How to Build a Functional Wardrobe Without Ever Paying Full Price

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The changing of the seasons brings warmer temperatures, rain and end of season sales.

Outdoor retailers, no matter their specialty, still abide by the same principles as every other retailer.  As the seasons change, so does their inventory.  They need to turnover their excess stock and they do this by reducing prices on perfectly wonderful products.

A great example is REI’s sale and clearance page, which is a treasure trove of highly rated winter gear.  Choosing to sort the page by customer rating lets the cream rise to the top.  The wool buff is here for $20North Face insulated pants, perfect for skiing and snowboarding, are 50% off at just under $80.

How to Build a Functional Wardrobe Without Ever Paying Full Price

Ibex’s outlet is also prime for the picking.  100% merino wool turtle neck, an ideal layering piece is half off at $42.50  A highly rated 21 micron wool hoodie is half off, at $77.50.

How To Build a Functional Wardrobe Without Ever Paying Full Price

Check out your favorite retailers now to stock up.  Frequenting end of season sales is exactly how I’ve been able to acquire a wardrobe of wool, and other high performance pieces without ever paying full price.

Resoul, Repair, Revive

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Do you have an old pair of hiking boots that you love?  They’ve been everywhere with you, the tread is starting to go, they don’t sell anything like it anymore and you just can’t stand the thought of dealing with the ordeal that is shopping for new hiking boots?

Old Hiking Boots

It may be worth looking into resoling them.  Companies like Mountain Soles out of Portland, OR specialize in this type of repair to outdoor equipment.

Mountain Soles provides ‘Sewing and Repairs for Outdoor Adventurers’.

It’s not just old hiking boots that can be brought back to life.  A review gives an extreme example of a specialty item being repaired: “saw an unusual item, asked what it was and was told it was a several thousand dollar canopy/tent used to develop film onsite for natural photography.”

Often times it can be cheaper in the long run to resole or repair than to repurchase when it comes to gear that’s already stood the test of time.


Mountain Muse: Blue Ridge Parkway

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Blue Ridge Parkway Mountains

Sometimes it’s important to learn to use the tools on hand.

Blue Ridge Parkway Bridge

I ended up on a trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway without the batteries to my DSLR.

Blue Ridge Parkway Beauty

These photos were taken with my cell phone.

Blue Ridge Parkway Mountains & Sky

Two lessons learned:

1: Don’t forget to pack the batteries.

2: Often times the tools on hand are perfectly adequate.

Blue Ridge Parkway Mountains & Sky

Infinite Use: Zip Ties

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There are items which seem to hold an infinite number of uses, that are worth carrying on any outing whether an outdoor adventure, a day at work or anywhere in between.

Zipties are one of these infinite use objects. They weigh almost nothing, take up almost no space at all, and are so simple a young child could use them.

Zip Tie Love

Zip Tie Heart

Zipties have the original intent of lashing together electronic cables. They are wonderful for this purpose, and can help to streamline and clean up a tangle of wires behind your computer or entertainment center.

Most often zipties are made from a hard nylon material. Their brilliance comes in their secure one-way ratcheting system. Once tightened down they do not let loose.  They can be tightened further but can not be loosened. This feature is what allows you to feel confident in their use.

Zip Ties

Depending on your intended use and amount of preparation time available, it can be a good idea to have several styles of zip ties around. They come in various lengths, thicknesses and colors. For outdoor use there are UV-resistant variety available. For weight bearing and truly heavy duty use I recommend the variety with a metal tab as part of it’s rachet system. There are also ziptiees made entirely of stainless steel.

Given their low per-piece cost, zip ties can be utilized without much concern.

I have zip ties holding my lights on the front of my basket.

Zip Ties on my Bike Basket

Lighting mount zip tied to the front of my bike basket.

Zipties also fasten my basket to my handlebars.Bike Basket Zip Ties

Bike Basket mount arms zip tied to my handlebars.

Zip ties can help secure luggage, bags or anything else with zippers, shut.  Before heading away from camp for a hike, ziptie your tent doors shut.  No, this isn’t the end-all be-all of security but it does provide a hindrance, and also a way for you to know if anyone went snooping when you where away from your bag or tent.  Clip them open with scissors or a pocket knife upon your return.

Zip Tie Zippers

Jason from Gear Talk uses zipties to hack his own Nalgene style bottle for his back country adventures.

Zip Tie Cap Keeper

Need to lash an extra piece of gear onto your pack while hiking? Zipties to the rescue!

The friendly folks at Dutch Bike Co. have documented their DIY snow tires using zipties.

Zip Tie Snow Tires

Did the pull to your zipper snap off? Throw a ziptie on there for easy zipping.

I’ve used a ziptie to secure a trash bag onto a picnic table while camping on a particularly windy night.

Simply Bike uses zip ties to decorate her bike.

Lovely Bicycle uses zip ties for a clean look to her after-market dynamo lighting installation.

Keep in mind that depending on the color of your zip ties, they can become an almost invisible helper.

Alternately, they can also become a style element:

Zip Tie Art

Then there are those who just enjoy the style of the zip tie and what it represents:

Zip Tie Ring

The best ways to utilize zip ties really are only limited to your particular situation and a little creative thinking.

Zip Tie Repair

Where have you used zipties before?


Lighting Options

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It’s good to have options when it comes to lighting.

When you use your bike for transportation, or year round mountain biking, lights become an important factor.  Whether to be seen by others, or to see the trail in front of you lights have become invaluable in our house.

The base of our lighting system is the Ay-Ups.

Ay-up lights


Ay-ups are a completely flexible lighting system.  I’ve used them on a daily basis for commuting through the city on my bike.  Each kit of Ay-Ups come with various rechargeable battery packs, lights and the attachments needed to mount the lights anywhere you can imagine.

Our complete Ayup Kit:

Ayup System

We’ve used these lights as headlamps, attached them to handlebars, to our helmets, almost anywhere you can imagine they can mount.

Ay-up Helmet

These lights are super bright.  Due to their design, I am able to focus one light on the road in front of me, and one outward to be seen by car drivers.  When I ride on a multi-use path and come up behind a pedestrian I am always given a wide berth as they see my light coming up before I am there.  I’ve even had a fellow cyclist choose to ride behind me just because my light lit things up so well on a dark street when compared to their puny lights.

Ayups mounted to a full-face helmet:

Ay-up Light Full Face Helmet

For camping we use the Ay-Ups as headlamps.  Our Ay-Up kit came with all the hardware needed to convert the lights to headlamps.  The only issue with this use is that the lights are almost too bright for this purpose.

Ayups as a headlamp:

Ay-up Headlamp

For mountain biking one set of the Ay-Ups mount to the front of the helmet and the other mounts on the handlebars.  With the combined lighting set even at night you can safely and clearly see the trail in front of you.

Ay-up bike lights


While the Ay-Ups are the backbone to our lighting system, we also keep a collection of other lights on hand.

Light Collection

The PlanetBike Superflash is my go-to rear light.  It comes complete with a seatpost mount.  This light is the brightest and best rear flasher I’ve seen.  Everytime I can see a fellow biker’s red light from many blocks away its always a Superflash.

I usually keep an extra light or two in my bag just in case.  There have been more than a handful of times where we’ve been caught out later than expected and having a stash of lights available allowed us to get home safely.

What lights do you depend on to get yourself home after dark?

Chris’ Hack: How to Grind Fresh Coffee While Camping

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Since moving to San Francisco we’ve picked up some snobby coffee habits:  We love our french press, we buy whole bean coffee and grind it fresh every morning.  It really isn’t that much effort, and it makes a world of difference.  Coffee used to be something I’d begrudgingly drink when I had to wake up extra early.  It’s now become a simple daily pleasure.

When we go camping we like to eat well, and enjoy some of the little pleasures from home.

When we would head out for a weekend camping we used to grind up enough coffee for the trip, and bring it along.  Now, due to Chris’ ingenuity we’ve got an even better method.

The Grinder to Use

This is the pepper we bought from Trader Joe’s a few months back.  It has a built-in pepper grinder.

Once the pepper was all used up, Chris had the idea to see if it would work for coffee.  I was skeptical, but we put it to the test.

The tools at hand: whole bean coffee, pepper grinders.

The tools to create hand ground coffee without power.

We filled the former peppercorn grinder up with the whole bean coffee:

The pepper grinder turned coffee grinder.

Grind it up, and this is what you get:

Hand Ground Coffee without power

A beautiful coarse ground coffee.

Whether camping or traveling this is a simple, compact, power-free method to have fresh ground coffee anytime, anywhere.

This is the first in an ongoing series of Chris’ Hacks. Don’t miss out on these posts! Sign up to receive free email updates from

Final Choice

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Today while flattening a few cardboard boxes the cheap pair of scissors I was using finally gave out on me.  The plastic joint which held the two arms of the scissors together snapped apart.  Being plastic and cheap, it is irreparable.  This leads me on a search for a new pair of scissors.  Yet, I have no plan of heading to the dollar store or the local drugstore and buying whatever is cheapest just to save a few dollars.

“Anywhere I can make a buying choice that I, with proper care and maintenance, will never have to make again for the rest of my life, I do.” – Patrick Rhone

This final choice concept is one that I whole-heartedly subscribe to.

When I purchase a new pair of scissors I will do my research.  I will read the reviews, I will find the scissors that have a chance of lasting a very long time.

One of the reasons for this is that I don’t like shopping.  I find shopping exhausting and distracting from the life I want to be living.

I also enjoy being surrounded by well made objects.  We own a vintage chair that is a beautiful piece of sculpture.  It’s well made, its functional and its a joy to sit in.  It’s been around longer than I have, and I enjoy knowing that it will be around long after I have.  Purchasing that chair was a final choice.

Final Choice

Final choice purchases can have a higher price tag than the cheapest option available.  Our chair cost more than an Ikea chair.  However, by doing our research we were able to purchase this chair for far less than the price we were first presented with.  Instead of purchasing the chair at a retail antique store, we purchased – and haggled – at a flea market.

The final choice philosophy is one of quality over quantity.

What objects in your life, whether you previously realized it or not, are final choice objects?