We all view our own dads as being the original — the original outdoorsman, the original watch collector, the original hip photographer, the original enthusiast. Proof of his passion exists in browning 35mm photographs cataloged in binders under a bed or at the back of a closet. Also in these spaces is some of the gear that he wore on those adventures, that is, the items that haven’t already been pilfered.
We’ve all done it. Dad knew his stuff, and we recognized it, and then we took his stuff. Sometimes these things were given freely, on loan for finite or undefined periods. In other moments we sacrificed a shake of morality, succumbed to an impulse and took gear without asking. We’re sorry, Dad. But you have great taste, and it rubbed off on us. Here are the things we stole from you, and the reasons why.
Leatherman PST II
The more I think about it, I stole an astounding amount of gear from my dad. An original iPod, books, a record or two, a pair of speakers, a clock radio. It’s not my fault he had good taste. Somehow though, the memorable one is an old Leatherman PST II that was in his toolbox — leather case included. It’s been stuffed in one drawer of mine or another for the better part of a decade. It’s gladly performed any strange task I can think of, and I’ve been able to put off purchasing a toolkit, a knife, a pair of scissors or a file. Also — thanks to the way early Leatherman tools didn’t lock into place — it’s donated a fair share of scars to my hands. I guess you take the bad with the good. — Henry Phillips, Deputy Photography Editor
Nikon EM 35mm Camera
My dad bought a Nikon EM for photojournalism classes he took in college. It’s a very basic Nikon model (EM stands for “economy model”), and was marketed as a lighter, more affordable camera than the higher-end Nikons of the time. When I started taking photography classes in middle school, my dad let me borrow it and it’s been mine ever since. It’s not anything special from a technical standpoint, but it’s my go-to when I am shooting and want an expected result. Built in 1979, the camera has some wear-and-tear on it and produces some pretty regular light leaks. But having shot with the camera for almost 20 years, I more often than not use the leaks to my advantage with certain light. It’s definitely one of my treasured possessions from my dad. — Ryan Brower, Content Producer, Gear Patrol Studios
An Unidentifiable North Face Tent
I have childhood memories of a purple, geodesic tent. They were there in high school when my dad let me borrow it to go camping with friends. They were eclipsed by new ones then, which consist mostly of struggling against its many poles in the dark and ultimately deciding to sleep in the car. In college I borrowed it again while my dad was out of town, hoping that he wouldn’t miss it (eventually, he did). I had more experience camping at this point and more success in setting it up, too. It became my home off and on during a planless summer after graduation (after I learned that primitive camping is free in state forests). I bought my own tent later that summer, but I think of this one as my first, and honestly, I can’t remember if I ever gave it back. — Tanner Bowden, Associate Staff Writer
Jansport Brass Bed 3
There was a crusty old sleeping bag that sat in the basement. It remained there, unused for many years, until my sister and I were born and the requisite backyard campouts began. That was all I knew of the green and yellow Jansport sleeping bag. It wasn’t until later in life that I learned its history: winter treks in the Sierra Nevada mountains and trips to the Yosemite Valley. I never knew of my dad’s former life as an outdoor adventurer. I learned about it through the Jansport. Throughout my own early explorations of the outdoors, I brought it with me — in a way reliving the adventures that my dad had experienced 25 years before. It smelled weird, and wasn’t terribly warm, but it had history, and it was far better than the 15lb L.L. Bean sleepover-ready sleeping bag that was option number two. I still have the Jansport, and though it’s been replaced by more modern examples from Montbell, it remains in my kit. — AJ Powell, Assistant Editor
Dale of Norway-esque Hat with Brant Lake Embroidery
Skiing is the one sport in which my little family of four can all participate. Starting when I was two, my parents had me on skis. Turns out, as long as a child can stand, you can pretty much hold them on skis with a leash. While a kid can sometimes crush your style, my Dad was never going to let that affect him.
To give you an idea of my dad’s style, he wears a lot of polo shirts and still pops his collar. It’s endearing. It turns out, the equivalent of popping your collar on the ski slopes is wearing a bright red hat, always. His vibrant knit beanie is embroidered with a Dale of Norway-vibe white print, has a red and white pompom on top, and ‘Brant Lake’ is embroidered into the bottom edge. It’s easy to spot.
Brant Lake is a small-ish town upstate (north of Albany, so yes, upstate) where his side of the family has been going for over 100 years; the hat may be just as old. Jokes aside, growing up I thought this hat was the coolest ski accessory, but considering that my dad wears it every single time we ski together, there has never been a chance for me to rock it. This particular hat is hard to find, so inevitably every time we go skiing up near Brant Lake, someone approaches my dad and asks where he got it. Since it’s older than dirt, he’s never able to help anyone out, but that only added to the allure for me.
Then the day came when I was finally old enough to take a group of friends to the lake house, and we needed extra layers (one friend was flying in from Florida). What better layer to add than a dad hat? I proudly rocked the bright red hat all weekend long, relishing in the fact that it was my one weekend to wear it. While the 72 hours (it was a long one) flew by, I have plenty of photo evidence to document the hat in all its glory. Maybe one day I’ll have it for myself, but until then, Dad’s still rocking it. — Meg Lappe, Staff Writer
Carhartt Journeymen Belt
I spent the better part of four summers working for my dad’s construction company. My first summer, I didn’t get a paycheck. “You’ve been living rent-free for sixteen years,” was always said with a smirk. Less out of spite and more out of necessity, I commandeered the majority of my workwear from my dad’s closet. This belt (on its last notch), helped hold up my shorts that were two sizes too big. I pay too much for rent now, but at least my belt is free. — Chase Pellerin, Staff Photographer
Fuzzy ’90s Field & Stream Pullover
I grew up in northern Michigan, where winter lasts seven-plus months, summer lasts for maybe three and the transitional seasons lean toward… being pretty darn cold. In a climate like that, my dad wore this thick synthetic pullover practically everywhere, making for excellent dad hugs and a great makeshift pillow during long car rides.
It’s a textured weave on the inside, and extremely soft and fuzzy on the outside — very warm, very cozy and just what I needed when I went away to college. I borrowed the pullover from my dad back in 2010 (thank you, Dad, thank you) and it’s been a well-worn staple ever since. — Andy Frakes, Editorial Assistant
Eddie Bauer Goose Down Vest (1977)
I found this buried in my dad’s closet on my first trip home from college. Truth be told, I have no memories of him wearing it — we lived in Florida — but that’s probably for the best. It is, bar none, the ugliest thing I own; I mean, just look at that color. I rarely wear it but I might break it out a couple times a year. I have never once received a compliment. — Jack Seemer, Senior Associate Editor