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Haulers big and small that go above and beyond.

pack
(Courtesy Gregory)

Gregory Baltoro 65 and Deva 60 ($300)

We like our packs one of two ways: stripped-down minimalists that excel at specific tasks, or blinged-out haulers that do everything we need and more. The Gregory Baltoro 65 (men’s) and Deva 60 (women’s) represent the very best of the latter. Both offer a full buffet of features along with excellent load-carrying comfort and very low weight, considering that they include just about every bell and whistle you could possibly hope for. Backpackers will love the U-shaped front panel, which allows you to peel open the pack like a suitcase and access the gear you’ve stuffed into the middle. There are zippered compartments and pouches for everything, including a waterproof hipbelt pocket that fits an oversize smartphone. The hydration sleeve converts to a simple summit or daypack. The 2018 versions drop a quarter of a pound, thanks to a new lightweight aluminum frame and redesigned ventilated back panel. The integrated rain cover moves to the top lid, where it’s easy to access. The frame isn’t super customizable, but the straps connect to the back panel on pivoting wings, so they adjust to match the contours of the wearer’s shoulders. The waist-belt wings also pivot upward, letting the pack weight settle nicely onto the shelf of the pelvis. Both versions weigh near the high end for a 60-ish-liter hauler, but it’s well worth the sacrifice if comfort is your goal. 5 lbs (men’s) / 4.7 lbs (women’s)

Men's Women's

climbing
(Courtesy REI)

REI Traverse 35 ($139)

Best affordable pack

A screaming deal for a full-service 35-liter pack, REI’s Traverse has just enough room to hold everything one person needs for an overnight or summer weekend trip (tent, sleeping bag, cookstove, and a couple of days’ worth of food). It has the right mix of features—floating top lid, stretchy front-panel pocket, trampoline-style mesh upper back panel. The water-bottle pockets are set forward of the main cargo hold, so even with the pack completely stuffed, it’s easy to pull out a Nalgene. A load-lift strap pulls the bottom of the pack up and in to draw the weight closer to your center of gravity. Though it’s a nice feature, it makes more sense on big, high-volume packs. That said, the Traverse carries fairly well. A 20-pound load felt stable and rested nicely on the hips, although the lumbar pad rode a little high on the lower back for some testers’ taste. There is, however, a thoughtful cutout in the padding for the lower spine. And we challenge you to find another pack this competent at anywhere near the price. 3.1 lbs (men’s) / 3 lbs (women’s)

Men's Women's

climbing
(Courtesy Osprey)

Osprey Levity 45 and Lumina 45 ($250)

Best ultralight weekender

The men’s Levity and women’s Lumina are marvels of ultralight design. Both weigh in at just 1.8 pounds—the lightest we’ve seen with legitimate hauling capabilities. And Osprey achieved that without sacrificing features: there’s an aluminum frame, a fixed top lid, a stash pocket on the front, removable side compression cords, and ample lash points. The 3/8-inch straps, microbuckles, and efficient use of tissue-thin 30-denier fabric keep the weight low. While many packs rest the load on a trampoline-style back panel and above a lumbar pad, the Levity and Lumina use Osprey’s Airspeed back panel, which suspends it across a stretchy mesh that extends down from the shoulders and wraps the hips. Two of these packs had no trouble accompanying a pair of testers during a peak-bagging excursion in Colorado’s Chicago Basin, transporting two nights’ worth of food and lightweight gear. The chief drawback is the fragile fabric Osprey used in the upper half of the pack. Treat these like you would an ultralight tent—baby, don’t abuse. 1.8 lbs

Men's Women's

climbing
(Courtesy Jansport)

JanSport Helios 30 ($90)

Best casual tote

A nontechnical daypack, the JanSport Helios has one feature that sets it apart: strap padding. The shoulder straps on the company’s new Moonlift harness are stuffed with a stretchy, mesh-covered foam. It gives them a remarkably soft, even gummy feel that turns a fairly ho-hum hauler into one that’s weirdly fun to wear, even when overloaded. Designed for low-key front-country missions (coffee shop, dog park), the Helios swallows a ton of stuff—it has two enor­mous clamshell openings, a fleecy pocket for shades or a smartphone, a stash pocket for a thin jacket or gloves, and a pair of water-bottle pockets on the sides. The padded laptop sleeve fits a 14-by-12-inch computer. Even when full of layers, food, a guidebook, a brick-like DSLR camera, and extra lenses, the Helios felt comfortable to wear. No back panel means overstuffing causes the pack to grow a bit cylindrical, but the effect isn’t pronounced. For $100, the Helios is twice the price of a simple daypack of similar quality, but you won’t find straps this comfortable anywhere else. 1.5 lbs

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climbing
(Courtesy Osprey)

Osprey Aether Pro 70 and Ariel Pro 65 ($375)

Best long-haul backpacker

There are stout, stable backpacking packs, and there are delicate, gram-pinching minimalist packs. The Aether Pro (men’s) and Ariel Pro (women’s) combine elements of both. They’re streamlined and lightweight but built to haul heavy loads and survive extensive field use. We brought along the Ariel Pro for a four-day trip in the Maroon Bells Wilderness in Aspen, Colorado, and no matter how much we crammed into it, the pack felt solid, centered, and balanced. Both versions are made for pros and are suitably spartan—no extraneous pockets, pouches, or doodads. Even so, the lashing options are exceptional. You could hang most of any other backpack’s load from the outside of this one. Gram counters can ditch the top lid and use an integrated flap to lock the contents in place. Osprey’s quick-stash system for trekking poles is an excellent way to free up your hands while on the move. Testers had a couple gripes: the cargo hold barely fits a bear canister. And minimalist vibe aside, an integrated rain cover would have been nice. 3.9 lbs (men’s) / 3.7 lbs (women’s)

Men's Women's

Fitness

The Best Summer Jackets of 2018

When weather rolls in, grab one of these. (Courtesy Outdoor Research) Outdoor Research Interstellar ($299) At long last, the holy grail of waterproof jackets. The Interstellar blew our crew away with an uncanny mix of weatherproofing, breathability, and stretch. “It feels softer than a soft shell but as waterproof as any hard shell I’ve used,” said one tester. “Not to mention that it’s the most breathable rain shell imaginable.” The Interstellar is the product of a new design process Outdoor Research calls electro spinning, which arranges polyester fibers in a crystal-like structure that’s waterproof, breathable, and flexible. The result,

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Fitness

The Best Men’s Thru-Hiking Gear of 2018

Ditching weight means going farther faster. (Courtesy NW Alpine) NW Alpine Eyebright Jacket ($599) Reaping the benefits of Dyneema’s legendary strength-to-weight ratio, the Eyebright is 30 percent lighter than other jackets we tested. After a year of roughing it up, it has yet to show any signs of wear. Buy Now (Courtesy Snow Peak) Snow Peak Mini Solo Combo 2.0 Pot System ($76) Made of 100 percent titanium, the Mini Solo has a stacking design that fits a pot, cup, and fuel canister into a package the size of a Nalgene, all at a svelte 5.5 ounces. Buy Now

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Fitness

The Best Women’s Thru-Hiking Gear of 2018

Ditching weight means going farther faster. (Courtesy Sierra Designs) Sierra Designs High Side I Tent ($280) This petite 2.4-pound package is a breeze to set up. And even in a windy late-October Arkansas deluge, the featherlight aluminum poles held securely and kept testers dry. Buy Now (Courtesy Jetboil) Jetboil Flash Stove ($100) Faster than ever, the updated Flash can boil half a liter of water in 100 seconds flat. For maximum happiness, order the coffee-press attachment ($10) and enjoy a quickly brewed cup of joe in the morning. Buy Now (Courtesy Ortovox) Ortovox Cortina Tunika Sleeveless Shirt ($140) Fashion

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Fitness

The Best Coolers of 2018

Inspired by packs, a new breed of coolers are on the rise. (Courtesy Mountainsmith) Mountainsmith Cooloir 24 ($140) Pairing a removable insulation box with an outer shell, the Cooloir was a breeze to hose down and dry out after a trip. It’s large enough to pack lunch for four, but we wouldn’t trust it to keep cheese cold for more than 48 hours. Buy Now (Courtesy Dakine) Dakine Party Block ($100) While the Party Block lacks the cooling chops of others on this page, we found it perfectly adequate for trips to the lake. It’s large enough to swallow

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Fitness

The Best Trail Shoes of 2018

The latest hikers are as cozy as they are bombproof. (Courtesy Tecnica) Tecnica Forge GTX ($250) You’re looking at the most comfortable hiking boot we’ve ever tested. The Forge GTX is also the first heat-moldable hiker on the market, using the same technology that gave us the custom-fit ski boot. But there’s more going on here than just luxe interiors. Tecnica gave the Forge a Gore-Tex layer to shrug off ­weather, a thick wrap cuff for support, and a burly build that offers plenty of stability and traction for serious backpacking. The rock plate stood up to hours of

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Fitness

The Best Camp Stoves of 2018

Heading out on an overlanding trip? Bring one of these. (Courtesy BioLite) BioLite CampStove 2 ($130) We’re always nervous when a company opts to upgrade a favorite piece of gear, but the second generation of the CampStove 2, BioLite’s electricity-generating wood-burning stove, features some outstanding improvements, including an integrated battery and increased efficiency—it generates 50 percent more power while still boiling a liter of water in under five minutes. Buy Now (Courtesy Eureka) Eureka Gonzo Grill ($190) The versatile Gonzo shone during more than half a dozen rafting trips last summer. The ingenious cast-iron cooking surface—grill on one side,

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Fitness

The Best Lights of 2018

Headlamps and torches to light the way. (Courtesy Monoprice) Monoprice Pure Outdoor Select Series Headlamp ($10) The Select Series is a killer value that deserves a double take. The 215-lumen lamp weighs just 2.2 ounces, and its rechargeable battery is good for 2.5 hours. It has everything a headlamp needs—red and white settings, water resistance, three brightness levels—and nothing it doesn’t. Buy Now (Courtesy VSSL) VSSL Mini Cache Suunto Edition Flashlight ($120) We already loved VSSL’s cache lights—LED flashlights with a hollow space for storing snacks, tools, and even whiskey. Now VSSL trims down its survival edition and adds

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Fitness

The Best Sleeping Bags and Pads of 2018

Sack out in something snug, breathable, and packable. (Courtesy Marmot) Marmot Ultra Elite 20 ($199) We’d never guess that the Ultra Elite 20 is filled with anything but down—it’s that warm and compressible. But Marmot stuffed the bag with a mix of three cutting-edge synthetic fibers layered together in strips: one thin for thermal efficiency, another thicker for durability, and a third less compressible to preserve loft. Near the top of the bag, the insulation overlaps like shingles to optimize warmth and puffiness. On the bottom, it’s in one big sheet, which minimizes seams and boosts comfort. The Ultra

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Fitness

The Best Sport Climbing Gear of 2018

Gear up and send it. (Courtesy Black Diamond) Black Diamond Solution Harness ($70) Whether you’re hanging on a bolt and working out beta or whipping from the crux, padding is premium. The Solution’s waist belt and fixed leg loops have it in spades. Men's Women's (Courtesy Mammut) Mammut 9.5 Infinity Dry Rope ($270) Supremely supple and easy to tie from the get-go, the Infinity plays much thinner than its 9.5-millimeter diameter suggests. Buy Now (Courtesy Prana) Prana Continuum Pants ($99) A gusseted crotch and seams at the knees lend the Continuum an impressive range of movement for such a tough

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Fitness

The Best Rooftop Tents of 2018

Over the past few years, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts in the U.S. have been taking cues from the overlanding crowd in Africa and Australia by sleeping atop their vehicles. Rooftop tents were originally developed to keep folks at a safe remove from apex predators, poisonous snakes, and creepy-crawlies. Americans took notice because they’re easy to deploy, are super comfortable, and look damn cool to boot. RTTs require a bit of work to install—you’ll probably need an aftermarket roof rack rated for your shelter’s weight, which can exceed 150 pounds—and they come in two flavors: hard and soft shell.

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Fitness

The Best Tents of 2018

The year’s top shelters are quick to assemble and roomier than ever. (Courtesy MSR) MSR Hubba Tour 3 ($750) When it comes to a Gear of the Year–worthy tent, we want something we can trust to keep us covered, comfy, and dry. And if there’s a big storm brewing, we want the Hubba Tour 3. The exterior pole setup lifts the tent and the fly simultaneously, so everything can be up in less than five minutes. The 43-square-foot interior is tight for three adults, but the large vestibule (MSR calls it a gear shed, and that’s no exaggeration) more

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Fitness

The Best Car Camping Gear of 2018

Creature comforts for the car-camping set. (Courtesy Lodge) Lodge Camp Dutch Oven ($80) Forget the grill and bring a Dutch oven instead. Cast-iron construction means it will last a lifetime, and the seasoning gets better the more you use it. Four sturdy feet allow you to set the oven right in the fire, and the lid doubles as a griddle. Buy Now (Courtesy GCI) GCI Master Cook Station ($120) Go ahead, bring the kitchen sink. GCI’s cook station is a badass collapsible camp table with an aluminum countertop, a storage rack, four plastic side tables, and, yes, a soft-shell

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Fitness

The Best Dog Gear of 2018

Keep your pup safe, hydrated, and entertained on the trail. (Courtesy Ruffwear) Ruffwear Trail Runner System ($70) Ruffwear’s system is a leash, fanny pack, and hydration pouch in one. The lead is stretchy and attaches directly to the wide hipbelt, so you can keep your attention on the trail ahead. Buy Now (Courtesy Fishpond) Fishpond Bow Wow Travel Bowls ($23) The secret to never leaving your companion’s food and water bowls in the car? Keep them in your pack. These fabric containers collapse flat and cinch tight. Buy Now (Courtesy LL Bean) L.L.Bean Ultraplush Inflatable Bed ($70) Share the

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Fitness

The Best Knives and Multitools of 2018

For every task, there’s the right tool. (Courtesy Full Windsor) Full Windsor Muncher Spork ($50) The 22-gram titanium Muncher is a versatile backpacking companion. Full Windsor took the much-maligned camping spork and beefed it up, adding ten functions and a ferro rod. Testers’ only gripe: having the knife and spork at opposite ends makes it difficult to keep food steady when cutting. Buy Now (Courtesy Morakniv) Morakniv Kansbol Knife ($44) Made in Sweden, the Kansbol delivers the simplicity, quality, and feel we expect from Scandinavian blades, without the brutal price tag. The symmetrical polymer handle offers a five-finger grip

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Fitness

The Best Hiking Accessories of 2018

We’re all for traveling light—just make room for these. (Courtesy Gossamer Gear) Gossamer Gear Liteflex Hiking Umbrella ($39) At the risk of inviting Mary Poppins jokes, some thru-hikers use umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun and thin out their rain gear. This one uses ultralight fiberglass to cut weight and Teflon-coated polyester for water repellency. Buy Now (Courtesy Epic Wipes) Epic Wipes Shower On the Go Wet Wipes ($2 and up) Short of bathing in a wilderness spring, there’s no fresher feeling after a few days on the trail than a wipe-down with one of these large eucalyptus-infused

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