Icebreaker Quantum Long Sleeve Hood $190; icebreaker.com
Versatile, no-stink comfort
“Hands down one of my absolute favorite layers,” said one tester who wore it on desert sandstone and long routes in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. “It’s the offspring of a long-sleeve baselayer and a lightweight jacket, with optimal comfort and a super-functional fit.” Ninety-eight percent of the material is midweight, 260-gram merino wool for warmth, a soft next-to-skin feeling, and breathability, while the other two percent is Lycra, which adds a touch of stretch and flex to the body-hugging piece so you can climb, reach, and twist without restriction. Best part: One tester wore it on five multi-week adventures without a single wash, and it never smelled.
Marmot Essence $200; marmot.com
Affordable ultra-light shell
At a mere six ounces, the weight of the Essence embodies the name. But don’t go thinking it’s a lightweight. This is one bomber, take-everywhere hard shell. Testers found it completely waterproof for downpours in the Pacific Northwest, and they billed it as mega-durable after scraping it against granite in the Cascades. “It still looks perfect,” the tester said. The lightweight key is in the 2.5-layer new NanoPro Membrain fabric incorporated into a stripped-down shell (open slits instead of pit zips, non-adjustable cuffs, single chest pocket), which won’t weigh you down. Not to mention the weight-to-waterproof-to-cost ratio is unbeatable.
La Sportiva Mountainware Prices vary; sportiva.com
Ideal cragging clothes
“Our testers’ best-loved and most-worn rock climbing clothes of the season. From hoodies to jeans to tanks, the focus is on comfort, durability, and mobility in the vertical world without being unnecessarily teched out. Just exactly what a climber needs for cragging.” Read the full review in our Editors' Choice Awards.
Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Midweight Active Pant$95;mountainhardwear.com
Wear-everywhere softshell bottoms
A single complaint from our smitten tester: “I only have one pair,” he said of the versatile pant. Durable outer material (91 percent nylon, 9 percent elastane) couldn’t be deterred by sharp sandstone, granite, or limestone, despite wide cracks in Colorado and chimneys in Utah, and a Micro-Chamois-lined waistband prevented pressure points where our tester carried a pack and wore a harness. A double-gusseted crotch added more range of motion on top of the four-way-stretch fabric. A DWR finish repelled moderate wind and rain, and the pants remained comfortable in temps from 30°F to 65°F.
Arc’teryx Morphic Zip Neck LS $89; arcteryx.com
Who needs a layering system when one piece does it all? The Morphic wicked sweat, dried quickly, and has a smooth, tightly woven face that didn’t pill after four months of abusive wear. Proprietary Phasic AR-X fabric is tough and breathable, but Enduraflex added to high-wear areas upped the burl factor. One tester loved the “very trim” fit that rode well under a harness and the deep chest zipper that increased airflow. Silver-covered polypropylene yarns mitigated odors, too.
[tech]Rakkup Free, but guidebook prices vary;rakkup.comGuidebook meets GPS “This iPhone app gives you turn-by-turn directions, a compass to guide you, and photos to get you from your car or camp to the base of your climb. Wall and individual route explanations are packed with beta, including zoomable topos, rack info, descent info, and pitch descriptions.” Read the full review in our Editors' Choice Awards. Light and Motion Solite 250EX $180; lightandmotion.comFour-in-one torch It’s almost a disservice to call this a headlamp—it’s that and much more. Mount it on a helmet, use it as a flashlight, or fix it to bike handlebars for winter-night gym commutes. “It’s a quiver-of-one light,” one tester said. “From rides to the gym to finding my way down a tricky descent trail, the Solite does it all.” With a max output of 250 lumens and six settings (including pulse, SOS, and camp/read), this little light will illuminate whatever you need thanks to a variety of beam shapes and patterns. Zippo Hand Warmer $20; zippo.comCold mitts be gone “A must-have for shoulder-season cragging,” said one tester with perpetually frozen paws. “And don’t get me started on how awesome it is for ice climbing.” Fill this compact unit (smaller than an iPhone) with lighter fluid, and then light it up for 12 hours of heat. Downside: You can’t turn it on and off, so it’s best for when it can be tended to (read: cragging and bouldering, not multi-pitch). One tester slid it inside the included warming bag and then slid that into the bottom of her chalkbag to warm her tips for winter rock climbing. Petzl Tikka RXP $90; petzl.comThe right light “This addition to the Tikka line automatically adjusts its output and beam for the best lighting wherever you look. Peer into the darkness to find your tent, and the beam narrows and brightens. Look down at the topo in your notebook, and the beam dims and softens. It’s hands-free and perfect in all conditions.” Read the full review in our Editors' Choice Awards. Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Power Pack $350; goalzero.comCharge your whole world This compact, one-stop shop for solar power has a variety of ports and options to charge any battery-powered device. It has two USBs, a 12V, and a laptop-specific port. Headlamps, phones, tablets, laptops, and mp3 players can get juice from this sub-two-pound power pack. Using the Nomad 20 solar panel, our testers got a full charge in about 10.5 hours in full Utah sun, and refill time for each device was comparable to wall charging. One full Sherpa 100 juices a smartphone 14 times. Opt for the $50 Sherpa Inverter (110V) attachment, and you get the same outlet you have at home, which our amateur-photographer testers used religiously for their dSLR batteries. Outdoor Tech Turtle Shell 2.0 $130; outdoortechnology.comPortable psych If you want to blast your sending song and headphones just won’t cut it, check out Outdoor Tech’s Turtle Shell 2.0 speakers. One tester was “blown away by how loud and clear it sounded for such a small size,” while another clumsy tester commended the ruggedness: “I must have dropped them four or five times, and they didn’t even skip a beat.” They connect wirelessly to laptops, phones, and tablets, and double as a speakerphone thanks to a built-in mic.
Sierra Designs Flash 2 $339; sierradesigns.com
Light and livable
In a radical (for tents) design change, SD put the vestibules on the sidewalls—access them from outside or from an interior zipper—to make entry even easier. “It proved its weather-worthiness when I stayed dry through three days of rain in Colorado’s Never Summer Wilderness,” said one tester. At just under four pounds, it’s a breeze to carry into the backcountry for summer alpine routes, and it fit two 6’ testers and a small cattle dog just fine.
Mountain Hardwear Optic 2.5 $240; mountainhardwear.com
A tent with a view
From the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that department, huge mesh doors on adjacent sides allow for a panoramic, 180-degree vista. “It feels like you’re part of the surroundings,” said one tester after watching an epic sunset above Moab. It has a spacious interior (37 square feet, enough for three in a pinch), with durable, desert-worthy materials like 70- and 75-denier nylon in the floor and fly. Nice price, too.
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 3-Person $490; cascadedesigns.com/msr
Spacious temporary home
“A three-person tent with the weight of a two-person and the space of a four-person,” said one tester. With 41.5 square feet and two points of entry, three people and all their corresponding gear could fit with ease. It withstood high winds in Indian Creek like a fortress and ventilated well on dewy mornings in Yosemite’s Camp 4.
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed $250–$400 (varies by temp rating and fill); sierradesigns.com
“With a wide interior and down blanket to tuck around your face, this system mimics my bed at home. I’m never going back to a regular bag.” Read the full review in our Editors' Choice Awards.
NEMO Coda 0 $700; nemoequipment.com
A downside to most 0° bags is that their use is limited to the worst weather. Not so with the Coda. This 850-fill down wonder has two zippered “Thermo Gills” running two vertical feet through the middle. Unzip them to regulate heat without letting drafts in. “It extends the use to milder seasons,” said one tester who used the bag on 5°F nights in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness and in Wyoming’s Wind River Range in August. “This makes the price more reasonable.” Stretchy seams at the knees gave room for side sleeping.
Big Agnes Double Z $80; bigagnes.com
Bed of clouds
Lay on the Double Z, and you’ll hover four heavenly inches above the ground. “As cushy as cush gets,” raved one tester. Yet unlike some fat air mattresses, it’s incredibly stable, thanks to four strips of daisy-chained webbing that run the length of the pad’s interior and connect the top and bottom together. “I never got that wobbly, pool-float feeling,” says another tester. It doesn’t come without some work—it took testers about a minute to inflate.
[accessories]Mr. Beams UltraBright LED Lantern $40; mrbeams.comBright light source With two ways to hang this lamp, two lighting modes, reliable water resistance, and a USB port to charge other electronics, this LED lantern is the perfect fit for crag-side camping. It emits 360 degrees of 260-lumen light, which was more than enough to illuminate an eight-person picnic table while camping at Shelf Road, Colorado, and all testers appreciated being able to charge a phone in about four hours. Our van-bound testers loved to take the plastic top off and hang the unit upside down in “nightlight” mode for reading. It shuts off automatically after an hour. Arc’teryx Carrier Duffle 100 $199; arcteryx.comLightweight load-monster The AC2 fabric Arc’teryx uses on some of their toughest, most weather-resistant backpacks now bolsters one of the burliest new expedition duffels we’ve seen. “The waterproof nylon is fully seam-taped, which is why all of my clothes were still dry after a downpour while my duffel was in the back of a truck,” said one tester. The material also endured accumulated weeks of airline travel and dragging with nary a scratch. At just over one pound, this 2,990-cubic-inch hauler is incredibly light for its size. Four grab loops and two backpack straps allow multiple carry options. One access zipper and no pockets keep the package simple. [camp]Grub Hub Mesa 1 $379; grubhubusa.comKitchen in a box This contraption sets up in three minutes and delivers nearly all the comforts of home: room to prep and serve dinner for eight, a spot for a two-burner stove, and yes, a removable, collapsible sink. Overhead poles accommodate the included spice rack, utensil holder, and hooks for attaching lights and/or gravity filter bags. Adjustable interior shelving provides storage space. Overkill? Yep, but it’s dang convenient, too. Camelbak All Clear $99; camelbak.comPurify water in 60 seconds With this convenient system, an ultraviolet purifier is built right into the bottle. Fill the 0.75-liter bottle, screw on the All Clear UV-light cap, rotate the bottle for 60 seconds, and you’re good to go. The treatment cap, battery, and bottle weigh just over one pound, but as long as you have a source of clear water nearby, you don’t need to carry multiple bottles or a bladder. “During the weeklong trek to Manaslu basecamp in Nepal, it was handy to use this system rather than buy bottled water,” a tester said. A full battery gives about 80 treatments. Bonus: The lithium ion battery is rechargeable through a USB cable. Scrubba Wash Bag 65; thescrubba.comDirtbagging gets clean While it looks like a glorified dry bag, the Scrubba Wash Bag is actually ingenious: Throw dirty clothes in it along with some water and detergent, roll it around for a few minutes, and the flexible nodules on the interior act like a washboard to massage dirt out of your clothes. Save money on laundry and pack fewer clothes. “It’s the best six ounces I pack for trips that last a week or more,” one tester said. [food]KIND Healthy Grains Bars $28.50 (40 bars); kindsnacks.comDelicious and chewy convenience Hooray for light and delightfully chewy (and not “my jaw hurts” chewy)! Included in each bar are five “super grains”: oats, millet, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat that provide carbs, protein, and fat for an extra boost when you need it. One sensitive-gut tester gobbled these with ease, which kept her energized throughout a 12-hour day of alpine climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Modern Oats $19.50 (6 cups), $39 (12 cups); modernoats.comLight, quick breakfast What’s easier than adding hot water to a cup and waiting three minutes? Practically nothing, which is why Modern Oats oatmeal is unbeatable as a climber’s breakfast. You’ll be fueled and at your climb faster than you can say, “Yum!” The container it comes in doubles as the package, cooking vessel, and the bowl, so all you dirty is your spoon. Whole grains, seeds, nuts, and superfruits (like goji and acai berries) offer clean and healthy energy, protein, and necessary fiber. Goji blueberry and apple walnut were our favorite flavors. Bonus: Each cup has a recipe to make two oatmeal cookies. ProBar Bolt Chews $2.50; theprobar.comEnergy gummies Loaded with electrolytes, 24 grams of carbs, and 180 calories per two-serving pack, these fruity and tangy chews are a great choice for refueling through long days. “I kept a pack stashed in a pocket and popped one when I started dragging,” says one tester. The organic, gluten-, dairy-, and GMO-free chews come in four flavors: orange (our favorite), strawberry, raspberry, and berry blast. Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites $6 (6 pack), $15 (16 pack); settonfarms.comSmart, simple fuel Bars are easy to pack, but sometimes the processed ingredients hit your stomach like a brick. Enter the Pistachio Chewy Bites, which are made of three main, energy-giving ingredients: pistachios, cranberries, and agave nectar. “They’re just sweet enough to keep me interested, but have tons of fiber and protein to keep my body on track,” one tester said. Health-tweakers will love that they’re vegan and gluten- and dairy-free, too. Go Gnarly Protein $51 (whey); gognarly.comClean nutrition for training The difference between any old supplement you buy at the store and Go Gnarly is that this stuff uses clean ingredients that you can actually pronounce. A full line of products follows the same ethos, including pre- and post-workout formulas, as well as supplements to consume while you workout that will keep you hydrated and energized without a ton of sugar. “Go Gnarly blends well with just some fruit and ice for a perfect post-session smoothie,” one tester said of the vanilla-flavored whey. Halfpops $1.50; halfpops.comThe end of GORP These seasoned nuggets of partially popped corn kernels earned universal praise: “Addictive!” and “The salty flavors were exactly what I craved on hot days.” Halfpops are a decent source of fiber (3 grams per serving), and the ingredients list is short, sweet, and natural. Halfpops are rugged enough for packing, unlike many other salty snacks like chips and pretzels. [cooking]Primus ETA Lite $100; primuscamping.comSolo-cooking perfection Attaching your pot to the stove in an integrated cook system is simple. It’s detaching the scalding-hot parts that usually leaves us cursing as we pour our water with the canister attached, flames puffing from the side. Not with the Eta Lite. The burner looks like a flat triangle that twists smoothly on and off the pot, which also boosts stability by lowering the stove’s center of gravity. “It’s so quick and easy to use that on chilly days I boiled a half-liter of water for tea in less than three minutes,” reports a Boulder, Colorado tester.
SOTO Windmaster OD-1RX $75; sotooutdoors.com
Integrated cook systems do a great job of deflecting wind, but you can’t use multiple pots or frying pans. Meanwhile, many pocket stoves suffer in the face of a stiff breeze. Solution? Soto’s ingenious (and aptly named) heater. A wide, concave burner head acts as a windshield and places the flame closer to the pot. Testers waiting out rain and 30mph winds in Colorado’s Never Summer Wilderness were able make hot drinks when another stove failed. The WindMaster (2.6 oz.) comes with a tiny integrated pot support, just big enough for a personal cook pot.
GSI Halulite 3.2L $36 (2L), $40 (3.2L), $45 (4.7L); gsioutdoors.com
Invite your neighbors
With a 7.5-inch-diameter base and 3.8-inch-tall sides, the Halulite was big enough for our desert-climbing foodie to whip up meals for five hungry climbers without the weight-ding of a larger pot. The hard-anodized aluminum gives moderate nonstick performance. Sweet feature: The lid has silicone thumb pads and strainer holes, which testers appreciated not only for draining pasta, but also for pouring liquid into smaller vessels.