It's that time of year again. We're rolling out our picks for the top winter gear of 2015, including our favorite skis, snowboards, jackets, and boots. The following seven products were the best of the best, earning our prestigious Gear of the Year awards.
Check out more great gear in our 2015 Winter Buyer's Guide.
The North Face Fuse Brigandine
GEAR OF THE YEAR
This burly freeride parka takes its name from medieval battle armor. It lives up to the billing, thanks to North Face’s new FuseForm construction method, which weaves varying durability zones into a single piece of fabric that’s folded and stitched into a jacket. It’s tough where it needs to be and minimalist where it doesn’t. The technique requires less seam tape, making the garment both lighter and more breathable than other hard shells with lots of features (powder skirt, helmet-compatible hood, media pocket). Off the rack it feels a little crinkly, but it breaks in brilliantly after just a few days. 2.2 lbs; $499, thenorthface.com
Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3
GEAR OF THE YEAR
You won’t find a faster or better-fitting muck-ready shoe on shelves this fall. With a narrow last that feels like a second skin, big seven-millimeter lugs for packed-snow and off-trail traction, a low-drop heel, and stout toe protection, the Fellcross 3 ($170) is an extremely nimble all-terrain warrior for efficient runners. The moderately thin midsole is softened somewhat by those big, rubbery lugs, so you feel efficient on turf but cushioned on hard-packed flats and mountain descents. It’s not an ice shoe—the lugs can’t take studs—and the narrow last won’t work for wider feet. Bottom line: this is as aggressive as a top-line running shoe can get. 9.2 oz; 4 mm drop.
Deuter Pace 36 Pack
The top-loading Pace ($129) struck the perfect balance between light and rugged. Clever nips and tucks—compression straps that also carry a snowboard, no back framesheet or side access via zippers—cut weight to a paltry two pounds for a bag that, at 36 liters, is just big enough to load up for a weekend at a hut. Tightly woven ripstop nylon stood up to a month of bushwhacking, and despite the pack’s minimalist appearance, the back foam is cushy in all the right places.
THE VERDICT: As one tester summed it up, “Deuter dialed it all in beautifully.” 2.1 lbs.
CARRY COMFORT: 4.5
Patagonia tried something new and it worked: a soft outer nylon backed with 60 grams of polyester insulation to create the Nano-Air Hoody ($299), a super-breathable puffy. Translation: you'll be toasty at the start of your ski tour but won't overheat as you work your way upslope. Waiting for your partner at the summit in dumping snow? Pull a hard shell on top to stay dry. The extremely stretchable fabric helps this technical layer fit like your favorite sweater. It's so cozy and capable that it became our go-to piece for everything from climbing to skiing to running. 13.6 oz.