Welcome to the outdoor gear buyer’s guides and reviews here at Switchback Travel. It’s our goal to properly outfit your adventure with unbiased and honest recommendations of the best equipment and clothing on the market. Our buyer’s guides for hiking and camping, skiing, climbing, and mountain biking rank the best products currently on the market, and are tailored to cover all skill and ability levels. No single item is perfect for every person or activity, and as a result, we call out the pros and cons for each product and detail the important considerations in our “buying advice” sections found below the picks.

Our team of writers spends countless hours outdoors getting to know the brands, trying out new products, and staying up with the latest trends (some are good, and some aren’t). If you would like to support our site after reading a review, please use the retailer links in our handy price comparison tools or visit our support us page.

All-Mountain Skis

Best All-Mountain Skis of 2016-2017

If you're searching for that elusive one-ski quiver, this is the category to find it. The definition of “all-mountain” varies by manufacturer and retailer, but generally includes skis from 85mm to 105mm...
Beginner Skis (resort)

Best Skis for Beginners of 2016-2017

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Beginner skis offer great value and an easy platform for learning the basics of turning, balance, and control. In short, they make it easier to learn proper technique in less time...
Ski Bindings

Best Ski Bindings of 2016-2017

Bindings are often the last piece of ski gear you choose, but remain a very important one. As the connection between boot and ski, they play a fundamental role in power transfer, responsiveness and safety. We’ve separated the best bindings of 2016...
Ski Boots 2016-2017

Best Downhill Ski Boots of 2016-2017

No matter your ability level, a comfortable boot is an absolute necessity. Nothing ruins a good powder day faster than cold or painful feet, and ill-fitting boots also run the risk of not properly transferring energy...
Beginner ski boot

Best Ski Boots for Beginners of 2016-2017

Sunday, September 20, 2015
If there is one piece of gear that will keep first timers from sticking with the sport, it’s an uncomfortable ski boot. A cheap boot can pinch and freeze toes turning potential fun...
Ski Poles

Best Ski Poles of 2016-2017

It’s hard not to admire the utility of the humble ski pole. A pair of ski poles serves a number of purposes, from helping you set a rhythm for turns, to propelling you along flat sections of trail, to having a crutch to lean on in long lift lines...
Ski Gloves

Best Ski Gloves of 2016-2017

Monday, August 24, 2015
Nothing can kill a great ski day like cold fingers, so make sure to choose a quality glove that fits the type of skiing you do most. The options range from gauntlet-style synthetic nylon gloves to undercuff leather gloves from powerhouses...
Ski Helmet

Best Ski Helmets of 2016-2017

No matter your ability level, picking up a ski helmet for skiing or snowboarding is a no-brainer. If you’ve been putting off replacing a helmet that’s years old or are new to the sport, recent advancements have made them lighter and even safer...
Ski Goggles

Best Ski Goggles of 2016-2017

No matter your experience level or budget, there is a great ski goggle waiting to be found. Interchangeable lenses dominate the high end of the market with systems that are getting quicker and easier by the year. In particular...
Ski Jackets

Best Ski Jackets of 2016-2017

From cold to snow to wind to sweat, choosing a ski jacket is all about managing the conditions that you might encounter on the mountain. The right ski jacket for you depends on the specific kinds of skiing you enjoy most—skinning up a sunny ridgeline...
Ski pants

Best Ski Pants of 2016-2017

Ski pants are a critical barrier between you and the elements, and there’s a pair to fit every type of skier and budget. Recreational skiers, especially in drier places like Colorado or Utah, can get away with less waterproofing technology...
Hardshells

Best Hardshell Jackets of 2017

Hardshell jackets are designed for the alpine: they’re highly windproof, waterproof, breathable, and durable. This is the outer layer you turn to for ultimate protection while backcountry and resort skiing, mountaineering, alpine climbing...
Softshell jacket mountains

Best Softshell Jackets of 2016-2017

For high-output activities, it’s hard to beat a softshell jacket. Their breathable and stretchy fabrics offer fantastic performance and a really comfortable fit that moves with you. And as long as you don’t take them...
Best Down Jacket

Best Down Jackets of 2017

Nothing beats a great down jacket, whether it’s for causal use or tearing around the backcountry. Below we break down the best down jackets of 2017, including the top down sweaters, ultralights, and winter down jackets. You’ll find a healthy range of...
Fleece Jacket

Best Fleece Jackets of 2017

There are a wide variety of insulating jackets available, but the most comfortable and affordable choice is the classic fleece. These polyester jackets have been providing cozy warmth...
Midlayer

Best Midlayers of 2016-2017

In the typical 3-layer ski clothing system, the midlayer is given the all-important insulating duties. As such, it is the one article of clothing you’re most likely to swap out depending on weather conditions. Is it bristling cold and dry...
Ski Socks

Best Ski Socks of 2016-2017

A quality ski sock gets the basics right: a close but not restricting fit, soft touch materials that don’t itch, and enough cushioning to keep you on the slopes all day. Every sock that made our “best of” list for 2016 accomplishes this and more...
Cold winter night

Best Winter Jackets of 2017

When the heart of the coldest winter months arrives, it’s time for a serious jacket. Our picks for the best winter jackets and parkas below are among the warmest on the market—they are packed with...
Winter Boots

Best Winter Boots of 2017

Ahh, the winter boot: such a timeless and charming piece of gear. Maybe it’s because they harken back to being a kid, when snow falling always meant the anticipation of stomping around in a crisp, wonderful world for hours at a time with the promise...
Best Backpacking Tents

Best Backpacking Tents of 2017

An ideal backpacking tent is lightweight, packs down small, and is tough enough to handle inclement weather. The good news is that tent technology has come a long way even over the past few years, and weights...
Backpacking Pack

Best Backpacking Packs of 2017

Gone are the days when backpacking consisted of strapping on a huge external frame and lumbering through the forest with an aching body. Trends in backpacks these days err towards minimalism and...
Daypacks for Hiking

Best Daypacks for Hiking of 2017

A key piece of any gear closet is a go-to daypack. It’s what you grab for nearly any type of outdoor adventure, whether it’s a hike, bike ride, or day on the slopes. Generally, what most people look for…
Hiking Pants

Best Hiking Pants of 2017

A great pair of hiking pants provides comfort, freedom of movement, the versatility to perform well in a range of environments, and durability over the long haul. Many of today’s top hiking pants are made from lightweight nylon...
Rain Jacket

Best Rain Jackets of 2017

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we know a thing or two about rain. From months of daily drizzle to heavy downpour in the mountains, we’re acutely aware of the benefits of a quality waterproof and breathable jacket. The rain jackets for men and women...
Lightweight Hiking Shoes

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes of 2017

The momentum in hiking footwear is moving away from bulky boots toward lightweight shoes and even trail runners that are faster and more comfortable. You do lose some ankle support when carrying...
Hiking Boots

Best Hiking Boots of 2017

Hiking boots are critical to your comfort and performance on the trail, but this no longer means a stiff and burly model that will weigh you down. The trend is toward lighter materials that still offer decent support, and waterproof boots...
Hiking Socks

Best Hiking Socks of 2016

You just can’t overvalue a great pair of hiking socks: they keep your feet comfortable and dry while helping to prevent blisters and hotspots. We tested the full array of hiking socks from the heat of Utah’s...
Water Bottle for Hiking

Best Water Bottles of 2016

There’s no need for us to tell you the value in staying hydrated, no matter what your day has in store. But for advice on which reusable water bottle to choose? That’s something we can help with...
Backpacking stove

Best Backpacking Stoves of 2016

Backpackers want a stove that is dependable, durable, and will get the job done quickly after a long day on the trail. Thankfully, the market is full of proven designs that perform well in nearly all conditions...
Backpacking sleeping bag

Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2017

Cozying into your sleeping bag at the end of a long day on the trail is one of the simple pleasures of backpacking. Today’s backpacking sleeping bags offer not only exceptional warmth for their weight...
Backpacking Sleeping Pads

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2017

A good night’s sleep on a backpacking trip used to be an oxymoron. Without fail, the conversation over coffee in the morning would turn to aching backs from that rock or stick or, heck, even a...
Trekking Poles

Best Trekking Poles of 2017

Serious hikers have known the great benefits of trekking poles for decades. Aside from providing stability while hauling a heavy load or moving over technical terrain, trekking poles have distinct advantages...
Altimeter Watches

Best Altimeter (ABC) Watches of 2016

For hikers and mountaineers alike, a quality altimeter watch is a worthy addition to your gear collection. Popularly referred to by the acronym ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass)...
Camping Tents

Best Camping Tents of 2017

Spacious, bulky and feature-rich, tents for camping are made for a relatively luxurious experience in the outdoors. These behemoths offer plenty of room to set up cots or even chairs and a table for card games on a rainy day...
Camping Sleeping Bags

Best Camping Sleeping Bags of 2016

No matter where your travels take you, from national parks to backwoods to back porches, a sleeping bag for camping remains a trusty companion. Since space and weight are not at a...
Headlamp for camping

Best Headlamps of 2016

If you've ever gone camping, hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountain biking, trail running, or nearly anything else in the outdoors, chances are you've used a headlamp...
Camping Stove

Best Camping Stoves of 2016

You can leave your dehydrated, salty and unsatisfying meals at home—today’s camping stoves bring a whole new level of gourmet to your car camping and base camping adventures. Unlike for backpacking, there’s no need to scour...
Camping Chairs

Best Camping Chairs of 2016

Thoughts of camping chairs may conjure up images of $15 specials out front a big box retailer, but let’s reorient ourselves to a slightly higher standard. We expect a proper camping chair to not only fold up...
Rock Climbing Shoes 2016

Best Rock Climbing Shoes of 2017

We love rock climbing shoes, and we bet you do too. The good news for climbers is that there are more quality products and styles to choose from than ever before. Impressive new models...
Climbing Shoes for Beginners

Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Beginners

As a beginning climber, the last thing you want to spend your time worrying about is your shoes, or the poor feet that you’ve crammed into them on somebody’s bad advice...
Indoor rock climbing

Indoor Climbing Tips and Gear Advice

In 1987, a small warehouse filled with texture-painted walls and rock-shaped hand and foot holds opened for business on the shores of Salmon Bay in Seattle, Washington. The owners called the place “Vertical...
Climbing with Harness

Best Climbing Harnesses of 2017

Whether you’re top roping in a gym, projecting a sport route, or climbing Cerro Torre in Patagonia, you’re going to need a harness. Harnesses are one of the most important pieces of climbing gear you can own...
Rock Climbing Shoes

Rock Climbing Shoes Tips and Advice

Someday at your local climbing gym or crag, you may, if you’re lucky, wander around the corner to hear a grizzled Stone Master recounting the Golden Age. “Back in my day,” he may tell you...
Climbing helmet.

Best Climbing Helmets of 2017

When people get into rock climbing, they often ask me what kind of shoes, or harness, or rope they should buy. I always tell them the same thing: the first thing you should buy is a helmet...
Climbing Rope

Best Climbing Ropes of 2016

Any piece of climbing gear has the potential to become a cherished relic, but perhaps no piece of gear carries so many good memories as a trusty old rope. Your rope is your lifeline on everything from beginning...
Climbing Quickdraws

Best Rock Climbing Quickdraws of 2016

I love quickdraws. Any climber does. There are few pieces of climbing protection that can transform feelings of uncertainty and discomfort into ones of peace and happiness as quickly and...
Mountain Bikes Under 1k

Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000

Not everyone needs a high-end mountain bike that breaks the bank. If you are new to the sport or don’t plan to ride that often, it’s a good idea to buy a relatively inexpensive bike and upgrade...
Mountain Bikes 2k

Best Mountain Bikes Under $2,000

Mountain biking can be a very expensive sport: there are hundreds of excellent bikes available for $4,000 to $6,000 and those aren’t even at the highest end of the price spectrum...
Mountain Biking Colorado

Best Mountain Bike Helmets of 2016

If your mountain biking gear budget has been stretched thin and you’re tempted to skimp on the helmet, don’t. Skip that extra bit of carbon instead. It’s true, mountain bike helmet prices are creeping up...
Arc'teryx Satoro AR Zip Neck

Review: Arc'teryx Satoro AR

The Satoro AR Zip Neck LS is Arc’teryx’s newest offering in the world of performance baselayers. Consisting of merino wool woven around a nylon core, it has a super soft next-to-skin feel...
Patagonia Reconnaissance

Review: Patagonia Reconnaissance

Backcountry skiing can be very demanding on both the participant and their gear. It requires garments to be breathable during high-output approaches yet durable enough to withstand heavy snow, pelting sleet...
Five Ten Guide Tennie

Review: Five Ten Guide Tennie

When I jumped into the world of climbing years ago, one of my first purchases was a pair of approach shoes (the La Sportiva Boulder Evo X). Not only did my new kicks identify me as a climber, they made my clunky leather hiking boots obsolete...
Salomon X Ultra 2 hiking shoe

Review: Salomon X Ultra 2

New for 2016, the X Ultra 2 continues Salomon’s popular line of trail shoes that are lighter and lower cut than hiking boots. We put the X Ultra 2s to the test on steep, technical terrain and came away...
Nemo Hornet 2P tent

Review: Nemo Hornet 2P

We are “weight weenies,” so we were thrilled to get a hold of Nemo’s Hornet 2P tent for a few recent fastpacking trips. The Hornet is attractive for many reasons and has all the features we love in an ultralight 2-person tent, including...
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Max SV

Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Max SV

In the same way that the words “Velcro” or “Kleenex” are used to describe categories of products, “Therm-a-Rest” has become synonymous with lightweight sleeping pads...
Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody

Review: Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody

In February of 2016, Arc’teryx introduced two new minimalist jackets: the Norvan Jacket and Norvan SL Hoody. In the latter, the “SL” stands for super light and the jacket is marketed as the lightest...
Montane Minimus 777 rain jacket

Review: Montane Minimus 777

UK-based outdoor gear maker Montane hits the mark with its Minimus 777 Pull-On Jacket (also made as a full-zip jacket). What immediately stands out is its 4.7-ounce weight and incredibly compact size, but we were also impressed...
Outdoor Research Alpine bivy

Review: Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy

For a number of years, I’d thought of replacing my two-person tent that often serves as my home on solo adventures, with a bivy sack. The idea of reducing weight, saving space, and having a shelter with...
Saucony Peregrine 6 womens

Review: Saucony Peregrine 6

Saucony’s Peregrine has long been a favourite among trail runners, so much so that introducing changes could be seen as a risky move. With their sixth version of the Peregrine...
Thule Stir 20 pack

Review: Thule Stir 20

Thule, the Swedish company known mostly for their car rack systems, recently ventured into the world of backpacking with the successful introduction of their first technical packs. In 2016, they have expanded their line of packs...
La Sportiva Genius

Review: La Sportiva Genius

La Sportiva calls the Genius, “the highest performance climbing shoe on the market.” Climbing companies love to make superlative claims like that, but when it’s La Sportiva, it definitely gets our attention....
Arc'teryx Zeta LT

Review: Arc'teryx Zeta LT

The new Arc’teryx Zeta LT represents a distinct break from the hiking rain jacket status quo: design and performance that nearly match an alpine hardshell, but with the comfort and weight of a packable...
Evolv Shaman 2016

Review: Evolv Shaman (2016)

Chris Sharma is one of the greatest sport climbers of all time, if not the greatest. It goes without saying that he could choose any shoe company, and any shoe in their lineup that he wanted, and get paid to wear...
Arctery'x Bora2 Mid GTX Hiking Boots

Review: Arc’teryx Bora2 Mid GTX

Arc’teryx made the jump into footwear for 2015, and to little surprise, mimicked no one in the process. The Bora2 Mid GTX hiking boots combine the protection and grip...
Scarpa R-Evolution GTX Hiking Boot

Review: Scarpa R-Evolution GTX

Lightweight backpacking boots are a big ticket item these days, as hikers of all kinds appreciate the benefits of cutting a pound or two off their leaden feet. Scarpa’s entry into this category is the boldly...
Patagonia Ultralight Down Jacket

Review: Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody

The Patagonia Ultralight Hoody is a quintessential all-arounder down jacket, one that works well as a midlayer and outer layer, but also plays nice for daily wear. Despite falling into...
Arc'teryx Cerium LT Down Jacket

Review: Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody

Always designed with a specific purpose in mind, we consider Arc’teryx as the outdoor industry’s equivalent to Tesla Motors. Both create super high-end products where...