This year I’ve put gear to the test snowshoeing on a barren landscape, hiking the deserts of the southwest, in urban cafes and in a few cases cases even in my living room. Reviews are funny in that we often test something quickly, but when we spend money on the gear we just have to have — durability is key.
After periods of continued use these are the 10 items that keep me coming back for more — they’ve become go-to gear that I don’t know how I lived without.
I will be honest, when I tested these shoes I expected them to be like a delicate flower — beautiful and impressive but a fleeting part of my wardrobe. That didn’t stop me from treating them like they were a durable sneaker, because at heart I am still just a big kid and tend to rush into things even when I am nicely dressed. I got them wet, walked long distances in them, biked in them, climbed rocks in them and they performed like a good durable shoe. They may be constructed of beautiful recycled rice paper but they are tough, durable and protect your feet. The multi-coloured pattern also meant that they match a lot of different outfits, and they ended up on my feet all the time.
Until the weather hits 30C, I am basically always cold. The Salida hoodie is one of my most valued pieces of clothing right now. It makes an unbelievable midlayer, as I can attest from the Arctic freeze we just endured, but it also works as a fall jacket and even makes a decent housecoat when your furnace decides that even it has had enough of frigid weather. What I love about this thing is that it’s form fitting, which means I don’t have to spend four months of the year looking like a Michelin Man that’s eaten the Pillsbury doughboy. I still feel feminine and pretty but get to simultaneously be gloriously, gloriously warm. I wear this thing at some point almost every single day.
You know those things or people that enter your life that you didn’t even know existed but then can’t imagine life without — that is the Techgir mini in a nutshell. Okay, okay, maybe that’s a wee bit dramatic, but this battery pack is seriously a girl’s best friend. The smallest of the company’s three models fits simply in your purse recharging your phone up to five times. It also has a good flashlight for when you can’t find your house keys in the dark. I’ve been using this for almost a year and hope it lasts many more.
Ever since visiting Australia at 20, I have been cautious about sun exposure and burns. Even still, the Canadian impulse to shed clothes in the heat rather than covering up in the right materials overwhelms me at times and I have had more than a couple of burns on my shoulders. I know better though, and know that the best way to stay comfortable and safe in the sun is to cover up. FIG dresses let me cover up and still look summery. An amazing travel companion I wear them to work with a blazer and hiking. The travel amazingly well and are light weight. UV protection clothing at its finest.
When I was a kid growing up in Nova Scotia, I refused to wear winter boots. Now that I live in Ottawa such a thought would never cross my mind, but finding a pair that works in to my city style and my winter activities isn’t easy, especially with all the salt on the roads which can stain even the most beautiful boot ugly in short order. Baffin’s New York boots are perfect for cold weather cities, especially those like Ottawa that have variable weather. They keep your feet absolutely dry and warm, salt washes easily off of them and they deal well with ice. I have had these boots out walking across frozen lakes and snowshoeing but also wear them on an almost daily basis to work. These boots find the perfect compromise between city and activity and give me confidence that I won’t have to turn back due to cold feet.
Hut boots are almost necessary to make winter camping doable. They are super warm with a reasonable sole when you need to slip out in the night. My Sierra Designs hut boots are amazing. So amazing in fact that I have been caught multiple times using them as slippers at home on the coldest days. Just like their sleeping bags and apparel, their down products deliver.
Find me a jacket that can be balled up the size of a pencil case and keeps me warm and I will be forever loyal to it. That is my Westcomb Cayoosh hoodie — from wet rain in Yellowstone to sideways sleet in Wales. The 800-fill down Cayoosh also makes an incredible midlayer when you have the brilliant idea to spend New Year’s Eve outside when it is -25. It also takes a beating — even when negotiating thorns it didn’t snag. It is still in perfect condition after numerous trips. It also saved those around me from the wrath of a wet and cold woman sleeping in a tent without hot water.
Canadians can be a bit arrogant about the cold, and conversely feel like the Brits don’t really understand what proper winter weather really is. But don’t let Rab’s British origins deter you — their base layers compete with the best in the business. Well designed, warm and form fitting to make for an easier fit under other layers, my Rab baselayer is always close at hand when I am heading out. It also looks great so if you are snowshoeing and start feeling like you will melt you can strip straight down to it and not look like a hermit on snowshoes. One last thing I love about this base layer is its hood. Hoods usually annoy me, I never really wear them because I don’t like how they constrain my head, maybe because my neck is proportionally long. My Rab’s hood feels great however, almost like a cocoon; a cocoon I can disappear into when it is freezing rain and miserable outside, or venture out into the cold in with confidence. This base layer stands out in Canadian harsh weather.
I can’t really say why I am surprised that a bag made of truck tarp and a recycled car seatbelt is so durable, but this bag will be coming with me in the event of an apocalypse. It wipes clean, handles weight well and is almost impossible to damage. You can take this bag to the office or on your bike. It is also unique and has great impact — this bag gets you noticed. It’s another piece that people constantly ask about. This company’s bags are one of my favourite finds the year.
If I had a dollar for every stranger who complemented or asked me about my Stormy Kromer petal pusher, I would be able to buy a few more Stormy Kromer hats. I had all but given up on hats — almost all of them look awful on me, but the Petal Pusher is both warm and flattering. It ends up on my head on all but the coldest days of winter.