As you know, our gear reviews aren’t sponsored. We get a lot of gear and, quite frankly, we test the hell out of stuff. This year was no exception: we took gear on a camping trips in Northern Ontario, as well as a multi-day canoe trip in the Kawartha Lakes, leading to Petroglyphs Provincial Park and Curve Lake First Nation. We also tested some gear at a rustic cabin (meaning no water or loo, folks).
And while it’s true that some of the gear just didn’t make it, we found some things that we absolutely love — items that we know will be with you for a long, long time and many wild adventures.
We tested out a bunch of camping gear and gadgets, which were scored based on functionality, design, and innovation. Here’s the best camping gear and outdoor clothing of 2015 that we tested:
Forget sleeping on the hard-ass, cold ground. The Winterlite is one of the best sleeping pads on the market for comfort and warmth. It’s also surprisingly compact and features a tapered shape that fits into the smallest of tents. It’s so lightweight at 1lb, making it ideal for multi-day backpacking expeditions.
Inflating was fairly easy, and thankfully, didn’t involve blowing into the mattress like a circus clown making balloon puppets. Just fill the Schnozzel Pumpbag with air, scrunch it up, and pump it into the mattress. Do this several times to get the sleeping pad nice and firm.
It’s also the best choice for winter camping. The R-value is 7.0, which is above average for warmth insulation. Most sleeping pads range in R-value from 1.0 (minimally insulated) to 9.5 (highly insulated).
What we loved: Once you go Exped, you don’t go back. This plush pad is the closest thing to a real mattress in your tent without glamping. It’s because the pad is 3.5 inches thick when inflated and has 700 goose down filling for premium insulation and padding.
If we could change one thing: It was a bitch to roll the mat into the carrying case. I had to enlist my eight your old nephew to help deflate and roll up the mattress.
Ideal for: four season camping
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Princeton Tec Sync ($30)
This gadget is worth every penny! Whether you’re cooking, starting the campfire, or grabbing toilet paper, you never have to balance a flashlight with whatever you’re doing with your hands. This headlamp sits on your forehead and the beam of light follows your line of sight.
With just a twist of the power dial, switch between five LED modes: a red light, spot beam, and flood light. It also has a fairly long battery life, using 3 AAA cells and lasting up to 75 hrs on max setting. It’s also small enough to fit in your jacket’s pocket.
It’s a practical purchase that comes in handy when you least expect it. We even used this headlamp while dining at a winery after sunset.
What we loved: All the light modes were mega powerful. Walking down a dark and slippery path one night the night, I played Rudolph for the group, illuminating the way through the woods as we walked.
If we could change one thing: Because the lighting is so strong, we inadvertently blinded friends and family. Not much can be done to remedy this, except switching to the red light mode.
Ideal for: any outdoor activity in the dark.
Rating: 5/5 stars
This hoody is so much more than a pullover. Outdoor Research used some mad science to build a hoody equipped for outdoor living. It’s a thin, soft jumper made from a fast-drying fabric that also suppresses stink and provides UPF 15 sun protection (!). At the waistband hem, there’s a concealed zip pocket that can fit Kleenex, hair ties, or other small things.
What we loved: It’s a really cozy hoody for cool fall days, especially with the form-fitting hoody and thumbholes to cover your hands. Plus, it has the added bonus of looking attractive.
If we could change one thing: The hoody kept slipping off our heads. Adding an integrated string or button system would help, so that it can be tightly secured while active outdoors.
Ideal for: cooler spring/fall weather.
Rating: 5/5 stars
We loved these water-friendly shoes both for their functionality and cute look! The breathable mesh and durable webbing and adjustable straps make it easy to transition from land to water. There’s also a protective toe bumper to prevent injuries. Plus, Chaco’s Luvseat footbed provides ample arch support and padding for your footsies.
What we loved: You can get these babies wet without worrying about sogginess. The shoes got soaked during our canoe expedition, but were dry by the next morning, thanks to the webbing.
If we could change one thing: The top of the shoes are a bit too snug around the toes for our liking. The fabric rubbed against our toes, irritating the skin. To prevent chafing, try going a half size larger in the shoe.
Ideal for: canoeing, camping, water sports.
They’re back! That’s right. If you were around in the early 90s you remember this uber popular Velcro summer sandal like it was 1999. Reimagined and re-released, Tevas have unleashed a collection of sandals and shoes including this one: the Original Leather Diamond. Made with soft debossed leather and featuring a thong sandal and trademark ankle strap, this sandal is available in grey, mauve or black. The diamond debossing and feminine design are terribly fetching and make this a versatile travel. Gone is the original heavy soled Teva. These sandals are light easy to put on and durable.
What we loved: Two things – they’re comfortable and they go with everything. The spongy sole provides squishy arch support while the soft ankle straps keep the sandal comfortably on your feet-no flippy, no floppy. Because of their cute design, these sandals can be worn with shorts, jeans, skirts trousers and whatever. We got tonnes of compliments on these from people who couldn’t believe that Tevas were back.
If we could change one thing: We’d make the foot bed a bit more firm to stand up to long walks and frequent wears.
Ideal for: summertime and warm fall days at the cottage or city.
Rating: 4/5 stars