Mountain Hardwear Airjet 2 $285
WHY IT RULES: The Airjet's two-minutes-flat pitching saved me when I was hustling to beat some sleet: Thread two cross poles and a brow pole through the sleeves, then stake out six points. Done. » The Airjet stood taut as a kettledrumeven under two inches of wet snow. » Thanks to a curvaceous roof and steep silicone-and-polyurethane-coated walls, rain rolls off like marbles. » I'm six feet tall and a bit of a claustrophobe, but the 39-inch ceiling, 30-square-foot floor, eight-square-foot vestibule, and plastic window quashed a case of the cabin crazies. Hmmm...Mesh panels along the floor and four ceiling vents hustle in fresh air, but not quite enough of it. I'd add another vent on the vestibule.
Feathered Friends Osprey $300
WHY IT RULES: As a custom shop, Feathered Friends tailors each of its bags exactly to your specifications, meaning you get your choice of fabrics, color, and even zipper location. I picked the Pertex Quantum interior for breathability and the Epic exterior for water resistancethe combo tipped the scales at just one pound nine ounces, yet the price is competitive with off-the-shelf models. » There are no flashy, newfangled design twists here. Instead, what defines this bag is the craftsmanship. From the quality of the materials to the roominess of the shoulders to the smoothness of the zipper, I felt like it was made precisely for me. (Oh, yeah, it was.) » Though my first evening with the Osprey was rainy, with the temp approaching freezing, sleep came quickly and stayed all night long. Indeed, the 750-fill down kept me warm even when the mercury dipped into the mid-twenties. » My bag was tapered at the legs with a full zipgood for easy entry/exit and heat conservation. Hmmm...A single drawcord tightens the collar and the hood simultaneouslywhich prevents either one from cinching perfectly. Two drawcords would allow less warmth to escape.
Jetboil Personal Cooking System
WHY IT RULES: The first effort from a scrappy New England startup, the Jetboil represents a total rethink of backcountry cookery. A tall one-liter potaluminum, with a hard anodized cooking surface and insulating neoprene cozydocks (and locks) to the stove's burner. A ring of heat-conducting baffles attached to the pot's base channels the flame precisely where it's needed. » The result: a furious heat. Yank this combo out of your pack, flick the bomber piezo igniter, and a hypothermic comrade can have a cup of lip-scalding tea in one minute. » The neoprene cozy, with handle, stays cool enough to hold in the hand: Bye-bye, additional cookware, pot holders, and needless extra weight. Burns: Isobutane canister. Hmmm...You're pretty much committed to one-pot cuisine; sauté;ing anything larger than a shallot is awkward. And flipping pancakes? Forget about it. » The Jetboil complains when forced to simmerthis boy likes to run with the accelerator on the floor.