Gear Review: Six Summer Outdoor Gear and Apparel Favorites

In a few short days, summer will officially come to an end. Though I'll miss the long days and late sunsets, I'm eager to welcome autumn with open arms. Soon, it'll be time for hot apple cider and apple picking, the leaves will do what they do in a spectacular fashion here on the east coast, and soon after, it'll be ski season. But I can't say a fair adieu to summer without paying homage to some seriously spectacular pieces of gear and apparel I took adventuring with me this summer.

Hydro Flask Insulated Water Bottle - 12 oz | MSRP $21.99
A water bottle is a water bottle is a water bottle, right? Wrong. When the 12 oz Hydroflask made its way to my doorstep in my monthly subscription box from Cairn, I couldn't wait to see if the rumors I'd heard about how amazing Hydroflasks are were true. Spoiler alert: they're true. At least, the rumor that a Hydroflask keeps your cold drinks cold for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours. As a test, I filled mine with ice cubes and water in the morning, left it on my desk, and opened it the next morning to find the majority of the ice cubes still intact. The Hydroflask also kept hot tea hot from morning through dinner. I love the fact that it's sleek, made for liquids of all temperatures, and functions exactly as it's supposed to.

Columbia Sportswear Women's Reel Beauty II Short Sleeve Dress | MSRP $55
While searching for a flattering t-shirt dress I could wear for a casual dinner out, at the beach, and for daily activities during the east coast's humid summers, I found the Reel Beauty II. The primarily cotton fabric means it's soft, and Columbia's Omni-Wick technology helps pull sweat away from my body. The tie at the midsection makes the Reel Beauty II more flattering than other t-shirt dresses I've worn, and I love the rolled cuffs on the sleeves. It fits slightly large; I ordered a medium, which I normally do with Columbia's apparel, and it's loose, but not loose enough that I'd size down. My only regret? I didn't order more than one.

UCO StakeLight MSRP $5.99
When I pulled this gem of an outdoor product out of Cairn's July monthly subscription box, I was skeptical, but intrigued. The StakeLight is exactly what it sounds like - it's an LED light attached to a tent stake. When I'm car camping, even backpacking, I can't count the number of times I've tripped over tent guylines or misjudged how close to the stakes I'm walking. It's such a simple piece of gear, but it's fantastic to have. The LED light has a strobe mode, it's bright, and it sits inside a water-resistant housing. After testing it out, I came to the conclusion that it's one of those things I wish I'd come up with myself.

SealLine Baja Ultra Durable Dry Bag | MSRP $19.95-39.95
When I'm rafting, kayaking, or hiking in the rain, the last thing I want to worry about is getting stuff that can't get wet, wet. When Cairn included one of SealLine's dry bags in July's monthly subscription box, I couldn't wait to give it a test. (Cairn killed it in July, no?) The 5L bag was the perfect size for snacks and essentials for a 6-hour trip down Pennsylvania's Lehigh River. The vinyl sides and bottom held up well, even when I tossed it around on riverside rocks. It's designed to withstand quick submersions and floats if you drop it in the water. Essentially, it'll be water-tight if it's sealed properly and you don't take it scuba diving. It's also a great option for backpacking and hiking on rainy days if you have supplies you need to keep dry.

Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and Breakfast SkilletMSRP $5.49
When it comes to breakfast when I'm backpacking, I want to be able to eat things I'd normally eat at home. Eggs are part of my morning meal daily, but unless I'm car camping with a cooler, taking eggs on trips isn't an option. Back in January, Mountain House sent me a bucket of breakfasts to test out and I was pleasantly surprised at how good the freeze dried eggs were. Good enough, in fact, that I ate a few of the "emergency" meals when I ran out of real eggs at home. Mountain House breakfasts, specifically the Scrambled Eggs with Bacon and Breakfast Skillet, made up four of the five meals I ate on a recent backpacking trip. Yep, they're just that good.

MSR MicroRocket Stove MSRP $59.95
I have yet to find an MSR stove I didn't fall in love with, but the level of love I feel for the MicroRocket is unmatched by other MSR stoves I've tried. I gave it a glowing review on Trek Tech almost a year ago based on how easy it is to use, how tiny it is, and how well it functions. The stove's performance on a backpacking trip over Memorial Day weekend proved it's just as awesome as it was last year when I tested it for the first time. Setting it up is a cinch, getting it lit doesn't require a lighter or matches, and it's stable despite how teeny it is. I'm planning to invest in a wind screen for it on my next trip, but otherwise, I don't envision using another stove anytime soon.

Have you tried any of the items mentioned in this post? What are some of your favorite pieces of gear and apparel from your summer trips? Even if it's a piece you've used for a while, we'd love to hear about it!