Our expert judges have given their verdicts in The Great Outdoors Gear of the Year Awards. Discover the best, most innovative outdoor clothing, gear and equipment of the last year.
Across seven categories, these awards recognise the best outdoor equipment available – the products that help make our experiences in the great outdoors that bit greater.
Our expert panel of judges has picked out the best tech, footwear, clothing and camping products, and rewarded the kit that pushed the envelope in terms of innovation or sustainability. Our favourites have been granted Gold award, and in some categories products have received Silver and Bronze awards to commend their high quality. Expand the categories below to discover the winners.
The world of outdoor clothing and equipment is constantly evolving, and these awards are a snapshot of the best of it at this moment in time. We hope you find it a useful guide.
Have a great 2020!
There are two parts to The Great Outdoors Awards. This article announces the Gear of the Year Awards, which reward the best and most innovative items of outdoor gear released that year in seven categories and are selected by expert judges.
The corresponding part, the Reader Awards, are nominated and voted by our readers and the outdoor public at large across 13 categories. Discover the winners of the Reader Awards here.
GOLD: Petzl Swift RL headtorch
The new Swift RL is the brightest in Petzl’s compact range, with a huge 900 lumens and weighing only 105 grams.
One of the key features is Reactive Lighting, a sensor that analyses the ambient light and automatically adjusts the brightness. There are two beam patterns – flood and mixed – for a variety of outdoor activities. Chris Townsend was already familiar with the headlamp, having reviewed it for his online Chris’s Column, writing: “Petzl’s latest headlamp is small, light and powerful. I’ve now used it on several trips and found it very effective. It has Petzl’s Reactive Lighting, so the power of the beam varies with distance, which optimises burn time.”
SILVER: Suunto 5 smartwatch
Innovation in the smartwatch market continues at pace, and the Suunto 5
GPS watch is no exception. In particular, the battery life is always improving, a key reason this watch was given an award. From this handsome timepiece, you can expect a wide range of outdoor functions including altimeter, GPS tracking and navigation, route planning with altitude, breadcrumb trails in real time, ETA and remaining distance and outdoor maps by satellite, terrain and topography. It also tells the time. Chris Townsend commented:
“It has an excellent battery life and a user-friendly interface, making this a good watch for walkers.”
Goal Zero Sherpa 100PD
Mammut Connect App
GOLD: PrimaLoft Cross Core Series insulation
This new product from PrimaLoft combines existing PrimaLoft materials with new technologies to provide a better insulating performance at low weights. Gear tester Judy Armstrong tested Montane’s Phoenix Light jacket. It is one of the first products in the series that fused PrimaLoft with Aerogel, a structure that is used by NASA scientists in aeronautical applications. Judy said: “I am very impressed with this. Use of Aerogel is true innovation, and the implementation of a product from a totally different industry shows excellent lateral thinking. I wore the jacket on a very cold day where face and legs froze, but the body stayed warm without overheating. Good breathability too.”
SILVER: Finisterre 100% water-soluble plastic bag
Finisterre became the first fashion brand to collaborate with Aquapak, a 100% water-soluble plastic bag that breaks down harmlessly into non-toxic biomass in soil and sea. It can be recycled with plastic bags or you can boil it in water to watch it disappear. Daniel Neilson said: “More and more we’re beginning to consider the manufacture of the product, but the packaging is an often overlooked element of buying and using gear.”
Niamh O’Laoighre, Product Development Manager, said: “We are delighted to receive this award in recognition of this groundbreaking product. It has been a privilege and an honour to be part of this adventure with Aquapak, and to be the first clothing company in the world bringing these
bags to market.”
Rab Infinity Light jacket
Patagonia SnowDrifter jacket
Marmot West Rib parka
GOLD: Patagonia Macro Puff hoody
As the countless fans of the Micro Puff Hoody attest, Patagonia has excelled in making synthetic insulated jackets. The Macro Puff is the bigger cousin that has even more of the down-like PlumaFill insulation. The ultralight recycled nylon shell is water-resistant, windproof and treated with a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. Judy Armstrong said: “It is very impressive for the size and warmth: a proper ‘jacket’ cut, not mid-layer.” It is Fair Trade Certified sewn too.
SILVER: Mountain Hardwear Super DS Climb Jacket
Described as “a jacket that is built to move”, the Mountain Hardwear Super DS Climb Jacket could be used for many activities. Daniel Neilson said: “Although it is designed ostensibly as a climbing jacket, hillwalkers will also be impressed with the stretchy fabric, which offers fantastic movement. Much of the jacket is also made from a single piece of fabric, and uses technology to eliminate stitching through the baffles – something that can lead to cold spots. This is an incredibly warm and comfortable jacket.”
BRONZE: Páramo Enduro Salopettes
Using the proven Nikwax Analogy Waterproof fabric, the Enduro Salopettes are designed for serious days out on the mountains. They offer full-length ventilation and have stretch panels from the waist to below the knee. Carefully constructed adjustments around the calves help with the use of crampons.
Extremities Sirocco Glove
Berghaus Changtse Jacket
Marmot Bantamweight Jacket
Finisterre Vellus Waterproof Parka
GOLD: INOV-8 ROCLITE G 345 GTX
Released to great fanfare, the inov-8 Roclite G 345 GTX is the first trail shoe to use graphene, AKA the world’s strongest material (it’s 200 times stronger than steel!). inov-8 has infused the material into rubber for use in the outsoles of its G-Series shoes, claiming it to be 50% stronger.
On receiving the award, Michael Price, inov-8 COO, said: “We are delighted to win the Gold Award in footwear for the Roclite G 345 GTX. We pioneered the way in fast-hike 10 years ago and now, a decade on from our first product in this category we have brought real innovation to the market with the introduction of Graphene-Grip, the world’s toughest grip.”
SILVER: Adidas Terrex Free Hiker GTX
The Adidas Terrex Free Hiker GTX is a winter, waterproof version of last year’s Free Hiker, an incredibly comfortable hiking boot that uses the company’s Primeknit uppers that hug the foot with plenty of stretch. Henrique Nigro, Senior Product Manager Hiking Footwear, said: “We are really happy about the award. The Terrex Free Hiker GTX was designed for long-distance hiking and tough outdoor conditions, and acknowledgement of its performance in this environment is testament to the work the team put in during its development. We’re really excited about the next iteration of the Terrex Free Hiker coming early next year – watch this space!”
Vans + Finisterre Ultrarange Hi DL
Hoka One One Sky Kaha
Mammut Taiss Light Mid GTX Men
GOLD: Patagonia Ascensionist jacket
The Ascensionist is a full, light-weight mountain waterproof. What sets it apart is that it is 100% recycled. As part of the Shell, Yeah! collection, Patagonia has become the first in the industry to make all shells with recycled materials and sew them all in a Fair Trade Certified factories. Judy Armstrong said: “Patagonia is sticking by a long-standing principle and is now using waste material to make a technical jacket."
SILVER: Hilltrek Braemar Ventile Organic Cotton smock
Both Ventile and Hilltrek are committed to a sustainable future, looking to minimise the environmental impact of the manufacturing process and developing environmentally friendly products. The Hilltrek Braemar Ventile Organic Cotton Smock is, as the name suggests, made with organic cotton, grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilisers. Daniel Neilson said: “In all but the worst weather this comfortable smock was brilliant to wear. It’s even better knowing it is made with organic cotton.”
BRONZE: Finisterre Fabric Use-Up project
The Finisterre Fabric Use-Up Project was founded to solve the problem of unused quality fabric left over. A result is a range of basic accessories – including wallets, wash bags, packing cubes and hats – that repurposes material. Debbie Luffman, Product Director, said: “We like to think of waste as a resource and can’t bear the thought of premium, recycled, performance outdoor fabrics going in the bin after jacket production."
Adidas Terrex Two Parley shoe
Rab Horizon Down hoody
Nikwax recycled bottles
Osprey Archeon 45 pack
GOLD: Patagonia Black Hole 55L
As well as winning for its 100% recycled Shell, Yeah! collection, Patagonia also scores for making its Black Hole collection of duffel bags 100% recycled too. This includes the body fabric, lining and webbing. The collection,which includes packs, waist packs and totes as well as duffel bags, gives “plastic bottles and factory scraps a life”. Chris Townsend said: “This is tough, functional and uses 100% recycled materials.” As a duffel bag, it works perfectly. It has a TPU film laminate that combines with a DWR to make it highly weather-resistant. Inside, there’s a zipped side pocket and mesh pockets in the lid. The shoulder straps are also removable.
SILVER: Mountain Laurel Designs Burro Waist Pack
A fanny pack? A bum bag? A waist pack? Regardless of what we should be calling them, they are back – and especially among thru-hikers. Mountain Laurel Designs claims that around one-third of hikers on long-distance trails in the US carried a front waist pack.
It’s a thing. Chris Townsend commented: “I’m amused at the return of front packs like the Burro. I carried one on all my long walks in the 1980s and 90s: they were all the rage for long-distance hiking. The Burro is a useful little waist pack with several compartments, and straps and buckles for attaching it to shoulder straps, hipbelt and pack straps. It’s also waterproof and tough.”
Sigg Gemstone Selenite food jar
Elliot Brown Canford Mountain Rescue Special Edition watch
Mammut Lithium Speed 20
GOLD: PHD M.Degree° K-Series sleeping bag
That Chris Townsend took this sleeping bag on his last long-distance hike should tell you all you need to know. He said: “Extraordinarily light for the warmth, and very comfy. I took the lightest one to the Colorado Rockies last summer, and it was excellent.”
SILVER: Mountain Hardwear Lamina Eco AF sleeping mat
Chris Townsend described this product as “Probably the most environmentally friendly synthetic sleeping bag ever. And it’s warm and comfortable too.” Devon Lambert, Product Line Manager Equipment, Mountain Hardwear, said: “With Lamina Eco AF we wanted to create a sleeping bag that was sustainable yet high-performance. It’s lighter and more compact than the rest of the Lamina range, and features include recycled fabric, insulation, trims, storage and compression sack."
BRONZE: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite Regular sleeping mat
The NeoAir Uberlite is the lightest air mattress that Therm-a-Rest has ever made, at a mere 250 grams for the regular size, but with a high level of comfort at 6.4cm thickness. It packs down smaller than any NeoAir in the past and has an R rating of 2.0, meaning it’s just in the three-season range.
Behind the scenes: how we test the gear
The TGO Gear of the Year Awards are decided by an expert panel consisting of:
- Chris Townsend, TGO equipment editor
- Judy Armstrong, TGO gear tester
- Emily Rodway, former TGO editor
- Daniel Neilson, journalist and gear tester
TGO equipment editor and awards judge Chris Townsend explains the effort that goes into his testing process:
"Over the years I’ve been involved in judging quite a few gear awards for various organisations. Often there’s only an opportunity to look at the gear before making an assessment. Not, however, for The Great Outdoors Gear Awards.
For these, the gear is tested. Most years I’ve already had some of the items for review in the magazine anyway, so I’m already familiar with them. This year it was more than usual – seven, two of which I’d taken on my Colorado Rockies walk in the summer (from which you can deduce I liked them!).
Most of the gear testing I do takes place in the Cairngorms, where I live.
Of course, the testing done depends on the item and its purpose. I always check what the maker says the purpose of a product is so I’m not unfair. For the awards, I look at the reasons the company has submitted an item. How significant are these? How do they differ from competing products? Does the product live up to them?
For the items submitted this year, as well as local day walks, I took them up in the Cairngorms on overnight camps. How comfortable and warm a sleeping bag or sleeping mat is, you can only really tell after a day’s walking. The same applies to rucksacks. One of this year’s entrants with good eco credentials sadly turned out to have slipping buckles and awkward-to-use features – a pity, as I wanted to like it. But that’s what testing is about. Finding out how well something serves its purpose. Items submitted for the Sustainability Award still have to perform well.
I went for night walks too – not too difficult in the Highlands in November – to check a headlamp, and out in the rain to check waterproof jackets – also not difficult in November. I tried footwear on a mix of terrain from wet and dry rocks to mud. Everything was tested to my satisfaction."