March 2008 Perfect System: Rocky Mountains

Bargain!

Gloves

Black Diamond Powerstretch Glove


These snug-fitting gloves, made from fuzzy Powerstretch (think of your warmest long johns) are plenty cozy for chilly alpine mornings, and the slick design prevents dexterity problems. $20; 1.6 oz. (unisex M); bdel.com

Sleeping bag

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15-


In the high-and-dry Rockies, down bags are the way to go, and this 800-fill toaster is one of our favorites for its efficient cut, high warmth-to-weight ratio, and compressibility. The 15°F rating is perfect for mountains where nights approach freezing even in August. Available in men's and women's models. $355; 1 lb. 15 oz. (men's M); mountainhardwear.com

Insulation

Patagonia Down Sweater


This close-fitting down sweater is a year-round layering essential for trips above treeline. Thanks to 800-fill feathers, it packs down to coconut-size. Bonus: The polyester shell and lining are made with 50-percent recycled content. $199; 12 oz. (men's M); men's and women's sizes; patagonia.com

Shell

REI Summit Lake


Thunderstorms tend to be fleeting in the Rockies, so no need to carry more–or spend more–than necessary. For its weight, this shell boasts impressive features: pit zips and vented pockets; four-way stretch fabric; and an adjustable hood. Check fit: Its loose cut can flap a bit in wind. $169; 10.5 oz. (M); men's sizes; rei.com

Tent

GoLite Xanadu 2+


Don't worry about pitching this single-wall shelter on high, exposed ridgelines where the views are great and the wind strong. The freestanding Xanadu is both light and stable, and two huge mesh doors (plus vents at both ends) eliminate condensation. Setup requires a little futzing: Insert two crossing poles into interior corner grommets, then crawl in and secure the poles in place. The floor plan is best for hikers shorter than 6 feet. $450; 4 lbs. 2 oz.; golite.com

Bargain!

Boots

La Sportiva Onix GTX-XCR


This waterproof shoe achieves above its weight class, making it a favorite of fast-and-lighters who need support and durability in a shoe that won't slow them down. The Onix provides ankle stability on talus, yet its sensitive fit still feels nimble. Super-grippy soles cling tight to steep, slick slopes. $130; 2 lbs. 5 oz. (men's 42); sportiva.com

Base layer

Icebreaker Flight T Lite


This lightweight shirt feels cool

on scorching days, and its body-hugging cut helps wick perspiration. Yet the merino wool also traps body heat, which is great on gusty summits and cool mornings. $55; men's and women's sizes; icebreaker.com

Pack

Osprey Atmos 50

This ultralight pack defines year-round versatility. In summer, stash river-crossing shoes in the pack's stretchy exterior panel; in winter, the pocket secures an avalanche shovel. The air-flow suspension circulates a breeze between your back and the pack–a blessing during long, hot summit bids. The women's version is called the Aura 50. $199; 3 lbs. 1 oz. (M); ospreypacks.com

Pants

The North Face Paramount Convertible Pant


These nylon pants deliver utmost versatility with three modes (full-length, capris, and shorts). After a whole summer of hard use, the Paramounts showed no sign of wear. $65; men's and women's sizes; thenorthface.com

Stove

MSR Reactor


An Editors' Choice Award winner last year, the Reactor features a protected burner that proved impervious to 30-mph gusts on Colorado's Vasquez Peak–and in many other tough test conditions. Its flame is enclosed by a heat exchanger integrated with the 1.7-liter cookpot, creating a supremely efficient system that boils a liter in three minutes flat. $140; 1 lb. 5 oz.; msrgear.com

Trekking poles

REI Peak UL Carbon Trekking Poles


Steep alpine terrain is great for scenery, bad for knees. These carbon-fiber poles are light yet durable, perfect for 3,000-foot descents through joint-and-stick tweaking talus. $139; 12.5 oz. (pair); rei.com

Shades

Smith Factor


At high elevations, UV rays will roast unprotected eyes. The near-weightless Factor protects with photochromatic lenses that automatically adjust to light levels, so they're equally effective at reducing cloudy-day glare and warding off ferocious rays on bluebird days. $149; 0.6 oz.; smithoptics.com