Twice each year we hand out these coveted Peak Gear Awards to the very best products we put to the test in the field. To determine the winners, we ask our top contributors—who, we are proud to admit, spend far more time camping, hiking, backpacking, biking, climbing and paddling than they do “working”—for the best gear they used over the past year. What gear can’t you live without? What gear changed your outdoor life?
CONTRIBUTORS: Kelly Bastone, Aaron bible, Kim Fuller, Will Harlan, Cameron Martindell, Doug Schnitzspahn, Ryan Stuart, Tyra Sutak, Chris Van Leuven
1. Columbia OutDry EX ECO
Why It Won: Columbia has created a truly “green” rain shell. Every detail and material that went into construction of this jacket—from recycled zipper pulls to a non-PFC membrane to a white color that saves 13 gallons of water required for dyes—is as sustainable as possible. None of that matters unless it performs—and the OutDry does, shucking precip as well or better than any rain shell. If you don’t like the white color, wait until next season, when Columbia will release an also-PFC-free black version made via a process that introduces color while the material is being formed.
Where We Took It: Hut-to-hut trips in foul weather in the Alps and backpacking adventures along the Front Range. $199 | columbia.com
Why It Won: This 850-fill traceable down snuggler is based on the bag Yvon Chouinard designed for his climbing and surfing adventures 45 years ago. But current fabric and design technologies have made it ideal for future visionaries—the down and a smaller cut in the foot box make for comfy nights of sleep and the Pertex outer sheds condensation. Plus, it’s designed so you can sleep while tied into an anchor on a big wall.
Where We Took It: Camping trips in Bears Ears National Monument and backpacking and spring ski mountaineering in Rocky Mountain National Park. $399 | patagonia.com
3. Five Ten Quantum
Why It Won: The Quantum is the most comfortable, high-performance climbing shoe we’ve ever worn for crack climbing all the way up to dime-edge face routes. This is important, because most climbing shoes can’t do double duty—they have a dead spot in the toe or a shape specific only to certain terrain.
Where We Took It: It is our go-to shoe from the South Platte to Eldo to Boulder Canyon. They perform equally well on all types of hard climbing—slabs, cracks, steeps, pockets and delicate faces. $185 | fiveten.com
4. Goal Zero Yeti
Why It Won: This is a serious upgrade for Goal Zero: Power on the go will no longer break your back thanks to this new lightweight Lithium cell technology. The 45-pound, 9.6-ounce generator comes with four 2.4A USB ports, three 12v options, and two pure-sine wave 1500W/3000W surge AC Outlets. Charge it via two inputs for Goal Zero panels (we used the Nomad 100), A/C wall power or the clip-in input to use third-party panels. We powered a 120V~:0.72A portable refrigerator for a week—no ice, no soggy food.
Where We Took It: Car camping adventures all over Colorado and in the mountains of Wyoming.
$1,999 | goalzero.com
Why It Won: The Roclite is a no-frills trail runner that can handle serious punishment. Lightweight (10.2 ounces) and super-grippy on technical terrain, it’s also nimble and flexible. It’s got ample cush for longer distances, and it drains and dries quickly after wet-foot creek crossings.
Where We Took It: Up and down steep, slick Southern Appalachian singletrack. Boulder Trails.
$120 | inov-8.com
Why It Won: This jacket does it all. The Polartec Alpha insulation pulls off the seemingly impossible by breathing well yet also providing warmth when you need it. That means it works as a primary jacket or mid-layer for spring skiing, cold weather backpacking, nights around the campfire or even just walking the dog.
Where We Took It: It’s the one jacket we always pack, whether we are headed on spring bike rides on Santa Fe’s Dale Ball trail system, spring skiing in the Indian Peaks, car camping across the West or checking out canyons in Bear’s Ears National Monument. $199 | outdoorresearch.com
Why It Won: This two pound, two ounce shoe gives all the support of those old, big trekking boots, with the comfort and lightness of a low hiker. And the Gore-Tex membrane actually does its job, shedding the wet and mud on the trail.
Where We Took It: Backpacking trips in Bear’s Ears National Monument and the Indian Peaks. Trail work projects with Jefferson County in Colorado. Plus, the EO Live Outside and Play road team has been pounding on these shoes all season long, from Virginia to Colorado (full disclosure, La Sportiva is a tour sponsor, but that only means the team has had more time to pound on them). $199 | sportiva.com
Why It Won: An 11-foot SUP with the speed of a much longer board, the Verve is smaller and lighter than most touring SUPS so it’s easier to get to the water and great for smaller paddlers, but it’s still stable and feels as fast as a 12-foot, six-inch SUP. That makes for a very versatile ride.
Where We Took It: Flat water including Boulder Reservoir and Cherry Creek, the ocean and inland lakes in British Columbia. $1,399 | boardworkssurf.com
Why It Won: The intuitiveness of this pack is uncanny, with easy top access for a laptop and/or tablets, a quick-access top-load adjustable magna-latch buckle that looks sharp and full-zip side panels with slick organizational pockets. Inside, the unique, origami-style adjustable dividers allow for endless optimization and easy storage.
Where We Took It: Everywhere we go, from bike and bus commutes to international travel. Photoshoots around Colorado and the Southeast. $290 | peakdesign.com
Why It Won: The Hollow Fiber technology here not only filters water but purifies it. Specifically, it removes bacteria, protozoa, and particulates through the 0.2 micron medium, and maintains an incredible flow rate of one liter per minute. It’s easy to use, effective and ideal for solo trips or days when you don’t want to carry water.
Where We Took It: Camping, trail running and hiking day trips and long treks in the Indian Peaks here in Colorado and in British Columbia, Canada. $50 | msrgear.com
Why It Won: This stable bra is a game-changer for C/D cups, as it maintains chest shape and almost completely eliminates chest movement during high-impact activities like running.
Where We Took It: Running in both warm and cold weather, from short 20-minute interval sessions to more casual fun runs, and to trail and road running races. $98 | lululemon.com
Why It Won: If we could fish with just one rod for the rest of our lives, this would be it. It’s capable at short/moderate distances, ego-strokingly accurate—and beautifully finished. We’ve used more powerful rods, which are nice for long throws or windy conditions, but the MOD excels at the casts you make most of the time.
Where We Took It: Outings across the Rockies: the Yampa, Big Thompson and Roaring Fork rivers in Colorado; the Big Wood River in Idaho; high alpine lakes. $850 | sageflyfish.com
Why they Won: As our climbing circuits get longer and more intense—upwards of 20 pitches in a weekend—everything becomes streamlined. This means we cut weight everywhere. Bulk/weight really adds up when climbing 150- to 200-foot pitches of 5.11 and 5.12 trad (especially when you do them again and again). This is where the Metolius UL Master Cams shine. When carrying a set of these, your rack will feel like half the usual weight. That equates to a noticeably more enjoyable climbing experience.
Where We Took It: Trad climbs here in Colorado and in New York’s Adirondaks. $60-$65 | metoliusclimbing.com
Why It Won: It’s refreshing to hop on a bike that simply feels like it was made for a woman on the trail—and the price is not too steep. Liv delivers just what a woman wants out of a bike: female geometry. A playful 27.5-inch ride, the Pique 2 features a lower stand-over height than a men’s model, which makes it easier for women to navigate tough technical sections on both gutty climbs and raucous descents.
Where We Took It: Rides all over the Front Range, Utah and New Mexico, including long epics like Buffalo Creek sections of the Colorado Trail, short loops like Santa Fe’s Dale Ball Trails and technical fun like Hall Ranch’s rock garden in Lyons, Colorado. $3,150 | liv-cycling.com
Why It Won: We don’t know how we ever managed road trips and camping with toiletries, a journal and pens, scarves, hair ties and extra hat, extra gloves before … without losing it all. Thanks to this simple but brilliant organizing system, we no longer travel with Ziploc bags. And everything has a place, which brings peace and calm to our adventures.
Where We Took It: Everywhere from heliskiing in Canada to spring skiing in Telluride to Colorado hut trips to a spring desert car camping getaway. $11-$46; eaglecreek.com
Why It Won: Plenty of packs have a way to convert a lid into a daypack, but they can often be janky when you use them. The roomy Stein actually uses the pack’s harness system to build a real day pack. Plus, a carbon fiber stay system and foam padding cut the weight down to an impressive four pounds, seven ounces, and smart design like an easy-to-access hydration sleeve in the lid and side-zip access to the center of your pack made it our go-to hauler.
Where We Took It: Multi-day and overnight peak-bagging and fly-fishing trips in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks. $299; mysteryranch.com
Why It Won: With six inches of travel, a responsive dual link suspension and agile 27.5 wheels, this ride did all we asked of it with aplomb. Even better, Denver-based Alchemy offers the option for a customized paint job—though that’ll cost you $3,799 for the frame and shock. Oh and it’s made here in the U.S.A., a fact that oddly pleases conservatives and liberals alike.
Where We Took It: Rides all over Nederland trail system, including Plants and Animals, Mud Lake and Sugar Magnolia; Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Dale Ball and La Tierra trail systems; singletrack at Buffalo Creek, Colorado; the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, Colorado. $2,999 (frame and shock) | alchemy.bike
Why It Won: This portable charger proved an essential when outlets were nowhere to be found. It’s durable, provides multiple full charge-ups for your phone, and is small enough to fit in even no-frills trail-running packs.
Where We Took It: Every single trip we have been on over the past year—from watching sandhill cranes in Nebraska to climbing in Joshua Tree, California, to touring Colorado breweries. $70 | lander.com