-By Richard Ellis, O + A Adventure Correspondent
As a bachelor in Park City, Utah, mountain bikes and snowboards are the closest things I have to dependents. Thankfully, shock rebuilds and tune ups are much cheaper than diapers, daycare, and college educations. So when Uncle Sam returns some hard-earned money each April, I indulge. And so should you.
Now a disclaimer: I’m frugal. Not cheap. Frugal. I want a good deal. My older brother complains that my air mattress, which he sleeps on a few times per year, is crap. It was the second least expensive one at the store – not the least expensive though. He’d find something to complain about even if I bought the Ferrari of air mattresses.
I share that disclaimer because I want good value for whatever gear and experiences I buy, and I wish the same for you. Without further ado, thank you, Uncle Sam, for enabling these purchases:
You can never go wrong with liquid investments. Clase Azul Reposado tequila (~$70-$100), Ron Zacapa XO rum (~$110), and whatever Laphroaig scotch I can find are top of the list. If you have never tasted Laphroaig, it’s what you’d get if you milked a volcano (peaty as hell).
I’m recovering from Achilles tendon surgery and thus not dying to blow money on international flights until I can take full advantage. That said, if someone offered me a free ticket anywhere, I’d head to London and join the Mongol Rally, a race where you buy a “farcically small vehicle” and drive 10,000 miles to Mongolia – for charity, of course.
I proudly ride a Fezzari Timp Peak because it can do almost anything and weighs about 27 pounds. However, for bikepacking (i.e. mountain biking + backpacking), I’m eyeing the Kona Big Honzo DL, Surly Karate Monkey, or Salsa Woodsmoke. They each have the 27.5+ option (i.e. 27.5-inch tire that’s usually three inches wide). You sacrifice a little speed to grip terrain and float over obstacles better. These are also GREAT everyday rides for Midwesterners and flatlanders who, for the most part, don’t need full suspension on local trails.
Cotopaxi’s forthcoming Velox Hydration Pack intrigues me. The vest-like strap resembles the shoulder harness you might expect in a fighter jet. I’m a stomach breather, so I like the idea of a hydration pack that doesn’t constrict the belly. This Utah-based company produces solid gear and gives back to the communities that make it. I’m very happy with their Sambaya Stretch Fleece (in black, not blinding red…) and Chumpi 35L Travel Duffel.
Snowboard and Ski Deals.
This is the time of year to get bargains on sticks. My quiver includes the Never Summer Cobra (all-mountain weapon, but discontinued), Rossignol XV Magtek (freeride bomber), and Jones Solution (splitboard for backcountry). Were I to upgrade, I’d grab a Never Summer West, which effectively replaced the Cobra. Personally, I wouldn’t demo/buy anything without consulting The Good Ride or A Better Ski first. Their reviews are legit.
If ideas and creativity pay the bills, you need good equipment to record your thoughts. My go-to pens are the Retro 1951 Tornado ($20) and Caran D’ache 849 ($19). They’re damn good for the price and make me look forward to putting pen on paper. My go-to notebooks are from National Brand in 5.5x8.5 and 8x10. These are get-shit-done notebooks, not the pretty things that will sit on a shelf. Spiral binding means they lay flat instead of groping your hand, and the quality paper lets your pen flow.
Almost everything I just shared is technology, but for you digital wonks, a few ideas:
Buy a digital alarm clock so your phone isn’t the first and last thing you see every day. A little mobile detoxing would do us all good.
Get a Bluetooth earpiece that actually lets people hear what you’re saying. I’ve tried four different models now and only like the Plantronics M50.
Buy something unnecessary but great, like the WiFi-enabled Pico C Craft Brewing kit.
“I regret spending all that money on a massage,” said no one ever. Get a good recommendation for a deep tissue specialist, and just do it. After a long weekend of mountain biking, gym work, or desk jockeying, massage does wonders for recovery.
Mullet headbands from Mullet On The Go are priceless possessions. Nothing beats walking into a Walmart to buy beer with a mullet headband, only to end up in line behind someone with a real mullet (he didn’t find it funny…). For other shenanigans, I heartily recommend things from Shinesty – particularly the Leopard Suit, Rex Kwon Do American Flag Hammer Pants, and anything else that will severely impress the women in your life.
I hope you found at least one worthy idea on this list. Enjoy that tax refund.