Elevation Outdoors Peak Gear Awards 2013

Welcome to the first annual Elevation Outdoors Peak Gear Awards. There are plenty of “Gear of the Year” awards out there, so we decided to do it a little bit differently. We simply asked our top contributors—who, we are proud to admit, spend far more time hiking, climbing, biking, skiing, paddling and generally getting out than they do “working”—what was the best gear you used over the past year? What gear can’t you live without? What gear changed your life? The answers are here, dear readers. Meet the winners, the essential equipment that topped our gear-geek list and should top yours, too.

DPS.Wailer_112RPC

DPS Wailer 112 RPC

This is the aggressive version of DPS’s all-mountain carbon ski built for big lines in the backcountry and at the resort. Dimensions are 142/115/127.

Why It Won This ski absolutely floats in powder and held its own in the resort, even in bumps. It made ripping bottomless lines a pure joy but wasn’t thrown off by slop. No other carbon ski has guts like this—we were quite frankly shocked that such a light ski could be so aggressive instead of flimsy, especially when our 200-pound editors and contributors were giving it hell.

Where We Took It Whistler and the British Columbia backcountry, Telluride and hike-to steeps on Palmyra Peak, Vail, Berthoud Pass, Eldora, Powder Addiction Cat Skiing.

$799 hybrid/$1,249 Pure3; dpsskis.com 

suunto.ambit2 silver

Suunto Ambit2

This electronic marvel combines a GPS watch with a training tool, packing a drawer-full of devices into one easy-to-use piece on your wrist.

Why It Won
We have found no better tool for recording all the data we could possibly need for any escapade. It provides elevation, mileage, heart rate, even changes in barometric pressure to help you mind the weather. It’s durable, reliable, accurate and intuitive so you can spend more time outside and less time fumbling with manuals—you can use it right out of the box.

Where We Took It
The battery lasts up to 50 hours while recording GPS data—much longer without—so we take it everywhere we go: day hikes, 14er climbs, backpacking trips, road rides, mountain bike rides, runs, swims. Last year, we took it on big trips up Glacier Peak and Mount Rainier in the Cascades and overseas for adventures in Chile and Namibia.

$500; suunto.com

lasportiva.spectreLa Sportiva SPECTRE

The Spectre is a four-buckle, carbon-fiber AT boot with a 110 flex rating that weighs just 1,445 grams in a mondo size 27.5. A walk mode and its Vibram sole makes it ideal for everything from clambering over rocks to busting up long skin tracks—to, of course, skiing pow.

Why It Won
It skis downhill better than any boot in its weight class, but the best aspect was just how well it toured—it felt like a slipper despite those four big beefy buckles.

Where We Took It
All over the Breckenridge backcountry, Berthoud Pass and Loveland Pass. In area—Breckenridge, A-Basin, Vail, Telluride, Eldora.

$599; Sportiva.com 

Lowa.Renegade-II-GTX-Lo.3109539074

Lowa Renegade II GTX

A sturdy low hiker with a Gore-Tex membrane, a Vibram Evo sole and Nubuck leather upper, this stable super-duty hiker weighs in at just under a pound.

Why It Won
These hikers stayed comfortable even after they took a beating on the trail and scrambling over talus all summer and fall long. They stayed supportive, even though they are low hikers, and all the action we put on them barely wore down the outsoles.

Where We Took It
Up and down 14ers and 13ers across Colorado. Boulder trail runs. The volcanic rock of Mount Fuji in Japan. Trekking and climbing in Greenland for 30 days. A week on the AT and backpacking in the Wind Rivers.

$200; lowaboots.com

Giant.Defy_Advanced_SL_1_ISP

Giant Defy/Avail Advanced SL 1

The top spec-ed version of Giant’s reasonably priced composite road warrior was built with input from the brand’s racers to be responsive, quick and still comfortable on long rides. The Avail is the women’s version, which may have got more use from us than the men’s.

Why It Won
It felt damn good. This is the most comfortable, high performance road bike we put to the pavement. It absorbs every bump and bounce and the integrated seat post meant it can push well beyond the 50 mile mark into the 100s with efficiency and ease.

Where We Took It
Any road ride we do, including long rides up and over Independence Pass from Twin Lakes to Aspen, up and over Poncha Pass from Salida to Villa Grove, Monarch pass from Salida and the usual hard-charging, weekend socials on the Front Range.

$3,925; giant-bicycles.com

FlyLow.labcoat-mandarin

Flylow Lab Coat

This Polartec NeoShell piece from Colorado brand Flylow combines top-of-the-line performance with local cred. That NeoShell membrane moves sweat and shucks off precipitation and big pit zips open things up when the membrane gets overmatched.

Why It Won
Simple. It worked. The jacket did its job of breathing and staying waterproof on big days up in the Colorado peaks, both in the wild and on the lift. Plus, it’s not over-designed. $500 is a lot to drop on a jacket, but you will feel good about that purchase for several years into the future here.

Where We Took It
Early season hike-and-ski missions up Arapahoe Basin and Peak One, Indian Peaks ski mountaineering, Berthoud Pass, Eldora, Loveland, Monarch Pass.

$500; flylowgear.com

OR-TrailBreakerPants-Pewter-56191_008

Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Pant

Designed with input from IMGA guide Martin Volken and others these soft shell ski pants feature a waterproof Ventia hybrid fabric and pockets that actually have specific functions (think: a beacon pocket, knee pad pockets). Gaiters zip on and off and zippers allow you to put them on over ski or mountaineering boots.

Why It Won
All gear should be this well thought out. It has everything you want in a backcountry pant—just the right pocket layout, venting options, a great fit. So much thought went into this pant, it raises the bar for everything other pant out there. And who doesn’t like pants?

Where We Took It
Ski mountaineering in Alaska and British Columbia, day touring throughout Colorado, and AMGA guide-in-training and EO contributing editor Rob Coppolillo plans to wear it on his final ski exam this coming February.

$195; outdoorresearch.com

Petzl.SPIRIT EXPRESS

Petzl Spirit Express

Petzl’s new sub-100-gram Keylock quickdraw, available in 12 or 17 cm lengths, features a straight gate and a bent carabiner with an improved strength-to-weight ratio and wider surfaces  to reduce wear on the ‘biners and rope. Comes with an ergonomic sewn sling and updated string that holds the lower carabiner in place and protects the webbing from damage.

Why It Won
There’s not much time to mess around with bad gear on route and the gates here offered quick response when we needed it. It was easy to grab the sewn sling and the keylock nose never snagged on bolt hangers.

Where We Took It
Steep sport climbs in Clear Creek Canyon, multi pitch trad routes in Castle Valley, Utah, long crack pitches in South Platte.

$21; petzl.com

AMK Ultralight Watertight 7 RT

Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7

Meet the one piece of gear we did not truly test. Luckily. But that does not mean this well thought out medical kit was not something that accompanied us everywhere we went, all year long.

Why It Won
It’s comprehensive (with multiple bandages, moleskin, wipes, gloves, even duct tape… and you can replace anything you use online), lightweight at 8 ounces, high-vis and waterproof. We felt confident that we could deal with trouble with it stuffed in our pack.

Where We Took It
Across the planet, from the Valmont Bike Park to Utah slot canyons to African safaris.

$27; adventuremedicalkits.com

mammut.8.7_Serenity_lime_green_bild2

Mammut 8.7mm Serenity

Light, thin and sporting a SuperDry finish, this is the rope for every occasion.

Why It Won
The versatility (rated as a single, half, and twin rope—perfect to have in the quiver) of this cord was key, not to mention it handles so well. We were surprised to find such durability in a skinny rope and it’s light enough for spring ski mountaineering. It inspired confidence.

Where We Took It
We guided the First and Third Flatirons with it, took it up Total Abandon on Pikes Peak and even snagged a few sport pitches on it.

$250; mammut.ch

rab.strata_hoodie_apple

RAB Strata Hoodie

Built with Polartec’s breathable Alpha synthetic insulation, the Strata is a puffy that means business. The wind-and-water resistant Pertex Microlight outer fabric is tough enough for the rigors of alpinism but doesn’t compromise that easy breathability.

Why It Won
After wearing it on several big excursions, we feel confident claiming that the Alpha insulation really did breathe, meaning we did not have to waste time switching layers. Plus, the synthetic fill compressed down easily when we had to shove it away. The loose fit also made easy to put on over other layers.

Where We Took It
Touring to alpine climbing on Mt. Evans,  steep, cool approaches, and frigid belay duty at the Quarry Wall on North Table Mountain. Spring skiing.

$225; us.rab.uk.com

Evolv.Cruzer_Purple_Profile

Evolv Cruzer

It’s a casual climbing shoe—the Cruzer sports a Trax rubber technical sole that performs on tough climbs or boulder problems… but looks damn good at a cafe.

Why It Won
It’s the shoe you’d want if you only owned one pair. Oh, and did we mention you can actually climb in it, too? How many times have you heard someone say a climbing shoe is something you “never want to take off?”

Where We Took It
Where didn’t we take it? Hikes in the Flatirons, the Farmers Market, bar hopping in LoDo, up the South Face of Mt. Watkins in-a-day (a 2,000 foot big wall in Yosemite), various bouldering sessions, around-town buildering sessions, and complicated descents in Eldo.

$75; evolvsports.com

VOORMI High E F13 Cinder

Voormi High-E Hoodie

This do-it-all hoody from up-and-coming Colorado brand Voormi combines a wool “hard-shell” with a softer inner lining.

Why It Won
This layer did it all, combining wool’s wonderful wicking, anti-odor and temperature regulation qualities with a durable, water and wind-resistant hard-face. That made it a prime outer layer for high altitude endurance activities as well as a base layer for winter sports. We loved that versatility, the way it felt when we wore it and the edgy, but not in-your-face styling.

Where We Took It
Everywhere, all year long—from Mount Sanitas to the Alps.

$229; voormi.com

Contibutors/Gear Thrashers: Aaron Bible, Adam Chase, Rob Coppolillo, Liam Doran, James Dziezynski, Chris Kassar, Radha Marcum, Devon O’Neil, Cameron Martindell, Jayme Moye, Doug Schnitzspahn

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