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The Best Backcountry Gear

We spend lots of time out in the wild untracked stuff. Here’s the equipment that rose to the top of our tests.

1. Big Agnes Third Pitch

Meet the perfect layer to slip on after you just finished a sweaty skin and are waiting for your buddies to reach the top. This comfy 850-fill, hydrophophobic-down hooded puffy keeps you nice and warm but only weights in at 6.5 ounces and packs away easily. $450;

2. Black Diamond Razor Carbon

Built with aluminum in the upper shaft and carbon in the lower section, these easy-to-adjust poles withstood lots of abuse during hikes over rocky, exposed Front-Range talus slopes and still felt nice and light when we swung them through powder turns. $125;

3. Millet Matrix 30 MBS

French brand Millet rethought the way a pack carries skis here: the sleek, asymmetrical pack holds them steady with a diagonal carry system and offers up pockets for crampons, shovel and probe. But what really won us over was just how comfortable it felt on our backs when fully loaded. $190;

4. Marker Kingpin 13

The Kingpin, which Marker put out in limited release this season, but will hit the mainstream in force next fall, is the first truly DIN-certified tech binding. It combines a tech toe piece with a more traditional alpine heel. That melding of design adds up to a binding that offers up the best of both worlds: It tours with ease but clamps down hard when you want to charge in the resort. $649;

5. Eider Blow Alpha

Polartec’s Alpha is breathable insulation, which makes this light (just over one pound) layer ideal for skinning laps on cold days or even as a mid-layer on the way down. It never gets too hot but keeps out the chill. $280;

6. Dynafit Radical ST

Tough and light, that’s the m.o. of this binding that we have put through the paces on quick backcountry tours as well as big ski mountaineering objectives. With a release value ranging up to 10, it’s solid but not overkill. $500;

7. G3 Synapse Carbon 101

A do-it-all plank, the Synapse Carbon is light enough, at two pounds, 13 ounces per ski, to burn up tours, but still capable enough to hold an edge on nasty steeps at the resort. The early rise tip levitates in pow, but still has the mettle to crush crud. 103/101/118; $870;


8. La Sportiva Vapor Nano

We still don’t understand how this ski can be so damn light (2 pounds, 12 ounces per ski) and still so confident underfoot. It’s the sports car of backcountry boards. Impress your friends. 130/103/120; $1,200;

9. Rocky Mountain Underground Apostle

Colorado brand RMU crafted the perfect quiver of one weapon here. Built with rocker in the tip and an early rise tail, the poplar-wood Apostle has the guts for the resort and the soft touch to shred pow. And oh how it mashes breakable crust. 126/105/114; $799;

10. Dynafit Denali

Dynafit has led the game when it comes to serious touring, but the Denali is a ski that is just plain fun. At 100mm underfoot, this paulownia-core board with carbon stringers is nimble enough to thread through tight trees, yet stable enough to open it up on big, open pow shots. Of course, it’s also an able tourer. 133/100/118; $900;

11. Hydrapak SoftFlasks

Nothing wastes more space in your pack than a water bottle. That’s why we are big fans of these collapsible flasks that you can just stuff away in a pocket when you are done sucking them down. They come in several sizes. $20, 500ml;

12. Scarpa F1 Evo

Is it possible for a boot to change your life? Well sure, especially if you are a true light-and-fast speed touring dork. Tighten up the Boa closure on these stable, two-pound, seven-ounce slippers and take off. Best of all, they switch from ski to walk mode automatically when you click in. $699;

13. BCA Magic Carpet Skins

Backcountry Access designed these ascending shags specifically for those big planks (115, 130 and 145mm skins) you love to take into untracked snow.  $150-$180;

14. K2 Ultrasplit Kit

The backcountry belongs to snowboarders just as much as it does to skiers these days, thanks in big part to systems like this that make it so easy for soulful knuckledraggers to get back to the goods.  The light, responsive, rockered Ultrasplit board loves to eat up steep-and-deep terrain and the kit includes Blend skins, heel risers and the Voile Canted Puck system. $1,000;

15. G3 Ion

Canadian brand G3 made a big name for itself with its iconic telemark bindings, but its AT bindings have not lit up the market. Until now. We were quite impressed both by how easy it is to step into this baby and how sturdy and attentive it felt underfoot. We put it to the test on a hardpack day at Solitude, Utah, and in sketchy couloirs in the Wasatch backcountry $500;

16. Falke Longsleeve Zip

High-end German brand Falke has recently entered the U.S. market with its ergonomic apparel, designed for high-intensity winter pursuits. We used this merino-and-polymide blend top for everything from skate skiing to backcountry touring to bowling after we were done. $195;

17. ColdPruf Classic Crew

Sleek and warm, this 100-percent merino baselayer costs less than similar brands, but does the job just as well. It became our go-to layer in our alpine and backcountry kits. $64;

18. Fly Low Compound 2.0

Yes, we get excited about pants. Especially, these pants. Built with Polartec’s waterproof and noticeably breathable NeoShell and designed with pockets in all the right places, they endured a full season of abuse. $450;

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