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Get This Gear: Essentials From A to Z

We tested more than 500 products–stoves, clothes, cameras, filters, tech tools, knives, and meals–to find these proven performers.
Gear Guide Essentials 200x170Gear Guide Essentials 200x170
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L
M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | XYZ


MOUNTAINPatagonia Mens Wool T Shirt For full-deluge protection, great breathability, and low weight, check out Westcomb’s Cruiser. The eVent fabric kept us sweat-free even when we humped big loads up steep canyon trails with temps in the 50s. A helmet-compatible hood with a broad brim, a parka-style cut that covers the butt, and all-around top-quality construction make it expedition-worthy–even though it weighs at least five ounces less than competitive shells. $349; 15 oz. (w’s M);

THREE-SEASON The North Face Stretch Diad hits a sweet balance between low weight and all-purpose performance. It rocks for everything but epic storms, and that’s why it earned an Editors’ Choice Award in 2006. Since then, it’s gotten even better, with a new two-way-stretch waterproof/breathable fabric. Our tester loved the rib-level side vents, which kept her from overheating when she huffed up Grand Canyon slopes. And the well-fitting hood and stiff three-inch visor kept out blowing rain. $199; 11 oz. (w’s M);

ULTRALIGHT Testers who wore the Outdoor Research Fanatic on rainy trips in Colorado and Vermont were impressed by this featherweight’s waterproofness and breathability. Made from 40-denier Pertex Shield DS, the Fanatic kept testers dry inside and out–without pit zips or vents. They also appreciated the jacket’s two-way stretch and snug-fitting hood. And the thin shell isn’t flimsy: It held up to rough bushwhacking in southern Utah. $145; 8 oz. (w’s M);

WIND We wore Marmot’s versatile Tempo softshell on Colorado fourteeners, breezy trail runs, and winter treks in Arizona. The jacket’s four-way-stretch fabric moves easily with the body; it proved highly water and wind resistant, breathable during aerobic activity, and tough as nails against brush and rocks. Fleece-lined pockets make it an ideal outer layer in mild conditions, but the Tempo’s athletic fit was also comfortable when layered under heavier pieces. $90; 13 oz. (w’s M);

Thanks to tough, double-layer nylon in the seat, Royal Robbins’s Backcountry Short withstood butt slides down Grand Canyon slickrock. The cut is roomy through the legs for good mobility. $45; 7 oz. (w’s 6);

As durable and functional as a pair of hiking shorts–but way more fun to wear! The Mountain Hardwear La Rambla Skirt is made from quick-dry nylon, and the fleece-lined waist is comfortable under a hipbelt. $55; 7 oz. (w’s M);

ALL-PURPOSE A 50/50 mix of merino and synthetic yarns has made Lorpen’s PrimaLoft Light Hiker a tester favorite for year-round hiking. The wool adds softness and padding, especially in the heel and under the balls of the feet. Mesh panels on top add breathability; PrimaLoft speeds wicking and drying. $17;

EXPEDITION After 12-mile days with 50-pound loads in the Grand Canyon, our tester credited the padding of Teko’s Hike/Trek Heavy Cushion Crew for keeping a spring in her step. A 74/26 merino/synthetic blend, the midcut is plush from cuff to toe and keeps its shape for days. $25;

LOW-CUT Almost 40 bucks for socks? "They’re worth it," promised our tester after logging 150 miles in the X-Socks Run Sky Run. "The polyester/nylon blend is extremely breathable and fast-drying, the varying thickness is tuned for high-mileage comfort, and they last twice as long as other trail-running socks I’ve tried." $36;

Solar power
Pair Brunton’s Solar Roll 4.5 flexible panel with the Solo 3.4 storage battery to create the most effective solar recharge system we’ve tested. It enables you to charge a device plus the Solo simultaneously while hiking, then replenish another gadget after dark with the juice in the Solo. Solar Roll: $145-170 (street price); 6.4 oz. Solo: $55; 5.1 oz.;

We know it’s just a utensil. But eating is more fun with Light My Fire’s Spork, which comes in a rainbow of bright colors and a variety of sizes (including an ultra-versatile large serving spoon with a serrated edge for slicing cheese). $3; 0.5 oz.;

FASTPACKER At a mere 1.9 ounces, Snow Peak’s LiteMax is one of the world’s lightest and most compact cookers. The pot supports are stable enough for solo and two-person pots, and flame control is sensitive enough to keep rice simmering without scorching. Boil times hit four minutes for a liter, depending on weather and fuel level. $55;

FUEL MISER MSR’s Reactor is fast (it boils 1.7 liters in three minutes), windproof (an integrated screen protects the burner), packable (it nests in its pot with a fuel canister), and crazy-efficient (we got an average of eight boils per 3.53-ounce canister). No surprise: It earned an Editors’ Choice Award in 2007. $140; 1 lb. 2 oz.;

ALL-PURPOSE Our gear editor is a little obsessed with shades. Really good ones. And she pronounced the Smith Factors "perfect for backpackers," praising the nothing-there feel, the three sets of interchangeable lenses, and the razor-sharp optics. She especially liked the Ignitor lens, which has a rose tint that "enhanced the greens of pine trees and the blues of sky and water, while at the same time giving a greater sense of depth when looking across ridgelines." $129; 0.6 oz.;

BEST OPTICS Combine the superior clarity of glass with the strength of polycarbonate, and you get SR-91, the lens material used for Kaenon’s Hard Core glasses. Result? The crispest vision we’ve seen in sports-worthy sunglasses, plus shatterproof impact resistance. "The clarity is the difference between spotting a distant raptor and seeing it well enough to ID it as a ferruginous hawk," raved one tester. Fits large faces best. $209; 1.5 oz.;

KILLER DEAL Optic Nerve’s Roger That can go from Main Street to Mt. Hood with stellar protection and wicked style. The polarized, aviator-shaped shades have removable blinders to block reflected UV rays. One tester reported that they function as well as pricier glacier glasses–no glare, no fogging, secure fit–and are more versatile, since they lack the glacier-dork factor. Best for small and medium faces. $60; 0.9 oz.;

EVERYDAY Smartshield’s Sunscreen SPF 30 Lotion moisturizes without feeling oily, and it never dripped into our eyes, even during serious sweat-fests in the Adirondacks and Vermont’s Green Mountains. $7; 2 oz.;

HIGH ALTITUDE It’s a bit greasy, but Dermatone Skin Protector Pommade is the best block against alpine rays for face and lips. It won’t sweat off and creates a barrier against wind as well. $5; 1 oz.;

Survival gear COOL TOOL You can’t buy your way out of a wilderness emergency, but the credit card-shaped Tool Logic Survival Card I comes close. The included knife is small but sharp (and can be lashed to a stick to create a spear, pictured). Ridges on the spine spark the tool’s flint. A single blue LED provides light, and the face-mounted compass provides emergency help with direction. Tweezers extract cactus spines and a toothpick cleans your teeth after you forage for those wild edibles. $30; 1.2 oz.;

EMERGENCY KIT For the weight of a small apple, Adventure Medical Kits’ S.O.L. (Survive Outdoors Longer) collects all the tools a soloist needs to get through an unplanned night out–or longer. The roll-top waterproof pouch contains a whistle, an emergency bivy sack, a liquid-filled button compass, weatherproof matches with a submersible striker and tinder, fishing/sewing kit, rescue mirror, and duct tape. $25; 5.8 oz.;

PLAYING CARDS Smart idea: Put a book’s worth of survival tips and illustrated instructions on a deck of cards. Pack the Don’t Die Out There Deck and brush up on shelter-building and rescue signals while playing Hearts. $7;

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