“Just a little snow.” That’s the phrase that kept playing in my head as we wound our way through Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park in Catalonia, Spain. Everything—the granite peaks towering above us; the shores of an alpine lake; my boots—was covered in four inches of powder, and the “just a little snow” forecast now seemed optimistic in retrospect. Here at BACKPACKER we welcome challenging testing conditions, but this was a first for me. We were supposed to be vetting warm-weather gear, after all. But as the poked through the clouds and we descended into another lake-filled valley, we realized that the setting was perfect. After all, what’s the point of gear testing without a little adversity? And besides, the Pyrenees looked dazzling cloaked in white.
Over the next week, we hopscotched between tiny Catalonian mountain towns and hiked through the ruins of societies that inhabited the Pyrenees a millennium ago. All the while, we put our gear through its paces. Six months of intense testing across the globe had produced a shortlist, and we emerged from Spain with 11 products worthy enough to be called BACKPACKER Editors’ Choice Award winners. This year’s honorees represent the forefront of outdoor gear, and include advancements in safety, comfort, utility, and conservation. We’re proud of this list, and even more proud of the work that went into putting it together.
Not pictured: Gerber Devour Multi-Fork: Much more than a spork, this handy utensil stands on its own and packs a multitool that has some nifty features.