Doc’s Essential Gear Review

In News, Top 10, Video by Doc North141 Comments

As a designer and nomad, I’m obsessed with gear and clothing. Which means I spend a lot of time researching and testing what’s out there, and with a degree in mechanical engineering and PhD in Materials, I’m pretty damn qualified to assess it’s quality and functionality.

Here it is, your guide with reviews of my favorite items to adventure around the planet. Since moving to Sweden when I was 16 years old to bumming about India with a duffel bag to being flown around the world to share my PhD research to jet-setting and camel-backing around the world for my Discovery Show, I’ve honed in on the right gear to have with me to embrace any adventure and capture the moment. And here it is just in time for the holidays. The links I post are affiliate codes, which means I might make a couple bucks here and there. I’d certainly appreciate you using those links if you decide to buy any of the products as I’ve put a lot of time into testing and writing reviews about all the gear.

I hope whoever you’re shopping for enjoys, especially if it’s you! -Doc North

At the very bottom of the page are images of the gear, hover over the images for a quick description and then click it to read the full review with links to the products. Some of the products even have discount codes just for us. Here is a more convenient list with links to purchase each of the items for your next expedition. They are affiliate links, which helps me support putting together this guide. Thank You!

TLDR and for convenience, here are the links to the products.

Smartwool Ph.D. Boxer Briefs

Finally, after a long search, The Smartwool PhD Boxer Briefs can keep up with my lifestyle. As a part of my ultralight weight, go anywhere in the world at anytime, travel I only bring 2 pairs of boxers. One pair I’m wearing and one that I’m washing. And to be honest, I ‘ll wear the same pair of boxers for a few days. I didn’t used to be able to do this, but with wool boxers that are antimicrobial, it’s become a reality. Now wool doesn’t sound like it’d be comfortable rubbin’ up on my junk, but this is a new bread of wool, merino wool. Here’s what I love about them:

  • Super comfortable. These boxer briefs are soft and stretchy and fit better than any other pair of briefs I’ve had. They’ve nailed the right textile blend making them have stretch, wicking, breathability and not smelly! In addition to the materials, the boxers have different weave patterns at different places on the boxers making them less or more stretchy.
  • No Branding. I hate being a billboard for brands, especially when I paid for them. It’s beyond me why I would want to wear another man’s name around my waste!
  • Look Great. And I don’t just mean for sexy time. In a pinch these look good enough that they can be worn as a bathing suit or in a yoga class, especially since I don’t bother traveling with yoga pants.
  • Durable. I’ve had mine since March and worn them probably a bout two-thirds of that time and they’re holding up fine, no holes and still have the elasticity of the day I got them. So while they are a little spendy, if I look at the cost per wear I’m already below 30 cents per wear, and enjoyed every cent of it.

Samsung Gear 360 Camera

The Gear 360 is one of my main tools. It allows me to take 360 pictures and videos, capturing everything going on around me. My mom and dad recently went to Europe with a 360 camera and loved that they could with one snap capture both them and what they were looking at. Forget selfies, 360 is here!

As for me, for years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to host a show and shoot video at the same time. I’ve rigged GoPros to DSLR cameras pointing at me, so I can film someone else and myself at the same time, but the rig is very intrusive to the experience.

With the Gear 360, I can just plop it down and let it capture everything that’s happening. Meanwhile, I’m free to interact with the person I’m interviewing – or to do some stupid stunt – as I normally would.

I recently borrowed the $60k Nokia OZO, and did a comparison with the Gear 360. While the OZO does stereoscopic and produces a 8K plate, the Gear 360 wasn’t that much worse. And for my guerrilla run-and-gun style, it’s perfect. I even made a mount for the bottom of my Mavic Pro, so I can do some pretty epic airborne 360 shots, or do indoor 360 dolly shots. And it all fits in a bag small enough to count as my on-flight personal item!

Westcomb Blaze Shirt

“This is all I need to travel the world indefinitely.”

When I say that gesturing to my Mission Workshop Transit Duffel Bag, I’m really thinking of my secret weapon readily available in the “water bottle” pocket. The Westcomb Blaze Shirt is incredibly warm and packs down to a small bundle that will fit in the over-sized water bottle pocket on the Transit Duffel Bag.

The secret is really the 900 fill-power goose down. Westcomb gets the very best down available and creates the absolute highest quali

ty products. Their technical outerwear is the best in the industry, but frankly for everything I’m doing, it’s way overkill.

For me, the combo of the Talisman Jacket over the Blaze is perfect. The Talisman provides protection against wind and rain, while looking really good. The Blaze provides the insulation needed to keep me warm. And since the blaze has the warmest down available in it, I’m getting the most warmth for the thickness. Translation, I don’t look like I’m overdressed wearing some puffy jacket.

What’s more, I’ve found my blaze to be my got to in the cabin shirt. As much as I love my knit wool sweaters, they’re just too bulky for lightweight go anywhere travel. And when I throw my Blaze on, man do I feel cozy!

SPECIAL DEAL: Here’s a code for 10% off all Westcomb Gear: “experimentalgentleman”  Also, I don’t profit off this, I just love the company/product that much!

Everyday Carry Flashlight

The Olight H1R Nova is compact, bright–ok that can be said about most flashlights these days! Here’s what I really like about this light.

  • It’s USB rechargeable and the battery lasts a long time. I’ve actually only ran out of juice in it once, and when I did, they were nice enough to include a back-up non-rechargeable battery. This little light hits both Rule #2 and #7 of being an Experimental Gentleman:
    • Rule #2 – Always, always have a back-up plan.
    • Rule #7 – Always be charging.
  • The light is at a right angle to the body/clip of the light. This means I can clip it to my belt, my hat, a curtain, or whatever; and the light will be going in the direction I want it.
  • There’s a really nice diffuser making for a wide even light at close range. Let’s face it, I’m not doing search and rescue with this light. I’m more often than not trying to find something or just read a book. It casts the perfect light for these tasks. That said, at 600 lumens, it’s bright enough to evenly light up the entire trail at night.
  • It has a magnetic base, and combined with the right angle, this is great for working on any sort of vehicle. I can just let the magic of magnets allow me to put this light anywhere so that I have a perfectly focused work-light.

Ultimate Travel Mug

The Camelbak Forge is my go to travel mug, thermos, H2O bottle–basically everything. Here’s what I like:

  • It’s super insulated, so it keeps whatever is inside hot or cold for a long time.
  • It seals, tight. I can put carbonated water in it and the seal holds the pressure.
  • It’s an
  •  adult sippy cup! To drink I pull the trigger and take a sip, when I let go, it’s sealed again. There is a way to lock it open if you prefer.
  • The lid comes all the way off making it easy to clean, fill, drink out of, eat out of–basically making it way more versatile than a water bottle.
  • There is a rock solid place to put a carabiner or attach a piece of rope making it easy to attach to you or a bag.

I’ve had mine for a couple years and put it through the test traveling all over the entire world. It slips right into the outside pocket of my Transit bag and has been completely bulletproof. And frankly, as a conscientious traveler, you need to travel with a water bottle. All airports have a place to fill up, so that the first thing you do on a trip is not buy a plastic bottle of water.

DJI Mavic Pro


The DJI Mavic Pro and Mavic Pro Platinum are my new favorite pieces of equipment. I love drone shots because I can immediately gain a totally different perspective on a scene that I’m shooting. And it’s super fun for the people I’m filming to see a new perspective on where they live/work.

What’s great about this drone is that it shoots in 4k video and is super portable. It folds up into a tight little package that I can literally put in my personal item bag while flying. I also found a vintage WWII ammo bag that fits it and the controller. And with my hack of adding a mount for my Gear 360, I can get killer 360 aerial shots or dolly shots inside a building!

Back Massage Balls

My magic blue balls have been an absolute game changer in my life. I use to have all kinds of back pain from travel. Now with these highly portable massage balls I’ve been able to take care of my back on the road, and at home, and my posture has gotten much better.

Before I found these magic blue balls by 5Billion, I used to just tape two tennis balls together, but now I have these injection-molded rubber balls that I swear by.

Along with my other back issues, I’ve got really deep tension in back. Every time I get a massage, the therapist says, “Wow, this is intense,” and then tells me I should be getting body work twice a week. Which, of course, I can’t do while on the road.

Instead, every day I lay the blue balls on the ground and then lie on top of them, with my spine over the gap between the balls. (You never want to put pressure on your actual spine.) Then I roll up and down over the balls, which massages the muscles on either side of my spine and seems to loosen up all the calcification and tightened fascia that seem to lead to me being hunched over.

From doing this, I’ve noticed my back has gotten so much better. In particular, it used to be that when I was hung over, I’d get really bad back pain that was hard to get rid of. Now, even just five minutes with these balls and I’m so much happier. I’ve also noticed my posture is better.

And there’s a side-benefit I’m now noticing: because of the way I use these balls, I’m also strengthening my core. Rather than just lie down on the balls passively, I bend my knees so my feet are on the ground, and lift my pelvis and my head/shoulders off the ground so there’s as much pressure as possible on my back muscles. Then I roll myself over the balls, from my neck all the way down to my sacral area. It actually takes a good amount of effort from the core, stabilizing muscles (abs, back, hips, glutes) to do this, but I hardly notice because I’m focusing so much on my back. I didn’t realize how strong I’d gotten until I let my little sister – who is ripped – try it, and she could hardly even start.

You can also use these on your butt and legs and anything else that feels tight or sore. It’s kind of everything you want from a roller, but more. Like amazing shiatsu massage. But portable. Boom!


I travel a lot and I love music, so a good pair of headphones is key. I was gifted a pair of  V-Modo Crossfades after speaking at the Further Future Festival, and since then, have fallen in love with them. The audio is great, they’re bluetooth, have a built-in microphone, and, frankly, they look good!

Audio: They just sound good, and are well balanced across frequencies. If you want heavy bass headphones, you should probably get a pair of Beats by Dre.  And if you just want a pair of noise cancelling headphones for the plane, you can’t beat the Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones. (The Crossfades are not noise cancelling, but they do a good job of insulating against the outside environment.) But if you want a pair of headphones that delivers good bass, mids and highs, the V-Modos are the way to go.

Style: To be honest, a pair of headphones say a lot about your style. The Bose say, “I don’t care about style or sound, I just want quiet!” The Beats say, “I’m trying to be hip to what’s cool.” But the Crossfades say, “I like good audio and I’m in touch with the culture generators on the planet.” OK, it may be a bit of a stretch, but you get the point!

Comfort: I do give them a slight ding here, but that’s probably because I wear glasses on long flights, and it’s hard to not have any pair of headphones start to pinch after 10 hours on a plane.

Travel Case: I love the travel case they come with. I keep everything I need for the plane inside: eye mask, Burts-Bees Lip Balm, ibuprofen, sleep aid, and most importantly, the headphone jack splitter, so you can watch a movie with your neighbor.

I will say I think I’m in the market for a good pair of ear buds, and I might go with Bose In-Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones: easier to sleep with those on a plane then a pair of over-ear headphones!

5.11 Tactical Recon Desert Boots

Traveling light means traveling with one pair of shoes. Finding a pair of shoes versatile enough to go from a keynote speech to tromping through the jungle is a real challenge.

My solution: Create a new style. And that style is combat boots, but not just any combat boots.

My 5.11 Tactical Recon Desert Boots are just the right boot. And by all means, get lost in the 5.11 Tactical Website to see what all is out there!

Here’s what I like about these:

  • They look great. I get comments all the time on my boots. I feel like I’m cheating. I’m wearing something I can climb a mountain in or break a dance floor in half in, and I’m getting more comments on style than the guy next to me in thousand dollar designer boots.
  • Lightweight and minimalist. They’re not big clunky boots that make me full unnecessarily clumsy and awkward. I want something that makes me feel and look nimble on my feet.
  • Easy on and off. 99% of the time I leave these boots unlaced. So when I come home, or travel through Europe or Asia where you always have to take your shoes off when you enter someones house, they kick right off. And putting them on, I just plunge my foot into the boot, bend my leg, grab the sturdy loop on the back and pull my foot into it. I don’t even have to bend down.
  • Go time. But when it’s time to go, I simply lean over, gran the laces and pull up. The quick lace system tightens all the way down to the foot, I wrap the laces once, tie them up and I’m ready for the basketball court of dance floor with a reassuring amount of ankle support.
  • Good for warm climates. Not only are the boots fairly breathable, but when I leave them unlaced air moves in and out with every step cooling my feet off.
  • Not waterproof: I know people are all about waterproof boots, but not me. It’s extremely rare for me to be in weather where my feet are going to get soaked and cold (which can be helped greatly by the right socks). But it is extremely likely that my feet will get too warm, and I’ll want to have that heat and moisture escape. Waterproof shoes are great at keeping water out and in. (That being said, for when I have to get into real nasty weather, I do have a pair of MuckBoots in my closet at home.)

Wear Everywhere Pants

My Mission Workshop Signal pants are my new favorite article of clothing. I recently went on a month long trip around the world. The first weekend I spent in NYC with a friend who is a director at Fendi (high fashion brand) and another friend that’s a working model. Needless to say they’re into fashion, and here I am going around the world with only a carry-on bag and ONE PAIR OF PANTS. The trip spanned climates ranging from the dance floors of NYC to the cold rain of Zurich to the tropical heat of Sri Lanka–and of course all the airplane time in between.

The first day I hung out with the NYC fashionistas they both took a moment to note my pants and how good they looked. Getting a handful of the fabric they understood how with the stretch I was ready to either drop some moves on the dance floor or climb a mountain, and look damn good doing it!

These pants are amazing. They’re extremely breathable, which means I can be super active and the moisture from my sweat can escape. At the same time they dry super quick. One upshot of this is I really never have to wash them! Something gets on my pants and I just wash it off, while wearing the pants.  That spot is dry minutes later. Oh and they even have a semi-secret pocket, that accidentally got me through a couple airport security pat downs with some zinc lozenges–a must for not getting sick while traveling.


Nootroo has taken my game up a level. Read about it below and I even got you a 20% discount code–Thanks Eric! Just go to, select what you want, and at check out enter the code: “Iknowdoc”

I have always been someone who pushes limits: of science and engineering, yes, but also of my body and my brain. I work hard, I play hard, and, especially in the last few years, I travel hard. So I’m always looking for ways to perform better, and ways to take care of myself so I can also perform longer (as in, for the rest of my life).

Along the way, I’ve discovered several little life hacks you can read about in other posts, like vitamin supplements and HANAH ONE, or my yoga mat and blue balls. But one of my favorites is Nootroo.

love these things. If I really need to hit the “go” button on my brain, these do the trick.


Nootro is one of a class of nootropics, a class of supplements said to enhance mental abilities, focus, and concentration, while also having positive long-term effects on the brain. For the past few years, nootropics have been a big topic among techies and high performers in Silicon Valley, and among fans of high-visibility bio-hackers like Tim Ferriss (of The 4-Hour Workweek fame) and Dave Asprey (inventor of Bulletproof coffee).

There are lots of different kinds of nootropics, but I’d heard good things about Nootroo, created by Eric Matzner. So I decided to try them first.

I noticed two types of positive effects right away: the type I associate with the nootropic compounds, like mental clarity and focus, and the type I associate with the added caffeine, like sustained alertness and energy. Regarding the latter, it felt like drinking coffee, but not so hard on my system.

But my real test of Nootroo came while doing some of the hardest work I do: shooting Outrageous Acts of Science.

The show features a panel of scientific experts – biologists, chemists, astrophysicists, and engineers (like me) – looking at crazy YouTube videos and explaining the science behind them. It’s been the Science Channel’s top show for eight seasons, and I’ve been there since the beginning.

To film the show, I fly in to Burbank, and then sit in front of a green screen all day, sometimes for more than 10 hours. And what I have to do is explain complicated science in simple terms that anyone could understand. Without jargon and scientific formulas. And succinctly. Without a single hiccup. While sounding intelligent, and also somehow being charming funny.

I love it. But it’s hard. It’s hard to explain what’s going on, and it’s hard to do it with no stumbles or glitches, and with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, but not too much enthusiasm.

And I have to do that for maybe half a dozen concepts per video, for 20 videos. And then film reactions to another20 videos. All in one day.

It’s a long day, and it’s a lot of mental exercise, and it’s a lot of work.

And I’m really good at it. It’s like I’m a professional athlete at this particular thing. And when I go in, I’m going for my pro-athlete peak performance – the right combination of mental ability, articulation, and personality. And so what a great opportunity to test a peak performance enhancer: Nootroo.

The time before last, I took a Nootroo in the morning, before I shot, and another at lunch, and all day I was just on. Super focused, articulate, charismatic. And it was a lot easier than it normally is. I didn’t fully notice how much better it was until the next time, when I forgot to bring Nootroo with me, and the whole day just kind of sucked. It was just hard.

Even the producer noticed. About the time I had the Nootroo, he told someone else, “Wow, Mike is really on. He’s just nailing it. He’s doing incredible.” And then jokingly, “What was he on?” But the reality was, yeah, I actually wason something: my magic brain pills.

And so, as an experiment, the next time I went in for a shoot, I took them again. They’d given me a lot to do, and normally we would have been there really late, and I just crushed it. Once again, I was focused. I wasn’t mucking about, wasn’t too distracted, was in a good mood and jovial. The next time we filmed, they gave me even more, which means I’ll get more screen time–and we got done early!

I really did reach peak performance. As a pro athlete of this kind, it’s a substantial gain. My proof is in the pudding.


Eric says it’s good to take Nootroos everyday because there are long-term, cumulative effects of taking them over time. I take them regularly and then also strategically, doubling up on big days, or long nights out.

I take them when I really want to be on, focused, and fully engaged in what I’m doing, whether that’s work, meetings, or conversations.

And I do recommend them, but I don’t think Nootroo, or nootropics in general, will work for everyone.

I’ve given Nootroos to many people, and there’s a range of responses.

I find they don’t work great for people who don’t drink caffeine. The load is going to be too much. You’re just going to feel really caffeinated and jittery. Nootroo seems to work better for people who already drink coffee. At the other end of the spectrum is people who take crap care of themselves. If they’re drinking 10 cups of coffee a day and still don’t feel awake, they might not notice the benefits of Nootroo. They’re not tuned enough as a machine.

I think I’m kind of the sweet spot. I definitely love my cappuccinos, and I definitely push myself to the limits, with all my travel and sleep deprivation and staying out late.

But I’m also pretty well-tuned. I do yoga every morning. I’m very aware of myself. I have a supplement regimen. I eat pretty healthy, all things considered. So I’m not too sensitive to handle the load, but I’m also aware enough to really appreciate the benefits.

So I’d say Nootroo is best for people who are already pretty well-tuned, but are looking for higher octane options to get to peak performance.


Another one of my secret weapons is HANAH ONE. I hope you read below, but if you don’t, let me just say this: get it, it’ll change your life now and possibly much further down the road.

HANAH ONE, or just ONE, is an Ayurvedic superfood made from honey, ghee, sesame oil, and nearly 30 botanicals, including amalaki and ashwagandha, which is an adaptogen.

I came across this mixture a few years ago while helping a friend start HANAH. I read up on the Ayurvedic literature, spent months in India with the Ayurvedic doctor there and use it myself.  The results are pretty amazing. Now that I no longer represent the company, I can share my personal experiences with the product.

ONE is a sustained, long-term wellness tool. Its benefits are more subtle, though no less important. When I’m taking Hanah regularly, I feel generally more healthy and vibrant. I feel like my immune system’s stronger. I feel more articulate, have better word selection. And my libido is remarkably higher, which is not an insignificant benefit.  I had a lady friend the other day express to me that she had to stop taking it because she was too aroused. So I highly recommend both partners in a relationship take it at the same time! 

Poop, we all do it. However, when I’m taking ONE I notice that I am regular and consistent. This is exciting for me because it’s about the only place in my life where I have a solid routine.

Of course, as a scientist, it’s hard to prove some of the other benefits, especially the long term ones. Many of the benefits are hard to measure, according to Western medical study practices, and there’s probably not enough money to warrant studying it anyway, as it’s unlikely those studies will ever result in a prescription drug. This is the way Western medicine thinks, a single drug. Whereas, in Ayurvedic medicine it’s about how everything works together, from the different herbs and botanicals to meditation and yoga. 

Some might say one is more scientific, but as a research scientist, I tend to disagree. It’s just a different type of science. In Western Science we tend to want to break things down to their individual components and understand how they work. This drug does this. This gene expresses this. Then we try to build up from there. This subatomic particle hits this particle and does this. Unfortunately, as we add more interactions it becomes exponentially more difficult to determine what will happen.

Ayurveda has been around for over 5,000 years. Part of Ayurveda involves complex mixtures of different ingredients that each have all sorts of active ingredients–to borrow a Western term. HANAH ONE for instance has 30+ ingredients that are interacting. The Ayurveda approach has been to create a mixture, test it, see what the results are and then run another experiment. It’s actually quite scientific, just takes a lot of time. Well, they’ve had 5,000 years, which allows me to believe that they’ve learned a thing or two from their experiments.

So you’ll rarely see anyone officially talking about the benefits of the ingredients in ONE. But if you start to do the research, you’ll notice lots of potential benefits like cancer prevention or long-term cardiovascular health. In fact, I talked to an Ayurvedic doctor who said the increase in my libido was because ONE was helping my circulatory system in general, and when there’s increased blood flow in the body, there’s increased blood flow, ahem, everywhere.

So I take ONE for its short-term benefits, but also as part of my long-term health regime. And actually, one of my favorite parts of it is the ghee. I recommend getting some ghee on its own too. Which HANAH is now selling as well, but I’ll need another post to explain why this ghee is unlike any other ghee on the planet. Sometimes, in the morning, instead of a cappuccino or regular coffee, I’ll mix coconut oil and ghee into my coffee. (It’s a little like Bulletproof coffee, but with ghee instead of butter, and without the proprietary products.) After that, I always notice that I’m operating at a significantly higher level for the next four or five hours. Drink that, and take some HANAH ONE, and that’s a pretty solid thing to be doing for your body every morning.


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