If you call Ben Rabinowitz a Gearhead, he won’t be offended. In fact, he’ll probably consider it a compliment and an honor, and then point you in the direction of the best camping tent you’ve ever owned.
In his role as a Backcountry Expert Gearhead, Rabinowitz gets paid to offer personalized gear advice outdoor to aspiring outdoorsmen. It’s a fun job that he happens to be uniquely qualified for: “I started as a Backcountry customer,” he tells us. “I was shopping there constantly when I was in college, and was impressed with their customer service. So when I decided to move west and get a change of culture, I wanted to become part of that team. I got a seasonal position to start and was then brought on as one of the first 11 Expert Gearheads. It’s been about three years since then, and I’ve witnessed the program grow to about 140 Expert Gearheads, many of whom were previously customers.”
While the name sounds a bit clunky, Rabinowitz doesn’t take being a Gearhead lightly. “I don’t want to sound corny, but I really take pride in what we’re doing here on a personal level,” he says. “When a customer tells me they appreciate how I’ve assisted them or enabled their experience, it definitely makes my heart swell because I put a lot of effort into it. The community and one-on-one customer service experience we’re offering is unlike any other.”
Given his depth of knowledge, experience and all-around-good-guy status, we asked Rabinowitz to give us recommendations for 10 camping essentials that often get overlooked. Here are his picks.
Sea To Summit X-Plate
“Is it a bowl? Is it a plate? Is it a cutting board? Frisbee? Works for hot and cold, and takes up no space, as it’s collapsible. It’s a versatile piece of tableware for all your camping needs.”
“Self-contained dry-bag cooler makes beach beers as convenient as can be; no need to find a space in your car for that awkwardly shaped hard-shell cooler.”
Camp Chef Everest
“My mother is Italian so I take my cooking pretty seriously. The Everest has great flame adjustment with consistent output, high quality materials, and the perfect size for camp meals. Add their interchangeable griddle top for the best breakfast you’ve had outdoors.”
“There are warmer jackets out there, there are more expensive jackets out there, but every time I put this on, I’m instantly warm and happy.”
Sea to Summit Aeros Premium
“Literally the most comfortable camping pillow out there, I don’t know how I slept without it before. Adjustable inflation works for side, back and stomach sleepers (when outdoors, I’m all three).”
“Backpacks are overrated! Most of the time I can fit what I need in a small hip pack and it’s way more comfortable. Not for the chronic overpacker.”
“My absolute favorite piece of climbing protection, the odd shape fits surprisingly well in all types of cracks. What’s even more surprising is when people haven’t heard of these.”
Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack
“This compression sack doesn’t need a large valve and doubles as a dry bag due to the eVent fabric … Which is why it doesn’t need a valve. Yay for air-permeable membranes.”
Petzl Reactik Plus
“Super bright, automatic lighting changes based on your needs and surroundings, as well as the ability to program your headlamp from your phone. Sounds like overkill, but it’s the best headlamp I’ve used.”
“A merino shirt blended with Tencel fibers to create an unbelievably light, comfortable, and breezy shirt. Wear it once and you’ll want to change over your wardrobe.”
Helinox Camp Chair with Ground Sheet
“The Helinox series of chairs are the best outdoor chairs in my opinion. Sturdy, comfortable and easy to set up and break down. The ground sheet makes it stable in sand, snow or soft dirt.”
“These lamps are solar powered, lightweight, bright, and collapse down to nothing. Spread them throughout your campground for an outdoor rave.”
Nota bene: If you buy through these links, InsideHook may earn a small share of the profits on some items. Also, to personally contact Ben for some advice, email him here or give him a buzz at 801-746-7564.