When selecting a tent, look at the same factors you’d scrutinize when buying a house: location, size, and amenities. First up, where are you pitching camp? The deeper you lug gear into the woods, the more weight matters. If you’re heading into high-alpine environments or anywhere you might encounter serious weather, you need something with thicker fabric and more poles. If you’re car camping or sticking relatively close to the trailhead or put-in, a bigger tent with higher ceilings and ample storage compartments is a worthwhile luxury. No matter where you’re going, the little things count. Think of features like suspended pockets and oversize vestibules the way you do built-in shelving and a killer garage. After all, those are the things that will transform your tent from a shelter into a home.

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(Kelty)

Kelty Tn2

Gear of the Year

There’s nothing flashy about the Tn2—and that’s part of why we fell in love with it. It’s just rock solid, dependable, and willing to lend a novice camper a hand. Take the three aluminum poles that Kelty cut into 14-inch sections—about two inches shorter than the norm—to enable easier setup and takedown. Staking solo was also easy, thanks to color-coded poles and ball-in-joint corner attachments that lock them in place. With vertical sidewalls and two ten-square-foot vestibules, the Tn2 easily swallowed a pair of testers and all their gear on a beach-hiking trip along the west coast of Vancouver Island. That package comes in at a perfectly acceptable 4.8 pounds, with an astonishingly low price tag. Bottom line: the Tn2 gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t, whether it’s your first tent or your tenth.

Price $250  Weight 4.8 lbs

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©Earl Harper (MSR)

MSR Carbon Reflex 2

Best For: Adventure racing.

The Test: When a two-person tent weighs less than a pound per occupant and scrunches down small enough to get lost in a pack (true story), you know some sacrifices have been made. Getting inside feels like spelunking. I punched my tentmate while trying to put on a jacket, and we had to play cards lying down. But if your goal is to go fast and light, the Reflex 2 is unbeatable. MSR dropped 25 ounces from the previous iteration by replacing the rain fly’s zips with Velcro (we hardly noticed) and using only two Easton carbon-fiber poles to prop up the non-freestanding design. The result weighs about a third of the next lightest option here. Just treat the fragile nylon-mesh body and fly with care.

The Verdict: Go light, sleep tight. 

Price $500 Weight 1.8 lbs

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(Big Agnes)

Big Agnes Krumholtz UL2 MtnGlo

Best For: Staying plugged in.

The Test: Last year, Big Agnes won Gear of the Year for integrating LED lights into a superb backpacking tent. This year, the company took another bold step forward, turning its two-person Krumholtz into a powered-up base camp. In partnership with Goal Zero, the company built a sleeve into the fly to store a seven-watt solar panel (included) and strung wires through the rest of the tent. The panel fuels a chain of built-in canopy lights, as well as a phone and just about anything else electronic, including the fan and lantern that also come with the Krumholtz. The weight penalty for all that extra tech? Negligible.

The Verdict: Totally wired and impressively comfortable. 

Price $650 Weight 4.9 lbs

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(SlingFin)

SlingFin WindSaber

Best For: A night out anywhere, anytime, whatever the conditions.

The Test: Before you run away screaming from the price tag, consider that this four-season monster could replace all the other tents in your garage. True to SlingFin’s expedition heritage, it has heavy fabric walls, tension-adjustment points, and a stout frame that can handle fierce winds and biblical downpours. The 28-square-foot interior space might sound a bit small for a year-rounder, but the WindSaber feels bigger in the field, with plenty of elbow room, massive inside pockets at the head and feet, a tubelike entrance that doubles as easy-access gear storage, and two vestibules. Even with all those features, it weighs far less than most of its winterized competitors.

The Verdict: One tent to rule them all—and conquer all four seasons. 

Price $750 Weight 4.7 lbs

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(Eureka)

Eureka Midori 4

Best For: Backcountry trips with the entire clan.

The Test: The Midori is built to withstand the kind of abuse that only children can deliver. We didn’t worry when the kids ran inside with their shoes on: the 75-denier nylon floor is about twice as tough as what you’ll find in most tents. The two vestibules tether well out of the way to avoid door crashers, and the zippers are heavy-duty enough to tolerate impatient hands. The guy-out points are all double-stitched and bounced back every time someone tripped on them. When the little devils finally fell asleep, two overhead vents and plenty of mesh kept condensation to a minimum. For mom and dad: an easy-to-set-up two-pole design, five feet of head space, and oversize doorways.

The Verdict: A straightforward and reliable second home. 

Price $250 Weight 8.9 lbs

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(The North Face)

The North Face Homestead Roomy 2

Best For: Overpacking.

The Test: You can fit a queen-size air mattress inside this shelter, should you ever have occasion to. Two of our testers took it for a trial run to Mexico’s Nuevo León sport-climbing area and came back insisting that it was bigger than their bedroom at home. “We had space on either side of the bed for all our gear,” said one. “It was fantastic.” Suspended lofts and pockets provide additional organizational options, while the vestibules act like mini garages: our testers fit ropes, climbing gear, two pairs of shoes, a duffel, and a backpack. Color-coded poles and a simple dome design make setup brainless.

The Verdict: Room for three, palatial for two, and not so heavy that you wouldn’t consider taking it backpacking. 

Price $230 Weight 6.9 lbs

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(NEMO)

NEMO Wagontop 6P

Best For: Family car camping.

The Test: The numbers say a lot—6.7 feet tall, almost 100 square feet of floor space, and a vestibule the size of a Smart car. The Wagontop can house a family of six with room to spare. We barely had to stoop when walking through the huge door of this barn-shaped haven and were able to store a bike in the entryway. Like a lot of tents this large, the hubbed poles are unwieldy and require teamwork to wrestle into position. However, the single-wall design—the fly and body are one—made setup relatively fast without diminishing waterproofness. Just make sure to crack the two large side windows to prevent condensation.

The Verdict: When size matters. 

Price $600 Weight 23.3 lbs

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Fitness

The Best Hiking Tech of 2016

Spending the night outside just got brighter, cleaner, and easier. (MSR) MSR Guardian Water Purifier Backcountry water pumps are easy to use and durable. Trouble is, most strip out only protozoa and bacteria, not tiny viruses. Enter the Guardian: the filter’s pores are ten times smaller than the competition’s, stopping even the smallest bugs. Price $350 Buy Now Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Charger Solar panels can be finicky, draining the device you’re trying to charge when daylight wanes. Not so the netbook-size Nomad 7. A light sensor keeps tabs on how much sun’s available. If clouds roll in mid-charge, the unit powers down and then resumes

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Fitness

The Best Jackets of 2016

For diehard gear geeks, there’s no more exciting category right now than jackets. Experimentation is the name of the game, with companies trying out new cuts, materials, and construction techniques. Weights are in free fall—the lightest shell in our test came in under three ounces—while just about everything has built-in stretch, boosting freedom of movement and comfort. Designers are mixing and matching fabrics in novel ways, using bio-mapping to create jackets that are thicker where they need to be and thinner where they don’t. Even bedrock concepts of how waterproof-breathable shells should be pieced together are being upended. (Exhibit A:

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The Best Hiking Shoes of 2016

In the West, following a delightfully wet winter, forests are lusher than they’ve been in years, and hillsides are overflowing with wildflowers and berries. Across the country, the National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday with a series of centennial events in our most beautiful outdoor spaces. All of which is to say that it’s a big year for hiking. Fortunately, the latest crop of trail shoes is up to the task. Diverse new models are entering the market: featherweight low-cut hikers, multipurpose boots that perform equally well on afternoon romps and weekend backpacking adventures, and supremely sturdy but

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The Best Camp Cooking Tools of 2016

The best kitchen tools for base-camp chefs. (Inga Hendrickson) ​Southwest Disk UFO Discada Enterprise Wok  A two-foot-wide wok made of quarter-inch steel isn’t an unnecessary luxury: it’s a crucial part of your cooking arsenal. With 12-inch legs, it’s the perfect tool for cooking over an open flame.   Price $100 Buy Now (Timbuk2) Timbuk2 x Blue Bottle Sabbatical Coffee Kit  The bagmaker teamed up with the Bay Area java giant to create the ultimate portable brewing kit: grinder, kettle, dripper, scale, and mugs, all in one six-pack-size bundle.  Price $349 Buy Now (GSI Outdoors) GSI Outdoors Stainless Rim Plate  With a sturdy steel base, this plate isn’t light (nine ounces),

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Fitness

The Best Sleeping Bags of 2016

Your sleeping bag is arguably your most important piece of backcountry gear. If it’s cozy, you’re a happy camper. If it’s too warm or not warm enough, rubber-room constrictive, or sticky like plastic wrap, a bad bag will ruin the experience. The trick is to pick the right bag for what you’re ­doing. Insulation is the most important factor. For alpine trips, find a sack that’s rated at least ten degrees lower than the coldest temperature you expect to face. Summer trips in mild environments call for a rating between 30 and 40 degrees. During shoulder season, we reach for a

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Fitness

The Best Lights of 2016

Brighten up your night. Goal Zero Lighthouse 400. (Goal Zero) Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini Lantern  Toss this eight-ounce, 210-lumen unit in your pack for the next time you get caught out in the dark. Don’t let the diminutive size fool you: the Lighthouse has some nice features, including a miniature hook, a built-in magnet, and a dimmer.  Price $60 Buy Now (Black Diamond) Black Diamond Cosmo  The three LEDs on this compact three-ounce headlamp combine into a single 160-lumen beam that can light up the trail for more than 50 yards. Even on full blast, it gets 200 hours of run time. But the best part?

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Fitness

The Best Women’s Jackets of 2016

Pick the right rig, zip up, then get out. (The North Face) The North Face Cesium Anorak  Best For: Affordable Tech The Cesium has the soul of a poncho but the smart detailing of a performance shell. We threw it over our other layers in a rainstorm—it has a huge helmet-compatible hood and is made of surprisingly stretchy fabric—and stayed bone dry. It sheds ounces by forgoing extra pockets (there’s one) and an inner liner. Price $199 Buy Now (Helly Hansen) Helly Hansen Enroute Shelter  Best For: Ditching Your Yellow Slicker   This is the workhorse of the rain-jacket world. It’s dependable (the 2.5-layer fabric kept us dry

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Fitness

The Best Hiking Packs of 2016

Let’s start with a basic truth: no single pack does it all. Going backcountry camping with all your toys requires a big ol’ bag. Athletes moving fast and light will be happiest with a trimmed-down thoroughbred. Day hikers will appreciate a sack with utilitarian features. But none of this means you need to own a closetful of backpacks. Thanks to design evolution, there are more multi-use options to choose from than ever before. We tested daypacks that can eke out an overnight (like the Osprey Manta) and relatively lightweight big-load haulers (like the Granite Gear Lutsen). Versatility is achievable if

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Fitness

The Best Multipitch Climbing Gear of 2016

When it comes to big walls, light is right. (Petzl) Petzl Arial 9.5 mm Rope   The Arial is a flowy rope that stretches just enough to provide a nice soft catch. It’s pricier than its closest competitors, but it’ll last seasons, courtesy of a Duratec Dry treatment that resists water, dirt, and abrasions. Price $230 and up Buy Now (Black Diamond) Black Diamond Vapor Helmet  With 23 vents, the Vapor is the most breathable lid we tested. The foam is surrounded by a polycarbonate shell, keeping it light enough (just 6.6 ounces) for all-day use. Price $140  Buy Now (Black Diamond) Black Diamond Camalot Ultralight Cam  Black Diamond took its standard

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Fitness

The Best Women's Hiking Gear of 2016

Everything you need for quick jaunts or all-day trips (Smith Optics) Smith Ramona Polarized Sunglasses  These shades are an elegant update of the classic Wayfarer, with impact-resistant, carbonic, polarized brown lenses that make ocean waves, or even distant grizzlies, pop.  Price $129 Buy Now (Ex Officio) Ex Officio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Tank Quick-drying nylon and breathable mesh make the Give-N-Go ideal for hot-weather hikes. Wide straps cushion a backpack, while a stylish T-back shows a little shoulder from behind.  Price $35 Buy Now (Icebreaker) Icebreaker Women’s Ellipse LS Half Zip Hoodie Made from 75 percent merino and 25 percent recycled polyester, this hoodie keeps you warm in fickle weather. Bonus:

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