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Articles on this Page
- 05/06/16--16:57: _The Best Mountain B...
- 05/09/16--10:54: _The Women’s SUP Ess...
- 05/09/16--12:44: _The Best Boats of 2016
- 05/09/16--15:57: _The Fly-Fishing Ess...
- 05/10/16--09:23: _The Best Women’s Sw...
- 05/10/16--14:19: _The Grooming Essent...
- 05/10/16--14:37: _The Best Energy Foo...
- 05/10/16--15:35: _The Best Gym Appare...
- 05/10/16--16:17: _The Best Headphones...
- 06/03/16--08:59: _Gear of the Year 2016
- 05/04/16--15:02: _2016 Gear of the Ye...
- 05/23/17--15:14: _The Best Women's Bi...
- 05/23/17--15:31: _The Best Women's Tr...
- 05/23/17--15:43: _The Best Energy Sna...
- 05/23/17--15:46: _The Best Headphones...
- 05/23/17--15:51: _The Best Go-Anywher...
- 05/23/17--15:59: _The Best Women's Gy...
- 05/23/17--16:24: _The Best Fitness Wa...
- 05/23/17--16:27: _The Best Watches of...
- 05/23/17--16:28: _The Best Camera Acc...
- 05/06/16--16:57: The Best Mountain Bikes of 2016
- 05/09/16--10:54: The Women’s SUP Essentials of 2016
- 05/09/16--12:44: The Best Boats of 2016
- 05/09/16--15:57: The Fly-Fishing Essentials of 2016
- 05/10/16--09:23: The Best Women’s Swimsuits of 2016
- 05/10/16--14:19: The Grooming Essentials of 2016
- 05/10/16--14:37: The Best Energy Food of 2016
- 05/10/16--15:35: The Best Gym Apparel of 2016
- 05/10/16--16:17: The Best Headphones of 2016
- 06/03/16--08:59: Gear of the Year 2016
- 05/04/16--15:02: 2016 Gear of the Year: Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie
- 05/23/17--15:14: The Best Women's Bike Accessories of 2017
- 05/23/17--15:31: The Best Women's Travel Gear of 2017
- 05/23/17--15:43: The Best Energy Snacks of 2017
- 05/23/17--15:46: The Best Headphones of 2017
- 05/23/17--15:51: The Best Go-Anywhere Gym Gear of 2017
- 05/23/17--15:59: The Best Women's Gym Gear of 2017
- 05/23/17--16:24: The Best Fitness Watches of 2017
- 05/23/17--16:27: The Best Watches of 2017
- 05/23/17--16:28: The Best Camera Accessories of 2017
Plus-size is fast becoming the new normal in mountain bikes. One year ago, you had only a few niche options in this category, loosely defined as including anything with 2.8-to-3-inch tires. At this year’s test we evaluated eight of the rigs, including our Gear of the Year winner, and another dozen are coming to market this season. These mid-fat machines add grip and confidence without the heft of a full fat bike, making them ideal for loose, sandy trails and super capable on bigger-hit riding. While the development is still in its infancy, with manufacturers debating rim widths and rubber dimensions, we believe it’s a significant advance for dirt steeds. Of course, there are still plenty of great “standard” mountain bikes out there (including four in this section), and depending on where you live and how you ride, one of those might be the best option. But as far as the bike industry is concerned, bigger (at least a little bit) is definitely better.
Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie
Gear of the Year
Behold the finest trail bike money can buy—plus-size or otherwise. Several features set this 135-millimeter ripper a step above its competition, including superb tire clearance, feathery but burly carbon Roval Traverse SL wheels, and the genius SWAT design, which hid a spare tube, tools, and sundries inside a down-tube hatch behind the bottle cage. Specs are just right, with a micro-adjustable IRcc dropper post and hard-scrabbling stock tires (meaty Purgatory up front, fast-rolling Ground Control in the rear). But this bike’s balanced and capable personality really won us over. The big, grippy tires had testers burning down chutes and precipitous rock drops with careless abandon. Its uphill manners amazed everyone, offering Velcro-like traction in loose chunk and steeps. It doesn’t ride portly—it just feels like the next step in the evolution of mountain-bike design.
Price $3,500 to $8,600 Weight 28.3 lbs
Orbea Occam TR M-Ltd
Best For: Going faster.
The Test: This full-carbon 29er epitomizes the new cross-country race bike, with more travel (120 millimeters instead of the traditional 100), wider bars for better control, and a slacker, shorter stance for descending confidence. “I never imagined a cross-country rig could be this self-possessed,” marveled one tester. Historically known for staid wheelsets, DT Swiss came out swinging with the carbon XRC-1200s, which are nearly as light as road wheels yet exceptionally stiff. That said, we’d have liked for this rig to come with a Fox 34 fork, which would have added only a bit of weight: a few testers complained that the 32 felt anemic when pushed hard.
The Verdict: The Porsche Cayenne of mountain bikes.
Price $3,999 to $7,999 Weight 24.8 lbs
Best For: Rediscovering a love for rigid rigs.
The Test: From the mind of Niner founder Steve Domahidy, this 27.5+ oddity might be the plushest hardtail we’ve ever ridden. The titanium tubes feel like they’re stuffed with Tempur-Pedic foam, and the three-inch WTB tires cut the rough like shag carpet. Inside the bottom bracket, the Pinion gearbox—a 12-speed with almost double the range of today’s biggest 1x11 options—pushes a Gates Carbon Drive belt system. The result is a well-geared machine that’s quiet and low maintenance, with a relaxed posture that makes easy work of even the techiest trails. SRAM’s new Level brakes proved reliable, and the Race Face Turbine dropper is a great addition. Our only quibble: it’s quite heavy at more than 30 pounds.
The Verdict: An all-mountain play bike for your inner geek.
Price $5,000 Weight 30.8 lbs
BMC Teamelite TE01
Best For: Winning XC races in comfort.
The Test: This carbon 29er is a race weapon, but thanks to an elastomer bumper built high on the seat stays and designed to take the edge off the rough, it dismantled the trail, not our backside. The setup yields just 15 millimeters of vertical compliance (also known as frame flex, a measure of comfort). That doesn’t sound like much, but when one of our testers raced the Teamelite TE01 in a nine-hour endurance event, he experienced none of the backache or numb hands typical on a hardtail. Rear traction was grippier, too. The soft-tail design doesn’t affect weight—the bike tipped the scales at just 20 pounds, even with the bar-mount-controlled 100-millimeter Fox Float fork. And while the SRAM XX1 1x11 drivetrain is the right choice for a racer, the 30-tooth front ring left us spinning out on flats.
The Verdict: Swiss precision and a touch of backside suspension equal a fast, surprisingly pleasant ride.
Price $4,599 to 10,599 Weight 20 lbs
Rocky Mountain Blizzard -50
Best For: Checking out the fat-tire trend.
The Test: Slip-sliding down snowy singletrack on the Blizzard made us feel like a giddy kid with his first sled. “This could make skis obsolete,” one tester claimed. Yet, with its short reach, slack 67.6-degree head angle, and 120-millimeter RockShox Bluto fork, this bike is just as fun in the dirt, where the big tires smooth out rock gardens like steamrollers. The price is right, too, especially considering the solid Shimano SLX parts. We do suggest upgrading the Sun Ringlé wheels and the 4.7-inch Bulldozer tires, which spin about as well as their heavy-machinery namesake. Replace them with something stiff and light, like the carbon Reynolds Dean and Bontrager Barbegazi.
The Verdict: Big fun, and one of the sharpest-looking bikes in the test.
Price $2,599 Weight 33.1 lbs
Evil The Following
Best For: Shredders and 29er skeptics.
The Test: With just 120 millimeters of rear travel, this all-mountain carbon 29er pedals like a hardtail but is more capable than far bigger bikes. The secret? The DELTA suspension (shorthand for Dave’s Extra Legitimate Travel Apparatus), the third system from bike guru Dave Weagle. “The best shock tune out of the box I’ve ever ridden,” gushed one tester. “Confidence inspiring in corners and way quicker handling than most 29ers, it makes you want to go fast.” The build is equally inspired, with a 130-millimeter RockShox Pike fork and a stiff Race Face Next SL crank. But while we loved the handling of the Easton Heist wheels, we beat up the soft rims. If it hadn’t been for the advent of plus-size, the Following would easily have won Gear of the Year.
The Verdict: The consummate all-around bike for those who like to hang it out there.
Price $4,999 to 6,599 Weight 28.1 lbs
Devinci Troy Carbon RR
Best For: Pretty much everything.
The Test: With 150 millimeters of travel and a moderate 67.5-degree head angle, this is a superb all-around machine. “It just does what you want it to,” raved one impressed tester. The parts range from excellent (the confident 150-millimeter RockShox Pike RCT3) to solid, though for the money the portly SRAM X01 crank and Avid Elixir 9 brakes underwhelmed. Still, the bike is reasonably lightweight even with those parts, allowing us to rail the Troy hard uphill and down—we even picked off a few Strava segments around Sedona, Arizona. It was especially popular with women and shorter riders, as the stand-over height is low. Trade in your collection of bikes for this one. We promise you won’t miss them.
The Verdict: A true shape-shifter, sprightly enough for all-day trail rides yet rugged enough for enduro.
Price $2,399 to 6,599 Weight 27.5 lbs
Get wet. Go long. Have fun.
Mi Ola X Back Bikini Top and Cya Full Double-String Bottom
Price $95 and $85
Mountain Hardwear River Gorge Long-Sleeve Shirt
Stay out all day in this half-zip with UPF 50 protection. The quick-drying fabric is silky, not clingy, and a side pocket is big enough for cash, keys, and lip balm.
Bureo Kayu Sunglasses
These shades pair frames made from recycled plastic fishing nets with Carl Zeiss polarized lenses. The result: eco-minded eyewear with superior style.
NP Surf SUP Neo Hooded Jacket
Think your favorite hoodie but made from neoprene. Break it out on colder days and long paddles, when you’ll appreciate the relaxed fit, comfy hood, and zippered back pocket.
Boardworks Sirena Adjustable Paddle
Classy graphics on this bamboo-veneer blade turn a paddle into art. The carbon handle and shaft make it plenty deft.
Imagine Surf IPS Icon LTE 10'2" Paddleboard
Like other new-school inflatables, the Icon is rock solid when pumped up to its max 15 psi. Unlike most of them, however, it’s amazingly light at just 18 pounds, thanks to single-skin construction on top and bottom.
Patagonia Barely Baggies Shorts
An update to an old classic, the new Baggies are a few inches shorter than the originals. Made from fast-drying nylon with a DWR finish, they have two pockets and not much else, making them a comfy, minimal cover-up.
All Good Sport Sunscreen
This SPF 33 sunscreen with pure zinc oxide is organic, paraben-free, biodegradable, hypoallergenic, gluten-free, and safe for coral reefs. Oh, and it prevents sunburn.
NP Surf Neo Flotation Vest
PFDs are often bulky and uncomfortable. But this superlight, two-buckle vest has oversize arm holes for ample range of motion during paddling. It may just save your life.
For the most part, boat manufacturers are in a careful tinkering phase, making smart refinements to tried-and-true designs. Notably, the trend in shorter (sub-15 feet) touring boats has matured: many brands are now producing these more playful kayaks, which are a bit slower than their longer forebearers but also more versatile. Regardless of what type you’re after, try to test a few models in the water before making a purchase. And while online homework is helpful, it can’t replace talking through options with a knowledgeable specialty retailer. Finally, remember to ask yourself a couple less exciting questions before pulling out your credit card: Where are you going to store your new boat? How easily can you transport it? The answers will be major factors in how much you’ll actually paddle.
Gear of the Year
When a company claims to have come up with a boat that performs equally well for beginner and advanced paddlers, we roll our eyes. But Dagger actually pulled it off with the Stratos. The key to the crossover appeal: a hull with great primary stability but also defined chines and a significant amount of rocker. That combination gives newbie paddlers a boost in confidence while allowing veteran sea kayakers to play in more challenging waters, ripping efficient lean turns and punching through waves. Built with an internal hull beam similar to what you find on Dagger’s whitewater boats, the Stratos is impressively durable—we drilled a few barnacle-covered cave walls without sustaining damage. The flipside is that it’s heavy, which makes the shorter hull a little sluggish on long crossings. But that’s a minor penalty considering the overall package and low price. 14'6"; 53 lbs
Jackson Rockstar Competition
Best For: Throwing loops.
The Test: Our resident playboat tester fell in love with the Rockstar, and for good reason. Jackson’s designers paired a narrow hull with a carbon-fiber baseplate to shave seven pounds from the previous model and create the company’s fastest and best freestyle boat to date. The bow and stern are extremely thin, making it easy to dig under the water and initiate tricks. Nicely balanced from tip to tail, with ample foot room and a relaxed (for a boat of this kind) sitting geometry, the Rockstar also does surprisingly well on downriver jaunts. “It’s the only playboat I would take on a ten-mile run,” one tester said.
The Verdict: Play it again—and again and again. 5'8"; 25 lbs
Aire Bakraft Hybrid
Best For: Going way out there.
The Test: Aire has been making our favorite hardcore inflatable whitewater kayaks for decades, and that expertise clearly trickled down to the Bakraft, which can be inflated to a rock-solid 2.5 psi. Advanced boaters were able to hold a line and didn’t feel like driftwood—a common complaint about pack rafts—on southern Oregon’s Class III Rogue River, thanks to the self-bailing I-beam floor design instead of the more typical uninflated kind. Best of all, because it’s so light and rolls down to the size of a large sleeping pad, we found ourselves bringing it along to places we never expected, like on trout-fishing missions involving long hikes to lonely mountain lakes.
The Verdict: Crazy light, super fun. 7'; 7.1 lbs
Perception Access 9.5
Best For: Getting started.
The Test: There are other $400 sit-on-top recreational kayaks out there, but most of them aren’t something we get excited about paddling. The Access 9.5 is. Yeah, it’s short, wide, and relatively heavy—and thus slow—but the upshot is fantastic stability. Add a high-backed molded seat and molded footrests, and this is a delightfully comfortable flatwater cruiser. Constructed from a single piece of rotomolded plastic, the Access didn’t seem to mind being thrown off the roof of a Honda Element at put-ins—a huge bonus for developing paddlers or parents with teenagers who might be borrowing it.
The Verdict: Low stress, low cost, high return. 9'; 42 lbs
Delta Kayaks Delta 17
Best For: The open ocean.
The Test: We were nervous when the guys at this Maple Ridge, British Columbia, company told us they were redesigning the iconic Delta 17, one of our favorite touring kayaks. But it was a relief to see that the new boat is simply a lighter, faster version of its predecessor. The V-shaped ABS-and-acrylic hull and trimmed-down nose helped it slice through choppy ocean water when weighted down. Paddle it empty and the moderate rocker and hard chines make for a much more playful boat than you’d expect, in part because it’s a full two pounds lighter than before.
The Verdict: An elegant refresh. 17'; 50 lbs
Best For: Apartment dwellers.
The Test: Oru’s intelligent tweaks to its groundbreaking corrugated-polypropylene design made an already brilliant creation that much smarter. Compared with the 12-foot original, the Coast+, which collapses down to the size of a large couch cushion, was at least 50 percent faster on flatwater. Oru replaced plastic connectors with stainless-steel ratchet points, which cut a minute or two from setup and added rigidity to the hull, giving paddlers more control. The deck rigging and hatch allow you to pack a long day’s worth of gear and food. It’s still not a vessel we’d take onto the open ocean, because the bulkheads aren’t completely waterproof, making self-rescue difficult. But for noodling around in bays or flat rivers, then folding it up and squeezing it into a closet, it’s still an amazing craft.
The Verdict: Our favorite packable boat, now faster and sturdier. 16'; 34 lbs
Prijon Touryak 470 LV
Best For: Ultimate versatility.
The Test: “This thing is an absolute workhorse,” reported one tester after filling the Touryak’s hatches (a combined 360 liters) and taking it on a three-day trip down Northern California’s Klamath River. With good primary stability and a long waterline, the Touryak lets you happily crank out miles paddling on flatwater. Stuff it with gear like we did—our man even packed a small cooler full of ice—and it’s a sporty boat in whitewater, with mellow chines that make peel-out turns fun, if questionable. (It reached its limit in easier Class III.) Prijon is known for solid-as-stone plastic, and the Touryak is no exception, banging confidently through rock gardens.
The Verdict: One tough touring machine. 15'4"; 57 lbs
Cast away with these choice tools for the discerning angler.
Fishpond Nomad Mid-Length Net
With a carbon-fiberglass frame and a massive lunker-ready rubber basket, the Nomad almost makes landing the big ones easy.
Meow Meow Tweet Herbal Bug Repellent
Bottled by a boutique skin-care company in New York’s Hudson Valley and made from organic lavender and apple cider vinegar, this elixir smells a helluva lot better than deet.
Nautilus XM Reel
Nautilus builds reliable saltwater reels designed for catching fast, powerful fish. The XM brings that same toughness and precision to the river, with a balanced, open-frame setup.
Finn Utility Essex Bag
The Essex would have been at home on the river 50 years ago, with its waxed canvas, English bridle leather, and brass hardware. It’s a study in minimalism, with three pockets and a pouch for fly boxes and an extra beer.
Sage Mod Rod
The nine-foot, five-weight Mod is softer and whippier than most of the other rods in Sage’s lineup. But what it lacks in power, it makes up for in accuracy. If you chase trout, this is your Excalibur.
Montana Fly Company Hip Flask
For those who like a little something to stay warm (or lucky) on the water, this rugged, stainless-steel flask comes printed in many fish-inspired designs.
Patagonia Rio Gallegos Waders
Cut from Patagonia’s H2No fabric, these waders minimize clamminess. Plus, a zippered waterproof pocket allows quick access to a phone, so you’re ready to ’Gram the catch of the day.
Abel Reels #2 Pliers
An essential tool can also be a thing of beauty. With corrosion-resistant aluminum handles and replaceable jaws, these pliers will outlast the rest of your kit. The #2 leather sheath ($50) secures to a belt.
Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots
Metal bars in the sole make the Foot Tractor as stable on slick rocks as your Tacoma. Mesh panels and tough synthetic leather add breathability and ensure it’ll last forever.
Howler Brothers Matagorda Tech Shirt
This top has lots of clever features (roll-up sleeve tabs, a vented rear yoke, and microfiber cloth on the hem) but doesn’t wear like a lab coat.
Performance can look good.
Lululemon Tidal Flow One-Piece
Best For: Understated Elegance
The Tidal Flow is the Audrey Hepburn of sporty swimsuits. It’s classy yet playful—simple, clean lines with an overlapping stringy back are paired with a band of transparent mesh running across the torso. Think of it as a little black dress that does everything—from sunning to swimming—well.
Patagonia Nanogrip Top and Nanogrip Side Tie Bottom
Best For: Surfing
Bikinis this cute tend to fall off during your first wipeout. Not so the Nanogrip. With a sticky liner that clings like a gecko, this suit stayed on whether we were surfing or waterskiing. The adjustable crossback also helped keep things in place, though the fixed halter could have been a hair tighter.
Price $59 and $55
Helly Hansen Inspire Top and Excite Bottom
Best For: Lounging at the Pool
If Patagonia’s Nanogrip is a hard-charging athlete, the Inspire is its mojito-sipping, beach-cruising cousin. And that’s fine by us. The top offers just enough support, the bottom has a wide, love-handle-smoothing waist, and the seven color options pop.
Price $50 each
Seea Nosara Top and Bottom
Best For: Going Hard in Style
Flattering and comfortable? The Nosara, by far our favorite swimsuit of the test, nails both. The racerback and drawstring add playful details that are fully functional in the water, keeping things secure and comfortable. When you’re done playing, the piece fits right in at the local pool party.
Price $65 and $50
Mi Ola Serena Zip Rash Guard
Best For: Channeling Your Inner Mermaid
We could claim we like this top because it’s an effective sunblock and because the tough fabric and skintight cut protected us from scrapes while surfing. Both are true, but the real reason the Serena is on this page is for its fish-scale pattern and sexy swooping neckline.
Prana Aleka Top and Kala Bottom
Best For: Watersports
This is your companion for Baja surf trips. The top stayed surprisingly secure despite its low cut, with a snug halter-racerback combo, while the bottom felt good without any squeeze. Mix and match from a bunch of different color options.
Price $49 and $40
Personal care essentials for before and after your workout.
Jack Black Dry Down Friction-Free Powder
Dust this on prior to exercising and the mix of friction-busting silica, moisture-absorbent cornstarch, antimicrobial zinc oxide, and soothing plant extracts will help keep skin smooth and dry.
Konjac Sponge Company Exfoliating Loofah
This biodegradable scrubber is made from skin-coddling plant fibers, and bamboo charcoal deters microbe growth. Toss it in with the compost at the end of its three-month life span.
Sun Bum Beach Formula 3 in 1 Leave In Conditioner
UV rays don’t just fry skin—they also weaken your hair’s protein structure. Sun Bum’s leave-in protects and fortifies with coconut oil and quinoa protein.
All Good Lips Organic SPF 15 Chai Lip Balm
Zinc oxide provides broad-spectrum sun defense, while organic calendula, beeswax, vitamin E, and olive oil safeguard against chapping.
Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance Expert Acne Treatment
Avène’s breakthrough formula curbs oil production and obliterates bacteria with a compound that also soothes and reduces inflammation.
Philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder Topical Antioxidant
Too much sun? Mix a scoop of this blend of vitamin C, zinc, and copper with a dab of your favorite moisturizer to calm burns and repair cell damage.
Byrd Soap on a Rope
Designed by pro surfer Chase Wilson, this 12-ounce brick uses coconut oil and sea salt to clean body, face, and hair without drying you out.
Snacks to keep the engine running all day.
Bogg’s Trail Butter
Nutrient-dense peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit, and honey give Trail Butter its punch. Tuck a few packets into a jacket pocket for a creamy pick-me-up on long off-road journeys.
Price $11 for 6
Taos Mountain Energy Bar
The toasted coconut bar from Taos Mountain combines non-GMO almonds, coconut, honey, and sea salt for a tasty treat. Bonus points for the chewy, cookie-like texture.
Price $35 for 12
Ditch the morning java for the ProBar Base, which packs 55 milligrams of caffeine into each package. That’s less than you’d get in a cup of coffee, but enough to power you through sessions at the gym—minus the crash.
Gnawing on tough, dried-out jerky is a bit like trying to eat your leather belt. Enter Perky Jerky, which is tender, lean, and packed with flavor.
Honey Stinger Protein Chews
Okay, so this is basically candy. But when you’re looking for a quick, clean burn, that’s all you need. Five grams of plant-based protein per serving helped justify slamming these down three at a time.
The Better Beast
No meat here. Just peanut butter, with eight grams of carbs and 12 grams of protein (33 percent more than the typical spread) per bar.
Evol Fajita Cups
Say hello to next-gen frozen food for millennials. These bowls are organic, healthy, and, most important, delicious. At 170 calories per serving, they’re ideal as a pre-run snack.
Tsamma Watermelon Juice
Studies have shown that watermelon may reduce muscle soreness and improve heart rate recovery. We don’t know about that, but with no added sugar, this drink goes down like water, only tastier.
Price $30 for 12
Step one: toss those saggy sweats.
Fjällräven Gear Duffel
Your gym bag should be organized, well appointed, and just big enough for everything you need. This 23-liter duffel delivers, and it includes an internal zip pocket to hold the small stuff.
Ten Thousand Foundation Shirt
Ten Thousand eschews loud and gimmicky in favor of high quality and understated design. The proof is in the detailing, like the sleek underarm vents and tailored fit.
Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats2 Wireless Earphones
The well-rounded sound and bounce-limiting ear hooks helped motivate us through grueling weight sessions. And six hours of battery life kept them bumping long after we’d left the gym.
Brooks City Chariot Shoes
Two years ago, Brooks resurrected its classic Chariot running shoe. Now the company expands the offering with designs inspired by iconic skylines. (Favorites: New York and Sydney.) The Chariot isn’t a burly, overbuilt trainer. We even found ourselves wearing it to the office and on recovery days.
Vuori Balboa Sweatpants
Who says workout pants have to wear like a badly pitched tent? The Balboa is made from stretchy French terry cotton and fits like a pair of relaxed slacks.
Everlast F.I.T. Weighted Jump Rope
You won’t find a better burn for the time or money than jumping rope. This beauty comes with weighted handles and precision bearings for smoother rotation.
Lululemon Evolution Shirt
The soft poly-Lycra blend in the Evolution resists wrinkles, silver-treated threads reduce body odor, and the cut is athletic but not skintight.
Smartwool Men’s NTS Micro 150 Boxer-Briefs
These merino-wool unders wick sweat, are plenty breathable, and fight stink. And that’s all you need, really.
Spyder Thasos Windbreaker
It packs down to the size of a softball and offers plenty of protection when you need it, thanks to a durable water-resistant coating, an oversize hood, and wrist cuffs.
Let the music play, wherever your workout takes you.
The most visible attribute on the Trainer is the stabilizing second headband. And while it does help a little when running, what sold us were all the other features: an LED that alerts after-dusk drivers to your presence, ten hours of battery life, and a muting button for when you need to hear the world around you.
Optoma NuForce BE6
Optoma’s cylinder-shaped monitors have always been good for everyday use—they’re lighter than they look and sit firmly in your ear canals. Now, with the BE6, Optoma goes wireless, offering up to six hours of play on a charge. Red flag: there’s no fit kit included, so the tips are one size fits all.
Koss FitClips KSC32i
Sub-$25 earbuds this well made are a rarity. The FitClips are sweat-resistant and have a comfy over-the-ear loop to hold them in place. The soft tips create a seal that blocks out external noise, and an inline mic lets you take calls. Best of all, they rise above the tinny sound that others in this price range emit.
V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
These are some of the best-sounding headphones we’ve ever tested. The fact that they’re military-grade tough and have a headband and cord that will probably never fail only makes them better. And the cord is optional: the Crossfade holds a charge for up to 12 hours of Bluetooth use.
Bose SoundTrue Ultra
This compact pair pumps out detailed bass. The SoundTrue is built for all-around use, but it does offer sweat resistance and a cable design that helps reduce wire noise as you bounce along. A mic-remote lets you answer calls without fishing out your phone. (Separate models are available for Android and iOS.)
We’ve had more than a few ’phones short out on us from nothing more than a trickle of sweat. Enter the waterproof, Bluetooth-enabled SportclipAir. They stayed in place during workouts, thanks to a moldable wire that wraps around the top of the ear, and the sound is richer than $100 usually buys.
We reviewed 369 products for our Summer Buyer's Guide. Only these 14 earned the coveted Gear of the Year award.
At this year's bike test in Sedona, Arizona, we tested 36 mountain bikes, eight of which fell into the growing plus-size category. These bikes, with their wider tires, provide incredible traction and inspire confidence in riders of all abilities. Watch to find out why the 2016 Stumpjumper 6Fattie stands above the rest—and why it won Gear of the Year in the 2016 Summer Buyer's Guide. Riding footage and photos by Jen Judge.
High-performance gear for trail and tarmac.
Wild Rye Kiah Shirt ($69)
This is the only bike jersey we’ve ever worn to the office without feeling underdressed. Slightly flared hips, a curved neckline, and the muted pink color make the Kiah cute and functional. The design kept us covered as we steered through technical Sedona trails. It has performance chops, too, with an odor-killing merino-nylon fabric.
Evoc FR Enduro Women 16L Pack ($180)
Evoc is known for its do-it-all hydration packs. Take the FR Enduro, which combines 16 liters of storage, a water bladder, and a rigid back protector into a slim package that hugs your torso through drops.
Giro Cartelle MIPS Helmet ($100)
Lots of protection in a good-looking, affordable lid: that sums up the Cartelle. The foam shell wraps down and around your neck, while the MIPS technology reduces rotational forces on your head in a crash. Fourteen big vents keep the whole thing light and airy.
Specialized 2FO Cliplite Lace Shoes ($120)
These shoes are meant for walking. Read: they’re perfect for sporty backcountry rides. The sole is stiff enough for efficient pedaling, but the deeply recessed cleat and reinforced upper will make you forget you’re not wearing hikers come portage time. Laces allow for a totally dialed fit (no hot spots here) while keeping the dork factor low.
Club Ride Traverse Shorts ($90)
Lots of mountain-bike shorts sacrifice suppleness and breathability for toughness. Not the Traverse, which is cut from a heavyweight polyester-spandex blend that put up with hundreds of branch snags yet still felt plenty breezy on days topping 80 degrees.
POC Octal X Helmet ($260)
We wore this helmet all season, and for good reason. It weighs less than half a pound, vents like a sieve, and fits like a headband, thanks to a simple strap-dial system.
Velocio ES Jersey and Bibs ($169 and $199)
The ES top feels like the cashmere sweater of the roadie world, with articulated sleeves and mesh panels ideal for 100-mile days. This East Coast apparel maker also knows a thing or two about premium bibs, building these with a midweight chamois that hugs without stifling and wide straps that don’t bite.
Rapha Classic II Sunglasses ($295)
Do not buy these shades if you’re prone to losing or scratching sunglasses. Do buy them if you’re obsessed with the British cycling company’s cool lines and pink flare. They fit and work well, but hey, if you’re coughing up almost $300 for a pair of shades, it’ll be the sweet looks that convinced you in the first place.
Tenspeed Hero Mountains Socks ($15)
Roadies wear high socks just because. Wisconsin-based Tenspeed Hero makes probably the coolest styles around, in dozens of fun prints.
Giro Factress Techlace Shoes ($350)
Combine old-school laces with a Boa dial and you have cycling’s most advanced closure system. It ratchets down the fit with such nuance that we felt like we were wearing a second pair of socks. Plus, these shoes have all the niceties you expect from Giro, including stiff carbon soles and lightweight uppers.
Essentials for wandering—and playing—in style and comfort.
Patagonia Glorya Dress ($69)
We hiked four miles in this poly-spandex dress, then turned right around and went to Sunday brunch on the beach. The cut, which bunches slightly at the hips, is flowy and 100 percent unrestrictive.
Goorin Marlon Fernandez Hat ($160)
Hopefully you’re traveling to some beautiful, remote Ecuadorean beach this summer. If not, this water-resistant straw fedora will at least make you feel like you’re about to embark on a tropical adventure, even when you’re stuck in city traffic.
RYU Tough Tights ($95)
The name tells the story: despite two seasons of pretty much constant wear, these tights refused to fade or rip. And the fit is snug yet not constricting, thanks to the wide waistband.
Filson Grab ’n’ Go Large Tote ($120)
At 17 inches wide and 16 inches tall, this canvas tote is big enough to swallow a small dog, if the need arises. Read: it’s perfect for stuffing full of carry-on essentials—a sweater, snacks, a water bottle, a book, and even a blanket, no problem.
Merrell Siren Flip Q2 Sandals ($70)
The footbed of these simple flip-flops offers support and traction to make short treks off-pavement a breeze. We don’t mind that the Sirens also look good enough for drinks at the bar post-adventure.
Pavepara Sandpiper Shirt ($82)
Made from soft merino and lined with a strip of colorful silk from a vintage sari, the Sandpiper is fitness apparel moonlighting as club wear.
Lululemon Non-Stop Bomber Jacket ($128)
Prana Lahna Scarf ($39)
This airy shawl is so lightweight it’s almost see-through, making it ideal for hot summer days when you just want a touch of color.
Electric Bengal Wire Sunglasses ($120)
Electric’s Bengal Wire, flaunting flared temples and a metal top bar above the bridge, marries a bit of Jackie O class with Mad Max punk. It’s functional, too, nestling comfortably on small faces.
Get the most out of your workouts with these energy sources.
Bobo’s Oat Bar ($4)
Thanks in part to its cakelike texture and rolled oats, this was without a doubt the best-tasting bar we tried. The chewy Banana Chocolate Chip flavor is reminiscent of mom’s banana bread but with enough carbs and sugar to keep us going mid-workout.
Runa Clean Energy Drink ($32 for 12)
The next time you’re bonking on a run or ride, skip the Gatorade and grab a can of Runa instead. Derived from a concentrated brew of South American guayusa tree leaves, which are packed with antioxidants and caffeine, this energy-boosting drink will power you through any type of workout. Our favorite flavor, Blood Orange, has no sugar or artificial chemicals.
Alpine Aire Grape Escape Dried Fruit ($6)
Grapes have always been too squishy and messy to be a practical backcountry snack. Until now. This seedless variety is freeze-dried for an easy, all-natural trail munchie. Sweet and crunchy, they’re great sprinkled on granola in the morning or straight from the bag at any point in the day.
Pro Bar Fuel ($30 for 12)
Gels are great, but sometimes all we want is a traditional bar. Made from coconut, fruit, nuts, and chia seeds, Pro Bar’s latest concoction is delicious enough to eat for dessert. And at 200 calories, it packs a punch. Picky eaters will appreciate that it’s organic, gluten-free, and certified non-GMO.
The New Primal Classic Turkey Jerky ($55 for eight)
We tested dozens of jerkies, and New Primal’s Classic Turkey was our favorite. Carved from free-range turkey breast with no antibiotics, the bite-size strips are among the leanest on the market, especially compared with the more common beef options. Pineapple juice and a touch of honey make for a subtly sweet aftertaste.
SiS Go Gel ($45 for 30)
Most gels need to be chased with water to prevent stomach revolt. Not this one. SiS’s already hydrated goop delivers a quick kick in the pants when you need it most. Each packet is loaded with 22 grams of carbs and can easily be zipped into a pack or belt. Flavors like orange, apple, and lemon are tasty enough to make refueling feel like a treat.
Turn on, tune in, rock out.
Beats Solo3 Wireless ($300)
The comfy, do-everything Solo3 offers rich, thumpy sound and is great during commutes and on runs, where the rubberized headband helps it stay put. Its Bluetooth boasts a nearly unprecedented range of 400 feet. Battery life runs 40 hours, and a quick five-minute plug-in gives your Beats three hours of juice if you’re rushing out the door.
iFrogz Summit Wireless ($35)
Lightweight and sweat-resistant, the Summit comes in at a remarkably low price for Bluetooth earphones and sounds surprisingly good. The earpieces wedge in snugly, and the cord snaps onto your shirt collar, which alleviates the constant tug you can get from other behind-the-neck models. Its plastic build and thin wires don’t inspire total confidence, though.
Shure SE215m+SPE ($119)
Don’t overlook wired earphones: they eliminate the need for charging—simply plug and play. Dynamic MicroDrivers produce stellar sound quality that doesn’t overdo the bass and is as crisp as that of any model we tested, while a secure fit is accomplished via moldable, Kevlar-reinforced over-ear cables.
Monster iSport Victory BT ($100)
With its solid build, sweat resistance, impressive sound that stays clear at high volumes, and reflective cable for nighttime safety, the Victory BT comes close to perfecting wireless workout buds. But best of all are the just-right rubber wings that leverage the shape of your ear to wedge them in place.
JLab Epic2 Bluetooth ($100)
The Epic2 emerged as our favorite wireless sports headphones this year. While the buds are a bit chunky (though not heavy) and might not sit right in smaller ears, the powerful oomph of its rich, bass-heavy audio makes up for the size. Plus it’s water-resistant and can be rinsed off briefly after a particularly sweaty outing.
Sony MDR-1000X ($350)
Sony has trodden into Bose territory with these frequent-flier-friendly cans. Throw together Bluetooth connectivity, customizable filtering for blocking out ambient sounds and voices, digital sound enhancement, supple over-ear cups with touch controls on the outside, and a 20-hour battery life and the result is the ideal—albeit expensive—pair of travel headphones.
Make any time sweatin’ time.
Lululemon Reversible (Un)mat ($48)
Thin, durable, and sticky, this pad was made for commuters and travelers who want to get yogic without lugging around a foam bazooka.
Brazyn Morph Collapsible Roller ($68)
A full-size foam roller that folds down to the size of a textbook—impossible? Nope. And at a scant 1.6 pounds, the Morph can still support 350 pounds when expanded into its circular shape.
Metolius Portable Power Grips Holds ($23)
These wooden holds come with slings that can be tied around any sturdy horizontal surface, so you can crank out pull-ups just about anywhere.
RYU Quick Pack Lux 1.1 ($185)
This sleek 22-liter bag has a burly drop front that folds outward for easy, locker-like access. Mesh pockets inside are tailored for water bottles, and the wax-treated body sheds precipitation.
Crossrope Starter Set Jump Rope ($69)
A classic tool updated for fitness buffs. This set comes with two cables—one is thinner, for agility workouts, and the other (shown) is beefier, for conditioning. Together they weigh two pounds.
Smartwool PhD Ultra Light Short-Sleeve Shirt ($70)
With a breathable mesh panel on the back that wicks moisture, this formfitting, featherweight tee stays cool during sweaty workouts.
Hanah One Go-Pack Gels ($49 for 12)
Stash a couple of these superfood-loaded packets in your bag and you don’t have to worry about a post-workout smoothie. Honey harvested in India lends just enough sweetness.
Saxx Kinetic Run Shorts ($75)
Male runners, rejoice: Saxx’s patented Ballpark Pouch—which is exactly what it sounds like—is sewn into a breathable liner to prevent chafing and add support. These stretchy, low-key shorts are technically designed for running, but we wore them everywhere.
Quality gear to make you feel like a million bucks no matter how hard you’re pushing it.
CEP Dynamic+ Run Ultralight Low Socks ($20)
Some compression socks feel as tight as tourniquets. Not these. The Ultralight Lows are just snug enough to reduce swelling, increase circulation, and support muscles and joints.
Adidas Women’s Voyager Jacket ($99)
Made from a surprisingly silky, 90 percent recycled polyester, this 9.8-ounce windbreaker was an impressively strong buffer against the elements on damp, 45-degree days, offering no excuse to stop training.
Coeur Sports Bra ($45)
Designed by veteran Ironman Kebby Holden, this buttery-soft bra has a hidden cleavage pocket and wears perfectly on its own—all the better to show off the retro wraparound stripes and shapely racerback.
TriggerPoint Grid STK Foam Roller ($35)
Look no further than Trigger Point when it comes to quality, compact rollers. The Grid STK’s ridged foam surface replicates a massage therapist’s hands—a godsend for relieving tweaked muscles after Pilates.
Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole 28L Tote ($49)
Two words sum up this bag: tough and simple. Sand, grit, and late-season snow couldn’t penetrate its ripstop nylon, which is treated with a water-repellent finish. True to its name, it swallowed everything.
Fjällräven High Coast Tights ($100)
The 50-50 blend of polyamide and recycled polyester in these leggings works double time, providing a cushy layer next to skin and wicking sweat as you ramp up the intensity.
Tasc Performance Rhythm Skirt ($54)
Comfortable but with a touch of whimsy, this anti-odor, UPF 50 poly-Lycra skirt hides inner compression shorts that add iron support for weary glutes.
Hoka One One Hupana Shoes ($115)
Not as beefy as its forebears, the versatile Hupana—with rockered mid- and outsoles—is a comfortable all-around trainer. The sleek knit upper fits in at the gym or in the urban jungle.
Club Ride Trixie Tank ($55)
No unnecessary bells or whistles here. This compression-knit, quick-drying top boasts a stretch-mesh back panel and two drop-in pockets for bike tubes or gels.
Wrist computers finally show their style.
Apple Watch Series 2 ($599)
Gear of the Year
The second iteration of Apple’s smartwatch earned our Gear of the Year nod for doing one thing insanely well: worming its way into every corner of our lives. It patches through texts and calls directly to our wrists. It tracks daily motion and automatically prompts us to keep active throughout the day. No wearable has simpler navigation, and it integrates that famous ease of use into each of its fitness functions as well. Want to go for a run? Just say “Hey, Siri, let’s run,” and once you’re on the trail you get verbal pace, distance, and elapsed-time updates. When you’re finished, the watch will keep track of your daily, weekly, and monthly mileage goals. Like its predecessor, the Series 2 is more welcoming than other watches when it comes to third-party fitness apps like Strava and MapMyRun. And those revamped good looks are indicative of a larger trend in wearables: shedding all that teched-out styling for something you’re not embarrassed to wear on a date. After all, nobody wants to broadcast “Look at me—I run!” even if that’s exactly what you’d rather be doing, every chance you get.
Garmin Fenix 5S ($599)
Best For: Superb on-wrist heart-rate monitoring.
The Test: The svelte 5S is one of Garmin’s smallest, most sophisticated models yet. It delivers up to nine days of battery life (or 14 hours of continuous GPS tracking), and its fitness diagnostics are superb. After a run, we synced our workout to the Garmin Connect app and manipulated overlay charts that showed, for instance, average steps per minute against pace to see if our form fell apart as we increased speed. There are also interval modes and custom alerts for pace and distance. On-wrist heart-rate capture was among the best in our test, matching the Suunto Spartan Sport. The only bummer: Garmin doesn’t allow onboard music storage.
The Verdict: A long-lifed wearable with fitness chops.
Samsung Gear S3 Frontier ($350)
Best For: Samsung devotees.
The Test: Too many timepieces that combine altimeter, barometer, and compass (ABC) functions feel like they’re stuck in 1999. Samsung’s Gear S3 Frontier, on the other hand, is wholly 2017, with analog ABC sensors that work together with Wi-Fi and a built-in SIM card to triangulate your precise location. Thanks to that SIM, the watch also lets you send an SOS beacon to friends and family. Three days of battery life make it a great weekend-escape watch, too. Did we mention it may have the most versatile pay-from-your-wrist system on earth? So you can leave not only your phone at home but also your wallet. The interface—a slick rotating bezel—is clever and easy to use. We especially love that Samsung’s proprietary S Health app automatically logs various workout activities. Plus, you can run other fitness apps, including Under Armour Record and MapMyRun.
The Verdict: ABC watches, welcome to the 21st century.
LG Watch Sport ($349)
Best For: Dialed user-friendliness.
The Test: Android wearables came out of the gate a bit clunky—physically big, with illogical, cumbersome interfaces. However, the new LG Watch Sport is one of the first timepieces to get Android Wear 2.0, streamlining things considerably. The watch has its own SIM, so you can listen to Spotify and make calls sans phone. Like the Samsung, navigation is smooth: rotate the watch crown to scroll through menus rather than tapping and swiping the screen, which can be a real problem with sweaty fingers in the middle of a jog. Android lets you download fitness apps (Runtastic, Strava, Seven, and more) directly to the watch. All told, though, we wish it had a slightly slimmer design.
The Verdict: The best Android Wear watch on the market.
New Balance RunIQ ($299)
Best For: Fleet-of-foot Android fans.
The Test: Strava fanatics, this is your watch. Sure, it runs Android Wear 2.0, but Strava comes preloaded and fully integrated; simply tap the upper-right button to fire it up. Plus, Strava boasts a few features just for the RunIQ that you won’t see on other Android or iOS watches, like footfall cadence, accurate speed metrics, and easy-to-use lap mode. The RunIQ’s five-hour battery life (with GPS running) doesn’t even match the half-as-costly Polar, but it’s fully waterproof down to 50 meters—good news for triathletes. And New Balance—with R&D by Intel—includes highly accurate heart-rate monitoring that held up impressively well during high-intensity intervals. Also, this puppy stores up to 50 hours of music.
The Verdict: A dedicated running watch with stealth wearable capability.
Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR ($499)
Best For: Going hard.
The Test: The name may be a mouthful, but the watch is impressive—12 hours of battery in GPS mode, water-resistant to 100 meters, and 80 different preloaded sport modes, including trail running, open-water swimming, and adventure racing. It has an easy-to-read touchscreen, but the physical buttons on the side were clutch when our hands got sweaty. On-wrist heart-rate accuracy was matched only by the Garmin, and GPS was top-notch. Workouts get logged in Suunto’s MovesCount app and desktop program, and you can use the latter to download nearby routes and preplanned training calendars.
The Verdict: A multisport workhorse.
Polar M200 ($150)
Best For: Giving you gobs and gobs of data.
The Test: The M200 is lightweight and comfortable, and despite its price, it tracks a ridiculous number of sports, including badminton, disc golf, and literally a hundred more. Using it couldn’t be easier, with just two buttons and an intuitive operating system. Like most wearables, the M200 has GPS and accurate on-wrist heart rate, and your workout data syncs to your phone via the Polar Flow app. The M200 also works with Android’s Google Fit and can populate Apple’s Health Kit. However, its six hours of GPS battery life left us hanging on all-day epics.
The Verdict: Looking to track your handball stats? There’s a watch for that.
Watches that mix modern technology with old-school appeal.
Tsovet SVT-RM40 ($325)
It was the Tsovet’s minimalist design that won us over. The solid stainless-steel case is water-resistant to 100 meters and houses a simple face meant to mimic the readout on an old fighter jet. Even more subtle: the date shows through a slot resembling a ship’s porthole. Only the metallic-blue hands convey a bit of flash.
Szanto Officer’s Classic Round Automatic 6304 ($375)
Szanto nailed the fieldwatch look with a round-edged case, subtle wave pattern on the face, and deco-like minute and second hands. Bonus points for the one-piece stainless-steel construction and SuperLuminova application, which makes the hands glow bright after dark.
Luminox Carbon SEAL 3813 ($675)
Where other brands merely copy military badassery, the SEAL lives it. Carbon woven into the polycarbonate case offers the toughness of titanium at one-third the weight for a barely-there watch that won’t fail you when things get gnarly. Tritium-tube hands and numbers stay lit for 25 years. Other features include an antireflective sapphire crystal and precise Swiss quartz movement.
Timex IQ+ Move ($149)
Appearances suggest that this is a basic analog wristwatch. But press the crown and it pairs with a free app (Android and iOS) to auto-set the time and log daily distance, calorie, and sleep data on your smartphone. A small subdial on the watch tallies your steps. Kudos for the one-year battery life.
Standard Issue Instruments Field Navigator ($250)
The Field Navigator is a stripped-down yet hardy watch made by Huckberry in the spirit of the mission timers used by Vietnam-era Special Forces. With a reliable Ronda quartz movement, this timepiece is a great value if you’re looking to keep a low profile.
Momentum Torpedo Blast 44 Rubber ($114)
Dive watches often break the bank. Not this one. For a little more than a Benjamin, you get 200 meters of water resistance and some nice details, like the offset crown to avoid wetsuit snags and bright luminescent hands and markers for underwater clarity.
Taking photos shouldn’t be a chore. Make it fun.
Danner Mountain 600 Low Hiking Boots ($160)
The best hikers protect your feet without feeling like cement blocks. The 600 Low fulfills both needs: it’s relatively light (two pounds per pair) yet burly, with a thick, water-proof suede outer and tough Vibram soles.
Flint and Tinder All-American Jeans ($98)
Good photographers kneel, crawl, jump, and climb to get the shot. These thick, 12-ounce denim jeans will stand up to all that abuse.
Mountainsmith FXpedition Monopod ($40)
Low-light shooting calls for a steady hand—and a bit of third-party support. That’s when you break out this quick-draw folding monopod. Perk: it doubles as a hiking pole.
Peak Design Everyday 20L Backpack ($260)
This is the most intelligently designed camera pack we’ve tried. Credit customizable dividers that let you organize to your heart’s content and easy-access side zips.
Patagonia Airshed Jacket ($119)
Think of this pullover as a poor-weather insurance policy. The stretchy layer packs down to the size of an apple but is still plenty tough to cut wind, add warmth, and hold off rain long enough for you to find shelter.
MacBook Pro Laptop ($2,399 and up)
Apple nailed the size-to-power ratio with its new 15-inch laptop. Weighing in at four pounds and merely 15.5 millimeters thick, it packs enough processing power to chew through big RAW files and lengthy segments of 4K video.
Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16—70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens ($1,000)
The only lens you’ll ever need. It has a massive range when paired with the a6500—from 24mm to 105mm—for capturing both wide landscapes and detailed portraits.
Sony a6500 Camera ($1,400)
If a DSLR and a point-and-shoot had a kid, this would be it. A crisp Zeiss lens, 11-frames-per-second machine-gun capture rate, and 24.2-megapixel sensor are packed in a body that weighs merely a pound.
Topo Designs Camera Strap ($29)
Your camera is only as safe as your strap. Buy this tough one from Topo, made from repurposed climbing rope.
Flylow Anderson Shirt ($60)
Antimicrobial bamboo and polyester keep the Anderson stink-free, while muted colors look good in the field.