Meet the gear that makes us happy.
Twice each year we hand out these coveted Peak Gear Awards to the very best outdoor 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? Read on for our Summer 2020 Peak Gear Awards – the Best Outdoor Gear of 2020.
YETI: Trailhead Chair
Why It Won: It’s comfortable, durable, UV-proof, and unbreakable. Featuring double-wall stainless steel construction with a powder coated finish, it’s extremely durable and easy to clean. No vanlife photoshoot is complete without one of these bad boys.
Where We Took It: We have been backyard testing this chair for weeks during quarantine.
SALEWA: MTN Trainer LITE MID GTX
Why It Won: This comfy boot has already won a bunch of outdoor magazine awards so we were a bit apprehensive about following suit—but several contributors put it on their nomination list and the truth is that it provides the perfect melding of stability, springiness, and guts out on the trail.
Where We Took It: Last fall, it cruised through a backpacking and fly-fishing jaunt in Wyoming’s Snowy Range. This spring, it became our social distance standby shoe in Boulder, proving ideal for adventure hikes and scrambles.
BLACK DIAMOND: AirNET
Why It Won: Adam Ondra’s signature model harness was built with Olympic competition in mind. So it’s no surprise that the AirNET is “the lightest weight, streamlined harness on the market,” according to Kolin Powick, climbing category director for Black Diamond. This harness is built with two new patented designs: AirNET technology for light weight (235 grams) and high breathability and the Infiniti Loop, BD’s new seamless belay loop. Because of its minimalist design, the AirNET harness fits in a stuff sack (included) and it takes up minimal room in a pack.
Where We Took It: Sport climbing and cragging in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It has become our go-to harness for close-to-home climbing and adventures during the shutdown.
HOKA ONE ONE: Speedgoat 4
Why It Won: It’s the perfect combo of cushioning and stability in a shoe that performs well over techy terrain. The breathable mesh was a godsend and the roomy toe box made it so that we could take on long runs without pain as the result of curled up toes. It offers up tons of grip and the fit is roomy but not mushy and there are a few ways to tune it in perfectly for your unique foot. Honestly, it feels like you’re running on soft cushiony pillows—so we noticed less impact on our feet and joints over the long haul.
Where We Took It: Trail running on the CDT and Colorado Trail. Up 14ers Mount Yale and Mount Shavano. Daily trail running on S Mountain in Salida. Big days in Moab, Taos, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Why It Won: This incredibly well-balanced mountain bike has the suspension to play in the bike park, as well as the pedal efficiency and svelte weight to tackle all day epics. This do-it-all weapon is the perfect trail bike for all but the gnarliest of Colorado’s singletrack.
Where We Took It: Some of Colorado’s best trails, from Front Range classics, to winter hot spots like Canon City, to the techiest options in Chaffee County.
LIV: Pique 29 2
Why It Won: Lightweight and geometrically optimized for women riders, the Pique 29 2 practically flies over dirt, gravel, and rock. With simplified gears and a suspension lock for longer climbs, this bike is simply fast—so fast we accidentally dusted our (male) riding partners on the first long ride of the season.
Where We Took It: On every bike-accessible dirt trail within 10 miles of Boulder. Farther afield to Buffalo Creek, and Porcupine Rim.
RAB: Mythic Ultra 180
Why It Won: Carrying a sleeping bag on a ski-tour or climb is a drag, pure and simple. We love a good night’s rest, but having that extra weight and bulk on your back is a bummer while you’re slaying (or just trying not to flail!). All that is just to say that this is the lighter, smaller sleeping bag we have been seeking for a decade.
Where We Took It: Colorado, France, and Italy. So far we only used it on trips to alpine huts, but we are overjoyed to be headed into bivy season with a sleeping bag that won’t drag us down.
PATAGONIA: Storm Racer
Why It Won: This shell is not only lightweight and breathable, but also uber-ergonomic. The innovative zipper design was the answer to all of our running-while-raining prayers. It’s built for use with a running vest, and the zippers are tailored for taking the jacket on and off while in-motion—making it shockingly easy to shed in a hurry. But the feature that really impressed us was the ease with which you can access your water and snacks through the large neck hole that the twin zippers create.
Where We Took It: We put this jacket through the gauntlet out in the Indian Peaks and around Boulder (including an epic run on the Skyline Traverse).
ARC’TERYX: Atom SL Hoody
Why It Won: We have tested every version of synthetic insulation on the market for the last dozen years and the Arc’teryx Atom is by far the most versatile in terms of the temperature range it can handle and breathability. It’s also one of the best fitting jackets of all time, and looks good enough to wear out to dinner in town (whenever that will be the norm again).
Where We Took It: Cool summer nights at concerts, around campfires, alpine skiing, alpine climbing. We used it as a mid layer and a puffy, year round, making it our single most reliable go-to insulating piece.
CLUB RIDE: Mountain Surf Short
Why It Won: These shorts give the appearance of propriety with an underlying sense of sporty mischievousness. The technical, quick-to-dry, durable yet supple fabric, bike-seat-friendly butt, zippered pockets, and internal Velcro waist adjustments all add up to the perfect combination.
Where We Took It: Commuting to the office, out to dinner, overseas travel, and on the occasional run to a meeting, when we were late.
GARMIN: Fenix 6S (Sapphire)
Why It Won: The low profile on this wrist-op makes it an incredible fit for smaller-stature people (women especially). It connects seamlessly to Strava and tracks a wide range of activities (including hiking and biking) as well as steps, and heart rate. And it gives a clear on-wrist map view.
Where We Took It: It made social distancing and adventure close to home fun… and trackable.
KELTY: Get Your Sh*t Together (GYST) System
Why It Won: These collapsible storage bags are the best organization system we’ve ever used. Once you’re done with them, they collapse flat and can be stored almost anywhere. The fabric is durable and water resistant and they come in multiple sizes, so you can stack them or pack them together to fit any space. The zippered bags proved ideal as an “office” in our van.
Where We Took It: Everywhere from Colorado to California.
SENA: R1 Evo
Why It Won: Bike riding can be social again without risking being right next to each other. The hands-free voice connection in this helmet not only allows you to talk to other riders—you can also make and pickup phone calls or listen to FM radio.
Where We Took It: Road riding around Boulder.
HALA: Rival Hoss
Why It Won: The Rival Hoss is the one social distancing fun tool that can get you through a full summer of adventure no matter if it’s close to home or farther afield. The inflatable is stable enough for still lakes and maneuverable enough for rapids.
Where We Took It: Boulder Reservoir and Gross Reservoir for flatwater. The Colorado River for some action.