The Essential Outdoor Summer Wishlist

The 4th of July means summer is officially well underway, and it is too gosh dang nice out to stay inside, darn it! Thousand-degree heat index notwithstanding, we at The Trek stand firm in our belief that life is better with a little fresh air (and anyway, the temperature is nothing a little elevation and/or a quick dip in the river can’t fix).

From hiking and biking to chill frontcountry campouts, these are the essential outdoor items our staff and contributors are loving this summer.

The Essential Outdoor Summer Wishlist

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV Sandals Women’s | Men’s

MSRP: $80

I’ve been on the lookout for a camp/town shoe that’s ultralight, packable, rugged, has at a least of modicum of style, and fits my wide foot without chafing. A tall order, I know! But when I slipped on a pair of Xero Z-Trail EV Sandals that I’d been coveting, I realized I just might have found my holy grail.

Alison Young photo

Weighing a wee bit over nine ounces, these minimalist barefoot-like sandals combine a comfy matte-textured footbed with an ultra-thin sole and relatively large rubber lugs, which serve to protect the foot while offering excellent traction. The straps are made from recycled water bottles – I like to imagine from one of the many I’ve tossed out over my thru-hiking life – and adjusted through innovative outward-angled anchors that maintain tension away from your foot for a comfy fit.

While they intentionally lack arch support to allow the foot to flex and move, I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable I felt even after a long walk. There are no half-sizes available, but they fit true to size. Xero offers a sizing chart online so you can “try on” the sandal at home. 

Alison Young

Aventon Aventure.2 Ebike

MSRP: $1999

There are many things to love about living in Colorado’s foothills. Summer air quality is not one of them. Ozone advisories are becoming the norm, with vehicle emissions a significant contributor to that reality. Thus biking to work becomes an all-too-appealing option. However, my summer ride home is typically 90+ degrees, in the sun, and always uphill. An e-bike offers the best of all worlds, allowing me to leave the SUV at home and avoid returning home looking like I just stepped out of the sauna.

I’ve only ridden a few e-bikes in my day, but the Aventon Aventure.2 Ebike is easily the best I’ve ever tested. It’s a workhorse commuter, boasting a powerful 750W motor that effortlessly cruises up Ford St here in Golden, the seemingly vertical stretch of road that used to be the bane of my riding existence. Its impressive 60-mile battery range ensures I can get to and from my office multiple times on a single charge, even with unplanned stops at the grocery store and USPS.

Zach Davis

Advanced Elements Summer Shower

MSRP: $49

I really cannot overstate how perfect this lil’ bag-o-water is for any outdoor adventurer. With them you can get shower-ready hot water in a matter of hours using nothing but the power of the sun. This portable solar shower is amazing whether you’re a full-time vanlifer, a weekend tent camper, or even a day hiker/runner/biker who returns to the trailhead far too muddy to be allowed back in the car.

It’s inexpensive and takes up basically no space when not in use. Fill it with water and leave it on your dashboard or anywhere in full sun, and after just a few hours you’ll have hot water for all your hygiene-related needs! The nozzle is easy to turn on and off, and not only is it ideal for full showers, but it makes campground tasks like washing dishes and hands a lot easier too. (Since this is The Trek, I’ll add that the Summer Shower makes a great handwashing station for all you trail angels looking to set up a responsible hiker feed.)

In summer the water can actually so hot I have to dilute it with some cool water before I can use it comfortably. In winter, adding a little bit of hot water from the kettle provides just the right temperature boost to get a steamy shower going.

Kelly Floro

Helinox Table Four

Ariella Nardizzi photo

MSRP: $400

The Helinox Table Four is an impressively large camp table that combines a durable, stable frame with a compact, portable design so that you don’t have to choose strength over packability. Although it took me a while to set it up the first time, every subsequent setup was a breeze that took under two minutes.

The expansive hard-top is the perfect height for cooking or sitting down for a delicious camp dinner and is shockingly stable for a foldable fabric. It’s easy to clean and can withstand the elements, even boasting a holding power of up to 110 pounds. Furthermore, the collapsible frame locks sturdily into place while easily packing into a small tote when you’re done using it for travel days. 

Ariella Nardizzi

Merrell Moab Speed 2 GTX Women’s | Men’s

MSRP: $180

Like any good thru-hiker, I’m a longtime devotee to ultralight trail runners. Yet recently I’ve found myself developing a dark fascination with forbidden things like ankle support and not feeling every rock and root on the trail jabbing into my tender soles. Maybe it’s because I’m gettting older, maybe it’s because I’m increasingly frustrated with how often I have to replace my expensive trail runners, consigning spent pairs to the landfill with alarming frequency.

The Moab Speed 2 is perfect for my needs right now: it’s a mid boot, but it shares many of the lightweight design features I love about trail runners. And unlike other boot/trail runner hybrids, which tend to be completely hideous, it’s actually kina cute.

There’s a reason the Merrell Moab collection is one of the most popular and recognizable hiking boot models in America: Merrell knows what they’re doing, and their flagship hiking boot is one of the most thoughtful designs on the market. The Moab Speed is a lighter, more streamlined version of the traditional Moab, designed for people like me who want more support but still value the agility of a trail runner.

—Kelly Floro

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0

MSRP: $299.99

Since camping trips are less routine nowadays with three young kids, we make an effort to bring the best elements of the backcountry to our backyard. One of the best upgrades we’ve made in this realm was adding a Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0. The Bonfire stands out in the world of portable fire pits, featuring impressive burn efficiency and a sleek stainless steel design.

I was a bit skeptical of the “smokeless” claim that Solo Stove throws around, but once past the burning tinder stage, the resulting fire is damn near as smokeless as they say. Starting a fire is idiot-proof (source: me, the idiot), the heat output is impressive, and the pit’s removable ash pan makes clean-up super simple.

A note for those with kids and/or dogs: the stainless steel pit gets incredibly hot, so you may want to consider adding on the Fire Pit Surround accessory, as we spent a lot of time boxing children out around the fire to avoid a trip to urgent care. This barrier adds an additional $349 to your setup, so take that into consideration before swiping your credit card.

The Bonfire 2.0 is more expensive than some of the options you’d find at Walmart or your local hardware store, but if you’re after an easy-to-use (and clean) fire that puts out minimal smoke, this is worth the price of admission.

—Zach Davis

Altra Lone Peak 8 Women’s | Men’s

Photo: Eloise Robbins (from our full review of the 8 from this spring)

MSRP: $140

Call me basic, but I’ve been a Lone Peak fanatic for the better part of my thru-hiking career, continually loving them throughout all the updates and improvements the company has made since I wore my first pair. Famous for their zero drop and wide toe box allowing for natural foot splay, Altra’s made only minor adjustments to the 8 compared to last year’s 7, which was touted as the best version of the shoe in a long time.

Most notably, Altra beefed up the durability with a new-and-improved ripstop mesh upper, which was often the first fail point in the past for many thru-hikers. With more durable fabric and improved craftsmanship, durability is less of a concern for Altra-wearers on a thru-hike. 

—Ariella Nardizzi

Jackery Explorer 240 Portable Power Station

MSRP: $240

In the height of the pandemic, I was living in the middle of the desert with nothing but this plug-and-play power station to keep the lights on (literally and figuratively) in my van. When paired with an optional foldable solar panel, it was enough to keep my laptop, phone, and a small box fan charged for full work days online and a truly inappropriate amount of Netflix binging every night. (It was Covid and I had a lot of Madam Secretary to catch up on, what can I say.) All of this without connecting to the grid for weeks on end.

You won’t be able to operate high-voltage tools and appliances with the Jackery, but it can easily run normal stuff like computers and 12-volt appliances. This power station is intuitive and easy to use, durable (mine is going strong after five years of heavy use), and exceptionally functional.

It’s a simple way to bring the comforts of home to life on the road, and also has helped me to win trail magic several times (backcountry phone charging station, whoop whoop). I’m also planning to get one as a backup for my parents, as they live in an area with frequent power outages.

Mountain Hardwear Women’s Sunblocker Long Sleeve Hoody Women’s | Men’s

Ariella Nardizzi photo

MSRP: $75

I refuse to set foot on any trail without a sun hoody for my summer adventures, and Mountain Hardwear’s newest UPF-50 hoodie, made out of 100 percent recycled materials, is the shirt I’m opting for every time.

Tested on full days spent in the harsh alpine at 14,000 feet without reprieve from the sun and sweltering 95-degree heat waves in direct sun, I found this hoodie perfectly regulates the heat and keeps my skin safe from harmful UV rays.

The deep hood provided full coverage of my face, and the cropped, curved hem creates a flattering fit that still fully covers my torso. I especially loved the thoughtful backpack-friendly seams, which are situated to prevent chafing.

—Ariella Nardizzi

GSI Selkirk 460+ Camp Stove

Ariella Nardizzi photo

MSRP: $120

GSI brings the power to your camp kitchen with the Selkirk 460+, a double-burner camp stove with precise, easy-to-use controls and ignition. I’ve typically found double-burner stoves to be a double-edged sword in the past, finding a significant decrease in power when both burners were in use.
With the Selkirk, no power was sacrificed when using the twin burners, allowing me to rapidly boil water or carefully sauté whatever meal I was cheffing up. I was extra grateful for the convenience of the wraparound windscreens that kept out the elements, ensuring stove performance was always top notch, even in less-than-ideal cold or wind conditions. With removable grates and stainless steel for an easy clean up, this camp stove is my go-to choice for cooking on the go.
—Ariella Nardizzi 

Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3 Men’s | Women’s

MSRP: $150

The first time I put these trail runners on was for a hot, rocky 12-mile run/hike from Golden to Genesee, CO, featuring more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Which, to be clear, is a dumb way to test a brand you have zero prior experience with. Yet this stupidity went unpunished; my feet felt fresh as daisies by the end of the trek.

I love these trail runners for a few reasons. First, they feature a wide toebox, much like Altra, which has become essential for hikers in the know. Additionally, they utilize a Vibram outsole, providing superior durability over Altra Lone Peaks and resulting in a longer lifespan at a comparable cost. Lastly, the shoelaces don’t come undone with a single knot, which may seem insignificant, but it’s a nice cherry on top.

If you’re in the market for new trail runners and have had issues with the lifespan of other brands, I encourage you to give Topo Athletic a shot.

—Zach Davis

The following products were donated for purpose of review: Solo Stove Bonfire, Helinox Table Four, Aventon Adventure.2 Ebike, Xero Shoes Z-Trail Sandal, Altra Lone Peak, Mountain Hardwear Sunblocker Hody, GSI Selkirk Stove, Merrell Moab Speed.

Featured image by Zack Goldmann.

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