A patio umbrella is an important addition to your backyard if you eat and lounge outside regularly.
Though it’s tempting to buy one off looks alone, remember that “as a functional piece, the most important feature in a patio umbrella is the coverage,” as Melissa Lee, the founder and creative director of design firm Bespoke Only said.
Kevin Lenhart, a landscape architect and design director of online landscape design service Yardzen advised, “Think about the sun pattern in your yard. Even if you have a large space, you might not need a huge umbrella if you’re able to angle it to block the sun and shade the area you are enjoying.”
In addition to umbrella canopy size, consider the fabric, which needs to stand up to rain, sun, and wind. Sunbrella, a durable performance fabric that’s resistant to fading, stains, and mildew, is a favorite among landscape designers.
There are two main types of umbrellas: a traditional “market” umbrella, which is usually placed in the middle of a table, and a cantilever umbrella, which is freestanding and brings in the canopy from an angle. You can learn more about the pros and cons of each, as well as other things to keep in mind when shopping for a patio umbrella, here.
Currently, all of our picks are based on research and expert input. In the future, we plan to test these patio umbrellas and evaluate their ease of assembly, effectiveness, and durability.
A traditional “market” umbrella is the classic style that works best for most people. It’s affordable, easy to use, and widely available in many sizes, fabrics, and colors. Because it’s placed right in the middle of a table, it requires less backyard space and is less likely to get in the way of foot traffic.
Outdoor Metal Umbrella (10-ft.) (medium)Ocean Master Roman Valance Umbrella (8.5-ft.) (medium)
The best cantilever patio umbrellas
If you have a larger backyard and don’t like how traditional umbrellas disrupt table space, you should get a cantilever umbrella. Keep in mind cantilever umbrellas tend to be heavier and more expensive, but there’s great payoff in the large amount of shade provided.
Cantilever Patio Umbrella (8-ft.) (medium)Round Cantilever Umbrella (10-ft.) (medium)
The best patio umbrellas on a budget
A budget umbrella may lack the sturdiness and longevity of the umbrellas above. Still, we found some solid options with well-designed mechanisms and strong canopies.
Patio Umbrella (9-ft.) (medium)Market Umbrella (9-ft.) (medium)Cantilever Umbrella (10-ft.) (medium)
The best patio umbrellas with light
Lighted patio umbrellas offer extra pizzazz and visibility when you’re sitting outside on a warm summer night. The best part is they’re solar-powered, so you don’t have to deal with tangled cords.
Solar Patio Umbrella (9-ft.) (medium)Cantilever Solar LED Patio Umbrella (11-ft.) (medium)
The best patio umbrella stands
A weighted umbrella stand or base ensures your patio umbrella won’t shake or blow away with the slightest gust of wind. “A good rule of thumb is to take the width of your umbrella and multiply it by 10,” said Lenhart. For an 8-foot-wide umbrella, for example, you’ll need a base that’s at least 80 pounds. Pre-filled stands are more expensive than empty stands, which require you to add sand or gravel.
Umbrella Base (50-lb.) (medium)Hayward Patio Umbrella Base (88-lb.) (medium)Umbrella Stand with Rolling Base (125-lb.) (medium)
We determined the best patio umbrellas through a combination of research and expert input. Using insights and brand recommendations from our experts, we chose two to three options per category, keeping a variety of sizes and prices in mind. We plan on putting these umbrellas through a variety of tests in the future.
Patio umbrella FAQs
Traditional vs. cantilever umbrella — which should you buy? What are the pros and cons of each?
More variety of options
Covers a lot of space
Pivots and tilts more easily
More difficult to angle
Pole can get in the way
Requires more space
“The biggest pro of traditional umbrellas is that they get the job done at a relatively low price. They stand up to harsh and windy conditions and require little maintenance. They also tend to be less expensive,” said Lenhart.
Danu Kennedy, design director of creative design firm Parts and Labor Design, likes cantilever umbrellas because “you don’t have to interrupt the seating connectivity to place the umbrella, but they tend to be a little more clunky whereas a traditional model is perhaps more easily worked into the aesthetic.”
What size umbrella is best for your space?
In addition to sun pattern, consider the size of the space where you’d like to place the umbrella, as well as the surrounding foot traffic. “Do you have room for a standalone umbrella or should you look for a table that allows for an integrated umbrella? A good rule is to allow for three feet around the umbrella to circulate.” said Blythe Yost, a landscape architect and cofounder of online landscape design service Tilly.
What are the best materials for the umbrella stand and canopy?
For the stand and pole, look for durable, rust-resistant materials like aluminum, coated steel, and concrete (which is harder to find). Some designers also like teak wood because it weathers beautifully.
As for the canopy, Olefin and Sunbrella come highly recommended by our experts. “Olefin is a durable, sustainable fabric that requires no water during production and maintains its quality for years. Sunbrella is a leader in outdoor performance fabric — it’s easy to clean and has beautiful colors and designs,” said Lenhart.
Once you’ve figured out size and coverage, how do you find a patio umbrella that fits the rest of your patio style?
Look at your surroundings, and ask yourself whether you want your umbrella to blend in or pop out. “If you want your umbrella to meld in the natural setting, think neutral colors like white, gray, and beige or even subtle greens and blues. If you want your umbrella to make a statement check out umbrellas in vibrant colors or patterns,” said Yost. “If you’re in a city we prefer a bold, fun pattern, to add a pop of color to the gray cityscape, but if you’re near a lake or beach, the piece shouldn’t compete with nature,” said Lee.
How do you maintain a patio umbrella?
If your umbrella is crafted from high-quality materials, it’ll stand up to water, sun, and wind, making your job easier. Still, a few small steps can help make your umbrella last much longer. Wipe down the canopy once a month and stand with a soft cloth and a gentle cleanser like mild laundry detergent. “Finding an umbrella with fabric with the color as part of the material, and not dyed, will help retain the color in outdoor conditions,” Yost said. ‘When it comes to extending the life of your umbrella, it’s a great idea to store it when it’s not in use. Either bring it in a garage or you can find an umbrella cover for the material and the stand.” Just make sure everything is fully dry before you pack it away.
Glossary of terms
Traditional umbrella: Also known as a market umbrella, this is the style of umbrella you typically see at outdoor dining setups. The pole goes through the middle of the table and the canopy, which is either circular or rectangular, covers the table fully. Traditional umbrellas are usually lighter than cantilever umbrellas.
Cantilever umbrella: The base and pole of a cantilever umbrella are offset, bringing the canopy in from an angle. Cantilever umbrellas are heavier, bigger, and more expensive than traditional umbrellas.
Crank lift: A mechanism that helps you open your umbrella and adjust the canopy tilt by turning a crank handle. This mechanism is easier and smoother, but slower to use, than a push lift and could also break more easily.
Push lift: A mechanism that helps you open your umbrella and adjust the canopy tilt by pushing a button. The button is typically located at the top of the pole and may be difficult for some people to reach without the help of a chair.
Sunbrella: An outdoor performance fabric made of solution-dyed acrylic (the UV-stabilized pigment is spun directly into the yarn). It’s frequently used in outdoor furniture products because it’s resistant to fading, abrasion, mold, mildew, stains, and water. It’s strong, easy to clean, and comfortable to the touch.
Olefin: Also known as polypropylene. A strong and thick synthetic fiber used in many household products like carpeting. It’s good for outdoor use because it’s resistant to fading, water, mold, and mildew, but it may stain more easily than Sunbrella.
Sunscreen is a must anytime you’re going to be in the sun, but it’s important to pick the right type for your skin and your lifestyle. While most traditional bottles are chemical-based sunscreens, these can sometimes irritate sensitive skin. Enter mineral sunscreen – a safe and effective alternative to typical tubes that is especially recommended for this skin type.
Mineral sunscreens physically block UV rays by reflecting them away from the skin, while chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays, Marisa Garshick, MD, an NYC-based board-certified dermatologist told Insider.
Jeanine Downie, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey, pointed out that mineral sunscreens aren’t necessarily “healthier” for your skin than chemical sunscreens – if you choose a chemical option with gentle ingredients, it shouldn’t irritate sensitive skin and you won’t deal with any white residue. But some people do prefer an always-gentle mineral sunscreen or want to err on the side of caution until we understand exactly how the chemical ingredients absorbed into our bloodstream interact with human hormones.
Mineral sunscreen’s biggest downside is that it’s traditionally been hard to rub in, leaving your arms and legs with a white sheen. But newer formulas rub in just as well as chemical sunscreens, and many brands have formulated options specifically for those with a darker skin tone.
Whichever sunscreen you’re using, it’s important to always use SPF 30 or above and to reapply the formula every two hours if you’re in the Northeast, every hour if you’re closer to the equator, Dr. Downie said. You should apply sunscreen more often if you have fairer skin, too.
With dermatologist-backed perspectives, research, and testing, we rounded up the best mineral sunscreens – and a complementary FAQ on sunscreen use and efficacy – below.
Pros: Developed by dermatologists; contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide; oil-free, recognized by the National Eczema Association and the Skin Cancer Foundation; contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide; won’t clog pores; fragrance- and paraben-free; allergen-tested
Cons: May be slightly chalky on darker skin tones
Recommended use: Apply a small amount to one part of your body at a time, preferably 15 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours, or less than that if you have fairer skin.
CeraVe was developed by dermatologists to contain three essential ceramides, a type of lipid that locks in moisture and protects your skin’s barrier from the elements. The moisture-retaining ingredient hyaluronic acid, along with niacinamide, is also found in the formula. These two ingredients, according to NYC-based dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD, brightens and hydrates your skin, which she explained in our best eye creams and serums guide.
This formula does leave a slight chalky residue, but it rubs in well enough for the majority of lighter skin tones; however, it is probably not ideal for darker skin if you don’t want that white overlay (see our specific pick below).
What’s more, CeraVe is non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores. It’s also fragrance- and paraben-free and allergen-tested. You can use it on your body, too.
It’s also hypoallergenic and, according to Dr. Peredo, this distinction means it’s likely void of parabens and fragrances. For an option you can swing at a drugstore at an affordable price, it’s a quality mineral sunscreen to stow away in your beach tote.
Pros: Easy application, water-resistant, dermatologist-tested, lightweight, vegan, gluten- and paraben-free
Cons: Doesn’t contain titanium dioxide
Recommended use: Hold the nozzle close to your skin and spray until your skin glistens. Then, rub it in thoroughly. Also, note that this 6 oz. bottle contains six applications, according to spray sunscreen guidance from the American Academy of Dermatology.
Sometimes, applying lotion-based sunscreen can take too long, especially when you’re in a hurry to hit the beach or jump in the water. The Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray allows you to quickly and evenly apply your much-needed protectant, which contains zinc oxide as its active ingredient.
The vegan spray-on sunscreen is also gluten- and paraben-free. Though the spray comes out white, it applies more transparently.
Pros: Doesn’t leave a noticeable white cast, contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, helps treat signs of aging with antioxidants
Recommended use: Apply to face, neck, and body and reapply after sweating, swimming, and towel drying.
As a BIPOC expert, Dr. Downie isn’t a big fan of mineral sunscreens because they often leave a white tint on dark skin. That said, she recommends the SkinMedica Total Defense Repair SPF 34 Tinted Sunscreen, which absorbs well, contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and even helps to treat signs of aging with its antioxidant ingredient blend.
“We, as human beings, react to indoor and outdoor lighting and the blue light from the phone, computer, and tablets,” Dr. Downie said. “Therefore, all races need protection from sunlight and indoor light daily with reapplication.”
For a sunscreen that will protect against UVA and UVB rays, helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and works well for dark skin, SkinMedia is dermatologist-approved.
“Surfers, swimmers, and anyone partaking in water activities should read the sunscreen label which will indicate if the product is water-resistant and if so, for how long — generally 40 to 80 minutes,” Dr. Garshick said. “Those who partake in water activities should also be encouraged to wear UPF clothing for additional protection.”
You’ll also be protected from UVA and UVB rays since it contains zinc oxide and, with antioxidant protection, its SPF formula will help protect against aging and skin damage.
What’s more, its antioxidant complex — called senna alata — will help to protect against environmental damage. If you’re nervous about applying facial products on delicate skin, it was dermatologist-tested specifically for sensitive skin and is also fragrance-free.
La Roche-Posay’s water resistance will last for up to 40 minutes. And, if tinted sunscreens aren’t your thing, the brand has a non-tinted version that has a thicker consistency.
FAQs on sunscreen
Below, our dermatologist experts answered some common questions on sunscreen use and ingredients to look for, based on your skin type.
What is the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen?
“Mineral sunscreens typically contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and physically block UV rays by reflecting them away from the skin, while chemical sunscreens, containing ingredients such as avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene, work by absorbing UV rays, converting them into heat, and then releasing the heat from the skin,” Dr. Garshick explained.
But both are considered safe and effective options for protecting the skin against UV rays, she added.
The other major difference between the two is that chemical sunscreens can be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, it does not necessarily mean these ingredients are unsafe or that the absorbed quantity is enough to cause any problems or concerns, Dr. Garshick pointed out. The FDA is continuing to look into this, but until we have research that shows these ingredients in this amount are harmful to humans, the FDA (and all our experts here) still recommend using whichever type of sunscreen you like most.
What consistency is best for a mineral sunscreen?
“The best sunscreen consistency is the one that feels good on your skin,” Dr. Garshick said. “Those with oily or acne-prone skin may opt for a gel consistency, while those with dry or sensitive skin may prefer a lotion or cream. Those with darker skin types may prefer a lightweight lotion that absorbs easily without leaving a white cast.”
How do I know if a sunscreen is “reef safe?”
According to the National Ocean Service, some sunscreen chemicals threaten marine life, ocean reefs, and the overall ecosystem, simply because humans engage in water-related activities.
“The term reef-safe doesn’t actually have an agreed-upon definition and more research and formal testing requirements would be needed to truly determine what is considered reef safe,” Dr. Garshick said.
Typically, sunscreens formulated without oxybenzone or octinoxate are labeled as reef-safe, she added.
How do I know if sunscreen is vegan?
“Vegan sunscreens refer to sunscreens that don’t contain animal products and aren’t tested on animals,” Dr. Garshick said. “Some ingredients that may be found in non-vegan sunscreens include beeswax, lanolin, stearic acid, and more.”
What sunscreen should I look for if I have acne-prone skin?
Dr. Garshick recommends looking for a non-comedogenic sunscreen to ensure that the formula won’t clog your pores, thus worsening the condition.
Sensitive Skin Liquid Face Sunscreen – SPF 50 (small)
Can I use mineral sunscreen with prescribed acne or facial medications?
“It is especially important for those with acne to wear sunscreen,” Dr. Garshick said. Some acne treatments can make you more sensitive to the sun, plus sunscreen can help to prevent and reduce the dark marks or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can go along with breakouts, she added.
Moreover, some sunscreens may also be formulated with calming or soothing ingredients, like niacinamide which can help to reduce redness and blemishes.
What sunscreen should I look for if I have dry skin?
For dry skin, Dr. Garshick recommends looking for hyaluronic acid, an ingredient known for its hydrating properties. This will nourish and protect your skin from the sun.
Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50 (small)
What sunscreen should I look for if I have oily skin?
For oily skin, Dr. Garshick recommends looking for an oil-skin sunscreen to prevent clogged pores.
Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50 (small)
Jeanine Downie, MD is a board-certified dermatologist licensed in California, New Jersey, and New York. Currently, she practices at Image Dermatology P.C. in New Jersey and specializes in cosmetic dermatology, laser and dermatologic surgery, and laser treatments, among other areas.
Marina Peredo, MD is an NYC-based, board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skinfluence, a practice offering a customized approach to cosmetic surgery. Previously, she served as a primary investigator in several FDA clinical trials.
Kayaking is a great way to spend time on the water, be it paddling on a lake, riding river rapids, or going fishing.
Kayaks vary in design, with some intended for sea touring and tandem kayaking, while others are inflatable.
Our top pick, Dagger’s Stratos 14.5, is stable and easy to maneuver, and rides well in the ocean, on lakes, and in rivers.
As is the case with many other outdoor activities, kayaking can be as intense or as relaxing as you’d like. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a gentle paddle across a serene lake or an adrenaline-inducing ride through turbulent whitewater, the sport has something to offer just about everyone.
It also makes for an excellent form of exercise and is a great way to bond with friends and family in the outdoors. Kayaks can also be used in both wilderness and urban settings, providing unique perspectives on both environments.
I’ve been a fan of kayaking for as long as I can remember. From riding Class 4 rapids to casual paddles at my local lake, I’ve spent plenty of time learning what does (and doesn’t) make a good kayak. Thankfully, the good has more often outweighed the bad, and the current variety of kayaks fit a range of budgets and skill levels.
To help narrow down the best kayaks available, I’ve tested a number of models from top brands like Dagger, Oru, and Perception Kayaks. I’ve broken my selections down into a variety of categories based on the type of kayaking, so if you’re in the market for a new boat of your own, these are the models that should be on your shortlist.
A stable and maneuverable boat that excels on the open ocean but can also be used on lakes and rivers, the Dagger Stratos 14.5 provides outstanding versatility for paddlers of all levels of experience.
Pros: Stable, easy to maneuver, plenty of fun to paddle
Cons: Not the fastest kayak on the water
Because they’re designed for use on more turbulent waters, sea kayaks tend to be longer and narrower than other models. This helps improve not only their stability but their speed and tracking, too, making this type of boat easier to paddle even in rougher conditions. But their longer length can also make them less maneuverable, limiting their usefulness on other bodies of water.
That isn’t the case with the Dagger Stratos 14.5 as this is a boat that’s easy to control and paddle straight whether you’re in heavy ocean surf, on a calm lake, or floating along with the current of a river.
The versatility of the Stratos is one of its biggest strengths, making this a boat that’s equally well-suited for day trips on a local bay or extended multi-day outings along rugged coastlines. It features a large, comfortable cockpit, two watertight hatches, and bungee cord storage on the deck itself. This makes it easy to carry everything you need on the kayak, with ample cargo space for any adventure.
Surprisingly nimble and easy to paddle, the Stratos 14.5 doesn’t feel like a boat that’s more than14 feet in length. Beginner paddlers will find it offers a wide margin for error when it comes to perfecting their kayaking skills, while veteran kayakers will love how easy the boat is to maneuver, even in tight quarters. Despite its length, the Stratos can turn on a dime, and thanks to a built-in, adjustable skeg, it maintains its tracking with relative ease.
Ocean kayaks aren’t especially well known for their speed and the Stratos is no different. Compared to other models in this category, it isn’t exactly slow, but it also doesn’t compete with the shorter, lighter-weight boats that are purpose-built for use on lakes and rivers. Still, it’s easy to get this kayak moving and maintain a constant pace.
If you primarily find yourself kayaking on the ocean, you’ll find that the Dagger Stratos 14.5 is a fun, comfortable, and stable boat for use on those outings. But its ability to extend its use to other types of paddling helps separate it from the competition.
The best budget kayak
The Perception Sound 10.5 is proof that you can buy a versatile, full-featured kayak without blowing your budget.
Pros: Budget-friendly, versatile, stable, and customizable
Cons: Lacks features, slow, and heavy
As the popularity of kayaking has grown in recent years, the availability of high-quality boats that don’t break the bank expanded, too. Case in point, the Perception Sound 10.5 is a model that offers solid performance and versatility, at a wallet-friendly price.
Designed primarily for kayak fishing, the Sound 10.5 is nevertheless a good all-around recreational model. It’s incredibly stable and offers straight tracking, making it feel right at home on lakes, slow-moving rivers, or calm coastlines. Because it’s a sit-inside model, it also provides good protection from the elements — the open cockpit is airy and comfortable in warm conditions, too.
The included seat is surprisingly supportive and adjustable, especially for a kayak at this price point. The boat comes with a large, open storage area that sits behind the paddler, although this compartment isn’t watertight and uses only bungee cords to keep its contents in place. The Sound 10.5 features two molded fishing rod holders built right into hits hull, along with sturdy grab handles at either end to help get it in and out of the water.
To keep the cost of the Sound 10.5 low, Perception stripped away a few features, with the option to add them back in as needed. The boat has a dashboard that includes several mounting points, allowing the kayaker to customize it to fit their specific needs. This lends the Sound an extra level of versatility, allowing it to perform multiple roles.
Make no mistake, the Perception Sound 10.5 won’t be the fastest or flashiest kayak on the water, but it does offer simple, reliable performance at a great price. For most recreational paddlers, this is a boat that fits their needs nicely, while still offering room to grow. Don’t let the inexpensive price tag fool you, this is a quality option for those who are looking for great value without the need for top-end performance.
The best whitewater kayak
Whitewater boats don’t come much more agile and quick than the Dagger Mamba Creeker 8.6, a boat that was designed to take on the most challenging rapids imaginable.
Pros: Stable, great for beginning paddlers, and highly reliable performance
Cons: Slow and ponderous
Unlike kayaks designed for touring, a whitewater boat is short, nimble, and incredibly maneuverable. Built to help paddlers negotiate fast-moving rapids, these models excel at winding their way through the wildest water imaginable and few can do it better than the Dagger Mamba Creeker.
A mainstay in the whitewater world for years, the Mamba Creeker is a kayak that has a reputation for providing outstanding performance in the most demanding of conditions. Designed to operate in turbulent, shallow waters, the boat is incredibly buoyant, something that’s crucial to success for whitewater paddlers. This kayak also offers a high level of control, allowing its small body to deftly weave in and out of tight situations with surprising ease.
The interior of the Mamba Creeker‘s cockpit has been designed to not only keep the paddler well protected but to help them maintain control at all times. Padding has been placed at strategic points — such as along the hips — in an effort to prevent bruising and soreness brought on by a particularly fast and furious whitewater run.
Meanwhile, the seat’s positioned in such a way that it can best take advantage of the boat’s integrated leg lifters, which increases the amount of energy transferred from the paddler to the kayak itself, facilitating the quick turns that are an important part of whitewater paddling.
The hallmark of the Mamba Creeker is its stability, something that helps to make this boat a good option for beginners. It also provides a high degree of versatility, making it useful in a variety of different whitewater settings. It’s even quite comfortable for this style of boat, which can sometimes feel cramped and confining.
Its main drawback is that the Mamba Creeker isn’t a very fast boat and its aging design has allowed competitors to close the gap some. More experienced paddlers may find other models more to their liking, but it is difficult to beat this kayak’s steady, tried and true, all-around performance.
The best tandem kayak
Take to the water with your favorite paddling partner aboard the Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus, a two-person kayak that’s lightweight, speedy, and very roomy.
Pros: Fun, surprisingly agile, and stocked with lots of handy features
Cons: It’s heavy, even for a tandem, and it should come with a rudder
As the name suggests, a tandem kayak accommodates two paddlers, allowing them to paddle at the same time to propel the boat along. If those two kayakers work well together, a tandem model can be quick, agile, and efficient out on the water, making for a fun shared experience. The Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus is the perfect example of just such a boat, combining a spacious design and a host of features that help elevate it above the competition.
One of the more notable features of the Dirigo Tandem is that both cockpits are large, open, and extremely accommodating. This not only makes it easier for both paddlers to get in and out of the boat but also improves the level of comfort as well.
The included seats are nicely padded and easily adjustable, allowing both individuals to tune them to meet their own needs. Thigh pads provide additional support and protection, while adjustable foot pedals make paddling more efficient.
Old Town outfitted the Dirigo with a number of additional features such as a dry hatch and integrated bungee cables for deck storage. There’s also a sealed glove box-style hatch for securing cell phones, cameras, or other important items, as well as built-in paddle holders, retractable handles for carrying the boat, and cup holders.
Tandem kayaks aren’t always known for their versatility, but the Dirigo breaks with tradition in this area, too. Old Town put plenty of thought into its design and the ways it can be used. To that end, it’s managed to squeeze in a child-sized jump seat that can accommodate smaller members of the family, ensuring no one gets left behind.
Additionally, the rear seat can slide forward, effectively changing the center of gravity and allowing this tandem to be paddled solo should the need arise. These seemingly minor changes make it easier for a paddling family to buy a single boat that everyone can use together.
Tipping the scales at 72 pounds and measuring over 15 feet in length, the Dirigo can be a bit ponderous getting on and off the water — especially when paddling solo. The kayak also doesn’t come with a rudder (though you can add one to it), which would be a major help when trying to paddle straight in challenging conditions.
The best folding kayak
Lightweight and easy to paddle, the Oru Bay ST is a folding kayak that performs like a traditional model but can be stored in a closet and transported to and from the water in a trunk.
Pros: Very beginner-friendly, easy to store and transport, ingenious design, and just plain fun
Cons: Not as fast or efficient as a traditional kayak and has a learning curve when it comes to assembly.
Thanks to vastly improved designs and better all-around build quality, modern-day inflatable and folding kayaks now rival traditional models in terms of performance.
Leading the way in this category is Oru Kayaks, a company that’s looked to the Japanese art of origami as a source of inspiration. The company’s Bay ST model in particular is a marvel of creativity and design, proving just how impressive a folding kayak can truly be.
Built from a single sheet of custom-made polypropylene, the Bay ST— like all of Oru’s kayaks —folds flat and stores in a plastic box that somewhat resembles a large suitcase. When taken out of the box, it assembles in a matter of minutes, transforming into a touring kayak that’s both stable and durable with solid tracking. The entire process is simple, although you’ll need to do it a time or two before it becomes natural.
Inside its closed cockpit, the Bay ST is roomier than you’d expect. It accommodates paddlers of up to 6 feet, 3 inches in height, with a bit of extra room left over for storage. Bungee cables on the deck store additional gear, such as a water bottle or dry bag, as needed. This makes the boat a great choice for shorter excursions or even day trips, but not necessarily overnighters.
The boat also performs the best on flat water lakes, gentle rivers, and a relatively calm ocean. For the most part, it’s best to avoid fast-moving rapids in this one.
Oru outfit the Bay ST with a seat pad and it also includes an adjustable back- and footrest. This gives the paddler the ability to somewhat tune the fit to meet their needs. Smaller paddlers will likely feel comfortable and right at home at the helm, although larger kayakers may feel a bit cramped.
The best feature of the Bay ST is its ability to fold down and store in a relatively small space. This makes it ideal for apartment dwellers or those who simply don’t want a larger kayak taking up space in their garage. Oru owners don’t need a kayak carrier on their car either.
The best recreational kayak
An excellent all-around performer, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is the recreational kayak made for casual paddlers, weekend warriors, and seasoned veterans alike.
Pros: Quick, easy to paddle, very comfortable, and spacious
Cons: Jack of all trades, master of none
Built mostly for use on flat water and gentle rivers, recreational kayaks are designed to be comfortable, easy to paddle, and offer solid all-around performance. That’s exactly what you’ll get from the Pungo 120 from Wilderness Systems, although this model does plenty to elevate itself above the competition in this very crowded segment of the kayak market.
Blending stability, speed, and maneuverability, the Pungo is a good choice for just about anyone who isn’t venturing out onto the ocean or running whitewater. Its wide body is comfortable, easy to get in and out of, and extremely accommodating.
It also tracks extremely well, maintaining a straight line across the water with minimal effort. This boat glides along so effortlessly that it makes it much easier to enjoy your natural surroundings — a major draw for kayaking in the first place.
While most kayaks ship with a minimally padded seat, the Pungo comes standard with a model that provides an excellent amount of support and comfort. This makes for a much better experience out on the water, particularly when you spend hours at a time inside the cockpit. And when the seat is adjusted to work in tandem with the built-in foot pedals, it almost feels like the boat was custom-made specifically for you.
Wilderness Systems supports the Pungo with a variety of accessories, allowing owners to customize the kayak to fit their needs. This gives you the ability to add things like deck pouches for additional storage, a dry box for protecting important gear, or a spray skirt to help keep you drier.
Aimed mainly at casual paddlers, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is a kayak made for the masses. As such, it performs very well in a lot of different areas, although it isn’t especially outstanding in any of them. This may turn off more experienced kayakers looking for a more versatile experience, although beginners and intermediate paddlers will likely fall in love with it.
How to shop for a kayak
Unsurprisingly, getting the most out of any kayaking experience starts with having the right boat. Over the years, kayak designs evolved dramatically to the point where you can now buy highly specialized models purpose-built for a specific type of paddling.
If you want to explore coastlines and paddle on the ocean, for example, a longer, more stable sea kayak is required. If gently flowing rivers and flat lakes are more your style, a more traditional recreational or touring kayak is what you seek. And if your goal is to make epic whitewater runs, you’ll want a shorter, more maneuverable kayak designed for those conditions.
In addition to deciding what type of paddling you’ll be doing, there are a few other options to consider as well. For instance, do you want a more traditional sit-in model or a sit-on-top kayak? Sit-in versions tend to offer better performance and feature a closed cockpit that provides a measure of protection from the elements.
Conversely, a sit-on-top model leaves the paddler exposed but is often more comfortable, easier to get in and out of, and is better suited for warmer environments.
For those who want to bring a buddy along on their paddling adventures, kayaks also come in tandem versions. These models feature multiple seats, allowing two people to share the same boat. Due to their increased capacity, they’re also longer and more stable than a single-person kayak and have the potential to be faster provided both paddlers work well together.
Tandem boats are great for people who know they’ll be kayaking together regularly, allowing them to buy just one boat they can share, rather than purchasing two single-seat models.
What else to consider
The vast majority of kayaks available today are made from a hard plastic shell. This allows them to stay lightweight and provides exceptional levels of performance and buoyancy, although the rigid structure makes transporting and storing the boats a challenge.
Inflatable or folding kayaks overcome those problems, however, with models available that can be stored in a closet or under a bed and transported in the trunk of a car. These types of kayaks tend to sacrifice a bit of performance in terms of speed and tracking but are a viable alternative for those shopping for a space-saving option.
How we test kayaks
Each kayak featured in this guide went through a series of on-water tests to see how well it performed across these four categories: Performance, versatility, durability, and value. Specifcally, here’s how each category factored into what kayaks made this guide:
Performance: How a kayak performs in the water comes down to how well a kayak handles in the water, how stable it is across a variety of water conditions, and how easy it is to steer, paddle, or pedal. Of course, some kayaks are more well-suited to specific conditions and ride styles, and those differences were certainly heeded during our tests.
Versatility: A recreational kayak may not be the best in white water (or vice versa) but kayaks should still have some level of versatility to them — even if you are just in the market for a hyper-specific boat to do one or two things well. Each kayak has its limitations but the best can at least somewhat handle rides outside their purview.
Durability: Kayaks can take a beating, whether they’re getting thrown into the back of a truck or stored in a garage among throngs of additional gear. Because of this, boat durability is vital — you’d prefer the thing to last you at least a few years before you ever have to think about it running the risk of taking on water.
Value: A sum of its categorical parts, value isn’t just an analysis of its price. Of course, that does matter but it’s always better to spend more on one high-quality kayak than to spend less on several shoddy boats.
While sunscreen keeps sunburns and cancerous skin cells at bay, the best prevention is to wear a sun shirt.
Sun shirts have UPF protection which is designed to protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Our top pick, the Hanes Cool Dri, is affordable, durable, and comes in a variety of colors to match anyone’s style.
Sun shirts have never really been an interest where the style-savvy are concerned. They’re sporty, synthetic, and generally emblazoned with giant brand logos. But we’ve had decades now to process the grim reality that even our beloved sun can give us cancer, and I for one am tired of getting sunburned through the old, tattered shirts I have always tried to wring a second life out of by wearing while outdoors.
I, like many of you, do not enjoy slathering sunscreen all over my torso and making myself into a greasy mess for the day just to ward off UV rays. Moreover, sunscreen is expensive, especially if you tend to use a good, chemical-free mineral-based sunscreen, and find yourself in the sun often.
But the market for sun shirts is becoming a little more innovative to accommodate diverse, mainstream aesthetics, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Now, brands like Patagonia, Columbia, and even Filson have begun introducing their own take on the sun shirt – and they make for a great addition to anyone’s outdoor kit.
Hanes’ UPF-treated Cool Dri shirts are plain and simple but sturdy and serviceable. They’re also some of the most affordable ones you can buy.
Pros: Price, tag-less, moisture-wicking, low-profile, short- and long-sleeve versions
Cons: No hood, no loop for tying to board shorts (helpful if surf-bathing)
When it comes to getting something practical and affordable, Hanes does the trick. You can spend three or four times as much and get something more stylish, more technical, and/or lighter weight, but UPF is UPF, and after having tested Hanes’ Cool Dri for a good two years, I’m sold that this is all you need.
Plus, another thing to keep in mind when buying a sun shirt is sunscreen damage: Is this something you’re going to stain with sunscreen? Are you going to be rolling around in the mud? Are you really, really concerned with the way it’s going to look after a few trips to the beach or the lake?
The Cool Dri comes in long- and short-sleeve, and several colors. They’re plain, tag-less, and logo-free, so if blaring logos down the shoulder or across the chest aren’t your thing, that’s another reason to save some money and just buy Hanes.
As for general quality, I have worn these shirts for two years, surfing and fishing my way around North and Central America for months on end. The four-ounce polyester jersey is usual cotton t-shirt thickness but moisture-wicking, the UPF treatment is still going strong, and I’ve not gotten burned through the shirts once. The stitching, while far from top-notch, hasn’t given way at all, either.
My only gripe with these shirts is on the technical side, and for most people, they’re perfectly fine as they are. But a loop to tie them to your board shorts and an option with a hood wouldn’t hurt.
Lastly, note that the long-sleeve version (which I recommend most) is sold in a two-pack on Amazon — go for that option. These things are only so great as the amount of time you use them, and it’s always good to have a spare.
The best hooded sun shirt
Patagonia’s Sun Shade Technical Hoody is soft, lightweight, and comes with an all-plastic zipper that won’t corrode, no matter how many times you take it swimming and forget to wash it afterward.
Pros: Soft, comfortable, effective, and technical for anglers, button to cover face with hood, a handy and corrosion-free chest zipper
Patagonia’s Sun Shade Technical Hoody has been a personal favorite among hooded sun shirts for a while. I find them to be the softest, best-fitting, best-styled of the UV shirts, designed for outdoors enthusiasts. In a sea of abysmally large, flashy logos and prints, Patagonia stays true to tone. And you might just catch me out and about in one of these. No shame here.
I’ve been fishing, surfing, and occasionally swimming in these shirts for over five years, and as a small disclaimer, I may be somewhat partial, but they’re too comfortable and low-profile to ignore for this guide. I should also note that, unlike with some other sun shirts, stains seem to lift from these better than others. Sometimes, however, I’ve noticed that it takes a few washes.
It’s hard to ignore Patagonia within this realm, with its loyal legions whose reviews are probably best taken with a grain of salt. Do you need to spend this much on a sun shirt? Of course not. But I can’t say how many Patagonia sun shirts I’ve owned, and through fishing, hiking, camping, living on boats in the tropics, and all the rest, I still haven’t managed to loosen even a stitch on any of mine.
The only thing I’d recommend is that you not order it in black if you’re in particularly warm water or weather, or especially prone to getting overheated. And, if you like a more relaxed fit, check out the Tropical Comfort Hoody II, which is a little more casual and a lot more comfortable out of the water.
Pros: Lightweight, well-ventilated, many pocket arrangements to choose from
Cons: May run large according to your taste, some customers complain of them being wrinkle-prone (but remember, you’re probably not going to the office in one of these — congratulations if you are, though!)
Yes, Columbia’s PFG button-down is a bona fide bonefishing shirt, so whether you’re wading the flats or touring the pyramids, Columbia’s classic PFG button-down will serve you well. This is the brand’s bestselling shirt, and it’s no surprise why. Unlike Columbia’s newer technology that makes concessions where many people’s style might be concerned, these shirts pass off just about anywhere.
You’ll see the ubiquitous presence of this shirt around bonefishing lodges and on safaris, but you’ll also see newscasters and wildlife biologists in them, too. Why? Well, the simple fact that they work, they keep you cool, and they’re also shockingly lightweight and full of pockets, which make them ideal shirts for the field. I left my favorite PFG shirt behind in a hotel room in Fiji years ago, and I’ve lamented that day ever since.
I also tried Columbia’s new Solar Shade Zero Woven Long Sleeve, and while it worked wonders, I felt like I was wearing a bowling shirt, a la Charlie Sheen’s character in “Two and a Half Men.” For me, that was a problem.
I’ll continue to wear it because it works every bit as good as all of Columbia’s highly technical, if sometimes busy-looking clothing, but again, only on the boat. I did love the plastic zippered pockets in it, though.
The best lightweight sun shirt
Filson’s Ultralight shirt is tissue-paper thin, moisture-wicking, and styled enough so that should you find yourself at a bar, restaurant, or possibly even the office after some time outdoors, no one would be the wiser.
Pros: Lightweight, breathable, versatile
Cons: Pricier, probably overkill for most people
If you’re looking for something in the featherlight category, which we highly recommend if you’re in hotter, muggier climes, look to Filson’s Ultralight Shirt, made with breathable 2.6-ounce polyester ripstop (that’s basically parachute material).
Filson’s Ultralight Shirt is the best of both worlds, and it’s something you might get away with in the office just as soon as you would on a flats fishing boat — depending on where you work. The double-breasted pockets could be a bit of a giveaway.
But I’ve found nothing more lightweight and after a few months, I’ve managed to avoid ripping, staining, or otherwise degrading this shirt. And like all of my picks, I haven’t seen the UPF treatment wear out. Despite a slightly lower UPF30 treatment (as opposed to the 50 you’ll see on most shirts I recommend), I haven’t gotten a sunburn in it, either.
This shirt is truly paper-thin, and it’s the shirt I choose for the best and worst summer has to offer. If you tend to overheat, if you’re out in direct sunlight all day long, and especially if you’re hiking or fishing, this shirt is a sound investment.
The specific features make this shirt a little sporty, which is to say that double-breast pockets, button tabs for rolled-up sleeves, and a spread collar might be a bit excessive for someone just looking to spend the day at the beach. But for an almost impossibly light adventure-ready shirt, I dare you to find one better.
Pros: Stretchy, soft, comfortable, versatile, just tightly woven enough to keep you warm on a crisp morning or night
Cons: Too hot in certain climes, maybe a little short for some tastes and torsos (which I didn’t mind while surfing as it stayed out of my way)
It might seem counterintuitive to buy a UPF sun shirt that keeps you warm, but on chillier mornings and evenings, as well as more temperate days in spring and fall, I have come to be extremely grateful for my O’Neill 24/7 Hybrid UPF shirt.
When I first tried these shirts on a sultry South Carolinian summer day, it was more than I could bear. This shirt is by no means breathable, and the first one I tried was a pullover. I was drenched in sweat within seconds. I ripped it off, and, lo and behold, received a fine licking from the sun.
But this year the team at O’Neill released a zippered version that allows for controlled ventilation — and it makes all the difference. Like the shirt of years past, this one is made of a spandex and nylon blend, which is soft and stretchy, and I often find myself wearing one well past sundown.
I’ve also found it to work well for surfing, though I’d recommend a proper rash guard for any swimming beyond casual surf bathing. Also, because it’s loose-fitting, I wouldn’t recommend anyone learn to surf in it, nor would I suggest wearing it in large or rough surf, where it will act as a sea anchor and weigh you down.
For an all-around summer top, it’s hard to beat in and out of the water, apart from real scorchers in the Palmetto State, at least.
What else we considered
Backcountry Tahoe Sun Hoodie: If you’re looking for a generic sun shirt with a hood, the Tahoe Sun Hoodie from Backcountry fits the bill. It’s not within the budget price zone of our overall pick from Hanes, but it does tend to be somewhere in the middle of the price range for sun shirts, and might save you a few bucks, depending on what you’re after.
Duck Camp Co.: Duck Camp Co.’s fishing shirts are a lot like Columbia’s PFG line. The quality of the fabric is all there and the technical aspects of the shirt are great. We’ve only spent a bit of time with these shirts, and we’re a little skeptical of how the zippers will fare over time compared with Columbia PFG’s tried and true, but after two months of use and exposure to the brine, they’re still doing well.
Orvis Drirelease Pullover Hoodie: The Drirelease Pullover Hoodie from Orvis is moisture-wicking and fast-drying, and it’s somewhat comparable to Patagonia’s answer in our pick above, but it’s not quite as soft, and it’s a little more expensive. Still, this is Orvis quality and if you’re a devotee, you won’t go wrong.
How to shop for a sun shirt
When shopping for a sun shirt, there are a few things to keep in mind, namely the features the shirt comes with and its UPF rating. Much of the decision about which shirt to buy comes down to how and where you’ll be wearing it.
Here’s what to consider when picking out a sun shirt:
UPF vs. SPF: Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) measures the amount of UV light that passes through fabrics, while Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures the amount of time it takes sun-screened skin to redden, or, in other words, the effectiveness of sunscreen.
Temperature: If you’re going to be somewhere really, really hot, like Death Valley, or the Atacama Desert, forego your choosy inklings and buy something with the newfangled cooling technology, most notably by Columbia or Under Armour. They’re a bit loud, though, so if you want to strike a pose for your Instagram post, consider throwing in another shirt for photo ops that you’re willing to be caught dead in.
Style: Your style is your style, and we’re not telling you what to wear, not ever, and not now. Sun shirts come in all cuts, and it really comes down to personal preference, for most. If you’re going to be doing a lot of swimming, surfing, or spending time in direct sunlight, a hood is beneficial, if not paramount to outwitting the sun and its rays. You also might want thumb holders and a loop to tie it to your shorts. If you’re fishing, pockets are also kind of a must, and a button-up with plenty of pockets is arguably the best way to go.
Weight: If you’re traveling — or living — lightly, some of our picks are a bit on the heavy or bulky side. Consider passing on those for our other picks.
A note on fit
Although the sun shirts featured in this guide say they’re for men, anyone can wear any style, size, or brand of shirt they desire, regardless of the gender the brand says it’s actually for. The sizing of men’s shirts does differ from women’s, most notably by having broader shoulders and a less shapely or fitted cut.
However, the most important consideration is that the gear fits properly and functions how you need it to.
Wetsuits protect you from cold water, allowing you to surf, swim, or dive longer than if you didn’t wear one.
Choosing a wetsuit depends on how you’ll use it as surfers have different needs than kayakers, for instance.
Our top pick, O’Neill’s Psycho Tech, features water-resistant neoprene, durable stitching, and a comfortable fit.
For anyone who doesn’t live in the tropics, wearing a wetsuit while surfing is a necessity. Paddling out to a break with water temperatures anywhere below 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit without a generous helping of rubber can range from slightly uncomfortable to downright deadly – but wear the right wetsuit and you’ll quickly forget all about the hypothermia-inducing water temp (for the most part).
Surfing isn’t the only water sport one might wear a wetsuit for, however. Paddleboarders, kayakers, and divers, among others, also don neoprene getups to keep cold water from cutting their outings short – but not every wetsuit is a jack-of-all-trades type of suit. What one person might need for kayaking might be too cumbersome or ill-fitting for a surfer.
To help anyone shopping for a new suit, I’ve field-tested a number of wetsuits from top brands like O’Neill and Rip Curl, consulted with diving and surfing enthusiasts, and conducted plenty of research to come up with a list of the best currently available.
The O’Neill Psycho Tech is made with water-resistant neoprene to keep it from retaining water, and its top-notch stitching makes it almost watertight.
Pros: Warm, almost watertight stitching, lightweight, quick-drying
Cons: A little pricey
O’Neill’s Psycho Tech is the kind of cozy, stretchy, almost watertight suit that becomes oh-so-precious to cold-water surfers when winter storms roll through and leaky seams threaten to end surf sessions early.
If there’s one company I’d put all my good faith in keeping me from the wrath of hypothermia, it’s the late, lauded laureate and godfather of the modern wetsuit, Jack O’Neill.
O’Neill puts a lot of money into research and design, and while the US military doesn’t exactly endorse or use any single wetsuit, they’ve frequently sent personnel out in O’Neill suits. That alone may or may not speak volumes to you, but the US military is not known to be one to skimp on matters of national security.
This wetsuit is flexible, and I’ve found it to hold up in temperatures considerably lower than their rating. My old Psycho II model from 2009, which saw heavy service through 2010 and has seen service in most of the years since, is still, shockingly, in pretty good shape. The new Psychos are miles ahead, but there aren’t enough problems or even one single tear in my suit that warrant tossing mine out just yet.
Cleanline Surf, the Pacific Northwest’s coldwater surf aficionados, called the Psycho Tech “the pinnacle of wetsuit technology and performance.” The site goes on to taut it for being lightweight, warm, durable, and flexible — I don’t disagree.
Also, the TechnoButter neoprene rejects water so well that it stays light even when wet, and it dries much faster than most suits.
The best budget wetsuit for women
Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits cost less than $200, feature an easy-to-use rear zip entry, and have both stitched and glued seams for added durability.
Pros: Easy in and out via a rear zip entry, stitched and glued seams, inexpensive (as far as wetsuits go)
Cons: Its 3/2 millimeter thickness won’t keep you warm very long in colder water temps
Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits are extremely flexible, thoroughly stitched, taped, and glued, and very reasonably priced.
The suit has been a bestseller for several years and being blindstitched, glued, and taped for under $200 certainly hasn’t hurt its reputation. It also comes in both men’s and women’s designs, but, I must make a full disclosure: I’ve never owned one, though I’ve envied them from close and afar over the years.
The best budget wetsuit for men
VISSLA’s 7 Seas is economical but doesn’t cut any corners to deliver a functional wetsuit at a fair price.
Pros: Price tag, sleeve gaskets, stitching and gluing, 1-year warranty
Cons: Neoprene retains water and gets a little heavy
I tried VISSLA’s 7 Seas model in New York this late spring and was hot in the 3/2-millimeter full suit. That’s a good sign. I also caught up with an old friend on Montauk who’s in his third season with the same model, which is as much as most people ask of even a luxury suit. That was good enough for me.
It fit me exceptionally well, which is a shock because I’m six feet tall, generally, stay shy of 160 pounds, and almost no company designs standard suits sized for stick-figured string beans like me.
The seams are held together by double blind-stitching and taped three times over, which somewhere around five years ago was unthinkable for a suit under $200. Matter-of-factly, this suit is designed in much the same way one of my nicer suits from about 10 years ago was, only that one cost me about twice as much. The suit’s also backed by respective 1-year warranties for both the neoprene and the stitching.
Although the neoprene retains water and gets heavy, the suit is remarkably stretchy — maybe stretchier than Patagonia’s Yulex suits — and the wrist gaskets that are located a few inches above the cuff really kept water from getting up my sleeves and slowing my paddling. Further, taking water up the sleeves in fall or winter is shockingly chilling.
I also liked the fuzzy lining, which is akin to Patagonia’s, but, again, this suit is less than half the price (at the time of this publishing). While Patagonia’s suits are nice, and I love mine, I don’t see any need to step up unless you really feel like spending the extra money or you’re going to be surfing in exceptionally cold waters where you’ll probably want the best technology you can get.
The best non-neoprene wetsuit
There are other non-neoprene suits emerging on the market, but my Patagonia suits have lasted through a lot, and it will take a lot for another suit to knock them off their throne.
Pros: Long-lasting (as long as if not longer than most neoprene suits), neoprene-free, almost petroleum-free, very warm, so you can often get away with a thinner suit
Cons: Not cheap, maybe a little stiffer than neoprene suits
Patagonia’s current crop of wetsuits comes via a biochemical company called Yulex. Yulex manufactures neoprene from the guayule plant, a hardy shrub native to the Southwestern United States that’s used to make rubber that’s both renewable and nearly chemical-free.
The latest Yulex-branded suit now has a new patterning intended for “improved fit and increased mobility.” Yulex’s brand of rubber often had a reputation among wetsuit users as being stiff compared with neoprene, which isn’t generally a good thing for water enthusiasts. However, the suits do feature a fuzzy synthetic liner that makes the inside of the suit feel silky smooth while also doing well to make me feel warmer in frigid water.
The company now uses a water-based glue in all its suits, eliminating the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were used for decades. The new suit also includes solution-dyed fabrics that reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions by 86% and 96%, respectively.
Of course, as goes with the Patagonia story, everything is Fair Trade Certified, and you’ll also get Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee, so if you’re not thrilled with your new suit, you can send it back.
What excites me most about this suit is that, although Patagonia hasn’t made the leap to zipperless suits, the corrosion-resistant zipper on this suit is now actually replaceable, so if it wears out before the wetsuit does, you can extend its life a little longer. This is great news because oftentimes the collar or zipper area is the first thing to wear out on a wetsuit.
Learn more about Patagonia and Yulex’s bio-rubber here.
The best wetsuit for paddlesports
If you’re tired of hanging up your paddles for the winter, O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is just enough to keep you comfortable as water temperatures reach the 60s and maybe the 50s.
Pros: Flexible, breathable, affordable
Cons: The chest rubber can be overly sticky
Because our bodies are mostly out of the water when paddling, we tend to work up a sweat beneath a neoprene wetsuit. While any combination of layers can do the trick, I’ve found that a farmer john-style (sleeveless) wetsuit with flatlock seams works best unless you’re dealing with temperatures below 50° F or so, at which point I’d opt for a dry suit. Stohlquist makes a good one for men and women.
Since you’re getting such a thorough upper body workout, I’d suggest avoiding sleeves, which apart from causing you to overheat also tend to constrict movement and cause chafing. O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is 2 millimeters thick and comes with flatlock seams, and at less than $100 can’t really be beaten.
If it’s a little cooler, you might want one with full-length legs (the women’s model, the Bahia, comes in a 1.5mm), or a 3mm. O’Neill doesn’t make the sleeveless suit in a 3mm, but Aqua Lung does, for men and women. Anything above 3mm tends to get a little too hot for paddlesports, at least if you’re not getting in the water.
If you want to spend even a little more money — unless you’re surfing in one of these suits, keep in mind that quality might not be quite as paramount — Patagonia’s Long John (men’s) and Long Jane (women’s) are $169 and worth it. They’re made of the same non-neoprene Yulex rubber as Patagonia’s other suits, but flatlock-stitched so that they breathe a little better.
How to shop for a wetsuit
Open-cell vs. closed-cell wetsuits
Apart from temperature, what you’ll be doing in or on the water is a major deciding factor for which wetsuit is best. If you’re swimming or surfing, a floaty, hydrodynamic closed-cell or single-piece suit is likely your best bet. These are either chest- or back-zipped and come with different sleeve and leg cuts.
But if you’re diving, a closed-cell wetsuit allows too much water flow between it and your skin. You’ll find yourself feeling stiff and cold, and stiff and cold are never what you want while diving for long periods of time. An open-cell wetsuit provides suction between the skin and suit that’s nearly watertight. While these types of suits are a pain to get in and out of, they keep you much warmer and allow for much greater flexibility underwater.
Editor’s note: If you use a little eco-friendly dish soap, getting into an open-cell wetsuit is much easier.
Open-cell suits usually don’t have zippers apart from the wrist and leg cuffs but closed cells come in a variety of different zipper configurations. Some manufacturers are starting to develop zipperless models, too, which could eliminate zippers altogether — at least on more expensive suits.
Back-zip suit: Back-zip wetsuits are the original design, and almost always cheaper than chest-zip or zipper-less suits. They’re fine for swimming in temperate waters on relatively warm days, but I’ve found that having cool water seep down your back on a chillier day — or in the middle of winter, for that matter — can be miserable.
Chest-zip suit: Usually more expensive, chest-zip wetsuits tend to keep you warmer thanks to a smaller, well-protected zipper that sits on the front of the suit. This also makes them the most difficult to get in and out of, but, overall, we think they’re worth it. They tend to last longer, and some even allow for the neckpiece to be replaced, which is often the first thing to wear and tear on a wetsuit.
Zipperless: I haven’t yet tried out a zipperless wetsuit, though I’ve been hearing positive buzz about O’Neill’s Hyperfreak Comp zipless model. It would be more of a performance suit than most require, and it’s hard to say whether the lack of a zipper will, in turn, stretch the suit more or keep us warmer, but we will see how they fare over time and update this guide with our findings.
Wetsuit thickness and temperature rating
Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters, and the core is most often thicker than the extremities to keep your body temperature up while allowing for more mobility in the arms and legs. This is why you’ll see two — or sometimes three — numbers, listing the core’s thickness first (e.g., 3/2, or 4/3/2).
Temperature rating corresponds with thickness, for the most part, but varies some from company to company and material to material, but here’s a basic rule of thumb:
Mid 60s to low 70s: 2 mm
Low 60s to high 60s: 3/2 mm
Low 50s to low 60s: 4/3 mm, or 4/3/2 mm
Low to high 40s: 5/4 mm, or 5/4/3 mm
High 30s to low 40s: 6/5 mm or 6/5/4 mm
Upper 30s and below: While a good 6/5- or 6/5/4-millimeter suit can do you well in the upper 30s, it’s tough to stand it any colder. There are 7/6- and 7/6/5-millimeter wetsuits, but they become impedingly stiff at that point. A good 6/5 or 6/5/4 with hood, boots, and gloves will take care of most of us through winter.
Not all sizing is consistent
Size charts vary from company to company, so make sure to have a look at the chart to be sure which one fits you best. Unless you get a custom suit, none are likely to fit you perfectly but you should be able to get close enough.
Stitching and seams
Not all wetsuits are created equal, and while most are made of neoprene — and come from the same factory in Taiwan, despite different brand names — it’s the stitching and seams that make all the difference.
Overlock stitching: This is the most basic stitching, and it will let water flow through your suit like Victoria Falls. Okay, not really, but I save these cheap suits for spring and summer, or when it’s not exactly board-short temperature, but a constant flush is actually refreshing.
Flat stitching: This is probably a little fancier than the stitching they taught you in Home Economics class. By no means is it watertight, but it lies flatter and holds up better than basic overlock stitching.
Blindstitching: Blindstitched suits have even narrower stitching than flat-stitched ones, and the seams are usually glued, which does a pretty good job of preventing water seepage.
Sealed, taped, glued: This is a definitive step up, and usually what you’ll find with blindstitched suits. Once you get into blindstitching, you start to notice that very little water seeps through your suit, and you stay relatively dry inside. The best of these suits are also sealed and taped both inside and out, but the full combination is where suits start to get above the $500 price tag, which isn’t crucial for most. Still, if you plan to be surfing in sub 55-degree Fahrenheit temps, we highly recommend forking over the extra dough.
Here’s what every first-time wetsuit owner should know:
Wash your suit every time you use it, or at least as frequently as you can stand to. Wetsuits take on everything you put into them, from your sweat, sunscreen, seawater, and yes, urine. While it may not damage your suit, it will surely smell bad.
And even though Helen Hunt does it, it’s not exactly a good idea to pee in your wetsuit, for obvious reasons. Regardless of whether or not you decide to relieve yourself in your suit, get a wetsuit shampoo, and follow its instructions well. Do NOT use any old soap for this, or you’ll be sorry.
Store your wetsuit in a dry, shaded area with plenty of ventilation. We all know what happens to wet things in confined spaces, but hanging your wetsuit to dry in the sun is surely the quickest way to end its life.
Hang your wetsuit loosely on a thick-framed clothes hanger, a proper wetsuit hanger, or fold it loosely. If you hang a wetsuit on a sharp wire hanger, it will stretch out. If you fold it too tightly, it’ll crease. I roll mine up when I travel to avoid creasing.
How to choose a diving wetsuit
A simple, closed-cell suit like a surfing wetsuit works above the surface where you have heat from the sun and little pressure, but when you get below the surface, it can get stiff and cold. An open cell suit will keep you much warmer and more flexible, whether you’re freediving or using scuba tanks.
I’ve never actually owned an open-cell diving suit — I use a surfing suit to dive, which I assure you is less than ideal — so I called on a lifeline: an old friend who spends his workdays and sometimes his nights underwater in the marrow-chilling depths of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. If anyone has earned the authority to deem a wetsuit good or bad, we figure it might be a commercial diver, after all.
A commercial diver’s input
The array of both open cell and closed cell diving suits in the locker where he works is almost exclusively with Beuchat and Cressi wetsuits, and while many of the members of the dive team do wear closed cell suits to work, they don’t last as long — maybe that’s intended. Open cell suits are snug, and almost suction-cup your skin, which is extremely efficient for keeping you warm, but makes them very difficult to get on and off.
When we would go spearfishing together — I in my 5/4-millimeter closed-cell surfing wetsuit, he in his 7-millimeter open-cell diving suit — I’d be in and out of my suit in half the time it took him to roll his on and off. But, by the same token, he could still feel his hands and feet after an hour of diving. Meanwhile, my lips would be turning blue.
Bottom line: If you’re going to be in even moderately cold water, save yourself the agony of freezing and put up with the nuisance of stretching into a skin-tight open cell suit.
How to shop for a dive suit
If you’ve never worn or owned a diving wetsuit before, you’ll probably want to go to the local dive shop and have the pros sort you out, or at the very least fit you.
When picking out a diving suit, color, or rather pattern, is a consideration that goes beyond aesthetics. If an experience with wildlife is what you’re after (even if you’re not in search of dinner), then a camouflage suit is probably a good idea, simply because you won’t startle as many creatures as quickly as you would with a black suit, or one of any color, really.
Also, note that camouflage is relative: If you’re going to be in open water, you’ll want a rhapsody in blue, and if you’re going to be in kelp, coral, or rocks, you probably want to look for a more greenish-brown pattern.
A few drawbacks
The main downfall of many closed-cell suits is that they are made of or coated with a softer, more delicate rubber-like neoprene skin which, while it keeps you warmer and leaves you agiler in the pressured depths, is highly prone to tearing.
Also, always make sure your wetsuit is wet when you’re pulling it on, and follow instructions for care and maintenance like these, from Aqua Lung. Never leave any wetsuit in the sun but especially not a suit with skin material, which will melt and stick to itself, a tragedy not covered by any warranty far as I’m aware.
Aqua Lung, Beuchat, Cressi, and Mares are companies that have all been around since recreational diving has, more or less, and they all have similarly long legacies and popular standing with commercial and recreational divers alike.
Pros: Tighter-fitting, more watertight, keeps you warmer, less constricting
Cons: Can be more expensive, much more delicate, difficult to don and doff
Spring is a time of renewal, when flower buds bloom, leaves return to barren trees, and the remnants of winter fade away. For many people, it’s a time to refresh our lives and surroundings: reorganizing and tidying the home, planting new seeds, cleaning the grill and pool, setting up outdoor play areas, picking up hobbies where you last left off, and making travel plans, to name a few things.
As more people emerge from a year staying at home, they will want to get outside. Many others will continue to stay indoors and will want to make their homes more comfortable for both work and play. Whatever your situation may be, as part of our Spring Forward coverage, the Insider Reviews team researched and tested the best products and services to help you rejuvenate yourself and your family.
Here are all our favorite resources to help you Spring Forward, including discounts on cleaning products, outdoor gear, and spring style.
All the spring deals and discounts happening now
We look for the best deals available online daily. Take a look at these great discounts on a variety of popular products.
Spring cleaning is the time to refresh our homes — especially if you’ve been stuck indoors for most of last year. But to do a proper job, make sure you have the best cleaning products and tools on hand.
Whether it’s preparing your home to cool down the upcoming summer months or setting up the backyard for outdoor fun, we have you covered with our expert guides from our Home and Kitchen team. For more products and resources, see our companion guide on spring cleaning.
Summer isn’t summer if there isn’t grilling involved. Before you start the cookout, make sure your grill and smoker are cleaned and ready for the job, and springtime is the best time to take care of that. If you don’t own a grill yet, spring is the best time to pick one up.
Now that you’ve gotten your grilling gear up to par, it’s time to set up your outdoor space to enjoy all those burgers and dogs al fresco. Whether you need new patio furniture or a fire pit to roast marshmallows around, now is a great time to gear up.
As the weather warms up and it becomes safer to venture outside, it’s time to plan that outdoor adventure. From hiking trails to biking trips, check out our stories on the best outdoors gear you can buy.
With the increase in vaccinations and more states and countries reopening for visitors, there is a demand for travel. Whether it’s domestic or international and by plane or by car, if you are considering traveling for leisure, check out these best destinations for spring travel.
If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.
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Turo is the sharing economy’s answer to big car rental companies.
You can rent everything from a standard Honda to the latest Tesla to a retro camper van.
I’ve tried the service twice and found it to be an excellent and more affordable car rental option.
Though vaccine rollouts are well underway and travel is picking back up, travelers continue to seek safe vacation options. With social distancing remaining a top priority and many countries still not open to US travelers, domestic trips and road trips continue to reign supreme. For those without their own wheels, that means renting a car.
In fact, many of the best car rental companies are seeing such high demand that there’s a nationwide shortage. In addition to it being just plain hard to find a rental right now, prices have skyrocketed – in some cases to as high as $700 per day. As an alternative, some travelers are looking for cheaper car rentals or last-minute options via peer-to-peer rental services. That’s where Turo comes in.
Whether you’re looking to get out of town in style, tear out into the wilds, or just avoid the line at Hertz, Turo, the sharing economy’s answer to car rentals, may be the solution to your woes. What’s more? You can also now earn a little (quasi-)passive income renting your own wheels out, too.
What is Turo?
Turo is a peer-to-peer service along the lines of Airbnb or Vrbo, but for vehicles. The website (also an app) allows you to connect with individual owners who set their own prices, and to some degree, their own terms and conditions.
I’ve tried Turo in two widely different capacities. My first trip was a weeklong escapade in a 1986 Volkswagen camper van through the Pacific Northwest of the US, camping along the coast. My second was simply a means of getting from Miami International Airport down to a beach house rental in the Florida Keys in an Audi A6 convertible.
Both experiences were delightful departures from absolutely every vehicle rental experience I’ve ever had and proved why Turo is an excellent alternative to standard rental car options.
How does renting a car from Turo work?
Signing up for Turo is a breeze. Plug in your email address or sign up through your Facebook or Google account, put in a few personal details, and you’ll receive a confirmation email to prove your identity and eligibility as a driver (license required).
Searching for a car is exactly like hunting for a vacation rental on Airbnb. Enter the name of the place you’re going, your scheduled dates, and either select the type of car you’re after or sift through the 850-plus unique makes and models within Turo’s database of hundreds of thousands of vehicles across more than 5,500 cities across the United States and the United Kingdom.
Of course, you’ll have better luck finding your dream car in more metropolitan areas, at least for now.
Car pickups vary from owner to owner, but if you’re lucky, the vehicle will be brought right to you. You can also filter for this option, which I highly recommend.
As with any rental, upon receiving the car, make sure to do the whole once around to ensure it’s in good shape. After simply showing your license, the car is yours.
When you’re finished with your trip, top up the gas to match where the needle was on the gauge when you picked it up before returning the car. If you don’t manage to refill the gas tank, you’ll pay a prorated fee per gallon (usually steeper than the prices you’d find at the pump). You can also opt for insurance and varying degrees of coverage just as you can with a traditional agency.
Give the car another pass with the owner or the representative present, hand over the keys, and you’re all set. The owner might offer to meet you at the airport before your flight, or drop you off somewhere, but this is case by case, and you’ll usually have to arrange that ahead of time. Reviews, as with anything in the sharing economy, are encouraged (and the owner ought to do the same for you).
How much does Turo cost?
The price of cars on Turo varies greatly and is entirely dependent on the make, model, and owner setting the price. However, Turo is frequently a more affordable experience compared with many of the rental agencies.
Looking two weeks out at rentals in San Francisco, for example, Turo’s rental prices start at a $25-a-day 2010 Mazda 6 (plus insurance, but more on insurance below), while, due to the surge in demand currently, an entry-level rental at Hertz in San Francisco will run you $149 (and you’re not guaranteed the vehicle you select at checkout) before getting to insurance.
Though using Turo as a more affordable car rental option is certainly a good use right now, the real fun starts in the $150 to $200 range. While that price would likely land you a Buick Regal “or similar” at a standard rental company during non-shortage times, you can land a Tesla Model 3 for a similar price on Turo. I’m no snob, but given the choice, and the level of service (pickup at your door), the choice seems like a no-brainer.
Of course, those who have a little money to burn could also pick up a Ferrari in California ($539/day), but insurance through Turo on such premium cars will run you upwards of $100 per day.
Do I need to buy insurance for Turo?
If you already have car insurance, consult your company first, as they may cover you (as they would with traditional agencies) depending on your level of insurance. If you’re purchasing insurance through Turo, there are five different levels of insurance to consider, but you’ll be covered through your rental with basic liability insurance through Liberty Mutual for up to $750,000, and it starts just shy of $20 per day.
My review of Turo
Having lived in a camper van in a past life, I’m all too eager to jump at the chance to relive it whenever I can. So when Turo’s team wrote and asked if I’d like to try out a vintage VW camper van, I didn’t hesitate to take them up on it. Off I went to Seattle.
The owner arranged to pick me up with Gretel (the stunningly pristine specimen of an automobile you see above) so I could prove my capabilities with a manual transmission. Fair enough: I certainly wouldn’t entrust a classic vehicle to someone without vetting their driving skills first, either.
Granted, this is a special occurrence, and so long as you’re not renting a classic vehicle with a manual transmission, you probably won’t be put to the test. It should go without saying that no one ought to rent (or drive) a vehicle outside of their comfort capabilities.
After passing my short road test, I was free roam wherever I pleased (within reason) at the helm of Gretel for a week. I did, however, have a 1,500-mile limit, and would incur further charges if I surpassed it (0.75/mile). I ended up driving a couple of hundred miles over, which was a fee of about $150 more. Over the course of a week, getting to drive the Lost Coast of Northern California and sleep in the Redwood Forest though? Worth it.
The van also came stocked with everything I needed, from a sleeping bag, pillows, blankets, and sheets, down to a coffee pot, oatmeal, coffee, and kitchen cloths.
I dare you to try to find a hotel room on a cliff above the Pacific for less than $200 a night. You might luck out, but add the cost of a car rental to that. (Keep in mind that a Honda Accord will not exactly get you here.)
When you return someone’s pride-and-joy-on-wheels (keep in mind that old VW Vanagons are collectors’ items), they’re probably going to go over the thing with a fine-toothed comb. The owner of this particular vehicle did just that, and while I was embarrassed by the moderate disarray of things, he in turn told me I was the cleanest renter yet. Owners can potentially put up a fuss (just like with Airbnb), but the best course of action is to be considerate, courteous, and clean up after yourself. They expect to have to clean a little, but as with any rental or hospitality experience, there’s no need to go all Motley Crew on the poor set of wheels. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll end up paying for it.
After such a positive experience, I decided to try out Turo again during a road trip to the Florida Keys. This time, I was seeking a standard set of wheels to take me from the airport to my final destination. If you’ve ever picked up a car rental from the airport, you’re surely acquainted with issues that often pop up like long lines, faulty reservation systems, or just a super long walk from the terminal.
Save yourself the stress, and maybe the loss of your cool, and try Turo out at the airport. Arrange your car (at least 24 hours ahead of time to be safe), input your flight time, your ETA at arrivals, and your rental will be parked out front with either the vehicle’s owner or a representative on their behalf (there are a few small agencies using Turo, too). Show them your driver’s license, and off you go.
I went through this entire process without even the hint of a hitch and didn’t have to go searching for some far-flung rental agency outpost on the outskirts of the airport.
The Audi A6 was in immaculate shape, clean and detailed. The transition was smooth, and while I might not have mistaken it for a brand-spanking-new car fresh off the lot, it was in every bit as fine a shape as anything I’ve ever rented from Avis or Hertz.
Granted, just as with Airbnb, you’ll see some variation on a case-by-case basis. The difference between renting a 1980s-vintage VW Vanagon and a late-model sports car is about as immense as you could imagine. Think fully detailed interior versus a throw blanket over stained or torn upholstery. You’ll also be able to get a feel for the condition of the vehicle based on its profile online and reviews.
And again like Airbnb, your experience is going to largely depend on your host (they also receive ratings). Some hosts make renting vehicles on Turo their primary occupation; they’ll have a crew of drivers and a slew of vehicles. This was the case with the Audi I rented, and I felt like I received executive service as a result.
Are car rentals safe?
The CDC has stated that fully vaccinated people may safely travel in the US. If you’re wondering if renting a car is safe, we spoke to experts who say yes, as long as proper precautions are taken.
Turo has also updated its policies and guidelines to help ensure safety. Hosts are urged to disinfect cars after every trip, but guests booking cars should also bring their own wipes and sanitize all surfaces as an extra safety measure. It is also highly encouraged not to meet in person and instead, hosts should set up remote key handoffs via lockbox or via digitally upgrading to Turo Go if you’re located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, or San Diego.
Even if you’re not the adventurous type, Turo offers a convenience you don’t get with any of the big rental companies, and that makes all the difference.
This isn’t to say there isn’t still a time and place to use more traditional rental agencies; in remoter places, there’s a good chance you won’t find any Turo listings, and in the case of one-way trips, Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, and the like are all likely your only option, unless you can manage a special (albeit highly unlikely) arrangement with a Turo vehicle’s owner to meet you at your end destination.
Whether you’re heading out to the beach, up into the mountains, straight to a hotel room, or just looking for something a little spiffier or more functional (and fun) than a Chevy Malibu, it’s plainly and simply the easiest way to rent a car.
Pros: More affordable and convenient than most (if not all) vehicle rental agencies
Cons: Like Airbnb, quality control is tough (but improving), one-way rentals usually aren’t possible
While modern-day humans may not need to grow everything they plan to eat themselves, it’s certainly rewarding, and tasty, to make a salad sourced from your own backyard. And you don’t need a sprawling plot of land to get started. Whether you’re planning a greenhouse full of tomatoes or just want to grow a few herbs on your back deck, it qualifies as a garden.
Of course, gardens aren’t limited to veggies. Outdoor flower beds can make your backyard an inviting place for a BBQ or attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your patio all summer long. Outdoor gardening can be as labor-intensive as you’d like, or not, depending on what you plant and the level of maintenance and dedication you’re willing to provide. If you need recommendations, these are the best plants for your first garden.
From hoses and gloves to trowels and wheelbarrows, these are the items you’ll need in order to plant and maintain a thriving outdoor garden, no green thumb required.
Here are the best gardening tools for beginners in 2021
A good garden hose
You’ll need a hose when you start gardening, especially if you’re working in an area protected from the elements, like a greenhouse. Hose technology isn’t especially complicated, but you want to make sure your hose is durable enough to withstand being dragged through the yard without being inconvenient to move around. We tested seven hoses to find the hose with the best flow rate and sturdiest construction.
ColorStorm Garden Hose (50-ft) (small)Water Hose (50-ft) (small)Steel Hose (50-ft) (small)
An adjustable nozzle or spray head for your hose
Nozzles allow you to control the water pressure while watering, which is vital, especially with delicate flowers and newly-sprouted fruits and veggies. Buy a nozzle that rotates to avoid getting your hose twisted and kinked up. For more information on how to choose a nozzle, check out our guide to the best garden hose nozzles.
10-Pattern Garden Hose Nozzle (small)RelaxGrip Watering Wand (small)Adjustable Twist Hose Nozzle (small)
A plant starter kit to get going
Whether you’ve got outdoor space for rows of vegetables or plans for an urban garden on your patio, you’ll need to let your seeds first grow somewhere protected and safe (if you’re buying seedlings, you can skip this step). Seeds are usually quite dainty and not hearty enough to withstand wind and weather like established plants would. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to sprout seeds inside, even without direct sunlight.
Garden gloves are for far more than just keeping your hands clean, though they do an excellent job of that, too. Some soils and planting materials can have tiny pieces that might poke your hands, and some vegetables, like squash, can grow prickly stems and leaves. Gloves can also make it easier to grip gardening tools or heavy bags of mulch. Consult our guide to the best gardening gloves to find the ones that suit your needs.
Bamboo Gloves (small)Leather Work Gloves (small)Rose Pruning Gloves for Men and Women (small)
Extra protection for plants from nature and the elements
This is a broad category, and what you’ll need depends on the type of garden you have. If you’re growing plants in the backyard, you might need a plastic greenhouse to protect plants from bunnies and deer who might beat you to eating your fresh veggies. Or, it may be that you live in a place with unexpected variations in weather or cold spells, and your flowers need a little extra cover to keep them from wilting.
Protective Garden Bell Covers (small)Mini Greenhouse (small)Frost Blanket (small)
A trusty hand trowel
If you have no other gardening tools whatsoever, at least have a trowel. There’s no way around having one, and they’re extremely affordable. Outdoor gardeners will need them for everything from planting to rearranging soil, and even those with just one or two houseplants will need one when it comes time to repot or mix in new dirt. If you’re looking for a more heavy duty tool, check out our guide to the best gardening shovels.
All Pro 202S Trowel (small)4 Piece Garden Tool Set (small)
A cultivator for turning soil
The other tool you’ll need is a cultivator, which is closely related to a hand rake, though the former is better for digging. You’ll find a variety of uses for this product, but it’s most useful for turning soil or mixing last year’s soil in with new dirt or fertilizer. It’s also handy for pulling weeds.
Hand Cultivator (2-pack) (small)Hand Fork (small)ErgieShovel Four-Tine Cultivator (small)
A watering can to control output and prevent water stains
If you’re growing plants indoors or on a deck, you’ll need a watering can (it’ll probably come in handy for outdoor gardeners, too) since a hose can be a bit of overkill for younger or delicate plants. Though you can use a bucket in a punch, the specially shaped spout on watering cans eliminates drips that can leave water stains on deck railings and other porous surfaces.
1/2 Gal. Modern Style Stainless Steel Watering Can (small)Watering Can (small)
A wheelbarrow for carrying heavy loads
A wheelbarrow is likely the most expensive piece of gardening equipment you’ll buy, but it’s a lifesaver for anyone who needs to carry heavy bags of potting soil and mulch to their beds or greenhouse. Picking up a 20-lb bag of soil incorrectly can strain your back for weeks, so unless you’re regularly lifting weights at the gym, it’s smart to invest in a wheelbarrow.
Poly Garden Cart (small)Garden Dump Cart (small)7-cu ft Poly Yard Cart (small)
Self-watering tools to take care of plants when you’re away from home
If you live alone or grow plants in an area with gated access like a deck, you’ll probably want some way to water your plants when you’re not home. If you’re going to be gone for a long weekend, taking vacation, or have small plants that need daily attention, using these self-watering tools could be the deciding factor on whether you come home to wilty seedlings or thriving plants.
Large Water Globe (two-Pack) (small)Terra Cotta Lucca Plastic Self Watering Window Box (small)Self-Watering Pot Reservoirs (small)
A pest control solution
No matter where or what you’re growing, you’ll probably find that your veggie and flower leaves are irresistible to some bugs. If you’ve noticed too many holes in your leaves for your liking, or, worse, that the bugs are killing your plants, you’ll need a pest control solution. Just remember that some bugs, like ladybugs and spiders, can be good for your garden by eating other bugs that can damage your plants.
Deadbug Brew (small)Final Stop Insect Killer (small)Large Yellow Sticky Traps (small)
Sun protection for your skin
Many flowers and crops do better with full sun, but unfortunately, your skin doesn’t. Being outside in the yard on sunny days can burn your skin in as little 30 minutes, so it’s smart to keep some sunscreen in your greenhouse or garden toolkit. Opt for a two-in-one sunscreen and bug repellant if you live in an area with mosquitoes. If you’re looking for mineral sunscreen, we spoke with a dermatologist to get recommendations.
If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.
Arrive Outdoors partners with top brands to rent outdoor, camping, and ski gear.
The company offers everything from one-off items like tents to full collections and sets of gear.
Prices start from $1 per day, but range depending on season, number of rental days, and popularity.
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Over the last year, there’s been a steep rise in the popularity of camping and other outdoor pursuits that make it easier to practice social distancing.
In fact, according to KOA’s North American Camping Report, 46% of leisure travelers have spent significantly more time outdoors since the start of the pandemic. Even those who typically prefer a more luxurious hotel-style stay have been keen to take up camping, and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue this summer too.
For those who don’t typically do much hiking or camping, investing in new equipment to get started can be expensive. While many campgrounds are quite cheap to book, tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, hiking boots, and other essentials are not. And for city dwellers who lack roomy sheds, basements, or even closet space, there’s also the question of where to store everything.
Enter Arrive Outdoors, a company that rents camping, outdoor, and ski/snowboard equipment. Customers choose the items they want, the number of days they want to use them, and get them shipped right to their front door. After a fun weekend hiking and curling up by the campfire, just pack it all back up and ship it back.
What is Arrive Outdoors?
Arrive Outdoors is a company that partners with top brands to rent out camping and outdoor equipment. You can rent everything from tents and sleeping bags to ski pants and snowshoes and can choose a window of days to rent the gear. When finished, all gear is easily returned so there’s no need to own or store all your own equipment.
The gear is sent directly to your door via FedEx and comes with return shipping labels to send it back once you’re done. You can rent both equipment and clothes, though most of the equipment is for camping (you can’t rent actual skis, for example).
For those who only camp, hike, ski, or snowboard occasionally, want to try gear out before committing to buying it, or just want to save on storage space, Arrive Outdoors is an excellent option.
How much does Arrive Outdoors cost?
Rentals are priced per day so the total cost depends on how long you plan to use it. The prices also fluctuate quite a bit depending on the time of year and how many other people are looking to rent at the same time.
Small items like trekking poles or even hiking boots go for as little as $1 to $5 per day, depending on the season, while a two-person tent typically runs roughly $12 per day. Full sets like ski clothes for men (including everything from base layers to the ski jacket and gloves) costs closer to $80 per day.
If you’re willing to enter your email into the Arrive Outdoors database, you can also receive 10% off your first rental of $99 or more.
Where does Arrive Outdoors deliver?
Arrive Outdoors delivers anywhere in the contiguous United States via FedEx. Delivery is extremely easy and comes right to your door. You can even choose to get your equipment delivered to your home, a hotel, an Airbnb, or to one of over 10,000 FedEx or FedEx affiliate locations.
Arrive Outdoors COVID-19 policies
Arrive Outdoors has new policies in place specifically for COVID-19 that include:
Gear and apparel are thoroughly cleaned and treated with CDC-recommended cleaning solutions;
All apparel goes through a commercial launder system and gets treated with laundry additives to fight viruses and bacteria;
All staff who handle gear or shipments are required to use disposable gloves at all times and use sanitizer frequently and between stations;
All product surfaces are cleaned with CDC-recommended disinfectants.
My review of Arrive Outdoors
I’m no newbie to camping and typically have my camping packing list set. However, storing camping gear in my small Brooklyn apartment presents quite a challenge, and since I don’t camp as often as I used to, many of my bigger essentials like tents, sleeping pads, and coolers are currently stowed with my parents in New Mexico.
Because of that, I decided to try out Arrive Outdoor’s Camping Set for Two for my fiance and me (which was comped for review purposes). I also wanted to experience what it would be like if I had no equipment of my own and needed to rely exclusively on Arrive Outdoor’s supply.
The Camping Set prices fluctuate quite a bit. Though they start as low as $23 per day, the kit typically runs closer to $55 per day in the fall season. However, I went over an August weekend when camping was at peak popularity and the set ran $83 per night. For an entire weekend trip, I was looking at $166, plus a shipping charge of $20.
While that may seem pricey to rent gear and sleep on the ground, the set comes loaded with just about everything you need. This includes a high-quality Marmot tent, two Nemo sleeping bags, two Therma-a-Rest luxury sleeping pads, two headlamps, a lantern outfit with charging ports, a small YETI cooler, a camp stove and cooking pots, and two foldable camp chairs. If I bought everything included on the list, it’d run more than $1,600, which suddenly makes the $160 price tag much more reasonable.
The reservation process was also very easy and Arrive Outdoors allows you to reserve for free – it only charges your card once the gear actually ships. I also liked that it gave me options when choosing the sleeping bag for how warm I wanted it to be.
The gear arrived in two large boxes right on time and directly to my door. Everything was neatly packed and there was a note on the top outlining the brand’s new cleaning policy. This definitely helped put my mind at ease about renting gear in the COVID era and true to its word, all the equipment was spotless.
The gear was also in excellent shape. I found no rips or tears in the tent or sleeping bags, and no missing tent poles or required components. I’d still recommend looking everything over and even pitching the tent once before embarking on an extended trip. There’s nothing worse than arriving at an isolated location miles away from home before realizing your tent zipper doesn’t work or your headlamp is broken.
Our campsite was a short, two-hour drive away and we arrived just before dusk on a Friday afternoon. Because it wasn’t my usual tent, I did end up having to pull up a short Youtube video to check how the poles were supposed to connect after some initial confusion. Despite that, I still felt that the equipment was extremely user-friendly, and setting up the tent a second time would’ve taken mere minutes after I’d gotten the hang of it.
All the extra equipment worked flawlessly and nearly everything we needed was included. However, there were a few key items missing that those who have never camped before could easily overlook. I’d recommend bringing some sort of pillow (inflatable or otherwise), a sturdy tarp in case of severe weather, and fire starters, at a bare minimum.
Overall, the equipment made for a comfortable and easy campsite. I particularly liked that the tent was actually a three-person tent, making it a bit roomier for both my fiance and me. The lantern that doubled as a charging port was especially handy and I’m even considering buying the same one now to add to my regular camping kit. We even took the camp chairs down to the beach and it made for an easy way to relax and enjoy the sunset view.
When we got back, we made sure everything was packed back up, put it all back into the boxes with the pre-printed return shipping labels affixed, and dropped it off at a nearby FedEx. Do note that the boxes are big and heavy and if you don’t have a car, it can be a serious pain to get them to a drop-off location. I ended up needing to use a dolly just to wheel them to the drop-off.
The bottom line
My overall experience with Arrive Outdoors was an excellent one and I definitely plan to use it again this summer for my outdoor and camping gear needs. The company is very useful for those who are new to outdoor pursuits, want to try out equipment before buying, or who live in smaller spaces and don’t have the storage space for gear like tents or snowshoes.
The prices are especially reasonable for one-off items such as renting a single tent, a set of trekking poles, or a pair of gloves. However, the full sets make activities like camping and skiing more accessible for those who aren’t quite ready to invest in the gear required to get started – and it still offers great value when compared to the full retail prices of what’s included.
If you do plan to hike, ski, or camp often, it’s worth it to invest in your own equipment since rental prices add up over time, but for the occasional outing, Arrive Outdoors is a smart and worthy option.
It’s crucial to stay hydrated while exercising, particularly in the heat.
Hydration packs make it easy and comfortable to carry liters of water on a run, hike, or bike ride.
The Osprey Skarab 18 hydration pack is comfortable and holds 2L of water plus all your hiking essentials.
You know it’s important to stay hydrated on a hike, run, bike ride, or literally any adventure in exercising. But carrying a water bottle or and having to constantly stop to pull it out of your pack gets old quick.
Hydration packs are the ideal way to make carrying and accessing water easier and minimize stoppage time. The best hydration packs not only have a pouch big enough to hold 1+ liters of water, but they also provide storage for snacks, layers, a first aid kit, and any other essentials you might need on a day hike or run. What’s more, the pack also needs to be comfortable, breathable, and quick-drying to not weigh down your adventure.
Osprey’s Skarab 18 is the only day-hiking hydration pack you’ll need, thanks to its high-quality construction, internal frame that keeps it comfortable mile after mile, and easy-to-access water reservoir.
Pros: Comfortable to wear even over several hours, extra-wide clip-on water reservoir allows for easy cleaning and refills, 2.5-liter capacity is perfect for long day hikes, offers plenty of interior storage, and the ventilated foam frame helps avoid excess sweat
Cons: Too small for longer backpacking trips
Osprey has consistently made some of the finest backpacks for decades, so it’s no surprise that the Osprey Skarab 18 also happens to be our favorite hydration pack.
It’s the ideal size for a day hike, weighing just over one pound with enough storage space for hiking essentials. Its foam frame allows for great ventilation, keeping your back cool and mostly sweat-free. Like all its packs, Osprey decked out the Skarab with plenty of straps to allow for the ultimate custom fit, regardless of who’s wearing it.
But what makes this bag truly shine is the large, 2.5-liter water pouch, which should keep you hydrated for most day hikes. Additionally, its extra-wide clip opening makes it easy to add more water or clean the reservoir after use. The pack even has a magnetic bite valve attachment that allows it to quickly attach to the Skarab’s sternum strap, allowing for easy access.
Added extras like stretch mesh pockets on the side of the pack, a scratch-free stash pocket, removable hip belts, and external bungees for more gear are Osprey staples and only add to the pack’s overall quality. Osprey’s Skarab 18 is simple when it needs to be yet versatile and technical for those who demand it.
The best for male runners
Runners don’t want anything weighing them down, and CamelBak’s HydroBak weighs just five ounces — before being filled with water, of course.
Pros: Weighs just five ounces without water, mesh back panel and harness aid in ventilation, new Crux reservoir allows 20% more water per drink, and its leak-proof valves are easy to flick on or off
Cons: Doesn’t offer much in the way of storage (not that runners need much of it, anyway)
A running-specific hydration pack should sinch down tight and comfortable, and be able to carry enough water for long miles. Camelbak’s HydroBak has a mesh back panel and harness to help with ventilation and keeping you cool. Its reflective accents help with visibility for early or late runs.
Uniquely, the HydroBak features a Crux reservoir which lets you pull a full 20% more water with each swig. That means less time sucking on the tube and more time focusing on your stride. Additionally, the pack features easy-to-use leak-proof valves that you can flip on or off with a gentle push for less wasted water and no fumbling with the tube while running.
CamelBak also outfitted the Crux with a leak-proof cap and coated the tube with its anti-microbial HydroGuard technology, which is 100% BPA free and reduces the risk of bacteria growth.
Though it’s small, the HydroBak still features a few zippered pockets perfect for keeping energy gels, granola bars, and some cash for those well-earned post-run beers.
The best for female runners
The Salomon ADV Skin 8 is specifically designed to sinch down on the female figure, and can carry 1 liter of water with the option of adding a reservoir in the back.
Pros: Female-specific design, adjustable to fit different chest sizes, soft material, 2 soft 500ml flasks included, many mesh and zipper pockets, room to carry warm layer
Cons: Expensive, straws can be a bit tricky to adjust
While females can wear any hydration pack, they’ll be the most comfortable in the Salomon ADV Skin 8. Designed by one of the leading trail running brands today, the ADV Skin 8 is uniquely shaped to sinch down tight around female curves so your pack isn’t throwing off your momentum. Specifically, this pack was crafted to alleviate pressure on your breasts and has an adjustable drawcord fasten in the front for a personalized fit. I’m small-chested and have lent this vest to friends as large-chested as 34DD who say it’s just as comfortable for bigger breasts.
While you can slide a traditional reservoir in the back of the pack, the other feature that makes Salomon running vests so great is their integrated soft flasks. Two half-liter water flasks sit on either side of your chest in a soft mesh pocket, allowing for quick water access mid-run.
Additionally, this pack has mesh and zippered pockets strategically placed in nooks and crannies, as well as down the back, to stash everything from car keys to a warm layer. You can even move the elastic cords and loops around to carry trail running poles wherever feels most comfortable to you.
I’ve been running in this hydration vest for two years and the only bad words I have to say about it is it’s expensive (but, in my opinion, worth it for runners) and the straw on the included flasks might need to be cut down, which can be a little tricky to do. –Rachael Schultz, Health and Fitness Updates Editor
The best for day hikes
The Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 is a day hiker’s dream, offering 7 liters of storage, strategically-placed tool organizing loops and compartments, and a huge, three-liter water reservoir.
Pros: Plenty of storage options despite its modest 7L capacity, external tool and gear loops, capable of fitting many different body types, comes standard with huge three-liter BigZip water reservoir and magnetic hose, and FloatAir back panel offers comfort for even the longest day hikes
Platypus’s Duthie A.M. 10.0 has plenty of internal and external storage options with a 7L capacity, perfect for short jaunts into the backcountry or several mile excursions. Its strategic approach to organization also means you won’t be digging past your car keys to get to your snacks — everything has its own place in the pack.
When it comes to the Duthie’s hydration capability, few companies deliver as well as Platypus. Featuring a large three-liter reservoir, the brand’s patented BigZip water pouch features a magnetic hose clip and also offers wearers the ability to route the house in multiple ways — a welcome function not typically seen in hydration packs.
For hardcore day hikers who also have other activities in mind, the Duthie also offers a useful carry system designed to hold pads or full-face helmets and even sports a fleece-lined pocket perfect for stashing a pair of shades.
Additionally, the pack easily conforms to a variety of body shapes and sizes with just a few adjustments of its straps and hip belt. After finding the perfect fit, Platypus’ FloatAir back panel keeps you mostly sweat-free and comfortable, no matter how long the hike.
The best for cycling
Forget reaching down for any built-in water bottle holders because with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, staying hydrated while biking is as easy as simply drinking out of a straw.
Pros: Insulated water reservoir pocket keeps liquids cool for up to four hours, mesh back panel keeps airflow at a maximum, interior organization capable of holding a variety of items without feeling cluttered, and its easily adjustable straps are capable of fitting almost any body type
Cons: Limited reflective details
While most bikes have space for attaching a water bottle holder, a hydration pack makes staying quenched much easier and Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack is perfectly fit for the job.
This pack has an insulated pocket to carry its 2.5-liter water reservoir, which will keep your water cool for up to four hours. The pack is also designed to keep your body heat from warming the water.
Gelindo included several storage pockets capable of holding energy bars and car keys, and bigger compartments to hold a spare change of clothes, larger items of food, or spare tubes. Organization also scores highly as it’s easy to reach for and access any of the interior contents, no matter how full the pack gets.
It’s no secret cyclists care about comfort and with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, finding a perfectly comfortable fit is easily done via its adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. Furthermore, its ergonomic mesh back allows for steady airflow to keep you from overheating, keeping you comfortable throughout the entirety of your ride.
The best for commuting
Gregory’s Inertia 30 makes it easy to stay hydrated while commuting with its easy-access water tube, ample interior storage, and comfortable shoulder harness.
Pros: Plenty of storage for whatever the workday requires, quick-drying 3L water reservoir is easy to fill up and features an integrated drying hangar, hydration sleeve auto-centers the water pouch to stabilize weight, versatile enough to even act as a day-hiking pack
Even just commenting to wor requires energy, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The Gregory’s Inertia 30 is designed to not only quench thirst but also to pack a work day’s worth of gear. Be it a laptop, notebook, tablet, or otherwise, the Inertia offers enough interior storage space to tote along whatever the day calls for.
It even features several exterior pockets perfect for storing items that need to be quickly accessible, as well as a padded zippered pocket designed for sunglasses or house keys.
Gregory includes a quick-drying 3L water reservoir that has a built-in drying hangar, perfect for airing it out to avoid mold or mildew buildup. The Inertia’s dedicated hydration sleeve makes it easy to just toss the reservoir into the pack, and it automatically stabilizes the pouch’s weight to the center of your back. Gregory even made the reservoir’s tube magnetic, making it easy to take on and off.
Though we chose it for its ability to act as a commuter bag, the Inertia 30 also excels as a day-hiking pack, offering exterior loops for trekking poles, compression straps on either side, and load lifters that help stabilize the pack when it gets heavy.
At $120, it’s not the cheapest bag of the bunch but considering what it offers, and the Gregory name also means supreme durability, the Inertia 30 is worth every penny.