About the author: Steven “Leon” Lutz is the head buyer for Backcountry Edge, a family-owned online retailer based in Manheim, Penn. Lutz is a lifelong outdoors junkie and a current middle-of-the pack ultrarunner who strives to be a front-of-the-pack father and husband. See his gear-review videos on the Backcountry Edge YouTube channel, and read on to see some of Lutz’s favorite gear/gift picks for the 2014 holiday season.
Salewa Capsico Insulated Shoes: At the end of a challenging winter adventure it’s nice to kick back and enjoy warmth and comfort off the slopes or trail. These après-ski shoes have a roomy cut, a waterproof/breathable lining, and PrimaLoft insulation to return warmth to cold, tired feet. Bonus: A fold-down heel enables them to function like a sandal.
Leon’s Take: “These are my absolute favorite post-run or post-hike shoes and, as the temperatures continue to drop, I find myself grabbing them as soon as I wake up even if I’m just headed to the office, running errands, or hanging out at home.” ($118.99) More Info/Buy Now
Boreas Bootlegger Backpack: The design team at Boreas approaches pack development with an architect’s eye for functionality and aesthetics. The Bootlegger is a 3-in-1 day pack, submersible dry bag and hydration pack founded on a lightweight suspension system for three high-performance packs at the price of one.
Leon’s Take: “I have to admit to being skeptical at all this packs claims. That skepticism didn’t hold up as I put each of the pack variations through its paces. I’ve yet to find a more versatile pack than the Bootlegger.” ($199.99) More Info/Buy Now
Eagles Nest Outfitters LaunchPad Blankets: Unzipped and unfolded, it’s just a blanket. But its smart zip-up design outshines other blankets or quilts. Integrated handles make the LaunchPad something you’ll want at the ready in your closet or in your car for camp-outs, picnics, or trips to festivals or the beach.
Leon’s Take: “Standard blankets can be so bulky and aren’t nearly as adept at shrugging off wear-and-tear, sand, and dirt. The LaunchPad is really ideal for any active family.” (Starting at $69.95) More Info/Buy Now
Kahtoola NANOspikes: Kahtoola introduced the detuned, lightweight, collapsible NANOspikes (a toned-down version of the aggressive and popular MICROspikes) for confident footing on slick roads, sidewalks, and city streets.
Leon’s Take: “Over the last several years, I swear I’ve tried every option out there for urban traction, but, frankly, most of them are ineffective or too poorly built to rely on for repeated use. I only needed to log a few miles in the NANOspikes late last winter to know I had my go-to for snowy and icy roads.” ($49.95) More Info/Buy Now
Berghaus Ulvetanna Hybrid Down Jacket: A newcomer to the crowded U.S. market, the Ulvetanna employs body-mapping and a hybrid mix of water-resistant treated down insulation and synthetic insulation to give warmth, breathability, and weather-protection while weighing in at less than a pound!
Leon’s Take: “A year ago, I didn’t know Berghaus from Burl Ives, but it would be one holly, jolly Christmas for me if I were to find an Ulvetanna under my tree. It’s quite simply the most impressive insulated jacket that I have ever tested.” ($329.00) More Info/Buy Now
Osprey Pixel Port: The Osprey Pixel Port has a suspended laptop sleeve, multiple compartments, and an integrated organizational pocket. A tablet sleeve with a see-through, touchscreen compatible window works so well that you might not even bother removing it from the Pixel Port.
Leon’s Take: “At first glance, I thought the touchscreen feature might prove gimmicky, but I was sold on my first business trip. It quickly became my everyday pack and it looks like new despite more than a year of daily use and double-duty as my carry-on bag whenever I fly.” ($119.99) More Info/Buy Now
Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket: Innovative synthetic insulation and stretch fabrication combine to provide lightweight warmth, breathability, and comfort for a broad range of cool to cold weather aerobic activities.
Leon’s Take: “Looks good on, feels good on, and actually delivers on technical performance. Much to like.” ($249.00) More Info/Buy Now
Big Agnes Helinox Chair One: This camp chair uses a similar “hub” design as that seen in tents to modernize the ho-hum world of folding chairs. The result is a comfortable seat that supports up to 320 pounds, weighs just 2 pounds, and packs down to 14” x 4” x 5”.
Leon’s Take: “GearJunkie managing editor Sean McCoy and I had a pair of these on our front “porch” at the Transrockies Run a couple of years ago and we were the envy of our neighbors. It’s been my personal favorite chair ever since and one of my favorite holiday gifts-to-give.” ($99.95) More Info/Buy Now
Outdoor Research Lucent Heated Glove: The waterproof, well insulated construction of these gloves works great even without heating fired up. But when fingers start to chill, it’s the integrated ALTIHeat system that separates this glove from its competitors. A rechargeable battery provides up to 8 hours of warmth.
Leon’s Take: “With everything this glove brings to the table, it’s the kind of piece that actually makes you start dreaming up adventures to put it to the test.” ($350) More Info/Buy Now
Nathan Zephyr Fire 100 Hand Torch: An integrated hand strap nearly eliminates the need to actually hold this torch, and the unique orientation of the LED bulb’s housing throws 108 lumens at a stride-friendly angle so you aren’t constantly repositioning the beam. A red LED built into the back of the unit gives road runners a bit of visibility to cars.
Leon’s Take: “Headlamps are my go-to light source and flashlights have always struck me as cumbersome, but the orientation of the Zephyr’s beam and the ergonomics of the grip make me almost forget that it’s there and, when used in tandem with a headlamp, it eliminates shadows and takes out some of the guesswork of night running.” ($45) More Info/Buy Now
Sierra Designs Backcountry Beds: They sure don’t look like other sleeping bags and that’s just fine. The wide-open front panel may give some users pause, but the stitched-in quilt beneath delivers surprising warmth while granting easy access, venting options, and the ability to sleep in whatever position you find most comfortable. The Backcountry Beds are available in a bunch of temperature ratings and insulation options to address different needs and budgets.
Leon’s Take: “I find myself overheating in just about any sleeping bag so the Backcountry Bed’s unparalleled ability to vent makes it a standout. It’s funny to remember how revolutionary it appeared at first glance, and then realize that now, a year-and-a-half later and after having spent a few nights sleeping in it, I see the Backcountry Bed as exactly what a sleeping bag should be.” (Starting at $249.95) More Info/Buy Now