Year’s Best Gear

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Each year, I pull together a best-of-the-best list from the new and prototype products I review for Gear Junkie. My “Top 10 Gear Picks” article is syndicated to a national group of newspapers, on Outside magazine’s website, and featured here below on GearJunkie.com.

From whitewater kayaking in Colorado to trekking in the jungles of Belize, the past 12 months proved to be another epic year of adventure. Along the way, I put dozens of products to the test — tents, packs, boots, bikes, and knives among the mix. These 10 items below stood apart from the rest.

—Stephen Regenold

1. The North Face Animagi Jacket — Cold-weather and winter running — as well as XC skiing — are more comfortable in this hybrid jacket. With PrimaLoft-stuffed panels and thin, stretchy sleeves, the $149 Animagi breathes where it needs to and insulates the core. Its unique design was a winner during neighborhood training runs up to longer endurance fests where I was out for two hours or more in the cold. Full Gear Junkie review: https://gearjunkie.com/the-north-face-animagi-jacket

Mike Wolfe trail running in The North Face Animagi Jacket. Photo by Tim Kemple

2. New Balance Burnout Tee — No other shirt I own breathes as well as the $45 Burnout Tee, which is made of recycled polyester and an exotic fabric derived from coconut husks. Reflective piping adds visibility. The fabric mix provides cooling, odor resistance and UV sun protection. For most all activities, this airy shirt is comfortable — even when soaked with sweat. Full Gear Junkie review: https://gearjunkie.com/review-nbx-burnout-tee

3. Wabi Cycles Lightning Bike — Single-speed bikes were painfully en vogue in 2009. Wabi Cycles, a new company in Los Angeles, jumped on the market opportunity with two single-speed models, including the Lightning, which was the most exciting bike I rode all year. The 17-pound ride includes a scandium frame and just one gear, which comes fixed or with a freewheel. The Lightning is fast and solid. It climbs, corners, and accelerates like few bikes in its price range. Full Gear Junkie review: https://gearjunkie.com/fixed-gear-bike-wabi

4. Vasa Kayak Ergometer — Strength training for the sport of kayaking can be difficult. But the Kayak Ergometer from Vasa Inc. allows for a simulated paddle stroke and mimics the kayaking experience better than anything I have tried. The esoteric exercise machine has a paddle-like shaft, a seat, foot braces, and a flywheel drive that gives resistance with each pulled stroke. My strengthened abs, shoulders and arms are proof to the Ergometer’s efficiency in whipping a body into paddling shape. But at $1,999, the gains do not come cheap. Full Gear Junkie review: https://gearjunkie.com/vasa-kayak-ergometer

5. Inov-8 Roclite 288 GTX“The lightest-weight waterproof boot on the market.” That’s the claim with the Roclite 288 GTX, a high-top trail shoe that measures about 10 ounces per foot in a men’s size 9 — half the weight of traditional hiking boots. You can hike or run in the Roclites, which have a flexible sole and sticky-rubber tread. In my use this fall and winter, the GORETEX boot, which costs $130, offered a fast, supportive, and waterproof option on dirt, grass, mud, dry trail, and snow. Full Gear Junkie review: https://gearjunkie.com/inov-8-roclite-288-gtx

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