Awesome 2022 outdoor gear for backcountry adventures
Interest in outdoor recreation predictably spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the world gradually returned to normal throughout 2021 and 2022, participation in outdoor activities remained strong. In a report released in September 2022, the Outdoor Foundation found that more than half of all Americans age six+ participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2021, representing growth of nearly 7 percent since the early-2020 start of the pandemic. It's no wonder, then, that manufacturers around the US and globe launched innovative new products throughout 2022 to help everyone from pro athletes to newbies go farther, faster and deeper into the backcountry, escaping the crowds that have converged on more easily reached destinations. Each of these innovations could be the perfect gift for someone adventurous on your shopping list or a personal motivator for launching into a more exciting 2023.
Alpacka Valkyrie whitewater packraft
The most trusted name in packrafts launched its most whitewater-capable vessel ever this November. The all-new Valkyrie looks to split the difference between standard packraft and hardshell whitewater kayak. At 19 x 10 in (48 x 25-cm) packed, it carries much more easily than a hunk of plastic when bushwhacking to distant backcountry rapids. In the water, it handles rough swells that would rip lighter duty packrafts to shreds, providing stability and edge control with a patent-pending planing hull. At 13 lb (5.9 kg) and US$2,300, it's heavier and more expensive than other Alpacka rafts, but it appears to be an incomparable tool for blending on-water capability and in-pack portability. More info
Biolite Headlamp 325
Biolite Headlamps are easily the most comfortable we've ever worn. Not only are they lightweight, but the thin lamp is neatly integrated into the soft, wicking headband so it sits flat against the forehead for improved comfort and weight distribution, without any sag or bounce. Biolite updated the Headlamp line this year, and the new Headlamp 325 might just be its best all-around model yet. Its 325 lumens is nearly as much as the older Headlamp 330, but the 325 does it with a lamp-integrated battery that boosts comfort and lowers weight compared to the separate rear pack on the 330. Those who need more light might prefer the new $100 Headlamp 800 Pro, but the $40 1.8-oz (50-g) 325 hits a sweet spot of price, weight, comfort and output, perfect for around the campsite. More info
LifeStraw Peak Series Collapsible Squeeze Filter Bottle
What looks like an unassuming, fast-packing collapsible water bottle is actually the LifeStraw Peak Series Collapsible Squeeze filter bottle. The 3.2-oz (102-g) bottle packs the potentially lifesaving punch of an integrated LifeStraw filter that weeds out any and all bacteria, parasites, microplastics, sand and silt ...or at least up to 99.999 percent worth (note: not viruses). And unlike LifeStraw's filter straw – which itself got a pretty dramatic update as part of the new Peak Series released in March – this bottle takes clean drinking water to go. So one can have their fill while stream-side and ensure they don't go thirsty later. The base 650-mL version prices in at $33, while the larger 3.9-oz (110-g) 1-L bottle is $38. More info
Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo 1/2P tent
Nemo has carefully peeled grams off its already feathery Hornet Ultralight tent using a new recycled-yarn Osmo wonder-fabric that claims four times better water repellency and three times less stretch when wet. That equates to all-around better protection through wet, stormy nights. The semi-freestanding Hornet Elite Osmo packs in at a mere 1.8 lb (812 g) as a single-person or 2.1 lb (935 g) as a 2P, making it ideal for backpacking, bikepacking or any other activity that requires carrying the weight of a shelter over distance. If the $500 1P and $600 2P pricing feels way too expensive, the original Hornet 1P and 2P tents cost about half those prices and are nearly as lightweight – you'll just forego the fancy "Osmo" fabric. More info
Grüezi Bag Biopod Wolle Survival sleeping bag
Bavarian brand Grüezi Bag has been selling sleeping bags in Europe for a few years, and 2022 marked its arrival on the US market. A clear highlight from its offerings list, the Biopod Wolle Survival sleeping bag serves as a more comfortable, less itchy means of cowboy camping. At 3.3 lb (1.5 kg), it doesn't fall in the ultralight category, but its integrated framed 3D mosquito net prevents flying critters from gnawing on your skin at night. So one could easily swap a tent out for a tarp or open-sky cowboy camp, without risking exposure to mosquitoes or other parasites. The bag's sheep's wool insulation works to wick and dissipate perspiration, keeping the sleeper dry, temperature-regulated and comfortable. It retails for $360. More info
Bike Friday All-Packa folding bike
The average folding bike brings to mind little more than city work commutes, but the All-Packa from Portland's Bike Friday opens one's mind to epic global adventures. Break down the bikepacking-specific folder in 30 seconds and toss it in the truck for a pickup journey into the Rockies, carry it on a train into the Alps, or pack it in a checked suitcase (it's sized just for the purpose) for a flight to New Zealand. Heck, throw it on your back, in a packraft or on a ski touring gear sled for an all-muscle multi-sport adventure. Wherever it goes, and however it gets there, it'll launch a full two-wheeled tour, carrying bags on braze-ons around the frame and available pack-ready handlebars. The 2.4-in wide tires and options for electric-assist, all-terrain upgrades and 9- or 18-speed drivetrains ensure it's ready for any journey. Prices start at $2,495. More info
Samaya Ultra 35 backpack
We've come to know French brand Samaya for its incomparably light, weather-ready Dyneema tents, and this year it stepped into the carry game with the Ultra 35 backpack. The ISPO Award 2022-winning expandable 35-L pack uses the same style of no-expense-spared construction as Ultra tents like the Radical 1 for a weight as low as 1.1 lb (495 kg). The pack's ultralight, ultra-tough bio-based Dyneema fabric is 20K waterproof, helping keep gear dry in the fickle high-alpine weather for which it was built. An aluminum frame helps to distribute weight, and removable ice axe, ski, snowboard and helmet attachments let the user adapt the $450 pack to the current mission. More info
On Zero ultralight running jacket
Another ISPO Award 2022 recipient, the Zero jacket from On registers among the lightest garments you can wrap around your torso, barely breaking 2 oz (57 g). Despite the fact it doesn't look much thicker or more protective than the clear plastic used to bag up loose produce, the Zero delivers full windproof protection and water resistance. That's thanks to its mini-ripstop fabric crafted from recycled polyamide. Perforated underarm vents keep the wearer cool through anything from running tails to logging miles from the bike saddle. When the wearer no longer needs it, the $160 Zero packs down and carries in a small pocket. More info
TSL Highlander Instinct snowshoe
Adventure doesn't have to hibernate when the days grow short and cold, which is exactly where the calendar is pointing right now, at least above the equator. TSL launched the new Highlander Instinct in October, giving ambitious snowshoers a more comfortable, hassle-free way of exploring snowy mountains. With a twist of the dial, the Boa-secured binding wraps the foot from all sides for a snug fit without pressure points – no need to thread a tiny hook through a tiny strap hole. The $300 Highlander Instinct bites into all types of snow with stainless steel teeth underfoot and interchangeable grips running along the edges. A rockered profile delivers a smooth, cushioned stride. More info
Garmin inReach Messenger
In addition to updating the inReach Mini earlier this year, Garmin added the all-new inReach Messenger in September. Another digital lifeline for parts of the globe without cellular coverage, the new satellite device streamlines off-grid communications with global two-way texting, location sharing and SOS capabilities. The accompanying app automatically syncs up with a smartphone's contacts list and switches between cellular, Wi-Fi and satellite for the fastest, most reliable communications between an outdoor adventurer and their contacts or the professionals at the Garmin International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC). At just 3 x 2.5 in (7.6 x 6 cm) and 4 oz (113 g), the $300 Messenger fits easily in any pack ... and may end up being the most important piece of gear inside. An annual or month-to-month subscription is required for satellite usage. More info
Thirsting for more gear? Here are 15 items we covered previously in 2022, all perfectly primed for bursting through park boundaries and exploring remote backcountry spaces.
Last year, Samaya impressed mountaineers and backpackers the world over with the ultralight Assaut 2 tent. Not two years later, it's back with the new Radical 1, an even lighter, smaller four-season tent that barely breaks half a kilogram.
The newly launched Collapsible Pour Over coffer maker presents as a particularly practical solution to backcountry brewing, offering the enjoyment of a classic drip coffee and packing completely flat for easy transport.
Opinel is looking to capture the hearts and meals of campers and backcountry diners with its new Picnic+ kit. The most elegant spork – technically a sporf – we've seen, the kit packs a classic folding knife with removable fork and spoon inserts.
With the new UltraPress Ti, Grayl injects its titanium know-how into its original water filter bottle design, creating a versatile tool that can quickly purify water and cook over a fire. It's a lightweight, hardwearing food-and-beverage multitool.
Canadian outdoor gear company VSSL has added to its line of sleek, cylindrical survival kits with a new collection designed to cover shelter repairs, fire-starting, navigation and cooking, all while adding minimum bulk and weight to your backpack.
The market for campsite cookers is brimming with stoves of all styles, but with the newly introduced Firebox Freestyle, US outfit Firebox has come to the party with one designed to suit every occasion.
Although inflatable stand-up paddle boards are popular due to their portability, most of them still aren't light enough to carry for long distances. The Chasm-Lite is an exception, as it's reportedly the world's lightest, most compact inflatable SUP.
Crapping in the woods can be downright intimidating. Pact Outdoors has made it less so with an all-in-one backcountry bathroom kit that helps you get the deed done. Consider it the Swiss Army knife of eco-friendly excretion.
Leatherman has introduced a stylish pocket knife with a few tricks up its sleeve, spearheaded by an interchangeable blade system built around two forms of high-end steel for different types of cutting tasks.
As the name might suggest, Nitecore's line of Tiny Monster flashlights are design to pack maximum punch into compact packages, and the recently introduced TM20K cranks up the illumination to a blinding 20,000 lumens.
Back in 2020, Exod debuted one of the more striking tents of modern times. As intriguing as it was, the 18-lb, $2,240 Ark wasn't practical for many. Exod strikes back with the Monolith, a smaller, lighter inflatable ground/tree tent with lower price.
Garmin has launched a new Instinct adventure watch called the Crossover that takes a hybrid approach by combining GPS smartwatch functionality with classic analog timekeeping courtesy of luminescent hour markers and watch hands.
Optibike has a new ebike with enough battery power to travel 30 percent farther than the official world record. The bike is called the R22 Everest because it's the "only ebike able to climb Mt. Everest on a single charge ... if there was a road."
We might get accused of blasphemy for saying it, but duct tape has its limitations. The MODL Infinity Tool can't replace duct tape, but it can step in on some of those jobs that stump the world's favorite adhesive fix-all.
Ever since Oru introduced its first origami-style folding kayak back in 2012, other brands have come out with boats that were claimed to be lighter and more compact. Oru has now addressed that competition, with its sub-$700 18-lb (8 kg) Lake kayak.