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Best Products of 2016: Outdoors

Go anywhere. The best techie outdoor gear of 2016 makes it possible

best products of 2016 outdoors vibram arctic grip product v4
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Vibram Arctic Grip

Let’s get some cold, hard facts out of the way – ice is slippery, wet ice is even more slick, and falling comes with a high probability of pain, if not injury. Yes, some epic slips have made the news and even gone viral, and that’s because trying (and failing) to keep our footing on ice is a commonly shared human experience.

Until now, we’ve tried to hack ice motility by either adding metal hardware to our footwear, or by trading our shoes and boots in for a pair of skates. Vibram changes the game this year with its Arctic Grip outsole technology with a rubber compound that literally grips to wet ice.

Vibram holds its trade secret very close to its chest, but did share that compound is made of a unique polymer blend coupled with an advanced filler system and a new processing technique. When paired together with the company’s Icetrek material, which is engineered to stick to dry ice, shoes with Arctic Grip soles are the best you can buy for all icy conditions.

Despite the ever-growing number of unique innovations in the outdoor space, Arctic Grip is a shoe-in for our gear of the year award because it’s a technology that not only benefits the hardcore outdoorsperson on a winter hike, but anyone who’s experienced a sketchy moment walking on an icy driveway, parking lot, or sidewalk.

The wide applications of keeping your footing while on ice are apparent from the brands that now feature Vibram’s Arctic Grip. Offerings from Saucony are for runners; Merrell, CAT, and Wolverine make boots for more serious outdoor needs; and Hush Puppies and Sperry are for more casual and fashionable occasions.

We live for the gear that shaves precious ounces off your pack weight, or a new technical material that keeps you warmer and dryer without harming the environment, but no other product innovation this year is more useful to everyone, outdoorsy or not, living in a wintery climate than Vibram Arctic Grip. Plus, it’ll save you from achieving internet notoriety if you happen to be on the news.

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Best Products of 2016 OutdoorsRunner up
Columbia OutDry Extreme Eco

The waterproof shell is a staple of every outdoor enthusiast’s wardrobe, and before OutDry Extreme Eco, every piece of rain-slicking, breathable garb you could buy used PFCs to impart water repellency. OutDry Ex Eco is different; it has all the benefits of OutDry Extreme without any of the downsides. The first jacket offered with this new magical membrane is pure white – completely free of dye – which saves 13 gallons of water per jacket, and the fabric is made from 21 recycled bottles. For true lovers of the outdoors in every sense of the word, OutDry Ex Eco is the future.

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Best Products of 2016 Outdoors

Runner up
Patagonia Hybrid Sleeping Bag

Every alpinist knows the saying, “it’s every ounce that counts” and Patagonia’s first foray into the outdoor gear world is the Hybrid Sleeping Bag that weighs just 17.3 ounces. While half bags, or “elephant’s foot” sleeping bags aren’t a new concept, Patagonia brought its expertise to the table with design elements refined over numerous generations of down parkas. Where half-bags leave you exposed above-waist, Patagonia’s offering uses its Houdini fabric for an outer shell that’s windproof and repels water. Sometimes it’s not about being first, it’s about being best.

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Whew! Rough year. Fortunately, we got some amazing tech out of it. Digital Trends’ expert editors picked the most amazing gadgets in their respective categories, then convened as a panel to pick the one that towered above them all. Join us every day between now and Jan. 1 as we recap our favorites, and build up to the big Best of 2016 reveal!
Marcus Yam
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Marcus entered tech media in the late '90s and fondly remembers a time when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI…
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