This year, I’m going to reach into the vast library of gear reviews and features and pick a handful of products that have stood out to me. When considering this list, I wanted to include a smattering of products from all the outdoor sports covered here. The extended Fall here in Utah has allowed me ample time to test more mountain biking and trail running products as of late. Because of that, I’m getting a late start on ski products so I’m drawing on memories from months gone by. Regardless, the memories of the great products remain strong.
Some items (such as bikes) still incite a longing to use them one more time or to keep them for my own. But, the ebb and flow of gear must go onto something else–it’s a sad realization I’ve got to make. Here is the list of the best products for 2008:
Niner RIP 9 Mountain Bike
While I must admit that I’m fully enamored by the 29-inch wheel platform, that wasn’t the only reason to pick the RIP 9 as my pick for overall mountain bike of the year. The RIP is absolutely a hoot on the trails with enough travel to keep me happy through the rough and fast stuff, yet still efficient enough to pedal me to the top in record time. With a complete re-design for 2009, the RIP will be even better and may remain on top for another year… we’ll see.
Garmont Endorphin Backcountry Ski Boots
If you’re looking for a capable downhill boot with the flexibility to hike and blaze up skintracks, the Garmont Endorphin should be tops on your list. This boot feels as sturdy as some of the best downhill boots on the market, yet is completely backcountry-friendly.
Sole Dean Karnazes Orthotic Footbeds
My flat feet have become dependent upon Sole orthotic footbeds. I’m particularly fond of the Dean Karnazes edition for trail running. With his name on them, I know I can run an ultramarathon, well maybe a not-so-ultramarathon. But, I know my feet will be happy–no matter what.
Salomon XT Wings Trail Running Shoes
When you’re looking for a trail runner, you want something that provides extra stability and support. You also want something that can breathe well and provides ample cushioning for hardpack and the occasional pavement run. The Salomon XT Wings delivers on all that pretty darn well. I’ve tested several pairs of great trail runners, but these stand out just a bit as the most versatile overall.
Polar FT60 Training Watch
This is the first heart rate watch that I’ve been addicted to. The others would lose their lustre soon after their first use, but the Polar FT60 is a trusted workout companion that tracks my performance and tells me how well or how poorly I worked out.
Seasons Mountain Bike Film by The Collective
No doubt the crew at The Collective knows their stuff. With every release, they have captivated audiences and captured the essence of the athletes and the sport from a perspective never before achieved. This year’s film, SEASONS, marks the end of the era (so it seems) because Darcy and Jamie are moving onto other gigs. No doubt the three films by The Collective will go down as some of the finest films in the outdoor sports film industry.
Black Diamond Covert Avalung Backpack
Backcountry skiing is about taking calculated risks to get fresh tracks. While it’s true that with proper decision making, you are unlikely to get caught in an avalanche, but it always helps to have everything on your side should one take you down. Hence the new Covert Avalung pack from Black Diamond. It’s sleek and efficient for quick backcountry tours, and has a built-in Avalung to keep you breathing in a burial. I hope I never need it, but if I do, I’m confident it will save my life if I’m conscious enough to use it.
Fritschi Freeride Plus Touring Bindings
Though many people will push you towards the Dynafit option, I’m still sticking with the Fritschi Freeride touring bindings. Why? Well, for starters they are solid enough to ski hard inbounds without worrying. Add on top of that a natural release pattern just like alpine bindings and you’ve got the main reasons why the Fritschi Freeride bindings are tops on my list of touring bindings.
ODI LockOn Grips
Honestly… why do other grip manufacturers even exist? You’d think that after using ODI’s LockOn grips they’d put their hands in the air and say “UNCLE!” Well, to each their own, but trust me on this one… ODI LockOn grips are the only grips I use and should be the only grips you use on your bikes, you dig?
Backcountry.com Stoic Jacket
Though I’ve only tested this jacket for a few weeks thus far, I know it’s a winner–mostly due to the amazing eVent fabric construction. I’ve been a huge proponent of eVent for several years now. It breathes considerably better than GoreTex, yet remains just as waterproof. The Backcountry.com Stoic Jacket is a simple shell that kicks butt on any outdoor activity where you’re going to work up a sweat, yet still need protection from the elements. It’s the perfect backcountry skiing shell.
Kaenon Kore Polarized Sunglasses
With a few solid years under their belts, Kaenon is pumping out the best sports-specific and stylish polarized sunglasses on the market. Compared to all other polarized lenses I’ve tried, Kaenon’s simply kick their butts. You can mountain bike, fish, ski, drive and hang out with these glasses without the typical polarized drawbacks (rainbow discoloration, “too dark” feeling, etc.). I’ve found the Kore’s to be the perfect all-around sunglass option if you’re looking for a polarized lens.
Nuun Hydration Tablets
These little mineral and electrolyte-laden fizzy tablets will keep you feeling sprighty long after your buddies have dropped off the pace. I can’t believe how well these keep your body pumping under the heat of the day while pounding out that all-day epic.
Smith I/O Goggles
Most goggles allow you to change lenses, but it’s a pain in the butt. With the Smith I/O goggle, swapping out the lens is a quick and painless process. With that kind of lens versatility, you can swap lenses out in the morning, or carry one with you for an on-the-fly swap. Overall fit is great and optics are top-notch.