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The best gear gets out of your way. The items we bring with us outside—whether it’s on the trail or to our backyard patios—should work so well we forget we’re using them. The top shoes are the ones you don’t think about at all, but that painlessly support your miles-long schlep through the woods. This year’s best products in recreation—including a one-pound tent, a truly innovative sports bra, and a fire pit that keeps smoke out of your eyes—make our active lives more fun and comfortable.
Grail bicycle by Canyon
Canyon designed its carbon-fiber Grail bike to make long trips over bumpy dirt or gravel roads more comfortable. The key is its double-decker handlebar. The company added an extra horizontal beam to the top of the handlebars, which provides a more comfortable arm position and allows the lower bar to absorb vibrations before they reach the rider’s hands. Thanks to a leaf spring at its center, the additional structure flexes seven times more than typical ones do. The result is less arm fatigue during epic rides down dusty, earthen roads.
Fly Creek HV Carbon with Dyneema tent by Big Agnes
To travel light, some backpackers hit the trail with just a bivouac sack—a small, low shelter that’s more of a body bag than a tent. High-rolling trekkers could instead grab this $800 one-person shelter. Big Agnes constructed the floor and rain fly using Dyneema, a very strong, light fiber made from ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene. Big Agnes makes these tents largely by hand to ensure a precision build—a necessity because Dyneema does not stretch. Combining the Dyneema with flexible carbon-fiber poles and a breathable nylon body make this a real home on the trail that’s as light as you’ll find.
Breathable waterproof protection by Green Theme Technologies
Textile manufacturers traditionally treat the outer layer of their waterproof, breathable jackets with durable water repellent, or DWR, to make raindrops bead up. The problem is, many DWRs contain perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which are bad for people and the planet. Green Theme’s tech goes on differently. Garment makers apply a PFC-free, hydrocarbon-based liquid to the fabric and then add pressure to permanently bond it to fibers, making them waterproof. This process is also better for the environment in another way: Unlike DWR application, it requires no water. Marmot adopted Green Theme for its Eclipse and Phoenix jackets, and Black Diamond has a shell on the way.
See the entire list: The 100 greatest innovations of 2018
RZR XP Turbo S by Polaris
Polaris created a buggy that drives pretty much anywhere. Thirty-two-inch tires help: They’re the biggest on an all-road vehicle and provide 16 inches of ground clearance to get over logs, rocks, and desert dunes without bottoming out. A beefed-up, mostly steel chassis makes the cruiser resistant to twisting and bending (Polaris even used thicker bolts than on the previous model). But the real innovation is the RZR Dynamix Active Suspension, a version of which also appears on mountain bikes and the Ford Raptor truck. Computer-controlled shocks on all four wheels automatically adjust 200 times a second, responding to both what the driver does and what the terrain throws at the vehicle. If you turn left, for example, the shocks stiffen on the right side, keeping the craft from banking outward. That means a smoother, safer ride—wherever you go.