Polarfleece jackets and hiking boots may come in handy around the windswept concrete canyons of Manhattan or Minneapolis during the winter, but there is still no better proving ground for outdoor gear than the mountains. There, not only can weather change in minutes, going from lukewarm sun to horizontal blowing snow, but the consequences of failing gear can be serious, and there are no Starbucks to duck into when things get nasty. It’s no wonder all the big outdoor brands’ catalogs use glossy images of climbers fighting the elements on some godforsaken slab of rock.
To take on our recent ascent of Mount Rainier, we rounded up some of the latest and greatest mountaineering gear. And after two days, 9,000 vertical feet of climbing and weather that ranged from downright scorching to subzero wind chills, we’ve got a thing or two to say about each piece. So whether or not you plan to use any of this gear in your urban, or more rustic, adventures, you can be assured we’ve put it all through rigorous testing in a worse place. Just don’t take an ice axe on the subway.