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.

Best Backpacking Tents of 2018

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...

Best Backpacking Packs of 2018

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...

Best Daypacks for Hiking of 2018

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…

Best Baby Carriers for Hiking of 2018

For hitting the trail with a little one in tow, it’s hard to beat a baby carrier pack. Their supportive designs allow for a comfortable and safe ride, and we’ve spent countless hours hiking with both a happy child...

Best Hiking Pants of 2018

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...

Best Rain Jackets of 2018

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...

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes of 2018

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...

Best Hiking Boots of 2018

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...

Best Hiking Socks of 2018

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...

Best Water Bottles of 2017

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...

Best Backpacking Stoves of 2018

Backpackers want a stove that is lightweight, dependable, and will get the job done quickly after a long day on the trail. Thankfully, the market is full of both time-tested models, and newer...

Best Backpacking Food of 2018

It almost goes without saying: dinnertime is one of the best parts of any backpacking trip. There’s just nothing quite like a warm, filling meal after a long day on the trail. In choosing the...

Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags of 2018

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...

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2018

A good night’s sleep on a backpacking trip used to be a rarity, but today’s sleeping pads are much improved over their predecessors. Comfort is better than ever with...

Best Trekking Poles of 2018

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...

Best Altimeter (ABC) Watches of 2018

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)...

Best Handheld GPS of 2018

Whether deep in the backcountry or on open water, proper navigation is a must. And for route finding, recording tracks or finding a geocache, there’s no more durable and long-lasting navigator than a handheld GPS...

Best Camping Tents of 2018

Spacious, user-friendly, and feature-rich, tents for camping are made for a relatively luxurious experience in the outdoors. Many of these behemoths offer enough room to set up cots or even chairs and a table for card games on a rainy day...

Best Camping Sleeping Bags of 2018

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...

Best Headlamps of 2018

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. While this handy piece of technology requires little introduction...

Best Camping Stoves of 2018

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...

Best Camping Chairs of 2018

Thoughts of camping chairs may conjure up images of $10 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...

Best Travel Duffel Bags of 2018

Whether you’re traveling by air, driving up to a cabin for the weekend, or venturing across the world on an expedition, you’ll likely be using a duffel bag to get your gear from one place to the next. Duffels...

Best Rock Climbing Shoes of 2018

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 such as the La...

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 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...

Best Approach Shoes of 2018

I knew I was officially a climber when I bought my first pair of approach shoes. A climbing-specific style of footwear, approach shoes offer a unique combination of hiking shoes, climbing slippers, and sometimes even mountaineering boots...

Best Climbing Harnesses of 2018

Whether you’re top roping in the gym, projecting 5.14, or climbing Cerro Torre in Patagonia, you’ll want the right harness for the job. In addition to being a vital part of every climber’s safety, harness characteristics...

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...

Best Bouldering Crash Pads of 2018

Bouldering is having its moment. Climbing’s simplest discipline is experiencing a rush of new enthusiasts, in large part due to how accessible it is. All you need is a pair of shoes and a chalk bag...

Best Climbing Helmets of 2018

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...

Best Climbing Ropes of 2018

Any piece of climbing gear has the potential to become a cherished relic, but perhaps none carries as many good memories as a trusty old rope. It’s your lifeline on everything from beginning top ropes to full-on alpine epics. A rope is...

Best Rock Climbing Quickdraws of 2018

We love quickdraws. Few pieces of climbing protection can transform feelings of uncertainty and discomfort into peace and happiness as quickly and authoritatively. And yet...

Best Mountain Bike Helmets of 2018

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...

Best Mountain Bike Shoes of 2018

A quality mountain bike shoe plays a number of important roles. Its solid platform delivers power to the pedals, strong construction keeps your feet protected, and secure fit...

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...

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...

Best All-Mountain Skis of 2018-2019

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...

Best Skis for Beginners of 2018-2019

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...

Best Backcountry (Touring) Skis of 2018-2019

Unlike their lift-assisted alpine cousins, backcountry skis have two jobs: getting you uphill efficiently while retaining enough power to make the downhill worth the effort (and fun). The good news is...

Best Ski Bindings of 2018-2019

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...

Best Downhill Ski Boots of 2018-2019

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...

Best Ski Boots for Beginners of 2017-2018

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...

Best Ski Poles of 2017-2018

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...

Best Ski Gloves of 2018-2019

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...

Best Ski Helmets of 2018-2019

No matter your ability level, picking up a 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...

Best Ski Goggles of 2018-2019

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...

Best Ski Jackets of 2018-2019

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...

Best Ski Pants of 2018-2019

Ski pants are a critical barrier between you and the elements, and there’s a pair to fit every type of skier and budget. Resort goers typically opt for a classic hardshell design with some light insulation to stay warm on the lift rides up. Backcountry...

Best Hardshell Jackets of 2018-2019

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...

Best Softshell Jackets of 2018

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 Jackets of 2018-2019

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 2018-2019, including the top down sweaters, ultralights...

Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets of 2018-2019

If you’re looking for a jacket that offers solid warmth at a good value, synthetic insulation is the way to go. You don’t get quite as high of a warmth-to-weight ratio as down, but synthetic jackets resist moisture...

Best Fleece Jackets of 2018

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...

Best Vests for Hiking of 2018

For cool fall and spring conditions, it’s hard to beat a vest. This simple layering piece is super cozy, adds warmth to your core, is easy to throw over a flannel, and less bulky and cheaper than a full jacket. But...

Best Midlayers of 2018-2019

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...

Best Baselayers of 2018

As your next-to-skin article of clothing, a baselayer plays a fundamental role in pulling moisture away from the body and regulating core temperature. It’s far easier to justify purchasing a nice down jacket or waterproof shell, but a baselayer can be...

Best Ski Socks of 2017-2018

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 2017-2018 accomplishes this and more...

Best Winter Jackets of 2018-2019

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...

Best Winter Boots of 2018-2019

Winter boots are a timeless and charming piece of gear. They bring back memories of being a kid, when snow falling always meant the anticipation of stomping around for hours at a time...

Best 4-Season Tents of 2018

From backcountry ski tours to mountaineering in some of the most inhospitable weather on Earth, a 4-season tent is the last line of defense between you and the elements. Accordingly, these tents are much stronger...

Best Mountaineering Boots of 2018

No piece of gear is more critical to summiting high peaks than footwear. A great mountaineering boot fills countless roles: it must offer support while carrying heavy loads...

Review: Salomon X Ultra 3

Salomon’s X Ultra line of hiking footwear is one of our all-time favorites for all types of uses from day hikes to lightweight backpacking trips. The new “3” was released in late 2017, and Salomon mostly stuck to the original script—changes include...

Review: Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody

Synthetic jackets are hot ticket items these days, and the buzz has been particularly strong around Patagonia’s new Micro Puff. Taking the polyester fill game in a different direction than their Nano-Air...

Review: REI Co-op Drypoint GTX

Fresh off a new Gore license for 2018, REI Co-op now has top-of-the-line waterproofing technology to replace their eVent line. Combine this with REI’s increased focus on design and performance of their...

Review: La Sportiva TX3

As an alpine rock climber and climbing guide, my feet frequent a great deal of trail, rocks, and snow—especially during the summer months. I took on the La Sportiva TX3 as my faithful companion this season, from high-mileage...

Review: Osprey Stratos 24

Osprey is a leader in the pack market, and their Stratos line is an all-around favorite for day hiking. We’ve owned multiple variations over the years, and all have delivered nearly flawless performance through extended, rough use. We’ve been...

Review: Feathered Friends Eos

Feathered Friends is a boutique down specialist birthed out of Seattle’s climbing scene in the 1970s, and they still lead the pack in down outerwear construction and design. The company is known...

Review: Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX

Salomon’s Quest 4D boot has headlined their backpacking lineup for years. Updated for 2018, they fine-tuned the design with a new outsole and reworked platform that offers a little more flexibility...

Review: REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2

In years past, REI’s Quarter Dome was on the cusp of breaking through in the lightweight tent market. It was a fantastic value for the weight, but the build quality was a step down from the competition and...

Review: Merrell Moab 2

More than 10 years after the original Moab was released, Merrell has given us the Moab 2 for 2017. The first edition reached legendary status, so we were excited to see what Merrell had done for the reboot. To cut right to the chase...

Review: Osprey Aether AG 70

Osprey has a strong reputation for building comfortable packs, and the Aether line is one of their best. Updated for 2017, the Aether AG adds Osprey’s signature “Anti-Gravity” suspension to mix. To see how it performed, we loaded down the 70-liter...

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...

Review: Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag

We’ve never seen a sleeping bag release get this much hoopla, but it goes to show how big Patagonia is in the outdoor world. The company jumped into the scene this year with stylish 19°F and 30°F bags filled...

Review: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2

Following their update to the Fly Creek HV UL tent, Big Agnes has added a second “HV,” or high volume model, with their popular Copper Spur. Already loved by ounce-counting backpackers and...

Review: The North Face Mountain 25

Anyone who has spent a stormy winter night huddled in a tent has heard his or her inner voice asking: “is this thing going to hold?” In cold temperatures and inclement weather, we...

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...

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...

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...

Review: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

Nearly every major hiking boot brand has its signature model, and for Lowa, it’s the Renegade GTX. We took the popular mid-height boot out backpacking and day hiking...

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....

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...

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...