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Outdoor Features

Outdoors Magic Gear Of The Year 2015

We've picked out some of our favourite new - and some not so new - kit from the last year.

Welcome to our pick of the best kit of the last 12 months. There’s some great outdoors gear around these days and we could easily have expanded our choice to 20 or more items, but we only have so many pixels to play with and as it is, the choice has grown from the original ten to a barely manageable 14.

Some of our picks are general categories, some are specific products, but they’ve all impressed us over the course of 2015 and earned the right to a place in our final selection.

Navigation

Finally, you can navigate through the gear by scrolling down the page or jumping to your straight brand using the links below.

Arc’teryx | Berghaus | Boreas | Mountain Equipment | MSR | NeoAir | Osprey | Panoramic | Rab | Salomon | Smartwool / Icebreaker | The North Face

Arc’teryx Bora 2 Mid GTX Boot: £275 / 1300g

Very Arc’teryx, very neat, very effective… when we first saw the new Arc’teryx footwear range, we wondered if the Canadian brand was maybe being a little bit too clever with its innovative lightweight double-boot construction and hydrophobic, laminated outer construction.

We were wrong, these things – and their Acrux shoe equivalents – just work in a light, but sturdy way. The Gore-Tex lined stretchy inner boot has just enough stretchy foam to give a brilliant, comfortable, but precise fit, while the Vibram sole gives cracking all-round grip and the non-absorbent outer dries super fast.

The Bora is aimed at hiking and trekking use, while the Acrux shoe has more scrambling and climbing inclinations, but still walks decently as well. We like them both a lot.

More Info: www.arcteryx.com.

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Berghaus VapourLight HyperTherm Hoody: £160 / 220g

You can still go ultra-light with the HyperTherm Race Smock, but for all-round use, the slightly heavier, hooded, version is a better bet thanks to the head protection and more useable full-length zip. And for an insulated top weighing just over 200g, it’s amazing. Not super warm, but warm for the weight.

Even better, it’s reversible – wear it windproof side out (left) and it’s at full warmth, but reverse it and the more air permeable fabric means the insulation holds less heat and suddenly t’s only a little warmer than a winds shirt, particularly in blowy conditions, which means in winter you can often wear it on the go, then simply reverse it when you grind to a halt.

It’s as good for walkers as it is for trail-runners and mountain bikers we’ve found. Not the only garment of its kind around – the Montane Verso Fireball does a similar gig – but more of an all-rounder than the other options we’ve tried. A little slice of just warm enough genius.

More Info: www.berghaus.com.

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Boreas Muir Woods 30: £90 / 980g

We’ve been using this for a month or so now and it’s a cracking all-round mountain pack that mixes great build quality with a chunk of feature-rich design. The idea is that it’s a lightweight, sub-1000g mountain pack with the chassis of a backpacking sac.

The latter mixes distinctive Z-foam padding with a wire perimeter frame and s dead comfy. The pack itself has a sleek design with full panel-opening zip for easy access, but with added pockets, including handy hip ones, sewage and storage. There’s a gear loop too for light climbing use and with a 30-litre capacity it’s good for long days out too. One pack that does it all? So far we’re impressed.

More Info: www.boreasgear.com.

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Mountain Equipment G2 Mountain Pant: £180 / 680g

Reborn for this winter, the G2 Mountain Pant is the latest incarnation of ME’s definitive mountain legwear. It uses Gore Windstopper softshell fabric for complete wind protection and serious water resistance, Has a neat, articulated cut and handy thigh vents for heart-burning walk-ins.

This new version feels just a little chunkier than the last one plus has super-tough Dyneema kick patches. No more external taping to peel off either you also get zip-out internal gaiters, removable braces and a belt too. Early days, but these show ever sign of continuing in the G2 tradition as brilliant, all-round, winter mountain trousers. Pretty in blue as well. We’ve still got a pair of the originals in black and trust us, things have moved on in a good way.

More Info: www.mountain-equipment.co.uk.

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MSR WindBurner Stove: £110 / 458g

Originally launched as the WindBoiler, MSR’s one-pot modular stove is now called the WindBurner and it’s a monstrous thing. It’s not as slick in operation as the new Primus Lite+ or the JetBoil MiniMo and it lacks an integrated ignition system, but when the chips are down and the wind’s howling through your tent or bivi spot, this thing burns hotter and keeps burning when other stoves are struggling to stay alight.

How? It has the Radiant burner technology used in the amazing Reactor mountaineering stoves – a fully enclosed burn  with no need for a windshield. In really rough weather, it’s our stove of choice.

More Info: www.cascadedesigns.com.

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NeoAir XTherm: £160 / 430g

Upgraded for winter 2015, the NeoAir XTherm is the lightest, properly warm, winter inflatable mat out there and, for this winter, it’s stopped making a noise like a crisp-packet caught in a  windstorm. It also has a softer texture to the surface fabric making it just more pleasant to sleep on.

Why’s it so warm? A mix of multiple layers of ThermaCapture material inside the mat which reflects radiant heat back where it came from and Triangular Core Matrix construction with two stacked layers of triangular baffles eliminating the need for an insulated fill.

It’s 6cm thick for comfort and packs down to the size of a one-litre drinks bottle. Just about the only thing wrong with it is the hefty price-tag, but if we were off to sleep on a glacier tomorrow, the NeoAir Therm would be the first thing in our pack.

More Info: www.cascadedesigns.com.

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Osprey Atmos / Aura AG Packs

Available in various sizes for both men (Atmos) and women (Aura) the brilliant, body-hugging AntiGravity chassis with its stretch mesh and wrap-around hip-belt design manages to mix fantastic support with surprising ventilation making it a brilliant all-round carry.

The rest of the pack has all the thorough design you’d expect from Osprey with numerous stowage and storage options, removable lid with Flapjacket cover,  integrated rain-cover and the rest. It’s one of those ‘using is believing’ experiences, trust us, try it and you’ll buy it…there are 50 and 65L versions, we like the 50L for lightweight backpacking but if you need the extra space, the 65 is also out there.

More Info: www.ospreyeurope.com.

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Panoramic Pod: £15.99

Straight out of left field, the Panoramic Pod is a genius little motorised tripod and holder for your smartphone that lets you take perfect panoramic pics anywhere. You simply clip the phone into the holder, turn back the clockwork mechanism then release shutter and wait as the phone rotates slowly while taking the pic in panorama mode.

No more jagged edges or random waviness, it just works. It feels a little plasticky and sometimes the motor sticks slightly, but it weighs next to nothing, costs not very much and works brilliantly. We’d love to try a slightly slicker, sturdier version, someone make one please…

More Info: www.iwantoneofthose.com.

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Rab Flashpoint Jacket: £200 / 177g

We could arguably have gone with the Vapour-rise Flex jacket, the most summer-friendly VR yet, but we were properly blown away by the lightweight Flashpoint waterproof made from Rab’s own light but decently breathable fabric. Yes, at 177g for a medium it’s very light and packs respectably small too, but what’s mind blowing is that it also has a helmet hood, a chest pocket that’s large enough to actually carry things in and full, all-round adjustability.

Finally, it’s cut like a proper waterproof shell rather than being so short you might as well not have bothered. It’s billed as an ‘alpine retreat’ jacket, but we’ve used it for summer walking, a bit of cycling and as a winter stand-by on days when we don’t expect to need a waterproof. Ace kit.

More Info:  rab.equipment.

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Salomon X Alp Mtn GTX Boot: £200 / 1260g

The X Alp Mtn GTX feels like a classic lightweight Salomon trekking boot, but something unexpected happens when you venture onto rocky, scrambly terrain: the bendy, comfortable hiking boot turns out to have enough lateral rigidity to edge on relatively small holds.

It’s uncanny stuff and due to Salomon’s 3D Edging Chassis, a sort of fish-scaled stiffening plate that’s laterally rigid, but free to flex freely longitudinally as you walk. No, we didn’t think it sounded that convincing either, but this Clark Kent walking boot turns into Superman when you stick it on a 1cm wide hold.

The Mrn GTX is a the lower end of the X Alp range, if you want to go even lighter in your door to summit alpine mission, there’s also the Pro version with integrated ankle gaiter and the swanky top-of-the-range S Lab X Alp Carbon which has a carbon fibre chassis plate to keep the weight down to a claimed 1000g despite a full-on integrated gaiter.

Utter, unlikely, genius…

More Info: www.salomon.com.

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150w Merino Tees From Smartwool and Icebreaker

Lightweight 150w merino wool is, for me at least, the holy grail. It’s light and comfortable enough to use as an all-round tee-shirt in summer when heavier merino simply gets too much and, despite a lot of wear, unless you maltreat it with pack abuse or rock rubbing, premium test tees from both Smartwool and Icebreaker have survived unscathed. Which seems like something of a miracle. Wr’d recommend either – just choose a colour or pattern you like and say goodbye to sweaty, smelly cotton tee-shirts.

More Info: www.smartwool.com / www.icebreaker.com.

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The North Face Summit L5 Jacket – £470 / 570g

Kicking things off – and there’s no particular order here, there are all really impressive bits of kit in their own right – is the new The North Face L5 Jacket, the single waterproof hardshell in the new Summit Series range. In a nut-shell it’s TNF showing that it can make superlative technical mountaineering gear using innovative technologies.

It’s a seriously impressive and uncompromising mountain jacket from its FuseForm construction – varied textures woven into a single piece of fabric, via an incredible fitted but not restrictive cut right the way up to its super-protective helmet-swallowing hood.

It looks brilliant too with an ultra-subtle ‘shades of grey’ colour scheme that doesn’t shout about its credentials – and if you were worried about visibility, there’s a dayglo emergency ‘flag’ clipped into the chest pocket. You might be dubious about the brand, but this thing is the real deal.

More info: www.thenorthface.co.uk.

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