My Favorite New Things

Palouse Falls

With van upgrades complete, I finally made a video tour of the gear garage. If you’re interested, check it out!


I left home for college driving a small red car containing everything I owned. That list included my favorite fan (with remote control), which I jammed in the trunk next to the subwoofer. Different priorities at 19, I guess.

Even if I’ve upgraded vehicles, I still identify as a minimalist. If traveling for a few years by van, bike and backpack has taught me anything, it’s that curating my limited possessions is important.

We’ve been in gear replacement and upgrade mode the last couple months. Some stuff was frayed at the edges from tons of use, whereas other items were life improvement purchases.

Tim Ferriss always asks his podcast guests what $100 purchase has improved their lives. Here are some of my recent personal favorites.

I found this random bear in an abandoned house on my drive from Portland to Idaho. Sadly, he didn't make the gear cut.

I found this random bear in an abandoned house on my drive from Portland to Idaho this week. Sadly, he didn’t make this list – I left him sitting right here smiling into eternity.

Peak Designs Capture camera clip – anyone who hikes with an SLR camera needs one of these. Instead of stopping to pull your camera out of your pack or fighting with a strap around your shoulder, this nicely engineered device clamps to a backpack strap. Loving this sweet tech.

Lightroom – I’m embarrassed to confess that I used Picasa to edit all my photos until this January. #amateurhour Only every single photographer I know used and recommended Lightroom, but apparently I am a sloooow learner. When I bought my new Sony camera, I decided it was time to up my game. If you are serious about photography, don’t be a bozo like me – spend a few bucks and get this immediately. There are a ton of online tutorials that will get you up and running quickly.

Xero Z-Trail sandals – these excellent strapped sandals (similar to Tevas or Chacos) are perfect for anyone into minimalist footwear (i.e. zero-drop/flat foot bed and wide toe box). I’ve hiked sketchy climbing approaches in flip flops for years, but these are my new go-to for fording rivers and scrambling up scree slopes. They’re very light, comfortable, and have serious tread for great traction.

Bell 2R helmet – this slick MTB helmet features a removable chin guard. Now I actually wear my full-face helmet instead of leaving it in the van! Just strap the chin guard on your pack for the climb, then snap it into place in 30 seconds at the top to protect your smiling mug on the way down. I bought the one with MIPS protection.

Mountain biking Syncline WA Scott Rokis photography

A day on the trails with the Bell 2R. Photo: Scott Rokis

Red Rising scifi trilogy – the best scifi I’ve read in a lonnnng time. Don’t ask questions; just go read it! I switched back and forth between audiobook and text and both were fun.

Patagonia Nano-Air jacket – my favorite outerwear. Lighter than a fleece, but just as warm. I wear it around town, hiking, shooting photos, or just lounging. Breathes great and somehow stays warm. As a bonus, it’s synthetic fill and entirely vegan.

Gyro exercise ball – my wise friend Martin turned me onto this device. I was skeptical at first, but it’s a great warm up for climbing and renders tweaky elbow problems null and void. Spin it up when you’re driving and pretend you’re still looking at the road. – we started using Cozy over a year ago to manage our rental property payments and leases. I still love this service! It’s totally free for the landlord (Cozy makes their money from credit checks) and you don’t need to exchange bank account info with your tenants. If you have any rental properties, definitely check out this Portland-based company.

Sink and running water in our vanthis van upgrade is SO great. For all you van owners pretending running water isn’t necessary, spend a few hundred dollars to join the 21st century and live in style. Thank me now. And later. It’s that good.

Nada mas! See, no remote control fan in this list. I did just install one in the van though, so perhaps I haven’t changed much since high school. And the van does have a subwoofer under the passenger seat… Sigh.

I’m writing this from Idaho, where I’m dropping off the van at my parent’s place for safe keeping. Tomorrow it’s time for a flight to Iceland to see what all the hype is all about. I’ve heard the reindeer do synchronized dances to the Northern Lights and everyone wears Viking helmets.

Any awesome gear you’ve added to your life recently that you’d recommend? Let me know via email or in the comments.

A final vista of Mt. Hood in Oregon before hitting the road east.

A final vista of Mt. Hood in Oregon before hitting the road east.