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Trailspace Top Ten: Your Best Outdoor Gear

by Alicia MacLeay
December 5, 2012

Tis the season for gift guides and top tens. For Trailspace's Best Outdoor Gear List, we turned to you, our community members. We've compiled one ultimate gear list from your 24,000 reviews, featuring your best shelter, sleeping bag, stove, water treatment, multi-tool, light, navigation, trekking poles, backpack, and food and drink.

This isn’t a list of gear that’s trendy or of the moment. This is your top-rated outdoor equipment that has stood up to your backcountry hikes, climbs, and adventures, from the Sierra to the Mongolian steppe to your local mountains.

Presenting your Trailspace Top Ten Gear.


1. Eureka! Alpenlite XT (Shelters)

The two-person Alpenlite XT is Eureka's lightest, most compact four-season tent (7 lb 7 oz) and your highest rated shelter.

"Saved my life on the Emmons Glacier on Mount Rainier," said micajones. "By far the best value in 4-season protection I have found for the price and weight." 

"Legendary ventilation properties," said EtherNomad, after a nighttime kid-induced gas attack.

Read more Eureka! Alpenlite XT reviews »

See the shelter and tent runners-up »


2. Marmot Pinnacle 15° (Sleeping Bags)

Marmot's popular, 800-fill down Pinnacle is "light, durable, extremely packable," said Jim. "It'll be the last bag you'll own. Worth every penny."

"Strikes a good balance between being somewhat usable in hot weather and warm enough when the temperature plunges," said Motopapillon.

Don't forget the sleeping pad. The Big Agnes Dual Core is your favorite underneath.

Read more Marmot Pinnacle reviews »

See the sleeping bag runners-up »


3. MSR WindPro (Stoves)

The MSR WindPro is a sturdy, adaptable, compressed fuel canister stove. For 2012, MSR introduced an updated version, the WindPro II with Inverted Liquid Feed, for better cold weather performance (6.6 oz).

"Being able to invert the canister has made this a true four-season stove ready for your next winter adventure," said Arson of the WindPro II.

"Remarkably compact, easy to clean, easy to light, good for bigger groups," said second gear of her original. "Has great temperature control, is remarkably lightweight, powerful, and stable."

Read more MSR WindPro and WindPro II reviews »

See the stove runners-up »


4. Platypus GravityWorks (Water Treatment)

The Platypus GravityWorks Filter System filters 4 liters of water in 2.5 minutes (1.75 liter per minute) with no pumping, just the physics of gravity. Reviewers love its light weight (10.75 oz), compact size, and ease of use and cleaning.

"Definitely the best thing going," said Sterno15. "I have been on numerous multi-person hikes and it keeps everyone in water no matter what the situation."

"No more endless trips to hand pump out of the stream! No more iodine and chlorine tablets or boiling," said Sir Inch-a-Lot.

Read more Platypus GravityWorks Filter System reviews »

See the water treatment runners-up »


5. Leatherman Wave (Tools)

The Wave is Leatherman's most popular multi-tool, and yours too.  Outside-accessible blades that can be deployed with just one hand, 17 tools in one, including larger knives, stronger pliers, longer wire cutters, and all-locking blades.

"Uses for the Wave are near limitless, and you find yourself using it for things that it definitely wasn't designed to do, but it does them damned well anyways," said vostok.

"The multitool by which all others should be judged," said Josh.

"Has replaced every folding knife I have ever owned," said Jeff.

Read more Leatherman Wave reviews »

See the knife and multi-tool runners-up »


6. Petzl e+LITE (Lights)

The Petzl e+LITE emergency headlamp is a compact, ultralight (27 g), waterproof light (IP 67) with 26 lumens (up to 29 m). In an emergency, its red LED allows you to be seen from a distance (300 m for 30 hours).

"The perfect union of form and function," said Patrick of the e+LITE. "This little guy is one of the most value-packed items you can stash in your pack, car, or anywhere you may end up needing hands-free lighting."

"When I first saw the e+Lite it was so beautiful I almost shed a tear," said Michael. "Then I used it and I wept openly. It is perfect. Absolutely perfect."

Read more Petzl e+LITE reviews »

See the light runners-up »


7. Silva and Suunto (Navigation)

Navigation aids are always an essential, and compasses still come out tops. The  Silva Polaris 177Silva Starter 1-2-3 , and Suunto M-3 rank at the top.

Of course, carrying a compass alone, does not make one a navigator. "If for trail work you can't find your way with this you need more map classes," said 1100 Remington Man of the Silva Starter 1-2-3. "Reliable and simple."

"A great tool if you understand how to use it," said Oldman Mike of the Suunto M-3. "Don't go in the wilderness without practice, and maybe one day it will save your life."

If you want some electronic backup, the Magellan eXplorist 610 is your favorite GPS receiver. "User interface is excellent, intuitive and easy to use," said soleful2001.

Read more navigation reviews »


8. Black Diamond Trail Shock (Trekking Poles)

The Black Diamond Trail Shocks are do-anything trekking poles with adjustable lengths and shock absorption. Control Shock Technology gives the pole progressive absorption and controlled rebound under any load. Carbide Tech Tips can be swapped for different trail surfaces.

"These are high quality poles," said jhshokie. "The grips are comfortable and the shock system is firm. The carbide tips help to keep the poles from slipping on rocks."

"I'm not alone in loving these poles, as my friends all bought them too," said atigun.

The Trail Shocks come in unisex and women-specific models, plus a compact version.

Read more Black Diamond Trail Shock reviews »

See the trekking pole runners-up »


9. Arc'teryx Bora 80 (Backpacks)

How to carry all of that top-rated gear? For dependable load hauling, consider an Arc'teryx Bora. The Bora 80 is your favorite pack of all, and the 95-liter version comes in at third. Boras are supersized, robust, weather resistant, and designed to comfortably handle expedition-sized loads.

"This bag carries hella loads and takes the abuse of climbing old growth trees all the time," said mikel of his Bora 80. 

"I travelled with this on my back for just under three years, lived out of it every day," said Ayetobee. "Australian Outback, Borneo jungle, Himalayas, Mongolian steppe, and many more destinations—it has coped without issue."

If you want to organize your gear inside its depths, try the Granite Gear Round Rock Solid, your favorite stuff sacks.

Read more Arc'teryx Bora 80 reviews »

See the backpack runners-up »


10. Food and Drink

Need a caffeine boost before you hit the trail? Starbucks VIA Ready Brew is your favorite trail-worthy food or drink. "These little packets provide plenty of punch," said android.

Consider drinking that caffeine jolt out of a Snow Peak Titanium Double Wall 450 Cup. "Simply the best coffee mug I've ever had or used," said Perry.

For dinnertime convenience, try Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef, your favorite trail food. "Very good flavor, you will hardly know you are eating dehydrated food," said Outdoor Gram.

Whatever you eat, you can use the Snow Peak Titanium Spork. It's "the perfect, must-have tool for the ultimate backpacker," said donkeypunch85.

Browse all food and drink and cookware reviews »


Disagree with this Best Outdoor Gear List? (We know some of you will.) Then tell us: What's your ultimate gear?

Share your own gear reviews to vote for your favorites.