Reliable, trusty, go-to: sometimes longevity is an obvious sign of a great piece of gear. For Mother’s Day, we wanted to learn more about the apparel and equipment our moms keep coming back to years (and, in some cases, decades) later. So four members of the Outside gear team dialed their mommas and asked them the hard-hitting questions about their most used pieces.
The North Face Women’s City Breeze Rain Trench ($ 179)
Everybody needs a good raincoat, but especially my mother. She and my father live on the damp southern Oregon coast and spend a lot of time walking the beach between—and often during—rainstorms. Before quarantine began, they chartered sailboats three months of the year at various locations around the world where protection from salt spray is essential. Mom relies on the stylish two-layer City Breeze because it has “the versatility I require,” she says. She wears it while washing the dog after strolls on the sand, as well as to professional meetings in Portland, and she dons it on sailboats when squalls roll through. This is her second raincoat from the North Face, and, according to Mom, “It’s worth every penny.” She loves the waist belt, which gives the jacket a flattering shape compared to most others in this category. Her only issue? The sleeves are too long, but she uses the cuff adjustments to deal with that. —Will Taylor, gear director
Nikon Monarch 5 10×42 Binoculars ($ 330)
Before my mom was a bona fide birder, she was a bird nerd in denial. “I wouldn’t say I was ashamed of it, but it wasn’t something I was celebrating,” she told me. This changed in 2015 when she discovered that a neighbor shared her proclivity for stalking avian creatures. No longer flying solo, my mom was prepared to make an investment in her new hobby. “You really can’t be a serious birder until you get binoculars,” she says. She went on the hunt for reasonably priced binocs that had a ton of zoom and were lightweight, an important consideration because she also often carries a camera on a sling around her neck (a requirement for birding). After doing some research, she purchased the Nikon Monarch 5 10×42. “It’s a phenomenal buy for an amateur birder,” she says. Not only does the Monarch meet my mom’s original criteria, it’s also waterproof and has a 25-year warranty. The one drawback is that, because the Monarch has so much zoom, it doesn’t let a lot of light into its lenses, meaning she likely won’t witness any nocturnal bird action. This is a fair trade-off for her, and she doesn’t plan on shelling out for $ 3,000 Swarovski binoculars. Four years later, the Monarch is still her sidekick on birding expeditions large and small—whether staking out a great snowy owl that was reportedly seen at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport or ogling the African paradise-flycatcher in the Serengeti. —Claire Hyman, editorial assistant
The North Face 700-Fill Down Jacket ($ 20 to $ 40)
In 1998, Annie Larsen was a recovering dirtbag climber, Park Service employee, and mom of a (cough) delightful three-year-old. Back then my family frequented a lot of garage sales—mostly for the deals but also for the toddler entertainment value. That’s where she found this almost pristine periwinkle puffy jacket for somewhere between $ 20 and $ 40 (“kind of a lot of money” at the time, she says). But it fit perfectly, so she pulled the trigger. The 700-fill down jacket has been on every single camping trip since, no matter the season. “I can’t tell you how many times I was absolutely freezing, and I would put it on, and it was like, Ahh—instant warmth,” she says. Plus, it’s her second-favorite color—an important consideration for a woman who regularly wears earrings in the backcountry. And my mom isn’t the only family member who loves the jacket. On one frigid Canadian vacation, she zipped our shivering seven-pound Jack Russel mix into the coat with her. She has one gripe: the fit of the stuff pocket is just a little tight. —Maren Larsen, assistant editor
Handy Unknown Cartoon Sweater
My mom isn’t a hardcore backpacker or an adventure junkie, but she still has strong opinions about gear. When I asked her, “What’s your favorite piece of apparel?” I expected her to pick one of her rain shells, sweat-wicking midlayers, or running shoes. I was mistaken. She sent me a picture of this simple cotton sweatshirt that she’s had for decades and wears frequently around the house. “I got it when I was living in Hong Kong over 30 years ago,” she told me. I tried to find out if the design was inspired by a famous cartoon, but I came up short. On Wear Your Sweats Day at the school where she teaches, she gets “a lot of compliments from the kids, because they’ve never seen cartoon characters like these in the States.” One thing is certain: she’s taken great care of it and keeps it looking as clean as the day she got it. I think that’s the sign of a truly well-loved piece of gear. —Jeremy Rellosa, reviews editor
Be sure to visit UnexploredPodcast.com and connect with us on social below.
Hear the Unexplored Podcast at any of the below…