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Putting together our annual summer gear guide is no easy feat. Our crew of 100+ testers start with well over a thousand products, and through careful testing, whittle down the pool to just a few hundred. The highest scoring, most innovative of these products win our editor’s choice awards. Then there are the products that may not be revolutionary on paper, but which quickly become staples in our adventure kits. Here are the nine pieces our gear editors are still obsessing over.
Thermacell Rechargeable Adventure EX-Series EX90 ($50)
As a recent New England transplant, the abundance of insect life has been a bit of an adjustment: black flies, horse flies, and what feels like the epicenter for all mosquito life on the planet. Thermacell’s portable “mosquito shield” has been nothing short of a godsend this spring. Where other types of insect deterrent devices only marginally improve the situation, the EX90 seems to keep away a significant chunk of the biting insect population. Its odorless 20-foot radius is a major improvement from the overpowering scent of citronella-soaked hotdogs during a summer cookout. Its rugged, water-resistant shell has survived getting whacked on rocks and tree branches while hanging off the back of my daypack on countless trips. The 9-hour runtime is enough for extra long evening hangs in bug-prone areas. But when you need a little extra juice, the rechargeable battery means you can use a power bank or solar panels to charge it back up during the day when the drone of bloodthirsty arthropods is a little less deafening. –Benjamin Tepler, assistant gear editor
LumeSix Alta Sports Bra ($100)
On paper, the coolest thing about this bra and its high-impact cousin, the Cirra, is that you can combine your cup size with a larger or smaller band for a dialed fit. But what makes it truly great is the polyester-elastane fabric. These are simply the lightest, fastest-drying bras I’ve ever worn, and certainly the most supportive of any bras I’ve encountered in their weight class. I’ll admit I was skeptical when I first pulled them out of their packaging. They just seemed too thin to really function in high-impact scenarios (at least for my size D chest). But, one hour into a two-hour long run with the Cirra, I realized I’d totally forgotten about it. The same thing happened when I pulled on the Alta for our four-day backpacking test trip in Panama–for me and for my 34B and 36C friends who helped test. That’s when I realized we’d stumbled onto something special. –Ariella Gintzler, associate group gear director
Big Agnes Impassable 20 ($150)
I’m typing this paragraph just before logging off for a week-long vacation. The first thing I’m going to do when I get home: pack up my Impassable 20 daypack for the plane ride tomorrow. It has all the pockets I need for staying organized in the airport (including a separate zippered laptop sleeve). But it doesn’t sacrifice technicality for city sleekness. In fact, it has all the durability and comfortable load carry I look for in a pack for small- to moderate day hikes. So once I get where I’m going, I can ditch the computer and headphones and go enjoy the trails with friends and family. It’s the ideal bag for people like me, who prize items that function really well in multiple scenarios, and thus reduce the amount of stuff in your gear closet. In the short time I’ve owned this bag, it’s worked its way into every facet of my life, from daily office commuting to weekend day hikes to bouldering sessions, and now travel. –A.G.
Giro Merit Spherical ($220)
I’ve always struggled with finding a mountain bike helmet that actually fits me and doesn’t slip down my forehead or squeeze me to the brink of a headache (my head always seems to fall right in between small and medium sizes). But the shape of Giro’s Merit Spherical helmet feels natural–it’s snug enough to always stay in place, even when dropping off larger rocks and roots, and breezy enough to keep my head cool on hot days. Further adding to the comfort, Giro’s Spherical Technology uses two MIPS-coated liners covered with a dense foam on the outside, thus avoiding the usual hard plastic right up against your head. –Kelly Klein, associate gear editor
Mammut Innominata Pro ML Jacket ($179)
This jacket is one of the coziest fleeces I’ve owned. The high pile Polartec teddy fleece is luxuriously thick and not scratchy at all. My favorite part is the super wide turtleneck collar–it’s wide enough to not touch my neck when I’m sitting upright, but when it’s cold at base camp I can bury my lower face into it for some quick warmth. The Innominata is too toasty to wear for any sweaty activities, but it’s ideal for chilly days around town or when warming up by a fire with friends at night. –K.K.
Hoka Tecton X ($200)
I could not stop wearing this Editor’s Choice-winning shoe for trail running. Everything about the Tecton X felt right. Yes, it has a pair of fancy parallel carbon strips, but it was the whole package that I was into. The dual density midsole was a fantastic combination of cushioned but still energetic; the knit jacquard upper fit like a glove but wasn’t fragile; and the four millimeter lugs were grippy in loose dirt without being too aggressive. Simply put, I felt fast and confident on everything from gravel fire roads to steep technical climbs and descents. But, at this price, I literally have to hide this shoe from myself so I don’t wear it down too fast–it’s that good. –Will Taylor, gear director
Bose SoundLink Flex ($149)
Sometimes I get frustrated by the relentless forward march of technology. When is good enough good enough? That is, except for one area: sound quality. From high-end home systems to portable speakers, speakers just keep getting better and better. And the SoundLink Flex, which won an Editor’s Choice award in our 2022 Summer Gear Guide, is the best of the latter that I’ve heard. It’s about the size of a brick and weighs 1.3 pounds, but puts out unbelievable music quality, with strong bass and clear highs. Not only that, but it’s adventure-ready: the battery lasts up to 12 hours a charge, and it’s IP67-waterproof and floats. This has been my companion for garage work, tailgate sessions, and yard chores for months and it still looks and sounds brand new. –W.T.
Ignik FireCan Stove ($200)
Unfortunately, the future of camping will involve more and more fire bans. That’s why my family is excited to have an Ignik Firecan in our arsenal: when restrictions prevent you from having a real fire, this canister still delivers. All you need is a propane tank and you can be roasting marshmallows in a minute. It doesn’t put out a ton of heat (though it is enough to warm three-to-five people), but I think of it as more of an ambience tool–sitting around any flame is better than no fire. Plus, it’s easy to pack: the legs fold in, the line goes inside, the top goes on, and you’re left with a 15-by-7-inch box, so there’s not reason not to pack it on every car-based adventure. –W.T.
Tracksmith New England Overshirt ($198)
This wool-nylon-cotton piece was one of my go-to layers throughout last winter. It’s a great weight to wear over a t-shirt in crisp weather or under a shell or puffy when it gets colder. It looks more than classy enough for office wear (at least at Outside) but I wasn’t afraid to wear it to bike commute, run, or snowboard. And, it has two things that are not necessary but I really, really love: hand pockets and snap buttons. Game over. –W.T.
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