Most of our reviews are pretty long — and take a long time to produce — because we want to provide enough info for you to actually determine whether the gear we tested will work well for you.
But we get asked to check out an increasingly wide range of products, and sometimes, we just want to tell you about something we’ve been using and loving lately.
So we’ve rolled out a new monthly series — Stuff We Like — to keep you current on a broad range of stuff we’re currently digging.
And if there’s something you love that you think we ought to check out, drop us a note in the comment section below.
Kristin Sinnott: This fanny pack sat unused and in its original packaging for over a year before I ever even considered using it. My extremely thoughtful parents purchased it for me, likely thinking it would make my evening runs around town safer. With the whole work from home thing, I haven’t had to use it in the evening but its bright fabric and reflective strip definitely make the fanny pack well suited for a more visible night run.
The reason I never used it was because I had a belt band that was working ok for me on my occasional solo runs. At the time, most of my runs were with a stroller and the strollers I was using had spots to place my cell, so I never needed to carry it on my body. Fast forward a year and I now run without a stroller but I now carry an index card-sized, laminated season pass and my cell.
My runs aren’t long enough to warrant a running vest or other larger pack as I’m typically going out for less than 5 miles. But my go-to run is on private land, hence why I have to carry a fairly large, laminated, card that acts as my season pass with me. I tried stuffing the pass into the small pocket on my running shorts and into my running band but I could always feel it poking me. Thankfully I have the fanny pack. The pass and my phone (and gloves or other small items) fit nicely into the pack and the stretchy material allows it to expand as needed. The fanny pack sits close to my body and the belt is elastic and adjustable so I’m able to eliminate any bouncing.
David Golay: All the time spent at home during the pandemic has not done good things for my willingness to wear jeans, and of all the more loungewear-style pants I’ve been wearing recently, the Uniqlo Sweatpants are easily my favorite. Feature-wise, they’re fairly standard sweatpants material, with a drawstring waist, no fly, and two hand pockets plus a third on the right side of the seat. But what sets the Uniqlos apart for me is their slimmer, more tapered fit, which makes them look just a bit more presentable than most other sweats. I’ve worn them to the grocery store and so on a ton, and while my standards for appearance have definitely cratered, I really do think they look better than most sweats (and in my defense, my partner agrees — so I’ve got that going for me). And of course, they’re super comfortable, especially now that temperatures are dropping off again. I’m a big fan.
Jonathan Ellsworth: We always love a good cause, but when a good cause is tied to a top-shelf product, well even better. And 10 Barrel Brewing’s PRAY FOR POW Winter Stout (which is their take on an American Stout) is absolutely delicious. In fact, I think this is probably my personal favorite stout of all time. I’ll go into a bit more detail in a separate writeup (so as not to overshadow all the other stuff here that our reviewers have been liking), but this winter stout is 7% ABV, 60 IBU, and a portion of the proceeds benefits Protect Our Winters. So check the beer finder at the 10 Barrel link above, and if you are a fan of stouts (and good causes), you ought to try this beer. It’s actually 10 Barrel’s most awarded beer ever, and I think you’ll see why.
Luke Koppa: I’ve used a handful of headlamps over the years and most of them have generally been fine. And actually, I feel like the headlamp category is one where I’ve actually seen a lot of improvement year over year — they’ve gotten more powerful, more widely rechargeable, and more compact.
All that said, I was curious about the LiteBand design when I first saw it, since it’s a pretty different take on a headlamp. The name is pretty self-explanatory — rather than one or two lights, it consists of a whole band of lights that reportedly provide 210° of illumination. I seem to have misplaced my protractor, but it’s certainly a much broader beam than any traditional headlamp.
The LiteBand design is also quite comfortable, and while the Pro 1000 (1000 lumen) version has a pretty big rechargeable battery pack, it has stayed pretty much bounce-free while hiking around. I think one of the less powerful, lighter versions would be better if you’re specifically looking for something for running, but the LiteBand Pro 1000 bounces less than my previous Black Diamond Storm 400.
As far as power / light output goes, the LiteBand Pro 1000 doesn’t seem quite as bright in one specific area as the other ~1000-lumen headlamps I’ve tried, but I assume that’s just cause its beam of light is so spread out. That’s made the LiteBand really nice for finding stuff around pitch-black campsites, and it was also really nice during my recent move that extended well into the night. The 5 lighting modes are useful and easy to use, and so far it’s battery life has been totally fine for my typical weekend trips.
I doubt it’ll win any fashion awards, but I think the LiteBand is a cool concept and great if you don’t love how narrow the beams of most headlamps are.
MSRP: $1,399 (currently on sale for $1,349)
Kristin: I’ve done more paddleboarding over the past 4 months than I have done my entire life. I’m hooked but I still consider myself a newbie. Every time I got on a paddleboard, my son was with me on the board or next to me in a kayak or raft. 3-year-olds can be exhausting and opinionated (among other things), but my son’s willingness to sit or lay on a paddleboard and to just enjoy the ride has impressed me lately. And it’s also one of the reasons I’m loving this new-to-me sport.
From New Hampshire to Idaho to New Mexico, I’ve had some of my best days while on a paddleboard. I know I’m a little late to the SUP party, but I’m glad I finally made it. I wrote about the Retrospec Weekender back in the July roundup, and while I still like the board and I would recommend it to people looking for something fairly basic and inexpensive, the Radito is on a whole different level. Hala describes the Radito as ‘a high-performance board that is equally comfortable in whitewater and flatwater’. So far I’ve tested the board in a lot of flat water and in a handful of class II rapids. The Radito is stable, thoughtfully designed, and my new go-to paddleboard.
To me, the things that stand out the most about the Radito are the fins. The side fins are made of a gummy-like material that makes them slightly flexible and forgiving. The center fin features Hala’s patented retractable Stompbox 2 system. The retractable fin allows the board to get into much shallower spots without getting stuck. My son and I hopped on the board first thing in the morning several times and with a light layer of frost on the board, neither of us was interested in getting our feet wet. The retractable fin (and rocketed front) allowed us to walk on the board from shore and then push off. I also took the Radito on a few shallow river runs where my other board would have augered in several times. The fin retracted as designed and kept me from having to hop into the cold water.
As a newbie to paddleboarding and river running, I’m not overly confident when it comes to running rapids, even if those rapids were only class 2, so I found myself kneeling most of the time while I was on the river. In my defense, the water was extremely shallow and I had no interest in catapulting off the board and into the frigid late-October water. Regardless of how cowardly I might be, I was thankful for the 4mm deck pad on the as it made kneeling on the board for hours comfortable.
Additional features I have found useful were the handles and rigging points. Since purchasing my first river guide, I’ve been scheming ways to go on an overnight paddleboard trip. The Weekender, with its zero rigging points, doesn’t lend itself to packing much gear. But the Radito has 12, which seems like more than enough options to strap down dry bags for an overnight trip. And I need to mention the handles. The Radito is a bit heavier (approximately 26lbs / 12 kg) than the Weekender and while I wouldn’t consider it heavy, it’s nice to have multiple carrying options. With handles at the nose and tail, webbing side handles, and a center handle, it’s easy to find a comfortable way to carry the board.
Overall, I highly recommend the Radito Inflatable SUP kit if you’re new to the sport and want to purchase a paddleboard that will last or if you’re a seasoned SUPer and are looking for a 1-paddleboard quiver. The kit includes everything you need to get on the water.
Luke: I’ve already talked about these binoculars on our site, but they continue to be one of the things I get irrationally excited about. I am very far from a binocular expert, so this is a bit less specific to NOCS themselves, and more so just about how nice it is to have a pair of compact binoculars when camping, hiking, fishing, skiing, or doing basically anything outside. Frankly, it’s just cool to make far-away stuff look not far away. That’s pretty much it.
As for the NOCS themselves, they seem to strike a nice balance of being compact enough to stash in any backpack or most pockets, while providing enough magnification to be worth bringing just about anywhere. They’re also waterproof, really grippy, and they’ve held up well to the numerous drops they’ve seen over the past year. In particular, I’ve really come to appreciate them during the winter since I can keep a closer eye on avalanche activity around the Crested Butte valley. Plus, telling your friends you’re about to “get Noc’d up” will just never not be funny.
Gordon Gianniny: I’ll be honest, my “running sunglasses” have pretty much always been the same cheap gas station sunglasses that I use for everything else — so it probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that Nathan’s Summit Polarized Sunglasses were quite the upgrade. Sure, my gas station sunglasses blocked the sun (mostly), but the Summit Polarized Sunglasses are far superior from a fit and comfort perspective. They don’t bounce all over the place, even on fast downhills, which is awesome — and the frames fit comfortably for hours of use.
David: Riding conditions are rapidly switching to wet and muddy around here, and while I’m excited for the reprieve from moon dust, it is time to switch over to wet condition tires. The Schwalbe Dirty Dan has been my go-to for quite a while now, but Maxxis recently redesigned the Shorty, and the new version is a big improvement over the old one. I still need to get some more time on it before updating our tire guide (linked above) including some more thorough A-B testing against the Dirty Dan, but the new Shorty is clearly a worthy competitor. In particular, it’s much more predictable and grips better on wet roots than the older version — an area where the Dirty Dan really shines, for such a spiky tire with such good performance in wet dirt.
Gordon: I love running in the fall (Ok, and most other times of the year), but finding the right layers for the notoriously inconsistent fall temperatures in the Rocky Mountains can be a bit of a struggle. My runs this time of year often swing between shivering on shady downhills and sweating on sunny uphills, which gets old pretty quickly. Enter the Nathan Dash Long Sleeve, which might just be the perfect fall running layer (at least for my preferences). It’s thin and breathable enough to keep me cool on climbs but provides a surprising amount of warmth for its weight when the temperatures cool off a bit. It’s also quite possibly the most comfortable running shirt I’ve ever tested thanks to its super-soft fabric (although the Rabbit EZ Long Sleeve is a close second). I’m pretty sure I’ve worn the Dash Long Sleeve on almost all of my runs since I got it a few weeks ago, which is about the best endorsement I can give it.
Dylan Wood: While there was a time I rode without gloves (mostly for the freeride style points), I almost always ride with gloves now. I also have a strong preference for gloves with non-padded, simple, single-layer palms and fingers. I find that I like a thinner, more uniform palm for a more gloveless bar feel and a less restrictive fit.
The POC Resistance Enduro Adjustable glove has basically met every preference of mine for bike gloves. With perforated yet durable polyamide/polyurethane on the palms and stretchy and comfortable polyester/elastane on the backside, I’ve really enjoyed the comfortable and thin feel of these gloves. Not only this, but the Resistance Enduro Adjustable Glove also features a silicone print on the brake fingers for more grip on brake levers. These gloves also have a soft terry cloth fabric on the outside of the thumb area for wiping that cold-weather runny-nose snot off your smiling face. These POC gloves also feature an adjustable velcro strap at the wrist for dialing in the fit and keeping those gloves where they need to be on your hand. Speaking of fit, I would say that the size medium Resistance Enduro Adjustable Glove is more snug on my hand from a volume (not length) perspective than most other medium bike gloves, and it makes for a uniform, wrinkle-free fit.
One thing I would like to see POC improve on this glove is the touch-screen friendly thumb, which is perfectly fine for swiping and scrolling, but struggles with finer taps and touches when you’re trying to do something like open an app or type. Besides that, the POC Resistance Enduro Adjustable Glove is a solid option for those looking for a snug fit, gloveless-like bar feel, and extra grip on the braking fingers.
Jed Doane: I wouldn’t call myself an “anorak guy” (I maintain neutrality in Blister’s internal anorak war), but Beringia’s flagship touring jacket has become my daily driver for most backcountry missions. It’s incredibly light and shockingly waterproof given its breathability. It’s also very comfortable, easy to move in, and soft enough to wear next-to-skin on hot days. I wasn’t sure about the enormous diagonal zipper at first, but I’m a total convert after 50+ days. It serves a number of purposes, opening wide enough to get in and out of the jacket with a helmet on as well as serving as an adjustable vent that’s optimized for use with a pack.
I wore it on an overnight splitboard mountaineering mission up and down Mt. Rainier’s Fuhrer Finger couloir and was very grateful for the breathability as the temperatures climbed. I haven’t worn it in prolonged rain or slush, but the waterproofing has held up to some long PNW snow days. I have a few minor gripes (no phone pocket, an awkwardly-placed waist cinch, and strange wrist closures), but nothing enough to sway me from choosing this piece every time, even with a growing number of great touring jackets to choose from.
Jed: The National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Lander, WY, has been running trips all over the world for over 50 years, and they’ve developed some of their own gear in that time. I got these as a gift from my NOLS-alum parents, and absolutely love them. Made from a thin nylon and reinforced with cordura in the butt and knees, they live in the bottom of my hiking pack in the summer and come on almost every backpack trip. They’re not waterproof, but they cut wind well and defend against trailside brush well. For evening jaunts, I’ll often wear them on the way down in the dark. They’re also the perfect camp pants- durable against rocks and dirt and layerable in cold conditions. There are much more technical pants out there, and they’re not particularly light or packable, but the Wind Pants have a special place in my heart, and I definitely recommend them.
Kara Williard: I have been lacking a lightweight midlayer for sometime, and as temperatures start to drop in Gunnison, the Shadow Insulated Hoodie could not have arrived at a better time. My first impressions were that the material throughout the jacket is super soft inside and out. It’s also quite warm and insulative, while still being lightweight and packable. The Shadow Hoodie is built with Outdoor Research’s most lightweight, breathable, and packable insulation, and I was impressed with how not bulky it is, while also feeling remarkably warm.
So far, I have been enjoying it as my go-to layer for cold morning bike rides and getting around town on cold days. The material is wind and water resistant, but it is comfortably breathable, which says a lot as I avoid insulation most of the time while on the bike. The Shadow Hoodie works great for blocking the wind and keeping warm even after the sun sets. The fabric is super cozy and soft, and the insulation is thin and lightweight which keeps it comfortable even during sustained movement.
The fit of the medium is what I would consider pretty much perfect for a midlayer. The sleeves are long but not bulky at the wrists, and the thumb loops feel comfortable with my arms outstretched. The length across the torso also fits long, which is of benefit to my height, and it doesn’t feel constricting in any way, as the material is stretchy. The Shadow Hoodie is roomy enough to fit a couple layers underneath, but it still feels tailored and flattering. Best yet, the hood is roomy and comfortable and feels ultra comfortable even when zipped all the way over a couple of layers and a hat. As far as packability, the Shadow Insulated Hoodie packs into itself and stows easily on my handlebar bag. I am definitely taking the Shadow Insulated Hoodie along for a bikepacking trip in a couple of weeks, and I look forward to a lot more time in the Shadow Insulated Hoodie as we enter into ski season, as I think it will serve an excellent layer for both resort and backcountry days.
Kara Williard: I am obsessive about always carrying water with me, especially during travel, and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago I realized I was lacking a good, durable stainless steel water bottle that wasn’t obnoxiously large or heavy. I didn’t want to rely on a plastic bottle, but then discovered the new Trail Series from HydroFlask and decided to make it my new daily water bottle. For the last three weeks, I have been impressed by the durability, insulation, and functionality of the bottle.
It’s sleek and tends to fit better than most other 32-oz bottles, especially in my car’s bottle holder, which has been useless for a lot of my other bottles. It also packs well in a backpack and has been a good option for hiking or long days at work or on campus. I am infamous for dropping my water bottles in pretty consequential ways and really testing their durability over time, and while I have yet to put it through one of these tests, so far the Trail Series bottle from HydroFlask has been burly enough to justify taking almost anywhere. Best yet, it is the only stainless steel bottle that feels reasonable to take on trail because it is noticeably light (HydroFlask claims it’s 25% lighter than their other bottles).