These trousers may look like they belong more in the bar or the boardroom than on the trail, but they hold their own in even the most rugged settings. “My buddy ripped his technical hiking pants in Grand Staircase-Escalante’s cheese grater slot canyons, but even after multiple days of scrambling mine were unblemished,” says one tester who’d already taken the AP Pant for months of testing in the Canadian Rockies and on the Turkish coast. Durability comes thanks to a blend of cotton and nylon that also contains a dash of elastane, which allows the pant to retain its shape even over multiple days without a wash. And the best part? Mountain Hardwear is now offering the AP Pant at 40 percent off in both the men’s ($53.98) and women’s ($50.98) versions on its website.
As COVID-19 continues to make gathering in crowds a risk this winter, industry professionals are expecting a surge of new backcountry skiers this winter. But the backcountry isn’t the resort: head out beyond the gate, and you’re responsible for your own safety. The best and first step you can take to ski safely is to take an avalanche course. Once you have the knowledge, get the gear with our picks for the best probe, beacon, radio, and avalanche airbag of the winter.
For those who want a straightforward, no-frills avalanche transceiver that’s light and small, the EVO 5 offers a simple design by jettisoning some more sophisticated features. About as thick as a deck of cards and lighter than standard beacons (it does have the standard three antennas, though), the EVO 5 auto-reverts back to transmit after 8 minutes in search mode, and detects up to three burial signals that can be “marked.” It has a 50-meter search strip (rather than the 70 meters found in higher-powered models). We also appreciated the screen’s intuitive display, with full words rather than the often-cryptic abbreviations of other beacons, and that the on/off switch and mode button are easily operable with a gloved hand. $320; 5.2 oz.
Communication is key in the backcountry, and the ability to talk to your partners, coordinate rescues, and avoid getting lost is essential to safety. But most consumer radios lack durability, and outdoor-specific models can get pricey. That’s why we like the Rocky Talkie, a simple-to-operate, bombproof, and affordable alternative. It’s the size of a bar of soap, and the glove-friendly talk button makes it easy to know when you’re transmitting. A shatterproof screen can take a beating, and the standby mode helps boost the battery life past 72 hours of use on a single charge. An upgraded design on this version sheds snow and keeps it from blocking the microphone. The Rocky Talkie also comes with a carabiner to keep it close, while a coiled leash prevents you from dropping it off a cliff. $90; 8 oz. (with carabiner and leash)
It’s disconcerting how tricky some probes can be to deploy and lock into place, especially in a panicked rescue scenario. Not this one: Mammut’s new design ditches metal pins that can freeze or break in favor of a metal latch on the top pole section that requires less effort to pull into place and breaks down with a glove-friendly button. A carbon shaft makes the 280 Speed Lock stiffer for more accurate probing, while the metal, teardrop-shape tip has a distinct taper for decreased resistance in firm snow. “This is the fastest, easiest probe I’ve ever used,” said our Gear Editor after probing a windloaded couloir for unstable layers on Colorado’s Parry Peak (he deployed it in about 2 seconds). $100; 9.7 oz.
We’ve been loving Alpride’s E1 system for a few years now, and it’s never been inside a more dialed pack than the Patrol. The system’s major benefits are all here: Its airbag deploys via a fan powered by a battery-driven supercapacitor, which you can charge with a micro-USB in 20 minutes or with two AA batteries in 40 minutes. This allows for multiple inflations in the field, as well as no-hassle air travel. (Systems that use gas canisters require you to fill them at your destination.) But while other packs using the E1 have suffered from wonky storage configurations and other idiosyncrasies, the Patrol nails the details while remaining light and $100 less than the nearest competitor. Two ice axe holders, a slim profile, and both ski- and snowboard carry make this pack shine in technical terrain, while a minimalist, pocket-free hipbelt offers sufficient support for loads up to 18 pounds. Small ding: Integrating the avalanche tool sleeves into the main compartment rather than a separate external pocket shaves bulk, but makes it a bit harder to fit everything in and zip up. $1,100; 5 lbs. 14 oz.; 30 liters