Winter is here and in full force (in some places). Whether hitting the slopes or trailblazing through fresh powder on foot, the right equipment is crucial for successful winter pursuits, so we’ve pulled together some of our favorite gear for our ski, ride and winter gift guide.
Take some time to browse through our list, and also check our Gift Ideas for Him and Her, and other activity-specific gift guides. And don’t forget to sign up for Active Junky for the best deals and cash back on your gear and gift purchases.
|Black Diamond||Line||Sweet Protection|
|Camp USA||MSR||The North Face|
The brainchild of freeskiing icon Eric Pollard, the Sir Francis Bacon is an all mountain slayer that will have you buttering everything in sight. The incredibly light new Cloud Core technology from Line had our tester say, “These are lighter than my park skis!” That’s saying something—considering these skis are 104mm underfoot. Camber combines with early rise in the tips and tails to make this ski equally athome in the hard pack as it is in deep snow. Our tester took the Bacons straight from sidecountry stashes to the park and was thoroughly impressed with the ski in both settings.
One of our favorite boards to drop this season is the Gnu Mullair, the long-awaited pro model of Nico Muller, a master of style and likely your favorite snowboarder’s favorite snowboarder. The directional deck is on the aggressive side—it rails turns like a champ thanks to the C3 rocker profile (a camber dominant design with mellow rocker underfoot) and has Mervin Manufacturing’s signature Magne-Traction serrated edges for when you really start to mach down icy groomers at top speeds. The extended nose floats through powder, but it has much more pop than most free ride sticks on the market, and whether you’re ollieing off a cliff or nollieing off a butter pad, the Mullair pops and locks like a 90’s break dancer.
The PrimaLoft insulation in The North Face Apex Elevation makes this a cold climate focused softshell jacket that brings a lot to the table. It has a classic and clean styling with a bevvy of color choices for those of us who like options. This is a very approachable jacket made to last the winter. Adding to the cozy factor, the neck and cuffs are lined with a super-soft fleece, and the cuffs have an additional stretchy layer to seal in warmth. The cinch-able hood is detachable, giving you the versatility to remove some bulk when you’re just heading downtown, or zip on the hood when you need extra protection from the elements. And the hood’s zipper is protected by a small softshell flap so that your zipper isn’t your weak point in a downpour, or under a waterfall. Which is the cherry on top of the weather protection provided by the Durable Water Resistant (DWR) finish.
As lithe as an acrobat and as tuned for climbing as it is for the descent, both skiers and riders loved this Patagonia jacket. Run your fingers along the Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric and sure, this is by definition a softshell, but smoothness aside, the Kniferidge defends against rain and snow with the fortitude of a hardshell. “We were bootpacking couloirs at 13K feet,” said one tester. “And the Kniferidge cut a hard line through high winds, spinning ice and cold snow.” Upper body mobility is key when relying on ax and rope, and Patagonia’s climbing history is apparent with this agile design. No pit zips, though testers noted the soft shell fabric remained breathable on heart-pumping high alpine assaults. A mountaineering-friendly fit complements the mobility and stretch of the Polartec fabric for cooperative elasticity in sketchy situations.
Pioneers in the development and modernization of Merino wool for outdoor use, we will never turn down the chance to test new product from Smartwool even after 20 years. It’s a timeless brand with reliable quality and devotion to its customers and craft. While technical base layers is something they’ve always done well, not to mention their mid-layer and fashion-forward outerwear developments in recent years, Smartwool has a few new base layer options to add to the mix. The Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew is a form-fitting piece featuring interlock knit with set-in sleeves. Classically styled and made with 100-percent merino wool, The Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Pattern Bottom is built for comfort and performance with an outstandingly awesome chafe-free waistband.
What could be better than a cozy warm onesie? One made from high-performance Merino wool would be the answer. Airblaster has been making their men’s and women’s ninja suits for years, and added new prints and designs this season. Plenty of thought went into the women’s specific ninja suit, including fitted hood with pony tail hole, and you have to love the thumb holes. A waist drawstring keeps the suit in place on your hips, and instead of a lumberjack-style rear flap, there's a 350-degree waist circumference zipper so you don't have to take the suit off should nature call. Merino wool is soft, moisture wicking and naturally odor resistant. The ninja suit is great for layering on colder days or lounging around after a full day of playing. Or sleeping in on cold nights, which our tester may or may not do on a regular basis.
This helmet costs more than some snowboards. Terje Haakonsen linked up with the Norwegian gear company to develop the Grimnir TE—a MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) equipped carbon fiber helmet designed to take on the toughest terrain. The award-winning helmet is tested for use with action cameras, a fact that many of Sweet Protection’s competitors often ignore (using an action cam can drastically alter the way a helmet protects your cranium in a crash). If you can spring for this ultra-expensive piece of gear, at the very least you should have some peace of mind.
Best for: Riding with confidence in consequential terrain
POC has earned a solid reputation as one of the most worn brands among athletes at the highest echelons of competitive skiing. POC’s Iris X is true to this form and draws on the superior prowess of Zeiss optics to deliver the very best in lens technologies. Interestingly the Iris X opts out of the trend of using a spherical lens, which other manufacturers claim offer less visual distortions. The POC Iris X combines an optical grade polycarbonate exterior lens with a cellulose propionate inner lens to build their dual-lens goggle. The pair are coated with a state-of-the-art anti-fog treatment to combat steamed lenses when you start to work up a sweat, and the frame offers a flexibility owing to its soft polyurethane construction that contributes to its all-day comfort and wearability.
Best for: Racing down hills with superior lenses and comfort
When testers first tried on these gloves motoring up to the mountains, they felt like getaway drivers on their way to a heist. Riveted studs (think miniature ice scrapers), a zipped cuff and a Travis Rice logo accent the black leather. While we wouldn’t recommend these gloves on a sizzling spring day, when Colorado snowstorms struck, this Quiksilver and GORE-TEX collaboration delivered. In the words of a stoked gear tester, “They’re super warm, but I’ve worn super warm gloves before. The thing is, I’ve never before worn super warm gloves that are also low profile and actually look good.” Pair the supple grip, comfort and durability of leather with the GORE-TEX outer and these gloves are Active Junky approved – hands down.
MSR Lightning Explore Snowshoes come in both men’s and women’s models that balance weight and durability for aggressive pursuits. Dual bindings are easy to tighten and release, and come with a freeze-resistant attachment for when conditions get harsh. Spikes around the base of the shoe provide traction even while stepping, and MSR Ergo Televators step ups reduce fatigue when the pitch gets steep. The women’s model is lower profile and designed specifically for smaller gaits, with the 22in model supporting up to 180lbs while only weighing in at 3lbs 9oz for the pair; the men’s 25in pair weighs 4lbs and supports up to 280lbs.
When Springtime hits and the snowpack turns isothermal, ski mountaineers know that the time has come for riding steep lines and committing to couloirs. Accessing and climbing that type of terrain requires travelling with a mountain axe and, if need be, being able to use it to self-arrest. The BD Raven Ultra packs all the utility and durability of a traditional mountain axe into an extremely lightweight package; a mere 12 ounces for the 50cm axe. When you’re plunging your axe into the snow hundreds of times as you climb a line, having that lightweight aluminum makes a big difference. Also, the Raven Ultra doesn’t compromise performance for the sake of weight; it still features a full steel head and pick, allowing you to have the best chance of arresting a slide on steep snow.
While most backcountry skiers will never find themselves in a situation warranting the use of crampons, those of us who love skiing corn know that the crampon is a very useful tool. The CAMP Tour 350 is an incredibly light 10-point crampon that weighs in at a scant 24.6 ounces. It features horizontal front points for climbing steep snow and a step-in design for compatibility with mountaineering and alpine touring boots. Overall, the Tour 350 is a great pair of lightweight crampons to keep in your pack for those steep snow-climbing days.
Kahtoola Microspikes are unique in that these traction devices don’t require any straps—just pull them on over your shoes and they hug snug and stay in place. The welded chains work with the upper to keep the 12 spikes in line. Each spike is just under a centimeter, so less aggressive than other models, but still plenty to cut into sunbaked trails while winter climbing a Colorado 14er. Depending on which of the four sizing options you opt for, the pair weighs in at a minimal 11oz to 14oz, pack down small and come with their own tote sack.
The evolution of BCA’s Tracker series in not unlike that of the iPhone: with every new generation, they get lighter, thinner and more streamlined. If Steve Jobs had been a backcountry skier, he’d likely approve of today’s Tracker3, as BCA puts a similar design emphasis on clean aesthetics and straightforward function. The Tracker 3 is the newest addition to BCA’s avalanche transceiver line and has quickly become the favorite of snow fanatics and avalanche experts alike. With a simple dial to toggle between “send” and “search” mode and a slim profile in your inner pocket (giving you the option to ditch the chest harness), the Tracker 3 represents the new standard for modern avalanche beacons and it’s a must-have for backcountry pursuits.
Best For: The safety-conscious backcountry traveler looking for the smallest and sleekest in beacon design