What do you get the guy who spends more time sleeping under the stars each year than most people do in their entire lives? The guy who has gear for every season, every sport, journey, and surprise bug-out? When buying for the discerning backpacker, climber, skier, and general “live larger” type, you can’t simply walk into the nearest outdoor shop and buy something flashy. These explorers live and breathe in the world of Gore-Tex, crampons, and ice axes — and a gift card will get you dropped faster than the cell phone coverage on his last jungle trek. Stumped? Don’t be. We’ve tested out some great gear this year and zeroed in on the best selections for the adventurer. He might destroy your gift on his next expedition into the wild, but he’ll be grateful you bought the best.
NEMO Nocturne 15 Sleeping Bag
Nemo’s Spoon Shape sleeping bags are infinitely more comfortable than the typical mummy bag (unless you enjoy the feeling of being wrapped up like a cheap tamale). With extra space at the elbows and from the knees, you you can roll around a little bit without being suffocated by the bag. On a recent trip to the Capitol Reef National Park we found it was perfect for side sleepers, and the extra space helped us regulate our temperature even during the bitter cold desert nights. The 700-fill down is treated with a DownTek nanocoating to maintain its loft even if it gets wet; the footbox and head are both treated with a waterproof-breathable coating, eliminating damp trouble areas that might rub against your tent. If you’re planning on some serious Zs above the treeline, you won’t find a better sleeping bag.
Goal Zero Yeti 150
Even the best adventurers need check in with
mom their support crew now and then, and unless you plan on carrying twenty pounds of extra batteries on every expedition, you’re going to need some portable power. Weighing in at a little over ten pounds, the Yeti is no backpacking accessory, but it is the perfect basecamp power station for any trip between home and Everest. We originally tested the Goal Zero Yeti 150 on a climbing trip in Utah’s Uinta Range this summer and were able to keep everything at base camp fully charged for a few days — and still had the power to light up a few Light-a-Life lanterns each night in camp. Add in a pair of Nomad 13 Solar Panels and you’ll have enough power to keep your high tech backcountry camp up and running for weeks.
GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition
So you finally nailed that 50-foot cliff your friends have been eyeing all ski season? Without some proof, your tall tale won’t get you very far with your friends — or the beautiful girls at your favorite aprés ski bar. With 4k video resolution and a 12MP sensor for still shots, not to mention a 20% reduction in size and 30% better battery performance, the new Hero 3+ from GoPro ensures you’ll never have to worry about capturing your perfect ski or mountain bike run again. The Black Edition includes a wi-fi remote: simply push a button and catch the footage that will launch you into infamy with your ski buddies this season.
Petzl Sirocco Ultralight Climbing Helmet
Traveling fast and light means nothing if you’re throwing vital safety measures out the window. Petzl knows that climbers are always looking for the next ultralight innovation to pare their gear down to the bare minimum, so this year they delivered with the Sirocco helmet. The monobloc expanded polypropylene helmet weighs in at a scant 165 grams (that’s less than the three clif bars in your pack). The headlamp clips and one-hand magnetic buckle on the chinstrap are great comfort touches. With safety certifications from the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, you can stop worrying about safety and stick to the task at hand: not falling when you’re more than a hundred feet off the deck on a long, pumpy climbing route.
Spot Gen3 Messenger
Most wilderness adventures take us beyond the range of conventional communications, but if the worst-case scenario becomes a reality, notifying emergency responders where you are is the difference between getting a book deal and becoming a bear’s entree. The new Gen3 Messenger from Spot is the best safety net any adventurer could hope for. GPS tracking can be configured to ping your location to family and friends as often as every 15 to 30 minutes. The Check-In function lets you send pre-programmed messages when you hit a milestone (we’re thinking Camp 3 on K2, not making it safely to your favorite burger place). In an emergency situation, the SOS button sends your current GPS coordinates to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center and pushes details to the nearest search and rescue or 9-1-1 responders.
Boreas Bootlegger Pack System
One pack to rule them all? For those with different packs for trail running, mountain biking, climbing and skiing (the list goes on), trading it all in for the perfect “do anything” pack has always been a pipe dream. Boreas Gear’s new Bootlegger pack system isn’t technically one pack, but the single harness and 3-bag system is as close to the perfect hauling solution as we’ve found. The three interchangeable pack bodies — a small hydration model, a daypack, and a dry bag — each snap to the suspension system for quick swapping depending on the mission. The harness also adjusts based on your activities, hugging your back for heavy hiking loads or allowing some more flex and ventilation for fast cross-country mountain biking. From days on the river to peak bagging, the Bootlegger hauls it all.
Askov Finlayson Explorer Pant
Jim Whitaker had his down parka on the summit of Everest; T.E. Lawrence spent his time in the desert alternating between his British Army uniform and the traditional Arab keffiyeh headdress. The Explorer Pant by Minnesota-based Askov Finlayson has an iconic look and the versatility to be your own personal go-to. It’s tailored perfectly to transition from office duty to backcountry performance. Soft Japanese unwashed canvas is durable enough to stand up to elements but formal enough that you can go straight from the trail to the bar scene without missing a beat. The tailored, classic cut features a reinforced knee and seat, so you can wear these pants for year after year of uninterrupted adventures.
Function Ultralight Ski and Snowboard Carry System
In the Rockies, the weather changes so fast that a bluebird morning can give way to eight inches of feathery powder after lunch — and the best stashes are always a short hike out of bounds. If you don’t plan your gear correctly, you may be stuck hauling your skis or board by hand up a long boot pack in search of fresh snow. Function’s new Ultralight ski and snowboard carriers solve your powder problems with a simple harness carry system you can stash in a jacket pocket. While everyone else is staggering uphill with ski and boards over their shoulders, you can buckle together the nylon harnesses and shift your load hands-free to your back and shoulders, ensuring you’re the first in line when ski patrol opens the backcountry gates.
Garmin Fenix Watch
Garmin’s latest Fenix Watch is the tool we wish we’d had when we got lost on an overnight trek through Arches National Park in Moab, Utah earlier this year. An altimeter, barometer and 3-axis compass are augmented by Garmin’s award-winning GPS sensors. With the ability to track more than 1,000 waypoints, and featuring Garmin’s unique TracBack function, the Fenix simply won’t let you get lost. It’s also compatible with Garmin heart rate monitors and cadence sensors, so you can not only track your location, but also your workout statistics whether you’re on foot or on a bike. This may be the last sports watch you’ll ever need.
The standard BioLite Camp Stove is a gem thanks to its ability to cook good backpacking food (there’s an oxymoron if there ever was one) while providing juice for charging USB-powered gadgets. BioLite’s new KettlePot is more than just a cooking accessory. Whether you’re just boiling water for a freeze-dried meal or cooking up a one-pot gourmet feast, the KettlePot is the perfect addition to your portable backwoods kitchen. Its stainless steel body is lighter and stronger than the industry standard anodized aluminum; the food-safe silicon and a BPA-free plastic lid (with a spout for pouring) are sturdy enough to take drops and spills. The best part? Your BioLite Stove fits neatly in the KettlePot for transport.
Mountain Hardwear Compulsion Glove
Saving your mitts during cold weather mountaineering or even just winter driving is no easy task. With leather out layers stitched together with Kevlar thread and lined with an OutDry membrane, Mountain Hardwear’s Compulsion gloves are the best way to protect your hands in nasty cold weather environments. A Q.Shield coating provides a final coverage envelope to ensure you’ll stay warm and dry, and moisture-wicking liners and a Thermal.Q Elite insulation layer round out the perfect gauntlet for any winter sport.
The North Face Mica FL 2 Tent
Stunning views of the Cascades and Sawtooths are best shared with friends. They’re even better when you didn’t have to carry a back-breaking load twenty miles into your campsite — and one of the easiest ways to cut down on weight is an ultralight backpacking tent. The North Face’s Mica FL 2 Tent is the lightest two-person backpacking shelter we’ve come across that not only sheds pounds from your pack — it weights in at 3.2 pounds — but also doesn’t cut out all the comfort features of heavier, larger tents. The silicone-coated bath-tub floor is waterproof and durable enough to hold up against the toughest pitching spots, and a hubbed, color-coded main pole means a quick set up, even in storm conditions. If you’re more interesting in catching the view than spending the day putting up your tent, this is your backcountry shangri-la.