It’s tough to tell how trustworthy a piece of gear is going to be when you first buy it. In fact, the only way to actually test your equipment’s longevity is to, well, test it. Thoroughly. So instead of having you, dear reader, put your gear through the ringer in…

Forget about rubbing two sticks together. Without matches, your only hope of getting a fire started in the wild is to take advantage of other tools at your disposal. Mykel Hawke—a former U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret and founder of survival school Spec Ops—recommends two easy,…

Yes, I write about gear for a living, I have access to the most sophisticated toys and tools in the outdoor world, and I’m constantly geeking out over tech details. But I’m keenly aware of the fact that the gear does not make the athlete. I was a much better…

I'm having trouble figuring out what gear to give my loved ones for the holidays.

We tested out the best backcountry and alpine boots to help you find the best fit for your ski experience.

Outside picks the best gear for your alpine-touring setup, including the K2 WayBack skis.

A fully-customizable, hike-ready sidecountry boot

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2012 Winter Buyer's Guide, including the Line Celebrity 100 skis.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2012 Winter Buyer's Guide, including the Black Diamond Custom boots

I'm heading into the backcountry this winter after years of in-bounds skiing, and I need a randonee set up. How much should I plan to spend? And will I notice a big difference between randonee boots and skis, and my race boots and all-mountain skis?

What's the ultimate telemark setup this year? The Editors Santa Fe, NM

Good for All Mountain The only difference between Scarpa's widely popular (and alpine-inspired) Hurricane boot and the Typhoon? The Typhoon has a walk mode, which adds a bit of weight but, our testers agreed, makes it much more comfortable when you're skinning or hiking. And with its double-injected upper…

Telemark Downhill power and touring prowess can coexist. “The best balance of the bigger NTN boots,” said one tester. The Prophet’s muscle comes from its alpine-boot-inspired overlap cuff, while the silky bellows provides an even and predictable flex. Best for bigger-volume feet. 8 lbs; TAGS: big mountain, NTN…

Stiff plastic and a double-injected cuff afford alpine-boot-like downhill performance, but thanks to a walk mode it feels like an alpine-touring boot on the way up. 8.3 lbs; garmontusa.com   Bonus: Further evidence of its split personality: It comes with two interchangeable soles, one a grippier ski-mountaineering sole and one…

ALPINE TOURING Good for Alpine Touring Scarpa's superlight, four-buckle Diva still provides the best downhill performance of any AT boot. The Dynafit compatibility allows for ultralight touring setups, and the boot comes with two sets of tongues—one for touring and one for ripping downhill. 7 lbs;…

Telemark This year, SCARPA finally adds a walk mode to the powerful, smooth-skiing T-Race. Add that to its downhill chops—four buckles and the best power strap we’ve seen—and you’ve got, as one tester put it, “a full-tilt, full-shred crusher.” 8.6 lbs; TAGS: all mountain, new walk mode…

With four buckles and a dual-density shell, Scarpa's top-of-the-line T-Race is basically an alpine boot with a bellow. This year, it's been upgraded to include Scarpa's signature Intuition custom thermo liners, which are lighter, easier to mold, and have fewer pressure-point-creating seams. 8.6 lbs; scarpa.com   Bonus: The heavy-duty cam-lock…

TELEMARK Good for Telemark While a few hard-chargers preferred the slightly heavier Scarpa T1 Lady for in-bounds turns, they raved about the flyweight Elektra off track. It's a good boot for a short-calved, aggressive woman and, as one tester said, “has consistent flex.” 7 lbs; garmont.com…

Telemark It wasn’t the stiffest boot, or the lightest, but the Push quietly won testers over with its ability to do it all. “One boot to drive anything in my quiver,” said one tester. The Push features adjustable forward lean, Boa lacing, and a thermomoldable liner that fit most testers…

A high cuff and fixed spine make the Shaman every bit as stiff as the best alpine freeride boots on the market. But because it comes with two soles—one ISO alpine and one rockered, ski-mountaineering sole—it's perfect for resort skiers who occasionally tour or boot-pack in search of better snow.

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