Lately, we’ve been all about getting outside and enjoying nature.
Though we try to keep things simple, it’s easy to get caught up with all the new gear coming out. At the same time, with two kids, travel, a business to run and life in general, we can’t spend all our time fiddling with new equipment.
So, we’ve learned to pick and choose the best outdoor gear that gets us outside and having adventures as easily as possible.
Here are some of our very favorite outdoor gear picks, from kayaks to smartphone apps to solar chargers.
Besides for a few items on our to buy list, we personally use and recommend each and every thing on this list.
SunJack Portable Solar Panel Charger and Battery Pack
We’ve had our SunJack Portable Solar Charger for several years now.
I really wasn’t sure where we’d use it, but turns out this little solar charger has a lot of uses. We use it anywhere that we have sunlight, but don’t have easy access to electricity. It’s great for camping, hiking, music festivals, and the like because it charges our phones (or any device that will charge via USB) on the go.
How it works is pretty simple: Fold out the solar panels, place them in direct sunlight, and connect them to your phone or the included lightweight 8000 mAh battery pack. The panels collect sunlight to charge whichever device that is plugged in either of the 2 USB slots.
It takes about five hours for the 14W solar panels to charge the included battery in full sun and even less for the average phone. It will charge on cloudy days or in the shade, but it does take longer.
When fully charged, the 8,000 mAh battery has enough juice to charge our iPhone about four times and can be charged via a standard USB charger if electricity is available. When we’re home, we charge up the battery by plugging it into the wall just like our phones.
There’s also a flashlight built into the battery, which is handy for tenting! We also have the SunJack CampLight USB LED Bulb, which is brilliant. It’s a small light bulb that you plug into the battery pack via USB. For it’s size, it’s ridiculously bright and it includes a long USB cable with a switch.
I don’t see Sunjack’s USB lightbulb available now, but this Onite USB bulb is similar and an affordable option.
Fjällräven Spring Jacket
We’re spending a lot of time hiking in British Columbia, and I’ve been making do with a cotton hoodie and an old outer shell. It’s not the best combo, as my old gear isn’t especially breathable and takes a while to dry, which is bad news with the spring and fall drizzle we get here in Western Canada.
I’ve been eyeing up a spring jacket from Fjällräven. It’s a mild climate here in BC, so a quality spring jacket like this is a good investment, as it’ll be worn for years, and I can wear it through the mild winters as well. I’ve read great things about the durability of the Fjällräven outerwear (you can always count on Reddit for uncensored opinions!).
This is the beauty I’ve had my eye on: the Stinta Jacket. It packs up small (essential when putting it away in a day bag!), and it’s made of durable stretch fabric and G-1000 Lite that ventilates and dries out quickly.
We’re also looking at the Vardag shorts, with seven pockets.
Kayaks and Gear
We live in the interior of British Columbia, near some beautiful lakes, and we invested in a couple of good quality family kayaks and gear last year.
We’ve only had the chance to take them out of few times, but so far we’re loving having our own equipment.
There are four of us, so we needed enough seats in our kayaks for all four of us. Since we kayak on lakes that can be cold in the spring and fall, we decided against sit on top kayaks. Brrr.
My favorite find is our Necky Manitou II kayak, which we picked up used for around $600. It’s a double kayak, but it has a small jumper seat in front of the back seat which is perfect for our smaller kiddo.
The Manitou II is pretty stable, and tracks surprisingly well. It is a little long at over 14 1/2 feet, and weighs about 70 pounds, making it challenging for a single person to put on top of a car or truck but easy enough for two people.
Our second kayak is another Necky, the Necky Manitou 13. It’s a single person kayak (see the top photo), easy to maneuver, and a lot of fun.
We spent a lot of time trying on life jackets (or PFDs – personal flotation devices, as they’re known in Canada). We ended up deciding on the Salus Ungava. Despite the weird sounding name, it’s a great jacket, with deep cut sleeves that give a good range of motion when we’re kayaking.
Waterproof case for iPhone
We like to have our smartphones with us on the water in case of emergency, so we picked up JOTO waterproof cell phone pouch.
The almost indestructible waterproof camera
While we absolutely love our Canon EOS RP, it’s expensive and fragile enough that we don’t want to take it out on the water, especially if we’re kayaking or getting wet.
For on the water, we have an older version of the GoPro Hero 10. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do: take great video and photos on the water.
If you’re looking for a more affordable waterproof action camera, we have an older version of the AKASO Brave 4 Pro, and love it.
We’ve been using a version of a SanDisk Memory Card to store our photos and videos for at least four years now. In those four years, the card’s never glitched or failed.
Rechargeable two way radios
We always travel with our smartphones, but when we’re outside we’re often out of reach of cell service. That’s when our little two way radios come into play.
They don’t need a cell signal, making them great for when we’re hiking or somewhere remote. We each carry a radio in our day pack, and they come in really handy when we’re separated hiking. Depending on the terrain, they can broadcast for miles in any direction.
They’re also really useful in countries where we don’t get a cell plan for both of our phones. They even come with a built in weather station feature.
We’ve had the same Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp with us for the past eight years. Yes, eight years. We let the kids play with it whenever they want, hike and camp with it hundreds of times, shove it in backpacks, and even use it around the house.
They now sell an updated version of the Petzl Tikka Headlamp. The new model’s getting great reviews as well, with a 5star rating on Amazon.
Do you have any favorite outdoor gear? We’d love to know what you use and love!