When you spend your days obsessing over trend forecasting, user interaction, pixel-based grids, and color forecasting, you can get pretty obsessive about design in general. Many graphic designers are also armchair photographers, architects, and industrial designers (if they don’t already professionally overlap) just because of their attention to detail and appreciation of thoughtful design. 

With that in mind, here is the first annual Incline Design Group Gear Guide: a few products that stand out to us for their intentional design, high quality, and potential to be the unexpected hit of the holidays. 

The ultimate barometer for this gift guide: Scott has either put these products through their paces, or wants one soooo bad.

Fellow Stagg EKG Electric Kettle

The first time I saw this electric kettle it was love at first sight. The aesthetic of the kettle and countertop heating element is beautiful, and with the color and finish options they offer, these can cleanly fit into any kitchen. The functionality of this kettle is also beautifully thought out (I particularly love the 60-minute temperature hold, so if you get distracted flipping through Pantone swatches or watching a strategy video on YouTube, the water will still be hot when your Coffee Brain yells, Feed me!). Also be sure to peruse their site for equally well-designed tea kettles and their Monty Milk Art Cups.

Shop Fellow Products »

BioLite BaseLantern XL

Great for the campground or to have around the house in case the power goes out (or the kiddos want to have a dance party), this is one of those super geeky products that just makes you say yes so many times. This lantern is all LED based, so not only will the 12,000 mAh battery last you all weekend, its two USB outputs can also charge your phone if you’ve been staring at maps (or Instagram) around the picnic table for too long. With built-in Bluetooth, you can turn it on and off from the tent or the back of the truck too. So slick.

Shop BioLite BaseLantern XL »

Moment Lenses

This past summer I spent 13 days walking the John Muir Trail. One of the harder decisions to make was whether my ultralight pack could carry another camera or if I should just use the already excellent camera on my iPhone and increase the phone’s utility, adding photo duties to its mapping, journaling, and emergency communication roles. I was skeptical of what Moment’s lenses could add to the quality of my phone’s photos, but man, am I impressed. I carried the Wide 18mm Lens, the Tele 58mm Lens, and the Anamorphic Lens, and I loved how each of them added to the already-impressive image quality I got from my phone. I also have to say that the Photo Case (which is necessary to attach the lenses) is one of my favorite phone cases I’ve used.

Shop Moment »

WACACO Nanopresso

I am still so excited to get my hands on one of these (hint, hint, Santa). It has some stellar reviews from people who are way geekier about their coffee than I am—which is definitely saying something. This is a hand-pumped espresso maker that is compact and well designed to easily fit in your carry-on or in your camp kitchen for the road. With an optional Barista Kit, you can up the water and ‘spro capacity to pull double shots vs. the standard singles.

Shop Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker »

Mission Workshop Axis Hip Pack

I love Mission Workshop bags. They are simply some of the most robust and best-built (here in the States, no less) carriers-of-your-stuff around. You certainly pay for the quality—so prepare yourself. But, the Vandal I’ve bike commuted with full-time through several winters still looks brand new, as does the Hauser that has sailed at high speed down single track and landed between my body and bike and the rocky ground (more than a few times). I took the Axis Hip Pack to Alaska on a bikepacking trip two summers ago, and it lived in the elements for two weeks of mud and rain and kept the contents inside almost completely dry…and it too still looks like new. If you like quality, Mission Workshop is the best I’ve seen and the benchmark by which I measure all others.

Shop Mission Workshop »

Scott Reinhard State Elevation Maps

We can’t always sit behind computers bathed in the lifeless glow of the internets, and these maps are a fantastic reminder that there’s a big world outside the window. Scott Reinhard is a designer who makes several series of printed maps, but his State Elevations series is my favorite. The detail in these projections is incredible. This is such a great gift for your favorite explorer (or yourself), and I plan to have a couple of these on the studio wall in short order.

Find Your State of Bliss, and Hang It on the Wall »

DOMA Trading Croatian Gifts

There is something so great about supporting local artisans and craftspeople, particularly when those people are from somewhere that’s close to your heart. And gifts with a purpose behind them are good for everyone involved. DOMA Trading is a family company (full disclosure—this is my family!) that is hand-sourcing and importing products from villages in Croatia. These are the kind of products that, if you grew up in a Balkan family, will resonate with familiarity and happy memories of your Baba. These products are handmade, one of a kind, and sure to bring a big smile to your friends and family.

Shop DOMA Trading »

Patagonia Brodeo Beanie

When I find something I like, I buy a few and wear the same thing every day. There is a polo shirt I really love that I own five of. Same size, all black. They just fit. I have two of the same shorts, two of the same pants…and two Brodeo Beanies in different colors. This hat is warm, it looks good, and as with anything from Patagonia, you know they’re working hard to make it as sustainable as possible. Not to mention it will last just about forever (sidebar: I have a Patty wind shirt and baselayer that are 18 and 30 years old, respectively, and I still wear them). Their stuff may not be the cheapest, but I believe the price is more than fair for the quality.

Shop Patagonia Brodeo Beanie »

Snow Peak Titanium Fork & Spoon Set

In an age of growing concern about sustainability and the wake of trash we leave behind us, products like the Snow Peak Titanium Fork & Spoon Set are increasingly relevant. Not only is this a fantastic set of lightweight, non-bio-reactive, low-heat-conducting silverware for your backcountry® adventures, it is also an excellent piece of kit to keep in your office bag or EDC to reduce your reliance on plastic.

Shop Snow Peak Utensils »

Modernica Case Study Ceramics

Based in Los Angeles, Modernica is a small furniture shop making some beautiful products for your home. I fell in love with their Pearl Lamp a couple years ago, and I’ve been drooling over their ceramics ever since. While this style of pot sits squarely in the too cool for me genre of hipness (I know you’ve been seeing these everywhere this year)—these are the real deal. Classic and robust pots, with substantial wood stands.

Shop Modernica »

Crate&Barrel Melamine and Acrylic Dishes

I have a Pelican Case we call the Kitchen, that lives in the Land Cruiser. It has spices, utensils, a set of dishes, and cocktail and wine glasses. I regularly get comments from people I’m camping with, asking where the great camp dishes came from—and they’re always surprised the answer is Crate&Barrel. Their melamine plates and bowls are so tough, so nice looking (and there seem to be new colors a couple times a year), and so easy to clean, while also being reasonably inexpensive, you’ll wonder why you ever had a different camp plate. Crate&Barrel also has a fantastic selection of acrylic glasses in every form and fashion—so you can have a full bar stocked in your truck and even serve in the correct glassware without worrying about your buddy tripping over the campfire or the pups stepping in broken glass. These aren’t sexy, but they are surprisingly cool.

Shop Crate&Barrel Melamine Dishes »
Shop Crate&Barrel Acrylic Glasses »

Outdoor Research Sensor Gloves

Last but so far from least are OR Sensor Gloves, to keep your fingies warm while also letting you operate your touchscreen device. OR makes some of the best-fitting gloves, with box construction that keeps your hands dextrous and eliminates weird cold spots. The Gripper Sensor Gloves have been my go-to for the ice and negative temps of Utah winter, year-round bike commuting in the drowning wet of the PNW, trail running, backpacking, working on the truck, and drinking beers at friends’ cabins.

Shop Outdoor Research Sensor Gloves »

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One day out of the blue, my buddy Craig (@OneofSevenProject) called me up and asked if I’d be interested in heading up to Alaska to do a bikepacking trip. The only correct answer to that question is always yes. Having done some bike touring in Alaska previously (in 2000 a friend and I pedaled from Prudhoe Bay, AK south to Southern California over about 5 months), I was eager to get back up north and explore more dirt roads and trails that I had missed on my previous trip.

A couple months later, we both agreed that we just needed to pull the trigger to make this happen. We both jumped online, looked at flights and debated dates—and before we knew it tickets were purchased. He was flying from Boston, and we would rendezvous in Portland, OR in the airport before taking separate flights about 40 minutes apart up to Anchorage. Game on.

Bikepacking in Alaska | Heading North from Valdez
Bikepacking in Alaska | Heading North from Valdez

We flew with our bikes to Anchorage and then pedaled north from Valdez to Fairbanks. It was a trip full of tough miles, lots of HAB (hike-a-bike), one curious brown bear inside our comfort circle, lots of rain, a couple head colds, and endless amazing views.

Bikepacking Alaska | Roadside Camping
Roadside Camping

We had heard about the possibility of bikepacking the Alaskan Pipeline access roads, and having both done previous bike touring across Alaska, we decided we needed to check it out. The pipeline is a monster, and requires a ROW, which is a permit to access this sliver of secured, private property that runs across the state of Alaska. Heavy rain and countless steep grades kept our average speed low as we settled into our first few days on the bikes. Not knowing if there would be bear or moose around the corner while riding through dense vegetation also kept the excitement level high.

The geography of Alaska (and starting down south on the coast) meant we faced the majority of our climbing in the first days of the trip. The same mountains we would climb over were also acting as a barrier for Pacific storms, keeping us wet and muddy until we made it over Thompson Pass in the Chugach Mountains. Better weather and flatter roads were the payoff as we continued north.

Bikepacking Alaska | Carrying the bikes over a landslide
Carrying the bikes over the landslide
Bikepacking Alaska | Steep has a different meaning in Alaska
Steep has a different meaning in Alaska
Bikepacking Alaska | Pedaling the Pipeline access roads and trails
Pedaling the Pipeline. Thanks to Outdoor Research for the support and keeping us warm and dry.

We attempted to follow the ROW as much as possible, but between the over-zealous beavers, endless HABs, and the unknown conditions of remote dirt roads, our timeline to make it to Fairbanks and catch our flights home in a little less than 2 weeks meant we had to put in some highway miles.

The Richardson Highway took us north into the vast Alaskan interior. We had views of the Wrangell–St. Elias mountains to the east, and then the Alaska Range as we worked our way north to the turnoff for the Denali Highway.

Bikepacking Alaska | Denali Highway
The start of the Denali Highway
Bikepacking Alaska | Dirt for Happiness
Dirt for Happiness
Bikepacking Alaska | Airing out the tents after several days of rain
Airing out the tents after several days of rain

The highlight of our trip had to be the Denali Highway. Both of us were blown away by the scenery along what is said to be one of the top 3 highways in North America. Forward progress was constantly interrupted by one view after another as the highway switched between sweeping pavement and dirt. It’s hard to put into words the scale and beauty of this route as it cuts east–west across Alaska, ending at the Parks Highway, just south of the entrance to Denali National Park.

Bikepacking Alaska | Pedaling towards Denali
@ScottyIDG Pedaling towards Denali

We decided to take the time to stop in the park and play tourist for a couple days. Despite the rain the first day that kept us in our tents, sleeping well into the late morning, Denali came out in grand fashion. It was spectacular and a well-spent 2 days of rest and recovering off the bikes.

Bikepacking Alaska | The view from here
The view from here
Bikepacking Alaska | The view from here
@OneofSevenProject enjoying the view
Bikepacking Alaska | Denali National Park
The mountain comes out! Denali National Park

Inclement weather, physical discomfort, and challenging terrain are part of any big trip into the mountains, but despite these, bikepacking in the Great North was incredible. We both agreed it was a success and we were ready to keep pedaling rather than get on planes to return home, as our bodies and minds were just settling into the daily ritual of moving ourselves long distances through the mountains. Unfortunately, the ‘real world’ was calling us back.

Friends for 15 years, we agree that vacations, and even life, aren’t about sitting in a resort or behind a desk, but about getting outside one’s comfort zone and sleeping in the dirt. We also realize how lucky we both are to have a buddy who is down for the big ideas and crazy outdoor adventures we dream up while stuck in the daily grind. Cheers to all the crazy friends and plus-ones out there who are down for adventure at the drop of a dime!

Bikepacking Alaska | The view from here
The view from here
Bikepacking Alaska | Thanks to Big Agnes for the support
Thanks to Big Agnes for the support
Bikepacking Alaska | Denali Highway
Denali Highway
Bikepacking Alaska | on the Denali Highway after catching the Croatia World Cup Match (in the middle of nowhere!)
In the Interior of Alaska after a warm breakfast and catching the Croatia World Cup Match