This March, Princeton Tec will unveil a new outdoor/all-purpose headlamp that should hit the sweet spot for weekend warriors and backpackers looking to light up the backcountry (or brave a power outage).  The design of the Vizz itself is nearly idiot-proof, with one big button—and that’s about it. Press the button once and you illuminate two ultra-bright red LEDs, press it twice and get dual ultra-bright white LEDs. You can also hold the button down to cycle through the modes, which includes a 150-lumin max-bright LED that can illuminate up to 90 feet. The Vizz is waterproof down to one meter for up to half an hour, and runs on three AAA batteries—with a built-in power meter to let you how much juice you’ve got left in the estimated 160-hour run time; a low-battery indicator also triggers when you’re down to 20 percent.

www.deuter.com, one pound, three ounces
When you’re squeezing yourself through a narrow, ice-covered chute, the last thing you want is your pack or one of its appendages to get stuck—which was exactly what our tester was thinking while putting this pack through its paces on an icy day hike in Shenandoah National Park this winter. No such problem with Deuter’s Speed Lite 20, which seems to combine the design ingenuity of a BMW with the robust handling of an Audi (those German gear eggheads even managed to stitch illustrations for making distress signals to an airplane inside the pack). The sleek profile of this 20-liter pack includes a tapered design to allow for greater arm freedom while hiking, trail running, or ski touring; and the chest and hip belts are pared down to add to the pack’s minimalist aesthetic. Inside, the main chamber provides a surprising amount of room for spare layers, gloves, hats, lunch, even an extra pair of shoes. A cavernous top pocket swallows and protects more expensive items like your camera and phone, nestled close to the small of the wearer’s back rather than in an exposed area of the pack that might get knocked by branches or rocks. Two mesh side pockets easily house water bottles and snacks, while big, easy-to-grab fabric loops on all the zips make a mockery of those fiddly little metal zips found on other packs on the market. The pack itself feels refreshingly light, but the ripstop 210 nylon held up to significant abrasion tests, and the compression straps helped keep things truly svelte the tight squeezing that became a necessity during the test trials. They can also double to hold skis or hiking poles in a pinch. The U-shaped frame can also be removed for truly ultra-light outings, or when compression is essential.

As one tester who’s spent over a decade urban cycling can attest, 2012 marked the year of the hard helmet. Legions of single-speed city riders (like our tester) have gotten over the vanity of biking sans protection. And most of ‘em have eschewed the cycle-obsessed, aerodynamic designs for skateboard-inspired models like those made by Bern. In East Coast locales it seems as if Bern has cornered the market. With helmets like their G2, it’s easy to understand why. But let us not pigeon-hole the G2 as solely a cycling helmet.  Bern has made its mark on the ski and riding scene as much as in urban cycling circles, and this versatile helmet is equally at home on the slopes as it is in the saddle.  The all-weather helmet is made of Bern’s proprietary “Zipmold” hard foam, a liquid foam-injection process that delivers better weight-to-strength ratio, resulting in a lighter, low-profile helmet that meets all the safety standards.  The snap-in winter liner adds additional warmth—a feature we loved on blizzard-condition days, or when we faced temps in the teens during our daily commute. Up top, an easy-access slide lets you adjust the airflow through eight strategically positioned vents, which is a great feature as you ride (or ski or bike) into spring. And when the snow melts and you are relegated to just the bike, swap out the winter lining for the EPS Summer Comfort Liner ($15) and keep on pedaling. We tested it in warm fall temps, and didn’t overheat (thanks especially to the vents), but we suspect the helmet could prove hot in the humid, 100-degree-plus days of late July and August (likely something specific to this helmet). One bit of advice: before ordering, assure your fit is spot-on. Unlike some bike and snow helmets, there’s no fit adjustment here, a feature that certainly reduces the weight but also could prove prohibitive if your hair style (and corresponding hair volume) varies more than David Bowie’s.
The helmet includes a goggle strap clip in the back; audio knit liners with speakers in the ear pads are available for $60

What seems like a no-brainer of an idea is often times something that takes a while to get to market.  After years of enduring 1,001 different hard and soft plastic water bottles, aluminum and stainless steel vessels, and a similar number of hydration reservoirs, what we often yearned for was something that kept our precious fluid hot on the cold days, and cold on the hot ones—without lugging an old-school, heavy and bulky thermos into the backcountry.  Enter Hydroflask, who employ double-wall vacuum insulation in their stainless steel water bottles, keeping hot liquids hot for an advertised 12 hours (without creating a scorching—or even warm—exterior), and cold liquids cold for up to 24 hours. We tested both claims, and they were accurate (insulation times, it should be noticed, that are comparable to other vacuum-sealed bottles on the market).  The high-quality food-grade 18/8 stainless steel (the same metal used in most cutlery) means the bottles are BPA free and highly resistant to retaining odor, taste, and bacteria. The double-wall insulation also means the bottles won’t “sweat” with condensation, so you won’t saturate everything when you stash the bottle in a bag.  The bottles come in practically every size you’d want, with both narrow and wide mouths.  We’ve already gushed about their Growler, and we’re also enamored with the 18-ounce wide mouth bottle ($24) as a travel-friendly companion, the 2.2-inch mouth makes it easy to fill from an airport water fountain after clearing security. But the 21-ounce “standard” mouth bottle may be the perfect bottle for the active set. It provides more storage (of course), and the narrower mouth means less spilling, but it’s also compatible with Hydroflask’s Revolve water filter ($40), which threads into the bottle and can generate 75 gallons of water devoid of most fresh-water contaminants, including Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

After using this pack for everything from hauling soccer gear to biking to a day-long hike, I can confidently say I’ve found my perfect backpack.  The Treadlite comes with 16 liters of storage space—plenty for a full kit of mild-weather hiking (water, layer, food) and around-town functionality. Columbia’s “Omnishield” fabric protects the insides from averse elements, and the elevated mesh back panel kept my back dry and comfortable, even when things got muggy in late-summer testing. The back and shoulder straps have mesh elements carved out of the padding for added cooling—and I didn’t experience any hot spots at the seams, something that was a concern when I first saw the pack.  The sternum strap comes with a rescue whistle that’s loud enough to scare your neighbors and stretchy side pockets fit most water bottle. The same mesh is also used in the big kangaroo back pocket, which is great to stash your go-to items, or your wet shell when things dry up. The interior mesh pockets let you store your keys, wallet, and other small stuff you don’t want lose in the main compartment, and I really love the padded zipper pocket on the top of the pack, perfect for safely storing a cell phone, GPS, or sunglasses. I get the feeling that a lot of thought was put in this pack and it really shows.
-Chris Boyle
The model also comes in 16- and 22-liter models