The Best “Buy It for Life” Outdoor Gear We’ve Ever Owned

Featuring 15 goods that will last (almost) forever

August 9, 2023 11:33 am
Outdoor gear for life hero
Getty Images / InsideHook

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.

Spend more to save money. It’s a paradoxical philosophy I’ve adopted in recent years that proposes investing in quality gear to eliminate repeat purchases. As brands develop upcycling programs, repair initiatives and “worn closets” to make use of old goods, I’m still using the same outdoor gear I plan to use forever.

If you want something that will last a long time, you should invest in quality. It should be durable, well-made and built to last for years, if not generations. But when it comes to gear, we also need to consider style. After all, there’s no point in using something forever if it falls out of fashion in five years. With that in mind, here are fifteen pieces of gear we love that will probably outlast you and look good too.

A quality travel bag should carry more than your essentials — it should carry stories, too. Chrome’s Citizen Messenger Bag, with its durable materials and simple design, is made to do just that. Details like a quick-release seatbelt buckle strap and weatherproof liner ensure it’ll hold up for years. Those commuting by bike will find comfort in reflective accents that boost visibility at night. And best of all? An integrated bottle opener supports unplanned happy hours.

Released in collaboration with Malden Mills (now Polartec) back in 1985, the Synchilla Snap-T recruited fleece when wool was still the king of outdoor apparel. The insulating layer offered next-to-skin comfort but had the ability to maintain warmth even when wet. More brands adopted fleece over the years, but Patagonia’s offering remains an iconic cold-weather staple with its square-cut breast pocket and seasonal designs. And it’s still made with recycled materials just like it was so many decades ago.

Tennessee-based Lodge was founded in 1896 and holds the title of America’s oldest cast iron cookware company. Descendants of the Lodge family still own and manage the business, ensuring quality remains a top priority. Hallmarks of the cast-iron style — heavy construction, a flat handle and pour spouts — translate to incredible reliability, but the value is also remarkable given the affordable price. Develop forearm strength and discover long-lasting cookware in one fell swoop.

We love Darn Tough socks. The fabric is undeniably soft, the fit is perfect and best of all, each pair comes with Darn Tough’s unmatched guarantee. The breathable blend of nylon and merino wool wicks moisture and regulates temperature, but these socks really live up to their name. You could try wearing through the material, at which point Darn Tough will send a replacement pair, no questions asked, but we’ve yet to do so. Socks aren’t exciting, but you wear them every day and deserve a pair that doesn’t quit.

Nestled in the country’s knife capital (Portland, Oregon), Leatherman still designs and manufactures tools from its unassuming headquarters along the Columbia River. Though new multi-tools feature groundbreaking technology and designs, the Wave Plus remains a best-seller despite its initial reveal in 1998. Every Leatherman comes with a 25-year warranty, so you can’t go wrong no matter which tool you choose. If you’re going to invest in a multi-tool, you might as well go with the brand that started it all.

The water-resistant tops and cushioned midsole means you can trudge almost anywhere while wearing these Chelsea 500 Boots. Another secret to their longevity is the durable outsole that provides excellent traction, even in wintry conditions. Though we wouldn’t consider these for major hikes or construction projects, the shoes are comfortable enough to wear around all day in all seasons, which explains their widespread popularity. The leather shines after a few months of wear to give these boots their iconic look.

There’s a simple reason we love Filson: the company makes hard-wearing goods and apparel that are built to last. Our favorite bi-fold sources bridle leather from North America and features a unique finishing process to enhance style, strength and flexibility. The bonded nylon threads add durability along the seams, where other billfolds often fail, and the design is simplified to eliminate unwanted damage. There’s no plastic ID window to crack, no pull out cardholder to lose and few pockets to overstuff. And we like it that way.

This timeless hustler got a few updates last year, including a redesigned hood cinch, new cuffs and a smoother zipper. The durable duck fabric and featherless insulation, on the other hand, remain the same. From cowboys to celebrities, Carhartt is a part of American tradition with roots in purpose and classic style. Between Fall festivities and winter storms, this jacket will make repeat appearances in chilly weather for years to come.

Sometimes our favorite brands kick off a movement only to fade like a dying star, but Hydro Flask isn’t one of them. The Oregon label catalyzed demand for vacuum-insulated water bottles back in 2009 and the 32-ounce wide mouth bottle convinced us to recycle all the other bottles we owned. It features two walls of stainless steel to keep drinks hot or cold for hours, and the overall utility performs well from the office to the gym to the campsite. It’s also built like a tank, so there’s no reason to cringe if it slips from your fingers and hits the deck.

There’s nothing quite like L.L. Bean’s Overland flannel. It’s soft, it’s warm and it looks good in fall photos with friends at the local apple orchard. The wool-polyester blend’s moisture-wicking, warmth-giving properties also make it perfect on the go when adventures span from the backyard to the backcountry. Reinforced elbows pair with bias-cut shoulders to improve durability and range of motion (respectively), plus the snap closure ditches buttons that might fall off over time.

Long-revered for its high-quality, bombproof travel gear, Eagle Creek is an undeniable must-have bag for any outdoors enthusiasts Weighing less than two pounds, the water-repellent carryall features reinforced seams and countless grab handles to outlast the trials of travel. It’s also covered by Eagle Creek’s No Matter What warranty that lasts for the entire life of the product.

The SRPD91 isn’t packed with tech like the best-selling watches of today. It won’t sync with your phone, nor will it play music, receive texts, or check the weather. But it will keep ticking for years on behalf of Seiko’s unrivaled timepiece legacy. The Japanese brand holds a number of ‘world firsts,’ such as the first quartz watch, first computerized diver’s watch and first watch with a six-digit LCD display. And they still manufacture components in-house after 140 years in business.

The textured nylon webbing of the Conveyor Belt approaches indestructible. Sure, we use it to keep our pants on, but we’ve also hauled firewood, strapped goods to the car and let our dogs yank on it like a toy as well. Arc’teryx opted for a metal D-ring closure to avoid moving pieces that might break and finished the other end in tough plastic that prevents the fabric from fraying. Stick with a classic muted color or snag a vibrant one to up your style from the office to the outdoors.

We respect a pair of American-made blue jeans as much as the next guy, but the Swedes are no slouches when it comes to style and design. Made with Fjällräven’s heavy-duty G-1000 fabric that doubles over the knees and rear, these trekking trousers feature more pockets than a magician (one even holds an ax). Our testing suggests these perform best on colder hikes, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself sporting them around town as well. Finish the fabric with Greenland wax to boost its wind and water resistance.

Ask a group of everyday carry enthusiasts which pocket knife they prefer and you’ll wind up with more answers than you bargained for. There may not be one knife to rule them all, but the Benchmade Bugout remains a crowd-pleaser ever since its quiet release in 2017. It’s also a part of the broader Bugout family of knives, giving you different blade styles, steels and handle materials to choose from. If nothing suits your fancy, customize your Bugout with Benchmade’s made-to-order service.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.