Welcome to another installment of Staff Picks from our Outdoors and Fitness team. Every other week, we select our favorite pieces out of the gear we’re testing, mainstays in our kits, as well as items on our wish lists. It’s like a sneak peek at the gear we’re testing and what we’re stoked on. Have something you think we should check out? Or just want to say hi? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alchemy Equipment AEL008
We first came across New Zealand-based Alchemy Equipment back in August of last year and were immediately impressed by both the brand’s clothing and luggage. At Outdoor Retailer this year, we got a closer look at the brand’s AEL008 carry-on bag. Is it a backpack? A duffel? A shoulder bag? The short answer is that it’s all three of those things and is built with an impressive attention to detail. All of the materials feel extremely premium, and it’s clear that Alchemy put a great deal of time and effort into designing the bag. Two of my favorite features are the clamshell opening and the laptop ejection system that allows for easy removal when going through security. — AJ Powell, Assistant Editor
Tecnica Forge Hiking Boot
The worst part about hiking boots is break-in phase. It’s almost like you have to climb a mountain around town before you can take the new boots out for an actual excursion (away from civilization and out on the trail). While worth the wait, most custom boots are expensive — Tecnica wants to change that. For just $250, you get a boot with a nubuck leather upper, Gore-Tex lining, Vibram outsole and a customizable trekking footbed. In as little as 20 minutes, a machine (that will be in specialty stores starting this month) compresses and shapes the footbed and heel cup in the boot to make sure the shoes fit precisely to your feet. I had the opportunity to test these out at the Outdoor Retailer trade show when my feet were about ready to fall off (keep in mind, at OR, you’re standing and walking around from 9 AM until about 6 PM or later) and they did the trick for my last day. No blisters, bruises, or hot spots when I took them off. While I can’t speak to their on-piste performance, I’m excited to take them out this spring in the Adirondacks and give them a thorough test. — Meg Lappe, Staff Writer
Rab Xenon Mittens
I know what you’re thinking — of the thousand plus products debuted at Outdoor Retailer, he picks a mitten? Yes. Rab’s Xenon Mittens aren’t built to summit K2 or ski the Wasatch; they don’t supply extraordinary warmth, and they aren’t supremely durable. They are these things to some extent, but what really draws me to the Xenons is their packability. The mittens smush down into a tiny pouch just like a sleeping bag, and the result is an object small enough to go unnoticed in a pocket. I can envision them taking up permanent residence in my backpack alongside my other go-everywhere items (a set of stainless steel cutlery and a big water bottle). The Xenon Mittens will be available later this year — in glove form, too. — Tanner Bowden, Associate Staff Writer
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