According to the staff at Backpacker Magazine, gear testing is the best job in the world. “We are lucky people, and we take it seriously,” says Editorial Director Shannon Davis. “Our test team of more than 140 field scouts and staffers put in thousands of bag nights and even more miles, often through really sucky weather to sort the great from the good.”

The team spent six months on a collective quest to determine the absolute star products of the upcoming season; no item too obscure, no conditions too foul, no trail too steep. This year that quest culminated in a staff expedition to a quiet corner of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah to pick award-winners. The staff experienced unseasonable lows and winds which pushed the boundaries of comfort.

When they emerged from the desert, seven products had made the cut. The Spring 2020 Editors’ Choice-winning gear represents the best the outdoor industry has to offer in terms of toughness, safety, weight, eco-consciousness, and innovation. Each item advances its specific category in a significant way, and any hiker who takes these products out on the trail will be happy they chose them.

“We know that customers walk into outdoor shops with our Editors’ Choice issue in hand, looking for these winners,” says Davis. “That’s why we’re stoked to announce them at the Outdoor Retailer show, where buyers can jump on the intel and be sure to stock the products that their customers are gonna want.”

To complement the gear, Backpacker is also handing out two awards to things you can’t stuff in your pack. One of them, the national parks annual pass, is a tribute to something timeless, an all-access pass to the best backcountry in America. The other, the Climate Neutral initiative, is a nod to a direction Backpacker would like to see the world go in, a fuller awareness that every business can do more to analyze and offset their environmental impact.

Spring 2020 Editors’ Choice Award Winners

Mountainsmith Zerk 40b

A favorite for minimalists and long-trail dreams

Gregory Paragon 48 / Maven 45

Legendary pack suspension and features with an affordable price tag

Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Tee (booth #37105-UL)

As soft as your favorite old T, as technical as any other out there, and made of recycled materials

Rab Phantom Pull-On (booth #36066-UL)

The lightest and perhaps only shell you need

Exped FlexMat Plus

The last word in affordable, worry-free sleeping pads

Giorgio’s Savory Wild Portabella Jerky

Mushroom jerky (you read that right) that’s a refreshing break from the usual

Climate Neutral (Editors’ Choice Green Award)

This new independent nonprofit is undertaking the largest carbon foot-printing exercise in the history of mankind to create a community of Climate Neutral Certified brands. Backpacker is jumping on board, too.

MSR Dromedary (Editors’ Choice Gold Award) 

Simply stated, the toughest water hauler we’ve ever tested

National Parks Annual Pass (Editors’ Choice Gold Award)

Since its inception in 2004, it’s the best bargain in all-access outdoor exploration. 

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