Two Years of Beating Up Gear

Two Years of Beating Up Gear

We’ve put gear through the ultimate test.  While many magazines claim to “put gear to the test” I’d argue that our test: two years of daily use, from African desert to Himalayan blizzards, getting crushed in airplanes, trains and buses and being “cleaned” by being beaten against rocks in Indian rivers is rougher than any magazine editor could come up with.  Our test is so harsh I don’t even want to admit all we’ve put our gear through…

No matter what you’re looking for, we probably tested something for you.  Shopping for a last-minute gift for an outdoorsy uncle?  Wondering how to stay warm this winter?  Want to save during the season’s end sale?  Here are some travel tested and LivingIF approved products.


I was asked recently what is the one thing in my bag that I’m happiest to have.  One thing stood out: my North Face Thunder Jacket ($270 Men’s/$249 Women’s).  Carrying it means I don’t have to be cold, ever.  Since we go hiking in the mountains, sleep in the desert and live in Minneapolis investing in a “down sweater” like this is a no brainer.  If you find yourself in such conditions or your travels will take you places that could get cold, one of these can even be worn to sleep as I did in Nepal.

Staying warm in my North Face Thunder jacket and stylish in my Dickies at Everest Base Camp.

A down sweater weighs less than a sweater or fleece would and packs down smaller.  In fact, many such as mine pack into their own pocket.  The key is to get 800-900 fill down, this means it’s light, compressible and warm enough to save packing a few layers.  Several brands make down sweaters, but far and away the best down jackets are made by Marmot.  If you want the best-in-class get the Marmot Quasar ($275 Men’s/Women’s).  The budget choice is the Marmot Zeus ($195 Men’s/Women’s Jena Jacket).  Look for these at end-of-season sales, they often get discounted 30-60%.


The test: I have worn the same 4 shirts, two pairs of shorts and one pair of pants for two years.  Seriously, look at our photos, you’ll recognize the blue, white and green shirts, the black shorts and the Dickies.  When I get home I’m going to wear a suit everyday for a month, until then though I’ll wear these indestructible clothes.

Dickies Khakis.  This was a last-minute idea.  I wanted something that would be suitable for a night out, strong enough for hiking, and not stain too easily.  The week before I left it hit me: I should try workpants.  WOW.  How do these stay clean and wrinkle free without a loose stitch after two years of abuse? Possibly the most impressive article of clothing I’ve ever purchased.

REI OXT T-Shirts.  I’m not going to lie, you’ll never look stylish in these shirts.  As far as wicking t-shirts go for athletics, these are terrible compared to my North Face and Nike running shirts.  As backpacking, hiking, traveling shirts, they are great.  The material seems to repel dirt and doesn’t fray.


You can’t wear these things, but don’t leave home without them…

Leatherman Juice CS4.  A knife and a corkscrew.  How else are you going to enjoy your wine, cheese and bread?  The all-in-one French picnic device probably does more, but I haven’t figured it out yet…

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp.  For reasons I still haven’t figured out, whenever I need light I also need to use my hands.  This awesome, bright, and durable headlamp helps me get the important things done when the sun is down and the power out.

North Face Base Camp Duffle.  This is our home-away-from home, literally, we live out of these bags.  Zip them up and slap a lock on them and your stuff is non-descript, weather-protected, and easy to carry.  These are not hiking packs, rather our “lockers” that I argue has saved us from a lot of petty thefts that I’ve been victim to with just a backpack.  Our Osprey hiking backpacks fit inside these when we’re not using them.


LivingIF is a product of passion, we aren’t sponsored, we don’t travel on press trips, we don’t write to get free stuff.  We buy our gear and travel out of our own savings.  This review, like the rest of the site is completely independent.  If you find any of this information useful, show us your support by “buying us lunch” on the right sidebar.

If you’re looking for the products listed above click on the links. If you want more outdoors and travel gear, check out Moosejaw via the link below.   Moosejaw is one of my favorite companies.  Their special offers such as free gift cards often their prices often the best around.  Best of all, I know it won’t make sense until you get one, but they make the funniest catalog available.  Seriously, it made my day to come home to a Moosejaw catalog.

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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