Best in Class Winners, 2014

Best in Class Winners, 2014

What do Volkl Nunataq skis, Mountain Hardwear’s Skyledge 3 tent, and Redington’s Vapen Red fly rod have in common? They are all Gear Institute Best in Class winners in their product categories.

Gear Institute Experts extensively field tested and reviewed nearly 400 individual products in 2014. From that vast collection of gear, 43 products received Gear Institute Ratings high enough to win the coveted Gear Institute Best in Class Award Honors!

The Best in Class products, by activity, are listed below.


Gear Institute Experts field-tested and reviewed an array of climbing-related products on some of the classic climbing routes around the globe. The Best in Class climbing products are:

Best in Class—Comfort Climbing Shoes

Scarpa Techo X

year-end-bic img-climb-Scarpa-Techno-XThe Scarpa Techo X edged out its completion thanks in large part to its great edging performance, a flat-lasted construction, and crack-climbing ability. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 89


Best in Class—Performance Climbing Shoe

La Sportiva Solutions

year-end-bic img-climb-La-Sportiva-SolutionsThe Gear Institute Expert tester dubbed the Solutions, “one of the most unique climbing shoes on the market, and its advantages over other slippers need to be tried to be believed.” Its award-winning rating comes in large part due to its performance in pockets and edging. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 93


Best in Class—All-Purpose Climbing Shoe

La Sportiva TC Pro

year-end-bic img-climb-La-Sportiva-TC-ProOur Gear Institute Expert says the La Sportiva TC Pro sets the standard for high-end trad free-climbing shoes. He found it an excellent choice for the most rigorous crack-climbing routes, as well as tough edging work. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating: 92


Best in Class—Quickdraws

C.A.M.P. Photon Mixed Express Nylon Quickdraw

year-end-bic img-climb-camp-nylon-quickdrawThough it boasts two full-sized carabiners, the Photon Mixed Express Nylon weighs a mere 2.6 ounces, making it one of the lightest quickdraws in the class. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating: 90


Best in Class—Harness

Edelrid Orion

year-end-bic img-climb-Edelrid-Orion-HarnessDesigned for multi-pitch trad climbers, the Edelrid Orion boasts a great mix of comfort, durability and minimal weight. Our Gear Institute Expert further praised its comfort in extended hang sessions. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating: 88


Best in Class—Climbing Rope

Metolius Monster

year-end-bic img-climb-Metolius-MonsterThe Metolius Monster features a highly visible and durable way to find the middle of the rope, which proved to be a popular feature with our Gear Institute Experts. The rope also resists dirt and abrasion better than others in the class, helping it achieve its award-winning status. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 86


Best in Class—Waterproof Jacket

Patagonia Leashless Jacket

year-end-bic img-climb-Patagonia-Leashless-JacketThe Patagonia Leashless Jacket offers everything we want in a hard shell—dependable protection, great breathability, just the right amount of pockets, and a cut that fits a variety of body shapes. Those characteristics propelled the Leashless to the top of its class. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 88


Best in Class—Protective Softshell Jacket

Stio Vescent

year-end-bic img-climb-Stio-VescentWith a tough-as-nails DWR treatment and super-soft polyester fleece lining, this coat performed admirably in all conditions. But its easy-to-adjust features and great comfort moved it ahead of all its competitors to achieve Best in Class honors. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 88


Best in Class—Aerobic Softshell Jacket

Adidas Terrex Swift Mountain Jacket

year-end-bic img-climb-adidas-terrex-mountain-summer-jacketThough it feels thin and insubstantial, the Adidas Mountain Summer jacket served up awesome wind and rain protection. Best of all, though, the jacket sports just enough stretch in just the right places to satisfy the mobility needs of climbers. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 84


Hiking & Camping

Hiking and camping gear accounted for a more than a quarter of all Gear Institute Reviews in 2014, and our Experts field-tested products in areas as diverse as Alaska’s North Slope to Florida’s Key West. The Best in Class Hiking & Camping products are:

Best in Class—Compact Backpacking Stoves

Soto Windmaster

year-end-bic img-stoves-soto-windmasterGiven its weight, efficiency, performance in wind and average boil time, the Soto WindMaster easily proved itself to be the best stove in its class. It carries a hefty price tag, but you pay for performance. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 89


Best in Class—Rapid-Boil Stoves

Primus ETA Lite

year-end-bic img-stoves-primus-eta-liteThe compact all-in-one ETA Lite cook system beat all others in the class on most criteria. It’s light, efficient, fast boiling, and very simple to operate. Its modest price helped secure its Best in Class standing.  Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 90


Best in Class—Multitools

Leatherman Surge

year-end-bic img-multitools-leatherman-surgeThe Leatherman Surge initially felt a bit large in hand but after its first use the incredible versatility and functionality of the tool became evident. It quickly became the go-to tool for our Expert, while also earning Best in Class honors. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 93


Best in Class—Everyday Carry Knives

Spyderco Para-Military 2

year-end-bic img-knives-spiderco-paramilitarySpyderco built the Para-Military 2 to be lightweight, but bulletproof. The knife includes some design elements from tactical knives, but tempers them to be more useful to recreational users. The resulting knife handles any camp tasks with ease. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 98


Best in Class—Survival Knives

Vulture Equipment Works Cholera MK1

year-end-bic img-knives-vulture-choleraThe Cholera impressed out Gear Institute Expert enough to earn a perfect 100 Gear Institute Rating. The knife showed itself during strenuous testing to be durable, dependable and highly functional in the most severe outdoor conditions. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 100


Best in Class—Camp Kitchen Knives

Gerber Freescape

year-end-bic img-knives-gerber-freescapeWith abilities suitable for home use, the Gerber Freescape excels as a camp kitchen chopper. Gerber built the Freescape blade thicker than standard kitchen knives for durability in rough conditions and sharpened it like a standard backpacking knife so it holds a great edge even after cutting through pounds of steak tips on the trail.Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 90


Best in Class—Backpacking Knives

Benchmade 300 Axis Flipper

year-end-bic img-knives-benchmade-axisAs the first product ever to receive a perfect 100 Gear Institute Rating, the Benchmade 300 Axis Flipper bridges the gap between custom design and mass produced efficiency. Durable, easy to use, and efficient in use, the 300 Axis Flipper is the epitome of Best in Class. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 100


Best in Class—Backpacking Boots

Lowa Camino LL Flex

year-end-bic img-hiking-lowa-camino-ll-flexThe Lowa Camino LL Flex provides outstanding support and protection for heavy loads and rough territory. Our Expert tester noted that the supple leather lining comfortably cradles yours feet while the stout mid-soles protect you from rock bruising. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 90


Best in Class—Down Sleeping Bags: 15-24ºF

Therm-a-Rest Mira 15

year-end-bic img-hiking-Thermarest-Mira-15The Therm-a-Rest designers cut weight by eliminating most of the insulation in the bottom panel of the Mira. The result is a somewhat roomy down bag that proved to be among the warmest we tested, while also being the lightest. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 91


Best in Class—Daypacks

Patagonia Ascensionist 35L

year-end-bic img-hiking-Patagonia-Ascensionist-35LOur Gear Institute Expert described the Patagonia Ascensionist 35 as a “pure climbing pack” that sets a new bar for alpine pack performance. The Ascensionist excels at simplicity with outstanding comfort with minimal weight. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 91


Best in Class—Weekend Backpacks

Millet Ubic 60+10

year-end-bic img-hiking-Milet-UBIT-60-10The Millet UBIC 60+10 backpack provides great organizational features for weekend backpackers or extended mountaineering expeditions. This pack offers superior performance and comfort for long weekend adventures. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 91


Best in Class—Car Camping Tents

Ticla Mojave 4

year-end-bic img-camping-Ticla-Mojave-4The Ticla Mojave sports an open, social and well-ventilated design built with exceptionally durable and high quality materials. The tent offers great comfort and outstanding weather protection for family campers. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 90


Best in Class—Winter & Mountaineering Tents

Fjall Raven Akka Endurance 2

year-end-bic img-camping-Fjall-Rven-Akka-Endurance2The Fjall Raven Akka Endurance 2 tent proved highly durable during testing with one of the best vestibules our Experts have seen. The tunnel design with side door entry into the vestibule created outstanding weather protection in this tough tent. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 90


Best in Class—3-Person Backpacking Tents

Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 3

year-end-bic img-camping-Mountain-Hardwear-Skyledge3Our Expert tester discovered that the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 3 was not only the lightest tent in the test but also one of the burliest. While other tents flattened under a dump of slush, the Skyledge barely slouched. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 81


Best in Class—2-Person Backpacking Tents

Kelty TN 2

year-end-bic img-camping-Kelty-TN2The Kelty TN 2 offers a lot of tent for $250, with plenty of room, many useful features, solid protection and modest weight. It’s roomy yet fully stormproof. The TN 2 offers a whole lot of tent for the price. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 85


Fly Fishing

Our Fly Fishing Experts tackled angling gear for women and men in a big way in 2014. We fished waters in Colorado, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Tennessee, Mexico, British Columbia, and Belize. The Best in Class Fly Fishing products are: 

Best in Class—Anglers Wading Boots

Patagonia Ultralight Wading Boots

year-end-bic img-fishing-Patagonia-Ultralight-Wading-BootPatagonia Ultralight Wading Boots upholds the company’s reputation for quality lightweight gear. The Ultralights are comfortable, functional, and— well—light. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 86


Best in Class—Women’s Fishing Waders

Patagonia Women’s Spring River Waders

year-end-bic img-fishing-Patagonia-Spring-River-WadersThe Patagonia Women’s Spring River Waders—the brand’s first-ever pair of women’s waders—feature a perfectly dialed-in fit, and impressive features that add functionality with fuss. The Spring River Waders strike the ideal balance between performance and practicality. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 94


Best in Class—All-Purpose Fly Fishing Rods

Redington Vapen Red

year-end-bic img-fishing-Redington-Vapen-RedThe Vapen’s combination of power and accuracy puts it among the best in the class, but its synthetic grip and balance in hand make it one of the most comfortable rods our Gear Institute Experts have ever handled. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 88


Best in Class—Dry Fly Fishing Rods

Orvis Superfine Glass

year-end-bic img-fishing-Orvis-Superfne-GlassThe Superfine Glass serves as an outstanding rod for dry fly anglers, especially on small to medium sized rivers where casting distance is less vital than casting accuracy and presentation. A supple slow-action taper coupled with a firm butt section makes the Superfine Glass a top-notch dry fly tool capable of handling big fish. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 87



The Gear Institute Running Experts focused mostly on footwear, ranging from Comfort Trainers for road-running to minimalist shoes for trail running. But our team also checked out a number of great accessories. The Best in Class winners in Running catagories are:

Best in Class—Sunglasses for Runners

Rudy Project ProFlow

year-end-bic img-run-rudy-project-proflowPacked with performance-enhancing features—including defining optics, a lightweight carbon chassis, and full adjustability—the Rudy Project ProFlow earned our Expert’s respect. She dubbed the ProFlow the most performance-minded glasses in the class. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 88


Best in Class—Comfort Trainer Running Shoes

Hoka One One Huaka

year-end-bic img-run-Hoka-One-One-HuakaThe Hoka One One Huaka provided an unsurpassed cushion to weight ratio. By blending the speed of a race-day shoe with the cushioning of a trainer, the Huaka works exceptionally well for neutral runners looking to improve their personal records. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 86


Best in Class—Lightweight Trainer Running Shoes

Mizuno Hitogami

year-end-bic img-run-Mizuno-HitogamiOur Gear Institute Expert called the Hitogami “the best running shoe I’ve worn all year.” The reason? The Mizuno Hitogami hits the sweet spot between being light weight and protective. It’s a comfortable, supportive shoe ideal for long training runs. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 94


Best in Class—Comfort Trail Running Shoes

Brooks Cascadia 9

year-end-bic img-run-Brooks-Cascadia-9Dubbed the ideal general purpose trail shoe by the Gear Institute Experts, the Brooks Cascadia 9 features Best in Class comfort, protection, handling, and on-trail performance. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 87


Best in Class—Lightweight Trail Running Shoes

Montrail FluidFlex II

year-end-bic img-run-Montrail-Fluidflex-IIThe FluidFlex II thrives in a variety of conditions. The supportive upper provides for great handling on technical terrain while the shoe’s comfort and protection proved well suited for long trail days. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 90



Gear Institute Experts hit the slopes with a wide variety of skis, boots and accessories to find the top models in a host of gear categories. The Best in Class skiing products are:

Best in Class—Women’s All-Mountain Skis

Head Total Joy

year-end-bic img-ski-Head-Total-Joy-2015Head’s Total Joy knocked our Gear Experts’ socks off. Why? Because it’s so much fun to ski. Confident, quick, with a lightweight feel, it’s designed with such a perfect flex that from tip to tail you can feel grabbing the snow. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 96


Best in Class—Women’s Frontside Skis

Salomon Quartz XT12 Ti

year-end-bic img-ski-Salomon-Quartz-XT12-2015Salomon’s Quartz XT12 Ti earned rave reviews from our Gear Experts, with half of them labeling it their “favorite,” and the other half rating it either “good,” or “excellent.” The ski’s energy and responsiveness were cited as the main reason, as well as its unbreakable stability on the hardpack. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 93


Best in Class—Women’s Big Mountain Skis

Salomon Q-103 Stella

year-end-bic img-ski-Salomon-Q-103-Stella-2015The Salomon Q-103 Stella sports a huge fun factor, but most importantly, it earned our Gear Experts’ designation as a perfect quiver of one ski for all-mountain Western skiers, and also for Eastern skiers who like a slightly wider ride or want a go-to pick for any mixed snow conditions. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 96


Best in Class—Women’s Powder Skis

Armada VJJ 2.0

year-end-bic img-ski-Armada-VJJArmada’s VJJ 2.0 took our Experts by storm. Its excellent float made it a dream to surf in soft conditions, while its ease of turn initiation and sweet swing-weight meant they could make turns on demand, no matter how deep or slushy conditions got. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 91


Best in Class—Men’s Big Mountain Skis

Rossignol Soul 7

year-end-bic img-ski-Rossignol-Soul-7The easy-to-ski Rossignol Soul 7 offers a welcoming attitude that rewards lots of different styles of skiing. It also feels a little more like an all-mountain than a big mountain since it performs better while ripping lift-served than charging the powder/crud. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 93


Best in Class—Men’s Powder Skis

Rossignol Super 7

year-end-bic img-ski-Rossignol-Super-7Best in Class? Our Gear Institute Expert noted the Super 7 deserve more honors, saying, “If there is ever a Hall of Fame for powder skis, Rossignol’s Super 7 will be one of the first inductees. It is an incredibly versatile, wonderfully fun ski.” Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 95


Best in Class—Backcountry Skis

Volkl Nunataq

year-end-bic img-ski-Volkl-Nunataq-SkisThe Volkl Nunataq skis are lightweight yet stable, fat yet responsive, and fun as hell. Our Gear Expert says if he could only have one ski for the backcountry and the resort this would be it. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 94


Best in Class—Ski Skins

Dynafit Speedskins

year-end-bic img-ski-Dynafit-SpeedskinThe Dynafit Speedskin’s nylon and mohair plush blend offer the best grip and glide performance in the class. Additionally, the custom metal tail cam and rubber tip connection make using the Speedskins an easy process compared to other skins. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 91


Best in Class—Ski Backpacks

Dakine Arc 34L

year-end-bic img-ski-Dakine-Arc-34LThe Dakine Arc 34L packs serves as an all-around load hauler for everything skiers might do in a day on snow. The Arc proved to the most comfortable, stable and useful pack in the class whether skinning, booting or cramponing. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 93


Best in Class—Wearable/Helmet Cams

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition

year-end-bic img-tech-gopro-hero-3The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition offers the highest resolution on the POV cam market and the Hero’s pro-quality options keep it at the top of most cinematographers’ must-have lists. For professional filmmakers or aspiring ones, you can’t beat the images and shooting options of the GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition. Read full review here.
Gear Institute Rating 90


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