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Backpacker has faced its share of challenges over decades of gear testing. Its editors and testers have hiked through soul-crushingly bad weather, lost tents to the wind, sustained an injury or two, and peered into hypothermia. “But we’d take that any day over the hurdles we faced this past year,” said Editorial Director Shannon Davis.”Like everyone, we navigated the bleak reality of a pandemic preventing us from gathering together, and even closing many public lands. And then, in the west, historic wildfires.” Still, the staff adapted its testing process and forged ahead to suss out 2021’s best new gear.
Backpacker’s editors and field scouts tested gear, often on solo trips, to determine its list of the year’s finest products. Then in late October (after negative Covid tests!), a small team led by Davis and gear editor Eli Bernstein took those nominees into the canyon country of southwest Colorado to separate the real deals from the rest. At the end of the trip, nine Editors’ Choice Award winners stood above the field; each had proven again and again their innovation and worth to hikers in the backcountry, no matter the challenges ahead.
Backpacker Spring 2021 Editors’ Choice Award Winners
Sea to Summit Telos TR2: A cutting-edge design and smart features make this shelter an ultralight palace.
MSR Guardian Gravity Purifier: All of the drinking-water safety of the original Guardian, with none of the hard work.
Sierra Designs Get Down 20°F: The best price out there for a three-season, workhorse down sleeping bag.
Good To-Go Chicken Pho: A delicious dish bursting with flavors rarely tasted in the backcountry.
Outly: This free, all-in-one app makes it easy for hikers and roadtrippers to find nearby campsites—no matter where you are.
Big Agnes Sidewinder SL 20°F: Side-sleepers rejoice: There’s finally a sleeping bag made specifically for you.
NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair: Any piece of camp furniture this relaxing and under two pounds is a winner.
Editors’ Choice Gold Award Winners
Osprey Aether 55/Ariel 55: A longtime-favorite pack somehow gets even more comfortable under big loads, with smart design updates to boot.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL Hooded Down Jacket: The lightest full-featured puffy on the market gets even lighter, with typically impressive results.