Happy Labor Day. We don’t have to tell you that this has been a strange summer, what with the pandemic and all. If there has been a silver lining to all of this, it’s that coronavirus seems to be extremely difficult to transmit outdoors. Spending time outside has always been one of the best things about summer, of course, but that’s turned all the way up this year, as long hikes or weekend afternoons spent shooting the shit on picnic blanket have become the by far best way to have some fun.
Of course, those lazy afternoons have a way of turning into sunburned, bug-bitten mornings-after. The staff of GQ has learned a lesson or two about spending so much time outdoors—here’s the little stuff that made this weird summer a bit better.
Insect Shield “Sport Crew” socks
As I write this I am in the car on my way to the Adirondacks to bag a few of New York’s famous 4,000-plus foot peaks—that’s what we wannabe mountaineers call hiking to the top of a mountain. And I wouldn’t dream of hitting the trail, or of leaving the house at all these days, to be honest, without a pair of socks that are infused at the fiber level with tick-repellent poison. That’s right, permethrin, baby! It’s the only stuff that really works against the Lyme disease-carrying arachnids—worrying about one virus is enough for me, thank you. A few brands make bug-resistant apparel, but the Insect Shield sport crew socks are my go-to because they are super similar to my athletic sock of choice, the Nike Dri-Fit crew socks, which are great socks but contain no tick-fighting chemicals. I wear these whenever I go near any kind of nature for the peace of mind that I won’t have to go digging around in my nether regions with tweezers when I get home. —Noah Johnson
if you grew up in the early aughts in a very granola household like me, chances are you owned a pair of Merrell Jungle Mocs. These days the clunky suede shoes might seem a little goofy, a bit ugly—but these things are cyclical, ugly footwear is trending, and I recently found myself thinking the Jungle Moc is…actually kind of rad? I picked up a pair and was won over by the hard-to-find combo of sturdy construction and slip-on comfort—they’re the only shoe I’ve ever owned that’s perfect for both long hikes and throwing on to take out the trash. This summer I’ve been living a bit more like crunchy pre-teen me: doing yard work, hiking, meeting up with friends in parks, so it only makes sense I’d do it in the same shoes. —Gabe Conte
A Status Sunscreen
Supergoop “Play” sunscreen
Every summer has it’s not-so-subtle Instagram signifier that you’re out here Having A Good Time: obnoxious pool floats, Aperol spritzes, White Claw. In this anxious year I guess it makes some sense that, at least on my feed, it’s been sunscreen—specifically Supergoop’s Play, the big pump bottle with the handle. I am both easily sunburned and easily influenced, so I picked some up, and the stuff is legit. It’s a chemical formula, which cuts against the high-end sunscreen grain—most fancy sunscreen is the chalky physical stuff these days. But the Supergoop is formulated carefully: it doesn’t make me break out (unlike most drugstore sunscreen) and it’s coral reef safe (in case your socially distanced outdoor recreation is much sicker than mine). But the best thing about it is the smell: it’s synthetically tropical, the way sunscreen should smell for those Pavlovian beach day good vibes. —Chris Cohen
The Best Bird-ID App
Nowhere to go but outside??? And no one to hang out with but yourself??? Sounds like the perfect storm for BIRDWATCHING! Inspired by my boyfriend’s ornithological obsessions—he has incredibly luxe binoculars and knows the migratory patterns of nearly every New York bird—I downloaded this app and became obsessed myself. Even a birdbrain (ha ha) can operate this thing: just provide it with your location and some basic info about whatever bird you’re looking at, and the app makes some very educated guesses about what species you might have spied. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll realize the beautiful abundance of amazing birds that surround you, in the country or the city. —Rachel Tashjian
Better-Smelling Hand Sani
Eleusis hand sanitizer set
Among the many phases our global hand sanitizer supply went through this year, there was a distinct period when applying a few pumps smelled like dousing your hands in grain alcohol. While a few unpleasant whiffs should never stop you from sanitizing in a pandemic, now that the market’s had some time to adjust there are plenty of less nasally offensive options out there. I’ve been loving my little glass spray bottle from Eleusis, which pulls double duty with a bug-repellent lemongrass scent. It’s refillable, the spray is powerful enough to spritz friends’ palms from a responsible distance, and it’s the perfect size to tuck into a tote or side-pocket for frequent reapplying. Plus, it’s made with essential oils, which means it doesn’t demand an immediate chaser of lotion. It’s no Santal 33, but it beats rolling up to a picnic smelling like the floor of a college dive bar. —Danielle Cohen
Sun Protection for Your Dye Job
Bumble and Bumble protective primer
I’ve been debating myself on dying my own hair for years now and, like so many others, took the time working from home through this pandemic to finally go for it. I opted for Good Dye Young’s lavender option and loved it. But as anyone who has dyed their hair can tell you, getting it how you like it is one thing—keeping it looking good is another. In particular, I wasn’t really aware of how harsh the sun could be on my newly purple locks until a friend asked if I’d also picked up any products to protect against UV rays for when I’m outside running or playing tennis. She recommended this primer from Bumble and Bumble. It’s got a great texture—Iin addition to helping my color last longer, it’s become my favorite styling product for my shorter hair. — Mick Rouse
Extremely Practical Sandals
Teva “Universal Trail” sandals
A few years ago, I embarked on a well-documented and slightly manic journey to buy some Teva sandals, but it wasn’t until this summer that I came to fully appreciate their true worth. Now that every other shoe, with the exception of my running sneakers, has become a relic of the Before Times, I wear my Tevas constantly: to walk the dog, to the beach, on hikes, to run errands, on long meandering strolls where I contemplate the heat death of the universe. They’re perpetually comfortable, theoretically fashionable on some people, and durable enough to withstand this season’s constant thunderstorms. (New York City’s a subtropical climate now, haven’t you heard?) It appears that Teva no longer makes the version I own, the Universal Premiere, so if I were purchasing a new pair this year I’d probably go for the Universal Trail or the the Hurricane Drift. (Whichever model you ultimately choose, I recommend getting one that includes some fabric padding under the plastic rings, because they can dig into your skin otherwise.) And maybe this is sacrilege, but I’ve also found myself getting increasingly Chaco-curious this summer. There are two wolves fighting inside of me, and they’re both wearing sport sandals. — Gabriella Paiella
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