Best Gear for Unwinding: 2017 Digital Trends Outdoor Awards

Best gear for unwinding 2017 outdoor awards

All season long, we camped, backpacked, paddle boarded, and hiked our way through the Pacific Northwest to find the best new outdoor gear for the first annual Digital Trends Outdoor Awards. After pushing each contender to the limit, we crowned our favorite products for Cooking, Sleeping, Trekking, Recreation, Unwinding, and a special award for Innovation. And we’re giving away one of every winning product, so enter our contest!

With a literal Suburban full of gear to test for the 2017 Digital Trends Outdoor Awards, finding the best ways to unwind wasn’t just part of our job, it was necessary to help us recharge.

To kick back, we brought in the latest gear from brands like OtterBox, Miir, and Nemo designed to help people take a proper breather around the campsite. When all was said and done, OtterBox — a tech brand just breaking into the camping gear industry — reigned supreme with its impressive new line of rugged Venture coolers.


OtterBox Venture 45 cooler

Best known for its Fort Knox-style phone cases, OtterBox’s recent pivot into outdoor equipment raised eyebrows. After all, many companies devote their entire existence to creating the best gear for camping; how could a phone case company possibly compete? Well, not only does OtterBox compete, it’s crushing.

Designed with the same meticulous engineering as its phone cases, OtterBox’s Venture coolers epitomize durability. Over the course of several weeks of testing, it joined us on multi-day rafting trips, weeks spent camping, and the occasional afternoon spent at a park. Through it all, our Venture continued to perform admirably. OtterBox says it’s able to keep ice for up to an astounding 14 days, and frankly, our beer never lasted long enough to prove otherwise. Even sitting in direct, 100-degree sunlight for hours, we never experienced a dip in performance.

The Tech: A beast of a cooler, OtterBox’s Venture 45 has a tough polypropylene interior and exterior shell that works in conjunction with a two-part polyurethane insulation to lock cold in and heat out. Silicone seals and polycarbonate latches not only help keep it snugly closed but maintain a high level of durability — no awful rope handles to be found here. Each Venture cooler is certified bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (yes, we’re serious) when outfitted with OtterBox’s Lock Kit. Unfortunately? Gladly? We didn’t get to test this certification.

Its sturdy construction allowed it to take a literal beating and come away unscathed. We tossed the thing onto shore from our raft, dropped it from the back of a car, tumbled it down an outdoor staircase, and sat on it around a fire. After all this, and with a little elbow grease, it looks brand new.

Best Outdoor Gear for Unwinding Otterbox Cooler

The “45” in Venture 45 refers its interior capacity of 45 quarts. While other cooler companies play loose and fast with these capacities, OtterBox lists what its coolers hold — exactly. Because of this, the Venture 45 holds more than some other “45-quart” coolers, and this spacious interior made it easy to access what was inside. A number of handy attachments let you customize the Venture, including a beer opener, expandable table or cutting board, a cup holder, and interior divider.

At $350, the Venture 45 is an investment, but one you expect to cherish for the rest of your beer-drinking life. The Venture’s durability, easy-to-use attachments, and consistent performance made it our preferred vehicle for unwinding all summer. Did we mention that it’s also bear-proof?

Runners up

These days, vacuum-sealed and insulated water bottles are a dime a dozen, so if a company really wants to make a mark in the industry, it needs to do something seriously special. Miir rises to the challenge. Its patented Thermo 3D double-wall vacuum insulation technology isn’t just a mouthful, it’s the company’s hallmark.

On paper Miir’s 32-ounce half growler (dubbed the Howler) touts the ability to keep liquids cold for 24-plus hours — and hot for 12 — so we put this claim to the test. Lo and behold, liquid put into the Howler one morning stayed cold (and carbonated) until evening of the following day. A durable powder coat finish makes it easy to grip and, along with the insulation tech, prevents sweaty condensation.

For just shy of $43, Miir’s Howler is a campsite companion well worth the dough — especially since money from each purchased product goes toward trackable giving projects.

Miir vacuum-insulated Howler

A staple of campsite relaxation, hammocks are the perfect way to unwind while roughing it. Sure a scrap of cloth will do, but Nemo’s Cloudview Hammock is a 21st century approach to relaxing between two trees.

Outfitted with a cup holder and a smartphone or tablet pocket, what really sets the Cloudview apart is its construction. Designed to offer a beach chair-like posture, the hammock also features spreader bars and Nemo’s patented Layflat pattern, which allowed us to kick back while continuing to participate in campsite conversations. There’s no getting tangled up and mummified in the Cloudview, and this $170 hammock provided us relaxation without sacrificing our ability to be social.

Nemo Cloudview Hammock

Make sure to check out all the winning products for Cooking, Sleeping, Trekking, Recreation, Unwinding, and a special award for Innovation. And we’re giving away one of every winning product, so enter our contest!

Videos and photography by Dan Baker/Digitaltrends