#8 2011 Gear of the Year: Shakespeare Telescopic Casting Rod

Shakespeare Telescopic Rod
Shakespeare Telescopic Rod

Coming in at number eight is another cheap yet awesome item.

I love to fish in the high Sierra lakes but am not a serious hardcore fisherman. (woman?) I want something I can use to throw in a few casual casts at the end of the day. It just needs to be strong enough to haul in some healthy wild dinner trout; I’m not out there hunting lunkers.

I also want something light and compact that I can lash to the outside of my pack easily. Enter the Shakespeare Telescopic Casting Rod. A few years ago I discovered this rod in a Big 5, retailing for a whopping $14.

I’ve been carrying it for three or four years and it’s been great. Originally I expected it to break on my first 1/2 lb catch so I bought two (hey, at $14, why not?) The second one is still in the back of my gear closet, never opened.

I love how I can collapse it down without having to undo everything. Quick to cast, quick to put away. A perfect backpacking rod for the casual fisherman.

#9 2011 Gear of the Year: Darn Tough Vermont socks

1000-mile socks
1000-mile socks

I was introduced to Darn Tough Vermont socks many years ago at the Outdoor Retailer Show. They are without doubt the most durable pair of socks I’ve owned. Over the past few years I’ve hiked hundreds, probably close to a thousand miles in the pair pictured to the right and they still spring back to life after each wash.

They look like they’ve been worn once or twice. I’ve never had a pair of socks last this long, let alone look this good. The knit is still tight, there is no wear on pressure points, and the mid-foot support is still tight and stretchy.

Hiking and backpacking socks are really expensive, and this is no bargain sock. But do yourself a favor and buy them. You may never have to replace them.

#10 2011 Gear of the Year: Busted up old Nalgene Cantene

Wide Mouth Nalgene Cantene
Wide Mouth Nalgene Cantene

I’m starting off with something cheap and unsexy: an ancient Nalgene Wide-Mouth Cantene that has seen better days. I know, exciting.

When I was thinking about this list I looked over my standard backpacking packing list and picked out the items that simply make camp life easier. This item is a perfect example so I had to choose it.

The Nalgene Cantene gave me a camp technique that I find very useful. When I get to camp I fill the Cantene up and keep it in my kitchen area. I don’t treat it – it’s my cooking and cleaning water, and a fill up is usually good for dinner and breakfast the next morning. I fill my water bottles separately and always treat those. That way I always know what water is treated, I always have water on-hand, and I don’t have to keep making trips back and forth to the water source. It sounds really simple but it provides some structure and patterns that make camp life more relaxing.

The best part about this Cantene? I bought it years ago and almost immediately accidentally cut a gash in it with my camp knife. I field-repaired it by covering the ~inch long cut with a piece of gorilla tape and it is still there, never letting a single drop of water leak through. I’d pull the trigger on a new one, but you’ll have to click some more ads for me to afford the whopping $10 that these retail for. Ha!

2011 Gear of the Year

The Gear Closet
The Gear Closet

Due to popular demand: the annual Calipidder Gear of the Year List is back!

Over the next ten days I’ll post an item a day, counting down my top ten gear of 2011. I originally had it all written out in one blog post but holy HECK it was long. I don’t want to punish my readers like that.

When I look at a lot of end-of-the-year lists they usually reflect back only on the calendar year that is wrapping up. But as I look back at the gear I most appreciated throughout 2011, I find that it doesn’t much reflect 2011′s greatest gear; rather, it reflects the gear that has withstood the test of time. There are only two items that I added to the kit in 2011 that have made the list.

This year’s list is quite a random selection. In addition to the two 2011-acquired items, four items are making a reappearance, and four older pieces of gear are small yet indispensable items that have survived many seasons of year-round backpacking and hiking.

What criteria did I apply when picking out my top ten?

  • The item is a ‘no brainer’: although I may have many options for a particular need, I’ll always ┬áreach for one specific piece of gear.
  • Reliability: I know that it will do what it does well
  • Items of any age: not restricting it to 2011 gear only
  • Frequent use: something that I use often enough to reliably judge usefulness and quality.

I’m interested in your top gear choices from the past year. Something old and trusty or something new and novel? A little of both (like me)?