Must-Have Adventure Tools for City Dwellers

Cooking outdoors is its own adventure.

Cooking outdoors is its own adventure.

Here’s a run-down of some of our favorite compact gear for spur-of-the-moment getaways, any day of the week. Some of these things you surely already have or can easily find for a minimal investment. Others are available from us at Cosmic Bikes. The last few especially expand your small adventure arsenal, so you can take truly memorable trips any day of the week.


Adventure as simple as it gets. You literally need nothing more than a good pair of shoes that you probably already own, to venture into the great outdoors within one hour of Chicago. To get you started, here are three of our favorites:

  1. LaBagh Woods On foot or by mountain bike —hidden wilderness inside the city.

  2. Openlands Lakeshore Preserve Wild beach along the North Shore.

  3. Cowles Bog Hands down, the best local hike.

Lightweight Daypack

Having a way to carry gear obviously expands your small adventure repertoire, allowing you to carry food, clothing layers, supplies to help indulge your other passions (photography? painting watercolors?) or to pick up things you find along the way (driftwood, stones, mushrooms…)

I like the daypack that stuffs into its own pocket and is available online for about $20. I’ve been using this particular one for several years. Since you’re not going around the world, you don’t need anything more technical (anyway, this thing would probably survive a trip around the world too). It weighs next to nothing and can easily carry necessities for a day trip, a few extras for your ultra-compact camping trip, or everything you need for 2-3 days if not camping, and it travels for free as a personal item on budget airlines!. (This link takes you to Amazon, and we make a small commission on any purchases we refer.)

Compact Thermal Bottle

Get one that keeps drinks hot for 8 hours, and where the cap becomes a tiny little cup. These are widely available for <$20, and a must-have for chilly or rainy day excursions. We like to fill it with hot tea with lemon and honey. Sometimes we sneak a little bourbon. (Sorry, no plans to sell bourbon in the near future.)

My favorite escape vehicle: Brompton.

My favorite escape vehicle: Brompton.

Tiny but mighty Vargo titanium woodstove.

Tiny but mighty Vargo titanium woodstove.

ENOS Hammock: instant vacation.

ENOS Hammock: instant vacation.

Portable Stove

Previous point notwithstanding, sometimes cooking outdoors can be its own —delicious— adventure. A great way to sneak in an outing on a weekday is to cook breakfast, or at least coffee) outside before work.

Although I love and still recommend the MSR Pocket Rocket backpacking stove (pictured in top photo), I don’t love carrying or disposing of the fuel canister. That’s why my recent favorite discovery is the Vargo Titanium Backpacking Stove, which packs super-compactly and relies only on found fuel —sticks and kindling no thicker than a thumb. I love it so much we now carry the Vargo Stove at Cosmic Bikes.

(Tip: For a reliable, cheap firestarter, drip some candle wax on cotton facial pads, and bring those along in your camping kit.)

Packable Hammock

Instant stress melter. The Eagles Nest Outfitters SingleNest hammock folds small and in a matter of seconds. Wherever you set it up is where heaven… er, vacation is. For an hour, or overnight. You can buy one from us here.

Brompton Folding Bike

This is your best go-anywhere adventure enabler. It folds and unfolds in ten seconds flat, and can help you carry a surprising amount of gear. It will happily take you on a 50+ mile trek out your front door, but is just as happy to hop on a train with you so you can start your adventure where urban sprawl is a distant memory. Brompton bikes come with an integrated pump and toolkit that fits neatly into the frame, so there’s no need to pack additional tools.

Good news: we sell them! Learn more here.