Gear News

Archive

1. Comfort: Go ahead, try and overload it. On treks in New Mexico's Pecos Wilderness and even ski touring in the Tetons, testers were unanimous: The Meridian carries like a champ. Credit the firm yet flexy composite frame-sheet that moves with your body, dual-density foam in the hipbelt that cushions…

1. Who says you can’t please everyone? Whether our testers had wide or narrow feet, or preferred slow, long runs or quick, on-your-toes workouts, somehow all were convinced the Glide was the perfect shoe for them. The key is a generous amount of padding in the heel collar and…

At our annual ski test, 12 hard-charging testers put the Kendo through its paces at Snowbird (see page 37), and every tester wrote something to this effect: “You can make every turn shape at every speed on every style of terrain.” That’s the ultimate goal of an all-mountain ski,…

1. The Mogul’s lightweight glass lenses mean zero eyestrain, a huge but unsung benefit of stellar optics. Plastic/polycarbonate’s un­detectable distortion and surface imperfections make your eyes tired and cranky, and the surfaces sooner or later get all fuzzy from microabrasions. But, unless you take a diamond to it, glass…

Here’s a cleanly designed multitasker with the right goods for road tripping, globe-trotting, or anything in between. Trundle this 2005 Gear of the Year fave up to the reception desk at the W Hotel without looking like you’re fresh off the mountain, then zip off the bomber backpack to launch…

1. Most shoes are either racers or trainers. The lightweight SpeedCross 2 manages to be both: Shock-absorbing rubber outsole lugs compensate for the minimal midsole cushioning. And because it’s soft-flexing, with a low-to-the-ground profile, it “hugs” all types of terrain. 2. Salomon designers took inspiration from the legendary…

Good for the Road It started with 45 new shoes and 20 testers. Three months and 5,000 miles later, it ended with the seven best road and trail shoes of the season. One shoe broke so far away from the pack, impressing us on so many levels—comfort,…

Why It RulesThe Momentum is exactly what it needs to be. Thanks to a slim, clean cut and spare styling, this piece will keep you comfortable on the crags as well as in the city. » The Schoeller Dryskin fabric functions by virtue of its construction: A tight, double weave…

Why It RulesThis heart-rate monitor and wrist-mounted coach makes everything—except the huffing and puffing—a snap. Think of it as the one-handed corkscrew, the clip-on bow tie of fitness equipment. Yes, it’s that easy to use. » Don the chest strap to measure beats per minute, and secure the plastic foot…

1. Developed by five-time Olympian and world champion Grayson Bourne, the Nemo is the ultimate fusion of race and touring readiness. After weeks on the water, testers found it has the optimum mix of speed and comfort for everything from high-intensity training to all-day touring. 2. Unlike most…

If comfort is more important to you than weight, go ahead and buy a three-person tent for yourself and your mate. But consider this first: New pole connectors, like plastic hubs and sockets, have made tent walls more vertical, which creates more usable space in a two-person model without…

A couple years back, Brunton bagged its first Gear of the Year award with the burly, waterproof, scalpel-sharp Epochs. For 2005, greatness gets an upgrade. The new Brunton Epoch Zoom invites you to view the whole horizon, then drill in tight with the touch of a lever. Result? Another trophy…

Wheel it, shoulder it, sit on it, kick it—Osprey’s Meridian 22 adeptly adjusts to any adventure and absorbs every road-inflicted insult. It relieves you of attachment anxiety, since it’s carry-on legit, but magically stows everything you need for an around-the-world journey. Can’t resist picking up that wooden mask in…

1. The fashion statement says, more or less, “Prepare to lose, girlie man!” But over-the-top style is not new to Oakley. The main reason the Radar crushes the competition is its truly remarkable lenses, with their anti-everything-that-screws-up-the-view surface treatment (see #2). 2. Mash your thumb against the lens. No,…

1. Fire roads. Technical trails. Even races and runs with short stretches of pavement. Regardless of what they were doing, testers reached for the Mountain Masochist more than any other shoe. And although it weighs less than 11 ounces and feels light and agile overall, it has just enough…

GEAR OF THE YEAR “You can never have a bad day on the Coomback,” said one tester of the most adored ski in this year’s test. Returning with refined tip rocker—which allows the ski to plane, surf, and smear in powder without giving up control on hardpack—the Coomback was lauded…

Snowshoeing is simple. No lift lines, overpriced cheeseburgers, or long list of expensive accessories. All you need is some snow, a warm pair of boots (see page 107), and a pair of versatile shoes that’s up for whatever terrain you’ll encounter. To settle on our Gear of the Year–winning…

Sony’s 7.2-megapixel DSC-V3 nabs Gear of the Year by combining the soul of a pro-level SLR with silicon guts capable of punching out truly tack-sharp images. Thanks to a blindingly fast processor, you won’t have to forfeit now-or-never moments to “shutter lag”—that maddening pause between hitting the button and nailing…

1. With its fully gusseted tongue and a smooth sock liner, the Aether Tech just fits great. The easy-to-adjust Boa Lacing System provides a uniform snugness all around the foot—no pinching or pressure points. The foot-sculpting midsole is made from just the right amount of soft, single-density foam to…

Good for Resort Four years ago, Mervin Manufacturing (the owner of Lib Tech and Gnu) introduced so-called multiple sidecut—and turned the industry on its head. Instead of one continuous sidecut, these new boards have multiple contact points along their edge, which improves edge hold and gives you…

1. The Gore-Tex XCR–lined Sandstone has a strip of airy mesh along the tongue (where it can best release the foot’s heat) and leather/tightly woven mesh along the sides, where durability is key. The upshot: No sweaty feet or blisters—even after four back-to-back 12-mile days—and no blowouts. 2.

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…

While pack makers continue to experiment with new suspension and ventilation systems, fit is still the most important factor. Go to an outdoor specialty store and try on several. Load up with at least 20 pounds, adjust them, and walk around. Take time to fiddle with all the straps…

GT designed its new i-DXC around the latest version of the company’s superefficient i-Drive suspension setup, so it rides as comfortably as a cross-country bike—without sacrificing race-day speed. Whatever your singletrack agenda, this Gear of the Year winner is equally equipped to play in the backcountry or jump into the…

Value never looked so good. The D50 puts a pro-quality digital SLR in reach of ambitious amateurs who want to move beyond snapshots—without shelling out more than they paid for their first car. With the ability to swap out lenses and go manual, it allows utmost creativity. And cutting-edge…

LIGHT Die-cut foam reduces weight and bulk, and raised “berms” along the perimeter, which prevent you from rolling off, make this featherweight feel wider than it is. The minimalist cushion is best for smaller (or tougher) hikers. 20′ x 72′ x 1′, 1.2 lbs; pacoutdoor.com…

1. Hi-res still camera and hi-def videocam. Sure, digicams can shoot video. But not like this. Video is recorded through high-quality interchangeable lenses on a full-frame 35mm sensor, providing the type of manual focus and other controls previously available only to Hollywood DOPs. Stunning. And the .mov format makes…

The Squall seems spartan. It isn’t. Well, except for the hipbelt, which is simply unpadded webbing, but that’s all you really need. Plus what’s on the inside is equally important. Within this top-loading, 27-liter pack, everything has its place: There are sleeves for your probe, shovel handle, hydration bladder,…

Why They RuleA company that satisfies legions of birders—some of the fussiest buyers—obviously knows its optics. Focusing is superfast and precise, but not overly sensitive. You see it, you nail it. » The image is breathtakingly sharp, like an Ansel Adams glass-neg enlargement. » Though Steiner spec’d the Peregrines for…

At six pounds 13 ounces, the Reverse Combi is the heaviest of the eight new-for-2005 shelters we tested—and is probably the most tent you’ll want to carry. But this Gear of the Year’s thoughtful design and creature comforts threw our usual light-is-right rules out the mesh window. Perhaps bigger is…

1. The Mojo SL won this year’s award for one simple reason: It defies all categories and excels in every condition. It’s light enough to race cross-country, but with 5.5 inches of front and rear travel, it’s cushy enough for anything a sane rider would ever descend. 2. In…

Good for All Mountain Decision time! Favor early-morning groomers beyond all else? A frontside ski is right for you (page 36). Ski the cut trails only on powder days? Check out the big-mountain category (page 37). Or if you mix it up, like more than half the…

Why It RulesThe Blur gets its boing from a new system that keeps the shock from being activated by the up-and-down motion of pedaling. Released last year, the so-called virtual pivot-point design still tops anything new for 2004. » The suspension point between this bike’s rear swingarms isn’t fixed to…

1. Loads of space for little weight: Thanks to a three-pole, cantilevered design, the Emerald Mountain is packed with features—two doors, a massive vestibule, a six-pocket gear loft, and a respectable 29 square feet of interior space—but still weighs just a few stakes over four pounds. 2. What really…

1. Introducing the rare smartphone that earns the title. Most do-it-all devices compromise one system for another, but the N95 shines as both multimedia and communication device, with Wi-Fi, GPS, and FM to boot. And the intuitive setup makes operation a snap: Slide the panel up for the keypad…

You might not recognize all the new jacket ingredients these days, but the main courses remain the same. There are still waterproof-breathable hard shells for full-on deluges, breathable and stretchy soft shells for just about every other kind of weather, and the growing category of lightly insulated jackets for…

1. This is simply the most adapt-able winter-specific storm shell we tested. The key is Schoeller’s new waterproof-breathable fabric with c_change technology, a membrane with a polymer structure that opens up when you get hot and contracts when you cool down. Translation: Testers didn’t overheat when their buddies did…

Talk about kids in a candy store. Contemplating the 20-surfboard quiver we assembled for Buyer’s Guide testing this year, our wave riders felt as if they’d been given the keys to Wonka’s brand-new surf factory. We had longboards, guns, funboards, thrusters, and fish—yet there was one stick our testers…

1. Loads of space for little weight: Thanks to a three-pole, cantilevered design, the Emerald Mountain is packed with features—two doors, a massive vestibule, a six-pocket gear loft, and a respectable 29 square feet of interior space—but still weighs just a few stakes over four pounds. 2. What…

This turbocharged iPod is our favorite multimedia device ever. It’s all here: music, video, Wi-Fi, maps, and the option of 15,000-plus games and apps. Plus the interface is still unmatched. Mac or PC; 8–32GB; apple.com…

Quiet, slightly stretchy GoreTex fabric. A simple cinchable powder skirt. Smooth-tracking waterproof pit zip. A truly helmet-compatible hood with great periphery visibility. While other hard shells offer these simple features, nowhere are they combined as elegantly and with as much attention to detail. You can just tell that every feature—like…

1. Want race-proven? Trek’s all-new Madone is available in three levels of carbon (White, Black, and Red). Because the top-tier Red frames weren’t done in time, Alberto Contador won last year’s Tour de France on a mid-level Black frame, exactly like the one shown here. 2. Stiffer bottom…

1. A handful of shoes boast construction this light, but most are minimalist racing flats without much structure. Not so with the 902. Thanks to new-tech, lightweight materials—in the cushioning, foam, and even the breathable mesh of the upper—the 902 supports your foot better than many midweight shoes. 2.

1. Rudy has taken LCD-obscuring polarization down just four notches, to 96 percent. It’s enough to kill glare but also let you see the screen on your iPod, phone, etc. Developed for sailors who need to filter out reflected light and still read electronic gauges, it’s great for all…

Lift lines to skin track. Heli-drops to sidecountry laps. Snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding. We subjected more than 20 new winter packs to serious use and abuse to whittle the list down to seven, a mix of generalists and specialists. But if you’re anything like us, you want one pack…

Why It RulesCheck out this river runner’s design: Semisoft edges make for good stability in grabby water, yet offer all the carve necessary for sharp turns, while large bow volume maximizes legroom and helps prevent pearling by keeping your nose out of trouble. » Though not built specifically for play,…

1. Last year, Mountain Hardwear wowed the sleeping-bag world (OK, us gearheads) with its welded-insulation Lamina series. Even non-sleeping-bag geeks will appreciate this upgrade: The UltraLamina 32 is lighter (2.1 pounds) and compresses down to almost two-thirds the size of its predecessor. 2. Hardwear chopped up its synthetic…

1. Most frontside skis are too precise and exhausting for freeskiing. Not the pared-down CX 80, which does away with heavy add-ons like complex binding plates for a more responsive feel. It’s ten millimeters fatter than most, but its World Cup­inspired laminate construction and vertical sidewalls still deliver impressive…

The two big things to take into consideration when choosing a kayak: the kind of water you will be paddling and for how long. Some boats, like the Emotion Comet (seen here) and the Necky Rip, are great for day trips, while some, like the Current Designs Infinity, are better…

1. Atlas’s signature Spring-Loaded Suspension helps underfoot crampons bite into hard snow and ice for maximum traction. Offset rows of aggressive teeth have exceptional lateral stability and grip to keep you from sliding sideways while traversing. During a heinous descent of Vermont’s exposed Sunset Ridge Trail—a mix of rock,…

Zeal Optics’ Maestro nails it with its new ZB-13 sepia polarized polycarbonate lenses. The amber tint amps up depth perception, intensifies contrast, sharpens edges, and performs masterfully in so many light conditions that you’d think they were photochromic (the kind that adjust to brightness). But the lenses don’t change—they’re…

1. The Stratocruiser 25 is a chameleon. It’s stylish enough to wheel inconspicuously through swanky hotels, but still tough enough for epic-trip abuse. After 18,000 air miles and a half-dozen rattling safari drives in South Africa, it posted a perfect unscathed score: no tears, breaks, or blown zips. Credit…

1. Remarkable for its smart blend of features, capacity, ergonomics, and durability, this 9.9-pound duffel hits the sweet spot for most travelers. Its shell—420- and 630-denier nylon, with 1,680-denier ballistic-nylon reinforcements at crucial wear points— is a suit of armor. Add a tough back panel, bumper, and wheel…

We’ve tested plenty of snowshoes with serious bite, and others that are extraordinarily comfy, but what makes the Mountaineer so impressive is how well it performed in both those categories. Thanks in part to two independent toe straps, the binding perfectly cradled every boot we jammed in it, from…

1. When the Flyer shape was first introduced, in 1999, it was as a performance board for small waves. But it worked so well that it became Channel Islands’ bestselling board of all time. Like the Flyer, the Helix is versatile on a wide range of waves. It’s lively…

At first glance, this hauler might seem born out of Lockheed’s Skunkworks, but relax: Our Gear of the Year pack will get you there and back in a flash. A matchless mesh suspension setup saves aches and ounces, while the main compartment smartly stows as much or as little as…

1. A paradigm-shifting camera, the D3 has a new sensor with incredible low-light sensitivity that, with a high-speed shooting rate (nine frames per second) and a new autofocus system that locks on to moving subjects like glue, can make images that were literally impossible to capture before now.

Good for Backcountry We’re not too nuts about the term “all-purpose” either, but we hope you understand our point: Whatever you do, from resort skiing to snowshoeing, we’ve got the perfect jacket for you. Some, like the North Face Free Thinker II, are bedecked with nearly a…

Why It RulesBeing on top isn’t always best. Here’s a rugged, functional, and—dare we say it?—elegant rack that totes gear behind your vehicle. » Finally, a hitch-mounted rack that doesn’t ask you to correctly sequence a half-dozen knobs when you want to get inside your car. Forget a water bottle…

1. Jackson Kayak rolled out 11 models this year—more than all the other domestic boatmakers combined. But our favorite was the completely redesigned 54-gallon Fun, which somehow manages to be a comfy, low-maintenance playboat that’s no slouch on performance: It won last year’s World Cup. 2.

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…

We’ve entered the golden age of bicycle components. Though carbon-fiber frame designs are still improving, the advances now come in increments, rather than the leaps and bounds of recent years. (For road frames, there are now viable carbon-and-aluminum bikes and even full-carbon options in the one-to-two-grand range.) But when…

Before you start looking, know exactly what you’ll use your shades for: Generalist sporty street designs get you around town and through low-impact pursuits; bigger challenges call for sports-specific numbers. When it comes to superfine optics, glass is unparalleled, but chances are you’ll want lighter polycarbonate (plastic) lenses if…

Basic navigation is available in everything from cars to phones these days, but Garmin’s palm-size powerhouse GPSmap 60CSx takes a sophisticated GPS—once found only in the hands of explorer-engineers—and puts it in every traveler’s pocket. With the unit’s intuitive interface, Garmin has simplified use for beginners while simultaneously incorporating…

Not counting genetic mutants like ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes—who could probably jog a century in flip-flops—the rest of us need trail runners that can go from dirt to rock to road and do it gracefully. The Vasque Blur accomplishes that trick and then some. The hybrid gave us quick toe-offs…

1. The C905 is the only camera phone we’ve ever felt deserved the name. Its 8.1-megapixel camera features autofocus, a xenon flash, image stabilization, instant Web uploads, a sliding lens cover, and face-detection technology. We printed eight-by-tens that compared favorably with prints from a beginner DSLR. There’s even a…

A running shoe that weighs less than eight ounces is usually a flimsy racing flat. So imagine our shock during the first test runs in the Kinvara: It’s a legit training shoe but with 30 percent less weight than most other high-mileage trainers. There’s radically less rubber on the outsole—only…

Cameras haven’t been this cool since Nikon brought on the digital era in 1999 with the D1. Now it’s all about the convergence of still and motion photography. Cameras from the simplest point-and-shoots to pro-level DSLRs can now shoot HD video. So stop worrying about mega­pixels and figure out…

Stripped-down light hikers can leave weekend adventurers craving a little more of everything. But, just like my pre-ramble, all-you-can-eat Southern breakfast, the Eclipse XCR fills the plate. Balancing strength and flexibility, this waterproof Gear of the Year winner made a meal of Alabama’s rugged Pinhoti Trail in a hard winter…

*This shoe has been discontinued by New Balance and is no longer available. 1. The 850 simply fit and felt better than all the rest. Its deep heel pocket and snug waist created a tailored fit, and the toe box never felt confining. A web of dual-density plastic sandwiched…

The antimicrobial poly-and-wool blend is an excellent funk fighter. And the body-mapping construction—thicker fabric around the chest, thinner under the arms, and flexible sections on the elbows for mobility—works: It’s extremely comfy and better at temperature regulation. Note: Runs small and slim—the large fits like a medium.

Why It RulesThe Red Oxx guys, former military parachute riggers, are as intolerant of weakness in their duffels as they were with their chutes. To wit, this 2,400-cubic-inch bag is built to extreme specs—the fabric is 1,000-denier Cordura, the titanium of the bag biz. The oversize webbed-nylon handles aren’t just…

1. Can you imagine a tent from the 1970s making it into these pages now? Not a chance. But a good surfboard is a good surfboard, and the retro shape of the single-fin MR, which was designed by surf icon Mark Richards, was hands-down this year’s most stable, predictable,…

1. The problem with most waterproof trail runners is that they don’t breathe very well. So instead of using a Gore-Tex-like membrane in the Syncroseeks, Pearl Izumi opted for a tightly woven, DWR-treated soft-shell upper, which kept our feet almost as dry as with waterproof shoes, without any clamminess.

Because of the repetitive pounding of road running, you need a shoe designed for your particular foot strike. (Consult a specialty running store to diagnose your type.) If you overpronate, with your foot and ankle tending to roll inward, you need a “light stability” or “stability” shoe to help…

Long a champion of oversize aluminum tubing, Cannondale shifts gears to create an all-carbon rig that’s fast enough for testosterone-addled group rides but much more comfortable than its trademark metal frames on epic outings. With slack geometry, a moderately upright riding position, and the superior road-damping qualities of carbon…

Last year, Wave Sport’s designers must have taken the same trip through the wind tunnel that Lamborghini techs made recently. Gone are the rococo flourishes and hard angles, replaced by spare, fluid lines. But where the Project’s predecessor, the ZG, allowed comfort and speed to compromise performance, this year’s…

1. Eliminate extra gadgets: The Crossover is the first unit on the market with outdoor, marine, and advanced vehicle capabilities all crammed into a single lightweight unit. Even with the broad functions, the Crossover is simple to use, thanks to an intuitive, icon-based menu system paired with one of…

1. Lots of support, very little weight—that’s the Vert Light’s recipe in a nutshell. Built on the same last as the company’s much burlier Vertigo High, the 20-ounce Vert Light actually weighs less than some of the low-cut hiking shoes we tested. But it’s much sturdier than all of…

Back Next