Gray’s Best 2018

Coffee at Dusk, by Brett James Smith


[by Mike Floyd]

Fishpond Teton Rolling Luggage

While providing traveling sportsmen with tools for the road, trail, and river, Fishpond is among the companies that have long maintained an environmentally conscious production ethic. And with the innovative new Teton rolling luggage set, it has added to its catalog of outdoor products that go easy on Mother Nature. The Teton Rolling Carry-On ($279), along with its larger counterpart, the Grand Teton ($399), is made from Fishpond’s unique 420d Cyclepond Fabric, which is composed of nylon recycled from commercial fishing nets and proves to be rugged, pliable, and abrasion resistant. Common features of the two bags are compression-molded, laminated bottoms; rope-haul handles on tops and fronts; and ventilated, mesh interior pockets with zippers and neoprene edges. Together, these components create bags that are easily organized, lightweight, and poised for adventure. The rolling carry-on features rod-tube attachments on each side and can fit in the overhead compartment of most any commercial plane, while the Grand Teton—weighing less than 12 pounds and designed for longer, more elaborate getaways—can hold six 4-piece rod tubes and all other necessary gear, and has two compartments that separate your everyday clothing and toiletries from your sporting essentials so your entire wardrobe doesn’t mingle with what you’ve worn on the river or in the field. Whether you’re taking a three-day escape to a nearby fishing cabin or flying into an Alaskan lodge for a week, Fishpond has you and your gear covered.

Vedavoo Rod Holster

Armed with a 2-weight, I waded for panfish in a Lowcountry river known to support a population of stripers. I brought numerous bream to hand, released them, and watched each colorful fighter make it to the safety of a nearby ledge—until one didn’t. The good news is that I had prepared for stripers by stringing up an 8-weight, but it remained 20 yards away, resting helplessly, while a substantial predator emerged from the dark heavy current to gorge on bluegills. I had no good options. Make a move for the bigger rod, and the bruiser spooks, but hook it with the matchstick 2-weight, and my troubles have just begun. So I stood waist deep, watching in awe as the neighborhood bully vacuumed victims from my formerly productive little haven before submarining back into the depths. Enter the new Rod Holster ($25) from Vedavoo, ideal for any angling scenario that brings with it a hint of the unknown. Simply drop the butt of the second rod through the Holster’s loop, buckle a strap over the cork to secure it in a tip-up position, and now it’s ready to use on short notice. It’s also out of harm’s way when it comes to casting, navigating the bow, or traversing a tricky river bottom. It’s a bargain for anyone who knows firsthand how quickly windows of opportunity can open and close.

Williams Knife Company Chattooga

That I have long pursued the perfect EDC—that’s Every Day Carry, if you’re not hip to the lingo—is reflected by the number of mostly forgotten knives scattered throughout my house and truck. Further, I have never been able to define exactly what I want. Size, weight, and the ability to hold an edge all come into play, but plenty of knives have proved themselves adequate in those categories yet never won my heart. Then I picked up the Chattooga ($150), the first generation introduced in the Expedition series by South Carolina knife maker Chris Williams, who is perhaps best known for the Edisto oyster knife, designed to crack the delicious cluster oysters that are common to his native state. Only this year, Williams set his sights on expanding the brand beyond its custom roots by adding a high-quality production knife to his portfolio. The Chattooga is rugged and durable, clearly designed with the outdoorsman in mind while maintaining a gentlemanly feel that makes it ideal even when you’re not afield. The series comes in five colors with straight, serrated, or tanto blade options made of 440C stainless steel, lightweight G-10 Micarta handle, and a lifetime warranty. A filet knife and fixed-blade skinner were recently added to the line, and Williams is already working on a second generation that will incorporate carbon fiber and titanium. We’re eager to see what’s next.

Yeti Panga Submersible Duffel 50

Not content with convincing the world to spend upwards of $400 for an insulated cooler that’s worth every penny, Yeti is at it again in a brand-new category. The Panga Submersible Duffel is available in three sizes—50, 75, and 100 liter—and is unlike any other waterproof bag we’ve seen before. But first, a disclaimer: If you’re not the sort who gives your gear a serious workout, then the Panga is not for you. On the other hand, if you’re a bit more prone to living on the edge for extended periods, dragging a bag across sandy beaches or rough-hewn docks, fording rivers and streams, traveling horseback, or hurling it into the bottom of fishing boats, I’m happy to report you’ve finally met your favorite adventure companion. Composed of nearly impenetrable, high-density nylon and borrowing the zipper design from Yeti’s soft-sided coolers, the Panga also showcases removable backpack straps, a pair of large mesh interior pockets, and lash points made for easy tie-down or employing carabiners. It also has an EVA molded bottom that serves as a landing pad. But its biggest selling points are that it’s completely waterproof and just plain tough. We selected the Panga 50 as this year’s Gray’s Best winner, mainly because it’s small enough to fit into the overhead compartments of commercial airplanes, but all three sizes have distinct advantages and should be chosen according to need.

See Gray’s Best from years past HERE.