It’s the end of 2015, and as is our annual tradition a time to look back at the best gear we tested this year. Of the hundreds of products GearJunkie staff and team athletes reviewed and put through the paces these items stood out as some of the best.
Big Agnes mtnGLO Collection Tents
Low-profile LED lighting and high-quality designs distinguish the Big Agnes mtnGLO Collection. We tested (and loved) the brand’s Gilpin Falls Powerhouse 4, an exceptional family camping tent with the bonus of the interior LED strands and a battery pack to power electronics like phones, tablets, or GPS devices. Our staff reviewed mtnGLO Collection tents on snowy winter trips and into the heat of the summer, and we were continually impressed.
Columbia Sportswear OutDry Extreme
Ditching the traditional jacket design, Columbia puts a rugged waterproof/breathable membrane on the exterior of this outerwear line. The result is a range of tough jackets that eschew DWR (durable water repellent) chemicals for a permanent-beading surface that has in our tests stood up to bushwhacking and abuse.
Sea To Summit Comfort Plus Sleeping Pad
A smart design includes dual air chambers and a baffled texture for comfort and warmth. The Sea To Summit Comfort Plus pad is easy to inflate and deflate, and it re-packs quickly. The kicker? With two air chambers you can adjust the top of the pad for comfort and the bottom for support against the ground. In testing, the highly insulated model (among a range from super light to thick and warm) was found to be one of our favorite sleeping pads of all time.
Salomon MTN LAB Freeski Boots
There are many backcountry boots on the market, but the Salomon MTN LAB delivered the best balance of downhill performance and light weight. Once thermo-molded, these babies hug your foot, particularly in the heel. Skinning uphill is excellent with a full range of motion and very little resistance. Once locked in, the boot might as well be a downhill model for all its power and control.
MSR Guardian Water Purifier
On a path toward the ultimate water purifier, the MSR Guardian comes very close. This unit pumps fast (2.5 liters per minute), is made to be rugged, clears out all biological nasties, including viruses, and it has a “self-cleaning” function with a second line that back-flushes water as you pump. Downside? Price tag is $349.
Patagonia Merino Air Baselayer
Stretchy, seamless, highly breathable, and with an integrated hood, this wool-polyester base layer is a new take in a category that doesn’t often see innovation. During manufacturing, the fibers are exposed to a high-pressure air gun, and the resulting “exploded” yarn is higher-loft than any base layer we’ve seen of its weight. Noted our tester: “Pull on the sleeve and hold it up to a light; the zigzag fabric pattern disappears to reveal an intricate knit web of pinprick holes — you can both feel and see the breathability of this top.”
KEEN UNEEK Sandal
Cord-based shoes might get strange looks. But the UNEEKs from KEEN Footwear deserve a nod for doing something different — the uppers of this innovative footwear are made of 3mm cord, a woven pattern from heel to toe that flexes with the foot. (See a GearJunkie video on the footwear.)
Jetboil Genesis Base Camp Stove
The Genesis Base Camp Stove is a new take on the old “clamshell” stove design, and it’s awesome. We got an early look at it in 2015 and were impressed with the remarkable simmer settings and unique features such as an ability to be run in a chain with other Jetboil stoves. It stood out from a crowd of camp stoves in testing during 2015.
Osprey Atmos AG Backpack
The “AG” stands for anti-gravity, and the Osprey Atmos AG does seem to include some magic in its meshy support system. The back panel and harness suspend the pack away from a wearer’s body, adding comfort and breathability. For modest loads, it’s the most comfortable backpack we tested this year.
Fenix BC 30R Bike Light
The digital display atop the Fenix BC 30R bike light offers a realtime look at battery store and other stats. And the LED light impressed with its powerful output, quick adjustability, and long run time. It’s the best-value handlebar mounted light on the market right now, our bike editor said.
Altra Lone Peak 2.0 Neoshell
Our managing editor put these waterproof shoes to a brutal test, running more than 30 miles of sloppy, muddy, puddle-strewn trails at the beginning of the Grand Canyon 100 ultra-marathon. The verdict? These are among the best winter running shoes ever made.
From the makers of FiveFingers “toe shoes” come another innovative footwear option in the Furoshiki. Instead of laces, these flexible shoes secure on by wrapping around the foot and Velcro’ing in place. A lightweight summer version and an insulated winter option are available for anyone looking to “wrap” their footwear on for a custom fit.