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Must-Have Gear This Year

Published on: June 14th, 2011

From packs to doggie booties, gear-heads need the right stuff to hit the trail prepared. Here are our favorite packs, boots, baby packs and dog duds.


Backpacks

Every body carries weight differently, so everybody should get professionally fitted. Then check out the hottest (not literally) backpacks, tested for comfort, durability and capacity. These packs might just rock your world on the rocks this summer.

Our favorite weeklong (or longer) women’s pack: Gregory Deva 60 or 70 liter

As a close second, the Osprey Ariel, which comes in 55, 65 and 75 liters, was a super light, easy-to-stuff pack (and, as of this year, it comes in an extra small), but its little pieces broke three times in less than a year of travel. In hard tests, nothing beats the Gregory Deva. The Deva’s sticky lumbar support sits and stays perfectly, so even someone accustomed to an Ariel’s lighter frame could fall in love. Hip and back fit is especially important for women, who tend to notice extra shoulder weight more than men do. Devas also come with more bells and whistles (pockets, hooks, zippers, etc.), which are unnecessary for minimalists, but don’t detract from overall carrying capacity. The Ariel is a minimalists’ pack in that regard, but its light design makes it just a little less hardy and comfortable (think bruised hips from a thin, but custom-fitted pad—bony girls beware). Deva is a strap-on sweet spot (with customizable fitting) and plenty of cushion. The REI Women’s Crestrail (in 65 and 70 liters) is a great mix between the Deva and Ariel, winning it high praise among price-conscious backpackers.

Our favorite week-long (or longer) men’s pack: GoLite Terrono 70 liter

Maybe we expect too much from a pack, but pack designers seem to have stopped really trying to create lighter, sturdier packs. Now they’re just screwing with us, but we did find more comfort in some frame tweaks this year. Gregory’s Baltoro (65 and 75 liters) scored second overall for comfort and carrying capacity, but its versatility is diminished by its pocket design, a problem solved in the roomy GoLite Terrono. Although the 90-liter was a bit much fully packed (nobody wants that Frankenstein top flying around during a mountain-top scramble), the 70-liter held its full load comfortably and without complaint. For such a light pack, it’s just as sturdy as the Baltoro, taking hard hits, falls and scrapes like a champ. Instead of bruising or rubbing the hipbones, the Terrono’s thick hip belt and awesome suspension set it ahead of the rest. For a more minimalist design, Osprey’s Aether can handle regular usage, but Osprey’s super-pricey Argon makes better use of space and is a bit more comfortable overall.


BabyPacks

We love all of our mommies and daddies out there—we even launched a magazine for them—so we patrolled reviews and grilled parents for which baby packs work best on Colorado’s trails. For the sake of carrying gear, we chose only baby carriers that also include a diaper bag/backpack section.

Best Baby Day Pack/Framed Baby Pack: Kelty TC 3.0 & Deuter Kid Comfort (II & III)

For lighter hikes, a lot of mommies love the Kelty TC 3.0 with a rain cover for its comfort and adjustability. It puts the baby (bulk of the weight) right up against mommy or daddy’s back for everyone’s comfort and happiness. The torso and seat areas adjust to fit baby, and hipbelt pockets make locating keys and snacks a breeze. For longer hikes, framed packs with a larger capacity were favorites, and the Deuter Kid Comfort (II and III) got rave reviews. The most common complaints with other framed carriers were that baby had nowhere to rest his head, was pulled too far from the body and was failed by the rain cover. Kid Comfort solved all of these problems with an easy rain cover, and up-close baby placement balanced with pack space and head support so baby’s head doesn’t rock a 90-degree angle during naptime.


Hiking Boots

Most of our readers walk, so they know which shoes work best for them on light day hikes without packs. You want to know what to wear on those 14ers or when you’re carrying 60 pounds on Kilimanjaro. Boots work just like packs—get fitted and give them a test drive or two before heading out to conquer the world. Watch for sliding and toe jamming, and consider ankle and midsole support as well as breathability vs. waterproofing. Expect the tougher, more waterproof boots to require a longer break-in period.

Best women’s boots: Scarpa Kailash GTX, Asolo Attiva GTX, Lowa Albula GTX Lady

Lowa Albula GTX Ladys are handcrafted in Germany, Gor-Tex lined, death-defying boots—in a classy shade of blue. Although they’re an investment, Lowa wearers—a.k.a. Lowa lovers—can’t say enough about these boots’ cozy, supportive and durable make. For a step down in aggressiveness and price, the Asolo Attiva GTX offers a more breathable but still dry boot. The Attivas earn praise for needing little breaking in and having a great all-day, all-weather feel. The Scarpa Kailash GTX are lightweight, comfortable and require pretty much no breaking in—a feat for a boot that can support a backpacker readily without exhausting her feet.

Best men’s boots: Merrel Moab Ventilator Mid Hiking Boots, La Sportiva Delta GTX, Asolo TPS 520 GV

For the longevity every man wants, the Asolo TPS 520 GV are performance-tested to keep most men going (on the trails) for years. With Gore-Tex liners to keep feet dry and Italian-tanned leather, these beasts can take it, whatever it is. La Sportiva’s Delta GTX are tough enough for backpackers, with full ankle support and Gore-Tex liners. Their partial leather, fabric and synthetic upper promises to allow feet to breathe more than leather boots, too. Merrel Moab Ventilator Mids aren’t anything fancy, but they’re sturdy enough for heavier hikes with a lighter pack, and super breathable for warm weather. Plus, they’re anywhere from half to a third of the price of the heavy-duty boots.


Doggy Essentials

We’re a little nuts about our dogs, and we know you are, too. Instead of comparing dog booties, bowls and beds, we’re suggesting a few essential items in addition to a collar, leash and tags that’ll help those furry fellas along the trail.

Food/Water

REI has an awesome dog food bowl that cinches up like a chalk bag and a collapsible water dish to match. Don’t forget these, especially the water bowl, on walks longer than an hour.

Paw Protection

OK, we get that your dog will most likely hate us for this, but hot sand at Great Sand Dunes and sharp rocks at Flatirons could easily turn Stimpy into Limpy. And if you’re doing these hikes to get in shape, your dogs’ feet probably aren’t in shape either. Use Pawz disposable booties for hot sand or Ruff Wear Bark ‘n Boots Grip Trex for long mountainous hikes.

Clean Up

Grab some Bio Bags and throw Pookie’s dookie in a compost heap. Most parks require that you pick up the poop, but landfills are full of pet waste in non-biodegradable bags. Spend the extra buck or two and make Boulder proud.

Use these new, fancy duds on our 15 Great Hikes!

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