This is Outside’s biggest and most comprehensive Summer Gear Guide ever, full stop. While that sounds hyperbolic, it’s the plain truth. Over the past two years our team—including editors from Backpacker, Climbing, Trail Runner, and Pinkbike—completely rejiggered our testing processes and protocols to bring you, our members and readers, the best possible finished product we can.
It all starts with testing. We’ve standardized our testing protocols to ensure that no fewer than three people test the simpler items included in this guide, such as board shorts and headlamps. For larger categories, such as backpacks, that minimum number is raised to eight. These testers are from all over North America, from the deserts of the Southwest to the forests of the Northeast. We’ve worked hard to include product reviewers of diverse backgrounds, experience, and body types to get a broad range of perspectives. These athletes, mothers, grandparents, and students then provide their feedback to our category managers, who collate all of that data and then synthesize it into the top picks for each roundup you see. Finally, they write the copy and undergo an intensive editing process.
And we no longer simply provide reviews. Now, in each of our digital roundups, we provide specific information on how we tested, insight into current trends, and buying tips to make your search for the best outdoor gear easier.
Yes, we still make a print version of the Summer Gear Guide, and it is still beautiful, but it represents only the greatest hits and the high points of the products included. The digital version you are looking at now features far greater depth and breadth, not to mention 149 additional products across all the gear we cover. And this is just the beginning: we’ll continue to invest in our Gear Guides to provide readers with the most in-depth and relevant product reviews that we can, season after season. We’ll see you outside! —Will Taylor, gear director
13 tents went out into the wild. Only 7 made it back out.
Our team of testers vetted 20 new rucksacks. These ones came out on top.
16 testers tried 40 hikers. These ones came out on top.
Twelve testers put 33 boots to rock, dirt, and sand. These nine vaulted to the top.
36 gear testers tried 41 shell jackets. These ones came out on top.
36 testers tried 40 jackets. These are the crème de la crème.
15 testers tried 12 of the season’s top packs. These rose above the rest.
Eight testers tried seven new car-camping tents. These three came out on top.
Whether you’re bedding down in a state forest campground or deep in the wilderness, these nine sleeping bags will keep you warm and cozy
23 testers snoozed on nineteen pads. These are the very best of the year.
Twelve testers donned 36 tops to find this summer’s best new shirts, midlayers, and baselayers.
Twelve testers ran, trekked, and squatted in 45 products to find this summer’s best new hiking pants and shorts.
14 testers donned 22 Shirts. These 6 proved exceptional.
14 testers zipped, cinched, and buckled 18 pants and shorts. These five are the very best.
The days of broken tines and stomach aches are over
We dunked 19 filters across the country, from silty streams in California’s Agua Caliente Creek to clear lakes in Washington’s Olympic Mountains, to find the year’s best.
We hiked, ran, skied, and climbed through the night to find the best illumination of the year
Six testers tried out 8 trekking poles. These ones came out on top.
15 testers tried 17 blades. These ones are a cut above.
Nine kids trashed 38 pieces of gear. These 5 survived the season.
Seven test dogs tried 42 pieces of gear. These ones came out on top.
Our team of testers vetted 37 cooking gadgets. These five are worthy of your precious trunk space.
12 testers road-tripped over 8,200 miles with 45 car camping accessories in their trunks. These ten survived the long haul.
Get up to get down with our seven favorite bikes in the category
6 testers tried 15 bikes. These ones came out on top.
Modern mountain bikes are insanely capable
No climb is too steep and no trail too techy for this newest generation of e-MTBs
Get down the trail safer and in style
5 testers tried 14 bikes. These ones came out on top.
9 testers tried 18 bikes. These ones came out on top.
Looking to make quick work out of your daily commute? Look no further than these four e-bikes built for the streets.
Accessories for the beaten path and beyond
From road to mountain, these are our favorite cycling kicks of the year
Put your head down and go with these lids
SUPs has become a crowded field, so we narrowed the field down to this year’s four stand-out winners
Six testers rode nearly two dozen surfboards. These were the ones that came out on top.
We asked 13 testers to take the plunge on this year's newest fleet of watercraft. These boats floated to the top.
We surfed, ran, and swam our hearts out—and these three winners rose to the top
Three testers tried eight swimsuits. These came out on top.
Land more lunkers this season
Whether you’re looking for a comfortable shoe to keep out pebbly intruders or an easy slide for your beach getaway, we’ve got you covered
We asked 10 testers to try 16 climbing shoes. These came out on top.
Grippy, durable climbing footwear that will get you to the wall (and back) in comfort and style
Our favorite hard hats of the year are so light and comfortable, there’s no excuse to climb without one
Climb on with confidence with these tester approved harnesses
Six testers tried 22 climbing accessories. These ones came out on top.
We put over 10,000 miles on 85 different running shoes over six months to find the best new models for every stride and pace
We put thousands of miles on 85 different shoes over six months to find the best new models for every type of terrain
We tested nearly 20 hydration packs on everything from roads to rugged trails. These five outperformed the rest.
We tested 88 running shorts and tops over hundreds of miles of roads and trails in summer heat and humidity. These 11 kept us feeling the most comfortable, speedy, and stylish.
We tested dozens of pieces of apparel on all types of runs—short and long, slow and fast, road and trail, from New Mexico to New Hampshire. These emerged as our favorites.
Nine testers waded through more than eighty pieces of gear to winnow down the six best products for summer exercise
We tested 26 products for two months in conditions as hot as 95 degrees. Here’s what rose to the top as our favorites.
Five yogis tested the latest yoga apparel and equipment during dozens of hours of diverse practice to find the pieces that will optimize your yoga experience
We wore a dozen different bras for hours of high- and low-impact activities. These were our favorites.
We tapped a gaggle of testers—from a search and rescue pro to an aspiring tennis star—to sort the top sport watches for any activity
Four testers logged over 1,000 miles in 10 pairs of sunglasses. These stood out from the pack.
We tested 32 new products to find the best audio quality for every listener and budget