Among our writers, a few pieces of gear have won the “Back of the Subaru” award. You know, the items that get put in the car for easy-accessibility and repeated use. For 2019, we have a good variety of items from skiing to backpacking, gear hauling, road biking and mountain biking. If you have your eyes on these items, proceed with confidence.
Arc’teryx Sabre LT Jacket and Pants
It’s hard to argue with the quality of an Arc’teryx top and bottom shell. We’re looking forward to many more years of hard use from the Sabre LT Jacket and Pants, and that’s probably the ultimate justification for why you would choose this kit. We recommend these for both inbounds and backcountry skiers (thanks to the generous vents). The elephant in the review is certainly cost, but Arc’teryx’s quality does promise to hold up to the very best standards in the industry.
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Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody
The Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody comes with our highest recommendation. We were so impressed by it’s performance in a range of activities, it was an each choice. The Capilene Air has an amazing level of breathability coupled with warmth, which means it’s suitable for use in an enormous range of climates. While it is somewhat delicate and the price is high, the Capilene Air could easily be one of the best additions you make to your wardrobe.
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Arc’teryx Proton FL Hoody
If you are looking for a layer that is well-suited to the varied temperatures typical of alpine climbing, the Arc’teryx Proton FL is a fantastic addition to your kit. Warm yet breathable, this layer is appropriate to wear from the time your adventure begins to when you find yourself at the brewery at the end of the day. It is technical and attractive, and a new favorite of ours.
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Arc’teryx Konseal FL GTX
These shoes are amazing. They’re comfortable, light, and so grippy — an essential feature in a good pair of approach shoes. They did great transitioning from trail to scrambles to low grade leads, and we felt secure in the support and stiffness they provided. Overall, we really loved these shoes and wear them just about everyday for everything. The Konseal FL GTX’s are an amazing choice for an ultralight approach shoe when you are guaranteed either variable terrain or variable weather (or both!)
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Thule Force XT XL Cargo Box
Go big or cram your gear in your car! The Thule Force XT XL is big enough to carry a ton of gear while keeping it secure in transit. Overall, the Force XT is easy to live with, looks great and doesn’t hurt your MPG’s too much. Attaching it to your crossbars is a breeze and it continues to be a solid gear hauler.
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MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe
The MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe is a feature-rich stove ideal for three-season use. A great choice for adventurers that tend to head into the wild solo or with a partner. It’s also a great “first stove” — an essential tool that will get you into the backcountry and help make memories with every pot of water you boil.
More: MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe Review
Kuat Class 4 Kayak Rack
The Kuat Class 4 Kayak rack is unlike any other kayak rack on the market. It’s foldable design looks great when folded and carries well when opened. Take your rack game up a level and pick one up to haul your boat to the river or lake.
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Diamondback Sync’r Carbon
All in all, it’s really easy to recommend the Diamondback Sync’r Carbon because it’s such an incredible bike for the money. You don’t have to wonder if you’re getting gipped out of your hard-earned cash, so really the big question is whether or not the bike is a good fit for the type of riding you want to do. The Sync’r gave us the freedom to tackle any type of terrain (from bike park to XC laps) with a smile on our faces.
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Specialized Venge Pro eTap
Never has an aero bike made won us over like the new Specialized Venge Pro. Honestly, we hadn’t seen the real need for one in the quiver until now. We can confidently roll this bike on every type of road ride imaginable. Long climbs are a breeze. Short, punchy climbs are awesome. And, rolling terrain is second-nature. Then, when it comes time to descend, this bike is absolutely bonkers.
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Bontrager R3 32c TLR Tires
Our assortment of 25-28c tires are heading to eBay. It’s time for modern-width tubeless road tires to take over, like the R3 32’s. The new R3’s are among the best tubeless road tires on the market and feature an excellent tread pattern for low rolling-resistance and all-season cornering traction. Don’t worry yourself over a little extra weight — all tubeless tires are a touch heavier than their clincher counterparts. It’s all good and well worth the reliable performance you’ll get.
More: Bontrager R3 32c TLR Tire Review
Specialized Pathfinder Pro Tires
After testing both 650b and 700c flavors of tire in a variety of conditions, we’re fans. These seat up well and stay inflated very well mounted up on a variety of tubeless wheelsets. They were our tires of choice for the 2019 SBT GRVL Blue Course because they roll fast and hook up with confidence.
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SRAM Force eTap AXS
Of course you could tab the Red eTap AXS groupset as the Gear of the Year, but Force eTap AXS wins the day for value and flexibility. With Force eTap AXS, you will save significant coin and add some flexibility in crankset and chainring choices. Shifting and ergonomics is the same and you can still go 2×12 or 1×12 for the ultimate versatility. Look for Force eTap on a number of off-the-shelf builds or treat yourself to a custom build for your next bike.
More: SRAM Force eTap AXS Review
Open UPPER Gravel Bike
When you only make three frames, you can focus and do each one 100% right. The Open UPPER is their top-shelf gravel frame and it tips the scales at a scant 880 grams. With that lightweight frame, you get the most versatile and fun all-road bike we’ve ever ridden. Simply put, the UPPER has set the bar very high for the ultimate bike. It slays pavement and crushes gravel of all types. It was an easy choice for the inaugural SBT GRVL race and tackled it with aplomb.
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Bontrager XXX Road Shoe
Shoes are a personal affair, but the innovations and comfort of Bontrager’s latest XXX Road Shoe are off-the-charts good. With a unique tongue that wraps your foot like a burrito and dual Boa IP1’s the fit is sure to please. Add to that an ultra-stiff carbon outsole and a generous toebox and you have a race-worthy pair of road shoes are are also comfortable to use as daily drivers.
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Assos Equipe RS Bib Shorts S9
A good pair of bib shorts are worth their weight in gold. Without question, the latest Assos Equipe RS S9 bib shorts are the most comfortable we’ve ever tested. The incredible chamois moves with you and provides the perfect perch for long road or gravel rides alike. The S9’s were an easy choice for the 2019 SBT GRVL.
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Quarq DZero Power Meter
A power meter is on every cyclist’s wish list. While all of them will provide good performance measurement, not all are created equal. With Quarq, you get the simplest and most reliable power meter on the market. Syncing the DZero with any head unit is effortless. And, because it’s integrated into the spider, you get accurate left/right measurement without having to add a unit to the non drive-side. Tool-free battery changes and an intuitive mobile app round things out. We love every variety of DZero we’ve tested.
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Ergon SR Comp Men Road Saddle
With over 1000 miles aboard the SR Comp Men, we’re confident that this is our new saddle of choice for road and gravel riding. Ergon designers have worked some serious magic here as comfort levels have reached new heights.
More: Ergon SR Comp Men Road Saddle Review
Arc’teryx Norvan LD Trail Running Shoe
Arc’teryx is on a roll this year and the Norvan LD’s are a great example of just how good a pair of trail running shoes can be. For long-distance training, the LD’s have our vote. They have the perfect combination of comfort, support and traction for racing or training alike.
More: Arc’teryx Norvan LD Review