Bushfires, politics, protests and COVID-19. In a year like no other, product designers could have easily deferred, pushing notable new releases to 2021.
Product innovation and refinement are alive and well, though they may have looked a little different this year. From hand sanitizer to face masks, many of the year's best new products arrived refreshingly free of hype, solving problems without great fanfare. Then again, after years of waiting, we also received new flagship gaming systems, Rolexes, Land Rover Defenders and the fastest shoe to ever run a marathon.
All that and more in this year's GP100 — a.k.a. the 100 best new products of 2020.
So much of the hype around the next big tech release is what it does, but 2020 has been a year of innovations in how it gets done. Whether it's a next-gen console that is equal parts subscription service and hardware, an inbox that forces you to read your email differently, or a phone that packs flagship silicon into an old-school body at an affordable price, this year proved that sometimes you don't actually need a Next Big Thing, but rather, just a Better Last Big Thing.
Microsoft Surface Duo
Foldability: A full 360 degrees
Up until now, Microsoft's stabs at smartphone relevance have been best forgotten. Windows 10? Colorful, but ultimately inconsequential. Microsoft Kin? Honestly, don't even bother to Google it. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect the Surface Duo to succumb to the same fate. Except that everything is different this time.
Microsoft's flagship two-screen phone is the product of two long-term projects. On the software side, it's the pinnacle of Microsoft's long undertaking to abandon making its own mobile operating system and instead integrate its suite of various services — Word, Outlook, OneNote — seamlessly into Google's Android. On the hardware side, it's the culmination of the hard-fought journey to produce a line of Microsoft-made computers that rival Apple in fit and finish and fit Windows 10 into a slick and distinct physical form.
The result? Well, it's certainly a little janky. The Duo is on the bleeding edge of dual-screen Android technology. At launch, the experience was jagged. But fixes are obviously en route. The subpar camera and lack of 5G, however, can’t quite be patched, resulting in a $1,400 package that is certainly not ready for mass-market appeal at that sky-high price point.
As for the foundation? Superb. The Surface line’s engineering excellence lets the Duo’s no-nonsense hinges run circles around the most futuristic (and fragile) folding displays. It’s utter lack of an external screen, in addition to vindicating wrist-watch wearers everywhere, creates a bold barrier between using your phone and no — perhaps the best feature it could borrow from its laptop brethren.
The Surface Duo may be far from perfect, but it is certainly outstanding and hands-down the most exciting development in telephone technology all year.
Canon EOS r5
Sensor Size: Full frame, 45 megapixels
Top Video Quality: 8K RAW at 29.97 fps
The Canon EOS R5 had a lot to live up to, not only because it took the mantle of the apparently defunct 5D line, but because Canon itself spent ages upping the ante with a series of breathless teaser announcements in the run-up to a final release. In the flesh, it doesn't quite live up to the impossibly high expectations Canon itself did little to tamp down, but how could it? Nevertheless, the result is still an astounding best-in-class full-frame mirrorless camera that has clobbered the competitors.
As a stills camera, the R5 is unmatched. It's new 45-megapixel full-frame sensor captures stunningly high-quality, high-resolution stills at speeds of up to 20 frames per second, with awesome autofocus and excellent ergonomics. The guinea pig for Canon's new in-body image stabilization, the R5 can offer up to eight stops of stabilization under optimal circumstances and with compatible lenses. We're talking acceptable handheld exposures at two seconds, if your hands are steady.
Yes, the R5 can record in stunning 8K, as heavily hyped, though with some strings attached: prone to overheating in certain conditions, the R5’s 8K mode comes with warnings and safeguards that can require considerable cool-down times between bouts. This makes the R5 a technically capable powerhouse for everyday videographers but potentially impractical for longer shots.
But even with its flaws, the EOS R5 is a remarkable accomplishment from Canon, and a leap forward in its mirrorless technology. It proves that while the diehards may miss its flagship full-frame DSLRs, they're not for want of alternatives.
Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro
Attachment Mechanism: Magnets
Available Sizes: 11-inch and 12.9-inch
Whether or not you can, or should, attempt to replace the laptop in your life with an iPad is a field of open debate, one that has been raging for as long as the iPad has been around. A decade ago, in 2010, Steve Jobs asserted that it can't and shouldn't; instead it represented "a third category of device [from] a laptop or a smartphone, otherwise it has no reason for being."
But a lot can change in the space of a decade, yes, even Apple orthodoxy. The Magic Keyboard for iPad does not instantly transform a tablet into a laptop, but it does stand as a suggestion from Apple itself that you would not be off-base to use both devices for a lot of the same things.
At $299, it is an absurdly pricey peripheral, but characteristically better made than the vast majority of less expensive alternatives. Its scissor-switch keyboard is evocative of the MacBook’s before Apple's butterfly-switch snafu. Its trackpad, while miniscule compared to an actual MacBook, bridges the majority of the gap between tablet and laptop, bringing the classic cursor into a world previously designed so exclusively for fat fingers.
It's a package that brings the already beefy iPad Pro into quite close contention with MacBooks, though a software gulf still remains. iPads, now with their own specific operating system, stake out an explicit, but blurry, middle ground between the devices that sit on either flank.
While fantastic in the present, the Magic Keyboard is also something of an oracle, gesturing at a future that's already arriving. Apple's endeavor to replace its MacBooks' Intel chips with the same homemade Apple silicon already found in iPhones and iPads is set to bring all of Apple's various devices into an even tighter orbit. The Magic Keyboard is a glimpse of what that future looks like.
Xbox Series S & Series X
Optical Disk Drive: Series X only
Base Storage: 512GB (Series S), 1TB (Series X)
Xbox All Access Savings: $60 (Series S), $20 (Series X)
Price: $25+ per month
You could spend a lot of time poring over the specs of the two new Xboxes, which Microsoft has been teasing for the better part of a year. The higher-grade Series X commands 12 teraflops of graphics-processing power and 16 GB of RAM, guts enough to push a 4K screen full of pixels at 60 frames per second. The more affordable Series S, meanwhile, designed to run HD graphics at up to 120 fps, sports the same 8-core 3.6 GHz processor as its bigger brother.
But the real talking point is how you can buy them — and no, we're not talking about the fact that the Series S runs $100 cheaper than the all-digital PS5, neither of which sports a physical disk drive. Because, you see, the up-front price war is a distraction. The real game-changing appeal of the new Xbox breed is the subscription.
Through what Microsoft is calling "Xbox All Access," the $300 Series S and $500 Series X are available for $25 and $35 per month paid over two years, respectively, as a package that also includes 24 months of the incredible Game Pass Ultimate (Microsoft's subscription service that includes a virtual library of on-demand games that is 100s deep and will include bombshell next-gen releases like Halo Infinite on the first day they come out). At the end of two years, the boxes are yours to keep, and this is no rent-to-own situation where you pay a premium in interest: Xbox All Access is actually slightly cheaper than buying the hardware upfront and subscribing to two years of Game Pass.
Of course, diehards might chafe at the notion of not actually owning games, which is absolutely fair. But this all-you-can-game subscription buffet isn't aimed at the hardest core. By blunting the age-old up-front cost and appealing directly to dabblers, the new Xboxes are targeting a whole new demographic and bringing the highs of the next gen to a wider audience than anyone else is.
Apple iPhone SE
Wireless Charging: Yes
Display Size: 4.7-inch
Base Storage: 64 GB
The 2016 iPhone SE was a big hit—though it seemed like a one-time deal for Apple to make use of some spare components. But the 2020 iPhone SE appears to cement Apple's commitment to the excellent value of the SE brand, in a different and larger shape. It sports some now-antiquated features, like a Home button, and a less-than-incredible screen. But the 2020 iPhone SE is startlingly competent in other respects: it's kitted out with the same A13 Bionic processor as the iPhone 11 and a terrific camera, adding up to a great bargain that brings iOS into reach for a whole new tier of user — hopefully for good.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Operating System: Windows 10
Disk Space Required: 150 GB
Example Aircrafts: Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, Airbus A320neo, Cessna 172 Skyhawk
Price: $60+ (or free with Xbox Game Pass)
It may have been a bad year for travel in the real world, but it was an excellent time to take a flight in cyberspace. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is the first plane-flying simulator from the software giant since 2012, and it sports highly detailed, real-world terrain pulled in from Bing Maps. Sure, the topography can be a little glitchy in places, and those enormous map sizes demand great internet and a beefy gaming rig for top performance, but hopping in a Cessna and flying off to literally anywhere is one of the year's great joys.
Nomad Base Station Pro
Charging Standard: Qi
Compatibility: Works with iPhone, AirPods, Galaxy S10 and S20
Capacity: Charges 3 devices at once
With the Base Station Pro, Nomad has accomplished something few brands dare to dream of: succeeding where Apple failed. This hefty leather-and-metal wireless charger is more than a pretty face, it's the futuristic, frictionless wireless-charging future Apple's ill-fated AirPower never delivered. Able to charge three devices placed any which way across its entire surface, the Base Station Pro builds on the well-established charging technology in a way that could scale to entire desk and table surfaces. For now, the single pad is magical in its own right — if you can afford it.
Contrast Zones: Up to 240
Smart TV Brains: Roku
Bonus: Dolby Atmos support
The latest and greatest 8K OLED TVs are fun to ogle, but they're not the ones that end up in your living room. The best innovation in TV tech is one that has trickled all the way down, which is what makes TCL's 6-Series so notable. This mid-range line, which was already punching above its weight class, this year inherited the mini-LED display technology of its more premium forebears, gaining improved brightness and contrast with no increase in price. It's a combo that makes this affordable line of 4K TVs a no-brainer purchase and an ever better deal.
Free Trial: 14 days
App Support: Android, iOS
Revenue from Selling Your Data: $0
Price: $99 per year
Email is a nightmare, as anyone with an inbox can attest, but Hey might just be the light at the end of the tunnel. Unlike Google's algorithmic fixes with Inbox and automatic filtering, Hey forces you to approve or reject every single new sender, manually curating your inbox down to just the important stuff and banishing the rest to the void. It's not free — domains start at $99 per year — but with a price tag that doesn't force Hey to snoop and sell your data, the service could easily carve itself a nice niche among legions of as-yet-unsatisfied senders.
Belkin Wemo WiFi Smart Plug
Voice Compatibility: Alexa, Google Home, Siri
Power Capacity: 1800 Watts
Dimensions: 2.05 x 1.81 x 1.34 inches
The best smart-home gadget is the one you only think about when you’re taking it out of the box. With a tiny profile that won’t block adjacent outlets, compatibility with all three major smart-home ecosystems and a slick multi-platform app, Belkin’s Wemo WiFi Smart Plug has everything you need and nothing you don’t. And like any great appliance, it does an excellent job of immediately fading into your daily life. In fact, you’ll barely even remember to appreciate it.
Great sound quality isn't as simple as blasting sound waves directly into your ears, and 2020's best audio products take innovative approaches to delivery. From Sonos's standard-setting surround-sound soundbar to new noise-canceling tech from Bose, Sony and even Samsung, there are more ways than ever to treat your ears to everything you want to reach them.
Design: 5.0-channel soundbar w/ Dolby Atmos surround sound
Drivers: 8 woofers, 3 tweeters
Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, AirPlay 2
Sonos released its previous flagship soundbar, the Playbar, back in 2012 and kept it around as a cornerstone of its speaker lineup for the following eight years. Sure, it released the Beam, a smaller "smart" soundbar, in 2018. But by 2020, the Playbar was long overdue to be replaced by a transformative successor. And that is exactly what we have in the Sonos Arc.
The Arc has a completely different vibe than the Playbar, which will now start its stroll towards end-of-life. The Arc looks like the future. It has an all-new industrial design complete with a 270-degree grill and 76,000 holes punctured throughout. It also adopts many of the best features of the Beam, including built-in microphones for voice commands (compatible with either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant), support for AirPlay 2 and a single HDMI connection for easy installation.
Most importantly, the Arc is the first Sonos soundbar to support Dolby Atmos, the latest in at-home surround-sound technology and arguably a must-have for all soundbars and home theater systems in 2020. With virtual height channels to make movies and shows sound more immersive, the Arc will let you hear planes flying over your head or birds chirping to your left and right — all while watching TV and sitting on your couch. It’s an excellent, standard-setting upgrade for your home theater.
Battery Life: Up to 30 hours
Companion App: Sony Headphone Connect
Frequency Response: 4 Hz-40,000 Hz
For years, Sony and Bose have been taking turns wearing the crown as king of noise-canceling headphones, and last year the victory was Bose’s with the Headphones 700. But there’s no rest at the top. The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, emerging after months and months of rumors, have lived up to their hype, taking their rightful place as the best noise-canceling headphones out there — for now.
Sony didn't exactly reinvent the wheel with the WH-1000XM4s. In fact, they look virtually identical to their 2018 predecessor. But that doesn’t mean they haven't improved. Slightly larger earpads and a tweaked headband with a slimmer head cushion are subtle alterations that make the WH-1000XM4s exceedingly comfortable. But where the WH-1000XM4s really excel is in their improved noise-canceling ability, sound quality and features list, making them a joy to wear and absolutely best-in-class.
With improved internals, the WH-1000XM4s are just stellar at canceling out human voices, like from your noisy coworker (or these days, more likely your partner or roommate). And like their predecessors, they are still simply the best at canceling out lower frequencies, like from a car, train or plane, if you happen to be traveling. Thanks to added smarts, the Sony WH-1000XM4s are also now intelligent enough to listen to your surroundings, and they'll automatically tweak the noise-canceling settings so that the music sounds best.
Sony's bread and butter with its headphones has always been the features list, and the WH-1000XM4s don’t skimp. They have a new Speak-to-Chat feature that automatically pauses the music when you start talking. There's a new proximity that will play/pause the music when you take headphones on and off. And, maybe most importantly, they can pair via Bluetooth to two devices at once. It all adds up to a pair of headphones that are truly top-of-the-line.
JBL L82 Classic
Design: 2-way loudspeaker
Tweeter: 1-inch titanium dome tweeter
Woofer: 8-inch white cone woofer
The JBL L100 Century loudspeakers are among the best-selling and most iconic loudspeakers of all time. First introduced in 1970, they were effectively a consumer version of JBL's legendary 4310 studio monitors used in many well-known recording studios at the time. Fast forward to 2018 and JBL released the L100 Classic, pumping new life and 40 years of speaker innovation into a legendary design that audiophiles adored. With this year’s L82 Classic, however, JBL has found a way to share the love with a wider variety of fans.
The JBL L82 Classic is effectively a smaller, more affordable version of the L100 Classic, available at roughly half the price: $2,500 a pair. Despite the discount, they’re still hefty beasts that pack a serious punch. Each speaker weighs almost 14 pounds and is 18 inches tall — much bigger than traditional bookshelf speakers. As far as sound quality, the JBL L82 Classic delivers the accurate, dynamic and powerful sound you'd expect from a legendary speaker. Each speaker has the same tweeter found in the L100 Classic and a smaller 8-inch woofer; the L100 Classic has a 12-inch woofer and a dedicated midrange driver.
But it’s the looks that seal the deal. The L82 Classic is a dead ringer for the L-100 Classic with the same vintage design, wooden cabinets and what are arguably the most conspicuous speaker grills ever made, available in blue, black or orange.
The JBL L82 Classic won't be for everybody. They require a big room and a powerful amplifier. But if those aren't deal breakers and you're looking for loudspeakers with unmatched retro flair, the JBL L82 Classic is about as cool as it gets.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Battery life: 6 hours with noise-cancelling (21 total hours with case)
Companion app: Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable (on Android) or Galaxy Buds (on iOS)
Water Resistance: IPX2
There is absolutely no shortage of wireless earbuds these days, with virtually every audio company throwing its hat into the ring. Samsung introduced three pairs this year. The Galaxy Buds and the Galaxy Buds+ are improved versions of their previous standard fare. Then there's the Galaxy Buds Live, which are a total breath of fresh air.
In the evermore crowded field, the Galaxy Buds Live are utterly unique. They have no stem like Apple's AirPods and no noise-isolating tips like so many other competitors. Their strange and unusual kidney-bean shape is almost comical at first glance, but the Galaxy Buds Live are no slouch.
Even with their open design, the Galaxy Buds Live boast active noise-cancellation — something none of Samsung's other wireless earbuds have — which is really effective at canceling low-end frequencies. Plus, they feature great battery life and good sound quality.
Samsung is no stranger to innovative designs, but most of them, like its folding smartphones, are wildly expensive. The Galaxy Buds Live buck this trend. Coming in at well under $200, significantly cheaper than competitors like the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3, they’re a great buy as well as a refreshing design.
NAD Masters M33
Power: 200W into 8/4 Ohms
DAC: 32-BIT/384kHz ESS Sabre
Connectivity: BluOS, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth aptX HD (wireless); XLR Balanced, MM/MC Phono, HDMI eARC
Integrated amplifiers, which combine a power amplifier, a phono preamp and a number of wired and wireless connections, are the future of hi-fi.The NAD Masters M33 is the best of the best. A gorgeous yet minimalist amplifier with a wonderfully tactile volume knob, and a 7-inch touchscreen for displaying album art, it can push 200 watts per channel, enough to power serious loudspeakers. And it supports a number of popular and high-end wireless streaming methods, including AirPlay 2, Bluetooth aptX HD and BluOS. The Masters M33 is not just one of the most advanced streaming amps you can buy, it’s proof that the integrated amplifier is appealing for even the most demanding audiophiles.
Pro-Ject Carbon Evo
Phono Cartridge: Sumiko Rainier
Weight: Approx. 12 pounds
The Austrian hi-fi company Pro-Ject makes some of the highest-performing turntables that don’t cost an actual fortune, and the $399 Debut Carbon DC has been a stalwart of its lineup. The new Pro-Ject Carbon Evo improves on near perfection. Yes, it costs $100 more, but that gets you a higher-end Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge, an improved motor-suspension system and wider feet, to reduce vibration and distortion. Aspiring audiophiles, this is the turntable you want.
Klipsch The Fives
Drivers: 5-inch woofer, two 1-inch tweeter per speaker
Frequency Response: 50Hz - 25kHz
Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI-ARC, optical digital, 3.5mm analog mini, the kitchen sink
Klipsch's newest creation holds the distinction of being the first powered bookshelf speakers to have an HDMI-ARC connection. And that little port gives them a whole lot of power. Cutting out the cost of the receiver and with dedicated right and left speakers, the Fives can deliver a better stereo experience and wider soundstage than any singular soundbar could dream of — unless you could still make it sing after you’ve snapped it in half.
Astell & Kern A&futura SE200
Hi-Res Formats: 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256, MQA
Battery Life: Up to 14 hours
The world's first portable music player to have multiple built-in DACs, the A&futura SE200 has three in total, including the DAC from Astell & Kern’s flagship SP2000, which goes for nearly twice the price. The SP2000’s unique capabilities give obsessive audiophiles the ability to adjust the sound signature on the fly, cramming sonic versatility into an unprecedentedly portable package. Yes, it’s for the nerds, and it’s reveling in it.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Sweat Resistance: IPX4
Battery: Up to 6 hours per earbud
Charging: USB-C, Qi-wireless charging case
Bose certainly took its sweet time. The company that first brought noise-canceling headphones into the mainstream was one of the last to release wireless earbuds with that same technology, but when it did, it brought the big guns. The QuietComfort Earbuds combine the top-tier noise-canceling powers of the company's flagship Headphones 700 — including 11 different levels of noise control — with a wire-free earbud form. The only reason you might not consider a pair is if you already sprung for AirPods Pro.
Ultimate Ears Hyperboom
Drivers: Dual 1-inch tweeters, dual 4.5-inch woofers, and dual 3.5-by-7.5-inch passive bass radiators
Water Resistance: Splash and spill proof
Battery Life: Up to 24 hours
The Hyperboom isn't what we've come to expect out of Ultimate Ears. Yes, it's a portable speaker. And yes, it sounds excellent. It’s also absolutely gargantuan. At 13 pounds, it's the company's biggest but also most powerful portable speaker, outclassing competitors like Sonos Move in ruggedness and volume. The Hyperboom is a Bluetooth speaker with a very good idea of what it is: the ultimate party machine.
Even as we spend too much time within protective walls, brands continue developing ways to maximize our moments outside them — and easing the transition between these very different worlds. No wonder some of our favorite new outdoors products include a headlamp that provides exactly the amount of illumination you need, a sleeping bag that mimics a spider web for optimal insulation and a ski binding that makes climbing uphill almost as effortless as schussing down.
BioLite HeadLamp 750
Light Modes: Spot, flood, spot and flood, strobe, burst, red flood, rear red, rear red strobe
Waterproofing: IPX4 (guards against rain, but not submersion)
Battery: 3,000 mAh Li-ion, Micro-USB rechargeable
Headlamps have a dirty secret. Those numbers attached to their names and displayed on their boxes? They are boasts of brightness, measures of maximum light output counted in lumens, but they don't tell the whole story. What the makers of these lights fail to mention is that headlamps hit those high beam levels for only a short period before dimming down.
Headlamps do this to conserve battery life and achieve longer run times. Now BioLite is shedding light on the situation, so to speak, with Constant Mode. Unique to the HeadLamp 750, Constant Mode lets you halt the dimming and run at a stable brightness for an extended time.
The mode maxes out at 500 lumens — the full 750 is reserved for Burst Mode — which it can run for two hours before dropping into a five-lumen reserve state. Set it at 250 lumens, and you can squeeze four hours out of it.
By contrast, other lights might begin to dim as soon as 30 seconds after emitting their full brightness. Extending that luminosity isn’t easy.
"The biggest tricky thing is the thermals," says Ryan Gist, director of engineering at BioLite. "You have to keep the LEDs and electronics cold but also get that heat off so it's not going right into your forehead or near the battery." The breakthroughs in the 750 come in part from products BioLite designs for use in developing regions of Africa.
Constant Mode isn’t the only standout feature though. There’s also Run Forever Mode, which keeps the light on forever when wired to an external battery in a backpack. And there’s a rear light for visibility, ensuring this honest illuminator looks just about as good from the back as it does from the front.
POC Cornea Solar Switch Goggle
Light Gradient Range: 7 to 33% VLT (visible light transmission)
Available Colors: Uranium black
Additional Treatments: Anti-fog and anti-scratch
Two years ago, the GP100 included a futuristic pair of winter goggles that could shift from one tint to another at the push of a button. That capability had existed before, but not in such a streamlined and effortless package. They seemed too good to be true, and they might've been because they were never released.
But now POC has made the dream a reality. It cut the cord, uncoupling electrochromism — the property allowing certain materials to change color or opacity when introduced to an electric charge — from batteries and buttons. Instead: a solar array, self-sufficient, automatic and embedded in the forehead of the Cornea Solar Switch. It enables the lens to darken when the sun is out and lighten when the clouds roll in.
"By and large the best [technologies] are always the ones you don't notice, they just work," says Oscar Huss, product director at POC. "Solar is more convenient, simple and elegant. When you think about it, to use the sun's energy to give you protection from its light is just neat, especially when it's automatic and instant."
The key ingredient is a liquid-crystal layer — not unlike what’s used in the dimmable windows of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner — that adjusts when it receives a solar-facilitated charge. (The functionality also appears in POC’s new Aspire Solar Switch, a pair of shades for cycling.)
Best of all, the switch happens faster than you'd think to reach for the spare lens of a manually interchangeable pair, leaving you free to focus on slashing fresh powder.
Montbell Seamless Down Hugger WR #3
Temperature Limit: 30°F
Insulation: 900-fill Power EX Down
Shell: Weather-resistant Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper
United States Patent No. 7,900,301, filed on December 19, 2008, is notably vague in its abstract. It describes "a woven fabric product made of woven fabric pieces cut out of woven fabric," positioned in a particular way. The diagram adorning the patent's first page depicts three stacked rectangles. The outermost two are characterized by diagonal lines and the one in the center by pointillist dots; it might be an aerial view of a scenic parkway or a cross-section of a grilled cheese sandwich.
It's neither. The patent is for Montbell's Spiral Stretch System, a sleeping bag innovation the brand it swears by to this day. Its inventor-speak language describes an elasticized construction that allows a bag to embrace its occupant while stretching to accommodate any tossing and turning. It's cozy, non-restricting and, because it eliminates extra space between bag and body, heat efficient, too.
“Spiral Stretch” refers to the "Down Hugger" portion of the Seamless Down Hugger WR's wordy moniker, but there's another innovation, patent pending, that gets you the "Seamless" bit. It's called Spider Yarn, and it enables Montbell to abandon the traditional method of building sleeping bags with baffles, the interior fabric separators typically belied by a bag's exterior rows of stitching. Baffles exist to create tubular channels, which prevent the down filling they hold from shifting into uneven concentrations.
Spider Yarn effortlessly assumes that function. Strands of it, arranged like a web, trap clusters of down in place, creating a sheet of evenly distributed fluff. Without baffles, the down is left to loft unrestricted, increasing overall warmth and minimizing cold spots. Bonus: the stitch-free design also makes it look as sleek and cool as a sleeping bag can.
Outdoor Research Archangel Gore-Tex Jacket
Weight: 19.4 ounces
Handy Hood: Helmet compatible and wire brimmed for stability
Pit Zips? You know it
Gearing up for outdoor adventure can be an exercise in compromise. A cozy fleece might not breathe great, for instance, while a durable hardshell ski jacket might not flex so well. The latest generation of Gore-Tex Pro leaves such trade-offs behind.
“It offers the ability to find the jacket or pants that really work for your needs,” explains Gore product specialist Mark McKinnie, who led the reinvention of Pro fabrics. “A garment that’s highly focused on a specific purpose, or something in between for all-around use.”
In development since 2016, Gore-Tex Pro 3L encompasses not one upgraded material, but three, which the brand refers to as “most rugged,” “most breathable” and “stretch.” Apparel makers can transform any garment with just one of these materials, but that’s just the beginning. Like comic book characters with special superpowers — most notably stretch, which adds a thin layer of elastane for 20 percent give — they make the biggest impact when they join forces.
Exhibit A: Outdoor Research's Archangel Gore-Tex Jacket, one of the first garments to deploy multiple versions of the technology where they’re needed most. This climbing-specific shell combines the most breathable material with strategically placed stretch.
“The name comes from the angel wing-shaped stretch-pattern piece on the upper back and shoulders,” reveals OR outerwear project manager Charlie Berg. “Along with panels on the side body and underarm, it provides really good overhead reach. This fabric package gives the jacket a unique level of performance — it’s really rare.”
OR isn’t the only enthusiastic brand. Everyone from Arc’teryx to Norrøna to Patagonia is working the material into the streetwear and mountain gear of the future. If the Archangel is any indication, that future looks bright, breathable and stretchy.
Marker Duke PT
Weight: 30 ounces uphill, 40.6 ounces downhill (PT 12)
DIN Range: 4-12 or 6-16, depending on model
Boot Compatibility: Alpine, Touring and GripWalk soles
Every backcountry skier knows that how you get uphill is as important as how you get down, and for decades, backcountry bindings favored easing the ascent. But that’s a shame, because few of us got into skiing for the climbing. Marker's Duke PT makes no such concession. Remove its toepiece entirely to lighten the underfoot load and reveal pins for smooth uphilling, then snap it back into place with a four-part auto-lock mechanism when it's time for those glorious downhill turns. Who wants to pay for a lift ticket anyway?
Hydro Flask Trail Series
Weight: 8 ounces
Capacity: 21 ounces
Further Detail: Even the carrying strap is perforated to shave weight
How do you make one of the best hiking bottles on the market even better? You shave the weight. So Hydro Flask did just that, adopting titanium construction — extending even to the mouth cap and the pivots of the strap — and reducing space within the double-walled insulation without sacrificing its temperature-maintaining power. This tough, adventure-ready vessel still keeps cold beverages cold for 24 hours and hot ones hot for 12, but it’s slimmer, more stylish and 35 percent lighter than its predecessors.
Hillsound BTR Stool
Weight: 12.2 ounces
Folded Height: 11.4 inches
Load Capacity: 240 pounds
Better than a rock. That’s the joke behind the acronymic moniker of this ultralight instant seat. Stash it in your pack’s water bottle slot, and it’s ready to blossom into a surprisingly comfortable camp stool at a moment’s notice. The 14-inch BTR smartly supports your tired tuchus with nylon mesh fabric and aluminum alloy poles (a 17-inch version is available for taller campers). The coolest feature? Phantom Lock, which allows the twisting telescopic legs to magically stiffen once engaged.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Ultralight Down Jacket
Weight: 6.67 ounces (medium)
Shell: Ripstop fabric with a DWR finish
Ideal Use: Backcountry skiing … or outdoor aprés drinking
A funny thing happened in 2018. A confluence of frosty Eastern European temps and preponderance of older, fluffier geese gave Allied Feather and Down access to a limited quantity of uncommonly toasty, airy 1,000-fill down. The supplier approached Mountain Hardwear, which slipped some of it into the lightest, warmest, fully-featured insulated layer ever. Even with a hood and zippered pockets, the new Ghost Whisperer packs down to the size of a Chipotle burrito. If you see one, grab it: MH only had enough material for 2,000 jackets.
Matador Seg42 Travel Pack
Weight: 2 pounds, 4 ounces
Number of pockets: 9
Matador's unique take on the rugged travel duffel, a ubiquitous item in the pre-COVID-19 age, is apparent at a glance: it's covered in zippers. There are five on its lid, each one opening into separate compartments that occupy the bag's entire 42-liter void. The design provides the organization of packing cubes plus the convenience of exterior access, a combo no other pack offers. The interior dividers can also be tucked behind a panel when all you want is a standard-format duffel, complete with backpack straps and a hidden laptop sleeve.
Big Agnes Salt Creek SL3
Interior Dimensions: 70 x 86 x 47 inches
Packed Weight: 5 pounds, 2 ounces
Additional Features: Outer vestibules for gear storage, three interior mesh pockets plus loops for a gear loft
With one simple feature, the SL3 three-person tent transmutes the camping experience from huddling inside a ripstop pod to immersing oneself in the natural landscape (you know, the way camping should be). That feature is a third door. Roll it up for a 270-degree view of sprawling vistas and gorgeous sunsets. Attach a pair of trekking poles, and it deploys as a handy awning for extended shade and rain protection. Practically speaking, that extra door is also an extra exit, so whoever winds up as the middle sleeper doesn't have to clamber over the others to get out.
The year's two biggest exercise trends: working out at home and rediscovering the joy of cycling. No surprise, then, that more than half of the year’s top fitness products serve such pursuits. From a next-level home studio to a two-wheeled beast that goes anywhere to the best of both worlds — an indoor bike trainer that feels like it’s outside — this stuff will keep you moving long after the pandemic subsides.
Dimensions: 28 x 36 x 83 inches
Tune Ready: 20-watt soundbar syncs with Spotify or Apple Music
Subscription Cost: Unlimited classes for $39 per month
Two years ago, the Jaxjox KettlebellConnect flexed its tech, kicking sand in the faces of geekier gadgets at CES. The digitally adjustable 12- to 42-pound kettlebell saves space while letting users swing through live and on-demand routines and track their progress. But it turns out this progressive product was simply the first component of a larger fitness ecosystem. Now the Jaxjox InteractiveStudio is here, and it’s glorious.
The expansive home workout setup packages the KettlebellConnect 2.0 with similarly innovative implements, including DumbbellConnect (100 pounds of adjustable dumbbells), PushUpConnect (a four-position push-up trainer) and Foam RollerConnect (a vibrating roller with five intensity levels). There’s also a rotating 43-inch touchscreen, streaming classes and a machine-learning algorithm that helps you reach your swole goals.
“Our competition tends to focus on either cardio or strength training — we have both, plus the recovery element,” replies Jaxjox founder and CEO Stephen Owosu. “We are launching free weights with real-time tracking for the first time ever. You can move to any location and still enjoy that functionality.”
We’ve yet to see another home fitness product as simultaneously connected, modular and portable. Heck, even if your internet goes out, you can still lug the kettlebell and dumbbells out to the yard and tackle the toughest of CrossFit WODs.
That’s no happy accident, either. “It was very much intentional and something we’ve worked on for a while,” Owusu explains. Considering the mindfulness and muscularity of the InteractiveStudio, we’re hardly inclined to doubt him.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%
Full-Length Carbon Plates: 1
Stack Height: 39.5 millimeters
Weight: 7.4 ounces
You know you’ve hit upon a revolutionary performance product when your sport’s governing body starts rewriting the rules. That’s what happened after Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier in a pair of souped-up Nikes last October. World Athletics banned from competition footwear with a sole thicker than 40 millimeters or more than one carbon plate. And this past spring, Nike announced the race-legal version of its wonder sneaker ahead of the planned Tokyo Olympics.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 caused the Olympics to be postponed, so the Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% did not get a worldwide primetime showcase. But for hardcore runners, the secret is out: the Alphaflys are fast AF.
“What we have with the Alphafly is Zoom airbags plus ZoomX foam and a stiff carbon plate, and it’s all about propulsion,” explains Nike senior footwear innovator Carrie Dimoff, a competitive runner herself. “Helping your foot move as smoothly and quickly as possible into the forefoot stance and leverage the energy return … get into that toe-off position and turn over your stride.”
The shoe also boasts an ultralight knit upper and a streamlined outsole, and the ripple effects are palpable: the Alphafly presaged a number of similarly shaped, Olympics-ready imitators from other top running brands.
These kicks might not be for everyone — they’re funky looking, expensive, elusive and most beneficial to elite racers. Now, however, a year after Kipchoge’s record-breaking jaunt, even recreational runners can take advantage of Alphafly tech in a trickled-down form: the Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% daily trainer ($200).
Evil Chamois Hagar
Weight: 20.9 pounds
Bottle Mounts: 7 (6 for size small)
Color: Black Out Drunk
We've taken this fun, funky gravel bike across every type of terrain imaginable — from cactus-lined Arizona trails to potholed Manhattan streets. And it's crushed them all.
Was it designed to ride everywhere? Maybe not. Maybe that’s just what happens when an unconventional mountain-bike maker tackles an unlikely project.
“Most gravel bikes are a road bike built up to a gravel bike … we did the opposite,” explains Evil Bikes COO Jason Moeschler. “So you’ve got all of the big brands looking at it going, what in the world? And every single thing on this bike makes sense to the rider. It can all be justified.”
The lightweight carbon frame featuring long, low and slack mountain-bike geometry, combined with fat-but-fast 700x50 tires, lets you nimbly navigate or powerfully plow uneven ground, be it loose rock, broken pavement or muddy singletrack.
Meanwhile, the sleek internal cable routing triggering the 1x12 drivetrain — with an unreal 42-tooth granny gear — conquers the steepest MTB trails or Pennsylvania country roads. And when you reach the top, hoo boy: just point downhill, grip those drop bars tight, flick the left lever to sink the saddle, and blast an epic descent that’ll leave your roadie friends wondering where the hell this shockingly speedy matte-black beast came from.
“Bellingham, Washington,” you’ll whisper, as you pop the seat back up and disappear through the woods in a blaze of dust and glory.
Therabody TheraOne Sleep CBD Tincture
Key Ingredients: Organic hemp oil, organic valerian root, organic lemon oil balm, organic chamomile oil, organic MCT
Bottle Volume: 1 fluid ounce, 1,000 milligrams CBD
Servings Per Bottle: 30
You might be tempted to buy an $80 bottle of TheraOne Sleep CBD Tincture based on its packaging alone. The gentle monochromatic hue that likely has a name such as clay or morel conveys luxury, but it's approachable. It's also the least important element of TheraOne, a line of CBD products produced by Therabody, formerly known as Theragun. The company still makes those top-notch percussion massage devices, it has simply expanded to other recovery products, too.
To appreciate what’s in this bottle, spin it 180 degrees. Along with a USDA Organic badge, rare in the CBD world, you’ll spot a QR code. Scan it with your phone's camera, and you'll proceed to a document titled "Certificate of Analysis," which outlines the results of a third-party lab test and precisely identifies the contents. The percentage of CBD, THC — regulated to the non-intoxicating legal max of 0.3 percent — and other cannabinoids are front and center, just above the signatures of a lab toxicologist and principal scientist.
"We want to make sure we educate our customers to know exactly what they are using," explains Dr. Jason Wersland, Therabody's chiropractor-founder. Indeed, the entire line emerged from his personal search for trustworthy CBD. "I was looking for transparency in the market that didn't exist."
The company's full-spectrum CBD extract includes all-hemp plant components, from cannabinoids like CBD to trace amounts of B vitamins, amino acids, magnesium and more. One ingredient you won't find in the tincture is melatonin, a common sleep aid linked to side effects and grogginess, which Therabody sought to avoid. Nevertheless, a dropper-full is sufficient on its own to transport you to dreamland — and wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.
Wahoo Kickr Axis
Adjustability: 3 stiffness levels
Pairability: Up to 3 Bluetooth connections
Sold Separately: Axis available as an $80 accessory for Kickr owners
Indoor cycling may be perfect for pandemics and inclement weather, but let’s face it: pedaling in place can be a drag. With unmatched accuracy, controlled resistance that can simulate 20 percent climbs and compatibility with Zwift and other apps, the carbon-and-steel-bodied Kickr Smart Trainer has long battled boredom, but its latest update truly leans in, so to speak. A new Axis platform adds five degrees of lateral movement, enabling you to shift left and right as though you’re rolling over, yes, an actual road.
Specialized Align II
Weight: 12.5 oz (small/medium)
Available Colors: 7
Innovative tech is most impressive when everyone can access it. Case in point: the Multidirectional Impact Protection System (MIPS for short), a scientifically proven helmet liner that creates a 10- to 15-millimeter slip plane, handling angled collisions at least 10 percent better than a similar helmet without it. Translation: MIPS significantly boosts any brain bucket’s protective potential. And while everyday riders would have had to pay a pretty penny for MIPS just a few years ago, Specialized has made it more affordable than ever in a dial-adjustable, commuter-friendly helmet that looks good, too.
Manduka GRP Adapt
Size: 71 x 26 inches
Thickness: 5 millimeters
Weight: 6 pounds
A yoga mat's two primary functions are providing padding and grip. The GRP Adapt does both very well but pays particular attention to the latter. Manduka mixed up a new polyurethane formula that's bouncy and responsive but also extra absorbent, so when a session gets hot — on purpose or otherwise — you can hold the trickiest poses without worrying about slipping on sweat. If there's a single mat that can handle any practice (or workout, frankly), it's this one.
Path Projects Sykes AT 5-Inch Short
Weight: 2.7 ounces (medium)
Pockets: 3 rear zip pockets, 1 interior key pocket
Layers: 2, including a base liner that eliminates chafing
Too often, the primary difference between good running shorts and very, very average running shorts is about 50 bucks. Path Projects, a California-based running brand, uses a direct-to-consumer approach to nullify the extra cost while incorporating premium materials like Airtastic, the ultralight, stretchy, breathable and water-repellent fabric that makes the Sykes AT. Even with a phone, cash, gels and house keys tucked into its carefully placed, no-bounce pockets, logging miles in them feels like running in nothing at all.
Skratch Sport Superfuel Drink Mix
Flavors: Lemon & lime, raspberry
Calories per serving: 400
Usage: Mix with 16 to 20 ounces of water
Long gone are the days when a back-pocket pastry was considered the best source of carbohydrates to get you through a long run or ride. Breakthroughs in sports nutrition have produced a new batch of high-carb drink mixes that don't cause stomach issues. Cluster Dextrin, the key ingredient in Superfuel Drink Mix, consists of 60 to 70 glucose units (compared to maltodextrin's three to 20) that break apart slowly during digestion, providing strong, steady energy for the long haul. Let's see a croissant do that.
Toughness: IPX5-rated to be dust, mud and water-resistant
Battery Life: 30+ hours
Life-Saving Potential: Priceless
Price: $100 (1-pack), $180 (2-pack)
The term “bright” can apply to illumination but also brains, and this bike product boasts both. When connected to the GPS-guided Lumenus app, the headlight will start to strobe as you enter intersections, roundabouts and other high-traffic areas to increase your visibility. Yellow turn signals show nearby drivers impending turns. And an internal gyroscope blinkers the rear red brake light to indicate you’re slowing down. Your only job? Remembering to mount it up and turn it on.
The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly forced people across the world to focus, rather quickly, on their health. While countless brands created everyday face masks, we found a winner in 686’s Archetype design. Other companies launched products to support long-term health like Ritual’s multivitamins, Colgate’s smart toothbrush and Amazon’s fitness tracker. But it's the brands that prioritize science-based products — like Elysium and Madefor — that are setting a new standard for the industry.
Serving Size: 2 pills per day
Ingredients: B-vitamin complex, omega-3 fatty acids, bilberry anthocyanins
Development Partner: University of Oxford
Price: $60 (per bottle)
Elysium Health's newest supplement, Matter, targets the effects of aging in the brain. "We are beginning to see the benefits of decades of aging research translated into products that can help people support their health and wellness with methods that go beyond diet and exercise, but that still require a healthy lifestyle," says Elysium CEO Eric Marcotulli.
Matter, which was developed in partnership with the University of Oxford, slows the atrophy in the brain that is associated with memory decline in older people. "Even healthy people lose up to twenty percent of their brain volume throughout their lifetimes — and this loss begins in our thirties," Marcotulli says. "Matter contains a specific B-vitamin complex that was clinically proven and patented to slow grey-matter atrophy associated with memory decline in older people by up to eighty-six percent.
The B-vitamin complex is enhanced by EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids that are up to four times more bioavailable than fish oil capsules. And, Matter also includes bilberry extract which provides strong antioxidant support, proven to support cognitive health.
Matter is certified for safety and quality and third-party tested during and after manufacturing. “We encourage people to be skeptical of everything they put in and on their bodies," Marcotulli says. "And by setting new standards internally — through our commitments to human clinical research, third-party testing for purity and quality, and third-party seals like NSF for Sport certification and the Good Housekeeping seal for Innovation — we are working to establish new standards for the entire industry as well.
Duration: 10 months
Availability: U.S. only
Advisory Board: Stanford neuroscientist, UC Irvine psychiatrist, National Institutes of Health chronobiologist
Price: $95 (per month)
After being diagnosed with mild depression in 2017, Toms founder Blake Mycoskie sought out experts in the field of mental health to implement professional insights into his everyday life. "It worked so well I wanted to share this with others and help people bring their best to the world," he says. So he founded wellness program Madefor to help people change habits to promote physical and mental wellbeing.
Madefor utilizes evidence-based research on neuroplasticity — the brain's ability to form new connections — to help people make practical changes in areas like gratitude, movement, clarity, breath and rest. The 10-month wellness program costs $95 per month or $750 as a one-time payment, and customers receive booklets and tools delivered monthly that focus on one specific theme. "By giving people the essential science, tools, steps and support, we help them make gradual but lasting positive shifts in their behaviors and mindset," Mycoskie says.
Unlike other app-based wellness programs, Madefor is completely analog: booklets of reading material come with an hourglass timer and other objects designed to engage the customer and form habits (for instance, a glass water bottle includes a beaded tracker to tally fluid consumption). And while many apps require subscriptions for continued use, Madefor gives people tools and techniques but doesn't require a lifelong buy-in.
"Products have a role to play and can serve as accelerants to progressing towards one’s goals, but it’s important to never lose sight of the fact that you have everything you need inside of you to live well," Mycoskie says. "If you know where to direct your attention and effort, you can unlock far greater benefits than any product on the market can give you."
District Vision Keiichi Calm-Tech Sunglasses
Weight: 22 grams
Hardware: Titanium screws
Adjustable Components: Hypoallergenic rubber nose and temple tips
District Vision focuses on teaching people meditation to maximize their workouts, train smarter and exercise in a way that is best for an individual's body. The brand also offers high-performance sunglasses to support those pursuits. "Humans need little rewards along the way," says Max Vallot, cofounder of District Vision. "If you go and torture yourself through a marathon, it goes a long way to get your special running shoes for the marathon, or your special eyewear, or whatever it is."
This year, the brand updated its perennial-favorite Keiichi frame with the world’s first porous, anti-fog lenses, Calm-Tech. "Lens condensation is the major issue in sport optics mainly because it’s impossible to control the temperature of your face, the environment and the lens," says brand cofounder Tom Daly. The Calm-Tech material, originally developed for car screens in Japan but never available to the public, is a membrane that absorbs moisture to remain clear.
"We develop custom-lens programs by playing with three variables to reduce eye strain: light transmission, tints and protection [against UVA/B/IR]," Daly says. "It’s essentially an experiment for us at District Vision to mix these in different ways with the hypothesis that relaxed eyes and facial muscles improve the eye health and mental clarity of the runner."
The Calm-Tech lenses were designed for athletes who wear sunglasses for hours at a time or in challenging performance situations, like marathon runners, cyclists, climbers and skiers. These athletes can't repeatedly break to wipe foggy lenses and shouldn't have to strain to see clearly. In the past, eyewear companies tried to create anti-fog lenses with chemical coatings or special venting, but now, the magic's in the material.
686 Polygiene ViralOff Archetype Face Mask
Fabric: Wool-polyester blend, polyester-Spandex blend
Fit: Head-tie Closure
Properties: Anti-microbial, UPF 50 sun-protection, washable
COVID-19 had reached pandemic status before the first quarter of 2020 was finished, and it changed our lives almost overnight. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention along with the World Health Organization gave people guidelines on how to protect themselves from the deadly and highly contagious virus, and eventually, it became clear that face masks were critical in slowing transmission rates.
While countless brands make reusable face covers, 686’s mask tackles multiple protection issues at once. It’s made with four layers of fabric to reduce air flow, but it's still breathable thanks to the two inner merino wool layers. Those layers are helpful when wearing the mask for extended periods or during intense activities because they wick away moisture, preventing the mask from becoming too humid. Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial, but 686 also added ViralOff antimicrobial coatings — a technology that attracts and disables microbes with silver ions — to three layers of the mask.
Four layers of fabric are already double what most face masks have, and 686's mask has a dedicated filtration layer to help further reduce the spread of moisture droplets and viruses.The mask includes a filter pocket so people can insert yet another layer of protection if desired. Its stretchy fabric and long ties also provide a superior fit on a wide range of face shapes.
Though there are plenty of face masks available now — each of which is better than not wearing a face mask at all — there might not be one better than this.
Ritual Essential for Men
Serving Size: 2 pills per day
Suggested Age: 18 - 49
Free from: Animal products, gluten, GMOs, artificial colors
Who said taking a multivitamin has to be an unpleasant experience? Ritual’s Essential vitamins deliver 10 micronutrients (tested for purity by a third-party lab) in delayed-response capsules that are gentle on an empty stomach. The pills are designed to support heart health, brain health, muscle function and immune function. And each bottle includes a mint tab to keep the goods fresh, so staying healthy is as easy as popping a Tic Tac.
Colgate Plaqless Pro
Connectivity: Colgate Connect App via Bluetooth
Power: Rechargeable battery
App Features: Brushing feedback, personalized data, coaching and oral care tips
The next step in dental hygiene is Colgate’s Plaqless Pro, a smart toothbrush that helps you brush better in real time. In tandem with a fully-featured phone app, the Plaqless Pro monitors your brushing with built-in sensors in the handle that detect biofilm buildup to let you know where to steer the brush, for how long and when to move on. Those clever sensors also form a map of your mouth and track your unique movements to give you comprehensive data on your personal brushing routine and how to improve it.
Plus CBDRelief 1:1 Pomegranate
Serving Size: 1 piece
Calories: 5 per serving
Container Size: 20 pieces
In recent years, CBD products that claim to treat pain have proliferated in the U.S., but many doctors speculate that more effective pain relievers combine both CBD and THC. For available markets, Plus makes a gummy that balances 5mg of THC with 5mg of CBD to combat inflammation, stress, muscle tension and pain. Flavored with California pomegranates, each gummy delivers tangible relief in an easy-to-swallow package.
Light Source: Adjustable hue LED lights
Connectivity: Companion app via Bluetooth
Dimensions: 7.5 x 2.75 x 5.75
The Hatch Restore swaddles, guides and lulls you into sleep, then keeps you there until you’re ready to be ushered back into the waking world. With the accompanying app, you can customize the entire sleep process from the wind-down to the wake-up. Whether your path to dreamland involves a good book with soft lighting, a guided meditation or a gentle wall of ambient sounds, Restore can get you there.
Sizes: Small, medium, large
Colors: Black, pink, silver
Membership Fee: $4 per month (plus tax)
Amazon’s understated fitness tracker offers an affordable way to improve your health. The $100 screen-free wristband monitors body composition, tone of voice, sleep and activity, and connects to an easy-to-use app on your phone. On the app, users can access science-backed health challenges from Lifesum, Headspace, Sweat and the American Heart Association and other sources, to implement small changes into daily routines and track measurable results. Also, Halo will never sell health data that ties directly to you, and you can download or delete your data at any time.
Joovv Go 2.0
Wavelengths: Red and near-infared
App Features: Recovery+ mode, ambient mode, alarm clock
Accessories: Eyewear, charger, travel case
Light therapy is clinically proven to help with pain and inflammation and has the potential to help with both mental and hormonal health. This updated handheld device delivers red and near-infrared wavelengths to help optimize your body’s cellular function. While many like devices are cumbersome and rudimentary, the Go 2.0 is designed for travel and works with the Joovv app for customizable treatments. This makes a tool once only accessible to professional trainers much more portable, affordable and user-friendly.
Since the day our homes became de facto offices and schools, we’ve asked much from them. The year's best home products helped us make the best of it. No more working from your sofa thanks to a convertible work desk. A budget air purifier that eats 99.97 percent of airborne baddies, and looks good doing it. A famous designer's take on an affordable (and planet-friendly) lawn chair. What to take away from a year indoors? Function, thoughtfulness and beauty are needed in equal measure. These products embody that spirit.
Buffy Soft Hemp
Thread count: 102 single-ply
Sizes: Full–California King
Colors: White, natural, natural contrast
In the past five years, the hemp industry has boomed, with industrial hemp farming in the U.S. growing exponentially, but its applications are still being uncovered. Buffy, a young direct-to-consumer company, wants you to sleep with it.
“In the U.S., we know hemp still feels like a really new and weird material to show up inside the home, but we want to be part of building the demand for the broader hemp market," Matt Breuer, Buffy’s vice president of marketing says.
The bedding brand’s Soft Hemp line of sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers fully realizes hemp as a better bedding material. The plant is environmentally friendly — it grows without herbicides and is nontoxic and biodegradable — and its growth is environmentally friendly in and of itself, as the plant naturally reinvigorates the soil and cleans the air. Plus, it grows, well, like a weed.
When it comes to sleeping with the stuff, its closest relative is flax linen, a bedding material most famous for breeziness and eye-watering price tags. Imagine the same breathable structure as flax linen, the same antibacterial qualities, the same durability, but a softer feel and a far superior sustainability record. That'd be Buffy's hemp bedding.
The company's design team sought to make its hemp bedding as natural as possible. It’s 100 percent hemp, washed for softness (sans chemicals) and either left uncolored or bleached with hydrogen peroxide.
“We’re thrilled to expand our work with hemp and will welcome the competition,” Breuer says. “At the end of the day, it’s a win for the planet.”
Hemp won’t get you high, but it makes for a pretty wicked bedding fabric.
Magis Bell Chair
Colors: Sunrise (orange), Highnoon (white), Midnight (black)
Material: Recycled polypropylene
Designer: Konstantin Grcic
Earlier this year, Vitra released a $3,245 lounge chair that, because of subtle metal wire connections between the back and the seat, appears to float in midair. Imagined by the high-profile designer Konstantic Grcic, its destiny is to live as a statement piece for the wealthy and well connected.
The Bell Chair — also a Grcic design — couldn't be more different.
Effectively a cheap, plastic lawn chair, albeit one made by one of the most notable designers in the world, the Bell Chair began as a thought experiment: Could Grcic and his partner company Magis design and sell a chair for or less? Simple enough. Make it out of plastic.
A breakthrough came when the design team figured out a way to make a mass-produced plastic chair less reprehensible — 100 percent of the chair is made of recycled polypropylene thermoplastic, which is comprised of waste from Magis's other furniture production (and the surrounding region's auto industry). The entire chair is recyclable post-production, forming a near-closed material cycle.
To keep the price low, Grcic and his team had to be judicious with the amount of plastic used for each chair. They sliced weight off and designed it as a shell-like bowl with slightly splayed legs to do more with less material. The final iteration weighs less than six pounds — roughly the weight of a comparable plastic chair. And it's stackable, up to 12 chairs. The design team even built a custom, smaller shipping pallet (made with the same custom plastic the chair is made with), to fit more chairs in shipping spaces.
In Europe, the chair sells for the targeted . Mission accomplished. But because of international taxes and tariffs, expect to pay a little north of $100 in the U.S.
Gantri x Ammunition
Colors: Sedona, snow, carbon, stone, forest
Lighting Styles: Accent, task, area
If a brand wants a well-designed product, it turns to design firm Ammunition. Founded by Robert Brunner, the man who hired Jonny Ive at Apple, Ammunition has worked with Beats by Dre, Nook e-readers, Polaroid, Square, Adobe and more. Then Brunner bought a lamp from Gantri, a small San Francisco-based design company.
Gantri’s founder, Ian Yang, says its 3D-printed lamps are for those who want high-design homeware that isn’t in your face — items that are “elegant, but also fresh.” Brunner’s introduction to Gantri led the way for the two brands’ collaboration.
In a year, the 10-piece collection went from idea to launch; something Yang describes as an “insane feat," considering design firms release maybe a couple products a year altogether. And it’s all thanks to Gantri’s 3D printing. The technology shrinks the time between idea and final product, and prices are kept down relative to other designer lighting, too. And rather than using toxic and environmentally unfriendly oil-based plastics, Gantri developed the world’s first plant-derived polylactic acid, or PLA, to make its lamps.
“We let Ammunition have full control of the process and go all out,” Yang says. “Like what would an Ammunition designer want in their own home without worrying about this one SKU selling in the millions. Ammunition could push the boundaries with this process.”
The result is three core shapes — called Gio, Signal and Carve — that span across table, wall and floor lamps categories. Each piece combines Gantri’s signature rounded, smoothed- surface aesthetic with Ammunition’s penchant for sharply honed minimalism.
For Ammunition, working with Gantri let its designers flex their creative muscles. For Gantri, the collaboration furthers its thesis that high design can be made accessible through 3D printing, a process once reserved for hobbyists but that now sits at the cutting edge of manufacturing capabilities. For the rest of us, there's a fairly priced collection of kickass lamps — a win on all accounts.
New Airweave Mattress
Sizes: Twin–California King
Warranty: 10-year warranty
Thickness: 7.9 inches
Price: $1,400 - $2,100
Motokuni Takaoka thinks outside the box. The Stanford School of Engineering graduate took over his uncle’s floundering fishing-line company and turned it into one of the largest mattress brands in Japan.
Airweave mattresses are constructed of airfiber, a network of interwoven plastic — like a bundle of fishing line — which aids in temperature regulation, body support and the reduction of motion transfer. In 2016, it was the official mattress supplier of the United States Olympic Committee; it’s also the official bedding partner of the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Despite entering the U.S. market in 2015, it was met with little fanfare. “Too firm,” Americans criticized. The Japanese are accustomed to firmer mattresses because of traditional Japanese futons, Takaoka says. And he hopes to get Americans on the same page.
People can turn up to 30 times during a night’s sleep. On a soft mattress, that means exerting a significant amount of energy to move. A 2018 report found that people who sleep on airweave mattresses produce 60 percent less muscle activity than when sleeping on memory foam.
To cater to American consumers, Airweave launched its New Airweave Mattress (yes, that is the official name), which reduced the density of its airfiber, making the mattress softer without compromising support. It also added a pillow topper to further soften the mattress.
“We found that [American sleepers] prefer a softer mattress, as there is a belief that ‘the softer, the better,'” Takaoka says. “That is understandable because it feels comfortable when you lie on something soft. However, you must remember that it’s not what you feel when you get into bed — it’s how you feel when you wake up.”
August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
Installation Time: 15 minutes
Compatible Smart Home Ecosystems: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings
Finishes: Silver, matte black
In 2013, August released its first smart lock; seven years later, it perfected it. The Wi-Fi Smart Lock is smaller than its predecessors, and because it attaches to your existing deadbolt, you can continue to use your physical key if you want. While the price tag is marginally higher than other smart locks, the updated August lock's WiFi bridge is integrated into the device, so there’s no need to spend extra on an external device. As long as you have your phone, you have a key to your home.
Revival Rugs Aide-De-Camp Chair
Country of Origin: Vietnam
Reclined Angle: 105°
Assembly Required: None
This is not your typical tailgate camp chair. The Aide-De-Camp Chair is all luxe materials — solid oak frame, liquid-resistant coated leather. Who makes it? A rug company. Revival Rugs’ inaugural furniture collection came unexpectedly, but it sure as hell made an impression. For the chair, the brand tapped Turkish designer Gizem Yuce, whose simple, elegant design was inspired by outdoor furniture (we still wouldn't use it outdoors).
Coway Airmega 150
Eliminates: 99.97 percent of airborne particulates
Covers: 215 square feet
Available Colors: Green, white or pink
There's a fine line between lifestyle and performance gear, and the products that strive to straddle it often find themselves compromising to the point of mediocrity. Coway's Airmega 150 is not one of those products. The lauded manufacturer's latest is an air purifier that walks the walk — it's equipped with a True HEPA filter and a washable pre-filter — and it doesn't need hiding in a corner. Plus, at $190, it's a steal compared to its pricey peers.
Cooling coverage: 350 square feet
Noise: Starts at 50 dB
Warranty: One year
Windmill makes window A/C units for the 2020s. The brand successfully marries the dull (but important) – it's equipped with a 8,500 BTU engine with a dual-air filter – with the new and increasingly necessary. The unit uses a refrigerant called R32, which has lower global-warming potential than the refrigerant used most commonly by what came before. And like any modern home appliance, Windmill is WiFi- and voice-enabled for absolute remote control, and it actually works, unlike the A/C old guard.
Made by Choice Fem Work Desk
Finishes: Untreated birch or matte-lacquered ash
Height: 41” upper tabletop; 29” lower tabletop
Weight: 66 pounds
Price: $335 for untreated birch; $618 for matte-lacquered ash
Because of COVID-19, people are asking more of their homes than ever before. Designed by Fyra for Made by Choice, the Fem Work Desk is a workspace for the times we live in and then some. The sitting desk transforms into a standing desk by converting the back panel into a second tabletop. Headed back to the office? It can be a shelf, side table or bookcase, too. All without any screws, minimal assembly and for a reasonable price.
Nutrition Facts: Protein (min) 35%, fat (min) 20%, fiber (max) 2%, moisture (max) 15%
Calories: 550 kcal/cup
Purchasing: Available via subscription or one-time purchase
Sundays is an air-dried dog food that combines the ease of kibble with the freshness and nutrients of homemade dog food. Designed by husband-and-wife duo Tory Waxman, a veterinarian, and Michael Waxman, an engineer, the dog food's ingredients list reads like a shopping list for a lunch bowl — beef, quinoa, pumpkin, zucchini, flaxseed and shitake mushrooms are all included. Its ingredients and processing methods set such a high standard that they pass FDA safety standards for human consumption, so you could literally eat Sundays yourself.
Power to the user. Whether it be an uncompromising Keurig replacement, pellet grills that actually grill or guilt-free sodas for instant cocktails, the best food and drink products don't strive to astonish us with their greatness, they solve problems. They respond to changing winds — like acknowledging that Black Lives Matter or committing to transparency in a murky business — in ways that reflect their customers and demand more from their industry peers.
Weathered Souls Brewing Co. Black Is Beautiful
Style: Imperial Stout
Price: $12+ (4-pack)
While driving to brew a collaboration beer with a brewery in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Marcus Baskerville, founder of Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio, TX, was listening to Breonna Taylor’s mother recount discovering her daughter had been murdered.
“It was a hard conversation to listen to,” Baskerville said. “I have two young daughters, and you think, ‘What would I do in that situation?’ And the abundance of things that continue to go on in the country, it’s coming to a point where you’re going to do something or you’re going to watch things get worse. I’m not one of those people.”
He went to work. Baskerville planned to release a dark stout and donate proceeds to the Know Your Rights Campaign, an initiative that promotes education and empowerment in Black and Brown communities. It was a Weathered Souls project, until Baskerville spoke with fellow Texas brewer Jeffrey Stuffings of Jester King Brewery, who suggested it could be something more.
Recently, open-sourced beers have become a method for breweries to raise awareness and funds for social issues. Earlier in 2020, Brooklyn’s Other Half launched All Together to raise money for impacted hospitality workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In late 2019, Sierra Nevada's Resilience IPA raised more than $15 million for Camp Fire relief in California. Baskerville took Black Is Beautiful worldwide, urging breweries to spin his recipe — which is available for download in excruciating detail on the Black Is Beautiful website — in whatever way they wish (versions range from Black Lagers to Dark Sour Wild Ales to Pastry Stouts with gold glitter).
As of publication, nearly 1,200 breweries across every state and in 21 different countries have brewed their own versions of Black Is Beautiful, each committing to Baskerville's asks: that participating brewers donate 100 percent of proceeds to foundations that support police- brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged, and that they commit to the fight for equality over the long haul. The Weathered Souls base recipe is a 10 percent ABV Imperial Stout that exemplifies the many different shades of Black.
“To see this many breweries involve themselves in the initiative and push the message,” Marcus said, “I think it shows we’re in a stage of craft beer where we definitely have the ability to be inclusive and it’s just going to take some work from everyone to get there.”
Temperature Range: 200-600°
Wi-Fi Compatibility: Yes
Hopper Capacity: 22 lbs
Pellet grilling is a misnomer. Pellet grills cannot grill. Since their introduction in 1980, every design — from Traeger's first models to today's smart-tech-filled behemoths — have operated almost entirely off convection heat (like a smoky oven). This is ideal for slow cooking, but convective heat does not effectively sear steaks, burgers and pork chops (unless you like overcooked meat). To sear, you need conductive or radiative heat, like hot steel on a charcoal grill or the extreme heat put off in the interior of a toaster oven.
Weber's SmokeFire is the first pellet grill to pull it off.
Fair warning: grill-design nerdery incoming. The guts of most pellet grills are the same — a hopper holds pellets, the pellets feed into an auger that programmatically pushes the pellets into a fire pot, which is equipped with fans and ignites the pellets, circulating warm, smokey air through the grill. Each moving piece is controlled by built-in computers to keep the temperature as even as possible.
The problem for 99 percent of pellet grills is parked between the grates and the fire pot below; a downward-sloping metal sheet acts as a shield over the fire pot to prevent grease fires by pushing drippings into separate chambers for disposal. This shield does its job and dooms the grill at the same time. Building a solid barrier between a heat source and the food inhibits browning. Weber's solution was comically simple: to copy itself.
The brand's gas grills are equipped with what it calls Flavorizer Bars — upside-down,V-shaped shields that diffuse heat around the grill and protect the flame from dripping grease. Importantly, they are narrow and positioned over each burner so they don't choke the grill of firepower. Weber slapped the same tech in its pellet grill and created the first pellet grill to effectively char a steak. Innovative? Not particularly. Effective? You betcha.
Knob Creek 9-Year-Old Bourbon
Age: At least 9 years
Ten years ago, as demand for bourbon erupted, whiskey makers were presented with a quagmire: adapt or run out of whiskey. By and large, distilleries quietly replaced age statements — the guaranteed minimum number of years spent maturing in a barrel — and bottle transparency with deceptive marketing and vagueness.
Meanwhile, Knob Creek, the largest brand under Jim Beam's Small Batch Collection (which also includes Basil Hayden's and Booker's), saw its whiskey stock depleted in 2009 and decided to run with it. The brand sold screen-printed T-shirts that read, "The Drought of 2009," and even published full-page advertisements in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal with pictures of empty bottles. "We could bottle the next batch of Knob Creek a tad earlier than nine years to satisfy demand, but that just wouldn't be right," said Bill Newlands, the president of the Beam company at the time.
Knob Creek whiskey eventually came back, but the shortage was an omen of what was to come. In 2016, the distillery announced it was removing its 9-year age statement from the bottle, a feature of the label since the whiskey's introduction in 1992. And a brand that had been dedicated to preserving its age statement lost some of its luster, a sign that bourbon had become too hot.
Today, bourbon is a nearly $2 billion business, with its stocks stabilizing, and nothing comes close to telling that story quite like the relaunch of Knob Creek's 9-Year-Old Small Batch Bourbon — age statement and all. And while it requires a deft palate to spot differences between this and the non-age-statement Knob Creek, it's a sign that one of the most prolific whiskey makers in the world hasn't yet given up on transparency (even when it could be argued the whiskey world had largely forgotten the fiasco in the first place).
That's good news for the whiskey drinker, because it means mass allocations, overpricing and bottle shortages may, one day, come to pass.
Flavors: Thai larb, Filipino sisig and Vietnamese lemongrass and BBQ
Servings Per Packet: 2-3
Sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham were always disruptors. Their parents would call them om sòm — a Vietnamese phrase used to describe something loud and intrusive — as kids for causing a commotion in the car’s back seat. Now adults, these daughters of Vietnamese refugees are reclaiming the epithet to start a new commotion in the food industry with Omsom.
“The American palette is rapidly changing, and this so-called ‘ethnic’ aisle — so often filled with diluted flavors and stereotypical branding — isn’t cutting it anymore,” Vanessa says. “Consumers want real-deal flavors now more than ever, and with that comes huge potential. BIPOC brands, Asian-owned included, have the opportunity to build with truth and integrity to help shape narratives and palettes for the better.”
The goal: to produce a range of sauces that distilled Asian dishes into packets for easy at-home cooking. The catch: the sisters insisted that there be no diluting or whitewashing of flavors. They collaborated with New York City chefs who developed the final product over a two-year period, resulting in a product that eschews artificial flavors and preservatives while sourcing as many ingredients as possible from family-run businesses. Since they launched in May (amid a pandemic no less), the sauces have sold out numerous times.
“Beyond the functionality of our products, we’re proud of who we are and the communities from which we arise,” Kim says. “We’re not here to dumb down or dilute, but instead, unapologetically reclaim and proclaim the multitudes within the Asian-American experience.”
In America, ingredients to make Asian dishes are often so inaccessible they’re neglected altogether, the Phams say. Americanized versions of classic Asian sauces are so adulterated that, to those who know the source material, there is little resemblance. Omson successfully integrates those traditional, uncompromising Asian flavors into regular weekday cooking for about what a meal at McDonald's costs.
Oxo 8-cup Coffee Maker
Dimensions: 13.5" x 10.5" x 7"
Brew time: ~6 minutes for eight cups
It’s like a Keurig, but better in every way. Oxo’s latest coffee maker is a push-to-start brewer that dishes out single-serve coffee for the mornings when you can’t be bothered. It's Specialty Coffee Association-certified (a claim few brewers can make), sleekly designed and compact enough to keep out on even the smallest kitchen counters. And yes, it brews full pots, too.
Calories: 100-110 per can
Flavors: Lime, ginger, mango, grapefruit
There's a lot of laziness in the canned-booze world. Companies make "agave seltzers" that allude to a tequila base when, really, they're serving you malt liquor. Others make spiked seltzers with real spirits, but flavor them with bags of sugar. Volley's tequila seltzers, meanwhile, are reasonably priced, crushable and contain no added sugar. They're also made with 100 percent blue agave tequila and actual fruit juice and hover at around 100 calories per can. Buy a pallet of the stuff.
Fellow Ode Grinder
Made for: Drip, immersion and pour over brewing
Motor: Smart Speed PID Motor
Grind Capacity: 80 grams
The Kickstarter campaign for Fellow’s Ode Grinder promised a lot: a quiet coffee grinder with 31 easy-to-adjust grind settings and minimal mess, all housed in a sleek compact machine. Five thousand backers and $1.2 million in support later, and Fellow kept its word. A very satisfying knob makes it easy to fine-tune grind size. A grounds knocker and magnetically aligned catcher reduce chaff and prevent messes on the counter. And those 64mm burrs are quiet enough to let you grind coffee early in the morning without waking up the neighborhood.
Anova Precision Oven
Temperature Range: 77° — 482° Fahrenheit
Size: 22 x 18 x 14 inches
Controls: Smartphone app or manual
The combination steam oven probably won't be this year's Instant Pot or air fryer, but that hasn't stopped Anova from shooting its shot. Its Precision Oven is the first "combi oven" designed for home cooks. Like those used in professional kitchens the world over, it harnesses the conductivity of water (steam) to cook food at significantly lower temperatures without adding extra time. It also guarantees fewer temperature fluctuations. In other words, it's a $600 countertop oven that does what commercial chefs pay $6,000 for.
Sugar: 0-4 grams
Flavors: Yuzu & lime, ginger, grapefruit & pomelo, jalapeño & blood orange and hibiscus & pomegranate
Price: $18 (six-pack)
Avec is soda that's for mixing. The eight-ounce cans are low-sugar, low-calorie and were designed specifically to pair with your favorite spirit. Pair mezcal with a can of jalapeno and blood orange for a fizzy margarita, or bourbon with ginger soda for a variation on a Kentucky Mule. It’s as easy as pouring a double shot over ice and dumping in a whole can of Avec. This is the instant cocktail for those of us who aren't about to invest in cocktail kits or a stash of bitters.
New Belgium The Purist
Carbs: 3 grams
Price: $9 (4-pack)
Writing about The Purist is almost as confusing as drinking it. Despite the stats — 95 calories, three grams of carbs and a measly 3.8 percent ABV — it's full-bodied and heady. It smells like pinot grigio, looks like fizzy cider, tastes like helles lager and, according to the brewers at New Belgium, has established its own beer category; they call it a "clean lager" and, yes, it's organic. Don't be fooled by its slim stature, though. Cody Reif from New Belgium's research and development team considers The Purist "the most technically challenging beer" the brewery's ever made.
This year, men’s style and grooming products forged into uncharted territory. Things that are often uninspiring, like vegan boots and rose fragrances, became seriously cool. Hand sanitizer became an EDC product and D.S. & Durga gave it a fitting upgrade. We even saw a small streetwear brand out-fundraise giant corporations with just a graphic tee. When the world turned upside down, designers and brands chose to innovate instead of bunker down.
Brain Dead x Blood Orange We Are One Tee
Fabric: 100% cotton
Charities Funded: The Movement For Black Lives and the LGBTQ Freedom Fund
The fight against systemic racism is one that millions are finally waking up to. Over centuries, the Black community has suffered countless acts of violence, but the murder of George Floyd in May ignited massive worldwide protests against racism in a new way. Many people marched, raised awareness and raised money to support Black Lives Matter.
L.A.-based streetwear brand Brain Dead put out one of the most significant graphic tees of the year in collaboration with artist Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) to raise funds for the Movement for Black Lives and the LGBTQ Freedom Fund. Brain Dead’s founder, Kyle Ng, is familiar with his limited-release wears selling out, but this release was far from limited. This social justice tee was released on a pre-order model, freeing it from the limitations of physical backstock and allowing it to generate even more money.
“Obviously people stand in line for this stuff,” Ng said in an interview with GQ. “But why won't we stand in solidarity for something? Or why don't we stand for something that really matters?” He attempted to collaborate with larger companies, but corporate red tape halted those efforts. So, he called his friend Hynes and the tee was up for sale in just two hours. When the pre-order ended 48 hours later, they had raised over half a million dollars.
Brain Dead knew that it’s people who power revolutions, so instead of waiting for approval from corporate entities, it decided to act. It’s not the first tee sold to raise money for social justice, and it won't be the last. But it was without a doubt the most effective.
Drop Ibara Slim Jeans
Fabric: 15-ounce Yoshiwa Mills Japanese selvedge denim
Fit: Slim Taper
The race for better jeans has reached a fever pitch in recent years. Every name — from legacy denim brands to indie startups to one-person brands — put their skills on full display, churning out different versions of the Best Blue Jean.
Drop, an online marketplace for product enthusiasts, had released collaborative jeans with the likes of Naked & Famous and Raleigh Denim before, but the company’s foray into an in-house line of jeans was new territory. When it finally released the Ibara Slim Jeans, however, it seemed like Drop had known the space for decades.
“What we wanted to do was to make the ultimate enthusiast jean that was accessible to a bigger audience,” says Drop’s then-senior product manager of wearables John Webb. “And not just price-accessible, but wear-accessible, too.”
Any good jean starts with the materials. Here, Drop had denim custom-woven for them using three different yarn sizes, creating a fabric with tons of character that feels heavier than it actually is. From there, the rest of the details are ones you’d only find on dungarees in high-end denim stores or on a trip to Japan. The denimhead details — filled belt loops, lined yokes, hidden rivets, a double-selvedge button fly and a natural vegetable-tanned lambskin patch — would command a $300 price tag in many boutiques, but Drop's jeans come in at a fraction of the price — just $129.
Though Webb and his team at Drop set out to create the ultimate enthusiast jean, they ended up producing the best value jean.
Barbour Gold Standard Collection
Models: 8 waxed jackets, 2 quilted jackets
Materials: Waxed cotton, nylon, oiled leather, corozo nut buttons
Country of Origin: England
Over its 126-year history, Barbour has become synonymous with hard-wearing waxed-cotton outerwear. This year, the iconic British brand launched Gold Standard, a luxury line made up of 10 jackets that up the ante to the nth degree. Inspired by the brand’s iconic styles, these pieces feature updated designs, oiled-leather trims and traditional soft quilt linings.
“Our jackets were originally designed for working men and women who need protection from the rigors of the climate in the rainy British North East coast and country — therefore our customers are people who value perfectly crafted, understated but essentially marvelously fit-for-purpose products,” says Ian Bergin, director of menswear at Barbour. “Gold Standard is a premium execution of this and brings to the fore all of our pattern-cutting expertise and design heritage in creating these garments.”
Gold Standard jackets use two different wax cotton fabrics — semi-calendared wax and a rougher textured cotton wax. And while the material interplay is further complemented with tweed facings, corduroy collars and leather patches, the jackets never lose sight of Barbour's utility-first reputation — that is, basic designs and no-nonsense weather protection.
If the price point seems steep, consider this: last year marked the busiest year ever for the brand's rewaxing and repairs service. "Globally, over sixty thousand jackets were returned to our facilities, some of which were thirty, forty or even fifty years old,” Bergin says. Expect a similar lifespan for Barbour's Gold Standard offerings, if not longer. Which is to say, you’re not just buying one for the season, but rather, investing in a new family heirloom.
Fabric Blend: 50% recycled cotton, 50% virgin cotton
Details: Fabric panels are cut to reduce waste
Sizes: I, II, II, IIII
The fashion industry plays a major role in perpetuating a binary system of gender. Clothes are divided into men’s and women’s designs, a process that not only separates but also assigns genders to inanimate objects, thereby excluding countless people in the LGBTQIA+ community who don’t identify as one or the other. Though major brands like Gucci try to be inclusive by blurring the lines of traditional gender norms, collections are still split along binary lines.
Converse acknowledges that many people don’t identify as a man or a woman, but everyone does have a physical body. In traditional sizing, there are 14 sizes across men’s and women’s, but the brand's Shapes collection simplifies things by using just four sizes, labeled as I, II, III, and IIII, completely shedding the binary gender division. It also removes the stigma associated with letter sizing, helping to promote body positivity. Each garment is cleverly cut with hidden gussets and seams throughout to allow the wearer to choose their size based on their body and style, with silhouettes ranging from relaxed to super slim.
As a collection of basics, Shapes isn’t especially flashy, but it is forward-thinking in how it balances inclusion and simplicity. The collection manages to account for countless body types and multiple gender identities within just four sizes, creating a new sizing system along the way. It addresses body positivity and individuality, too. Though it’s difficult to tell how much further Converse’s new system will go, it could end up as the industry standard, just like the Chuck Taylor.
D.S. & Durga Big Sur After Rain Hand Sanitizer
Size: 8 ounces
Composition: 80% alcohol
Fragrance Notes: Eucalyptus, magnolia and wet wood
As the scope and reality of the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, our daily habits changed almost overnight. Now, hand sanitizer is an essential part of a person's everyday carry. Purell and generic alcohol-based sanitizers will get the job done, but they often smell overtly clinical and can be harsh on the skin. Enter Big Sur After Rain hand sanitizer from D.S. & Durga, a spray that makes the experience less like you’re visiting the doctor and more like you’re at the spa.
RCI Chore Coat Kit
Material: Deadstock cotton twill
Necessary Steps: 40
Optional Patches: 1 sleeve patch, 3 embroidered patches
Reese Cooper’s DIY Chore Coat feels like a meal-delivery kit for clothes. It comes boxed up with all the necessary ingredients — fabric, patches and buttons — and invites you to actively participate in not just wearing it, but sewing it, too. Just read the instruction booklet, cut the fabric panels and assemble with a sewing machine. While some people learned how to make sourdough during lockdown, others learned how to construct a jacket.
Ground Cover 8-Eye Work Boot
Sizes: EU36 – EU45
Hardware: Steel aglets
Country of Origin: Portugal
Ground Cover proves you don’t have to sacrifice style for lifestyle. Its 8-Eye Work Boot is free from animal products and a far cry from the vegan boots of yesteryear. Its textured pineapple- based upper performs similarly to heavyweight canvas. Designed to be rebuilt, the Goodyear-welted style features a lug sole, microfiber liner, cork insole and steel shank. It will mold to your feet just like classic leather styles and stand up to years of wear.
Akila x Mister Green Lo-Fi Sunglasses
Total Produced: 100 of each color
Hardware: 5-barrel hinges, stainless steel temple cores
Cover: 100 percent UVA/UVB sun protection
What happens when you mix fresh designs, quality materials, low prices and a bit of hype? You get a brand like Akila, which produces sunglasses that are equal parts covetable and affordable. Take its collaboration with cult-favorite head shop Mister Green: each limited-edition frame is made with plant-based cellulose acetate and costs just over 100 bucks. The style is available in two colors — brown tortoise and black — but you'll need to head to a secondary market if you want a pair. When these shades launched earlier in the year, both sold out almost immediately.
New Balance Tokyo Design Studio x Snow Peak Niobium Concept 1
Sizes: UK 4.5–UK 11.5
Materials: eVent waterproof fabric, MT801 outsole, ABZORB compression foam
Closure: Toggle laces and zipper
New Balance’s Tokyo Design Studio collaborated with Japanese outdoor brand Snow Peak to produce a shoe that’s essentially a transformer on your feet. Taking a modular approach, the indoor slipper can be worn as is or zipped into a rugged outsole and shell to make an outdoor sandal. Waterproof booties can be swapped for the slippers, altering the style to an off-road stomper. The rise of techwear is due largely to its functional design, and these shoes take that honed performance into every part of your life.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian L'Homme à la Rose
Available Sizes: 1.2 and 2.4 ounces
Other Notes: Grapefruit, amber woods, sage, cistus
Country of Origin: France
When it comes to adding rose to fragrances, perfumers typically blend it with other notes like jasmine, patchouli or oud to make an accord (the fragrance world's equivalent of a dynamic music chord). Not Francis Kurkdjian, who put the iconic floral scent front and center with essence of Damask rose from Bulgaria and absolute of Centifolia rose from Grasse. L'Homme à la Rose is balanced with green, citrusy top notes and a dark, woody base, making for a masculine fragrance that challenges outdated conventions about who can, or can't, wear rose.
In a year fraught with upheaval and uncertainty, the slight shifts in the horological landscape — the wider adoption of e-commerce, the continued downsizing of watch-case diameters — were welcomed. New watches were characterized by mostly incremental changes: Omega debuted a renewed caliber 321 movement in a steel Speedmaster (pricey but awesome), and Rolex's Oyster Perpetual brought back bright dial colors from the 1970s (unexpected but beautiful). Despite the tumultuousness of 2020, time, it appears, marches on
Omega Speedmaster 321 Stainless Steel
Movement: Omega caliber 321 mechanical
Water Resistance: 50m
While most watchmakers today are content to simply replicate a vintage look in a modern timepiece, Omega recently went to uncommon lengths to recreate one of its famously space-tested Speedmaster watches.
Four years before the 1969 moon landing, American astronaut Ed White became the second person ever to perform a spacewalk. He did it with two Speedmasters that each showed a different time zone. To revive the long-discontinued caliber 321 manually wound movement that powered these watches, Omega used tomographic imaging to scan a vintage example. The brand then opened a workshop dedicated to meticulously duplicating the movement, assigning a single watchmaker to assemble each new caliber 321-based Speedmaster watch by hand.
The new 321, which replicates a movement that's been out of production for 50 years down to its tiniest detail, now powers a thoroughly modern chronograph. And though the watch is based on a reference that preceded Omega’s iconic Moonwatch, it satisfies those ardent fans who have long been waiting for an authentic modern Speedy.
The new Speedmaster is remarkably faithful to the original, but Omega isn't trying to fool anyone into thinking it's a vintage model. Watches of the sixties hid their movements behind solid case backs; here, however, Omega proudly displays the modern caliber 321 through a transparent window, and features like a sapphire crystal and a ceramic bezel are welcome upgrades — even if they aren't historically accurate.
The one letdown is that while the Speedmasters of the 1960s were purely pragmatic tools, the modern Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Stainless Steel is a collector's dream, and therefore priced accordingly at over $14,000.
Seiko Prospex SPB149
Movement: Seiko 6R35 automatic
Water Resistance: 200m
Seiko's broad collection of modern dive watches all began with a single model in 1965: known as the 62MAS (aka reference 6217-8001), it still underpins the brand's aesthetics and feel. The 62MAS was not only a milestone for Seiko, but is also recognized as Japan's first professionally oriented dive watch. Water-resistant to 150m and featuring an automatic movement, it had most of the basic traits of modern divers and the pragmatic looks that now captivate vintage watch enthusiasts.
Though it's been replicated and reinterpreted over the years, the 62MAS's latest incarnation, the SPB149, truly nails the balance between retro and contemporary, making for one of the most compelling timepieces of 2020. Blocky elements of the watch's design — such as the hands, indices and the case itself — evoke the 62MAS, but its broad bezel immediately sets it apart. More than these design elements, however, it's the high level of refinement and build quality that characterize the SPB149, reinforced by premium features like sapphire crystal and Seiko's recently upgraded 6R35 automatic movement with 70 hours of power reserve.
The SPB149 (and its related siblings) is still very much a tool watch with the rock-solid quality and value Seiko fans expect, but its design, dimensions and character make it stand from out other divers in Seiko's approximately $1,000 Prospex tier — and from most of the non-Seiko competition.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
Movement: Rolex cal. 2232 or 3230 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m
Diameters: 28mm, 31mm, 34mm, 36mm, 41mm
When many people think of a wristwatch, they imagine the Rolex Submariner. The flagship diver was introduced in 1953 and still turns heads, as it did most recently when Rolex dropped news of a new 41mm Sub in August. But it was the quieter debut of an updated Oyster Perpetual, the Crown's entry-level model, that has captured the hearts of die-hard Rolex nerds in 2020.
Back in the 1970s, certain Rolex models were equipped with bright, eye-catching enamel faces called "Stella" dials. They were wild, especially by Rolex's famously conservative standards today. (Most of its watch dials are black, white, silver — maybe an occasional blue.) So when Rolex brought a flock of new, Stella-looking OPs onto the scene in 2020, Crown devotees took notice. Is Rolex being, daresay, fun again?
However you want to characterize the move, it's a welcome one. The Oyster Perpetual is no longer available in the beloved 39mm "Goldilocks" size, but there are now five diameters of OP to choose from (including a new 41mm version) in a host of striking shades, from canary yellow to sky blue to fire red and more. Best of all, if you'd prefer a classic Rolex look, you can spring for handsome silver-grey, rhodium or ruthenium dials.
With its upgraded Rolex cal. 2232 or 3230 automatic movement (depending up on the size), matching steel Oyster bracelet and handsome new dial colors, the new OP may be the Rolex to get in 2020.
IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide
Movement: IWC cal. 82835 automatic
Water Resistance: 60m
Complicated mechanical timepieces — those that do anything beyond simple timekeeping — are engineering marvels that have to be seen to be fully appreciated. A calendar watch that tells you the day, date and month? Yep, those exist. And they're powered by springs and gears.
One such complication that's esoteric even by independent watchmaking standards is the tide indicator, which gives the wearer information on the Earth's tides — high or low, spring or neap — and when they'll occur relative to the time of day. Only a handful of such watches have been designed over the years, the latest of which comes from a major Swiss brand in the form of the IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide.
Executed in a striking 44.6mm 18k 5N pink gold case, it's surely a statement piece. But the value here is more than skin deep: inside the watch beats the IWC cal. 82835, an automatic movement with 60 hours of power reserve that calculates the time, the moon phase for both northern and southern hemispheres, and times for high and low tide. The double moon phase indicator, a signature of IWC's, also indicates relative tide strength.
Who needs such a watch in 2020? Possibly no one. But that's not why folks buy mechanical watches. The sophistication of the engineering and the beauty of the design are enough to justify the Moon & Tide's existence — even though justifying its $33,100 price tag to your accountant might be a bit harder.
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
Movement: Piaget cal. 900P-UC automatic
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Price: Upon request
Piaget announced the Altiplano Ultimate Concept back in 2018 as the thinnest mechanical watch in the world, but at the time, it was just that — a concept. Now the AUC is available as a full production model in over 10,000 possible permutations; buyers can customize the watch's dial, handset, bridge and more. Five separate patents were registered for its design, which includes an unbelievably thin 0.2mm crystal, a specially designed movement with 40 hours of power reserve and an overall thickness of just 2mm.
Movement: Sellita cal. SW300 automatic
Water Resistance: 500m
Price: $2,180 - $2,940
Despite its badass looks and serious professional cred, not everyone has the wrists for the popular but generously sized 44mm sized Sinn U1. The new U50, however, which measures a more manageable 41mm, retains the U1's features and looks but opens up the playing field to a new set of dive-watch wearers. Made of German submarine steel and treated with Sinn's hardening technology, the U1 is rated to venture even deeper than your average dive watch — or human — can handle.
Cartier Privé Tank Asymétrique
Movement: Cartier 1917 MC mechanical
Water Resistance: 30m
Despite the iconic status of its thin, rectangular case and elegant Roman numerals, a watch as familiar as the classic Cartier Tank can sometimes benefit from a twist. Reviving an unusual model that debuted in 1936 (and has since seen several updates), the Tank Asymétrique turns the watch's formal rectangle into a rhomboid and rotates the dial elements by 30 degrees — resulting in a natural reading angle for the wearer. With Arabic numerals executed in a playful font, the Asymétrique has a unique appeal unlike that of any other dress watch.
Longines Heritage Classic Tuxedo
Movement: Longines cal. L893 automatic
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Though there's certainly an abundance of vintage-inspired watch designs, some of these timepieces are simply too beautiful to relegate to horological history. The Longines Heritage Classic Tuxedo is one such watch. With its handsome black-and-silver dial, all-caps, midcentury logo and pared-down aesthetic, you'd be forgiven for assuming this is indeed a 75-year-old object. Its 38.5mm steel case, automatic movement with 64 hours of power reserve and Super-LumiNova lume, however, give it a 21st-century feel. Strap it on for dinner and you're sure to recall a more elegant time.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Memovox Timer
Movement: Jaeger-LeCoultre cal. 965AA automatic
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Cell phones make for convenient alarm clocks, but if you're tech-fatigued, why not substitute yours for a more classically inspired one: the new Jeager-LeCoultre Master Control Memovox Timer. It updates the famed Swiss maison's mechanical alarm watch with a new function — namely, the ability to set a countdown timer by selecting the number of hours until the alarm rings. (You can also set the alarm more conventionally, to a specific time.) All this functionality is powered by an automatic movement made in-house by JLC and is fitted to a beautiful, brushed blue sunray dial.
Ollech & Wajs Ocean Graph
Movement: ETA cal. 2824-2 automatic
Water Resistance: 1,000m
Nearly lost to history, independent watchmaker Ollech & Wajs came roaring back onto the scene with its new Ocean Graph. The watch is pretty, sure, with faded blue and orange tones, but also genuinely functional — the colorful bezel features a dive decompression chart and the dial's strong legibility is important underwater. It’s not only a fascinating throwback to a more analog age of diving, but also a beast of a watch with a chunky case that's water-resistant to no less than a kilometer.
"The highway is alive tonight," Bruce Springsteen once wrote; "where it’s headed, everybody knows." For the automotive industry, that’s electrification — a trend seen in several of this year’s most notable vehicles. But gasoline isn’t going gently into that good night; it’s still fueling all sorts of innovative vehicles, from trucks that can do it all to icons reborn in brand-new forms.
No matter what makes cars, trucks and bikes move, the future of motoring is fast, comfortable and clean.
Land Rover Defender
Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four / 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6; 8 speed automatic; 4-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 296 / 395
Torque: 295 lb-ft / 406 lb-ft
In an ocean of hype, it can be easy to forget the original Land Rover Defender barely had an official presence on American shores. While it debuted in 1983 overseas, it didn’t go on sale here until 1994 — and it vanished from showrooms just three years later, axed due to slow sales and rising safety standards that mandated things like passenger-side airbags. Yet to hardcore off-roaders, the old Defender 90 and 110 represent something like the Platonic ideal of an SUV.
So when Jaguar Land Rover announced the Defender would be returning using a car-like unibody chassis instead of a truck-like body-on-frame setup, purists howled — only to redouble their cries when they saw design boss Gerry McGovern’s modern take on the vehicle. This, they said, is not a real Defender.
Well, guess what: it’s the right Defender for our times.
Unlike those Defenders of yore, you can drive this one on the highway without complaint; the ride is smooth and the handling stable, and the interior is both comfortable and packed with convenience features. And while previous versions were outdated even for their time, the new version embraces technology with verve. Not just when it comes to off-road tech (though it has that in spades) but also in the form of a new computer architecture that lets it download vehicle updates via cell networks, which should mean fewer pesky trips to the dealer for any gremlins that raise their heads.
Granted, the front still looks a little too much like a Thomas the Tank Engine character, and there’s no denying that many buyers might be better off with a well-equipped Discovery for the same money as a moderate-spec Defender. But Land Rover has delivered an SUV that combines go-anywhere prowess with true real-world usability … and that’s something even the original Defender couldn’t do.
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Powertrain: 6.2-liter V8; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Torque: 470 lb-ft
Rumors that the ‘Vette’s engine would move to between driver and rear axle have followed it around for more than half a century; by the end of the seventh-generation’s lifespan, however, it was clear that even GM’s engineers couldn’t squeeze much more performance out of its front-engined layout. It was time for a change.
Any concerns that Chevy would half-ass this transition prove unfounded the moment you clap eyes on the Stingray in person. Corvettes have always generated goodwill, but the 2020 version might as well be Tom Hanks handing out free ice cream; people of every age, race and gender light up when they see it. Yet as great as the new Corvette looks, it’s in the way it drives that the change truly reveals its benefits.
Moving the engine brings the center of gravity closer to the driver, which makes the car feel more connected to the person holding its squared-off steering wheel. Crank into a turn and there’s no sense you’re pushing a big chunk of steel and fiberglass around; rather, it feels like the car knows your innate desires. It delivers quantifiable benefits, too. Having the engine farther astern means more weight shifts toward the rear wheels when accelerating, improving grip and, in turn, acceleration. The Corvette can vault from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under three seconds — the sort of time reserved for all-wheel-drive supercars just a couple years back.
The engine is familiar — an improved version of the V8 from the last Corvette. Considering that engine’s combination of delightful tractability, prodigious power and torque, and sonorous roar, few are likely to complain. More controversial: the stick shift is gone. But in its place, every new ‘Vette comes with a dual-clutch gearbox that feels as clever and sharp as the ones from Porsche or Audi.
The best part? All of this is just the beginning. More powerful Corvettes — including hybrid and potentially fully electric ones — are just around the corner, ready to bloody the noses of Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Porsche Taycan 4S / Turbo / Turbo S
Powertrain: Twin electric motors; two-speed gearbox for the rear motor; all-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 523 / 563 / 671 / 751
Torque: 472 lb-ft / 479 lb-ft / 627 lb-ft / 774 lb-ft
If you needed any proof that the electric cars of tomorrow won’t give up anything to the internal combustion cars of today, you’ll find it under the hood of the Porsche Taycan. Or rather, you won’t, because its compact electric motors don’t need the space; they live closer to the axles, leaving the hood free to hold items in case the rear trunk fills up.
Floor the pedal formerly known as “the gas,” and you’ll see just what an electric vehicle can do when it’s created by one of the world’s preeminent sports car manufacturers. By combining supercar levels of power with the instantaneous torque delivery of electric motors and a rare-for-EVs transmission, the Turbo and Turbo S versions accelerate with the sort of force usually experienced only by Navy pilots being catapulted off aircraft carriers. (The more affordable Taycan 4S is slightly slower, but it's still quick enough to induce tunnel vision.) And unlike Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode-equipped cars, it can do that over and over again ad infinitum — or at least until the battery runs dry.
That, admittedly, will happen after fewer miles logged than, say, it would take to empty a Panamera’s gas tank. Still, independent tests have found the EPA’s estimated ranges for the Taycan to be conservative; even the super-powered Turbo S will knock out 200 miles of driving between charges if you don’t drive at autobahn speeds the entire time. And should the car run down, the Taycan can take on electrons at 270 kW — fast enough to bring a depleted battery up to 80 percent charge in 15 minutes, according to Porsche. It might still take you a little longer to knock out a long trip in a Taycan than it would in a gas-powered car …but the odds are good you’ll have more fun along the way.
BMW R 18
Powertrain: 1,802-cc boxer twin-cylinder; six-speed transmission
Torque: 116 lb-ft
BMW Motorrad has built many different types of motorcycles in its 97-year history, but it wasn’t until two decades into the 21st century that it rolled out its first cruiser. While it might seem an odd time to enter this niche, it could prove serendipitous; motorcycle sales overall are actually up this year, either in spite of the coronavirus pandemic or because of it (social distancing comes easy on a bike going 60 mph) — and few types of bike are more iconic than big, burbling cruisers like the R18.
To give it the proper amount of pop, BMW whipped up its biggest boxer engine yet seen in a production bike — a two-cylinder that displaces more than 1,800 ccs. Stability control and engine drag torque control come standard to help to keep the mighty engine’s output in check. But motorcycles like this are all about their owner’s individuality, so there are plenty of other options on tap: BMW teamed up with acclaimed moto-gear makers like Roland Sands Design, Mustang Seats and Vance & Hines to offer a wide range of custom add-ons and swap-in parts, thus ensuring every buyer can make their R18 truly one of a kind without leaving the BMW Motorrad showroom.
At a base price equivalent to a new Kia Soul, the R18 clearly isn’t aimed at casual entry-level riders. It’s after riders who’ve long ridden Harleys and Indians because they were the best options to fit their desires. This Beemer is a sign that while electric propulsion may be as inevitable for the motorcycle world as it is for the automotive one, it’ll be a long transition — and in the meantime, there’ll be plenty of riders who want to savor the sweet nostalgia of a purring bike beneath them.
Mercedes-Benz Metris Getaway
Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four; seven-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Torque: 258 lb-ft
Mercedes couldn’t have known camping would receive a mighty boost in 2020 from COVID-19, but, as it happened, their camper van arrived at just the right time. Like the VW Westphalias of old, the Metris Getaway packs a pop-top roof that provides sleeping quarters for two; the rear bench folds down to create a bed for two more. Add in a second battery for keeping items charged and options like mosquito nets, roof racks and a pull-out kitchen, and you have the perfect rolling weekend escape.
Toyota RAV4 Prime
Powertrain: 2.5-liter inline-four + two electric motors + 18.1-kWh battery pack; continuously-variable transmission; all-wheel-drive
EPA Fuel Economy, combined gas/electric: 94 miles per gallon-equivalent
Electric power will one day replace gasoline entirely, but for now, plug-in hybrids offer the best compromise between EV and internal-combustion motoring: zero-emission driving for the commute, gas-powered range for long trips. The RAV4 Prime builds on this common-sense idea by not only packaging it in one of America’s most popular vehicles, but by making it a dual-powertrain powerhouse. Sure, it can go 42 miles on electricity alone — but you’ll be more impressed with the rush of power that’s unlike any other RAV4. Factor in the $7,500 tax credit and you have a winning combination.
Happier Camper Traveler
Length: 17 feet
Height: 8 feet (exterior), 6 feet, 5 inches (interior)
Floor Space: 85 square feet
Happier Camper made waves with its first camping trailer, the HC1, which introduced the world to its innovative Adaptiv system that makes reconfiguring the interior as easy as playing with giant-sized Legos. With this year's Traveler, however, it’s bringing that idea to a trailer large enough that you’d actually want to live out of it. The two living spaces can be reconfigured in minutes, simply by swapping out the Adaptiv cubes used to create everything from desks to benches to beds. And unlike its predecessor, you can outfit the Traveler with a real flushing toilet.
Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban
Powertrain: 5.3-liter V8 / 6.2-liter V8 / turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six diesel; 10-speed automatic; two-or four-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 355 / 420 / 277
Torque: 383 / 460 / 460
Full-sized SUVs are an exercise in American compromise. People need the space of a minivan but they want the ride height and powertrain of a full-sized pickup, and these giant sport-utes give buyers both. The new Chevy Tahoe and Suburban — effectively the same vehicle in two different lengths — come even closer to achieving that idea of car-like comfort and truck-worthy capability. By redesigning the rear suspension, GM’s big SUVs offer vastly more room in back than before, making even the third row of seats suitable for six-footers and delivering more cargo room behind that — 66 percent more than its predecessor, in the Tahoe’s case.
Powertrain: 3.3-liter V6 / turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 / 5.0-liter V8 / turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 / turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 diesel / turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 hybrid; 10-speed automatic; rear- or four-wheel-drive
Cabin Types : Regular, extended, crew
Bed Lengths: 5'6", 6'6", 8'
Long the most popular passenger vehicles in America, pickup trucks have grown to fill many niches once occupied by cars: family vehicles, luxury rides, performance machines, etc. The best truck is whichever one can satisfy as many needs as possible — and right now, that’s the 2021 F-150. Not only are its top-shelf trims more luxurious, this Ford offers fold-flat seats like those found in business class on long flights. You can use the engine as a generator, with power ports built into the truck bed. There’s even a class-first plug-in hybrid variant, which doesn’t just improve mileage — it’s the most powerful F-150, too.
Ram 1500 TRX
Powertrain: Supercharged 6.2-liter V8; eight-speed automatic; four-wheel-drive
Torque: 650 lb-ft
For years, Ford’s F-150 Raptor has been the apex predator of pickup trucks. But evolution never ceases. With millions of pickups sold in America annually, it was only a matter of time before something meaner came along. Ram’s Hellcat-powered TRX is bigger and stronger than the Raptor, packing enough power to send this 6,350-lb truck from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and features a frame sturdy enough to bound across the desert at 100 mph. Yet, its interior is as comfortable as we’ve come to expect from the latest Rams, with near-luxury-car levels of technology and materials laden inside.