Mar 10, 2023

Snow Peak Bucket Hat, Smokin' Earbuds, and More Emerging Gear

From next-gen tech to ingenious innovation, our weekly peek at emerging products examines the sometimes cutting-edge, sometimes quirky world of gear design.

In-vogue fashion statements tend to originate as practical apparel. One hundred years ago, the bucket hat protected Irish farmers and fishermen from rain and UV. Now, it's a popular and stylish accessory on city streets around the globe.

Though the bucket hat has a stronger association with Coachella than it does with farming these days, it still offers the same protective benefits as it did back in 1900. Snow Peak's Printed Breathable Quick Dry Hat ($95) has a vibrant tropical print with immense potential to elevate one's fit game. Beyond appearances, it's made from a combination of recycled materials and silky polyester for a supple feel and maximum breathability.

Snow Peak products have a justified reputation for quality. Still, almost $100 for a bucket hat seems exorbitant — but hey, it's less than Gucci.

Chaco's Classic Z/1 Sandals need no introduction. Since its initial release in the early ’90s, this strappy icon has become a favorite for activities including fly fishing, hiking, traveling, and straight-up chilling.

The brand has rolled out dozens of collaborations in recent years. This week, the pattern continues with a color-blocked pair from athleisure specialists Outdoor Voices. The women's version sold out on day one, but the men's sandal ($105) is still available in most sizes. Like all Z/1s, these sandals have a supportive arch in the footbed and a sticky rubber outsole.

When seeking high-quality technical outdoor apparel, women are often forced to compromise due to a lack of quality options. Alpen Outdoors aims to change the status quo. The brand's mantra? "Female-first, always."

Launched this week, Alpen's debut product is the Ridge Pant ($149) — a "high-quality pant adventurous women will be proud to wear." Made from a combination of stretch fabrics and recycled yarns, the Ridge is reinforced in key areas to boost durability and function. Women's pants are notoriously lacking in the pocket department, but the Ridge has a total of six — including deep front pockets large enough to hold a modern smartphone.

Our collective awareness of the importance of UV protection is on the rise. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there is no such thing as a "safe tan." That's tough news to take for subscribers of Western beauty standards, but we simply know too much these days to skip sunscreen.

This week, Utu launches its new line of skin care products specifically designed for outdoor recreation. The debut range includes numerous products, including the pictured SPF 30 Moisturizing Sunscreen, which comes in a recyclable aluminum tube instead of plastic, ($44/75 ml). Imbued with "mineral-based non-nano zinc oxide," the product promises safe and effective protection from UVA and UVB for all skin tones.

A new Canadian brand, Parmi Lifewear promotes a theme of apparel "where cycling, outdoor, and fashion cross paths." We tested the company's Free Range Merino Shirt and Bridge Shorts. Both products were designed in Quebec and manufactured in Portugal. They are high-end, quality pieces with price tags to match; the shirt is $135 and the shorts are $230.

You pay for the design and the materials, including the shirt's thin merino wool, which is anti-odor and breathable. The shorts are made with a ripstop nylon that's water-repellent and sun-protecting (UPF 50+). Parmi touts they are "technical enough to ride in, refined enough to live in." We tested the shorts for both and were happy with the fit and function, including well-placed pockets and a built-in belt.

Skullcandy rereleased its entry-level earbuds, the wireless Smokin’ Buds model. They cost just $20 and are marketed as environmentally conscious because they’re made with 50% recycled plastics. Despite the budget price, the company claims a "stellar audio experience" with EQ modes and clear, full-range sound. They have 8 hours of battery life and an IPX4 rating for sweat- and water-resistance.

On the other end of the spectrum, Skullcandy also rereleased its Crusher ANC 2 Headphones — less for workouts, and more for travel, with active noise canceling and 50 hours of battery life. These $230 headphones offer all the bells and whistles in a fold-up form factor that comes with a durable travel case.

One GearJunkie editor has been bike-commuting with a Blaqpak for years. This spring, the company announced a new model, the Storm Breaker. As the name suggests, this pack seals up and is built to handle any weather as you ride.

The made-in-Portland pack has waterproof exterior fabric made from 100% recycled content. Pouches on each hip fit a bike lock and water bottle, and zippers seal shut two accessory pockets for a phone, wallet, and keys. The main compartment closes with Velcro and snap-buckles to keep items safe from weather on the road.

The pack costs $275, and Blaqpak backs its "American craftsmanship" with a lifetime guarantee.

Last week, the QALO brand expanded yet again beyond just silicone rings and accessories. The Core Functional Jewelry collection includes a variety of silicone bracelets, earrings, and rings made for movement.

Made with the same breathable, durable silicone used in QALO rings, the rest of the Functional Jewelry is designed to keep up with high activity. The Functional Jewelry collection includes bracelets ($30), earrings ($25), and new styles of QALO's signature silicone rings ($27), specifically in different widths and sizes for men and women.

We have some in testing and are eager to see how well they hold up to sweat, movement, and prolonged outdoor use.

Protein in a tin is an old-school (but still valid) form of food for outdoor types. We tested the SafeCatch Wild Skinless & Boneless Sardines this month. They are a yummy lean protein with a dose of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

The company, SafeCatch, cites its Atlantic sardines have the lowest mercury limit of any brand. Its beginnings as a company were the result of the founder's care for his mom, who developed mercury poisoning from eating a daily regimen of tuna. So SafeCatch made a new process to catch wild sardines and then test each batch to a mercury limit of 0.04 ppm, which is 25x lower than the FDA limit, the company notes.

For hikers, the tins are easy to carry and make for a quick meal. A pack of six of the 4.4-ounce tins costs $24.

From next-gen tech to ingenious innovation, our weekly peek at emerging products examines the sometimes cutting-edge, sometimes quirky world of gear design. Read more…

Snow Peak Printed Breathable Quick Dry Hat Printed Breathable Quick Dry Hat Chaco x Outdoor Voices Z/1 Sandals the men's sandal Alpen Outdoors Ridge Pant Launched this week the Ridge Pant Utu Sunscreen in Aluminum Tube SPF 30 Moisturizing Sunscreen Parmi Lifewear Launch Free Range Merino Shirt Bridge Shorts Skullcandy Smokin’ Earbuds Crusher ANC 2 Headphones Smokin’ Buds Crusher ANC 2 Headphones Blaqpak Storm Breaker Backpack Storm Breaker silicone rings accessories Functional Jewelry collection SafeCatch Sardines SafeCatch Wild Skinless & Boneless Sardines