In the gear shed: The Aus Geo ADVENTURE team’s favourite outdoor kit

By Aus Geo ADVENTURE 13 April 2022
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Our staff are in the outdoors a lot, and with a collective experience running into many decades, we do know what we like and don’t like – regardless of how ‘old’ or ‘new’ – when it comes to equipment. Here are some favourites…

The North Face Duffel

The North Face Duffel’s inherent simplicity of design exemplifies the saying that ‘basic is better’. I have owned this Large (90-litre) TNF duffel bag for over 12 years now; it’s my go-to gear-lugger for expeditions. 

From big outback expeditions to being slung over a yak’s back for a multi-day trek through Peru, this The North Face duffel has been there, done that, all without fuss.

I have packed in gear for strictly single-activity-only adventures, but also managed to stow MTB, climbing and hiking gear all in together for one multi-activity trip that ran over 10 days. It was impressive to see a climbing helmet, a MTB helmet, 65L backpack, other bike and climbing gear (including crampons) and the associated clothing jammed in this barrel-shaped bag. It’s also been slung over the back of yaks and horses for supported expeditions, as well as being tied on top of 4WD wagons and in the back of a ute for off-road adventures (and stayed dust-free inside). 

The North Face Duffel has been beaten, covered in dirt and grit, and pummelled in rainstorms, but always performed reliably. That toughness is thanks to the thick outer laminated nylon material, while the double stitching and extra bar tacks for the straps ensure it won’t fall apart when over-loaded.

There really isn’t much that can malfunction on the TNF duffel which is, ultimately, its appeal. The bag is available in a wide range of sizes, from an XS (25 litres) to a monster XXL (155L). There are stories of TNF duffels still in use after more than 30 years, so mine is a relative youngster, but one that I have little doubt will remain my go-to for a few decades yet. – Justin Walker

Leatherman Wave

After returning from an overland trip through China and the ’Stans of Central Asia, I put Leatherman’s 25-year No Questions Asked warranty to the test. I’ve long been a fan of Leatherman products and while I have a few multi-tools (three Leatherman units among them) the all-time favourite that is rarely off my hip is the Leatherman Wave. 

The Leatherman Wave has been an ultra-dependable tool for Ron on his many Australian – and international – overland adventures.

A couple of years ago they released the Leatherman Wave+, which is the same tool with the addition of replaceable wire cutting blades. I’ve had the older version for 12 years, using it for everything from cutting fencing wire, gutting rabbits, tightening loose screws, or filing a damaged locking pin. To say it has got me out of trouble on numerous occasions is understating it a bit.

What I’m always amazed at is the design, engineering and manufacturing involved and how well the tools works, even after 12 years of solid use. With 18 tools which can be opened and, importantly, locked easily, what I find nice about the Wave is how comfortable it fits into your hands when in use.

So, what happened to cause me to test the warranty claims?

Well, it’s a long story, but suffice to say I lost the primary knife blade to a police captain in China, while trying to board a train to Kashgar. Once home, I contacted Zen Imports (Leatherman distributor), and told them of my de-frocked Leatherman. Without any questions asked, they told me to send it to them and it would be repaired, free of charge. It’s as good as new, and I was impressed – as you will be, too, with this incredible multi-tool. – Ron Moon

myCOOLMAN 30L fridge/freezer

I’ve been using the myCOOLMAN 30L Fridge/Freezer a lot this past six months. This unit is great for keeping drinks and food chilled for weekend trips. The 17.5kg fridge has a 610mm x 340mm footprint and stands 424mm tall, so it easily fits in the back of smaller wagons.

The myCOOLMAN 30L is ideal for camping weekends away, with enough storage for food and drinks for the family.

With 240V AC and 12V DC inputs, I can cool the fridge using mains power before plugging it into a vehicle’s 12V power socket. There’s an optional slimline 15Ah Power Pack that attaches to the fridge’s steel cabinet via magnets, meaning you can keep the fridge running for a claimed 18 hours when away from other power sources. In practice, I reckon the power pack is good for about 12 hours, depending on the ambient temperature.

Other features I really like include the two 12V inputs, the USB outlet and the inbuilt bottle opener. There’s also a plug at the bottom so it’s easy to drain/clean, and a couple of handy baskets. At $1095, and $399 for the additional Power Pack, it’s great bang for your bucks. – Dean Mellor

2003 Land Rover Discovery 2 TD5

It’s rattly, leaks a little bit of oil, and is – more often than not – covered in spider webs, but my 2003 Land Rover Discovery TD5 has always done what it was designed to do: take me, my family and all our gear into the wild, and back again. 

I was stoked to find this 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel (TD5) version down in Melbourne around five years ago. I had owned a Discovery 2 previously and knew it offered decent passenger comfort, oodles of storage space for camping/outdoor gear and still is one of the most capable 4WDs you can get. With solid-beam axles front and rear, combined with long-travel coil spring suspension and a locking centre diff, it will go most places I will ever want it to. Its 95-litre fuel tank, and frugal economy, allows us to go into remote areas without worrying about running empty.

It’s nearly 20 years old, but this Disco still has plenty of outdoor dancing left in it yet, according to JW.

I have added a few aftermarket accessories since I bought it: a set of all-terrain tyres and an auxiliary battery (an absolute must for powering your portable fridge and kids’ gadgets when camping). Amusingly, I have been asked more than once why I haven’t updated the stereo (I still have to use CDs) so I can answer phone calls but, really, why would I want to ruin any expeditionary ambience with idle work chat?

Maintenance has been the main drain, although most repairs have simply been age-related – it’s never left me stranded. The Discovery 2 might be getting old, but it is still one of my favourite outdoor ‘toys’ for not only the above reasons but also those moments when I turn the key and hear the TD5’s distinctive clatter: that’s when I know adventure is on the way. – Justin Walker

The North Face Supernatural down jacket, Ledlenser SE07R, board shorts, Ledlenser MH11

When packing for any adventure, there are three items that always go in my pack; The North Face Supernatural Down jacket, a Ledlenser rechargeable headlamp, and plain black board shorts. My Supernatural jacket offers 950-fill of water-repellent down in a Pertex Qantam rip stop nylon jacket. It stuffs into its own pocket and is about as good as it gets in ‘downies’, when considering weight for warmth. It’s also a great pillow when stuffed into a Buff.

My Ledlenser SEO7R is a compact, powerful sub -100 gram head torch offering up to 130 metres of visibility at 220 lumens and a burn time of five to 20 hours dependent on settings. The bonus of the SEO7R is it also accepts three AAA batteries for when recharging is not an option. If I need stupid-power for better visibility, photos or navigation, then I replace my SEO with my longer-lasting, 179g, 1000-lumen Ledlenser MH11 head torch instead. And finally, a comfortable, four-way stretch, non chafing board short is a luxury worth finding space for. Neutral black means they double as casual or trekking shorts without offending any fashion conscious folks, and avoids my pale buttocks making an appearance when going for a dip. – Mark Watson

Watto hints at the type of climate he wants to experience on his next Aus Geo ADVENTURE assignment by showcasing some of his favourite gear.