Gear Geek: Gear of the Year 2016

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Gear Geek: Gear of the Year 2016

I’ve already bid adieu to 2016. But amidst all the chaos, stupidity, madness, and tumult that the year brought, I did find comfort in my forays into the wild and on the open road—and in the gear that made the year a bit easier to bare. To wit, a round-up of things that brought a smile to my face—and saved me from the elements on more than one occassion. Some came out last year, others won’t drop till spring 2017, and a few have been in my arsenal for a while but really made themselves known during the last 365 days. May one—or several—offer equal reassurance in 2017.

1. Fjallraven Skog Flannel, $110; 2. Vuarnet 03 Sunglasses, $235; 3. Saxx Kinetic Running Shorts, $75; 4. Lululemon Einn Shell, $398; 5. Thursday President Boot, $199; 6. Aether Ion Jacket, $350; 7. Glerup Slippers, $95.

Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).

Fjallraven Skog Flannel

The rapid onset of cold weather and the first of what I fear will be several polar vortexes made flannel my go-to long-sleeved shirt of choice this fall. The bold and unconventional colors of Club Ride's Shaka earned the most compliments in 2016, and while I loved the burly patches and active-centric features in the Kitsbow Icon (especially during one crowded day hike/rock scramble this fall), I kept reaching for Fjallraven's Skog. It fits trim, not '90s grunge baggy, and (like Kitsbow) the fabric is thick, plush, and of the highest quality. All respect to George Costanza, but I'll take being ensconced in flannel over velvet any day—and that's what the Skog delivers. Take note: the shirt isn't available on Fjallraven's U.S. site, but some retailers still stock the shirt.

Vuarnet 03 Sunglasses

It may seem odd to give props to a product that's been around since the '60s in a piece about this year's best, but—as I profiled last April--Vuarnet made a triumphant return to the United States in 2016. This pleases the kid in me, who long coveted a pair of Vuarnet sunglasses, and the adult who finally has a pair. I dig the 03s, and not just because they're the choice pair for The Dude. The all-glass lenses are top-notch and avoid scratches that plague plastic lenses, with a slight curve and an oversized face to help blog out ambient light. And the polarized copper tint offers just the right touch of mellow tint to block the blinding sun.

Saxx Kinetic Running Shorts

First released in limited quantities with last year's Summer Outdoor Retailer show, the Kinetic shorts take Saxx's "pocket" underwear design and integrates them it into shorts. The inner architecture, which cradles your boys perfectly, removes any threat of chaffing, a feature that grew increasingly welcome on trail runs during the brisk fall weather, and other details—twin hand pockets with a secure inner pocket on the right, pops of reflective fabric, abrasion-resistant outer fabric—were great. The length also drops a few inches beyond your typical running short, rather than the short-short models that other runner seem to prefer. They drop this spring.
Saxx Underwear

Lululemon Einn Shell

Full confession: I've not used the Einn Shell enough to fully endorse it, but there's no other piece of gear sitting in my closet that I can't wait to test more. It has been an uncharacteristically dry fall here in Washington, DC. Otherwise I suspect I'd have used the Einn on my trail runs countless times. Part of a new, research-driven small product line, Lululemon has designed this waterproof shell with active pursuits and minimalism in mind: the two pockets both come with long zips that double as vents to help channel cooler air through the jacket and out the back panel, so that you stay dry and cool when pushing it hard on the trail. Touches of silicone at the hem keep it from creeping up as you move. I dig the bright pink inner lining, the subtle reflective details at the zipper, and distinct of lack of unnecessary features or seams. This Einn syncs with an optional inner layer as well. I know they put a lot of thought into this garment, and it shows. Can't wait to see if all that research pans out.

Thursday President Boot

Given the high-quality leather and its timeless aesthetic, Thursday's new boot line look far more expensive than their price—but the quality is still top-notch. I gravitated toward the President, which has a minimalist cap-toe feature and the same flat-wax laces found on their other models. The full glove leather interior keeps you feet warm, the cork footbed and EVA sole have been comfortable in days-long urban slogs, and the studded rubber soles have delivered solid grip in in foul weather. They're already starting to earn a few nicks and scrapes—and look even better because of it.
Thursday Boot Co.

Aether Ion Jacket

Like the Fjallraven flannel and the Thursday boot, the Ion takes a classic aesthetic—the bomber jacket—and tweaks in the smallest of ways. The nylon is smooth to the touch, with square quilting to contain the 800-fill goose down, and the fabric of the rib knit at the collar, cuffs, and hem are speckled with subtle color variations that speak to Aether's sartorial focus without screaming it from on high. In addition to the modern fabrics, you also find two hand pockets and sly zippered inside pocket with a port for your headphones should they still be of the wired variety. I've warn this around town more than any other casual jacket in my arsenal.

Glerup Slippers

I love these felted wool slippers so much I got my wife a matching pair. And while I typically cringe at couples who wear the same outfits, we match only when we're at home together, alone. So that saves some embarrassment. But whatever—bring it on. These hand-crafted, Denmark-born slippers come in slip-on, bootie, and full shoe versions, all made of 100% wool with felted uppers that wick moisture to keep your feet dry, with a double-layered felted insole, and a flexible slip-resistant calfskin sole. They're the only house shoes that I've owned that beg to be worn everywhere.