Ten Products I Loved in 2022
Cash was tight in 2022—I know I’m not alone—and my budget for buying new outdoor gear was nonexistent. Thus, I relied heavily on trusty reliables, some freebies, and stuff I bought used or at a steep discount. I spent way too much time scrolling through listings on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist this year. I lowballed. I bargained. I circled back again and again. But the work paid off, as some of the items I used the most were acquired through shameless haggling.
And that is the thru-line that connects my ten favorite products from the year. This is the stuff that got me through skiing, cycling, and hiking seasons, and helped me enjoy precious outdoor time with my three-year-old daughter. It’s also stuff that I can scrutinize with my inner accountant and feel good about having either purchased or held onto. Because in 2022, I got my money’s worth.
Prana Red Slate Vest ($185)
As you may know, those lucky few of us who work in outdoor media benefit from a freebie piece of gear or apparel from time to time. This past spring I arrived at our headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, to find that an editor from a different title had dropped footwear and apparel from a recent gear test on the “free” table in the cafeteria. I grabbed the stylish Prana Red Slate Vest, and since then it has become part of my regular repertoire (yep, those stains in the photo are authentic). I’m a vest guy, and I love this one for its versatility. It has vintage Marty McFly puff matched with a contemporary color scheme that make it appropriate outerwear for a night on the town. Plus, its insulation and PFAS-free water repellent coating make the vest great for cold and camp conditions, and there’s plenty of pocket space with six total pockets (two of which are zippered). Yes, I scored this vest for free, but after using it heavily I would buy it retail.
Thule Yepp Maxi Rack Mounted Child Seat ($249)
Earlier this year I got a Radwagon 4 electric cargo bike for carting my daughter around town, and I started researching which seats to buy. I had been stockpiling gift cards from REI, and in the fall I plunked down the $279 for a new version of the Thule Yepp Maxi Nexxt child seat with a rack mount (note: don’t buy the frame mount version if you own a cargo bike). I was bummed when I was unable to get the Maxi Nexxt’s mounting jaws to work with the metal cargo cage on my Radwagon 4—they wouldn’t fit into the square-shaped hole in the bike’s built-in ack. (A Thule rep told me that the seat and its clamping system does work with the Radwagon 4, but I couldn’t figure it out). Luckily, REI has a friendly return policy, and I was able to get a refund. But we still needed a seat. I found someone on Craigslist selling a 2020 edition of the original Thule Yepp Maxi seat (not the Maxi Nexxt), and haggled the price down to $150. The mounting system for this seat is a rectangular-shaped box that simply drops into the Radwagon 4 rack and then tightens. It’s been ideal for our trips to and from my daughter’s preschool, and it gives me the presence of mind that my most precious cargo is safe and secure.
Shotgun Child Seat + Handlebars ($135)
My wife bought me the Shotgun Child Seat + Handlebars by Kids Ride Shotgun last Christmas—thanks honey!—and it has transformed my life as a parent who craves outdoor adventures with my child. As many parents know, getting your kid to enjoy an outdoor activity is a lesson in patience and frustration. We’ve done hikes with my three-year-old daughter where our turnaround point was well within sight of the car. The Shotgun enabled us to go on long rides that span hours, and take us far away from the parking lot and trailhead. My daughter loves riding in the front of the bicycle due to the vantage point it gives her. The plush seat is cushy enough for small to moderate bumps, and the kid handlebars give her something to grip onto for the twists and turns. Note: It only works with a mountain bike. As with most outdoor kids gear, your results may vary, but my experiences with the Shotgun Child Seat + Handlebars thus far have been extremely positive. Just remember that the seat and handlebars don’t include the most important component of any outdoor adventure with your kids: snacks.
Trek X-Caliber 9 ($1,929)
I’ve bought and sold used bikes online for decades, and am keenly aware of the frustrations that are present on both sides of the exchange. Everyone wants the best price, and few sellers are willing to budge. This year I was looking to purchase a hardtail mountain bike for my daughter’s Shotgun seat. I was shocked by the high asking prices on Facebook Marketplace. After a few whiffs, tried a new buying strategy: I would message a seller, praise their item, and immediately admit that I could not meet the asking price. Instead, I’d tell them the ceiling of my budget, acknowledge that it was below asking, and then simply say that my offer would stand if no buyer met their price. Then, I’d wait. It took a few weeks for this strategy to bear fruit, but I was patient. Eventually it worked, and I purchased this 2019 Trek X-Caliber 9 (with a dropper post) for under $1,000. The 100 millimeter fork and tubeless tires offer more than enough cush to enjoy the buffed out trails I ride in Summit County, Colorado. The frame geometry works well with the Shotgun seat, and I’ve taken my daughter on multiple long trail rides deep into the backcountry. Sure, I’ve found myself wanting the forgiving squish of a dual-suspension bike from time to time, but this hardtail works for me—and my pocketbook—right now.
Banjo Brothers Small Handlebar Bag ($20)
Have you ever accidentally left a metal multitool in your jersey pocket and then sent it through the “Heavy Duty” cycle in your tumble dryer? I have, a few times, and it makes your laundry room sound like a gravel quarry. I promised my wife I would stop damaging our home appliances with bike parts. So, earlier this year I purchased the Bajno Brothres Small Handlebar Bag (at $20, the cheapest handlebar bag I could find), as a way to permanently remove the gear from my pockets. I chose this bag because it has a rigid liner that provides the bag its cylindrical shape. I’ve used soft-sided handlebar bags in the past, and on both occasions the rattling of the bag’s metal contents actually chipped paint from the head tube. I’ve had zero problems with rubbing or paint chips with this. More importantly: I have yet to dent the washer or dryer with my bike stuff.
Dynafit Mercury 2 Pants ($199)
For several years, outdoor brands Dynafit and Salewa liquidated their samples and excess inventory at an outdoor garage sale here in Boulder, Colorado. These events were like Christmas for me, and over the years I picked up an entire gear closet’s worth of backpacks, shoes, jackets, and other stuff. In 2015 I purchased a pair of Dynafit skimo pants, and wore them for a wide-range of outdoor activities, from high-altitude hikes, to warm-weather ski sessions. In January, these pants finally blew—one of the welded seams tore apart. I’m part of a Facebook group called SKIMO GEAR SWAP AND FORUM, and sure enough, I found someone selling a lightly used pair of Mercury 2 ski pants for less than $100. These pants immediately replaced the old ones as a versatile garment that can be comfortable for a wide range of activities. They are my go-to for my sunrise skimo sessions. When I wear an insulated base layer, these pants are more than up for a day of resort skiing as well, so long as temperatures don’t dip below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. After one ski session, I even wore these pants out for an evening in Boulder—and I wasn’t the only one wearing them.
Black Diamond Element Hoody ($230)
Like many of the other items on my list, I purchased this one on Facebook Marketplace. The tags were still attached, and the buyer said he’d simply bought the wrong size for his torso. My Black Diamond Element hoody is threadbare and covered in “forever” stains—a testament to how often I have worn it over the last two seasons. Had I kept track of my outfits, this would be my most-worn garment, by a wide margin. It kept me warm and dry during my pre-dawn patrol skimo sessions in the winter, and comfy in those variable shoulder-season conditions in the spring and fall. I even wore it during a 95-degree day in rural Kansas, as the fibers vented my body heat while protecting my neck and arms from the beating sun. And here in Boulder, Colorado, where performance outerwear counts as appropriate evening attire, this hoody has been my outfit of choice for social events as well.
Goodr Mint Julep Electroshocks ($35)
I learned long ago that fancy and expensive sunglasses are not my jam. I lose them, crush them, or scratch the lenses. In recent years, I’ve bought cheap ones from gas stations, or purchased name-brand glasses used. That was before I discovered Goodr, the consumer-direct eyewear brand that makes just-good-enough shades with contemporary styles for bargain prices. The size XL Mint Julep Electroshocks fit my large noggin perfectly. Are these glasses going to allow me to spot a smallmouth bass in low light from the bank of a river? Probably not. Will they block every ray of ultraviolet light from entering my eyeballs? Who knows? Will I feel bad when I eventually sit on them or back them over with my car? Nope. I’m already on my second pair of them—the first disappeared when I dove into a foam pit during a toddler birthday party. But the glasses are just $35 and they look great. I can tolerate buying another pair.
Shimano XC7 MTB shoes ($230)
I’m infamously finicky when it comes to cycling footwear. My long (size 13) and narrow foot is a tough ask for most brands, so when I find a shoe that fits, I tend to wear it until the sole literally comes off. This is what happened in June to my previous cycling shoes, a pair of size 45 Shimano XC5 lace-up kicks from 2016. These shoes were so blown out that I had cut new eyelets in the upper to accommodate the laces (the original lace holes tore). I was bummed to learn that Shimano discontinued the lace-up version of is XC5, and I also experienced some sticker shock when I saw the price tag for the new lineup. But I found a seller in the midwest liquidating his set of Shimano mountain bike shoes from 2020 on Ebay, and I purchased a pair new for well below MSRP. I like the XC7 for its stiff sole, with great power transfer to the pedals. Plus, the bottoms have a Goodyear rubber coating, which gives you plenty of grip on slippery rocks. I have broken plenty of Boa closure systems in my day, but after one year of use, the one on my pair of XC7 shoes is still going strong.
My Local Bike Shop (Priceless)
In December, 2021, my community was devastated by an urban wildfire, which burned more than 1,000 structures and left even more families either homeless or stranded. My local bike shop, Louisville Cyclery, became a hub for the recovery. The shop asked customers to donate used bicycles in any and all conditions, and the mechanics fixed up the rigs and gave them free to anyone who lost a bike in the blaze. I’ve been a regular at the shop for a few years, and throughout the winter and spring I marveled at how the shop became a social hub for cyclists who suffered from the fires. People just hung out at all hours of the day to chat with the sales staff and mechanics. It felt like a clubhouse. This community effort is just one of the many reasons why I love Louisville Cyclery, which has operated since 1980. Greg Jones, the owner, remembers every customer’s name. Doug Nishimura, the service manager, gives clear and straightforward tech advice without any hint of bike-shop-dude attitude. The sales staff are friendly. In a year when I had to pinch pennies, every cent I gave to Louisville Cyclery was money well spent.
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