This hardware is the real deal. We asked our core contributors to pick the gear they use the most and performs the best for them, to determine who wins these bi-annual awards. So, without further ado, we present the outdoor products that make our lives better.
Contributors: Aaron Bible, Liam Doran, Radha Marcum, Cameron Martindell, Ariella Nardizzi, Dani Reyes-Accosta, Ryan Michelle Scavo, Doug Schnitzspahn, Kieran Schitzspahn, Chris Van Leuven
Why It Won: Being able to hike in to a spot stand-up paddleboard gives you access to high mountain lakes and other backcountry bodies of water, as well as tricky put-ins near roads—it’s a game-changer. This 10-foot inflatable SUP in a backpack makes those adventures possible, weighing in at just under 13 pounds and performing admirably on the water.
Where We Took It: Alpine lakes in the Indian Peaks, Green Mountain Reservoir, Utah’s Green River
Why It Won: An electric gravel bike gives you the ability to patch together big, long adventures on gnarly roads. It also gives cyclists who may be compromised the ability to hang with friends or take on new adventures. Yamaha Power Assist is celebrating 30 years of producing e-bikes in 2023, and this ride incorporates that know-how in a nimble and stable ride with impressive battery life providing a range of up to 90 miles in Eco mode. Plus, it has a cushy seat dropper.
Where We Took It: The test track at the (e)revolution show in Denver, big rides in Boulder County foothills
Why It Won: We have been big fans of Priority’s belt-drive commuter bikes for years. This baby takes that break-down-proof technology and powerful crank response and puts it into an efficient bikepacking machine with an enclosed Pinion C1.12 gearbox.
Where We Took It: Don’t just believe us. Local Boulder hero Ryan Van Duzer used this aluminum ride to tackle the Continental Divide trail from Mexico to Montana.
Moosejaw Comfortress 8P
$399 (with aluminum poles); mossejaw.com
Why It Won: This eight-person monster of a tent is all the basecamp your family needs. With two separate rooms and plenty of standing space, its 116-square-foot inner footprint provides plenty of privacy and boogie room. Add on the massive 51-square-foot vestibule and you have can play games and chill even when it’s raining or too sunny. Best of all, it rings in at a nice price for families.
Where We Took It: Olive Ridge campground in Allenspark, Cow Creek South Campground on Green Mountain Reservoir
Why It Won: Rab has made an incredible commitment to sustainability in all its products and this waterproof/breathable shell proved up to alpine climbing and backpacking while living up to that ethos. But the three-layer jacket made 100% recycled Pertex Shield Revolve won because it actually provides that protection while delivering an athletic fit and weighs in at just 15.1 ounces.
Where We Took It: Numerous adventures in the Indian Peaks and James Peak wilderness areas, Boulder Mountain Parks
Proton Hybrid Hoodie
Why It Won: Light, stylish, and easy-to-wear, this insulator is one of those pieces you bring along whether you are headed out for a quick hike in cooler temps, peak bagging, or backpacking. And since it’s technically a backcountry ski/snowboard piece, we are looking forward to using it throughout the winter too.
Where We Took It: Advenhtures in the San Rafael Swell and in Boulder Mountain Parks
Pact Outdoors Lite Backpacking Toilet Kit
Why It Won: Everybody poops in the woods and having the right equipment to do it with Leave No Trace principles is key. Designed for backpacking (and even dayhikes), this smart kit includes a light, low-profile trowel with the mycelium wipes and tablets that fit into the shovel handle. The mushroom-based wipe expands when wet to create a wet wipe, which cleans so much better than toilet paper and actually helps break down the human waste along with the tablets.
Where We Took It: Backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks, day hikes at Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Why It Won: This startup creating “Latin backpacking food for adventurers with great taste and strong values” offers three hearty, healthy meal options: Charge-up Chilaquiles, Campsite Lentejas (lentils), and Sunset Caldo (soup). They’re easy to rehydrate: We clocked just about eightminutes until perfect at 11,000 feet when on a mountain-running trip. Packed with all the protein, calories, and nutrients we need on big endeavors, they taste amazing—and authentic.
Where We Took It: Mountain running in the Sierra, paddling on Colorado’s Dolores River
Katabatic Low Waterproof
Why It Won: Comfy straight out of the box, this lightwight shoe has become our go-to hiker for on-trail adventure. It provided the stability to tackle summit scrambles and big days on the trail, and stayed comfy and dry even when we splashed through puddles and mud.
Where We Took It: Hiking in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, birding adventures at eastern Colorado wildlife refuges
High Noon Sun Hoody
Why It Won: Designed for the desert, this 30+ UPF, moisture wicking long-sleeved shirt—which doesn’t feel long-sleeved at all—is perfect for hot-weather adventure, providing essential sun protection and even some warmth when the temps drop or you get wet. Bonus points for the convenient hood.
Where We Took It: The long trek to the top of Texas’ Big Bend National Park, the Edwards Plateau hill country
Mystery Ranch Superset 30
Why It Won: We loved the versatility of this sturdy daypack that we used for everything from holding gear on big hikes to going to the gym with kids to catching a flight to a tradeshow. It’s an ideal size for airplanes or business travel, and holds a helmet, puffy, laptop, water bottle, headphones… whatever you deem essential.
Where We Took It: Everywhere
Deep Sleep Mat Duo 7.5
Why It Won: This cushy sleeping mat has changed our way of thinking about backcountry sleeping from suffering on the thinnest piece of foam to treating ourselves to a solid night’s sleep. The extra-large valve simplifies deflation and an oversize packsack allows for easy, simple storage as well. In addition, the 7.5 cm of open-cell foam provides excellent back support and can comfortably fit larger tents or in the trunk of a Subaru Crosstrek with room to spare.
Where We Took It: Camping in the snow off Guanella Pass, multiday camping excursions in Moab, car and tent camping across Colorado
Kinesis Pro GTX
Why It Won: Ideal for big adventures and providing plenty of support, these boots are just the ticket for off-trail backpacking and wildlife photography missions in steep terrain. You feel invincible in them.
Where We Took It: Cold, wet photography missions in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and far beyond
Distance Kit 2.0
$91 jersey, $130 bibs;
Why It Won: This full cycling kit is shockingly affordable and plays in the same pond as much more expensive high-end apparel. It offers a comfortable feel and strikes a nice balance of performance fit without being race-focused. Gore calls it the most comfortable kit you can wear all day; we agree with that sentiment. Plus we appreciate the low-key colors and design.
Where We Took It: Gravel and road rides around Colorado Springs and Boulder
Why It Won: The tread pattern on this flip-flop grips like no other we’ve ever tried—on wet, polished concrete, bricks, and on the trail. The footbed features a comfortable, almost massaging, texture and grips nicely so your foot doesn’t slide around. It helps that the Auna has a pronounced arch to help grip the foot and the upper strap proves comfortable and secure.
Where We Took It: Cruising around the neighborhood, camping trips, and short hikes
Air E-Bike Conversion Kit
Why It Won: Have you ever dreamt of converting any pedal bike into an e-bike for just $500? This year, we successfully transformed a single-speed beach cruiser with coaster brakes into a sleek e-bike with 10 miles of range thanks to the Swytch Air. Additionally, the book-size battery can be removed, easily fitting into the lid of a backpack. The result is a lightweight e-bike that’s incredibly easy to transport.
here We Took It: Rides around Yosemite National Park and Mariposa, California
L.I.M. Mimic Hood
Why It Won: Super light and compressible and shockingly warm for such a light piece this insulator is just the ticket for the high peaks and backpacking trips. Our tester said, “I am usually a down guy, but this piece is so good I might convert to synthetic.”
Where We Took It: Backpacking in Utah, hiking in Colorado