Gear of the Year

Sunglasses, electronics, and optics

Apr 15, 2003
Outside Magazine


Kaenon Polarized Kore $180
Plastic can't get more drastic than Kaenon's spectacular next-gen hard-resin lenses. Why It's Cool: The view is ab-fab through polarized lenses that wrap wide to the sides and protect against wind. The Kore's copperish tint, lightly mirrored, shines in tough in-between conditions, such as the shadow-and-dazzle of a wooded trail, but it also performs in full sun. Acuity is on a par with the very best glass. Clever indents at the bottom of the lenses follow the contour of cheekbones but leave a gap for defogging air movement. The springy frames, with rubber at the nose and ears, clung tight to my noggin. S-M-L sizing triples your chances of finding a fit. (Bravo! Why don't all shades makers do this?) The look is original. I get a circa-seventies wife-swapper-moderne vibe here that's sort of funny. But how do you quantify perfection? You gotta wear it. Rx-able? No. Hmmm... The price is painful, but in this case it hurts really good.


Suunto X6HR $429
The world's most advanced wrist computer doubles as a portal to a world of fitness geeks. Why It's Cool: Like a physiological dashboard, the X6HR records heart rate, altitude, and split times as well as weather conditions. That's a lot to absorb when you're pounding out the last mile, but Finnish manufacturer Suunto has crafted each screen to give you clear workout data when you need it most. Post-event, you can view performance graphs on the watch or on your PC via Suunto's sophisticated software. I quickly became addicted to graphing—and obsessing over—the relationship between my heart rate and altitude. The X6HR admits you to a worldwide athletic club at, where you can compare notes with similarly equipped boarders, divers, and the like. I swapped workout logs with coaches from California and Colorado as well as a tundra hiker from Lapland named Wiik. Hmmm... If you have more than one workout saved, the X6HR may run out of memory, scratching your best efforts. There's no Mac version of the software.


Brunton Epoch 10.5x43 $1,499
The Japanese-built Epoch takes dead aim at high-end German optics-and scores a hit. Why It's Cool: The view through these matches any binoculars I've used, with no distortion or color aberration whatsoever. With help from big, bright, 43-millimeter objective lenses, I easily tracked a backyard bobcat on a full-moon night and even differentiated warblers in deep shade. A progressive-speed focusing system—the world's first—sharpened the image from my toes out to infinity with a mere finger flick. By using a magnesium chassis, Brunton made the waterproof Epoch incredibly light for its size—just 24 ounces, a good six ounces lighter than some competitors. Eyeglasses wearers enjoy a full view, thanks to 17 millimeters of relief. An optional eyepiece adaptor ($279) turns one tube into a 21-power spotting scope. Should an elephant step on your Epoch in Namibia, Brunton's lifetime guarantee ensures that you'll have a new pair shipped right to your tent flap. Hmmm... The snap-in, flip-open lens and eyepiece covers work well, but are very easy to knock off and lose.

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