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The 12 Best Outdoor Products of Summer 2021

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Gear Patrol

This story is part of the 2021 Summer Gear Awards. To see the full list of winners, click here.

When it comes to purchasing adventure gear, you’ve got to weigh not only cost, but true value. Because unlike stuff you have around the house, you literally can’t afford to grant real estate to products that don’t deliver. It’s with that ethos that we have curated the following guide, which rounds up a bunch of our favorite outdoor products, items that more than justify the price tag and the space they take up in your vehicle and/or on your back. Happy trails.

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Chaco Z/Volv 2

Chaco’s most iconic sandal is also one of the most polarizing, largely due to the unique loop that helps secure the big toe. People either hate it or love it; we find that it provides the extra bit of leverage that’s useful when scrambling up trails and over rocks. The Z/Volv 2 is similar in that way, though Chaco shaved off 20 percent of its weight by using a different rubber compound. It's a welcome change given that the original can often feel clunky and especially because the super-supportive footbed is still in place.

If you already love Chacos, you'll like the Z/Volv even better. If you're new to Chacos, note that the strap adjustment process is a bit tricky (again, some hate it), but plenty supportive. Another thing to note is that the strap is too long if you have small feet and need to crank it down, but you can always cut it back and burn the end if it's annoying. And if you hate the thought of that big toe loop, the Z/Volv comes in a version without it.


Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

Salomon’s mid-weight X Ultra 3 is a best-seller among the company’s stock of hiking boots, mainly because it’s well-rounded for all types of use. The boot features a Contagrip rubber sole with an aggressive lug pattern that provides grip through varying surfaces and conditions and a Gore-Tex-lined synthetic upper.The X Ultra 3 Mid has a mid-height cuff that provides ample ankle support and stability, but note that it isn’t as tall as some of the other hiking boots on this list that might be preferable for long treks. In a way, that helps this boot to be more versatile — it wouldn’t be out of place walking around town or worn daily as a go-to shoe.


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Kammok Bobcat 45°F

Kammok may be best known for its hang-anywhere hammocks, but the Austin, Texas-based outdoor brand hit a homer in expanding into camp bedding. The down-filled Bobcat is a lightweight, zipperless cover that's fit to fill in for any sleeping bag in warmer weather.

Hidden in the side of the blanket's hems are tiny pockets that conceal button snaps and loops that allow you to connect one side to the other. That feature, paired with cinching top and bottom hems, enables the Bobcat to close up almost entirely and become a stand-in for a sleeping bag. Pro tip: use these features to create an enclosed foot box and sling it over the bottom of a sleeping pad so you, and the Bobcat, won't slide off in the night. (For a slightly warmer blanket with all the same features, check out Kammok's Firebelly, $289.)


Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hooded Shirt

The amphibious, quick-drying Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie is tailored to multi-sport summer days that switch from trail to river and back again. Not only is the relatively affordable UPF 50+ hoodie treated with odor-obliterating Polygiene, but it’s also knit from Bluesign-approved recycled polyester and stitched in Fair Trade Certified factories. Combining style, comfort and safety, it's the best sun shirt of the entire batch.


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Land's End Rugby Stripe Beach Towel
Lands End

A great beach towel should be more substantial than its bathroom counterpart; it should be oversized for laying on and thick for comfort (to say nothing of absorption). This one fits that bill and comes in a range of tasteful and timeless stripe designs.

Igloo MaxCold Cooler 70 Qt

Don’t have stacks of cash to shell out for a rotomolded ice chest? That’s understandable, and you can still get a great cooler for a lot less, like this 70-quart model from Igloo’s MaxCold series. The sacrifices you’ll make in choosing this cooler are mostly in durability and cold retention, and there’s no latch to keep the lid locked down, but it is much lighter and offers plenty of interior space. If you don’t anticipate putting your cooler through the wringer and only need it to remain icy for a day or two, this is the perfect option.


Helinox Chair One

If Helinox's Chair One had been in the Three Bears's cabin, Goldilocks's choice would've been a cinch. It's the camp chair that sets the standard for all four-legged adventure seats, with its lightweight fabric and aluminum construction. It weighs in at just over two pounds and offers a seating height of 11 inches, which is plenty of space between your rear and the cold, hard ground. Not only does it collapse to a size small enough to carry in a backpack, but the Chair One is also extremely easy to set up: its frame is made from one tent-style, shock-cord pole apparatus and the seat itself is one piece of ripstop polyester. Our testers continually come back to this chair and attest to its comfort and size for day trips to swimming holes, canoe camping trips, backpacking trips and even car camping trips where you could get away with something bigger.


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Osprey Talon 22

The Talon was a solid hiking pack before Osprey's recent update, and the new features make it even better. Chief among them is a new back panel that we've found to be breathable on strenuous hikes even though it's still pretty minimal. It's also quite comfy and integrates well with the hipbelt.

The Talon 22 also has pretty much every feature you could want on a hiking pack. It has stretchy side pockets for water bottles, a spacious main compartment with an internal mesh pocket for small items, another small exterior pocket, trekking pole and ice axe attachments, a spot for a hydration bladder and small mesh pockets on the shoulder straps that are handy for stashing a phone or snack. We also like the big exterior sleeve for stuffing layers on the fly.

There's also an exterior plastic piece that holds a bike helmet. This feature highlights the primary reason why this bag is our top pick — it's perfect for hiking but ideal for around-town use too. The Talon comes in larger and smaller volumes but features vary between them.


Big Agnes Tigerwall UL 3 Solution Dyed Tent

This super-light three-season backpacking tent sets up with a single pole, but it still has room to sleep three. Dual doors each have gear-storing vestibules, and internal space is enhanced with structured foot-end corners for more usable space between your feet and the tent wall. Media pockets hold phones and other devices, while oversized additional ones hold everything else. The planet-friendly, solution-dyed fabric is UV fade-resistant, and all seam taping is waterproof and solvent-free.


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MSR WhisperLite International Backpacking Stove

Finding isobutane canisters can be challenging when you’re traveling. That doesn't matter for this stove, which burns white gas, kerosene and, in a pinch, even unleaded. It's fast too — boiling a liter of water takes just 3.5 minutes. At 10.9 ounces, it’s sized for backpacking, with wide pot supports that fold for transport. Plus, it’s one of the most efficient stoves in cold temperatures, which has earned it wide trust amongst mountaineers.


Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket

A quick Google search for “best rain jacket” will reveal various lists like this one, and Patagonia’s Torrentshell makes an appearance on nearly all of them. It’s the outdoor brand’s jack-of-all-trades rain shell, with a classic construction that includes hand pockets, an adjustable and stowable hood, and zippered underarm vents for when things get warm.

Patagonia made the latest iteration of the Torrentshell with a three-layer construction — the same that you find on ski outerwear — that includes a recycled nylon face fabric, a waterproof membrane and a soft interior lining. It’s an upgrade over the older 2.5-layer model and one that significantly ups the value ante as Patagonia stuck with its already-low $149 price. Patagonia's Rainshadow rain jacket is similar, but comes at a lower weight and uses a stretchier fabric for $50 more.


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Leatherman Bond

The Bond is Leatherman's newest full-sized multi-tool, and it's also a callback to the very first model that the company started with. While some multi-tools jam as many implements as possible into a set of plier handles, the Bond is more sparse, delivering a 14-tool set that's more widely applicable to everyday needs. That list includes a knife blade, wire cutters, screwdrivers and more. (In case you're wondering: that small circle? It's a lanyard loop.) The wirecutters aren't replaceable like they are on some other Leatherman tools, but at this price threshold we aren't expecting that'll be the most-used tool. If it is, consider the Free P2 instead.

Because there are fewer tools in the Bond, it maintains a highly pocketable form that's just four inches long and half an inch thick when closed. We don't like that it doesn't have a pocket clip, but you can buy one separately and the total price will still be less than $60. Our test unit was also a little stiff at first, as is the case with many multi-tools, but breaking it in is part of the fun of owning one.


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