The new year is almost here! Let’s look back at some of the best outdoor adventure gear our editors saw in 2022.
It’s that time again! As 2022 zaps past us into the rearview, our annual Gear of the Year list is finally complete. We’ve reflected, we’ve discussed and debated, and we’ve distilled the vast catalog of gear our editors saw this year down to the very best.
These picks don’t just represent our favorites, though. They represent the most innovative designs, the coolest tech, the highest sustainability, and the most creative engineering the outdoor industry brought us in 2022. These products were chosen because they’re breaking ground — because they’re bringing something new to the table.
And above all, they were chosen because they make outdoor adventures that much more enjoyable.
Considering the vast amount of gear our GearJunkie editors and writers have tested over the last 12 months, not everything we wanted to include made the cut. But this is the cream of the crop.
So, let’s dive in!
GearJunkie Gear of the Year 2022
While such services have long been available with Garmin, SPOT, and other devices, baking them into iOS products adds an unprecedented amount of coverage and accessibility. Especially among folks who might otherwise not know about such emergency services.
By partnering with Globalstar, Apple can access low-Earth orbiting satellites automatically when a user tries to connect to an emergency responder without a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. A few quick questions help pinpoint the nature and severity of the emergency. That is then relayed to local first responders along with the user’s location coordinates.
The system is still in its infancy for Apple (and its users). But it promises to vastly improve the number of people who can access an emergency responder when out of cellular range.
With the explosion of backcountry skiing’s popularity, hybrid ski boots have been popping up all over the place. Boots like the Tecnica Cochise Pro W and Atomic Hawx Prime XTD give downhill skiers a powerful, performance-oriented boot that can also tour uphill. But oftentimes, you sacrifice downhill performance for a lighter weight or vice versa.
Not so with the SCARPA 4-Quattro XT Ski Boots. These hybrid AT/downhill boots are about as close to a “do-it-all” backcountry and resort ski boot, as our tester has found. It comes in a 130-flex XT version, 120-flex SL, 115-flex women’s XT, and 100-flex women’s SL. So you can “choose your adventure for the day without needing to swap boots.”
For touring, it allows ankle range of motion up to 61 degrees. That is sufficient for most situations and, indeed, better than even the touring-dedicated boots of 5 or 6 years ago. And on the downhill, the boot drives the ski like a champ. Expert skiers will appreciate how stiff the boot is, allowing for better control and more aggressive skiing.
Then when you’re ready for the uphill, simply switch the boots to walk mode, clip the toe pins into your bindings, and you’re touring. As far as hybrid boots go, this one gets about as close to the “best of both worlds” as any ski boot yet.
Shimano brought electronic shifting to its third-tier group in 2022, announcing 105 Di2 this past summer. This follows on the heels of SRAM doing the same thing in 2021 with their eTap going on the Rival groupset.
Shimano 105 Di2 shares core attributes with its pinnacle groupsets. The 12-speed with a central battery and hydraulic disc brakes can bring the latest technology to lower-tiered bikes. The 105 Di2 significantly lowers the financial barrier of Shimano’s semi-wireless shifting, which has been solely in the realm of high-end road bikes.
Shimano’s flagship Dura-Ace Di2 is commonly found on bikes at or near five-figure price tags. But even its Ultegra Di2 graces bikes that can cost $9,000. And yes, the 105 Di2 is specified on bikes that cost over $7,000. But a quick search reveals OEM road and gravel bicycles with Shimano Di2 for around $3,000.
It’s still a lot of money. But an OEM bicycle with electronic shifting and hydraulic disc brakes for around $3,000 seemed unlikely when the only options were the Shimano Dura-Ace and SRAM Red. And if the trend continues (which we certainly hope it does) we may see bikes with electronic shifting become much more affordable.
Yes, the entire collection. How does an entire line of hunting clothing qualify for best Gear of the Year? Well, several reasons.
The first is entirely on principle: KUIU has long been known to make high-performing hunting gear specifically for athletic men. You had to fit its mold to wear its apparel. This change of stance toward recognizing that there are badass women hunters who need badass hunting gear is one to admire, regardless of the history.
The second is simple: KUIU did it right. Every piece is designed with fit and function in mind, our tester found. The pants fit as if they’re tailored (as long as you aren’t insanely tall), which is difficult for a women’s line. The jackets have just the right amount of tapering to allow for full movement. The pieces are rugged where they need to be and comfortable where they need to be.
The third reason is that they pass the “day off” gear test.
With a pile of women’s hunting gear from every known brand, from low cost to the most expensive gear on the market, what were the pieces our testers grabbed on their days off this year? When they headed into the mountains for their own hunts on the weekends, what pants did they grab? What jacket did they grab when no one was looking?
For 2022, it was KUIU.
Do you want a large family camping tent to sleep four (or more)? Do you value a very large awning space in which to stand, cook, and sit with your family during bad weather? Are you considering a small wall tent for a hunting base camp but would also use it for car camping with the family?
If your answers to any of those questions were yes, then you should take a serious look at the Wonderland X tent. REI’s self-described “hub of basecamp fun” is a huge outdoor haven. With a footprint of 9 x 13 feet, and a vestibule height of 75 inches, it’s one of the largest car camping tents our tester had ever reviewed. It’s also one of the stoutest and most sturdy — holding up well against gnarly Colorado winds.
The large, barn-shaped, freestanding rainfly is erected first. Then a slightly smaller mesh/floor tent is hung inside of that. Once you get the hang of it, setup is easy and fairly time-efficient.
The Wonderland X sleeps four people very comfortably. And the vestibule is large enough that you could back the tailgate of a full-sized pickup truck into it. That’s great for cooking, storing gear, or relaxing in camp chairs with friends, drinks in hand, protected from the elements.
Having the lightest anything is impressive for a brand. But when it comes to the competitive and quickly growing market of inflatable paddleboards, this is especially so.
At Outdoor Retailer this past summer, then in September via Kickstarter, packraft brand Kokopelli took a stab at having not just the lightest but also the most packable (and also still good quality) SUP. One that could pack down to the size of a tiny sleeping bag and that could easily be carried on your back. But also one that still performed great on the water.
Well, Kokopelli’s invention finally arrived. And after being thoroughly tested by our staff over the course of several months, we’ve determined its board is nothing short of amazing, in craft and ingenuity.
The Chasm-Lite SUP lived up to its claims of being ultralight, ultra-packable, able to handle the weight limit and various conditions, and of course, a heck of a lot of fun.
The 10-foot-long board (inflatable SUPs are typically 10 feet; 10 feet, 6 inches; or 11 feet in length) has a 290L volume and a weight capacity of 250 pounds. And, it weighs under 13 pounds.
More impressively, the full kit (paddle, pump, repair kit, leash, and bag) weighs under 18 pounds; most inflatable SUPs (just the board, mind you) on market now weigh more than that.
After our fall test, our tester couldn’t have been more pleased with how the Chasm-Lite SUP performed. We look forward to paddling on it many more times into the new year.
Just when we were getting used to the truly wireless, Bluetooth earphone revolution, adidas headphones upped the ante once more.
With the launch of the RPT-02 SOL (not the greatest naming convention), users can now listen to their favorite audio, cord-free, and actually have their battery life go up while in use.
It sounds like alchemy. But adidas’s Powerfoyle technology can, with the right conditions, charge up its battery from the sun while playing audio. We’ve been trying them for months and can attest that plugging in is almost a thing of the past.
They’re not perfect for every occasion — the on-ear design is good, but not great for serious outdoor activity. But they’re head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to innovation and functionality.
Do we really need another “smart” device? The Revo Sonic 1 sunglasses prove that we just might. After testing these shades in various conditions, we realized that this might be one of the most convenient smart devices for an active lifestyle.
With directional audio, you can listen to your favorite playlist or podcast while hiking without anyone else being annoyed by your portable speaker and while still being able to hear your surroundings.
With a tap, you can answer a call without pulling your phone out of your waders on the river. A few taps access Siri, allowing you to make calls, get a weather forecast, or get directions to the next trailhead. Touch-sensitive volume controls on the arms of the Revo Sonic 1 shades allow you to have complete control without having to hold your phone in your hands.
All of this — with the benefit of top-notch eye protection.
It just makes sense. Why not put your smart device in your shades? Are there drawbacks? Sure, but they’re minor. With this being the first iteration, there aren’t multiple frame options for different-sized faces or nose shapes. That will likely come in time. We added nose pads to ours to keep them from slipping on the river. You may or may not have the same issue.
What our tester said: “I rolled my eyes at the initial idea of another smart device until I had them on the water for the day. Answering a call on a smartwatch is annoying. Blaring my music from my phone is just disruptive. I could listen to my music without anyone else hearing it and still be aware of my surroundings. I even answered a call that I was waiting for without pausing my cast. A few little tweaks, and these are just about perfect.”
A safe, reliable, easily dispensed supply of water when you’re out car camping is a luxury. Standard water jugs are nice and do the trick, but they don’t have a threading system to seamlessly attach water filters or electronic faucet accessories — unlike Dometic’s GO Hydration Water System.
This system made it onto our “Best in Show” roundup from the Overland Expo West this year. It impressed us so much, we decided it was also worthy of the Gear of the Year list.
The GO Water system is made from durable, BPA-free, food-grade LDPE. The jug has an 11L capacity and is half the size of the standard Jerry Can, making it extremely compatible for storage. A nylon handle and a spigot make for easy, controlled pouring.
Attach the battery-powered Dometic GO Hydration Water Faucet, and the jug essentially becomes a kitchen sink: The GO Hydration System. One touch and you’ve got running water on the go (hence the name). The Faucet is made to connect to the Dometic GO jug. But it also comes with a puck and magnetic base to attach to other containers.
There are a lot of trail running shoes out there, but there is only one that’s the “world’s first seamless and lightest trail shoe.” And that would be the Norda 001 RZ Dyneema.
Not only did the product engineers from Norda figure out how to weave the entire upper out of a single piece of Bio-Dyneema, but they also included an airy, light midsole infused with a Vibram and Ortholite insole.
Just like regular Dyneema, Bio-Dyneema is 15 times stronger than steel at the same weight. It’s also extremely durable against abrasions and tears.
Unlike regular Dyneema, however, Bio-Dyneema is a bio-based ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene fiber sourced from renewable, bio-based feedstock. This is what Norda used to create the 001 RZ’s seamless, single-piece upper.
The midsole is responsive and light for rough trails. It’s infused with Vibram SLE, which is one of the lightest and highest-performance midsole materials out there. That balances both softness underfoot with a sure-footed grip.
Our tester concluded: “Trail runners, multisport adventurers, ultrarunners, and recreational runners alike will fall in love with these renewably sourced, extra tough, extremely light, ultra-grippy, and comfortable shoes.”
This year Eddie Bauer launched an innovative bib and jacket kit, specifically designed for adaptive skiers. Designed in collaboration with Trevor Kennison — the first adaptive skier to hit X Games 15-foot big air with a 70-foot gap — this kit is the first of its kind from Eddie Bauer.
The bibs are designed with extra insulation in the seat, hips, and back of the legs. And the silhouette is shaped to reduce bunchy, excess fabric when the skier is seated. Buckles on the shoulder straps adjust for the skier’s torso length, and a three-way zipper allows for easy access to the lower parts of the bib.
The bibs also have no seams on the back, so they articulate with the shape of a sit-ski bucket perfectly. A heavily articulated stretch panel at the back of the bibs’ knees allows for full extension of the skier’s legs. And the bibs have increased back coverage, with the back fabric wrapping over the shoulders.
Few brands offer apparel options for adaptive skiers, and fewer still make apparel specifically designed for them. Eddie Bauer’s Flyline kit isn’t just an innovative design, it’s a step toward making the sport more accessible for everyone. All of this qualified the Flyline kit both for a GearJunkie “Best in Show” award from Winter Outdoor Retailer 2022 and a Gear of the Year award.