Just remember one thing: it’s all about fit.

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(Charles Dustin Sammann)

Petzl Sirocco ($130)

Stop thinking of helmets as accessories. They are crucial tools that have gotten so many major upgrades in the past few years it’s hard to keep track of them all. Take the new Sirocco. Weighing in at about a third of a pound, Petzl’s new lid is the lightest one we’ve ever tested. It’s also one of the most breathable, with an astonishing 24 vents. “I forgot I was wearing a helmet!” exclaimed one tester after summiting Mount Shasta on an 80-degree day. There’s not much to this helmet, with its single-strap fit system and bare-bones EPP foam, but it has full safety ratings for climbing—though not downhill skiing. It’s best suited to mountaineers who put a premium on head protection during the ups and need just the minimum to get down. If that doesn’t sound like your average ski day, have no fear: there are loads of other, more versatile lids on the next two pages. Read this, try on your favorites in a store, then hit the mountain. Simple, really.

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(Courtesy Smith)

Smith Quantum MIPS ($300)

Best For: Doing everything well. Very nearly our Gear of the Year winner.

The Test: Smith subtly integrated a remarkable number of features into this helmet. With its extremely intuitive magnetic strap connector that closes easily with one hand and its supremely well-fitting Boa tightening system, the Quantum seemed to work with us as we skied, not just sit on top of our heads like a lifeless husk. The liner is made from an airy honeycomb material, called Koroyd, that breathed well; coupled with the 22 vents, it was comfortable even on sweaty backcountry tours. Finally, we loved the low-profile, simple look.

The Verdict: An overachieving helmet that earns top marks in all categories.

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(Courtesy Bollé)

Bollé Juliet ($100)

Best For: Lady park rats.

The Test: This helmet makes a bold statement, with swaths of street-style graphics and fun details like faux-cork accents and bold pops of salmon along the sides and back. The thick furlike interior was among the plushest and warmest of any of the helmets we tested, making this the number-one pick for those whose ears run cold: it’s good to well below 30 degrees. That fuzzy lining, plus the limited vents (six small, adjustable ones on top), made this Bollé entirely too hot for spring skiing, but we broke it out almost every day during the heart of winter, especially for big storms.

The Verdict: With its lining—and its looks—you’ll overheat in the best way.

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(Courtesy Anon)

Anon Omega ($150)

Best For: Riding under the radar.

The Test: The solid workhorse of this page, the Omega manages to balance maximum coverage and serious protection with a handsome, muted style. Testers appreciated the safety details—this lid extends lower than most of the other helmets we’ve worn, with a tight Boa ratcheting fit and optional MIPS tech inside (get it for another $40). In the same best-of-both-worlds vein, testers found it plenty breathable on warm spring resort days in spite of that full coverage and plenty of insulation. Credit goes in part to the 15 adjustable vents on the top and sides. 

The Verdict: A just-right mix of safety and style.

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(Courtesy POC)

POC Auric Cut Backcountry SPIN ($220) 

Best For: Hitting backcountry kickers. 

The Test: The newest addition to the Auric family combines the line’s simple park-rat styling with some sophisticated under-the-lid tech. This helmet is built around POC’s brand-new patent-pending safety design, called SPIN, which is basically a few small pads set under the plastic exterior that help the lid diffuse the rotational impacts that happen in a crash. Think MIPS 2.0. That tech, plus the multi-impact EPP foam interior, made us feel super confident ripping through hot spring corn and over booters in the rugged Siskiyou Mountains.

The Verdict: Evolve past the park, but hold on to the style.

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(Courtesy Salomon)

Salomon QST Charge ($200)

Best For: The backcountry curious.

The Test: The QST walks the line between resort and backcountry lid. It’s got plush details—like a merino wool liner that envelops the fit system and a strap with its own super-soft cover—that add weight but boost comfort. Thanks to the honeycombed interior, freestyle low profile, and ample venting, it’s light and cool enough for backcountry tours, too. “It’s the perfect lightweight helmet for days in the twenties and thirties,” one tester said.

The Verdict: The best option for those who go 50/50 between the resort and backcountry.

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(Courtesy Scott)

Scott Couloir II ($180)

Best For: Going up.

The Test: “This is the only helmet I would take in the backcountry, for two reasons,” said one tele-skiing tester. Number one: insane breathability, thanks to six vents on each side. Open them and you feel like your head’s getting air-conditioned. Close them and this helmet gets warm enough for a 33-degree day with sleet. Number two: weight. With the svelte profile of a bike helmet and a thin foam liner, Scott cut ounces all the way down to 13—lighter than any other ski helmet in our test. 

The Verdict: Our favorite touring lid, it’s light yet burly. Best for those who play primarily in the backcountry.

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Fitness

The Best Packs of 2018

Load them up, kick them through the snow—these haulers will serve you well no matter what. (Charles Dustin Sammann) Mystery Ranch Saddle Peak ($229) We demand a lot from our packs: they need to accommodate a variety of loads, move with us, and carry comfortably on our backs. Until pack makers design the one that can do it all, we’re left weighing pros and cons. Of all the packs we tested this year, the Saddle Peak demanded the fewest compromises. Mystery Ranch—based in Bozeman, Montana—designed it to tame the local Bridger Bowl Ski Area. There

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Fitness

The Best Goggles of 2018

Cylindrical lenses that strike the perfect balance between performance and price. (Charles Dustin Sammann) Oakley Fall Line ($190) Old-school goggle lenses were formed flat and then bent to fit goggle frames, inducing headaches by warping the light and forcing your brain to make sense of the distorted images. Then early iterations of lenses thermoformed on a cylinder (no need to bend them) took over the high end, only to be replaced with top-dollar spherical lenses that mimic the shape of the human eye. But recent refinements in how cylindrical lenses are built—less distortion for less

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Fitness

The Best Recycled Gear of 2018

Even outdoor gear deserves a second chance. (Courtesy Woolrich) Woolrich Civil War Gettysburg Wool Blanket ($115) These thick 1800s-era blankets were  first issued to Union soldiers to keep them warm. The modern version is still tough as nails, but now it’s made of 80 percent wool gathered from the cutting-room floor. Buy Now (Charles Dustin Sammann) ShotzSki Shot Ski (From $175) No après-ski throwdown is complete without a shot ski. Our favorite maker, ShotzSki has a host of recycled planks to choose from (fat, skinny, old, and new). Pick a design

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Fitness

The Best Winter Hats of 2018

It’s true: your head loses around 7 to 10 percent of your body’s heat—whether you’re spending winter nights in the desert high country or riding Colorado’s lifts—if it’s not well insulated. Still, though you should keep your dome swaddled, there’s no reason not to look good while doing so. (Courtesy Snowshed) Snowshed 3-Season Helmet Beanie ($35) Top of our list for high-output winter activities is the 3-Season Helmet beanie from up-and-coming Chicago company Snowshed. It’s made from fine merino wool and  fits nicely into your pocket. We wore the 3-Season beneath our bike and ski

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Fitness

The Best Sunglasses of 2018

Wherever your cold-weather escape trajectory leads, these best-in-class shades improve the view. (Courtesy Sunski) Sunski Plover ($58) Sunski, as ever, delivers quality and style that could easily cost twice as much. The Plover’s synthetic lenses are both polarized and mirrored—often premium upgrades. We put the optics to the test on a relentlessly sunny weekend on and next to the Pacific, where inferior lenses would have left our eyes fried. Buy Now (Courtesy Spy) Spy Cyrus Whitewall ($130) Aggro, loud, some screamingly unnatural red-orange color—you may not love such things in your

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Fitness

The Best Cameras of 2018

Tools that make it impossible to take a bad picture. (Courtesy Pentax) Pentax KP ($1,100) Stop shooting vacation photos on your iPhone and use this lightweight 1.5-pound box instead. The 24.3-megapixel APS-C sensor captures bigger, richer files than your cell, making for better prints. Plus, the KP has a massive ISO range—up to 819,200—for crisp low-light shots. It can snap seven frames per second and has a weather seal to keep you firing in rain and snow. You’ll need a fast lens to get the most out of this Pentax, but it’s a setup worth

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Fitness

The Best Après Shoes of 2018

Comfy, classy shoes for ski-beat feet. (Courtesy The North Face) The North Face ThermoBall Traction Bootie ($60) This PrimaLoft-insulated kick was like a puffy jacket for our feet. The North Face also slapped on a lugged rubber outsole that had mind-blowing grip even while we were drinking beers on parking-lot ice. Bonus points: that outsole is made from recycled materials. Buy Now (Courtesy Vans) Vans Remedy Boot ($160) Vans ventures away from its home in Southern California and toward the wintry north with this boot that features a durable galosh-like lower

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Fitness

The Best Après Tailgating Gear of 2018

Win the parking lot post-ski scene. Tembo Tusk Skottle Kit (Courtesy Tembo Tusk) Tembo Tusk Skottle Kit ($275) The skottle—think a shallow wok with legs—makes an ideal grilling surface for post-pow steaks and veggies. Invented by South African farmers who repurposed old disc harrows from tractors, the propane-fueled cooking tool has gained popularity among U.S. overlanders because of its simple design and giant grilling surface. Buy Now (Courtesy Patagonia) Patagonia Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Double Knee Pants ($79) Ditch your crinkly, uncomfortable ski pants for these soft, warm, nearly indestructible work

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Fitness

The Best Gloves of 2018

Care for your digits. Arc’teryx Rush SV ($275) Arc’teryx debuted the Alpha glove a couple of years ago, with a revolutionary build: it sealed the membrane stitches with waterproof tape, making the Alpha the most weatherproof glove we’ve ever tested. The Alpha has now been upgraded to the Rush, with a removable quick-drying liner. Think of it as hard-shell armor for your hands. Buy Now Black Diamond Helio ($200) Versatility was on full display during a ski tour in Crested Butte, where the three-in-one Helio proved to be our

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Fitness

The Best Winter Camping Gear of 2018

Survive a night (or two or three) in the snow. (Courtesy Mammut) Mammut Trion Light 38 Pack ($160)  Mammut’s Trion lets you jam in gear for days in the backcountry but is optimized for fast-and-light summit bids. Removable hip pads and top pouch slim things down when ounces count. Buy Now (Courtesy MSR) MSR Remote 2 Tent ($800) The Remote 2’s spacious, 33-square-foot interior and cavernous vestibule made waiting out a storm almost pleasant. The burly composite poles held steady in 30-mile-per-hour winds. Buy Now

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Fitness

The Best Watches of 2018

Rugged, refined timepieces for nights out, the depths, and, yes, even space. (Courtesy Luminox) Luminox Navy SEAL 3500 ($375)  Luminox took the perennial favorite Navy SEAL model and gave it an update, with a less cluttered dial and the minor flourish of a red second hand. The 3500 is a remarkably tough piece of horology for such a reasonable price; the carbon-compound case is a perfect combination of lightweight and durable, and the luminescent markers will glow for up to 25 years. Buy Now (Courtesy Nixon) Nixon Station Chrono Leather

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