Best of Backcountry.com 2004-2005
The best winter gear of the yearby Backcountry.com Staff
Best of Backcountry.com 2004-2005
The best winter gear of the year
Product awards should be easy. But more often than not, product reviews delve into blind tests and a mind-boggling assortment of scores and tallied points to reveal a winner. Here at Backcountry.com, we feel that there’s really only one thing to be concerned with when choosing an award-winning piece of gear: how much it helps you to have fun. From the warmest and lightest outerwear that keeps you performing at your prime, like the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Jacket, to one of the most versatile sliding toys ever invented, the Rome Anthem Snowboard, this list of gear is guaranteed to put the biggest of grins on your face. And that’s what we’re all about.
The Mountain Hardwear Phantom Jacket is an ultralight, incredibly compressible furnace for your backcountry forays. At just 16 ounces, you'll barely notice it's in your pack. If you’ve skinned up twice as fast as your companions, you don’t want to be rewarded for your hangover-free fitness with frostbite. Don the 800-fill down Phantom Jacket and loiter with your hands ensconced in fleece-lined pockets until your party-animal friends join you at the top of the climb. Stow the Phantom, arc a set of perfect turns, skin back up and repeat!
The North Face Free Thinker Jacket
The North Face Free Thinker Jacket looks unique, therefore it is. Think about it. Built from Gore-Tex XCR Enduro, the most advanced laminate material, this ground-breaking shell offers unmatched waterproofing and breathability. Ideal for aerobic winter sports from skiing and riding to mountaineering, the FT’s waterproof zips, hood and extended core venting create a complete climate control system. Ponder the possibilities: the Free Thinker is cut to fit layers underneath, with a drop hood and offset front zipper. TNF applied its Infusion fabric reinforcement to end breakdown due to abrasion. Technical features like an elastic powder skirt and nearly a billion pockets, including an internal pocket with earphone access make the Free Thinker a top choice for any intelligent snow lover.
The Garmont G-Ride G-Fit is an ultralight 4 buckle boot built to drive the biggest skis in all conditions. From powder to wind crust to ice this boot will get you through it with confidence. It now sports a PU shelf to stiffen it up a bit, and give you more power. It is high and stiff enough to rip difficult off-piste lines while light enough for high altitude ski mountaineering adventures. It is only compatible with traditional step-in alpine touring bindings. The G-Ride comes with the G-Fit High custom thermo-formable liner which is the highest and stiffest G-Fit but still has a flex panel for touring. The G-Fit liner features a tongue design that maintains the shell’s forward lean, is more responsive to forward pressure, and provides better ankle flex than overlap designs. If you are about performance and light weight you will be hard pressed to find a better alpine touring boot.
Best of Telemark
Black Diamond 02
Created for power and response, the Black
Diamond O2 telemark binding incorporates a one-piece, stainless steel toe
box that wraps entirely around the boot for optimum power transfer. This unique
toe box extends to each mounting hole and is stiffened in critical sections
for maximum strength and responsiveness. The O2’s under-foot cable routing
provides a progressive fluid flex and ensures there is no “hinge-point”
or mechanical feel in the turn. The O2’s Anti-Matter Skid Plate has a
variable-height design and contours down from front to back. This angle matches
the sole of tele boots and maximizes energy transfer by creating a large platform
for the ball of the foot. This feature also reduces tip dive and “rocker
launch.” A completely redesigned and tested riser incorporates cable-exit
points that are located further back than those found on the new O3, to create
an active, stiffer and more progressive flex pattern with the equivalent spring
cartridges. A unique yoke adds lateral and torsional support, while a solid
wire on the heel offers maximum durability. These two features produce an incredibly
secure, highly responsive heel system. The O2 is topped off with a re-engineered
heel throw that’s easy to use with gloves and fits all tele-boot heel
Fischer Outbound Crown
When the wind is whistling through the pines of the backcountry and your cross-country route turns abruptly downhill, you’ll be thankful for the Outbound Crown’s sidecut and metal edges. The versatility of these skis allows you to visit points C, D and E on your trip from A to B without fearing the hills. Featuring Fischer’s turning crown system, your scales won’t catch on the turns and you’ll remain standing to take pictures of the face plant antics of your friends on their traditional fish scales.
Best of Alpine Skiing
Dynastar Legend Pro
The Dynastar Legend Pro Rider alpine ski can be summed up by its name. The Pro demands and delivers a high-performance ride. The Pro Rider is not designed for the faint of heart. Made for Mach 50 straightlines, powerful big mountain pow turns, and explosive inbounds schralping, this ski will give you the ride of a lifetime. The Pro’s beefy waist makes it the perfect choice for steep open pow fields, while its torsional rigidity keeps it responsive and aggressive in less desirable conditions. The Pro comes in just two burly sizes, 186cm and 194cm.
Best of Snowboarding
The Rome Anthem is an all-mountain board for riders who don’t limit their tricks to the park. All of the guys at Rome used to work for a big snowboard company that starts with the letter ‘B’. They have taken their years of experience to make performance boards with a fun attitude. The Anthem snowboard is more reliable than your ’89 Toyota, more fun than your current girl and/or boyfriend and more versatile than your black party hoody. Built for big mountain domination, but equally as happy hitting backcountry booters or roller coaster rails in the park, the Anthem moshes to the beat of its own snare. Moderate stiffness from the stiff wood/light wood Echelontwo core matrix combined with a semi-narrow waist and tons of sidecut give the Anthem unbeatable accuracy. Add in Carbontriax 45 laminates—layers of carbon and glass—and you’ve got a lively, poppy, versatile ride. So go drop a cliff, choke on some pow, and then get down to the pipe in time for the afternoon session.
The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex XCR Trail Running Shoe
Men's (L) and Women's (R) The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex XCR.
The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex XCR Trail Running Shoe caters to runners unafraid of tackling trails in less-than-pleasant weather. Snow, rain, slush, sleet…none of it stands a chance against the Gore-Tex XCR waterproof breathable membrane and synthetic mudguard. Scree gaiter attachments allow you to keep going in even the most miserable conditions. Regulating your foot temperature is an Outlast footbed. Outlast prevents overheating and sweating by absorbing excess heat, then releases that same heat when the temperature drops to maintain a comfortable, consistent temperature inside the shoe. Trail-ready features include a de-coupled heel, reinforced toe cap, and a TNF Trail Grip rubber outsole for maximum traction.
DAKINE Pro II Backpack
The DAKINE Pro II pack is the buffed out version of the extremely popular Heli Pro, packed with super high-tech, upgraded features in a slightly larger package (1550 cu in). Carry skis diagonally or your board vertically or horizontally. The Pro II has a quick-draw holster for ice axe or shovel handle storage, exterior shovel blade/snow tool pocket, and a deployable backcountry seat for waiting your turn to rip. The Pro II is hydration system compatible, and features an insulated Hydro Sleeve.
Gloves aren't the most glamorous piece of gear, but they can make or break a day in the mountains. The Marmot Randonnee glove is guaranteed to make it awesome. Marmot utilizes versatile fabrics to create an incredibly well-balanced, exceptionally durable all-around snow sports glove. Pittards Armortan Digital WR100X Leather reinforces the palm and fingers. A Cordura shell with Honeycomb coating adds durability and breathability. DriClime lining wicks moisture and keeps hands dry and warm. Low bulk PrimaLoft insulates the entire hand while a high performance Gore-Tex insert adds waterproof breathability. We've heard it time and time again: Marmot gloves just won't let your hands get cold.