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The process for identifying the best outdoor products each year is an arduous one. Over the course of three months, 150-plus testers receive thousands of products from brands big and small. The mission: test the products repeatedly, in all conditions, and then send feedback to our category managers, who select the highest-ranking items and review them for our bi-annual Gear Guides. The products that rise far above the rest earn a coveted Editor’s Choice award. Here they are.
Deuter Aircontact Ultra ($240)
Few packs blend ultralight-friendly design with comfort and features as well as this one. It’s feathery enough to please the gram-obsessed, yet does not come with huge sacrifices in the features or carrying-capacity department.
Hillsound PackStack ($17 and up)
It’s been a while since the lowly packing cube got an overhaul. This is the first one we’ve seen in a while that’s truly different. The half-moon shape is designed to fit snugly into backpacks, maximizing your organization while minimizing dead space.
Anacapa Mid GTX Boots ($180)
The Anacapa Mid is a case study on not judging a book by its cover. This boot is shockingly light and nimble for how beefy it is, so you get all the shock absorption without most of the tradeoffs.
Alpine Parrot Ponderosa Pants ($139)
Finally, hiking pants made for—and by—plus size women! Our testers were impressed by the attention to fit in the Ponderosa Pant, which is specifically cut for large bodies (read: no waist or crotch gapping).
Platypus QuickDraw Microfilter System ($45)
The QuickDraw may offer the best weight-to-size-to-speed ratio of any filter we’ve encountered. It’s the size of a cigar, yet filters a full Nalgene in under a minute.
Privateer 141 Mountain Bike ($4,379 and up)
There’s hardly anything fancy about this bike—no carbon, only two spec levels, no frills. That just lets the geometry–an aggressive head angle, long wheelbase, and slack seat-tube angle—shine.
Allied Echo Road and Gravel Bike ($8,475)
Flip chips on the seat stays allow you to transform the Allied Echo from an endurance road bike into a gravel grinder in a matter of minutes. Many bikes have attempted this two-in-one versatility play, but this is one of the first to really impress our testers without serious sacrifices to either road or gravel handling.
Infinity Whiplash SUP ($3,495)
Hollow-carbon construction and impressive secondary stability make this one of the best SUPs we’ve seen for paddling fast. It’s also among the lightest board out there, at just 20 pounds.
Hoka Tecton X Trail Running Shoes ($200)
Hoka’s new Tecton X is the first carbon-plated trail shoe that all of our testers—not just the fast ones with ideal form—liked. Credit that to a uniquely shaped plate, which helps offer the spring-like benefits of carbon in a much more flexible, approachable package.
Swiftwick Flite XT Trail Socks ($27)
Four testers wore these socks for five days straight during a rainy, muddy, humid, river-filled backpacking trip in Panama. No one got blisters. No one’s socks were bunching up. They practically earned an award on the spot.
Indura Athletic Stay-Put Shorts ($58)
Indura’s shorts are specially cut to fit athletic bodies. A lot of products make this claim. This one actually lives up to it. Multiple testers with muscular thighs and glutes, who typically shy away from short spandex bottoms, were surprised at how comfortable and confident they felt, even after several sweaty hours shouldering heavy packs.
Lume Six Alta Bra ($100)
The extended sizing system (mix-and-match your cup size with a smaller or larger band) lured us in. But the fabric: a polyester-nylon weave that’s incredibly light, thin, and fast drying, won us over. Several testers wore the Alta for an entire four-day backpacking trip—even slept in it—with no chafing and no discomfort.
Bose SoundLink Flex Speaker ($149)
Most speakers with quality sound are large. This one impressed us because it offers top-notch audio in a much smaller package—about the size of a brick.
Thermacell EX90 Mosquito Repeller ($50)
Don’t let the image fool you: this bug-repelling device fits in the palm of your hand. That’s a big deal, since it produces a 20-foot mosquito-free radius. It’s also powered by lithium-ion batteries rather than shorter-lasting isobutane canisters, which makes it great for traveling and camping.
Box Synergy Solar 7 Solar Panel ($85)
This solar panel balances weight, size, and power better than any other model we’ve seen. It charged a smart phone in roughly two hours, despite the fact that it’s small enough to fit in a roomy pants pocket.