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 20-­degree bag with at least a three-quarter zip—warm enough for cool mornings but easy to vent on milder nights. Finally, if we’re car camping, we pay attention to ratings, but cushion matters a lot, which is why we’re excited about built-in memory foam. Seriously. It’s great. 


Klymit KSB 20 Down

Gear of the Year
The KSB deserves praise on price alone. A top-shelf, 2.6-pound down backpacking bag for under two Franklins? Then we slept in it and truly fell in love. Testers raved about the stretch baffle system—the horizontal sections are sewn with elastic thread—and the oversize foot box, which offered loads of room to move. “I could bring my knees right up to my belly,” said one tester. We slept warm and happy right to the bag’s limit, with the breathable fabric reducing condensation and an insulating collar locking in heat. The 650 duck-down fill isn’t made with the best feathers, but it packs down small and made this bag the best value in the test. 20° 

Price  $190 Weight 2.6 lbs

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Eddie Bauer
(Eddie Bauer)

Eddie Bauer Flying Squirrel

Best For: Music festivals and bivouacs. 

The Test: They had us at Flying Squirrel. Think of it less as a sleeping bag and more as an 850-fill down burrito wrap that works just as well in your car’s emergency kit as your Coachella bag. You’ll be plenty warm on nights above 40 degrees enveloped within the two sheets, while the zipperless design makes it easy to customize the bag fit—keep it loose like a blanket, or pull it tight for a mummy-ish feel. The Squirrel packs down tiny, stuffing into a pocket about the size of a travel pillow, while the 20-denier nylon face fabric proved tough. This rodent almost won Gear of the Year on personality alone.

The Verdict: The coolest sleep solution we’ve seen in years. 40°

Price  $299 Weight 1.5 lbs

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NEMO Moonwalk

Best For: Sleeping under the stars. 

The Test: Buy the minimal Moonwalk and you can get rid of your tent and tarp. The underside is 100 percent waterproof and designed to lay directly on the ground, with minimal overhead cover (like the company’s Escape Pod bivy), if you’re adventuring in dry climes. A sleeping pad (not included) slides into a fabric sleeve along the bottom, lifting the 700-fill down baffles off the wet. Affording even more protection, the treated feathers are hydrophobic and kept their loft even on dewy trips. The hoodless design cuts weight and bulk, but we missed the warmth on nights nearing the bag’s limit. 

The Verdict: Perfect for fast-and-light back- and bikepacking. 30°

Price  $280 Weight 2.1 lbs

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Coleman Comfort-Cloud 40

Best For: Picky car campers.

The Test: This one will make you want to ditch your mattress at home. Coleman built a layer of memory foam into the bottom of the massive rectangular unit that’s thick enough to skip the pad. The roomy interior is lined with furry fleece that’s as warm as it is cozy. The synthetic insulation let testers sleep soundly several ticks colder than the bag’s 40-­degree rating. The downside to all this comfort? Size. Even if it’s rolled up and compressed with the built-in retention string, you’ll need a Thule box to bring it along. But when it comes to unbeatable comfort, who cares? 

The Verdict: The most comfortable sleeping bag—heck, actual bed—we’ve tried. 40°

Price  $80 Weight 6.4 lbs

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Marmot Ion 20

Best For: Worry-free backpacking.

The Test: This bag is a study in efficient design. Along the bottom, Marmot layered its proprietary synthetic insulation, which, unlike feathers, keeps you warm even when crushed. More expensive, higher-performing 850-fill down runs along the sides and top for max warmth. The feathers are carefully distributed, with more where we get cold (toes) and fewer where we don’t need them (mid-thigh). Finally, the company switched the baffle direction in the foot box to make it toasty and ergonomic. Props also to the slightly overhanging hood and the mini zip that folds down the top. 

The Verdict: “Serious warmth for this weight,” concluded the mountain guide on our team. 20°

Price  $419 Weight 1.8 lbs

Mountain Hardware
(Mountain Hardware)

Mountain Hardwear Hotbed Flame 

Best For: Paddlers on a budget. 

The Test: Sleep under a tarp in the Pacific Northwest in October and you know you’re going to get wet. Really wet. But the Hotbed Flame felt as dry on the last night of our trip as it did on the first. Credit the synthetic Thermal.Q insulation, made from fibers of various sizes that, like down feathers, create big, fast-drying loft. The baffles are welded rather than sewn, reducing bulk and cold spots and making this bag more packable than its competitors. A kayaker stayed warm well into the mid-thirties sprawled in the roomy interior. 

The Verdict: Bare-bones—on cool nights, we wanted a neck collar—but a good choice for rainy climates. 20°

Price  $159 Weight 3.3 lbs

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LL Bean

L.L.Bean Ultralight 850 Down

Best For: Demanding campers with fat wallets. 

The Test: That straight-down-the-middle product name is dead accurate. Unsheath this cold-weather weapon and watch it transform into a downy palace that sparked land wars with a tent mate. “It spills over even my widest mattress,” said one flabbergasted tester. It also beat its claimed temperature rating when the thermometer plunged on a weekend backpacking trip in the Canadian Rockies. When it was time to pack up, the bag magically compressed to the size of a big cantaloupe. All that luxury and it weighs just over two pounds. Astonishing.

The Verdict: Supreme comfort in the cold, with a price tag to match. 15° 

Price  $499 Weight 2.3 lbs

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The Best Tents of 2016

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

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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

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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 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

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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

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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

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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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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

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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,

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