Want to invest in great gear that will last? We asked eight diehard travellers for the one item that’s never let them down. Then we tested the latest version of each to find out why it’s absolutely worth it.
1. The Almighty Backpack
Osprey Exos 48L
Recommended by Fiona McIntosh, Olympian, long-distance hiker, author
‘I like to go fast and light and that’s why I love my Osprey Hornet 46 backpack. I flogged it to death completing the Drakensberg Grand Traverse (about 230km) and numerous other trails. Best of all it came with Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee – the makers will repair or replace your damaged pack, no questions asked.’
Tested by us
Osprey’s new lightweight, multi-day backpack is made from the latest high-tenacity nylon which makes it even hardier than Fiona’s tough Hornet 46. At 1,05kg, it’s slightly heavier than the Hornet but still almost half the weight of most other large-capacity packs. Plus there’s the extra two litres of storage space. Like the Hornet, the Exos has been created with the long-distance hiker in mind. I found the support and ventilation fantastic and really liked the numerous clever pockets (the zippered ones on the hip-belt are great for snacks!), the removable lid and extra loops for more gear. Its size makes it especially versatile – it’s big enough to carry everything you need for a multi-day hike (strap your sleeping bag to the outside to maximise space), yet compact enough to use as a daypack too. It also comes with the same All Mighty Guarantee, which means that unless you lose it, you’ll have a hiking pack for the rest of your life.
2. Hardy Binocs
Nikon Prostaff 3S 10X42
Recommended by Justin Fox, Perennial nomad and Getaway Editor
‘I’ve had my Nikon Action 8X40 binoculars for 12 years and they’ve been everywhere with me, from Africa’s big game parks to the Arctic Circle and Central Asian mountains. I particularly like the smooth central focus knob for easy adjustment. Best of all, the armoured rubber coating makes them very durable. They’ve taken many a tumble, even on rocks, and still work just fine.’
Tested by us
If Justin loses his old binocs he might want to take a look at the new Nikon Prostaff 3S. These compact binoculars use a roof prism (as opposed to the older porro prism technology in Justin’s Action binocs), which not only make them lighter and smaller but also even more durable. A fibreglass reinforced body and improved rubber coating mean they can easily handle the kinds of tough environments Justin likes to throw his Actions into. They’re also dust- and waterproof (to one metre) and feature a similar central focus knob. The one downside to these (and most) compact binocs is they don’t perform as well in low light as full-size models. For the price though, these are impressive.
3. Clip it classy
Peak Design Capture Pro Clip
Recommended by Teagan Cunniffe, former Getaway photographer
‘The Capture Pro Clip is crazily convenient and has proved its worth on countless assignments – I’ve used it while hiking the Fish River Canyon, tracking rhinos in Hluhluwe and climbing Table Mountain. I even trusted it enough to attach my camera to a horse’s saddle while riding in the Namib Desert! It’s totally secure, and the quick-release button has allowed me to get the kinds of shots most would miss.’
Tested by us
The exact Capture Pro Clip that Teagan fell in love with is still Peak Design’s flagship clip today, which already speaks volumes about its design. I took it on a hike and now I love it too. It’s comfortable, looks pretty hardcore and I found it to be a wonderful alternative to carrying my camera bag on my front like a silly-looking tourist. The ‘quick-draw’ button also meant I was ready for any photo opportunity. A bonus feature is that the clip’s base plate (pictured right, in red) is compatible with a range of tripods, so you don’t have to swap it out when mounting.
4. Boot Camp
Hi-Tec Altitude OX I WP
Recommended by Sihle Khumalo, Travel writer
‘All my adventures involve using public transport. And that means loads of walking (and sometimes running in the rain) so I need comfortable, durable shoes. My Hi-Tec Altitude boots were, without a doubt, a great investment. I hardly use them when I am at home, but when adventure calls they never complain.’
Tested by us
Hi-Tec’s Altitude range is a favourite for a reason. Its solid, no-fuss design, reinforced toe caps, strong laces, rigid fork shanks (the part between the insole and outsole), waterproof uppers and ultra-comfortable insoles made it an instant hiking classic. Where the new Altitude OX differs from Sihle’s is in style and outsole performance. Instead of the smooth classic leather look, the OX flaunts brushed nubuck uppers (they’re still waterproof), lighter fork shanks and Michelin rubber outsoles. The result is a better looking boot that I found just as comfortable on city streets (they look pretty good beneath a pair of jeans) as I did on the trail. Especially noticeable was the outsole, which gave me great traction and stability on loose rocks. I also loved the tapered ankle cuffs, which gave the kind of support I’m used to from taller boots, but with more flex. Sihle’s right – when adventure calls, this boot is a top option.
5. Blade Runner
Kershaw Volt SS Knife
Recommended by Rob Caskie, Cultural guide and storyteller
‘I bought my small Kershaw Impala knife in 1991. It’s been invaluable for peeling fruit, cutting biltong, opening boxes and parcels, and cutting plasters or bandages when required. I’ve even used it on two occasions in Antarctica [Rob joins expeditions as a historian] to release seals trapped in rope.’
Tested by us
It’s no surprise that Rob has had his Kershaw Impala for 26 years – the brand is well-known for the enduring quality of its blades. With the right care, there’s no reason why the new Kershaw Volt SS won’t enjoy similar longevity. It’s sleeker and lighter than most of its predecessors (I could hardly feel it in my pocket) and the quality stainless-steel blade cuts through packaging like my editor cuts through my first drafts. It opens smoothly and locks into place with the same famous frame lock the brand is known for. I particularly liked the dropped point at the tip of the blade, which not only makes it more adept at delicate tasks (such as removing pips) but also gives it a great overall appearance too.
6. Give it gas
MSR Whisperlite Inversal Stove
Recommended by Andy Ellis, mountain explorer
‘I’ve had my MSR Whisperlite International since 2002. It’s the only stove I’ve used in mountains from South Africa to Europe and the Caucasus. I love it because it’s fuel efficient, hardy and has never failed. Best of all? It’s a man’s stove with a man’s priming flame that warms your hands before it’s ready to cook.’
Tested by us
The Whisperlite has changed little in design since it first revolutionised backpacking stoves more than 33 years ago. The only big difference between the newer Universal and Andy’s International is versatility – the Universal can adapt to three different fuel types: liquid gas, kerosene and canister gas, where Andy’s International was limited to liquid gas and kerosene. With those three options, you’re pretty much guaranteed a fuel source anywhere in the world. I found the stove easy to use (the most complicated bit is changing the jet to suit your specific fuel type, and after a little reading up it was a doddle). It’s light and compact and the parts are long-lasting. I found it easy to regulate a good simmer and totally agree with Andy about the priming flame. You get dinner and a show!
7. Don’t hate, navigate
Garmin Montana 680
Recommended by Danie Botha, Editor of Leisure Wheels, 4×4 fanatic
‘Some punters reckon the days of traditional GPS units are done, but for me it’s the familiarity of checking a map, plotting a route on the computer before the trip, then fitting the unit in the car and heading off. Good-quality products last longer too – and the Garmin Montana 650 has stood the test of time and many off -road trips.’
Tested by us
I agree with Danie on this one – the Montana is one hardy beast! But it is a tool best suited to experienced navigators. Making the most of it requires good knowledge of Basecamp (Garmin’s preferred map software) and a specialised map source (I recommend Tracks4Africa). Once that’s sorted, you won’t find a better off-road companion. Like its predecessor (the 650) the 680 is waterproof, has a dual-battery system (you can switch out the rechargeable lithium-ion battery for regular AA batteries), and a large, glove-friendly interface that makes it great for adventure riders too. Upgrades include an eight-megapixel camera and, most importantly, an updated receiver which blew other units I’ve tested out of the water when it comes to location-finding and waypoint accuracy.
8. Class Act
Natural Instincts 3 Divisional Foam Mattress
Recommended by Melanie van Zyl, Getaway digital content manager, explorer and lifelong camper
‘Comfort and durability trump packed size and weight when I go camping. That’s why I love my hardy canvas-covered three-division foam mattress. It wipes down easily, wears incredibly well over time and is the type of mattress my family and I have relied on for years.’
Tested by us
The latest version of this classic mattress is more comfortable than before, with a generous thickness of 6cm (I slept on my side quite happily) and, at 195cm, is easily long enough for the average Joe. While the durability of this mattress is why it made this list, it’s the simplicity that I like most. No need to waste your breath – just throw this guy on the floor and you’re ready for bed. It comes in either a roll-up or three-division design. I prefer the latter as it can be packed flat and is easier to store at home. It’s washable and made of top-quality density foam and hardy ripstop fabric, so it’ll be something your grandkids can kip on when they come visit one day.
This story first appeared in the January 2018 issue of Getaway magazine.
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