#VailBen Dispatch 4: Vail Adventure Gear Essentials

Jun. 16, 2014

Benjamin post-ATV adventure at Camp Hale.

Benjamin geared-out post-ATV adventure at Camp Hale.

I’m a month into America’s Best Summer Job and I’d like to think I’ve begun to understand a few things about summer life in Vail. And one of those things is gear. People love their gear in the mountains and—almost more than during winter—summertime means one can amass quite a lot of stuff. Mountain bikes, kayaks, Stand Up Paddle boards, trail running shoes, rain shells, yoga mats—the list goes on and on. And with the great retail offerings in Vail it means it’s easy to fill my suitcase with fun new purchases. But I’ve come to realize that there are only a few items necessary to any Vail adventure, regardless of my destination or activity.

For the seasoned gear head, this list might seem a little basic. But for a mountain newbie like myself who is just hungry to hit the trails, this is the adventure gear essential to making my summer adventures a success.

What are your adventure gear essentials? Let me know on Intagram, Facebook, and Twitter by using the hastag #VailBen.




What I use: Patagonia Rufugio 28L

If you’ve got gear, you’ve got to have something to put it in. And for most summer activities you’ll want a bag small enough to hike comfortably with (or fit into the crowded van), but roomy enough for all sorts of odd-sized items. I think this Patagonia is the perfect size, with different compartments that I can use for things like electronics (there is a padded cell phone pocket) and fuel (you can add your own hydration system.) It’s also water repellent, which is nice since it will rain on you at some point.

Where you can buy it in Vail: Patagonia, 675 Lionshead Place, patagonia.com


Water Bottle


What I use: 32oz Wide Mouth Nalgene

In that intense Colorado sun you always want to make sure you hydrate, regardless of how much you sweat. I alternate between an Outdoor Products hydration reservoir and a good ol’ Nalgene. (The BPA-free kind.) I tend to use the latter more as it is easier to monitor your water intake, a little more versatile when it comes to summer activities, and because it begs to be customized.

Where you can buy it in Vail: Vail Sports, various locations, vailsports.com


Salty Snacks


What I use: Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars

The other reason I like a water bottle is that it forces me to take breaks. And breaks are important because they remind you to eat. A little salt, protein, and even some sugar will replenish electrolytes and stop you from crashing halfway up the mountain. For most half-day activities I pack easy to consume foodstuffs, like beef jerky, apples, and a few tasty granola bars, like Nature Valley.

Where you can buy it in Vail: Grab a complimentary Oats ‘n Honey from the Vail ticket offices!




What I use: GoPro 3+ Silver

While I try my hardest to enjoy being in the moment, I’d be remiss to venture into the wilderness without capturing a few memories along the way. And these days that can be as easy as bringing along my cell phone. It might not get a signal, but the camera on my ancient iPhone 4S still does a pretty good job of pointing and shooting. This year, I also got a little more adventurous with an all-new GoPro 3+ Silver. Photos will never capture being there in person, but the high-resolution, wide-angle lense on the GoPro will come pretty close.

Where you can buy it in Vail: Vail Sports, various locations, vailsports.com




What I use: Merrell Grassbow Air

Of all my adventure essentials, shoes are the item that are most personal. You’ll want something that works for your foot. Weak ankles? You’ll want more support. More into speed? Less weight is better. High arches? Check the insoles. But for the most part you don’t need serious hiking boots to get you up Vail’s mountains. This is the first pair of Merrell’s I’ve ever owned and I’ve found the shoe is versatile enough to accommodate all my adventures. And check out the Speedcross 3W trail running shoe by Salomon (no relation). With their expert grip and quick tightening laces, they have a real devoted following in town.

Where you can buy it in Vail: Colorado Footwear, 183 E Gore Creek Dr, coloradofootwear.com


Quick-Drying Clothing


What I use: TX2 Terremar Half-Zip Shirt

If you sweat, even the littlest bit, you’ll want to make sure you have quick-drying clothing. (This includes underwear and socks!) Essentially that means avoiding cottons. But there are some great nylon and polyester performance fabrics, like Nike’s Dri-Fit, that provide the comfort and the durability regardless of activity. I use my Terremar Half-Zip almost religiously. I like that the long sleeves give me extra protection from the sun, but the zipper allows me a little extra breathing room when it’s hot.

Where you can buy it in Vail: Pepi Sports, 231 Bridge Street, pepisports.com




What I use: Neutrogena Sport Face

It may be cooler in the mountains than at sea level, but that Colorado sun will burn you twice as bad. I never leave the hotel—whether it is to get groceries or to hike a 14er—without putting sunscreen on all exposed parts of my body. (Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty tan even with sunscreen on.) I like this Neutrogena product for my face because it gives my big nose lots of protection without making me feel greasy or causing my face to breakout.

Where to buy it in Vail: Safeway or City Market




What I use: Outdoor Cap Trucker Hat w/ Vail logo

I’ve seen too many people in Vail with gnarly forehead burns not to wear a hat. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just durable enough to stand up to the elements and bright enough to provide your adventures with a little flare. Naturally, I go with this Vail-branded trucker cap.

Where to buy it in Vail: Charlie’s T-Shirts




What I use: Buff Multifunctional headwear

Though I don’t use a bandana for every activity, I always keep one handy. Part clean-up rag for sweaty brows, part neck gaiter while hiking, part dew rag under my helmet, part sunglasses cleaner, part dust screen for ATVing; I find versatile uses for a bandana, especially Buff-style headwear like this one I got from a Down & Dirty Mud Run a few years back.

Where to buy it in Vail: Bridge Street Ski Haus, 254 Bridge Street, bridgestreetskihaus.com


Extra Layer


What I use: Colombia liner

It’s summer, so we don’t often think about the cold. But high up in those mountains, covered in sweat, things can get chilly. It’s good to have an extra layer handy just in case. Make it waterproof, and it’ll double as a rain jacket. I use the liner of an old Columbia ski jacket but there are lots a great, stylish, comfortable options, like this Men’s Watertight II Jacket, that can serve you well in both summer and winter.

Where to buy in Vail: Christy Sports, 293 Bridge St, christysports.com




What I use: H&M plastic sunglasses; Julbo Bivouaks

UV protection is the name of the game here. Sure, polarized sunglasses might help you see those rainbow trout while fly fishing, but for most adventures a simple pair of plastic sunglasses will do. I have a pair of Julbo Bivouaks that I’ve used for mountaineering and more heavy duty activity. But when out for a simple hike, these cute, $12 H&M sunglasses will keep my eyes protected and stylish.

Where to buy in Vail: Julbo – Eye Pieces Of Vail 122 East Meadow Drive D-1, eyepiecesofvail.com


Vail America's Best Summer Job BenBenjamin Solomon is the winner of America’s Best Summer Job, a 10-week, all-expenses paid summer job exploring what summer in the Vail Valley has to offer. A freelance writer based in New York, Benjamin has contributed to publications such as Vanity Fair, New York, Travel + Leisure and is the former editor of Next Magazine. Follow his journey on Blog.Vail.com as well as on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #VailBen.