Gear Institute Expert Test Menu

Hiking & Camping

Hiking and camping gear.

Black Diamond Icon Polar

87

2015

Black Diamond Icon Polar

The Black Diamond Icon Polar is designed for expeditions into extreme environments and has a powerful set of features tweaked for performance.

Coast HL7R

88

2015

Coast HL7R

The COAST HL7R is a solid rechargeable headlamp with excellent beam quality, but it comes at the cost of marginal brightness and a relatively short battery life.

Vasque Inhaler GTX (Mid)

82

2015

Vasque Inhaler GTX (Mid)

The Vasque GTX is a waterproof, mid-height lightweight boot intended for gentle trekking/backpacking, overnight trips, and day hiking. It is designed to work well in warmer weather. 

MUCK Peak Hardcore

86

2015

MUCK Peak Hardcore

The MUCK Peak Hardcore is a high top waterproof insulated outdoor winter boot designed for use down to -40 degrees F/C. It targets serious winter recreation enthusiasts including winter camping, hiking, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and the like.

Merrell Capra Mid Sport GORE-TEX

72

2015

Merrell Capra Mid Sport GORE-TEX

The Merrell Capra Mid Sport is a lightweight, waterproof, mid-height, synthetic hiking boot designed primarily for people who want to go fast and light.

Chaco Holbuck Waterproof Hiking Boot

74

2015

Chaco Holbuck Waterproof Hiking Boot

The Chaco Holbuck is a waterproof, mid-height hiking boot designed primarily for day hikes and light off trail use. These boots have a super comfortable insole and great arch support but the upper part is difficult to lace snugly for sufficient ankle support.

Lowa Hudson GTX Mid

87

2015

Lowa Hudson GTX Mid

The Hudson GTX Mid is a lightweight, waterproof, mid-height, hand-crafted, full leather backpacking boot designed primarily for people carrying loads up to 40 pounds.

Spyderco Rock Lobster

93

2015

Spyderco Rock Lobster

The Spyderco Rock Lobster is a strange and wonderful, full-sized folding knife that not only carries well for every day use but can prove to be an added benefit in the kitchen.

Gerber Gator Premium Folder – Clip Point Blade

83

2015

Gerber Gator Premium Folder – Clip Point Blade

The Gerber Gator Premium Folder is based off of a fixed blade model converted to a folder for easier carry. It features Gerber’s “Gator Grip” which is great dry but poor when wet. This particular model features a clip point style blade making it shoe-in for hunting, fishing, and the like.

Gerber 39 Series Micarta

86

2015

Gerber 39 Series Micarta

The Gerber 39 Series Micarta is a lightweight, classically designed gentleman’s utilitarian knife that features premium materials. For Gerber, this is about as good as it gets in a pocket knife.

Boker Plus S2 by Sniper Bladeworks

92

2015

Boker Plus S2 by Sniper Bladeworks

The Boker S2 is a big folding flipper knife made of common 440C knife steel which blurs the lines between every day carry and survival knife.

555HG Benchmade Mini-Griptilian

96

2015

555HG Benchmade Mini-Griptilian

The Benchmade 555HG Mini-Griptilian is an all-around, well-balanced everyday carry pocket knife designed to withstand use and abuse and still be a reliable too for years to come.

MSR WindBurner

92

2015

MSR WindBurner

The MSR WindBurner (renamed from WindBoiler) is a compact, heat exchanger stove with a fuel regulator and windproof radiant heat burner that is well suited for one to two people on the trail. 

Snow Peak GeoShield

81

2015

Snow Peak GeoShield

The GeoShield from SnowPeak is a remote canister group-cooking stove that runs on isobutane/propane gas mixes. 

Optimus Nova+

81

2015

Optimus Nova+

The Optimus Nova + is a reliable liquid fuel backcountry expedition stove that burns white gas, kerosene, jet fuel and diesel. 

MSR XGK EX

82

2015

MSR XGK EX

The XGK EX is MSR’s workhorse. Regardless of how burly the conditions or how deep the frustration stemming from another failed summit bid, with this stove in tow, at least you’ll have a hot meal over which to commiserate.

Leatherman Signal

90

2015

Leatherman Signal

The Signal is the first attempt at a survival specific multitool from Leatherman and it’s everything you’d expect from a company that pioneered the “multitool”.

Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 Backpack

91

2015

Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 Backpack

The Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 is a 70-liter climbing and expedition pack that works well for both climbing and backpacking and has a waterproof membrane for extended backcountry trips and expeditions.

Gregory Denali 100 Backpack

93

2015

Gregory Denali 100 Backpack

The Gregory Denali 100 is a 100-liter expedition backpack that was re-designed for sheer performance and is capable of comfortably carrying heavy loads through harsh weather and demanding terrain.

Osprey Exos 58 Backpack

89

2015

Osprey Exos 58 Backpack

The Osprey Exos 58 is a 58-liter top loading technical backpack designed for the super light weight hiker or trekker. This pack was redesigned for 2014 to provide more comfort and organization for thru-hiking and trekking.

Osprey Atmos 65 AG

95

2015

Osprey Atmos 65 AG

The Osprey Atmos 65 AG is a 65-liter backpack that has been redesigned for 2015 to provide maximum comfort and ventilation without sacrificing load carry and organizational features.

Millet Torong 52 Backpack

90

2015

Millet Torong 52 Backpack

The Millet Torong 52 is a 52-liter top loading alpine backpack that combines lightweight comfort and functionality for alpine climbs or backcountry treks.

Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack

95

2015

Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack

The Gregory Baltoro 75 is a 75-liter backpack that has been redesigned for 2015 to provide maximum comfort and organization to make your life easier for weekend and extended backcountry trips.

Granite Gear Virga 2 Backpack

89

2015

Granite Gear Virga 2 Backpack

The Granite Gear Virga 2 is a 54-liter top loading ultra-light backpack that has been redesigned for the super lightweight hiker or trekker. 

Travel Chair Easy Rider Model 589V

82

2015

Travel Chair Easy Rider Model 589V

Travel Chair’s Easy Rider is one of the most basic and simple folding chairs on the market. This simplicity makes it easy to set up and stow but this chair lacks the desirable features found on many of the other chairs in this test, with little cost savings.

Strongback Elite

88

2015

Strongback Elite

The Strongback Elite is unique in the folding camp chair category because it actually provides  great lumbar back support, resulting in an incredibly comfortable chair. 

Eureka! Curvy Chair with Side Table

87

2015

Eureka! Curvy Chair with Side Table

The Eureka! Curvy Chair is a comfortable and relaxing feature rich chair. While the side table takes one extra step to set up (compared to most of the other chairs in the test), it’s well worth the effort and is a stand-out feature.

Coleman Vertex Ultra Hard Arm Chair

81

2015

Coleman Vertex Ultra Hard Arm Chair

Coleman shot for the moon with comfort and convenience enhancing features with the Vertex Plus. While some hit the mark, others weren’t as successful and the setup/stowing process can be borderline maddening.

BaseCamp Mammoth Leisure Aluminum Chair

84

2015

BaseCamp Mammoth Leisure Aluminum Chair

The Base Camp Mammoth is a great chair for prolonged periods thanks to the insulated pocket built right into the armrest. What it lacks is the blissful comfort commonly sought by camp chair sitters.

SOG F01T Tactical Tomahawk

89

2015

SOG F01T Tactical Tomahawk

An evolution of the Vietnam War classic tomahawk, the lightweight SOG Tactical Tomahawk is a workhorse of a light-duty hatchet which is comprised of updated materials like a shock-resistant fiberglass handle instead of wood or steel.

Outland Equipment Multi-Mission Axe 1901

96

2015

Outland Equipment Multi-Mission Axe 1901

Coming in under three pounds, the Outland Equipment Multi-Mission Axe is a feature-packed dynamo that won’t tire you out before the task at hand is complete.

Hardcore Hammers Curved Naturalist Hatchet

77

2015

Hardcore Hammers Curved Naturalist Hatchet

The Hardcore Hammer Curved Naturalist Hatchet is an affordable, well-balanced, razor sharp hatchet and hammer combo that exudes “American Frontier” due to its familiar design.

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe #420

95

2015

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe #420

The Gransfors Small Forest Axe is a hatchet designed to chop, and split—but it compact enough to be transported throughout your journey.

Spyderco Rubicon C187CF Flipper

98

2015

Spyderco Rubicon C187CF Flipper

The Spyderco Rubicon Flipper is an extremely lightweight pocket knife comprised of premium materials. 

Gerber Diesel Multi-Plier

84

2015

Gerber Diesel Multi-Plier

The Diesel Multi-Plier is rock solid offering from Gerber that is built on a familiar design and features fourteen on-board tools. It’s one-hand opening mechanism is designed to take the complexity out of diving into tasks, and the on-board tools are the pertinent usual suspects we’ve come to rely on in the workplace, on the road, or on the trail. 

Kilimanjaro Gear Rappel II 910067

91

2015

Kilimanjaro Gear Rappel II 910067

The Kilimanjaro Gear Rappel II is a full-sized multitool that will come in handy in all instances; work or play. Built like a tank, it features only the necessary tools—avoiding the tool bloat which seems all-too-common in the market today. For $40, you will not find another tool that features a full-sized locking drop point blade, spring-loaded pliers, or an aerodynamic design like this. With a lifetime warranty you can be even more rest assured that the Rappel II may cause you to feel a little weight in your pocket—but not in your wallet.

Kilimanjaro Gear Magnus 910056

86

2015

Kilimanjaro Gear Magnus 910056

I will tell you what the Kilimanjaro Gear Magnus multitool isn’t—a pocket tool. It features 10 full-sized tools and is designed to be packed and hauled, or stored—not carried. Coming in at 1lb and reaching 10.5” when opened for operation, the Magus is a great example of a tool designed for big jobs.

Gerber Fit Light Tool

83

2015

Gerber Fit Light Tool

The Gerber Fit Light Tool is a multitool built for the modern age. Along with seven other components, it features a 25 Lumen L.E.D. flashlight and two long arm screwdrivers which make working inside a desktop computer a breeze. Additionally, the razor sharp knife blade combined with the flashlight, adds a new level of precision and convenience to the multitool market. The Fit Light Tool was ultimately the tool I kept reaching for again and again. 

The North Face Furnace 20

84

2015

The North Face Furnace 20

For general 3-season backcountry use, The North Face Furnace 20 stands tall. The Furnace 20 offers lots of room to move and fidget at night without being drafty, and the 550-fill down insulation keeps the cold night air at bay.

Sea to Summit Spark III

81

2015

Sea to Summit Spark III

The Sea to Summit Spark III earned raves from the ‘light-and-fast’ packers on my test team, thanks to its great warmth-to-weight ratio and it compact nature in the pack.

REI Lumen

86

2015

REI Lumen

The REI Lumen provided a very comfortable night’s sleep in most temperatures, but the bag excelled in the cool, damp conditions.

Montane Minimus Sleeping Bag

95

2015

Montane Minimus Sleeping Bag

The Montane Minimus may be the best sleeping bag in our test, but it can also be the hardest to find. The British brand lacks the broad distribution of bigger, better known US brands, but the Minimus is worth tracking down.

Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Flame

85

2015

Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Flame

The Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Flame 20 proved highly suitable for fast-and-light hikers who want a synthetic bag.

Kelty Dualist 20

84

2015

Kelty Dualist 20

The Kelty Dualist 20 pairs water-resistant down with a thin, quilted layer of synthetic closer to the body, to provide some of the loft of down in an affordable synthetic bag.

Big Agnes Lost Ranger

83

2015

Big Agnes Lost Ranger

The Big Agnes Lost Ranger offers a load of interior space, making it ideal for active sleepers. 

TentLab Moonlight 2

92

2015

TentLab Moonlight 2

The TentLab Moonlight 2 is a veteran tent designer's independent effort to fix all that's missing, overlooked, and eliminated from most backpacking tents on the market. It doesn't look revolutionary, but is full of thoughtful, handy features and ready for nasty storms from mountain tops to canyon bottoms.

REI Half Dome Tent

86

2015

REI Half Dome Tent

The Half Dome is REI’s newly made-over best selling backpacking tent—now lighter, more vented, easier to set up, and more customizable. 

Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO

87

2015

Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO

Big Agnes’ Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO is a lightweight backpacking tent with integrated lights.

Marmot Tungsten

75

2015

Marmot Tungsten

The Marmot Tungsten is a budget priced tent for all around camping use. 

NEMO Losi LS 2P

85

2015

NEMO Losi LS 2P

The Nemo Losi LS 2P is a backcountry tent with updates that cut 10 ounces from the previous model, without sacrificing roominess. 

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