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She escaped the Nazis, stuck it to the men, turned the outdoor industry on its head, and made us laugh. All while seeking perfection.

A trade show calendar packed full of large, small, and regional events has left many retailers, reps and manufacturers strapped trying to figure out the best way to focus their resources. In response, Outdoor Retailer is releasing a new web-based survey that could result in (more) major changes to the big show's dates and format. So we asked exhibitors, retailers and reps: What does the ideal trade show calendar look like for the industry? Can all the various shows remain relevant? How can attendees get the best return on investment? No surprise: It’s complicated.

2015 Gear of the Year Winner

Choose the right type, fit, capacity, and features, and away you go.

More backpackers, fishers and hunters are meeting up at camp, and increasingly using the same type of gear. What's the crossover potential?

The Eddie Bauer First Ascent Sorcerer goes from hauler to super-long hauler and can also be stripped down to a day-mission sack. Call it magic.

Serious about minimalism? Then this is the pack for you.

Easily tailored to your body, with clever details and a surprisingly light weight.

Eddie Bauer First Ascent Alchemist 40L This shape-shifter might just replace every pack you own. Lashed down, the Alchemist is compact enough for one-day summit bagging. Unzip the top wedge and unfurl the hideaway lid, and it morphs into an entirely different beast—a roomy 55-liter hauler with plenty of space…

Beat dehydration this summer with one of these great reservoirs: The Geigerrig Hydration Pack bladder, which comes standard in the brand's hiking and biking packs; the Platypus Big Zip SL, the most secure bladder we tested this season; or the Hydrapak Shape-Shift, which you can zip up in the middle to create a more dispersed load.

According to the Peltzman effect, helmets and seat belts cause people to ski, drive, and ride more recklessly, if only slightly. We don’t suggest you trash your lid, but consider these numbers.

We crack the evolution of the safety helmet

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Black Diamond Epic 45 pack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Sierra Designs Revival 65 pack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the JanSport Versteeg pack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Eagle Creek Adero 55 pack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Deuter ACT Zero 50+15 pack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the OutThere AS-1 pack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Osprey Hornet 32 pack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Mountain Hardware Fluid 48 pack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Gregory Z40 pack.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Arc'teryx Aerios 14 pack.

SOFT BUT BURLY You know you have a winner when testers argue over who gets to wear it. Such was the squabbling over the Langtang, which, despite being cut from Gore-Tex Soft Shell fabric, performs more like a storm shell than a softie. It’s completely waterproof, of course, and survived…

AFFORDABLE AND VERSATILE Let’s put it this way: If the other jackets here are Audis, the Waypoint is a Toyota. Made from Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Tech waterproof-breathable fabric, it sheds precipitation as ably as pricier jackets and kept testers completely dry fly-fishing in an all-day drizzle off Long Island. The catch…

Technically, the streamlined Venta LT is a soft shell. But because most of the jacket (the shoulders, arms, and back) is cut from highly water-resistant fabric—Gore’s best Windstopper stuff—and its seams are taped, it shed steady Seattle rain nearly as well as our favorite storm shells. However, thanks to…

MINIMALIST This featherweight was designed for rando racers—think running uphill on skis, and then bombing back down—but easy access and minimalist design also made the 290 (as in grams) our testers’ choice for the resort. It easily fits under a jacket, but at 1,098 cubic inches, it’s big enough for…

GO-TO GREEN Good for Resort The only uninsulated jacket here, the Ekolab is a lightweight hard shell with resort touches like a removable powder skirt and helmet-compatible hood. Not only did it win over our testers in heavy, wet snow; it also impressed us with its…

Good for Resort Two words: Tricked. Out. The Glenn has everything from a removable powder skirt to a headphone port to pit zips. But here’s the deal: With the exception of the removable (and superfluous) “hiking suspenders,” testers approved of every add-on, especially the hand gaskets with…

BIG-TRIP MASTER This 3,200-cubic-inch pack’s suspension system—a compression-molded back panel and nicely padded shoulder and hip straps—can handle the heaviest of loads (and the floating top lid really allows you to overfill the thing). But strip off the top pocket and framesheet and swap out the big hipbelt (pictured) for…

SPARTAN AND PACKABLE No suspension system, extraneous buckles, or even a sleeve for a hydration bladder. And that’s why we love the Cierzo: It’s perfect for those times when you’re not sure you’ll need a small daypack—be it a business trip to San Francisco or a river trip with the…

1. Keeping rain out is never the problem; a $2 poncho can do that. But if you want a jacket that also holds up the other end of the bargain, letting moisture out, it’s going to cost you—usually around $200. Which is why we were so impressed with the…

Most Breathable Seems like 2,000 cubic inches is the magic number when it comes to versatility—just big enough to max out on a fast-and-light overnighter but not too big for a day hike. And size isn’t the only thing the top-loading Spectro AC gets right. It was the most breathable…

HARD CHARGER Consider this category-defying hybrid a soft storm shell. Waterproof-breathable eVent on the shoulders, arms, and hood keeps you dry, while the seam-taped and NanoSphere-treated Schoeller Dynamic soft shell breathes well and is incredibly water-resistant (and impervious to après beer and wine, which we also tested). Westcomb dared us…

NO MORE OVERHEATING Breathability can be a bugger to gauge. But of the 30-odd hard shells we tested, the Pinnacle, from British newcomer Rab, let the moisture out better than the rest. Credit the jacket’s two-layer eVent fabric, which, like most waterproof-breathable fabrics, uses a porous membrane that vents…

1. We’ve tested overnight packs this big and light before, but none as stable as the 2.3-pound, 2,800-cubic-inch Exos 46. The usual ultralight materials and buckles are in play, but it’s the suspension system—a superlight aluminum skeleton securing a mesh back panel—that makes the Exos stand out. In addition…

HUT CHAMP A two-in-one pack is the smartest choice on a hut trip, and the Windpack is one of the year’s best. The main pack’s 2,550 cubic inches easily swallowed sleeping bag, clothes, and tequila on a three-day hut tour in Colorado. And chasing face shots, the detachable, 500-cubic-inch yo-yo…

Good for Backcountry 1. No matter what the weather, the Icefield was ready. The shell—a slightly stretchy, very sturdy ripstop polyester with a waterproof-breathable membrane—shucked off epic dumps at Jackson Hole and wet slop on Washington’s Mount Baker. But inside was the perfect amount of…

Good for Resort The uninsulated, waterproof-breathable Odin was developed with input from four ski patrols across North America and Europe, then field-tested in Antarctica by ski mountaineer Chris Davenport. You can tell. Its shoulders and waist—where your pack rubs—are reinforced with Kevlar and TPU panels, there’s a…

Good for Resort Just like the turquoise-and-hot-pink, three-in-one Columbia you skied in as a kid—only much better. The inner jacket, a trim-fitting, polyester-lined down puffy with pit zips and three internal pockets, is practically worth the price of admission on its own. Ditto the waterproof-breathable shell, with…

VERSATILITY CHAMP “Exactly what a daypack should be,” said one tester—and that’s the best way to describe the Laguna. With the ability to expand from 500 to 800 cubic inches, the Laguna’s just big enough to fit a shell, snacks, and a few extras. The airflow system’s mesh padding doesn’t…

Heading someplace hot and wet? The Cruiser is your jacket. It’s cut from eVent fabric—arguably the most breathable waterproof fabric on the market—and has big pit zips for extra venting. As for keeping water out, the combination of an extra-tall collar and four-adjustment-point hood is as good as it…

Top Ultralight Lunch-hour hikes. Mountain-bike rides. Long trail runs. At 600 cubic inches, the Fluid 10 is just big enough to fit the essentials—shell, camera, lunch, etc.—without any wasted space. The light, ridged polypropylene frame­sheet gives it some stability (and a bit of ventilation) without adding too much bulk or…

FEATHERWEIGHT First impression: Too light to abuse—or rely upon on in really nasty weather. But doubters became believers in the field: It’s every bit as durable and waterproof as jackets twice the weight and didn’t slow testers down on a wet-weather run from the summit of Mount Adams. The trick?…

STAY ORGANIZED We were all impressed with how well the Futura Pro carries a full load, but it was our anal-retentive testers who were most partial to this feature-laden, everything-has-its-place pack. A bottom compartment keeps food separated from clothing and gear, while a bevy of quick-access compartments (two long pockets…

Hiking, biking, trail running—we did it all with the Diablo. There’s just enough space in this 352-cubic-inch pack to stash an emergency shell, a bike pump, and a snack, especially if you take advantage of its waist-belt pockets, two external stash pockets, and bungee strap. But what really makes…

BASIC BAG If you could turn an old metal lunchbox into a ski pack, it would look like this—a utilitarian, bargain-priced hauler. The 1,647-cubic-inch pack held all the tools we needed for a daylong ski-mountaineering trip, stayed out of the way when we spent a morning making laps at Vail,…

THE CRUISER Good for Backcountry The Burnside is neither the lightest nor the most technical jacket here, but that’s not this crossover shell’s point. The two-ply waterproof-breathable polyester shell repels precipitation well enough for a full day on the slopes or a long hike or walk…

Good for Resort It may look like it schussed in from the eighties ski flick Hot Dog… The Movie, but with all the resort-friendly features—like pit zips and a powder skirt—the Gunpowder is a seriously technical puffy. The real secret to the jacket’s performance is that the…

LIFESAVER Should you get caught in a slide, the AvaLung-equipped Anarchist can improve your odds of survival. The device—which is built into this comfy 1,953-cubic-inch pack—redirects the poisonous carbon dioxide you exhale, delaying the formation of a suffocating “ice mask” around your face. It reportedly can keep avy victims alive…

GREEN-MINDED AND OLD-SCHOOL Mountainsmith managed to build the Phoenix out of an impressive 85 percent recycled materials, including 100 percent recycled PET fabric, recycled mesh back panel and zippers, and sustainable biopolymer buckles. That’s about the current eco-limit without compromising the pack’s performance. But there’s much more to the Phoenix…

The WeatherEdge was this year’s biggest surprise. Less than $120, pit zips, a fully functioning hood? There really isn’t a catch, though. It’s every bit as waterproof as jackets that cost twice as much and, while it’s not quite as breathable as the pricier jackets here, all you have…

Urban Hiker Half messenger bag, half backpack: That’s the easiest way to describe this 1,500-cubic-inch urban hauler. With a well-cushioned 15.4-inch laptop pocket and a DWR-coated, splash-resistant flap closure, it’s the perfect pack for biking to work or walking to the coffee shop. Thanks to the same breathable mesh padding…

These café loungers segue easily from snowshoe rambling to latte sipping. Credit a casual style paired with Helly’s proprietary waterproof-breathable fabric and built-in gaiters that fit a wide range of boots. hellyhansen.com…

TRADITIONAL TOP LOADER “Airy and easy to adjust” is how one tester summed up the Locus 40. It’s light, too: The minimalist design boasts an impressive weight-to-capacity ratio. Torso adjustment takes just a few seconds, then the pack slides into place. The AeroFly suspension rides nice and tight to the…

This smart little pack brings a dash of technical know-how to a street-savvy bag. In town, you can remove the hip strap to dial back the crunchy-guy factor, while a bit of reflective piping increases your visibility when riding or walking in the dark. Wherever we were, the water-resistant…

CAN TAKE A BEATING This past fall, we sent three Boulder-based climbers to Moab’s Castleton Tower with half a dozen soft shells to test. And after a week of shimmying up tight sandstone chimneys and off-widths, the stretchy Current emerged as the sturdiest and most waterproof of the bunch. The…

MR. VERSATILITY Good for Backcountry Looking for something you can backpack in all summer and then ski in come winter? The Troll Wall is your jacket. Simply detach its powder skirt and you’ve got a lightweight—just 19 ounces—and easy-to-pack rain shell you can wear year-round. The…

Good for Resort It’s the love child of a high-end mountaineering jacket and a toasty resort parka! Combining Gore’s most durable waterproof-breathable fabric, Pro Shell, with PrimaLoft’s top-of-the-line insulation, the Sentry wowed every tester in the field, besting everything from arctic gusts on the lifts at Colorado’s…

1. Thanks to the 690-cubic-inch Bandit’s low profile, we barely noticed it while riding lifts. And when we wanted to leave the gates or head out for a quick backcountry tour, this pack was the perfect size. 2. The Bandit’s sleek look belies its utilitarian nature. Inside, you’ve got…

TAKE IT OFF-TRAIL Like a souped-up Jeep, the Triconi begs to be taken off-trail and over jumbly passes. The reason: The hipbelt and shoulder straps are built into the pack frame with auto-adjusting pivot points. It’s a smart system. The pivots adapt to individual hip curvature and shoulder/torso size, allowing…

Both the Ekolab’s vegetable-based waterproof-breathable membrane and DWR finish are fluorocarbon-free and recyclable. Testers were a bit skeptical that the sustainable chemistry would perform as well as the regular stuff, but the shell easily fended off hours of rain during a wet hike in Colorado’s Indian Peaks. Although the…

Simple and Smart Although they’re best known for making school bags, JanSport also has a long track record making technical performance packs—like the 2,074-cubic-inch Salish. From long day hikes to more gear-intensive scrambles to local crags, it consistently received high marks as a comfy, versatile pack. An externally accessed hydration…

Crappy out? These no-nonsense Gore-Tex Pro Shell pants were simply the best bad-weather trousers we tested. Added bonus: They come with a built-in Recco avalanche rescue system. thenorthface.com…

TOWN AND COUNTRY The perfect travel backpack needs to be versatile, compact, and sturdy. On all three counts, the panel-loading Instinct nails it. If you travel light, it’s just big enough for weekend trips. Out on the trail, the lightly padded back didn’t vent body heat as well as other…

A mash-up between a college book bag and a classic daypack, the streamlined, 2,000-cubic-inch Shrike was surprisingly versatile. The suspension system—basically a padded back panel and shoulder straps—isn’t anything fancy, but if you don’t overload it (30 pounds, max), it’s plenty comfy for long hikes. Around town, the front…

SIMPLE BUT VERSATILE First impression: generic name, not many features. But we decided to give it a chance thanks to its comfy fit, good looks, and the fact that it costs half as much as the most technical jackets here. Final impression: It’s a solid jacket for the money.

MINIMALIST PERFORMER Good for Backcountry Like the Marmot (near left), the waterproof-breathable Shuksan was a tester favorite among all-season jackets. True, this pared-down shell has no winter-specific features, but that doesn’t mean it can’t handle the cold. The well-designed hood can accommodate a helmet, and the…

Good for Resort “It’s like you’re wearing a Muppet,” one tester said of the Flow’s ridiculously plush fleece lining. This jacket—the warmest here—is what you want if you’re heading somewhere frigid, like Wyoming or Alaska. But because all that insulation is wrapped in a waterproof-breathable eVent membrane,…

LIFT SERVANT One tester described this pack as “a wallet on your back with water.” The 275-cubic-inch Scorpion’s two-liter bladder kept testers hydrated both on quick tours before work and skiing all day at the resort. Lunch, a spare pair of goggles, and an extra layer fit in the main…

LOVES BIG LOADS Can’t decide whether to pack the pinot noir or the grigio? Bring ’em both—and the cast-iron skillet. On a multi-day trip in the Cascades, the Argon’s burly suspension system and memory-foam hipbelt and shoulder straps didn’t flinch at 60-plus pounds. It’s also crammed with tons of user-friendly…

Chances are you won’t be tracking a wolverine anytime soon. But that’s exactly what one of our testers—an employee of Alaska Mountain Guides—did for several hours in the Stretch Ascent. His report: The 2.5-layer fabric fended off brambles and waves of heavy rain, while the combination of pit zips…

Get these soft-shell pants for classic winter conditions: more cold, snowy, and windy than wet, slushy, and rainy. The Gore Windstopper fabric is tough on the outside, but has a soft fleece lining. cloudveil.com…

Good for Resort 1. This hybrid jacket uses soft-shell material on most of the body, which gives it a slightly stretchy athletic feel and fit. But because it’s seam-sealed and reinforced with waterproof-breathable (hard-shell) nylon panels in strategic places—like the hood and the tops of…

Got straps? The 3,350-cubic-inch Mountain Guide has plenty, making it a favorite with our most fastidious testers—you know, the guys who spend hours fiddling with their pack until it’s just right. The vertical-carry center straps held a Therm-a-Rest, snowboard, or snowshoes equally well and, thanks to sturdy molded-plastic reinforcements,…

LIKES TO GO FAST We started testing this aptly named piece last spring, skiing Colorado’s Indian Peaks, and never put it away. It’s made with a tough but stretchy version of Gore Windstopper, a soft, light fabric that breathes incredibly well and still repels the elements. Though it’s not completely…

IGNORE THE FORECAST Good for Resort The Hoback is our favorite fully insulated ski jacket. The incredibly light Gore-Tex Pro Shell exterior is as waterproof and breathable as shells get, repelling even high-moisture squalls in the Cascade Range better than any other fabric we tested. Inside…

Good for Resort Resort jackets used to come in two varieties: There were the big, bulky numbers designed to keep you warm on the chairlift, and there were the lightweight shells you could take into the backcountry. But innovations in insulation, ventilation, and waterproof-breathable fabrics have…

FREERIDER’S DELIGHT It’s tough to find a backcountry pack that carries skis as well as a snowboard, but the 1,600-cubic-inch Pro 2 excels at both. An easy-to-use retract­able-cable system can handle even the fattest of powder skis, and it can accommodate snowboards horizontally or vertically, making it the best board-hauling…

1. An eco-conscious makeover of one of Marmot’s most popular pieces for the past 15 years, the redesigned Catalyst won over nearly every tester. An outer polyester fabric kept out blasts of wind, and the soft recycled-polyester liner stayed cozy even while wicking sweat. Our favorite update: Stretch-fabric panels…

With the hood stowed away in the collar, the Carbon is sleek and stylish enough to blend in downtown (there’s even a subtle honeycomb pattern on one side of the back of the jacket for added evening flair). But it made the grade here because it’s also built to…

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