Meet the gear that makes us happy.
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 camping, hiking, backpacking, biking, climbing and paddling 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?
CONTRIBUTORS: Joshua Berman, Aaron Bible, Jason Blevins, Berne Broudy, Rob Coppolillo, Adam Chase, Ben Dawson, Roxanne Harbitter, Chris Kassar, Lily Krass, Radha Marcum, Cameron Martindell, Sasha McGhee, Tracy Ross, Ryan Scavo, Doug Schnitzspahn, Morgan Tilton, Chris Van Leuven, Zach White
HOKA ONE ONE
Why It Won: We’ve never worn a more stable hiking shoe. It’s form-fitting, light, and excels in mixed trail conditions, thanks to straps that adjust around the ankle. No rubbing. No clunkiness. No wondering if it’s going to be OK on wet granite. Comfortable and functional, they’re the luxury vehicle of shoes.
Where We Took It: Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks trails and scrambling off-trail
Gravity Motion SL
Why It Won: Meet our favorite crag companion. We love that this pack opens lengthwise, so we can use it as a rope bag (and also for travel). It has plenty of places to clip quickdraws and trad gear on the outside, but streamlined enough that we’ve never caught it on anything. Plus it comes in both a standard and women’s fit.
Where We Took It: Multiple trips climbing, and simply traveling across Colorado, California and the Southwest
Trance 29 2
Why It Won: The latest generation Trance delivers the perfect balance of weight, pedal efficiency, and trail-smoothing capability. The do-it-all weapon is the perfect trail bike for all but the gnarliest of Colorado’s singletrack and fire roads.
Where We Took It: A dream list of Colorado singletrack, and a couple of days in Moab, too.
Why It Won: This running short offers the perfect combination of soft-yet-abrasion-proof fabric in a sleek cut, with a handy draw cord on the outside, and numerous well-thought-out pockets. Plus, we feel good supporting a B Corp like Patagonia with a mission to prioritize environmental and social causes in addition to profits.
Where We Took It: Boulder’s Mesa Trail and the first day of the Transalpine Run, a 44-kilometer race from Germany to Austria.
Intrigue ADV 0
Why It Won: This beast of a bike is stable and trustworthy, especially in high-speed flow-trail turns. But it also thrives in the tight trees and technical trails outside of Nederland. It’s an able climber, but the downhill is where it really excels. While we crept away from our partners on the uphill, we truly dusted them on muddy, rock-lined singletrack.
Where We Took It: Mid Magnolia and West Magnolia in Boulder County outside of Nederland; Heil Ranch, Colorado; Carbondale, Colorado
Topwater PDL Angler
Why It Won: We were a bit apprehensive about kayaking in a paddle boat, but the PDL system allows for accurate navigation and power on demand—and, as advertised, it left both hands free to deal with our fly line and landing big fish, which can be an adventure in a kayak. Add in lots of gull space for storage and this is our new flat water favorite, even when we aren’t casting.
Where We Took It: Boulder Reservoir and Gross Reservoir, Colorado
Why It Won: The Wildfire Edge blends hiker and climbing shoe better than any approach shoe we have ever tested. That’s due in part to the innovative lacing system that ratchets down in the toe for the scary stuff and loosens up when you are rambling down the trail. Plus, it smears with confidence and edges with the ability of a technical shoe.
Where We Took It: Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks trails and canyoneering on Utah sandstone
Why It Won: This lesser known brand deserves every runner’s attention for its progressive designs and performance styles. Along with the Chiller Running Shorts, the Runpaca Tee (available in short and long sleeve) is the pinnacle of comfort and thermoregulation in an all-purpose tee for travel and running. It’s made in Peru from a blend of soft pima cotton and sustainably sourced alpaca fleece. The colors and designs of each Janji piece are inspired by the international communities where the brand gives back with clean water programs.
Where We Took It: Aspen Backcountry Marathon, Steamboat Stinger Half Marathon, Portugal, Patagonia
Canary Pro Dry 8.6mm
Why It Won: An 8.6mm triple-rated rope (single, half and twin) is remarkable enough, but unlike any of the competition, the Edelrid Canary boasts a 47 percent sheath percentage. That means the Canary has approximately 10 percent more sheath than other cords, making it tougher than any rope in its class.
Where We Took It: Everywhere from 15-pitch routes in Red Rocks to short-roping in Eldo to ice climbs in Vail
Cairn XL Lantern
Why It Won: This powerful lantern fills a tent (or a hotel room) up beautifully with multiple soft, colored light options. The charging bank lasts for days and you can control it all from your smartphone.
Where We Took It: Campsites and hotel rooms across Colorado and Wyoming
Why It Won: This is the greatest toy ever made. Our exuberant tester says: “I have pretty much stopped walking anywhere. This is as close to Aladdin’s flying carpet I’ve ever found.”
Where We Took It: Our tester logged more than 1,250 miles over the past year, half of those on dirt roads, and trails.
Why It Won: This adaptable sleeping bag won us over with its impressive weight-to-warmth ratio. Best of all, you can unzip it to make it a down quilt—ideal for sharing, snuggling or dumping heat easily when camping solo. Plus, the small Colorado business engages in responsible sourcing and uses traceable down.
Where We Took It: Hut trips, tree line camping, and car camping around Colorado
Why It Won: The durable, rolling cooler impressed us year-round with burly wheels that allow for easy transport (even through snow). The dividers inside help organize food, so you can access everything efficiently while camping and prevents the food from getting smushed. Our tester wrote paragraphs about her love for the Rover 60. To sum up: “This cooler is a life-changer.”
Where We Took It: Several road trips from December to April and on supply runs from Crested Butte to Colorado Springs and Denver
Plasma S GTX
Why It Won: The first hiking shoe that thermomolds to your foot was a godsend to our contributors with hard-to-fit feet. The consensus was that the customizable low hiker with a Gore-Tex membrane is phenomenally comfortable, with a sole sticky enough to scramble and a burly TPU shank that provided plenty of protection when we tested it on tricky terrain.
Where We Took It: All over Colorado, backpacking in Vermont, trekking in Portugal
Why It Won: Sleek, durable, comfortable and grippy, these bike shoes proved perfect for riding a wide swath of trails and terrain. The sturdy synthetic upper breathed like a champ and the Stealth rubber kept our feet locked on flat pedals. It even felt right on long cross-country rides where we otherwise would have used our clipless pedals.
Where We Took It: Desert riding in Fruita and Moab, singletrack around Jackson, downhill trails on Teton Pass
Why It Won: This shoe is the bomb when it comes to serious gravel riding, and is also ideal for Cyclocross and competitive XC riding as well. It features an ultra-light, ultra-stiff carbon construction using a proprietary “X-Frame” with double speed dials for an exact fit without pressure points. It’s also extremely abrasion resistant all the way down to the grippy Michelin rubber sole.
Where We Took It: Every forest service road we could find between Estes Park and Central City; up and down Magnolia Road; dirt tracks all around Boulder County.
Backstage Swing Away Platform Hitch Rack
Why It Won: This smart hitch-mounted, swing-away bike rack allows us to access the back doors of our van with the bikes still attached to the rack. That’s more or less mandatory for the sanity of our van-life contributors.
Where We Took It: All over the U.S. It’s attached to the Live Outside and Play van.
Freescape Camp Kitchen
Why It Won: This clever, compactible kit—a cutting board that stores a kitchen knife and paring knife—is safe around kids, easy to carry and even includes a built-in knife sharpener. We keep it in our vehicle at all times for camping trips, pot lucks and impromptu picnics.
Where We Took It: Road trips, car camping and picnics
Bravo II Wiregate Quickdraw
$15 each, $70 five pack; metoliusclimbing.com
Why It Won: These light (79g) draws rack neatly on your harness gear loops thanks to their 12mm slings and small wire-gate carabiners. The flared-nose profile on the carabiners reduces the risk of accidentally opening during falls and an internal band on the clipping-end of the sling keeps carabiners from cross loading. We’re willing to take multiple whippers on them.
Where We Took It: The Chapel Wall in Yosemite, a stout crag with cracks from 5.10 to 5.13, and lots of sport routes rated 5.12
H5 Infinium Pants
Why It Won: Sure, these women’s pants provide wind protection and keep out precipitation while remaining incredibly breathable. But the design actually takes women’s needs into consideration with plenty of pockets, comfortable waistbands, a place for your phone, a cut that’s flattering but not restrictive and reinforced knee fabric for scrambling. Says our tester, “I’ve been wearing them for three days straight.”
Where We Took It: Through multiple spring shower hikes on the East Coast and in Colorado
Boomer Dog Bowl
Why It Won: This dog bowl is so nice we would eat our own breakfast out of it. No vanlife photoshoot is complete without one of these bad boys. Featuring double-wall stainless steel construction with a powder coated finish, it’s extremely durable and easy to clean.
Where We Took It: Where didn’t we take it? From Wilmington Beach, North Carolina, to Joshua Tree National Park, California…it goes where we go.