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After all but losing spring 2020 to the pandemic, retailers and consumers alike are looking for gear to get excited about in 2021. So excited, in fact, that we decided to add their votes to our ranking of next season’s top products. Together, we’ve pored over, narrowed down, and rated this year’s submissions to bring you the 50 most coveted products, ranked.
With all the supply chain disruptions and bleak sales during the pandemic, many brands and retailers are focused on selling through what’s currently in stock. So we opened up our TV50 nominations to select in-line products as well. They are indicated below with the label “Available Now.”
Breaking down the votes
How did we come up with this list? We received 359 submissions from 159 brands. Prices ranged from $2 (for a packet of energy gel) to $4,799 (for a kayak). We culled the list to the most interesting 65 products, then put these finalists out for a vote among three different user groups: our internal editorial team, a panel of retail shop owners, and consumers drawn from a group of superfans of BACKPACKER, our sister publication. Everyone voted on each product, assigning a rating from 1 (not interested) to 10 (very interested).
Here are the top picks of each voter group.
TOP PICKS FOR RETAILERS: Big Agnes TwisterCane Pad; Nemo Roamer Double Sleeping Pad
TOP PICKS FOR CONSUMERS: PrimaLoft Gold with P.U.R.E. tech; Big Agnes TwisterCane Pad and Leatherman Free T4 (tie)
TOP PICKS FOR OUR EDITORIAL TEAM: PrimaLoft Gold with P.U.R.E. tech; Big Agnes Sidewinder bag
1. PrimaLoft Gold with P.U.R.E. Tech
$199 (for Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket, insulation pictured above)
THE PROMISE: This new synthetic insulation makes
a massive dent in carbon emissions.
THE DEETS: Patagonia’s Nano Puff will be the first jacket to feature the lightweight and highly compressible PrimaLoft Gold P.U.R.E. (Produced Using Reduced Emissions), a 100 percent recycled synthetic microfiber material. The production process saves roughly half the carbon emissions by binding the synthetic fill without heat, instead using an eco-friendly treatment to cure it with air.
2. Big Agnes Twister-Cane Bio Foam Pad
THE PROMISE: This superlight pad (8 ounces) is made from sugarcane, not petroleum.
THE DEETS: For the first time, a closed-cell foam mat is made from renewable material grown with rainwater, reducing the industry’s dependence on EVA foam.
3. MSR Guardian Gravity Purifier
THE PROMISE: Get pure water in minutes without breaking a sweat.
THE DEETS: The MSR Guardian Gravity Purifier uses two stages for purification. The hollow fiber technology removes viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, while the activated carbon reduces chemicals, tastes, and odors. The result: one liter of clean water in two minutes without any pumping. Bonus: no backflushing necessary, as the integrated purge valve does the work.
4. Leatherman FreeT4
$65; Available Now
THE PROMISE: Get a multitool with true one-handed operation.
THE DEETS: Twelve tools are accessible from the outside with simple magnetic closures, an architecture that eliminates fingernail use to deploy. Everything—from the four screwdrivers to the bottle opener—fit in this compact (3.6-inch) and light (4.3-ounce) package.
5. Osprey Aether/Aerial Plus 60L Packs
THE PROMISE: This updated version of a proven winner supports even heavier loads.
THE DEETS: The Plus version of the Aether (men’s) and Ariel (women’s) features a lighter frame that carries closer to the body to better stabilize heavy loads, yet remains breathable and comfortable. The lid detaches to convert into a daypack, or just to slim down the pack for shorter trips.
6. Primus Lite+
THE PROMISE: Get a back- country stove for every kind of chef and every kind of meal.
THE DEETS: Versatility is the name of the game for the 16-ounce Lite+. It’s equally adept at quick-boiling (2:45 per half liter) and gentle simmering, plus it has a low center of gravity and even flame distribution. Bonus: includes a hanging kit.
7. Honey Stinger Protein Waffles
$27 (12 pack); Available Now
THE PROMISE: These snack waffles pack a protein punch.
THE DEETS: Now with 10 grams of protein per pack, these anytime snacks aid muscle recovery and taste like a treat. Wild Berry or Apple Cinnamon filling is sandwiched between two thin, crisp waffles. Our taste testers keep asking for more.
8. BioLite HeadLamp 750
THE PROMISE: It’s almost as bright as your car’s headlights yet weighs only 5 ounces.
THE DEETS: With six light modes, a burst option to briefly produce 750 lumens, and a 400-foot beam on max, this headlight screams safety and versatility. The battery lasts 5 hours using 500 lumens, but a full 100 hours on low, with an 8-hour reserve power mode and powerbank. Trail runners and mountaineers alike will love the constant brightness mode. Most lights using alkaline batteries dim, but the use of lithium batteries pre- vents the typical discharge curve and keeps the lumens in a steady state.
9. NEMO Roamer Double Sleeping Pad
THE PROMISE: This plush pad for two is so comfy you just might forget that you’re camping.
THE DEETS: With 4 inches of open-cell foam and an R-value of 6, this double-wide, self-inflating pad provides a deluxe mattress covered in soft, recycled polyester fabric. The included pump means speedy inflation.
10. Big Agnes Sidewinder SL
THE PROMISE: It’s the ultimate sleeping bag for side sleepers.
THE DEETS: 70 percent of us sleep on our sides and now there’s a bag built
just for us. The Sidewinder contours to a side sleeper’s position while also allowing freedom of movement for rolling over. Even the foot box is contoured to the angle of the side sleeper’s feet. Body-mapped fill (650-fill DownTek with synthetic overlays near the hips and feet) optimizes warmth.
11. Klean Kanteen Food Boxes
THE PROMISE: These reusable, super-tough containers are ideal for storing snacks.
THE DEETS: Sold as a set or in three different sizes, these dishwasher-safe, stainless-steel storage containers don’t rust, shatter, or retain flavors (like plastic containers often do). The silicone lids are leak-proof and BPA-free, and the containers are sized for trail mix, sandwiches, or a whole picnic lunch.
12. PHOOZY Apollo II
$35; Available Now
THE PROMISE: Protect your phone in the wildest environments.
THE DEETS: If anything can protect your phone from the elements, it’s NASA space suit technology. The Phoozy combines a thick EVA foam with a patent-pending chromium thermal layer and UV coating that protects the battery from dying in the cold and overheating in the sun. The case is water-resistant and protects against drops up to 8 feet.
13. POC Sports Tectal Race NFC SPIN Helmet
$250; Available Now
THE PROMISE: This helmet protects you during and after a biking accident.
THE DEETS: Thanks to a near-field communication (NFC) medical ID tag in the helmet, first responders can instantly read your medical profile via any NFC-enabled smartphone and use it to inform medical decisions when you’re unable to speak. The fully wrapped construction, combined with POC’s patent-pending SPIN (Shearing Pads Inside), silicone-injected pads, and precision straps, improves rotational impact and structural integrity, but the helmet still weighs less than 14 ounces.
14. Gregory Katmai/Kalmia 50-65L
THE PROMISE: This pack moves with your body to provide ultimate comfort.
THE DEETS: The Katmai (men’s) and Kalmia (women’s) packs feature a ventilated, suspended mesh backpanel that cradles your lower back for fit and comfort. The customizable 3D hipbelt hugs the body and decreases rubbing and hotspots.
15. Six Moon Designs Wild Owyhee 2P Tent
$600; Available Now
THE PROMISE: Even the tallest campers can sit up straight under this tarp tent.
THE DEETS: The dual-pole design affords 48 inches of headroom, and not just at the center point. Two doors and vestibules offer convenience, storage, and access. The No-See-Um mesh skirt perimeter provides full ventilation and bug protection, and of course you get complete rain protection, all for just 1 pound.
16. Patagonia Provisions Cacao + Mango Bar
$27 (12 pack); Available Now
THE PROMISE: This natural fruit bar breaks the granola bar mold.
THE DEETS: Our testers say these bars make you feel like you’re on a tropical island, thanks to the organic blend of sun-dried mangoes, cacao nibs, bananas, and almonds. The pocket-size bar delivers 140 calories.
17. Black Diamond Capitan MIPS Helmet $100
THE PROMISE: Maximum head protection doesn’t need to be hot, heavy, or uncomfortable.
THE DEETS: With a sleek, cradled fit and plentiful brain coverage, the Capitan is cool and comfortable without compromising noggin protection. The MIPS technology absorbs and redirects oblique impacts to the helmet.
18. SPOT Gen4 Satellite Messenger
THE PROMISE: This one-way communication device stands up to the roughest elements.
THE DEETS: The newest SPOT Gen4 messenger has an upgraded outer casing and water-resistant rating (IP68), plus prolonged battery performance, all for less than 4 ounces. The new mapping option stores more than 50 waypoints for tracking.
19. Cusa Coffee
$6 (7 pack); Available Now
THE PROMISE: Get gourmet coffee on the go.
THE DEETS: Cusa took the instant tea world by storm a few years ago, and now it’s jumping into the instant coffee game. For cold or hot brew, just shake or stir with water for 10 seconds to dissolve the blend. We got a sneak taste test and the verdict is thumbs up! Available in a variety of roasts and flavors.
20. Voormi Diversion Hoodie
$249; Available Now
THE PROMISE: It’s the cozy, stink-resistant hoodie you’ll reach for over all the others.
THE DEETS: This 21.5-micron merino wool jacket is reinforced with nylon fibers and finished with a DWR coating to deliver protection against the elements. Features include integrated thumbholes, a chest pocket with a headphone port, and a relaxed fit.
21. LEKI Cross Trail 3A
THE PROMISE: These poles are purpose-built for both trail running and backpacking.
THE DEETS: At just over a pound per pair, the three-section Cross Trail 3A is a light and strong aluminum-shafted pole with a glove-like grip/strap system to help runners sail down the trail or trekkers power up big climbs, all while keeping a relaxed hand.
22. HOKA One One Clifton Edge
THE PROMISE: The unique heel geometry creates a smooth impact and an un- matched gliding sensation.
THE DEETS: The newest Hoka debuts a lighter top layer of midsole foam paired with a radically extended heel section to absorb heel strike forces. The weight is just 7.2 ounces per shoe with 26mm of cushion in the heel and 21mm in the forefoot.
23. Big Agnes Goosenest Inflatable Cot
THE PROMISE: This inflatable camp cot (pictured upside down to show the structural design) gets you off the ground for comfortable snoozing and packs down small for easy transport.
THE DEETS: The perimeter tubes elevate it 8 inches off the ground and stabilize the sleeper in the middle of the cot, even on uneven ground. The antimicrobial treatments inside the chambers prevent mildew, odors, discoloration, and degradation. At less than 3 pounds, it transports easily.
24. Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort Insoles
$50; Available Now
THE PROMISE: Give your feet extra protection and comfort on the trail.
THE DEETS: This insole enhances the stability and comfort of any trail runner or boot and offers retailers a great upselling opportunity. Built with heel impact technology, shock-absorbing, dual-comfort foam, and a carbon-fiber stabilizer cap, these will turn the miles into smiles.
25. Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow
$43 – $48; Available Now
THE PROMISE: Get a better night’s sleep with this lofty but light synthetic pillow.
THE DEETS: Backpackers will hardly notice the extra 5.6 ounces, but they’ll appreciate the comfort of this 4-inch-thick baffled inflatable pillow after a long day. It comes in two sizes and is shaped to fit into the hood of a sleeping bag. The brushed polyester outer is machine washable.
26. Vasque Footwear Satoru Trail LT
THE PROMISE: This minimalist shoe protects and supports like a midweight hiker.
THE DEETS: The Satoru Trail LT strips away everything but comfort and versatility. With zero drop for a natural stride and a one-piece molded mesh upper (no overlays, stitching, or glue), it’s lightweight but protective.
27. Cotopaxi Teca Calido Hooded Jacket
THE PROMISE: A little bit casual, a little bit technical, this colorful jacket diverts scrap textile from the landfill.
THE DEETS: Made from a combination of repurposed and recycled materials, this 2-ounce insulated wind- breaker is sure to pop off the rack. It’s also reversible. One side features Cotopaxi’s signature color-blocking; the other a more subdued solid hue.
28. Matador SEG42
$190; Available Now
THE PROMISE: This load hauler combines the best features of a backpack, duffle bag, and packing cubes into one.
THE DEETS: With five zippered compartments, this 42-liter travel bag keeps you organized. Carry it like a pack or stow away the shoulder straps and use the top or side straps for duffel duty. It’s carry-on compliant and the nylon shell is durable and water resistant.
29. GSI Outdoors Lite Cast Frypan
THE PROMISE: Get cast-iron performance without the weight.
THE DEETS: Traditional cast iron fry pans are heavy, but, at 3 pounds, this thinner, 10- inch skillet is 30 percent lighter than most. The polished cooking surface prevents sticking and eases cleanup.
30. Smith Lowdown 2 CORE
$129; Available Now
THE PROMISE: Eco-conscious adventurers will wear these shades with pride.
THE DEETS: Created from recycled plastic bottles and castor oil plants, these are glasses you can feel good about. Even the microfiber bag comes from recycled single-use plastics. The polarized lenses reduce glare from sun and snow.
31. Kelty Grand Mesa
$130 (2P) / $190 (4P); Available Now
THE PROMISE: This spacious shelter won’t break your budget.
THE DEETS: Available in a two- or four-person version, this is an ideal three-season tent for entry-level backpackers. The color-coded corner pockets make setup a snap, and the large D-shaped single door and vestibule are roomy for easy entry/exit and gear storage.
32. Black Diamond Tag LT Shoe
THE PROMISE: These approach shoes are so light and packable, they can send the route with you.
THE DEETS: The Tag LTs collapse readily into a flat package no bigger than their midsole, thanks to the two- way stretch polyester upper. A carry strap binds them together and the heel loop makes them a cinch to clip to your pack or harness once you reach the crag. They weigh 15 ounces per pair.
33. Danner Trail 2650 Campo
THE PROMISE: This lightweight, breathable, and grippy low-cut hiker is built for hot, dry, and rocky terrain.
THE DEETS: The Campo’s EVA midsole provides welcome cushioning and drainage ports, while the Vibram outsole easily tackles the desert’s sandy and uneven surfaces. The mesh upper and multiple drainage ports in the toebox and heel provide airflow and breathability to beat the heat.
34. LifeStraw Go 1L
THE PROMISE: Fill, filter, and drink with this affordable, all-in-one device.
THE DEETS: The lightweight, reusable LifeStraw Go 1L bottle has an internal membrane microfilter along with a carbon filter, which combine to remove bacteria, parasites, and harmful chemicals from up to 1,000 gallons of water.
35. Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength Harness
$45; Available Now
THE PROMISE: Keep your best friend safe, both in the car and on the trail.
THE DEETS: This multitasking harness works for standard walking as well as for clipping your dog into your car’s seatbelt system for safe road tripping. With steel hardware and five points of adjustment, the harness passes crash tests designed for child restraints.
36. Helinox Incline Festival Chair
THE PROMISE: It’s the ultimate festival chair.
THE DEETS: The DAC alloy frame offers stability and support, and the sliding front feet adjust the seat angle for optimal comfort and positioning. The broad, flat contact points minimize impact on festival grounds and without legs, the 3-pound chair keeps a low profile, so you won’t block the action for people sitting behind you.
37. Merrell Moab Speed
THE PROMISE: Merrell’s best-selling shoe just lost some weight.
THE DEETS: The trail running version of this popular shoe keeps a low profile and weighs just over a pound per pair. The hybrid design tackles varied terrain with a Vibram outsole, 10mm drop, layered mesh upper, and padded collar.
38. Hydro Flask Outdoor Kitchen Collection
$20 – $75
THE PROMISE: Kitchenware that’s ready to rough it, but sleek enough for fancy backyard cookouts.
THE DEETS: Eight pieces, including utensils, bowls, and lids, nest into a tote
for easy portability. The stainless-steel construction is easy to clean and the double-wall vacuum insulation keeps foods hot or cold during travel.
39. Granite Gear Dagger 22L Pack
$100; Available Now
THE PROMISE: It’s the ideal pack for ambitious dayhikers.
THE DEETS: The Dagger utilizes Granite Gear’s arch system to anchor the frame
to the hipbelt and distribute the load evenly. The 22-liter nylon packbag fits day trip essentials inside, but the stretch side and front pockets give it a little extra capacity.
40. Deuter Future Air Trek 50 + 10L
THE PROMISE: This pack’s calling card is versatility.
THE DEETS: One pack for all: The ventilated mesh back and fit system adjusts to any body shape or size, while the detachable toplid lets you add or subtract volume. A U-shaped front zipper means you can get to any part of the pack quickly and easily. And a roomy side pocket is big enough for a hydration bladder.
41. Sierra Designs Nightcap
35°F $150 / 20°F $170
THE PROMISE: This zipperless bag is built with salvaged materials.
THE DEETS: Recycled, post-industrial fabrics that would otherwise go to waste form the 20-denier ripstop nylon shell, while the synthetic insulation is sourced from recycled water bottles. The bag has a self-sealing foot vent and an integrated pad sleeve.
42. Karukinka Tase
$329; Available Now
THE PROMISE: This will be the midlayer you reach for time and again.
THE DEETS: Combining three types of wool—alpaca, llama, and merino—into a single fabric is exciting, but comes at a high price point. All these cold-weather fibers have the overlapping benefits of wicking moisture and staying warm when wet, but the longer fibers of merino increase durability. Alpaca and llama fibers are hollow, contributing to the fast-drying and moisture-wicking performance.
43. Outside Inside Explorer Essential Kit
THE PROMISE: This kit is perfect for any kid who dreams of adventuring.
THE DEETS: Get your kids started early and safely with these essentials for exploring the great outdoors, whether it’s the backyard or the backcountry. The set includes a pair of binoculars, a legit orienteering compass, LED flashlight, a 4-in-1 whistle/thermometer, instructions, and a protective carrying pouch.
44. Bogs Footwear Kicker
THE PROMISE: Life hack for parents: These eco-friendly, closed-toed kids’ shoes are easy on, easy off, and machine washable.
THE DEETS: Kids can use and abuse these shoes, all while keeping their feet dry, sweat-free, and less stinky. The new Bloom insoles come from algae blooms, which are dried into flakes and mixed with EVA to create a comfortable footbed, while also cleaning up water habitats.
45. Moon Fab Moon Shade
$350; Available Now
THE PROMISE: Versatile attachment hardware makes it easy to create ample shade whenever and wherever you need it.
THE DEETS: This portable, 420-denier polyester awning can attach to any vehicle or door frame (with heavy-duty suction cups) or even mount to trees, fences, and railings. When deployed, there’s 9 by 7 feet of coverage with UV protection and reflective coating. At 8 pounds (including its own carrying case), it can easily go from ball games to campgrounds.
46. Odlo Active F-DRY Light Eco Sports Baselayer
THE PROMISE: This fast-dry- ing tee is ideal for serious aerobic activity.
THE DEETS: Combining polypropylene with recycled polyester, this short-sleeved baselayer has a push-pull effect to regulate body temperature and keeps you smelling like a rose. And it’s ultralight at less than half an ounce.
47. EDELRID Tommy Caldwell Eco Dry CT 9.3 Rope
THE PROMISE: It’s a rope as eco-conscious as Tommy Caldwell himself, with the first and only dry treatment that’s safer for the environment.
THE DEETS: Available in three lengths with a 9.3-mm diameter, the rope coils without tangles and has extreme abrasion resistance. The bi-color sheath makes finding the middle a cinch. And the Eco Dry 100% PFC core and sheath dry treatment are free of the fluorochemicals commonly used to provide water- and stain-resistance to climbing ropes.
48. Level Six Freya Drysuit
THE PROMISE: This women’s drysuit has a unique rear access so she can answer nature’s calls, quickly.
THE DEETS: The zipper for the rear relief area is designed to be non-irritating when paddling in a kayak, sitting on a raft, or standing up on a paddleboard—so basically comfortable all the time. The waterproof/breathable fabric is articulated for unrestricted movement, with reinforced knees and elbows for durability. The adjustable waistband system provides a precise fit.
49. MTHD Traverse Trail Run Short
THE PROMISE: These men’s shorts are built to beat friction and irritation.
THE DEETS: A stretchy, 20-denier nylon paired with an underlying Polartec Power Dry polyester built-in boxer brief grants the flexibility and breathability runners need. A Polartec NeoShell pocket keeps your phone protected from sweat even while you’re Strava-ing a full day.
KEEN Ridge Flex Mid*
THE PROMISE: These boots actually make hiking easier.
THE DEETS: KEEN says that the pliable TPU inserts at key flex points (across the forefoot and at the Achilles heel) in this midweight hiker require 60 percent less energy to bend. That saves energy and combats foot fatigue, but it also nixes break-in times and improves durability, as leather tends to break down earlier at flex points.
*This last-minute entry missed our deadline for voting but we love the innovation and suspect it would have scored well, so we’re including it here without a ranking.