Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
You really want to know what gear you need? Don’t ask someone who has it; ask someone who’s lost it. Because really, you don’t know the true value of something until you know what it’s like to not have it.
No doubt it has happened to you: Get home from a camping trip, unpack, and almost everything’s accounted for — almost. Check and recheck your backpack, duffel, pockets, backseats, and under the seats. Nothing. It’s hard to believe at first, but with every passing day, it becomes more and more clear.
Don’t worry, we’re right there with you. In fact, we try out so much gear, we’ve lost … a lot. And despite having new gear to try out, losing gear never gets easier.
But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that our loss can be your gain. This is the gear we know you’ll love because we know just how much we miss it.
Our Favorite Lost Gear
Multitool: Leatherman FREE K4 & Signal
There’s a saying that goes, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it was meant to be.” Whoever said that obviously wasn’t talking about their Leatherman. I know because I’ve lost two, and they’re never coming back. That’s probably because someone else found them and knew better than to be careless with them.
Frankly, I’m still coping with the loss of my magnetic-action K4 multitool knife. It was my daily chore-boy — opening packages, cutting cord, cracking cold ones. It did it all. I always kept it clipped to my pants pocket, always. But the one time I slipped it into my coat pocket instead, it somehow fell out somewhere.
Insulated Bottle: Hydro Flask (Custom ‘My Hydro’ Color)
Hydro Flask encourages its customers to express themselves with myriad color options and combinations. But I actually had a one-of-a-kind 32-ounce bottle thanks to the brand’s My Hydro bottle customizer.
I picked out the size, cap style, and then customized the strap, lid, bottle, and boot color. I looked at buying another one, but Hydro Flask doesn’t even have the same colors anymore.
And now, someone else is one of a kind. To be fair, I didn’t so much as lose this as someone took it … out of my car … while the doors were unlocked. Yeah, I was careless — so it’s the same as losing it.
Down Jacket: Cotopaxi Fuego
How do you lose a puffy? Your guess is as good as mine. I test several down jackets every year, but I still wear them one at a time. So I’m not certain where my Fuego — the most stylish puffy I’ve tested — ran off to. My best guess is that I had it draped over a chair along with a big flannel, and when I left I only grabbed the flannel.
I’ve turned my closet inside out to no avail. Honestly, I still rummage through the rack and some drawers half expecting it to rear its trademark retro stripes, but it never does. (If you want one of your own, the hoodless style I lost is low on stock. You can still get a hooded version, though!)
Gloves: Give’r 4-Season
Do you know that really good pair of mitts, the ones that fit perfectly? They’re tough but soft and warm, and they just fit right — you know the ones I’m talking about? These were those. Heck, they still are — just for somebody else.
I lost a pair of monogrammed Give’r 4-Season Gloves years ago, but the brand still carries them. That’s probably because they’re made just right and there’s no need to change them. Every time someone asks for a recommendation on some great winter gloves, I give them this sob story and send them to Give’r.
Hat: Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Fleece Beanie
I have a million beanies. So do you. They’re probably in a weird old plastic tote in a front hall closet. Inevitably, though, there’s one go-to that’s warm, looks cool, and sits on your dome the way you want it to.
The All-Paca Fleece Beanie is soft and surprisingly stretchy. It’s also incredibly warm for such a low-profile, lightweight hat.
I’ve lost this hat twice now. Once at a coffee shop, where it sat in the lost and found for a week before I managed to successfully retrace my steps. Then, after I counted my blessings and vowed to take better care of my precious beanie, I left it at a pool hall.
I won’t lie, after I lost it the second time, I didn’t even bother trying to get it back. I don’t deserve that hat anymore. Maybe you do.
Sunglasses: Native Eyewear El Jefe
Sunglasses come and go — I know I’m not alone in losing, scratching, dropping, or sitting on my fair share. But it stings a little worse when it’s a pair that fit right and look damn cool.
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So it is with the pair of Native Eyewear El Jefe shades I left in a hut (or somewhere nearby) along the shoulders of Colorado’s 14,000-foot Gray’s Peak. I was actually on a hike with Native’s ambassador, The Real Hiking Viking (pictured above in the brand’s killer shades).
Not only did the frames fit my face the way I liked, but they also sported super-cool, polarized, reflective purple lenses. If I ever feel up for a leg-burner, maybe I’ll make the hike back up and keep my eyes out for a purple flash.
Face Mask: BlackStrap Adult Civil Mask
Another hiking casualty is my favorite face mask. When COVID hit, tons of outdoor brands stepped up to provide masks and other gear to help prevent the spread. Like other companies, BlackStrap pivoted to make personal-use face masks.
But two things set BlackStrap apart: (1) They fit great and reliably keep your mouth and nose covered, even when you talk, and (2) the brand’s designs are probably the coolest of any out there.
I know because on one fall hike, I received several comments on how good it looked. Unfortunately, the mask off/mask on dance everyone does when they come upon other hikers on trail ultimately cost me my favorite mask — it fell off somewhere along the way, and I didn’t notice until I hit the parking lot.
I wish I had a picture; it looked like colorful confetti. But BlackStrap has dozens of different designs that continually rotate, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.
Bike Lock: ABUS 6000 Folding Lock
Kind of ironic to lose a lock — after all, its whole existence revolves around keeping things secure. But “irony” is my middle name (even though it’s spelled J-A-M-E-S).
Folding locks really polarize bike nerds; some love ’em, some hate ’em. The concept is to combine the versatility of a chain with the security of a U-lock — and that’s the camp I’m in. But others think it does the opposite — the inflexibility of a U-Lock without the security or ease of use.
But I used the ABUS 6000 Folding Lock for years to keep my front wheel and frame secure (many times in addition to a U-lock). But on one fateful trip mountain biking in Cuyuna, I left it sitting on top of my truck. I remember hearing something thud when I left but didn’t realize what it was until four states later.
Headlamp: Coast FL85R
It bears repeating: Always go back to the campsite for one last sweep before hitting the road home. Guaranteed you’ll find tent stakes, a glove, sunglasses, knife, or significant other. You may even find in the sunlight what you would have taken for granted at night: your headlamp.
It’s easy to know you’re missing your headlamp when it’s dark, so you’re prone to track it down. But in the daytime, lumens are the furthest thing from your mind. I know because somewhere in Roosevelt National Forest, someone scored a well-loved Coast FL85R headlamp.
I loved that headlamp! It was simple and intuitive to use (where so many headlamps are confounding to figure out) and had exactly the features I want in a headlamp: red beam option, rechargeable and alkaline power options, wide and narrow beams, and two big, easy-to-press-with-gloves-on buttons. I just hope whoever found it appreciates it as much as I did (until I totally neglected it).
What about you? What gear have you lost that still stings?