Gear Institute’s Experts tested nearly 400 pieces of gear in 2014. We’ve shared with you the Best in Class Winners already, but here’s the team’s picks for Best Value products.
These skins aren’t as light as the 100 percent mohair models on the market, but the G3 performed admirably enough in the field to earn a rating of 93 outta 100–and its relatively humble $150 retail price easily qualified it for our coveted Best Value rating. Give that the skins are entirely user-assembled means that they’ll fit any ski, and the smart tip clip and tail cam designs performed better than some of its higher-priced rivals. Expect some grip issues on really hard-packed tracks or on particularly cold, Polar Vortex-type days.
The PF 3’s status on this Best Value round up may be traced back to the fact it’s only available in two sizes. Otherwise the helmet scored only two points less than the Best in Class helmet, the Giro Aeon–and you can find the Uvex for about $100 less than the Giro. Our tester admired the PF 3’s neutral styling, solid venting, and its overall compact form, but the silicone grippers were a bit uncomfortable and if you don’t fit into the fitting sweet spot, you may be SOL.
With a suggested retail of only $30, backpacks don’t get much less expensive. As you’d expect, the Sinder 15 keeps things basic, with vented shoulder straps, an integrated hydration sleeve, and an awkward draw-cord closure for the main opening. And at only 6.5 ounces the barebones pack is incredibly light–one of its best features.
You may want the Do Flow shades based on their hip styling alone. These simple shades are a great go-to for all variety of outdoor action, from running to cycling to hiking to hitting the town (which, yes, can be an active pursuit). The venting above at the top of the lenses is subtle and the wrapped style offers good coverage, but our tester noted that the Grilamid frame material felt slightly stiff.
Not only does this shoe meet all the key criteria for a high-performance minimalist running shoe, it also does so at a considerably lower price tag than the rest. It nails the desired balance between comfort and ground feel, but some may find the shoes has a slightly gappy fit in the midfoot; 7mm of EVA padding should help ground impact, however.
The already low-priced Blanco Keylock can be found now for half of its $14 suggested MSRP, a killer deal for intro climbers looking to start building their rack. The carabineer gates snap close quickly and rubber retainers stitched into the runner keeps the ‘biner in place, but the thin dogbone runner may be tough to grab when making desperate clips on sporting routes.
Designed as an entry-level harness, the Momentum keeps things refreshingly simple–described by our tester as a “comfortable, breathable harness for hanging and climbing.” The speed buckles work admirably, and the wide leg loops and overall composition delivered great comfort. The only downside–the smaller-than-average gear loops–may not be a limiting factor, especially if this is your first harness.
The Power Nano’s durability, performance in wid, and a fast boil time of 2:28 truly impressed Craig Rowe. And while it may be heavier than some of its competitors, with miniature stoves, weight advantage is largely a nominal consideration. Besides, with a MSRP of only $35, the extra ounce or two may be easy to justify.
If you typically encounter temps below 20 degrees, go for a warmer pack. But for those who sleep in at/near-freezing and warmer conditions, the Boot Jack is one of the most affordable down-insulated packs on the market. The comfortable hood and upper body sections keep things cozy, and the bag proved durable when put against rocky river banks and sandy beaches.
This aptly named, deep yellow fiberglass rod boasts a slick, smooth casting action and soft presentation on the water. As you’d expect, it’s slightly heavier than the graphite rods in our testing, but it rises above it’s lighter brothers in overall functionality–and with a retail price of $250 it also wins.
“Korkers OmniTrax Interchangeable Sole System”–a mouthful of tech-speak, and also the key feature that separates the Buckskin from its competitors. The feature lets you easily swap out the outer sole to match the tread with specific river conditions, which means for $130 you get a wading boot that can handle a variety of water and terrain without the cost of multiple boots. It was also one of the lightest we tested (both out of the the box and when fully soaked).
In the crowded category of high-end knives (the only product to receive two perfect 100-point scores) the Gerber still performed admirably, with 92 points after extensive testing. Designed with survival in mind, the knife cuts an attractive profile, with a non-slip rubber handle and hammer-proof durability. But the blade does lose its edge quickly, and the sheath loop gave out after the first two weeks in the field.