Gear Guy

What Are the Outside Staff’s Picks for Best Gear of 2013?


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Outside staff members are always busy testing gear—we reviewed more than 600 items for the summer and winter Buyer’s Guides alone. We can’t cover everything in the magazine, so we asked 11 Outsiders to name their favorite piece of gear from 2013. And because our staff ranges from elk hunters to ultramarathoners, this list includes everything from bows to running shoes. Our only recommendation? Don’t use all 11 items at once. 

Columnist Katie Arnold 
Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover; $169
“There’s hardly been a day in the past three months when I haven’t worn my pullover,” says Arnold, describing the top as “a lightweight little number that slips on like a sweater but doubles as a windproof piece of go-anywhere synthetic insulation for mountains, rivers, trail, and town.” Its rectangular baffles are streamlined enough to sport indoors without feeling like you’re wearing a jacket, and the super-compressible 60-gram Primaloft One insulation is light enough that you won’t work up a sweat when you do. 

Assistant Editor Meaghen Brown
Gregory Pace 8 pack; $149
Brown ran more than 450 miles with the Pace 8 last year and was blown away at how snug the bifurcated strap system connected the pack to her upper and lower back. “It doesn’t jostle, which is amazing,” Brown says. The 25-year old ultra runner says the bag is plenty light but could still fit the massive amount of gear necessary for the UTMB 100. She also likes that she can refill the bladder without completely removing it from the pack making for speedy refills at aid stations.

Associate Online Editor Whitney Dreier
Louis Garenau Course 721 snowshoes; $250
Dreier, who hopes to qualify for the U.S. National Snowshoe Championships (yes, there is such a thing), is “in love” with Louis Garenau’s new 1.6-pound Course 721 racing snowshoes. “They’re like wearing feathers on your feet, which, if you’ve ever worn snowshoes, is saying something!” Dreier says. “The boa closure makes getting them on and off incredibly easy—no more fumbling with buckles and straps or worrying that the bindings will loosen as you run.”

Online Editorial Assistant Stephen Kasica
Jetboil Flash Java Kit; $100
Kasica needs coffee before anything else in the morning. He rejoiced in how quickly he was able to brew two cups of delicious, hot, French press coffee while on assignment a few weeks ago. Temperatures were sub-zero and whiskey fanatics in front of him were desperate enough to burn receipts and cardboard right on the sidewalk. Kasica appreciates how efficient and well the Jetboil performs its focused job: boiling water. 

Editor Chris Keyes 
Hoka One One running shoes; $130 – $170
The debate over Hokas rages as strongly amongst Outside staffers as it does outside the magazine’s walls. Despite the controversy, several editors have converted to the cushy shoes—Keyes among them. “I used to refer to them as ‘sporty nursing shoes’,” Keyes says. “Then I got injured. I turned to the Hokas to get me back on the trail, and now I never want to go back. For the first time, I look forward to long downhills instead of loathing them.”

Executive Editor Sam Moulton
Honey Badger SS mountain bike; $2,600
Although the Honey Badger SS isn’t going to replace Moulton’s full suspension mountain bike, the steel framed hard tail single speed changed the way he looks at riding rolling hills. “It is so much lighter than a full suspension mountain bike,” Moulton says. “I can to go out there and not have to think about shifting.” The Honey Badger SS simplifies lives off trail as well because Moulton says that it requires almost no maintenance.

Associate Editor Jonah Ogles
Redington Butterstick Fly Rod; $250
This Michigan native’s first fly rod was one he borrowed from father. Because it was fiberglass, he he learned to cast slowly. He’s since upgraded to a stiffer graphite rod, but loves that he can go back to that slow action with the retro inspired, fiberglass Butterstick. “It’s not going to punch line into the wind, but it’s the most fun I’ve had catching little fish,” Ogles says. 

Associate Managing Editor Scott Rosenfield
Yeti SB95 mountain bike; $3,500 – $6,500
Rosenfield, a former member Northwestern University’s road cycling team, made the leap into mountain biking this year. “The Yeti is the most expensive thing I’ve ever purchased, by far,” Rosenfield says. But he maintains it was worth the investment. “It’s one of those rare purchases that has the ability to open up a whole new world,” Rosenfield says. “Nothing has been as transformative as this bike. This machine has opened up mile upon mile of trail for me. It’s changing what it means for me to go out and ride.”

Senior Editor Grayson Schaffer
Bowtech Experience; $999
“This isn’t your old Scout troop bow,” Schaffer says. “No more bow strings whipping your forearm or vibrations like a bat after you shank a pop fly off the handle.” The Bowtech Experience is smooth, damp, and forgiving. Which is good for inspiring confidence among those new to the sport. Schaffer, who regularly supplies elk meat for staff parties, says archery is to gun hunting what fly fishing is to bait fishing. And it is important you have the right bow. “Right out of the box it punched bullet holes through the tuning paper with no adjustments,” he says. “The Experience tightened up my arrow groups by more than an inch at 20 yards over last year’s model.”

Assistant Editor Matt Skenazy
Brooks Pure Grit 2 trail runners; $110
Even though Skenazy grew up on surfing and soccer in Santa Cruz, California, he has become an exceptional endurance athlete since moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The 27-year-old recently placed fifth in the North Face Challenge Endurance Championship’s 50K wearing the Pure Grit 2s. “They carried me to my first ultra finish and a sub-three hour marathon,” says Skenazy, noting the ultralight runner transitioned from road to trail better than any other shoes he’s worn

Deputy Editor Mary Turner
Eagle Creek’s Load Warrior Wheeled Duffel; $230
Turner put research into what bag she was going to bring on a trip to Africa this year. She wanted something that would hold enough for a week, pack down well, and not get gate checked for being oversized. She chose Eagle Creek’s 22-inch Load Warrior. “It’s sharp looking, has good interior and exterior pockets, and feels a bit like a duffel so it can stretch a little here and there as needed,” she says. The five-pound duffel performed to her expectations. “It rolled easily through miles of gate changes and some tough African terrain,” Turner syas. And even after that beating, it still looked good.