Gear of the Year

Wilier Triestina Izoard

Wilier Triestina Izoard Road Bike

   Photo: Photograph by Shana Novak

1. When price is no object, building a great bike is easy. Mix NASA-grade materials, handmade Italian components, and carbon wheels worth more than some cars, and you almost have to try to create a dud. But building a great bike for $3,000—and by "great" we mean worthy of pro racing—that's an accomplishment worth applauding. The Italian Izoard is a dream bike couched in reality.

2. Named after the Col d'Izoard, a monstrous Alpine climb often included in the Tour de France, the new Izoard sports a stiff, featherlight, vibration-damping one-piece carbon frame that's eerily similar to Wilier's top-of-the-line Cento1 (see review at outsideonline.com/cycling). It also comes with race-ready parts like Shimano's flawless Ultegra group and Mavic Ksyrium wheels.

3. One of the highest-scoring bikes in our test, the Izoard simply lacks weak points. Comments from various testers' score sheets: "Smooth acceleration while seated, and it jumps when you stand to sprint"; "I'd buy it to race on"; "Predictable and calm while maintaining its ability to move quickly downhill"; "Vibrations muted, but the bike stays lively"; "Nice Italian flair without going overboard." (17.5 lbs, 56cm) $3,299 wilier-usa.com

Yeti Cycles ASR Carbon Mountain Bike

Yeti Cycles ASR Carbon Mountain Bike
  Photo: Photograph by Shana Novak

1. When we tested our first Yeti ASR in 2000, we knew we'd found something special. At the time, this small Colorado builder's top mountain bike was the most versatile we'd ever ridden, capable of everything from short cross-country races to meandering days in the mountains. And though this full-carbon iteration screams "Race me," it's comfy enough for long days in the saddle.

2. Integrated seat masts (no seatpost; the seat tube extends all the way to the saddle) first appeared on Tour de France race bikes about five years ago. Here, the weight and stiffness benefits are irrefutable—you feel more connected to the bike, for better comfort, handling, and power transfer. The only downside: The seat tube has to be cut to fit each rider, which limits resale potential.

3. Its pedaling responsiveness and acceleration were off the charts. But unlike most twitchy race-specific frames, the 3.9-inch-travel ASR was also balanced and supple enough for the more technical trails usually reserved for longer-travel trail bikes. "It's light enough to throw around obstacles when you need to," said one tester. "But the wheels stay on the ground while you're hammering." (23.3 lbs, medium) $5,050 yeticycles.com

Adidas Supernova Glide Road Running Shoes

Adidas Supernova Glide Road Running Shoes

1. Who says you can't please everyone? Whether our testers had wide or narrow feet, or preferred slow, long runs or quick, on-your-toes workouts, somehow all were convinced the Glide was the perfect shoe for them. The key is a generous amount of padding in the heel collar and tongue, which, in addition to being luxuriously plush, can also be cinched down tight without causing any pressure points.

2. All neutral shoes have extra cushioning to absorb heel impact, but only the best can turn that downward force into forward motion. Here, a thin layer of denser foam sandwiched in the heel prevents the Glide's pillowy cush from turning into mush, while a lightweight midfoot shank adds the perfect amount of structure between heel and forefoot. One tester summed it up best: "It's as smooth as butter."

3. Most top-shelf shoes have gender-specific features, but the Glide takes anatomical correctness to a new level—everything from the structure of the heel to the position of the medial post is designed specifically for either a man's or woman's foot strike. Combine that with a forefoot that's sliced with deep flex grooves and softened with supple blown rubber, and you've got a remarkably fluid, well-balanced shoe. (11 oz) $100 shopadidas.com

Montrail Mountain Masochist Trail Running Shoes

Montrail Mountain Masochist Trail Running Shoes

1. Fire roads. Technical trails. Even races and runs with short stretches of pavement. Regardless of what they were doing, testers reached for the Mountain Masochist more than any other shoe. And although it weighs less than 11 ounces and feels light and agile overall, it has just enough padding and midsole—namely three densities of supportive foam—for those of you who spend lots of time in the pain cave.

2. Some off-road shoes use a stiff plate underfoot to guard against sharp rocks and roots. The Masochist's plastic shield is light and flexible, giving this shoe a smooth feel more typical of a road runner and an ability to push the pace. Still, its outsole is all about the trail. Bi-directional, sticky rubber lugs offer great traction, and the decoupled heel eases gently into each step, especially on descents.

3. Trails are like velvet Elvis posters: You want to feel them, but definitely not too much. With its low-riding midsole and nimble feel, the Masochist kept us in touch with the terrain, but not to the point that we needed to watch our step. And with generous padding in the heel collar, a soft upper with minimal seams (no hot spots), and laces that snug down all the way to the toes, the fit is anything but masochistic. (10.8 oz) $95 montrail.com

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera

1. Hi-res still camera and hi-def videocam. Sure, digicams can shoot video. But not like this. Video is recorded through high-quality interchangeable lenses on a full-frame 35mm sensor, providing the type of manual focus and other controls previously available only to Hollywood DOPs. Stunning. And the .mov format makes it very easy to download and edit in QuickTime.

2. The larger, brighter viewfinder is among the nicest we've seen—pro models included—and the three-inch LCD screen adjusts automatically to ambient light. Miss film's different emulsions? The "picture style" button gives instant access to six preset and three customizable modes, each with a unique rendering of color, saturation, and contrast. But shoot in RAW and you can tweak all that later.

3. A helluva deal. Photowise, the 5D blows away the competition with its 21.1-megapixel sensor, new DIGIC 4 imaging processor, ISO speeds up to 25,600, and four-frames-per-second shooting. Against pro cameras more than twice the price, it has smoother tonal transitions, truer colors and skin tones, and more detail. Plus, you get a full-blown HD videocam thrown in?! Sweet. $3,300 canonusa.com

Smith Mogul Sunglasses

Smith Mogul Sunglasses
  Photo: Photograph by Shana Novak

Sporting no-name truck-stop eyewear? Please deposit them in the nearest circular file. Crappy sun specs shade your eyes but often lack full UV protection, so your pupils relax, open wide, and … suffer unnatural damage. Trust us: Buy well, and you'll find the investment both a pleasure to wear and a long-lasting piece of essential equipment. Especially if you buy glass. Though not suited for high-impact sports (crash! crack!), glass is unmatched in clarity and longevity. Fine shatterproof polycarbonates abound, and we've got 'em here, but glass is tops.

1. The Mogul's lightweight glass lenses mean zero eyestrain, a huge but unsung benefit of stellar optics. Plastic/polycarbonate's un­detectable distortion and surface imperfections make your eyes tired and cranky, and the surfaces sooner or later get all fuzzy from microabrasions. But, unless you take a diamond to it, glass is literally scratchproof. These'll last you.

2. A do-everything multisport tint, golden brown is suited to playing on dirt, water, rock, and snow, making depth seem deeper, adding edge and contrast. Yet it doesn't screw up natural colors. With polarization to nix blinding light and photochromic tinting to adapt to changing conditions, the Mogul delivered. Colors throbbed, details danced, and just looking became a little more fun.

3. The sporty-stylish frame wears lightly and rides close, offers uncompromised field of vision—i.e., full orbital and peripheral lines of sight—and protects your eyes from wind and airborne matter. Thanks to hydro­philic rubber on the temples and nose pads, sweat is no sweat; these things stick to you. And the sturdy build includes stainless-steel hinges. Bonus: prescription lenses available. $179 smithoptics.com

REI Wheely Beast 28-Inch

REI Wheely Beast 28-Inch

1. Remarkable for its smart blend of features, capacity, ergonomics, and durability, this 9.9-pound duffel hits the sweet spot for most travelers. Its shell—420- and 630-denier nylon, with 1,680-denier ballistic-nylon reinforcements at crucial wear points— is a suit of armor. Add a tough back panel, bumper, and wheel chassis, and you've got a high-value/low-price rig that just might outlast you.

2. I packed this thing 25 times during a walking tour of England. The 6,000-cubic-inch main compartment ate gobs of clothing and gear. Little stuff stayed in four zippered sleeves inside, including two easy-access ones behind the front door. Outside, a single zippered compartment was perfect for maps and other essentials. And I was indebted to the hazmat locker up top for isolating my fouled boots.

3. Three padded haul handles let you hoist the load duffel-style or by the ends, great for navigating tight squeezes or schlepping off-road. The external cinch system compresses the load from the sides and front, making for an extremely tight and stable package. Rolling is à la Cadillac, thanks to a firm telescoping trolley handle and huge treaded wheels with sealed, squeakless bearings. (9.9 lbs) $149 rei.com

Sony Ericsson C905 Cyber-Shot Mobile Device

Sony Ericsson C905 Cyber-Shot Mobile Device

1. The C905 is the only camera phone we've ever felt deserved the name. Its 8.1-megapixel camera features autofocus, a xenon flash, image stabilization, instant Web uploads, a sliding lens cover, and face-detection technology. We printed eight-by-tens that compared favorably with prints from a beginner DSLR. There's even a burst mode—a seven-image series that ensures blink-free shots.

2. While it stands out as a camera and a phone—it got the best reception of the bunch—the C905 is also a multimedia wonder, with built-in Web browsing, digital-audio playback, FM radio, and video recording. A Wi-Fi-assisted GPS provides navigation and geotags photos. Bonus: The unit interfaces with Sony's PlayStation 3, which lets you browse photos and video and view them in full resolution.

3. Touchscreens are cool, but they can slow you down. Thankfully, function beats out form here, with a tried-and-true slider design featuring a large keypad and a simple, easily navigated interface that keeps menu scrolling to a minimum—great for anyone on the move. And with quad-band calling on top of the multifunctionality, the C905 is a true go-anywhere, do-anything unit. $200 sonyericsson.com

Kayland Vertigo Light Trail Shoes

Kayland Vertigo Light Trail Shoes

1. Lots of support, very little weight—that's the Vert Light's recipe in a nutshell. Built on the same last as the company's much burlier Vertigo High, the 20-ounce Vert Light actually weighs less than some of the low-cut hiking shoes we tested. But it's much sturdier than all of them, thanks to its stiff leather rand (the piece that joins the sole and the upper), sturdy ankle support, and precise toe-to-heel fit.

2. Don't hesitate to set out with a 30-pound pack. This boot can take it. The Vert Light's nylon-and-polyester-weave uppers are remarkably abrasion-resistant—our test pair still shows nary a scuff or scratch. The sole also boasts a rockered profile that lends a lively feel. A note of caution: Although the slightly concave outsole grips well on soft surfaces, it felt a bit less sure-footed on slick and steep rock.

3. The Vert Light's Cocona lining helped keep testers' feet impressively dry on hot days. And with its breathable eVent membrane, three-quarter height, and ample tongue overlap, it was the most waterproof boot we tested, making it great year-round. One tester's feet stayed bone-dry after plowing through wet, early-season snow all day. Note: It fits narrow-to-medium-volume feet best. (20 oz) $180 kayland.com

Marmot Aegis Jacket

Marmot Aegis Jacket

1. Keeping rain out is never the problem; a $2 poncho can do that. But if you want a jacket that also holds up the other end of the bargain, letting moisture out, it's going to cost you—usually around $200. Which is why we were so impressed with the Aegis. Unlike most jackets in this price range, it's decked out with thoughtful features, and it breathes as easily as a Buddhist monk.

2. Staying dry on the inside is all about the fabric, and Marmot uses a proprietary and slightly stretchy 2.5-layer membrane (most jackets are made with three layers). The result: a comfy—testers loved the subtle stretch—and respectably lightweight jacket that kept us dry and happy in everything from the clammy, constant rain of southeast Alaska to a drenching Colorado thunderstorm.

3. A pared-down price usually means pared-down features. Not here. Pit zips and mesh-backed front pockets take care of active temperature regulation, and the hood can be rolled up and stashed in the collar. Soft, fleecy patches around the chin and behind the neck prevent chafing—and, as one tester pointed out, "are surprisingly luxurious when it's cold and nasty." (14 oz) $140 marmot.com

Nemo Losi 3P Tent

Nemo Losi 3P Tent
  Photo: Photograph by Shana Novak

1. At 50 square feet, this three-person model is as big as many four-person tents but weighs the same as some built for two. Even more impressive, it achieves this balance without sacrificing livability. Thanks to an efficient architecture, ultralight poles, and thinner fabrics, the Losi still boasts two huge doors and 26 square feet of vestibule space. Too much tent? Check out the scaled-down two-person version.

2. Two arching ridge poles make the Losi impressively sturdy—it easily weathered 30-mile-per-hour gusts on the Missouri River. Those same ridge poles also make the sidewalls nearly vertical, creating one of the most spacious three-person tents we've tested. The large, all-mesh canopy wicks away moisture well, and the vestibule's well-placed zippers keep rain out, even when you're coming and going.

3. Setting up the Losi by yourself is a snap, thanks to the Jake's Foot pole-anchoring system, which is more user-friendly than traditional grommets. The roll-up stuffsack makes packing a cinch, and, at night, the included eight-pocket gear organizer has a cool feature: There are two headlamp-specific pouches with light-diffusing fabric that evenly illuminate the entire tent. (6.2 lbs) $395 nemoequipment.com

GoLite Adrenaline 20 Sleeping Bag

GoLite Adrenaline 20 Sleeping Bag
  Photo: Photograph by Shana Novak

1. Thanks to its top-of-the-line 800-fill down, light fabrics, half-length zipper, and trim cut, the Adrenaline 20 packs down to the size of a loaf of bread. Even more impressive, at less than two pounds, the Adrenaline is about a half-pound lighter than the average 20-degree down bag. Add the unique zipper placement—right down the middle—and you've got a remarkably compressible and comfy bag.

2. The side sleepers among us especially loved not squirming around on top of a cold zipper all night. And although a few noted that unzipping the bag can be a claustrophobic challenge, most found that the central zip made the Adrenaline one of the comfiest bags they'd ever slept in. Ditto the snug-fitting and easy-to-adjust hood. It's so well insulated that no draft collar is necessary.

3. Burly waterproof-breathable Pertex Endurance fabric caps the hood and footbox of the Adrenaline—the spots most likely to contact wet tent walls or peek out from tarp ends. To save weight and allow moisture to escape, the rest of the bag is clad with more breathable, yet still water-repellent, 20-denier ripstop nylon. Tip: It's also available in zero- and 40-degree models and women's-specific versions. (1.9 lbs) $325 golite.com

Osprey Exos 46 Backpack

Osprey Exos 46 Backpack

1. We've tested overnight packs this big and light before, but none as stable as the 2.3-pound, 2,800-cubic-inch Exos 46. The usual ultralight materials and buckles are in play, but it's the suspension system—a superlight aluminum skeleton securing a mesh back panel—that makes the Exos stand out. In addition to keeping the load taut and secure, the system allows for breezy ventilation.

2. Though light, the Exos 46 isn't a spartan sack; it's got side compression, pockets galore for everything from a shovel to snacks, and a smart shoulder mount for stashing trekking poles. There are also additional front compression straps and an adjustable tool attachment that's big enough to carry tent poles. "Considering it's barely there, I can't believe how tricked out this pack is," gushed one tester.

3. It's versatile. The Exos 46 can double as your go-to daypack, but it's also just big enough for overnighters. It was the perfect size for a daylong mountain-bike ride from Boulder up to Winter Park via Rollins Pass. Just don't overload it—no more than 35 pounds—and be gentle with the lightweight buckles and material. It's also available in 2,050-cubic-inch and 3,500-cubic-inch versions. (2.3 lbs) $179 ospreypacks.com

Channel Islands Double Helix Flyer Surfboard

Cannel Islands Double Helix Flyer Surfboard

1. When the Flyer shape was first introduced, in 1999, it was as a performance board for small waves. But it worked so well that it became Channel Islands' bestselling board of all time. Like the Flyer, the Helix is versatile on a wide range of waves. It's lively and extremely maneuverable, and its extra flex whips you out of turns with speed to connect otherwise unmakeable wave sections.

2. A computerized shaping machine precisely carves finished boards out of a polyurethane foam blank, the same stuff used for traditional hand-shaped boards. But unlike conventional blanks, it doesn't require a wooden stringer; its stiffness and strength come from the rails, which are wrapped in a proprietary synthetic-fabric weave and then glassed with lightweight and durable epoxy.

3. Every Double Helix is a perfect reproduction of the last. And while some purists think the computerized molding process lacks soul, there's an unquestionable advantage. If you've ever had your favorite old board copied by a hand-shaper, you know it's virtually impossible to reproduce it identically. Not so the Helix. If you like this board, you'll like the next, and the next, just as much. (5'10" and 6'4") $660 cisurfboards.com

NRS E-132D Raft

NRS E-132D Raft
  Photo: Photograph by Shana Novak

1. The 132D can be set up as an oar raft or a paddle raft. Rowing requires oars, a frame, and some additional hardware (roughly another $1,000), while paddling takes four to six friends (roughly priceless). Our testers loved the 132D as a gear-laden oar boat on the Class II Chama River and as a seven-person (plus one dog) splashfest on the Class IV Taos Box.

2. Double-thickness Hypalon skid plates, one-way military valves, tapering tubes, and three removable thwarts mean the 132D will stand up to sharp rocks, dog claws, and poorly cast fishhooks for more than 20 years with proper upkeep. If you've got the cojones to run any rapid, this boat will be sturdy enough to make it to the bottom, whether you stay in or not.

3. Storage, transport, and setup are easy. Rolled, the 132D is smaller than a freestyle kayak. It'll fit into the trunk of your wagon or on the back of a mule, as ours did on the pack-in to Colorado's Class III Gunnison Gorge. Leave it loosely inflated during the summer if you've got a truck or trailer, or inflate it at the put-in with a car-battery-powered blower and a barrel pump. $4,495 nrsweb.com

More Gear