www.bobgear.com, 23 pounds
I’m a big fan of the Bob Revolution CE stroller. Being a new mom, I had no idea what to buy. I just knew that I needed to get exercise after my baby was born. I was running half-marathons before I got pregnant—and was ready to get back in shape. The Bob Revolution CE is designed for urban and trail situations—with a front swiveling wheel that easily maneuvers the urban jungle, but locks into place for added stability in more unpredictable off-road conditions and faster speeds. It’s compact enough to walk up Main Street, into all the boutiques and restaurants, and durable enough to maneuver the giant city curbs and potholes. The three 12-inch wheels make for easy storage and nice agility (although they are understandably less shock-absorbing that the Bob with the 16-inch rear wheels). We have taken our newborn on walks at Crissy Field and it manages to navigate the sandy path; I don’t have to worry about all the bumps! It’s such a smooth ride that my little one falls asleep every time. The company got its start in San Luis Obispo, on the beach, and the strollers are definitely designed to be functional. We threw it in the back of the car for our last road trip and tested it out on the Laguna Beach boardwalk—where it excelled as you’d expect. Top features include a five-point, adjustable harness system; mountain bike-style tires with good tread; and a quick release front hub. There are also two interior seat pockets, with a cargo basket underneath, and a big seat back pocket. The stroller is designed for babies and toddlers up to 70 pounds…though hopefully by then my little one will be ready to run alongside me. One caveat: you can’t one-hand open the stroller from its folded position, but it folds and unfolds with little difficulty.
www.flojos.com, 12 ounces
When some people dream of winter, images of snow-laden trees, deep powder, and glistening icicles dance in their heads. But for others, cold weather signals that it’s time to flee south to white-sand beaches, sun-filled skies, and Mai Thais. For those days when your ski boots aren’t appropriate, we recommend Flojos Andre Slides. We love the slip-on styling that is more dignified than flip-flops, and dispenses with the inevitable rubbing of the thong strap between your toes. The egg crate-style footbed not only provides that aaahhhh comfort we love, but also delivers a massage-like feeling as you walk. We not only like the Andres for the beach, but for apres ski and snowboard wear as well. The vegan-friendly footstrap is wide, which helps keep the slides from sliding off, and it provides some additional support if you’re hiking across rough terrain to the hot tub. The sole is ribbed for traction, but because of the composition, it’s suggested you don’t leave these baking in the sun while you catch a few waves.
We’ve never been big fans of the standard camp chair—the awkwardly folding, bulky canvas gigs with the even bigger carry bags. Even with drink holders in both arm rests, they’re never as good as we want. Well, San Fran-based Alite Designs must’ve heard our quiet dissatisfaction, because their Mantis Chair really hits every sweet spot. The chair employs the same pole assembly tech found in tent frames—a simple, but genius design solution—to create a ridiculously strong, breathable 210D ripstop nylon chair that holds up to 250 pounds. The frame assembles in seconds, and the four corners of the seat slide seamlessly into the tips of the aluminum poles (color coding keeps things easy, though our testers hardly needed the guidance). The chair sits about eight inches above the ground on four cylindrical legs, providing all-day comfort, whether you prefer to keep your feet flat, sit Indian-style, or contort into some other quasi-yoga pose. Plus it fits into a carry sack that’s a modest 17.5 inches long and five inches in diameter. The two-pound chair is ideal for car camping, but a bit hefty for backcountry applications. To address the needs of ounce-scrimping backpackers they’ve developed the Monarch chair ($70; pictured, right). Built off the same design as the Mantis, the Monarch boasts only two legs:your feet offer the additional stability, which lets you slowly rock as the chair takes the bulk of your weight. The Monarch provided the same body-hugging comfort and support as the Mantis (with the same 250-pound weight limit), but weighs in at a feathery 1.3 pounds, packing into a stuff sack that’s 12 inches long and only 4.5 inches in diameter. The Alite designer refers to the Monarch as the “six-beer chair” because, after six beers, balancing on its two legs can be…challenging (and potentially humorous for those around you). We see this a challenge, but some might find it an insurmountable obstacle. Both of these chairs are as at home at outdoor concerts or on the beach as they are tent-side. The thin diameter of the chair legs means that the feet can sink into wet dirt or sand, leaving the sitter off balance (or in a slow-motion fall). But on dry land, both chairs proved to be admirable outdoor thrones. And a bonus: one three-year-old car camper even figured out how to wear the Monarch.
For us, sometimes the best measure of a bag’s usefulness is how quickly someone else swipes it from our testers and makes it their own—which is precisely what happened when the Headaitch entered our testing rotation. What was supposed to be two weeks of hearty use become four months as one girlfriend made it her go-to hauler for just about everything (gym clothes, work documents, grocery shopping, travel carry-on, wine hauler, overnight bag—to list but a few). Look at the bag and you’ll understand why. Constructed of 900D nylon on the outside, with a reinforced 1,000D base and a 150D ripstop lining, the bag can take some serious punishment, from rough handling to rougher weather. We tested out the small size, which offers an ample ten liters of storage, secured by a full zipper (a feature not often found in smaller totes), and supported by two wide shoulder straps to carry the weight. Inside, deep, Velcro-fastened pockets and a full-width zipper pocket are perfect for stuff you want to keep separate from the bag’s cavernous center. And Crumpler’s aesthetic lets you punch up the color with fun patterns, or go for the conservative urban black. We say go bright.
Tested size small; medium size has 17 liters of storage for $70.
The problem with the binary fashion versus function is that, in order to satisfy one side of the equation, sacrifices must be made on the other. Not so with Burny sunglasses from Kaenon, a company founded by two elite-level sailing brothers in Southern California a decade ago. The Burny provides maximum performance with real style. The frame shape is evocative of a über-popular sunglass model from the mid-1950s, but Kaenon has matched the retro look with good functional design and cutting-edge technology. The Burny improves on a classic profile by molding the super lightweight, flexible, and heat-resistant TR-90 frame to more closely follow the contours of the human face to eliminate light leak over the brow and around the sides. Peripheral vision is not compromised. The effect is like, well, not wearing glasses at all. With lenses measuring 42mm by 62mm set in a large frame (135mm arm length, 141mm frame width) the Burnys provide maximum coverage, even for this reviewer, who literally has a big head. And the lenses! The Burny, like all of Kaenon’s glasses, features impact-resistant, ultra-lightweight, and durable SR-91 polarized lenses. Incorporating Glare 86 polarized film, the lenses reduce glare and offer unparalleled clarity, a claim reinforced by unsurpassed clarity scores awarded by an independent laboratory. Available in a range of tints, I found the G12 lens, the darkest grey tint (filtering all but 12% of visible light) to be perfect in bright conditions in a variety of scenarios—sailing, driving, playing tennis, hiking, and lounging by the pool.
Just as Murphy’s Law dictates that toast lands buttered-side down, so too will sunglasses inevitably fall, lens-down, especially on rocky terrain or concrete. Amazingly, given the number of trials I have (accidentally) conducted over the past 18 months, I have managed only to inflict a single tiny scratch on one of the lenses. It is an injury I don’t have to live with forever, happily, as the super friendly and helpful folks at Kaenon will set up a lens replacement (for a reasonable fee). In an era of multinational conglomerates that churn out hundreds of indistinguishable and mediocre products under a plethora of brand names, it’s a real pleasure to encounter an independent, family-run company dedicated to innovation, integrity, quality, and aesthetics. Sunglasses, in truth, function not only to keep the sun out of our eyes. They also operate as a statement about who we think we are and what we think we stand for. For this large-headed reviewer, the Burnys are a statement—about fashion and function—I’m very comfortable wearing on my face.