Spring is swell, and autumn is amusing (and winter, well, it’s woeful if you ask me) – but summer is forever. My mission this season has been to embrace the idea of microadventures, and just get outdoors as often as possible. Whether it’s camping in the backcountry, hiking after work, or just going for a lazy Sunday drive in the foothills, this summer is all about being outside.
In fact, I’m writing this guide to the essential gear for an endless summer while swinging in my hammock out in my backyard. For the record: It’s 73º, breezy, and full of sunshine out here. And I just reached over to pluck a golden cherry tomato from my garden and plop it into my mouth. Like I said, summer forever.
After months of testing, wearing, and munching, here’s a guide to my favorite summertime outdoor products:
Camp food from Fireside Provisions
Ultra light backpacking is fine and dandy – but most of the time, I’m way more into convenient camping. I’m all about picking a random forest road, driving down it until I find a suitable dispersed campsite in the woods, and setting up a cozy nook in nature while snacking and soaking up fresh air. Have I become a lazy camper? Perhaps. But I dig it – sometimes you have to ditch the complications of getting outdoors and embrace the easy route. Cue the simple solution provided by the folks at Fireside Provisions.
How many times have you ventured out for a night of camping, only to find yourself deep in the wilderness with nothing but a granola bar, bag of chips, and some beef jerky? I’m all about a spread of Whole Foods munchies myself – but sometimes it’s just too much to add a grocery trip in when you’re trying to get to the mountains before darkness falls after a full day of work. Fireside Provisions strives to make your outdoor experience simplified and stress-free by delivering packages of camp food (and other outdoor essentials) directly to your doorstep. You can go for a la carte meals like cashew ginger rice bowls, or choose a weekender package that will keep you satisfied throughout an entire camping trip. Fireside provides the spices, dry ingredients, and cook directions – all you have to supplement are perishables like raw meat and some vegetables.
I’m a big fan of the raw cacao energy bites, and love how thoughtful the Fireside packages are. You get all the necessary condiments, and even a packing list tailored to your style of trip (and reminder of what ingredients you’ll need to supplement, if any).
Y’all already know my heart is, and always will be, in the southeast – so when I got this package from Chattanooga-based brand behind Beta Balm, I was stoked. After months of taking a break from climbing, my fingers shred like tissue paper now that I’m getting back on real rock again. A healing salve described as a “rich blend of soothing butters, oils, protective waxes and healing herbs – this balm bar was specifically designed for active and hard-working skin” is exactly what I needed to keep my skin from falling off completely.
I love the way this stuff smells. I use the above pictured tin for my hands, and often rub it on my tattoos when they’re feeling particularly dry. The tube has become my favorite lip balm – even though I don’t think it was specifically intended for that use. I have extremely sensitive lips, and Beta Balm is like a magical elixir whenever I let ‘em get too chapped.
Picture a traditional granola bar. Now take away all the granola, and replace it with dried meat. No, seriously. That’s what Bricks Bars are – and they’re surprisingly spectacular. I was very skeptical about these bars at first – after being a vegetarian for over seven years, I’m quite picky about my meat. Basically anyone who eats animals can munch on a Bricks Bar; they’re gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, grain-free and made with grass-fed, antibiotic-free meat. Phew that’s a mouthful. Personally, I find them a little difficult to just bite into, so I usually pick off bites and pop ‘em into my mouth. I love the unexpected combination of meat, nuts, and sweet vegetables. Bonus points: I ran into these guys at Outdoor Retailer, and they let me sample a few of their latest batch – which is absolutely perfected. Not too dry, ideally seasoned, delicious. Talk about substantial trail food.
PS: Hey Bricks Bars, I still think you should totally make this into meat granola!
Oh Topo, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. First came the Klettersack, a kelly green backpack gifted to me during my van life year. It instantly injected style into my otherwise not-so-trendy dirtbag life, and reminded me that you don’t have to be stuck with technical (read: not always so good looking) gear all the time. It changed the way I look at the gear that I own now. I want gear and apparel that reflects me as an outdoorist – and Topo Designs knows how to cater to that aesthetic. I mean, have you seen their Instagram feed?
Recently, I needed a bag – no, the bag – in preparation for a long week of meetings and events at Outdoor Retailer. Naturally, I convinced myself that I was totally reasonable to spend $100+ on a new work bag from Topo Designs. I scooped a navy and leather Mountain Briefcase (pictured above) from their Denver flagship store – and have been in love ever since.
Odds & Ends
Summertime has been a bit of an indulgent season for me. After years of scraping by on a dirtbag budget, I can finally have ‘treat yoself’ moments – which I often do. In addition to the gear mentioned above, here are a few of my favorite ways to spent hot summer days:
- Whole Foods picnics in the woods. Stop by the little bits in the cheese section – you know, where they sell a smorgasbord of all the bits and pieces of fancy cheese for only a few bucks. Grab a selection, toss some hard salami and fruit in your basket, scoop a bottle of wine, and bam instant outdoor snacking bliss.
- Olay Complete all-day UV moisturizer. It’s only SPF 15, but it’s important to take care of your skin when you’re spending so much time outdoors – so I like to slather a layer on my face every morning. I’ll amp it up if I know I’ll be in the sun all day, but this is perfect for daily use.
- Hydro Flask water bottles. It started with just one mini Hydro Flask, and now I have at least five. A water bottle is just a water bottle, right? Wrong. Pop some ice and cold water in a Hydro Flask, and you’ll have chilled water all damn day. It’s a beautiful thing in the sweltering summertime.
Am I missing any summer essentials from my list? What’s in your go-to summertime kit?
Disclaimer: I received some of the gear mentioned above fo’ free from outdoor brands – but I also paid for some of it, and only write about any of it to share my real, honest opinions. Y’all know I ain’t playing games!