Chris Keyes, champion of the Swiss Army Knife.
Chris Keyes, champion of the Swiss Army Knife. (Danilo Agutoli)

Why We’re Really Excited About the Encyclopedia of Gear

And how it's going to change the way you see all of your stuff


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In the middle of our fifth week of working on our Encyclopedia of Gear, I got embroiled in an e-mail thread that now, with 24 hours of distance, seems a little fanatical. The other parties involved were copy chief Sean Cooper, senior executive editor Michael Roberts, and senior editor Jonah Ogles—the latter being the designated point guard, dishing out sidebars and revisions for three months to make this issue a reality. The debate, which spanned 800 words, involved whether we should cut what seemed—to Sean and me—like an extravagant amount of verbiage on kite design to make room for what seemed—to me, at least—a criminally overlooked entry: Knife, Swiss Army. The ex­change wasn’t heated, but I think fervent and sweeping are fair descriptors. Which side won isn’t important. (See for yourself. Pwned!) The point is that, at ­Outside, we obsess over gear. 

But you knew that already. If you’re a subscriber, you’re aware of our two exhaustive Buyer’s Guides. If you read us online, you’ve seen our steady stream of reviews, lustful product shots, and camper-van porn. So why dedicate an entire additional issue to the stuff? Because there’s an untold story behind every piece of gear we use. That was the organizing principle behind all 119 entries—and what makes our coverage this month different from our normal review-and-drool approach. Many of the items we cover may seem banal: Nalgene bottles. Vibram soles. Energy gels. Jogging strollers. But we celebrate these things because either their origins are fascinating or their arrival in our world miraculously opened up new possibilities, improved our fitness, helped athletes set PRs, saved lives, or simply made being outside more fun. (For me, the jogging stroller did every one of those things.) 

For those of you encountering this concept on the web, we hope you will consider going to your local newsstand and buying a copy. If you do, you may notice that there's not a single photograph inside. When our creative director Hannah McCaughey floated that idea, I initially thought I needed to start looking at résumés. As usual, however, her vision was way ahead of mine. The gorgeous art­work provides the issue with a seamless quality that, combined with its timeless stories, we think will make it worthy of your coffee table for the next decade or more. 

From Outside Magazine, August 2015 Lead Photo: Danilo Agutoli