It’s time to hand out our coveted hardware to the best stuff we put to the test out in the wild—and keep using every day.
Contributors: Aaron Bible, Rob Coppolillo, Liam Doran, Chris Kassar, Radha Marcum, Cameron Martindell, Ariella Nardizzi, Tracy Ross, Ryan Michelle Scavo, Doug Schnitzspahn
Twice each year, we hand out these coveted Peak Gear Awards to the very best gear we put to the test in the field. How do we determine the winners? Simple. We ask our top contributors—who, we are proud to admit, spend far more time skiing, riding, skinning, biking, climbing, and exploring than they do “working”—to name the best gear they used over the past year. What gear can’t you live without? Which gear changed your life? What products made your adventures better?
Völkl/Marker Rise Beyond 96 ski/Kingpin 10 bindings
WHY IT WON: This slick setup proved perfect no matter where we toured. The big skis levitated in the deep stuff, smashed through garbage snow, and schussed like smaller sticks on the skin track—but what impressed us most was how nimble and responsive they were for a powder ski, darting through the trees and even edging well when we rode them in area. Paired with Marker’s latest iteration of the trusty Kingpin AT binding, it’s the perfect do-it-all set up for big lines and soft snow in the backountry.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Indian Peaks backcountry, Jones Pass, Berthoud Pass, and Eldora in Colorado; Jackson Hole and Teton Pass in Wyoming
Dalbello Quantum Free 105 W
WHY IT WON: Weighing under 3 pounds in a women’s size 23.5, this is the lightest touring boot we have ever owned and also the stiffest and most dependable in manky snow. On the uphill, a dual link cuff provides a 65-degree range of motion—good for flats and semisteep skinning but excellent for steep climbs. A full length boot board kept our feet warm even in bitter early morning cold uphilling at Eldora. We were a bit suspect of how it would perform on the downhill, but pleasantly surprised by how well it drove skis in a wide range of conditions. Note: The top-of-the-line men’s Dalbello Quantum Evo ($1,000)—which provides even more ski-driving power and comfort on the skin up, and which we also tested and now use day-to-day—is pictured in the photo above.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Edora, Winter Park Resort, the Indian Peaks backcountry, and Jones Pass in Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Sun Valley, Idaho
Patagonia R1 Air Zip-neck
WHY IT WON: Slip this soft warm fleece on and you won’t want to take it off. It simply feels good to the touch—beyond all the impressive insulating and breathable properties. Plus, it comes from a company that puts values over profit.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Skiing all over Colorado as a baselayer; car camping; sitting at home doing the crossword on a lazy Sunday morning
Romp Leif 94
WHY IT WON: Light, fast, and able to whip quick turns in any conditions. These skis, which measure 132/94/122, upped our game whether we were touring or charging downhill. On top of all that performance, the graphics stand out compared to other skis on the track, and they are made right here in Crested Butte, Colorado.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Berthoud Pass and the Crested Butte backcountry; Eldora and A-Basin uphill skiing
Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0
WHY IT WON: We have tested a multitude of portable fire pits, but none of them are as comfortable to sit around as the Bonfire 2.0. The key is the smokeless design which means you don’t have to keep shifting your seat. It’s easy to transport but still looks great on your deck.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Car camping across Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah; our own dam backyard
Teva ReEmber Terrain Slippers
WHY IT WON: These two-for-one slippers aren’t just ultracomfy and warm—they’re rugged enough for a quick approach to the nearest crag. They have outstanding traction and the closed heel makes them quite comfortable and stable. Plus, the outer material is water-resistant for cold, dewy mornings.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Everywhere—from the high peaks of the San Juans to cragging in Clear Creek Canyon
Voormi Sportsman’s Two Pocket hoodie
WHY IT WON: Made with a tight outer weave, this cozy hoodie is also incredibly durable, and the fleece-lined interior is warm and comfortable against the skin. But what really sold us is the integrated membrane that cuts the wind and makes this a must-have for cold-weather outings, whether we were active or just hanging out.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Winter adventures across the West from Sun Valley, Idaho, to Jackson, Wyoming
Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0 Jacket
WHY IT WON: Sure, it’s waterproof, the cut is performance-oriented and comfy, and it breathes—but the really cool thing about this fully waterproof/breathable jacket is that it’s quiet and soft, like a soft shell. It is our go-to hard shell no matter the endeavor.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: The summit of Mont Blanc and a ridge traverse of the Entrèves in the Alps; ski touring in Canada; the works
Stio Hardscrabble Insulated Mitt
WHY IT WON: This is the softest mitt we have ever worn. Made of Pittards goatskin leather with a suede wrapped palm and Neoprene cuff and filled with PrimaLoft 3-oz. insulation, they stay supple when temperatures drop. It comes in unizex sizing.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Aspen, Eldora, Winter Park Resort, the Indian Peaks backcountry, Jones Pass
Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 S GW
WHY IT WON: This is the ultimate in-bounds ski boot. The fit is spot on, and the aggressive flex pattern is perfect for the all mountain ripper. It’s quite light and super responsive—exactly what you want in a day-to-day hillbanger.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Resorts all over the western U.S. and Canada.
Atomic Bent Jr.
WHY IT WON: Twin tips and fun graphics are really all it takes for my 8-year-old to get excited about skis since she loves to goof around and ski backwards. But the Bent Jr. is more than that—these kid’s skis are easy to maneuver, stable, and help little ones gain confidence on the slopes. Plus, they ring in at a nice price with bindings included.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Eldora, Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Leki Patrol 3D Glove
WHY IT WON: Leki is best known for making great poles, but its gloves are world-class too. Ideal for both backcountry touring and in-bounds skiing, the Patrol 3D features a low-profile cuff that makes getting our jacket over it much easier.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Resorts and backcountry all over the western U.S. and Canada
Artilect M-Divide Stretch Fusion Hoodie
WHY IT WON: Up-and-coming Boulder-based brand, Artilect wowed us by combining mobility, ethical down, water-resistance, durability, and other technical and environmental attributes into this thoughtful and versatile layering piece.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Mountains throughout the Front Range and Mountain West
Scarpa Maestrale Remade
WHY IT WON: Scarpa’s redesigned Maestrale is already our favorite AT touring boot—light, easy to switch between walk and ski modes, and responsive on the downs. But the brand brought it up a level with this limited edition that is crafted from production scraps that Scarpa has saved in its manufacturing facility for the past two years. The result is a sexy boot that shows how we can build gear and care for the planet.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Ski demos in Colorado
22 Designs Outlaw X
WHY IT WON: For those of us telemark adherents this binding continues to be a game changer. The NTN system imparts more control and power edge to edge so we can rip the resort, and the easy-to-flip-into tour system means we can keep up with anyone when we are skinning.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Resort and backcountry skiing across Colorado; Taos, New Mexico; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Åre, Sweden
Camelbak SnoBlast 22
WHY IT WON: It’s important to stay hydrated if you plan to spend an entire day exploring the far reaches of a mountain (think Copper Bowl and Turner Mountain). This well-designed pack keeps your water from freezing but never gets in the way when you are skiing or riding the lifts.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Eldora, Winter Park, and Copper Mountain
Costa Del Mar Diego
WHY IT WON: These are the best sunglasses our mountain guide tester has ever worn in 15 years on the job. They have phenomenal optics, great protection, and scratch-resistance.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: The summit of Mont Blanc in the Alps, rock climbing in Las Vegas, driving cross-country, trail-running—you name it
Ibex Wool Aire Hoodie
WHY IT WON: It provides the perfect lightweight warmth for cold(ish) mountain hikes when a regular puffy would feel great to start out but overheats us in 10–15 minutes. With this layer, we don’t have to feel cold to start out, and we are not soaked underneath by the end of the hike.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Hikes and dog walks in Boulder Mountain Parks and Santa Fe’s Dale Ball trails
Thermarest Hyperion 20
WHY IT WON: We relied on this cozy (but not too hot) sleeping bag on bikepacking trips through fall and early winter. It’s ultralight and ultrapackable, fitting perfectly into a saddle bag. It also wicked like a champ on a steamy (thanks to the unexpected wood stove!) winter hut trip.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Bikepacking and hut tripping in the San Juans
OnX Backcountry App
WHY IT WON: This navigation app won for the second year in a row because we continue to rely on it. It’s 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 the grid).
WHERE WE TOOK IT: All over the Western United States
Black Crows Mentis Freebird
WHY IT WON: Meet the ticket for light-and-fast skiers looking for stability. At 80 mm underfoot, these light, versatile sticks have enough guts to be trustworthy on tricky terrain and speedy on the skin track. Front rocker provides good pivot and floatation, and a long camber imparts extended ski-to-snow grip.
WHERE WE TOOK IT: Eldora, Winter Park Resort, the Indian Peaks backcountry, and Jones Pass