to exactly what you need (and see what you need).
- Packing Cubes Flat ($15-20): they are my favorite, especially now that they have the ‘flat’ models, and having a patch spot on these is awesome as it gives you a way of knowing which cube has what in it. They hold a ton, weigh nothing, and are well made. I like the mesh top as it means you never have to worry about air getting trapped and inflating the size of your gear. But it’s not for everyone. I find the 5L size great for socks and underwear, and the 10L is more than adequate for my pants and shirts.
- Kit Bag ($125): for the non-USA made model you get a strap and the bag and it is a lot cheaper — which is the one I am linking to here. The bag is super nice at 32L it’s the perfect weekend/carryon size for a duffle. It could be your only travel bag. It’s a huge value for GORUCK, and for this type of bag generally as most are going to set you back twice the price. It’s 1000D Cordura which works better on this bag than backpacks. The big thing about this bag is that it holds a ton, but it does that while not looking massive. It’s maybe my second favorite GORUCK bag right now.
- Urban Assault ($125 MSRP): this is easily the best backpack you can buy for about $100 all day long. I own four, one for each person in our house. There’s no other bag close to this one when price is part of the consideration. And even without considering price, this bag rocks.
- 2 Day Assault ($199): double the cost, but at $200 this is easily one of the most comfortable backpacks you can buy in that price category. It’s big, it’s tactical, I get it — but it’s a bargain when you consider what you are getting. This is an under dog.
- Forager ($30): for one of the best slings I own. Silly good deal. This bag is so simple, but is my most used sling.
- Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch ($11-15): these are super handy pouches. They weigh nothing and have a nice clip at the top should you need it. But the real value comes in the weird looking zipper, as it is designed in a way where you get maximum use of the size/capacity and can get at everything, while giving some structure to keep items put.
- Q-Kit ($15-18): I don’t know what the design goal was with this, but I have the smaller one and it’s a gem. Flattens down when not needed, pops up to hold a bunch of random tiny stuff. Like the Ghost Whale, the zipper design allows it to fully utilize the size, and let you easily get at the items. But more than the Ghost Whale, this one really can help keep things put. Tons of uses, almost something you should always keep in your bag.
- Absolute Shoulder Strap ($30): the hidden gem of Tim Bihn items, it is my favorite shoulder strap on the market. The foam section is very grippy and has a bounce/stretch to it. For certain uses that’s not going to be ideal, but for most uses this will mean that you have a more comfortable carry. At $30 this is a stupid good value.
- Padded Organizer Pouch ($9+): if you haven’t noticed yet, Tom Bihn makes silly pouches, and this one is my favorite. Weighs nothing, sits flat, and is fully padded. This pouch takes the stress out of so much of my life by giving me a soft and padded place to toss delicate items. My only criticism is that they went out of stock before I spent all my money on them.
I know, but I swear, there are good bargains at Filson too:
- Bridle Leather Belt ($80+): I’ve never had a better belt, I got the 1.25” width, but the 1.5” would be more casual for jeans if that’s your style, it’s only $90 for the wider belt. There’s many comments on these that they last decades or more. And I can believe it, as this is easily the nicest belt I own. It’s fantastic leather with a very low stretch to it — enough to mold to you. Highly recommended.
- Summer Packer Hat ($75): don’t take my word for it, Outdoor GearLab loves this hat too, it’s an awesome hat to keep the sun off of you. And it can really be crumped up and come right back into shape fairly quickly. It’s very comfortable even when you are dripping with sweat. Huge fan.
- Oil Tin Hat ($50+): One of Filson’s signature fabrics is their Oil Finished Tin Cloth. This is a very tightly woven cotton that is dense and thin making it very durable. They then use an oil-wax on top of that to make it extremely wind and water resistant. Look I lived in the PNW for a long time, and I can tell you right now that hiking with one of these is almost as good as hiking with any GoreTex hat you can find. And it looks better — a lot better. They make a ton of different variants of these throughout the year, I am linking to their low profile one (which I have not tried, I have limited edition US Forest Service ones which sit higher). The only key advice I have, is make sure the adjustment strap is the brass with bridle leather strap — it’s perfection. Both my hats look new, which is great, but makes it hard to justify buying more. Note: not great for warm weather.
- Carter Mug Series ($27.50+): Fellow makes two models of these, the Move and the Everywhere. I have both, and they are very similar and both excellent. For an insulated mug the value is stellar, and the mug is even better. They are all I use everyday when I go to work. The Move is better for me when I take it with me, it has a smaller diameter and a little splash guard integrated to keep down splashes. You should note that you fully remove the lid and have a completely open top to drink from. The Move is a narrower diameter so it fits in more cup holders — it works in my Wife’s car, not mine. The Everywhere is beastly in diameter and a joy to drink out of. Both have a thin stainless steel lip, which is not prone to dribbles. And the inside is ceramic which cleans up nicely and doesn’t mess with the coffee flavor. They are fine being run through the dishwasher. Love them.
Triple Aught Design
- Shemagh ($24+): these are one of those items which are both excellent and inexpensive. These are 100% cotton, and well made, but they get high marks because they are among the few with divergent design patterns. Unfortunately most of those patterns revolve around skulls. However the Topo Skull variant isn’t very loud if you don’t have have it fully spread out (which is unlikely in practice, that’s what is pictured above) and offers a nice little twist on a classic item.
- Traverse Tech-T ($70): ok, maybe not a pure bargain for a merino blend t-shirt, but it’s very good. The cut is very trim while remaining long, and the balance of wool to nylon is on the mark. It’s 150gsm too, which is a really nice lightweight fabric and isn’t going to turn see through on you. This is a sleeper of a hit, because it really does hit a lot of areas other merino t-shirts miss. This is an active t-shirt, not something to wear day to day, and it’s good. I’ve had one for a long time now.
- Agent XC Shorts ($125): these were/are my most worn shorts since getting them. They feel like they will last forever and strike a nice balance of looking nice, while being cut to move and work in. The pockets have built in organizers and they are all around aces. The bargain on these is that you only need one pair of them, even if you wear them daily. I own two pairs of shorts that I wear out of the house for stuff, this is one of those pairs, and I live in Houston.
- Field Cap ($24): this NYCO hat is one of my favorites, the sizing can be a little weird — if you have a big head you might find it too shallow. Otherwise this is my current favorite hat for workouts. It’s simple, comes in a lot of colors and strikes a good balance of protection and breathability. Also, points for the logo being more subdued on it. Great deal.
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