Gear haulers slim down and grow up

buyer's guide
(Courtesy Ortovox)

Ortovox Haute Route 40 ($190)

The best packs sit comfortably on your back without a lot of organizational maneuvering beforehand. That’s the Haute Route in a nutshell. Named for the classic ski tour in France and Switzerland, it handles a heavy load without feeling bulky, lopsided, or misshapen. The 40-liter capacity was plenty for carting overnight gear on a hut trip—including the requisite bottle of Scotch. Gear enters the main compartment through the top or (our preference) a zippered back panel. “The rear entry and light-colored interior made it easy to grab what I needed, regardless of how poorly I packed,” said one tester, who also appreciated the dedicated front avalanche-tool pocket. “I love keeping that stuff separate from everything else.” Yet, while there’s a ton of capacity, the pack felt stable and comfortable while hiking up and riding down. That’s because it’s built like a much larger hauler, with generous padding on the hips, shoulders, and back, and an O-shaped suspension system to keep weight steady at the hips. It’s made tough, from Cordura and 420-denier nylon. And with just the essentials when it comes to add-ons (including carry straps for skis or a snowboard, plus ice tools), it’s light for its volume. Wherever we took the Haute Route 40, it seemed made for the task. 3.3 lbs

Buy Now

backpacks
(Courtesy Mammut)

Mammut Trion Nordwand 20 ($200)

Best for Winter Climbing

Small and mighty sums up the Nordwand. Weighing just over a pound, it looks like little more than a tote, but whether the mission was ice climbing or mountaineering, it handled abuse and surprisingly heavy loads with aplomb. We credit two key specs. Mammut wove Dyneema—a fabric used in sails that’s 15 times stronger than steel—into 100-denier nylon for added burl without a weight penalty. And a pair of removable aluminum stays pro­vide structure: a flat one runs vertically down the center of the back panel, shifting the load to the hips, and a tubular one runs across the shoulders, keeping the Nordwand from frumping on your back. “I stuffed it to overflowing and strapped rope and ice axes to it, and still the Nordwand felt comfortable on the hike in,” said one tester after climbing in Canada’s Banff National Park, adding that the narrow profile made it small and light on his back. 1.3 lbs

Buy Now

backpacks
(Courtesy Scott)

Scott Backcountry Patrol AP 30 ($1,100)

Best Airbag-Equipped

Airbag packs come in two varieties: those inflated by air canister, and those inflated by battery-powered fan. Air canisters need to be refilled after every discharge, usually at a dive shop, while the lithium-ion batteries in fan-inflated packs can struggle to hold a charge in frigid temperatures. Here’s where the Backcountry Patrol rises above the fray: its airbag system uses a fan powered by a supercapacitor battery, which discharges faster and refuses to slack off in icy conditions. Scott promises only a single inflation on a charge, but we were able to get two. As for the pack itself, the Backcountry Patrol’s main sleeve, avalanche-tool compartment, and lid pocket easily accommodated a day’s gear. Overall, it blends the ease of use of a battery-powered pack with the reliability of a canister system. If you’re an avy-bag holdout, it’s time to invest. 5.9 lbs

Buy Now

backpacks
(Courtesy Helly)

Helly Hansen Ullr 25 ($160)

Best for Sidecountry Skiing

One of Helly’s first ski packs, the Ullr per­forms admirably when heading into gate-­accessed backcountry close to the resort. On a tour outside Whistler, we stuffed the main compartment—accessed through the back-panel zipper—with food and extra layers, stashed avalanche tools in the dedicated pocket, and tucked a water bottle in one of two side pouches. Before boot-­packing up a couloir near Revelstoke, we racked our skis A-frame style, tucked our lid into the mesh helmet carry, and still had access to the main compartment through the rear-entry zip. Back at the resort, the compression straps were svelte enough to avoid snag­ging on the lift. Bottom line: for those who spend equal time on the ski hill and just beyond, the Ullr’s the ticket. 2.6 lbs

Buy Now

backpacks
(Courtesy Arc'teryx)

Arc’teryx Alpha SK 32 ($325)

Best for Backcountry Skiing

The Alpha SK proves that less is more—not the first time that’s been said about a piece of Arc’teryx gear. Nobody minded the lack of webbing and straps on the back. “I was surprised at how rarely I missed stuff I once considered essential,” said one tester. For instance, a helmet, rope, and skins fit under the top flap, no special zips, holders, or com­partments required. Rather than include a zip pocket for shovel and probe, there’s a sleeve in the main storage compartment. And most notably, Arc’teryx did away with side compression webbing in favor of integrated ski straps and well-chosen anchor points. Skis or a splitboard rack vertically, diagonally, or A-frame, and in keeping with the minimalist composition, there’s a basic foam back panel and low-profile waist strap. Fully loaded, the pack offered just enough padding to be comfortable and hold its shape. Said a tester, “They removed everything I didn’t need and kept only what was necessary for a great pack.” 2.2 lbs

Buy Now

Après

The Best Gear Care Tools of 2019

Give your beat-up equipment some TLC (Courtesy Swix) Swix World Cup Ski Vise ($180) Turn any deck railing into a waxing support with this three-piece set. The jawed center bracket holds the ski’s binding, while rubberized clamps secure the tip and tail. Grooves secure the ski at a 60- or 90-degree angle for edge work. Buy Now (Courtesy DryGuy) DryGuy Force Dry DX Boot Dryer ($80) Damp boots can ruin your day before it’s begun. Behold the Force Dry DX, which pumps air through four vertical plastic tubes. Slide your boots over the tubes, set the timer, and wake

Read More
Après

The Best Winter Travel Gear of 2019

Hunt down far-flung powder days in style and comfort (Courtesy Bioscarf) Bioscarf ($39) Tired of catching airplane bugs? The ­Bio­scarf looks like any old neck warmer, but there’s a filter hidden in the fabric that blocks germs, pollen, and air pollution. Buy Now (Courtesy Gregory) Gregory Praxus 65 Pack ($170) This clever pack is padded, to safeguard electronics, and has separate compartments for clean and dirty gear. The back straps are made of comfy closed-cell foam, and the Praxus (and women’s Proxy) fits in an overhead bin. Made of 420-denier nylon, it’ll also hold up fine if you need

Read More
Après

The Best Cameras and Drones of 2019

Whether for Instagram or the mantelpiece, these shooters capture your escapades best (Courtesy Panasonic) Panasonic Lumix GX9 ($1,000) The Lumix GX9’s compact size belies its capabilities. With a 20.3-megapixel sensor, it’s small enough to fit in your pants pocket without the lens attached, but it captures way more detail than a smartphone, allowing you to make 11-by-14 or even 16-by-20 wall prints. Plus, Panasonic offers a broad array of lenses, so you can shoot with everything from a 200-millimeter zoom to a 15-millimeter wide-angle. Buy Now (Courtesy Google) Google Pixel 2 ($650) The most convenient camera is the one

Read More
Après

The Best Winter Camping Gear of 2019

If you’re determined to camp in winter, you’re going to need some sturdy gear (Courtesy Black Diamond) Black Diamond GlideLite 147 Skis ($469) Don’t try using these for downhilling. The GlideLites have bindings that work with most winter hiking boots, combining the convenience of snowshoeing with the efficiency of cross-country planks. Buy Now (Courtesy Sierra Designs) Sierra Designs Mountain Guide Tarp ($350) Redesigned for 2018, this shelter has ample room to sleep four and hold all their gear. Guy lines self-equalize to maintain tension and keep the tarp erect. Buy Now (Courtesy Klymit) Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL

Read More
Après

The Best Winter Hats of 2019

Frozen dome? Try one of these. (Courtesy Icebreaker) Icebreaker Chase Beanie ($25) Don’t let falling temperatures keep you from getting your sweat on. Thin merino wool, like the kind used in Icebreaker’s Chase beanie, is ideal for arduous winter activities, wicking moisture to help you stay dry and warm. Bonus: it doesn’t trap stink. Buy Now (Courtesy Carhartt) Carhartt Ear-Flap Cap ($25) This hat is for people who live life headfirst. Whether you need to check under the hood when the wind’s blowing hard or schlep to the subway in a blizzard, the insulated polyester flaps shield your ears

Read More
Après

The Best Gloves of 2019

Hot pockets—nuking not required (unless we’re talking about snow) (Courtesy Oyuki) Oyuki Haika ($150) This Japanese import has two features we always look for in a touring glove: a removable liner, and external seams on the fingers for maximum dexterity. The Haika’s liner is made from highly breathable Lycra and has durable goatskin leather in the palm. A  suppler goatskin makes up the glove’s shell, with comfy tricot inside. Buy Now (Courtesy The North Face) The North Face Etip Grip ($55) This light single-layer glove is perfect for cool-weather cycling, nordic skiing, or simply having in your pack when

Read More
Après

The Best Winter Car Kit of 2019

A little prep goes a long way toward getting yourself un-screwed (Courtesy Maxtrax) Maxtrax MKII Recovery Board ($300) You’ve excavated your car after a huge storm, but now you’re spinning out. Slide the Maxtrax under a tire and punch it. Teeth on the bottom bite into slick surfaces, giving you traction to get moving. Buy Now (Courtesy Coast) Coast G20 Inspection Beam Penlight ($14) Useful for lighting up nooks and crannies, the G20 is compact and throws a beam 72 feet. Carry a few spare AAAs for backup juice. Buy Now (Courtesy Camelbak) CamelBak ChuteMag Insulated Bottle ($40) Water

Read More
Après

The Best Snow Safety Gear of 2019

Gear that’s got your back, should things go sideways (Courtesy BCA) BCA Float 32 Avalanche Airbag 2.0 Pack ($550) The Float 2.0 sticks with traditional scuba-like compressed-air technology—though the cartridge is now 30 percent smaller—to lift a skier to the surface in a slide. Plenty of pockets and a helmet holder make this a workhorse of an avy pack. Buy Now (Courtesy BCA) BCA BC Link 2.0 Radio ($180) The BC Link 2.0 takes a consumer-band FRS radio (no FCC license required), wraps it in sturdy weather sealing, and adds a lapel microphone with all the controls on it

Read More
Après

The Best Gym Climbing Gear of 2019

Show the other players who’s best at pulling on plastic (Courtesy Ridge) Ridge Merino Journey T-shirt ($50) Merino: you know it, you love it, and it stifles BO, so your belayer doesn’t have to suffer. Buy Now PrAna Summit Pants ($89) The flat, stretchy waistband on the Summit is ultra-comfortable, and the fit is flattering, flaring down the leg for better range of motion. As a bonus, these double as yoga pants. Buy Now (Courtesy La Sportiva) La Sportiva Futura Shoes ($185) The Futura has been our favorite climbing shoe for a while now. The only thing that

Read More
Pinterest Icon