As the leaves fade and the entire retail world switches into “Holiday Mode” you’ll see articles from every company, brand, and publication titled “Editor’s Choice” or “Gifts of the Season.” Heck, I’m sure we have one coming. So, in line with the rest of the industry I figured I’d add my list to the menagerie. Some of you may recognize me as the host of the hit show “Cooking with Mike” and of our Vermont Bikepacking series. For those that don’t, my name is Mike and I’ve been with EMS for what feels like an eternity but in reality has been 8 years, with the last four at our corporate office in Connecticut.

For what it’s worth, I am not a gear designer, influencer, writer, or reviewer. What I am is a bit of a gear nut who treats every piece of gear he owns with blatant disrespect. Rest assured that if an item stands up to the harshness of what my friends have dubbed the “Mike’s Adventure Sports Gear Room,” it will stand up to normal wear and tear. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite (and least favorite) pieces of gear from this year.

Courtesy: Mike Rodia

Sleeping Bag/Quilt

My favorite sleep item for this year hands down has been the EMS Anomaly 30 UL Quilt (Long). What a surprise, an EMS item—But let me explain. I was lucky enough to be able to snag one of the pre-production samples and take it into the field months before the production units hit the port. Which means that I may have used it more nights than anyone in the world right now. As the expert, let me tell you that this quilt did everything I asked of it and more. I am generally a hot sleeper so moving to a quilt from a traditional mummy bag was awesome for venting out excess heat. But on those colder nights, I cinched up the foot box and stayed nice and toasty. With 850-fill down, it’s an incredibly lightweight and packable quilt which is why it will live in my various packs until the weather makes me switch to something more appropriate for winter.

I’m 6-feet tall and went with the Long for some extra coverage and room to spread out, I feel that that weight difference to the Regular length is negligible for the added comfort.

Courtesy: Mike Rodia

Sleeping Pad

Of the few that I cycled through (pun intended) this year and actually slept on, the clear choice for me was the Big Agnes Rapide SL. At the ripe old age of 31, I’ve hit the turning point where sacrificing comfort for the sake of ultralight is no longer worth it for me. At 3.5 inches thick, this pad kept me off the ground, which as a side sleeper is no easy feat. I found that the larger rectangular footprint and oversized side baffles kept me on top of the pad all night compared to the tapered mummy pads where I often found myself next to the pad instead of on it. The Rapide also boasts an R-value of 4.2 which makes it more than capable to pair up with a quilt for the majority of three season overnights. It is bulkier than some of the other pads in this category but again I found the additional size well worth it for the added comfort.

Courtesy: Mike Rodia


I don’t have a favorite Tent this year. My long standing favorite, the EMS Refugio 2, is starting to show its age and I’m in the market for a replacement. I have been trending towards trekking pole-supported tents, but none that I have played with have earned this award. If any brands want me to review their tents I’d be happy too!

Since I can’t have a blank category, let me tell you about my least favorite tent. By far my least favorite tent that I slept in so far this year has been the Nemo Spike Storm 1p . This was new to me but is an old and (thankfully) discontinued model of a 1-person, single wall, trekking pole-supported tent. Let me tell you: All the reviews you see online about the worst condensation ever are all true. The design of the tent allows for next to no ventilation, even with the door wide open. And once the condensation starts, it funnels and drains back into the tent, resulting in a wet night and soaked morning. It looks like Nemo discontinued this piece a few years back. Good Riddance.

P.S. Nemo Spike Storm 1p Tent for sale/trade.

Courtesy: Mike Rodia


“See a need, fill a need” – Bigweld, from the 2005 film Robots starring Ewan McGregor and Robin Williams.

Anyway, I had a gap in my jacket arsenal for a lightweight synthetic jacket. Something smaller and not as warm as my down puffy. Enter the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow Hoody, a very sleek and mostly recycled synthetic puffy. This jacket was a last minute addition to my Gravel Growler Kit and earned my respect quickly. Very light and compressible, it fit nicely in my clothing bag and was the first piece I reached for when we got to camp. It also doubled as my pillow. There was no better feeling than putting on this jacket as the sun dips and you’re still sweaty and cold from a day of riding.

Courtesy: Mike Rodia

Shirt and Pants

For my top and bottom this year, I am going with two EMS Items. Biased? Probably. But these two items out performed my expectations above all else.

For the top, my award goes to the EMS Trail Run Ascent Hoodie. Ryan already wrote an ode to the sun hoodie and made a video differentiating the Trail Run Ascent from Epic Active so I won’t go into too much detail, but I have used this shirt on runs, hikes, rides, and paddles. 10/10 would recommend. Yes, I know the Epic Active Hoodie has more water friendly characteristics but I don’t care.

On the bottom, also by EMS is the Elemental Active Pants. I don’t run in these pants, nor do I think they make great runners. What these pants do well is everything else. They have been a constant in my hiking pack as well as travel bag. Built from an extremely lightweight, stretchy, and super comfortable material, they breathe and move with you while also disappearing in packs. I throw them on for cooler camp nights, post workout comfortwear, and long airplane cruises.

Hiking Shoe

I used to be a boot guy, favoring the stiffest, most supportive models (Asolo Fugitive GTX, Salomon Quest 4D Gtx, etc.), but as the industry has gone lighter and faster, so have I. In fact, I don’t even own a pair of full-height boots right now. After my last pair died, I never felt the need to replace them. Instead I’m all aboard the trail runner train. I know what you are saying, my ankles need the support of the full boot, and for some that is true. I used to think that too as my quads ached from lifting 3 pounds of boots for miles on end. Over the past few seasons I have been living in Salomon’s Ultra Pros and will continue to do so until convinced otherwise. The shoe is comfortable, predictable, and durable. Right now I have 3 pairs in varying states of use that have taken me from 50-mile ultra races to short walks in the backyard.

Camp Kitchen

Cooking with Mike would not have been possible without a large amount of peer pressure and a Eureka Ignite Camp Stove. Two burners with enough space for two full sized pots is a requirement for any car camping setting. Using add-on Eureka accessories, you can leave the small green canisters behind and fuel the stove from a refillable propane tank like the Ignik Gas Growler, or one from your home grill. If two is not enough, the Jetlink system lets you add on additional burners and link stoves to the same fuel source. Using a proper camp stove will elevate your camp cooking from boiling water and freeze dried meals into the same menu you could make at home. For anyone cooking at camp buy one of these. Trust me…I’m a chef.

Courtesy: Mike Rodia


With the amount of time I spent cycling this season, it felt right to add a cycling category. From the Green Mountain Gravel Growler, The American Cancer Society’s Bicycles Battling Cancer century, and all the training rides in between, I spent a lot of time in my cycling shoes this year. Of the several pairs I got to try, my favorites were the Giro Sector Shoes. Even though this shoe is designed with mountain biking in mind, they are now my go to shoes for all rides including gravel and road rides. The BOA lacing system is fast and secure. The recessed cleats are easy to find with the pedals and are extremely comfortable when walking off the bike. I have road-specific shoes with a flat bottom and even in the short stints where I’m unclipped at stop lights or checking directions, the metal cleat protruding from the bottom makes you feel unstable and they have virtually no grip. The Sector Shoe does not have that problem. From generating watts on road to hiking up the Lincoln Gap the shoe just performs.


Hey EMS employees! Interested in outlining the best gear you actually used this year, like this? Reach out to contribute!