'Best in Show' awards (part I)

Backcountry Vest — The North Face Men’s Powder Guide Vest has pockets, zippers, straps, and holsters to hold the litany of tools a backcountry skier needs. It is made of ballistic nylon and fits over a shell jacket to replace the need for a backpack. Features include a shovel slot, avalanche probe pockets, a media pocket, and straps for carrying skis and snowboards on back. There’s a Recco avalanche rescue reflector built in. $189, www.thenorthface.com

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The North Face Men’s Powder Guide is made to replace the dependency on a backpack for skiers and snowboarders heading into the backcountry

Bamboo Yoga Mat — “This is one of the coolest pieces of yoga gear I’ve seen in years!” That quote is from Jason Magness, a Gear Junkie writer and a founder of the YogaSlackers group. I’ll take his word on it. The ZUURA Mat from Kulae is a simple innovation: It is an outdoor yoga mat made out of roll-able bamboo. Roll it out on the dirt, sand or grass to start a session. Or, use it as a “mat for your mat,” as the company puts it, adding protection and a platform on bamboo for using your regular yoga mat outside. The ZURRA measures 72 × 24 inches and is 2mm thick. $79, www.kulae.com

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Bamboo Yoga Mat

Columbia Heated Jackets — Love it or not, technology is seeping into all corners of the outdoors industry. For Columbia, this means electrically-heated jackets that cost a premium — up to $1,200! — but offer tech touches missing from the heated jackets of yore. To the point, Columbia uses carbon-fiber strands for its in-jacket heating elements instead of metal wire. The fiber feels like yarn and is tough yet not restricting. The batteries in a Columbia piece like the Electro Amp Parka (which costs $900) can be charged via a USB port on a computer. On its low-heat setting, electric heat seeps through the carbon-fiber strands for up to five hours straight, according to Columbia, before the batteries run dry. To show its commitment to the futuristic jacket line, Columbia touts it hired an electrical engineer who previously worked with Intel Corp. to build in house the Electro Amp and other soon-to-be-released performance jackets with push-button heat. www.columbia.com

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Columbia Heated Jackets have electrically-charged carbon-fiber strands and cost up to $1,200

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. For part II of the 2011 “Best in Show” awards, click here.

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