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Staff's Favorite Gear for Winter 2010

With a Preview at What Looks Good for Spring
By GreatOutdoors.com Staff - March 25th, 2010

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At GreatOutdoors.com, we live the life, so winter is a time we cherish—a time to get out on our skis and snowboards to enjoy the hills, to camp in the pristine winter environment, and enjoy the solitude of that quieter season. But we also ventured to the Middle East, to Israel and Jordan, where the weather was a viable preview to spring in North America, to try some gear new for this year. What follows below is a digest of some of our favorite gear, from editor Peter Potterfield, from ski correspondent Andrew McLean and from snowboarder Craig Bokesch.

K2 Kung Fujas Downhill Skis
I love these skis, named for Pep Fujas, the K2 athlete known for innovative skiing. I first got them for kite skiing, because they have twin tips--both the front and back of the ski tip up. That’s crucial for kite skiing, because if you get jerked into the air and land going backwards, with the Kung Fujas you can land backward and still be skiing. But I use them for skiing at the resorts around my home at Park City too. This is a great all around ski, whether kite skiing or cruising groomers or skiing moguls. The guys at K2 say the 95 mm waist of the Kung Fujas and it’s rocker design gives it float in the powder and crud. It has a bidirectional sidecut that enables the ski to perform better riding switch, and the flex pattern makes it stable enough for charging lines in Alaska or hiking laps through the park. I use the 167 cm length. --Andrew McLean

Madshus Cadence 120 Nordic Skis
Madshus gave us a sneak peak at it’s new 2010 Cadence 120 Nordic skis, and they will truly be worth the wait until next fall. This may be the perfect recreational ski, as it performs great but requires no tuning at all. Part of the Madshus Cruising series—smack between the its Race Performance and Touring lines—it makes even a mediocre skier like me look good. A relatively wide ski, with moderate sidecuts, the Cadence 120 makes for a stable, comfortable platform with increased flex for a snappier response. For a hassle free waxless touring ski, these things really go, and the width means you can get a way with a little shorter ski, and that makes everything easier. The Cadence 120 is the men’s versions, the women’s is the Cadenza 120 (the 100 series will be slightly less expensive) but at $159 for the men’s ski, this already is a great bargain. Once again, Madshus shows why they are so many skiers’ favorite skis. ---Peter Potterfield

Flow WX Snowboard
After testing Flow’s new WX out in the heart of the Washington Cascades, I knew the sizzle was in the board, not just in the catchy name. I used a variety of conditions to put this all-mountain destroyer to the test. Deep and steep stuff, hard pack, wet n’ heavy stuff, and even a little ice on the brisk and windy north faces. The WX shines in areas that most advanced boarders will appreciate: edge control and efficiency. Riders will appreciate the responsive turning and easy maneuvering, and these will allow you to last all day. A lighter core with a natural wood flex yielded excellent control in just about every condition I encountered. Higher speeds were no problem with the WX. Not once did I find myself with an uneasy feeling of catching an edge that can sometimes happen on those long, fast straight-aways. Riders that enjoy the deep stuff will appreciate the slightly extra nose and reduced tail. This allows one to sit back and cruise through any batch of powder or groomer with ease. But you’ll have to experiment with your binding positions to really dial in your preferred settings to achieve the ultimate ride. --Craig Bokesch

Snowshoeing grows in popularity each year, but the Lightning Ascent is going to appeal mostly to seasoned veterans. These are extremely technologically advanced snowshoes, with high performance packed into an incredibly lightweight platform. The natural evolution to the excellent, if more moderate-terrain oriented model known as the Ascent, the Lightning Ascent is a much more aggressive and sophisticated piece of equipment. It’s such a great snowshoe,  in fact, you might actually have trouble getting a pair. The Lightning Ascent comes with an aggressive crampon that provides unrivalled traction. The integral heel lifters make steep ascents much less fatiguing. The complete package is so lightweight—it’s made from a single piece of aerospace grade aluminum alloy—that these snowshoes are  it a pleasure to wear. Add a four strap, step in binding  that is actually glove friendly, and you’ve got perhaps the lightest and highest performing snowshoe available.  --Peter Potterfield

K2 Lock Jaw Carbon/Alum Ski Pole
Those are really backcountry poles but they are good for the resort too. I like them because they are lightweight, durable, adjustable—you can change the length to match what you’re doing. The Lock Jaw poles are part of K2’s new Adventure Series that is build for the backcountry but can be used anywhere. The anti freeze Lock Jaw mechanism offers gloves on adjustability even in very cold conditions. The new Back Side rubber overmold grip and tapered strap is extremely comfortable, making this an outstanding carbon/aluminum pole for weight conscious skiers. The Lock Jaw mechanism also means these pold can be connected and extended to creat 188 to 218 cm avalanche probes. --Andrew Mclean

Sherpa Saba-Tek Pant
These pants really rock. On a recent hiking trip to the Middle East, I wore them from Jordan’s ancient Roman city of Gerash all the way to Petra, and at the end of the day, brushed them off and went to dinner in them in Amman. With multiple, ultra-secure zippered pockets, I could keep my passport and money with me all the time without worry my crucial documents might slip out. But most impressive was the bombproof, stretchy fabric that made them impervious to snags. Thanks to articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, the Saba Teks looked sharp at dinner and were super comfortable for full tilt boogie exertion on long backpacks through the Wadi Rum desert. I got unsolicited compliments from total strangers. The fit and finish on these things work for both backcountry exposure and around-town use. It’s another great product from Sherpa, everything they make is manufactured in Nepal, and the gear is gaining traction quickly among genuine users of outdoor gear. --Peter Potterfield

Columbia Firelane Low
We liked these lightweight hikers from Columbia for use in desert environments like we encountered in the Middle East. Cool on a hot day, yet comfortable thanks to the Techlite midsole, these boots were easy on the feet. Breathable, and with an effective shock-absorbing sole, we cranked mile after mile and came away impressed, particularly in a boot that comes with a price tag well below $100. --Peter Potterfield

Lorpen Socks
We tried both the heavy weight hiking sock, and the lightweight hiking sock, new this year from Lorpen, and were impressed. Lorpen's new Tri Layer socks combines natural and synthetic fibers (think Primaloft + Merino+ nylon + Lyrca) to deliver a high-performance. These socks kept us comfortable on a winter camping trip to Sun Valley and on long, hot hikes in the Middle East. --Peter Potterfield

Mountain Hardwear Jalapeno Gloves
I grew up in Seattle, so I'm skeptical of anything that promises to be waterproof, but these Jalapeno gloves perform as advertised. They are made with the very effective Out Dry membrane, and they actually keep your hands warm and dry. These are the real deal. --Andrew McLean

Columbia Titanium Mountain Tech Long Sleeve Half Zip Shirt
We tested this shirt hard, from the Judean Desert of Israel, to Wadi Rum of Jordan, to the Red Sea, and it never let us down. The high collar but deep zip means you can regulate temperature over a broad range of conditions, and when the temps take a serious drop, just add a layer. The moisture-wicking jersey knit fabric keeps you dry and the anti-microbial treatment resists ordor. This shirt makes one of the most effective base layers we tried all year. --Peter Potterfield

 The Summit 45 is an amazingly full featured pack for the money, with sleeping bag access, gps pocket on the shoulder straps, integral rain cover, and multiple exterior pockets. It shines under light loads suitable for overnight backpacks or long day trips, which are a good fit for the 2750 cubic inch capacity. A single aluminum stay keeps weight to a minimum (about three and half pounds), but it means that with loads of 30 pounds or greater, a lot of that weight will be on your shoulders, not the waist belt. And you have to pack smart, with soft items up against your back, for a comfortable carry. Even with those caveats, this is a well constructed pack that does a lot at a bargain price.   --Peter Potterfield

Eureka Suite V 6
Eureka, whose vast, top to bottom line rules the roost when it comes to family camping tents, have products that we’ve grown to love as base camp tents. The newest, dare we say best, is Eureka!’s Suite V Tent, new this seasaon. The Suite V 6 sleeps six and has a unique pole structure that provides maximum headroom at the front of the tent, enabling campers over six feet tall to walk upright into the front door through the front vestibule area. In a recent climbing trip to Canyonlands, we were all walking around standing up in our stocking feet as the Suite V 6 kept us dry during a wicked downpour. These three-pole V-shaped dome tents offer expanded living space on top of a smaller V– shaped footprint, and utilize two large D-style doors. With plenty of room to sleep five or six adults, the Suite V 6 comes  with mesh roof and four windows for ventilation, and a fly that can be configured in multiple ways, including as an awning. If you’ve got a big group, this is a tent that can handle a crowd at a price that won’t break the bank.


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