Best of Backcountry.com
The first annual Backcountry.com summer gear awardsby The Editors
We've compiled countless hours of gear knowledge from our staff into what we feel is a solid grouping of the best summer products on the market today. Some are new, some are old favorites, but they all rank exceptionally high for our selective criteria: quality of construction, reasonable pricing, everyday utility and features, and sheer innovation. Each award winner also features a customer review rating: the average score each piece of gear has received after each of you have had a chance to use it.
The Montrail Vitesse, available in men's and women's versions.
Running shoes inspire devotion. The Montrail Vitesse takes that devotion to a completely new level. From our recently-departed professional ultra endurance trail runner to a devoted cadre of lunch-hour joggers in the office, the Vitesse is hands-down our favorite shoe. It fits like a sock, provides rock solid stability, and still manages to flex with the comfort of a road shoe. You’d be hard-pressed to convince a Vitesse runner to try any other footwear. And the bonus? The Vitesse is plenty comfortable enough to wear kicking back at the campsite or at home on the porch.
Chaco Z/2 women's (L) and men's (R) sandals.
Walk into any mountain town and mention the Chaco name—it’s sure to elicit a bevy of smiles and even more testimonials. The Z/2 Colorado is Chaco’s classic, the one that started it all, if you will. Originally designed to provide incredible security and traction for river runners, the Z/2 has proven itself a nearly indestructible sandal with the sole and footbed support of a high-end hiking boot. No longer does wearing sandals mean a sacrifice in performance or comfort to full-coverage shoes.
North Face Pivotal Packs
The North Face Pivotal 60 is available with both men's and women's-specific dimensions.
Featuring a revolutionary suspension system that actually pivots with the natural movement of your lower back and hips, the Pivotal packs usher in a new era of backpacking comfort and performance. Simply flip the pack over and the back panel reveals The North Face’s feat of engineering known as the Pivotal Suspension System—a clear window covers the key component in the system known as the Load Equalizer. Essentially a giant pivot mechanism, the Load Equalizer allows the pack to flex side-to-side with the natural movement of your hip and back. Load-bearing Flex Arms radiate out from the pivot point, allowing the load of the pack to move with you at all times. So what are the real benefits of this system? You get superb balance from the evenly distributed weight on your hips, regardless of body position. Superior comfort results from the system allowing your body to move with an unprecedented natural gait. Climbing over fallen logs, scrambling up rock faces, and leap-frogging your lagging trail companions are all a world easier with the Pivotal.
Half Jacket XLJ
Check out all the options for the Oakley Half Jacket's frame colors, lens tints, and polarization.
If our offices were about to be char-broiled by a raging Utah wildfire, most of us would grab our Oakley Half Jackets as the one thing we’d carry out of harm’s way (let the computers burn). Half Jackets are the perfect sport sunglass: they’re lightweight, have super grippy ear stems for sports like mountain biking, sit comfortably on the nose, and allow you to swap between a huge array of Oakley’s optically precise lenses. The Half Jacket XLJ offers better coverage for high-speed sports and for bigger faces. We just love ‘em.
The La Sportiva Mythos men's (L) and women's (R) rock climbing shoe.
The Mythos is a classic, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still hang at the top of the heap. The ultimate do-it-all shoe, La Sportiva’s Mythos is fully randed for crack climbing, stiff enough to edge, and supple enough to smoothly flex when smearing on slabs. And because it is totally unlined, the Mythos stretches an incredible 1-1.5 sizes and takes on the shape of any type foot, whether long and skinny or wide and fat.
Hardwear Epic Jacket
The Mountain Hardwear women's (L) and men's (R) Epic jacket.
Picking a waterproof jacket these days can be a daunting task. Unlike rainwear of old, warm-weather outerwear should be waterproof, highly breathable, incredibly lightweight, and built to last. The decision rests not on who makes such a high-tech shell, but who makes the best one for your needs. At 14 ounces, Mountain Hardwear’s Epic Jacket manages to combine all of these features and more into a well-executed package. The Epic’s fabric is supple and soft to the touch, a much-appreciated comfort when wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt underneath. Massively long pit zip vents allow you to cool off in a hurry and stay comfortable in a wide range of temperatures, and waterproof, breathable stretch panels give you full range of motion.
The MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person freestanding tent weighs in at an incredible 4 pounds.
The first fully-featured ‘two-by-four’ (sleeps 2 people and weighs 4 lbs) tent, the Hubba Hubba breaks a lot of preconceived notions about what a lightweight tent should be. There are plenty of so-called 2-person tents out there that weigh in around 4 pounds, but nearly every one is either a tarp or a non-freestanding tent. The freestanding Hubba Hubba is fully-featured and self-contained. It has incredible stargazing opportunities with its full mesh canopy, a bomber waterproof fly, a large vestibule and door, and even features internal pockets—all in a tent that weighs a mere 4 pounds.
The Marmot Helium 15º sleeping bag.
The Helium is lightweight luxury defined. With premium 900-fill goose down providing unbeatable loft, warmth, and compressibility, this Marmot bag is one of our all-time favorites. Stuff it down to the size of a loaf of bread, and the Helium’s mere 2-pound weight will be hardly noticeable on your pack. Unstuff it and you’ve got an incredibly comfortable bag that’ll take you through the better part of three seasons.
Customer Rating: No reviews yet
The Dagger Specter 15.5 Airalite.
The Specter 15.5 is quite simply the sexiest touring kayak around. The Airalite hull behaves like a gentlemanly composite kayak, but stands up to abuse like a scrappy plastic one, at a price closer to plastic. The Specter’s bow is high enough to break waves with aplomb, without being so high it becomes a sail in crosswinds. Below the waterline, the Specter’s hull profile, stiffness and skeg make it track when level, but dig in a rail and it makes a smooth, predictable carve. Since Airalite is so “lite” the Specter can also pull off some impressive bursts of speed. Combine great materials, design, goldilocks-esque “just right” size and a generous 8650 cubic inches of storage space and you’ve got yourself a touring boat that’s light and zippy enough for short trips and big and tough enough for long ones. Ultimately, it’s the Specter’s fusion of elements and how they work together that really sets this boat apart.
The Nixon Super Hero watch.
What can we really say about a watch named the Super Hero? While it’s protected by a superhuman, impervious-to-evil stainless steel body and band, the Super Hero is really a surfer at heart—just program it to your local tide schedule and it’ll tell you when the waves are breaking at their cleanest. Water resistant to 100 meters, this beefy Nixon just looks good. It’s pretty heavy for those who like to feel the weight of a watch, and displays both analog and digital time. Nixon makes killer watches at amazingly affordable prices, and the Super Hero is one of our all-time favorites.
Best of the Rest
MSR MIOX Water Purifier:
JetBoil Personal Cooking System: No reviews yet
Osprey Ariel Women's Backpack: No reviews yet
DAKINE Drafter Hydration Pack: No reviews yet
Petzl GriGri Belay Device:
Arc’Teryx Isis Harness No reviews yet
The North Face El Cap Short-Sleeve Shirt:
Patagonia Women's Silkweight T-Shirt No reviews yet
prAna Women's Tenaya Pant:
Petzl Myo Headlamps:
Marmot Evolution N2S Half-Zip Windshirt: No reviews yet
The North Face Hightail Sleeping Bag:
Nalgene Lexan Wide Mouth 32 oz. Bottle: