Every year, we poll our stable of core contributors to nominate the gear they actually go out and use most. We simply ask them: What was the best gear you used over the past year? What gear can’t you live without? What gear changed your life? Meet the gear we loved, beat up, and relied on out in the wild. That mattered more than ever during the pandemic when we faced so many challenges and found so much solace in the outdoors. Here’s the gear that helped us through. These are the winners of Elevation Outdoors’ 2022 Peak Gear Awards.
Fame Inflatable SUP Kit
Why It Won: In a word: stability. This big, trusty SUP proved a great platform for fly-fishing and hauling gear around the lake. But unlike many other big boards, it still has some guts to it.
Where We Took It: The Colorado River, Gross Reservoir and Boulder Reservoir in Colorado; Fremont Lake in Wyoming; Wright’s Lake in California
Ws Mtn Trainer Light
Why It Won: This hiker simply scores 5 out of 5 in everything you want a mountain shoe to do—it’s light and spry; it provides plenty of stability on tricky terrain; it grips rock on scrambles; it even looks good when you just wear it around town.
Where We Took It: Everyday hikes in Boulder Mountain Parks and bigger excursions in the Indian Peaks
Foundation Outfit 590-4
Why It Won: Simple. This kit—a versatile 9-foot #5 Foundation rod, Spectrum C 5/6 reel, Rio Gold line—gives you high quality at a decent price. It’s the perfect means to take your fly-angling to the next level.
Where We Took It: The Big Thompson, Boulder Creek, Boxwood Gulch
Why It Won: There’s no better ski for day-to-day hill banging in Colorado. The versatile Mantra has been a go-to for adherents for years, and the latest version only upped the game with three separate sidecuts for more versatility and the ability to take on any terrain at every mountain.
Where We Took It: Eldora, Steamboat, Arapahoe Basin, Taos, Jackson Hole
falketind Alpha120 Zip Hood
Why It Won: Most of the time when we were wearing this Polartec Alpha & Power Grid fleece, we didn’t know we had it on. It breathed when we were huffing up the skin track, packed down easy for backpacking, and offered quick warmth on day hikes.
Where We Took It: Backcountry skiing on Teton Pass, backpacking in the Gore Range, road-tripping from Colorado to San Francisco
Why It Won: Beefy and comfy, these adventure wading shoes inspired confidence both in the water and on the approach. Credit that performance to the grippy OmniTrax sole that grips both wet rocks and the trail.
Where We Took Them: The Big Thompson, Boulder Creek, Boxwood Gulch
Scalpel Carbon SE 2
Why It Won: If 4 grand is your spending limit—enough to get a quality ride but not enough to put you deep in debt—you won’t find a better mountain bike. This carbon beast will keep you out ahead of the pack on long rides and can suck up the hits on rocky descents—and it serves as a trusty steed when you are ready to race.
Where We Took It: Singletrack across the Front Range and in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Why It Won: Extremely warm for its light weight and easy to pack, this eco-friendly insulator blocked the wind and chill on early starts and proved versatile on a wide range of outdoor adventures.
Where We Took It: Fall excursions on Colorado summits—Elbert, Hope, Massive—and springtime backcountry ski descents
Why It Won: This innovative trail runner offers up the best fit in the business. A dual BOA closure system with micro adjustment in both directions give it the ability to batten down like a bike shoe.
Where We Took It: Rugged runs across the Front Range
Distance Wind Shell
Why It Won: It’s so small we forget we are even carrying it. Great for emergencies or unexpected squalls. It’s the perfect shell to stuff in your fanny pack or bike bag for a mountain bike or road ride.
Where We Took It: Mountain biking the Monarch Crest Trail, skiing and climbing Mount Aetna, Clover Mountain, and the Box Creek Couloirs
Why It Won: Because everybody poops, and that means everyone has to properly dispose of waste in the backcountry. This all-in-one potty kit—including wipes and tabs that break down poop—makes that task easy and effective—a win for everyone in the woods.
Where We Took It: Everywhere we had to go—from Utah’s San Rafael Swell to Front Range day hikes
Solstice Graphene Hoodie
Why It Won: This sun hoodie kept us cool and protected us from the midday sun when trudging up glaciers, yet proved warm and insulating during chilly alpine starts. We especially loved the cowl neckline—it keeps your neck and chin protected, giving you extra coverage where you need it most.
Where We Took It: Mount Rainier, Washington (where Bight Gear founder Peter Whitaker guides), summer and winter adventures on the Front Range and Loveland Pass
Hornet Ultralight 2-Person Backpacking Tent
Why It Won: Most ultralight tents sacrifice comfort and space for weight, but the Hornet (weighing in at just under 2 pounds) puts comfortability and ease at the top of the list. We survived windy nights, blizzards, and other crazy weather in it and have never had water or snow seep in and bother us.
Where We Took It: Gnarly winter storms in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and backpacking in Yosemite National Park
Kids Ride Shotgun
Child Bike Seat + Handlebars Combo
Why It Won: This mini-me seat attachment lets parents get out and ride on an actual mountain bike on legit trails and roads with kids. Having the kids riding up front between your arms is ideal for bike handling and inspires confidence in both you and them.
Where We Took It: Front Range trails and roads around Nederland and Evergreen
Hustle Bike Labs
Avery REMtech Pedal
Why It Won: The ultimate lovechild of clipless and flat pedals, these babies are insanely responsive thanks to Neodymium magnets and inspire confidence since its so easy to break away if needed. (We don’t like wrecking with clipless pedals for fear of being stuck connected to our bike and eating it harder than necessary).
Where We Took Them: We first experienced the pedal at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo bike race and have been addicted ever since.
Basecamp Cordura Ripstop Jacket
Why It Won: Burley, tough, handsome, and warm, this solid piece proved a constant, welcome companion for those cold early mornings out in the field—and looked sharp back home at the coffee shop.
Where We Took It: Road trips across the West, our back deck
Men’s Wool Aire Hoodie
Why It Won: We are so glad to have one of our favorite merino brands back, based in Colorado, and making pieces like this winner that’s lightweight, warm, comfortable, and imparts a cozy skin feel. Plus the brand is moving to be climate neutral and maintains ethical supply chains.
Where We Took It: Backcountry skiing missions throughout Colorado and casual jaunts around town
Why It Won: This navigation app is easy to use and full of useful data, including weather, avalanche conditions, and all the other map-app expected features like offline maps and waypoint sharing (via the Somewear sat messenger when off grid).
Where We Took It: Absolutely everywhere
Kuchoma Portable Gas Camp Grill
Why It Won: We didn’t know we needed this grill until we cooked with it. It’s portable, efficient, and reliable. The horizontal burner tube delivered time and time again whether we were cooking breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the backyard, in camp, or in the ski area parking lot.
Where We Took It: Car camping, road trips, and backyard barbecues
Microlight Alpine Down Jacket
Why It Won: Made with packable and soft-to-the-touch Quantum Ripstop nylon, zoned baffles, and an adjustable hood, this light insulator was equally at home during long days in the mountains as it was during chilly nights downtown. Plus, Rab updated this longtime standby for us with recycled fabrics.
Where We Took It: On every adventure from the big walls of Yosemite to the streets of Denver
Why It Won: Weighing in at just 3.3 pounds, this updated version of an already impressive ultralight packraft proved perfect for fastpacking, ultralight backpacking, crossing rivers, canyoneering, and mountain lake fishing.
Where We Took It: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Freerider Primeblue Mountain Bike Shoes
Why It Won: Thanks to sticky soles and recycled Parley ocean plastic uppers, this flat pedal mountain bike shoe works jsut as well on steep, technical approaches as it does on all-day mountain bike rides. Bonus: By incorporating 75% Parley ocean plastic textile into these shoes, Adidas/Five Ten is repurposing plastic waste. Bravo.
Where We Took It: Hundreds of miles of trail on bike and dozens of approaches in Yosemite National Park—and they still look (and perform) like new.
Why It Won: Stitched, not glued, for the best stretch in all conditions, and built with new thinner rand profile for a better fit on all styles of cockpit rims, this is a sprayskirt we can count on. Plus, burly neoprene panels give it longevity and lots of abrasion resistance.
Where We Took It: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the Yampa, Ecuador