insider goods

What to Buy to Look Like: An Outward Bound Instructor

Just because you buy all of the things doesn’t mean you’re wilderness-prepared, though.

Status can be a funny thing. Of course, its most obvious iteration comes with shiny hardware and easily recognizable logos, but it gets far more interesting as you narrow it down to the more opaque signals — when the way you tuck your shirt, or what you eat for breakfast, or your particular brand of notebook can mark you as in or out. And of course, what counts as a status item varies wildly across human tribes. In our series, Insider Goods, we’re talking to tribe members (some with their real names, some anonymously) to find out the status items among art-gallery assistants, or Broadway actors, or Capitol Hill interns. This time, we’re getting outdoorsy with an Outward Bound logistics coordinator who splits her time between the frigid Northern Minnesota and the desert by Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Almost every outdoor professional has at least one pair of Chacos. They’re comfortable, durable water shoes, and you can personalize them with lots of different strap options. They’re also easy to send in and get fixed when you end up wearing them out, which is really important.

Darn Tough makes excellent socks with a lifetime guarantee. Companies that have warranties are definitely what I’m looking for because I know I’m going to wear through things. If a company stands by their product with a warranty, I’m much more likely to want to use it. Here, you wear these out, send them in, and they’ll send you back a new pair.

We wear a lot of Patagonia clothes and use a lot of their gear, obviously. It’s the upper level of brands for us. Their dresses are actually cute and fashionable, and can be dual-purpose. I’d hike in one on an easy day hike and go out to dinner in it.

We also love their Baggies shorts, which come in men’s and women’s sizes. They’re comfortable, quick-drying, and have fun patterns and nice deep pockets. A great thing about Patagonia is that they also have this awesome program called Worn Wear, where you can buy used Patagonia stuff for better prices.

Then there are the Patagonia bags. The Black Hole duffel comes in a variety of sizes, and most of them have backpack straps, so it can also be worn as a backpack, too. I have the 60-liter one. I’ve never not been able to fit all I need in it, and it still fits as a carry-on. There’s also the little Atom Sling backpack that’s like a purse. I’ve had one for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of people with them.

There’s always gear that other instructors swear by that everyone else will end up getting. Right now, I really want a white-water canoe from a Canadian brand called Esquif that a bunch of other instructors have. They’re really nice boats, and the ones that I’ve paddled, I’ve really liked.

For paddles, it’s Werner. They make really nice white-water canoeing and kayaking carbon-fiber paddles that are lightweight and durable.

I have a pair of heavy-duty Asolo hiking boots that have lasted me a long time, but a lot of instructors are now moving to a more lightweight trail-running and hiking shoes from a brand called Altra Lone Peak. That’s the new thing.

We all use Hydro Flask water bottles. They’re excellent for keeping your coffee or tea hot for a really long time.

Black Diamond climbing gear and hiking poles. They’re durable, which is huge; we need to trust our gear because we’re going to be using it for a really long time.

For sleeping pads, we all use Therm-a-Rest because they have a lot of variety to choose from to fit everyone’s comfort and pack-size needs.

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What to Buy to Look Like: An Outward Bound Instructor