Peak Gear Awards

We asked the region’s top experts and outdoor adventurers—including a few of our very own BRO athletes—to select the gear they simply won’t venture outside without. Here are their selections.

Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX Trail Shoe

This ultra sturdy waterproof trail runner is just as at home on the ultra course as it is on a light day hike. The thick rubber soles and toe guards provide added protection while the Gore-Tex liner keeps feet dry all day long. $140

“These shoes have stood up to every trail I’ve taken them on. They are lightweight enough to keep me moving quickly, and the tread gives me the perfect amount of traction when I’m off trail scrambling. They’ve kept me dry in some extreme conditions and remain durable and sturdy after tackling some of the roughest terrain the Linville Gorge has to offer.”

—Justin Costner, hiker, climber, and adventure photographer

Gaia GPS App

This universal GPS app has become one of the best and most widely trusted maps for iOS. These days it is compatible with all iOS devices from the iPhone and iPad to the iPod and the Apple Watch. $20

“I still take map and compass on remote thru-hikes but pinpointing my location using the Gaia GPS App is like receiving a reassuring pat on the back deep in the wilderness. (Or if I’m lost, it provides a kick in the butt back towards the trail.)”

—Jennifer Pharr Davis, professional hiker, A.T. record-setter

ColdPruf Quest Performance Base Layer

The Quest Performance base layer is basically a high performance set of long underwear capable of keeping you warm in extreme conditions while wicking moisture and inhibiting odor-causing bacterial growth on the fabric. Shirt $40 Pant $32

“ColdPruf base layers are perfect for those humid, bone-chilling days we often get in the Mid-Atlantic region. They keep me warm, but I never get sweaty as I’ve experienced with other base layers.”

—Hillary Bond, USASA National Champion 2011-2014, Alpine Snowboard Slalom and Giant Slalom

Astral Rassler Water Shoe

This mid-cut water shoe offers premium ankle support, drain holes for fast drying, toe protection, and super grip soles that stand up to even the most slippery of river rocks. $119.95

“When I head out to go kayaking, I need a shoe that can handle the hike to the put-in, the slick rocks on the portages, and fit comfortably inside my boat. I love my Astral Rasslers because they can do all that, with the added bonus of being both durable and fashionable too.”

—Laura Ferrell, avid paddler and BRO Athlete

Petzl Grigri 2

Designed to facilitate belay maneuvers, the Grigri 2 works equally well for lead climbing and top roping. The compact and lightweight design allows for maximum durability and excellent descent control. $99.95

“It is the most versatile piece of gear a climber can have. It is a belay device, a soloing device, an ascender, a wall hauler; I’ve even used it to flip fully loaded rafts back over on the Grand Canyon. Its big strength is that it locks up when the belayer takes their hand off the rope—a literal life saver if the belayer gets knocked out by a rock or something like that.”

—Paul Nelson, avid climber and BRO Athlete

Fitbit Surge

This fitness super watch does more than count your steps. It can do everything from monitor your resting, active, and even sleeping heart rate to GPS track your hikes, trail runs, and mountain bike rides. When you’re done, just sync it up with your smartphone using the easy interface Fitbit app and break down the data in real time. $250

“From what I eat to how well I rest and compete, I’m measuring, experimenting, learning, and getting stronger. This type of rigorous monitoring would be thousands of dollars with a trainer, and is only a few hundred with fitbit.”

—R. B. Martin, surfer, biker, and adventurer

Maxxis Ardent 29 inch Mountain Biking Tire

The Maxxis Ardent is designed for aggressive trails and gives the rider maximum traction and cornering control. The sharp tread and high volume casing on these bad boys is designed to take a licking and keep on ticking, meaning your Ardents will stand up to the harshest, rockiest terrain without wearing down like lower quality tires have a tendency to do. $57

“It’s one of the best mountain biking tires on the market. The aggressive, high-grip tread pattern becomes especially helpful in the fall when the leaves begin to coat the singletrack and maximum grip is a must.”

—Matt Fusco, Asheville-area mountain biker

Sawyer Mini Backcountry Water Filter

The Sawyer Mini water filtration system is capable of filtering up to 100,000 gallons from clean water sources. As the name indicates, it is extremely lightweight and takes up minimal space in a pack. It can either be used as a filtration straw, screwed directly onto a water bottle, or hooked up inline on your hydration bladder. $25

“The Sawyer Mini has been a great addition to my pack. It’s so tiny and for only $25 you really can’t beat it. I carry the Sawyer Mini and two big empty water bottles with me on the trail at all times. Usually I just bottle the water, slap that thing on, and drink as I go!”

—Steve Yocom, Blue Ridge explorer and adventure photographer

AVEX Highland bottle

Ideal for long days on the trail, the Avex Highland with autoseal technology can keep your hot drink hot for up to seven hours and your cold drinks cold for as long as twenty. $30

“It keeps my coffee at the perfect temperature all day long. I can walk to classes or along the nearest trail while enjoying my coffee. I also don’t have to worry about it getting knocked over and spilling, because it is totally leak-proof. It is the perfect product for on-the-go coffee lovers.”

—Jane Anne R, student, Auburn, Ala.

Oz Tent Malamoo

This pop-up tent erects in a matter of three seconds and features a breathable inner layer and a completely waterproof outer layer. If you’re in the market for a smaller car camping tent, the Malamoo is for you. $249.99

“There is nothing easier or faster to set up and take down. The quality is great and the design is simple. It’s perfect for setting up in harsh, rainy conditions, and the fabric breathes much better than I expected.”

—Chris Hess, Highland Hiker in Highlands, North Carolina

Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15 Sleeping Bag

The Lost Ranger 15 offers warmth, compressibility, and Big Agnes’ patented sleep system, allowing the user to slide a sleeping pad into a sleeve on the back of the bag, so no more rolling off your pad in the middle of the night. The Downtek insulation that the Lost Ranger is known for will keep you toasty at temps as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and its lightweight design is perfect for long treks deep into the backcountry. Also notable is the roominess of this bag and the ergonomically designed sleeping hood which allows for a full range of motion throughout the night. Don’t head out for a cold weather backpacking trip without it! $275

Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest 2.0

This running vest is minimalism at its best. It gives you everything you’ll need on a long trail run and nothing more. It comes in at only 7 ounces but somehow provides liters of storage. $100

“This is my go-to pack! The water bottles are held in the front, which allows easy access (and eliminates that terrible plastic taste you get with bladders), and has just enough room to carry all my food and my jacket during long runs. I don’t go deep into the woods without it.”

Brandon Thrower, race director, trail runner, BRO Athlete

MPOWERD Luci Solar Lights

This ultra lightweight, super portable solar light straps to your pack during the day, then inflates into a lantern at night, providing up to 12 hours of illumination. $20

“I have backpacked with my Outdoor Luci several times and it generates plenty of light for any nighttime activity. I’m really impressed by its light output, and the Aura is just flat out fun with the seven colors.”

—Suz Mayerchak, Walkabout Outfitters, Roanoke Va.

“For me, you can’t beat the warmth and comfort of the Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15 degree bag. The down insulation is critical in keeping me warm and comfy on cold nights in the Western North Carolina backcountry, and the Big Agnes sleep system allows me to attach my sleeping pad to the bottom of the bag, keeping me from rolling onto the ground in the middle of the night. All these features provide a better night of sleep and more energy for daytime exploration.”

—Justin Costner, hiking guide and adventure photographer

Titan Rod Vault

The disassembly that most fly rods require in order to fit into your vehicle can be extremely time consuming. The Titan Rod Vault is here to save the day. Just slide your fully assembled rod into the Titan Rod Vault, which easily mounts to the top of your vehicle’s roof rack, and head off in search of the next honey hole. $400

“You never have to worry about breaking your rods down, putting them back together, rigging them up or having flies stuck to your seats. It’s a simple yet genius design that keeps enthusiasts doing what they love the most, being on the water and fly fishing.”

—Abbi Bagwell, avid fly fisher

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