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Best of Mountain Sport Gear 2010

Patitucci’s Picks for Best Outdoor Industry Gear

As longtime professional mountain sport photographers, we get to see, use, and really get to know a lot of outdoor industry gear. And, as fulltime athletes in the very sports we photograph, we fully understand what makes for a quality product, and what makes for stuff we would just prefer to ship right back to the manufacturer.

This is our list of favorite gear, some newly discovered, others continuing to confirm as ideal. To comply with some blogging rule, yes, more than likely we were given the gear for free. But, should we need to make a purchase, these are the selects.

Dan trail running in Skins and Rudy Project photochromic lenses

1. Rudy Project Sunglasses : Specifically, the ImpactX Photochromic Clear lens which Janine discovered to be the ideal prescription lens – one lens for everything. This sport lens goes from completely clear in the shadows to nearly glacier glass dark for long days skiing. Outside Magazine felt much the same and gave this lens Gear of the Year. Visit Rudy Project for more info.

2. SKINS Recovery Compression & Sport Clothing : Here is a line of clothing that is perfectly designed for running & biking while also providing the benefits of compression. Compression calf tights are seen on just about every Euro ultra runner, and more and more in the US as people test, and realize the product’s benefits. We actually contacted Skins after seeing the product on all the local road cyclists, a nearby shop is selling it and people are buying – “What is up?”, we thought. Now, we are sold, and not just for running, cycling and especially recovery – but also for ski mountaineering racing and even airplane sitting performance – wear the compression calf tights on your next flight and feel an improvement in “heavy legs”. You will be sold like us. Visit Skins to see the full line of what they have to offer.

Kurt Astner climbing Zion's Moonlight Buttress in Montura clothing, a line he helps develop

3. Montura Clothing : In recent years, much of the high end mountain clothing is both too big for me or trading performance/function for fashion. I am 5’8″ and super lean, American X Small is often too big, and as an athlete, I do not care to wear boxy, baggy, poorly fitting clothing. I want fitted performance clothing. So, I began looking at European gear. In 2007 I found the Italian mountain clothing line of Montura, it was like discovering a brand I had been designing for myself and for my exact needs. In 2010 we began to get involved with this company that is now opening stores throughout northern Italy. Their growth and success are moving at speeds that have stymied even building a website. When I asked, “How can you not have a website?”, the answer was something along the lines of, “Right now, we don’t really need one.” Instead they seem to be focusing on product development, and everything I get from them is designed exactly right for alpinism, ski touring, mountain running, climbing or just simple hiking or travel. Keep an eye on Montura, but sorry America, you’ll have to make a trip to the Alps or Dolomites to get these goods.

The Neo Sleeping Pad; superlight, bomber and comfy

4. Cascade Designs Neo Sleeping Pad : A couple of years back, we were shooting much of Cascade Designs advertising. One day I received an email with info about a shoot we had to do of a new product, but that I would be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to even discuss it or see it. Enter the Neo sleeping pad. A sleeping pad? All this top secret talk – come on… Days later the pad arrived, we had a look, shot what was needed and then stored away our prototype Neo. Living in Europe, there isn’t so much need for a sleeping pad as huts have replaced campsites for most of what we do.

Then, in 2010, we camped, a lot – in the snow, bivvies, on rock, beaches, and just general backpacking. The Neo was put into action and the quality became immediately obvious during a winter ski tour which had us sleeping out on the snow – the pad was amazing, it weighs nothing, takes up no room in the pack and I may as well have been laying on warm sand. I felt nothing but warm, insulating cushion beneath me. Ditto on rock. And, as we are hard on gear I was a bit worried abut popping it – a year later it seems a non-issue. Visit Cascade Designs site for full info.

Janine cruising the last 4th class to the top of Mt. Whitney in Deuter's Speedlite 15

5. Deuter Backpacks : If there has to be one top award, Deuter is it. We use backpacks just about every singly day of the year; ski touring, ski mountaineering, trail running, climbing, alpine climbing, mountain biking, even traveling and photography work. Early in the 2000’s, we were shooting ad photos for another backpack company – at that time we began splitting our years between Europe and the US. As we did more in the European mountains, I couldn’t help but notice that about half the people were wearing Deuter. Why? I studied them in a shop and immediately recognized them for what they are; simple, efficient, and perfectly made. I bought one, the Guide 30L. Soon, it was the only pack I would wear. The German company isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, they are just trying to fine tune what they know, each and every year, a tweak here and a tweak there – the packs remain much the same. Models go out to real users; mountain guides, high end athletes or just folks who get out on a regular basis – their input clearly goes into these tweaks.

Big packs, small packs, it doesn't matter - everyone is happy with Deuter's design

Fortunately, some years later we found ourselves shooting Deuter’s advertising and the product line became our own. This is a company that I admire in all their function. Now, they are in the US and clearly making a dent in the market. Our favorites remain the GuideLite line, the Speedlite Series, the Edge 30L, the AC Lites and the Race. Actually, pick a pack, any pack, it will be perfect – even their sleeping bags, unrivaled. Visit Deuter.com and go nuts.

In the coming days we will present an interview with one of Deuter’s Chief Designers, just to see how it all works. Stay tuned.

Finally, a quick list of honorable mentions: Smartwool, Patagonia, Dynafit’s DNA Race Boot, Honey Stinger’s Waffle, and of course, the lovely…… iPad. It’ll be fun to see what 2011 brings, hint hint… neon.

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