Outdoors and Fitness Staff Picks

The Best Outdoor Gear We Used in 2016


Here on the Outdoors and Fitness Desk at Gear Patrol we test a LOT of gear. From bikes and snowboards to kayaks and backpacks, we’re constantly out in the field putting in our miles and forming opinions on some of the finest gear available. That being said, there are a handful of items that stand out above the rest. We asked our Outdoors and Fitness staff to compile their favorite piece of gear this year, one piece of gear they wanted to test but didn’t get to, and one piece of future technology that they would like to see released next year.

AJ Powell

Associate Staff Writer

Favorite Piece of Gear Tested This Year


MasterCraft X23 and Capita Slush Slasher: I know that this is a bit of a copout, but being fanatical about gear I can’t pick just one favorite. My first choice is Mastercraft’s X23 wake surf boat. The Gen 2 surf system is absolutely incredible and shapes a wave that is about as close as you can get to surfing in the ocean. My second pick is Capita’s Spring Break Slush Slasher. It isn’t the most practical snowboard out there — but there is no denying that it was one of the most fun snowboards I rode this year.

The One That Got Away


Evil Bikes The Calling: Evil’s late release bike, The Calling, eluded me this year. It has all of the attributes that I look for in a trail bike. It’s versatile (it’ll run 27.5+ or 26 inch wheels), has mid-range suspension travel, and a gorgeous teal blue paint job.

Future Tech


For me, there is one piece of dream tech that hasn’t reached the market yet. The hoverboard. I’m not talking about those silly exploding gyroscopic Segway-esque monstrosities. I’m talking about a real, Back to the Future-style hoverboard. There were a number of promising hoaxes as well as a few overly complicated working prototypes over the past few years, but none have hit the BTTF hoverboard mark.

Michael Finn

Editorial Apprentice

Favorite Piece of Gear Tested This Year


Oru Bay Kayak: I went on a three-day kayaking trip down the Rio Grande this October. It wasn’t my first time on the river — last time I went, I was nearly murdered by a gang of outlaws. (True story). It was, however, my first time paddling in Oru’s much-talked-about folding kayak. I loved it. Assembly only took about ten minutes; once we were off the river, it folded, just like origami, back into its waist-high, ultra-light briefcase form. And it maneuvers wonderfully on the water, too — just don’t get too cocky on bigger rapids, or you’ll end up tainting your beer with river water.

The One That Got Away


Beartooth: When Beartooth popped up on my radar earlier this year, my first thought was: “Okay, so, it turns your phone into a walkie-talkie. Big deal.” Then I learned that it has an insane 10-mile range, text messaging, offline topo maps, group networking, and even doubles as a backup battery for your phone. No walkie-talkie I’ve used can do any of that. Beartooth starts shipping in February — I can’t wait to try it out.

Future Tech


You know those vacuum-sealed closet storage bags? The ones that get peddled by obnoxious “experts” on 2 a.m. infomercials? Basically, I want that, but for a multi-day backpack. You’d shove your gear in, press a button, and a motorized vacuum would suck out all the air, effectively compacting a big-ass expedition pack into a small and tight daypack. Once you reach camp, press the button again and out pops your gear, like an inflatable emergency raft. Or like my grandmother’s purse, which I’m convinced holds the entire cosmos.

Tanner Bowden

Editorial Intern

Favorite Piece of Gear Tested This Year


Gregory Baltoro 75 Pack: I lived out of this pack for four months straight this year while backpacking from the southern tip of South America to the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Three different access points, a super sturdy hipbelt and an integrated removable daypack made it easy to schlep my stuff around distant trails and foreign cities alike.

The One That Got Away


Electric Stacker Sunglasses: Sure, classic glacier glasses look appropriately retro and get the job done but it’s about time they got an update. The Stacker meets the same purpose with ventilated lenses, a light and bendy frame, a removable eye mask and a huge range of stylish lens/frame combos — I imagine blocking trail dust from my corneas one day and being mistaken for a famous celebrity the next.

Future Tech


My fingers get cold fast. This becomes problematic at 10,000 feet when I have to fumble around with those three-pronged buckles in order to strap my skis to my pack for a bootpack up an exposed ridge. Those buckles are great, but aren’t they a bit outdated? How about a strap system that cinches at the touch of a button, like Marty McFly’s Nikes?