Best Recreation Gear: 2017 Digital Trends Outdoor Awards

best recreation gear 2017 Digital Trends outdoor awards

All season long, we camped, backpacked, paddle boarded, and hiked our way through the Pacific Northwest to find the best new outdoor gear for the first annual Digital Trends Outdoor Awards. After pushing each contender to the limit, we crowned our favorite products for Cooking, Sleeping, Trekking, Recreation, Unwinding, and a special award for Innovation. And we’re giving away one of every winning product, so enter our contest!

Hiking and camping are fun, but sometimes a day outside requires a bit of an adrenaline boost, be it running, biking, rafting, or surfing. And more than any other category in our Outdoor Awards, the recreation space has been turned on its head by tech: With fat tires and funky designs, modern bikes look little likes those from just a decade or two ago, and the entire sport of stand-up paddleboarding still has some folks scratching their heads.

As the Digital Trends Outdoor Awards marched forth these past few months, we tried our hand at a bevy of summer pastimes intended for anyone ranging from casual outdoorsy types to seasoned veterans. We hopped on huge mountain bikes from REI’s Co-op Cycles, hybrid trail bikes from Diamondback, and even tried our hand at an inflatable stand-up paddle board from the leaders in the space, Red Paddle.


Red Paddle 10’6″ inflatable SUP

If you don’t yet understand the appeal of stand-up paddle boarding, hop aboard Red Paddle’s 10-foot, six-inch Ride. This is a sport that’s accessible to anyone, and the best stand-up paddleboards make it even easier. Not only was it simple to pump up, but transporting the board between uses was an utter breeze thanks to how easily it rolled up and stowed in a companion bag — which also contains the board’s pump and paddle, as well as a handy repair kit should the board’s material rip at all.

The Tech: How do they make inflatable SUPs so rigid? A board’s top and bottom are connected by thousands of tiny internal threads that make up what’s called a dropstitch core. As you pump in air, the threads prevent the sides from moving apart, creating a sturdy platform. Red Paddle Co. takes this process even further with its new Monocoque Structural Laminate, or MSL fusion technology. This industrial process fuses another layer of polymer to the dropstitch core, which means less glue used and a smaller margin of error than from hand-gluing. The new laminate process also produces greater stiffness when the board is riding at lower pressures and higher durability.

Once pumped to the proper PSI — which only takes a matter of minutes — the Ride is ready to float. We preferred using it on calm lakes; thanks to that MSL fusion composite and exterior coating, it remained incredibly stable once we actually jumped on. The Ride’s built-in fins also provided enough stability and control throughout our sessions.

best recreation gear 2017 Digital Trends outdoor awards

Though a mere pump may not seem very exciting, Red Paddle’s Dual Cylinder Titan pump system isn’t just a simple pump. With its easy to use handle, it took no more than five minutes to inflate the board to its intended pressure and helped conserve energy along the way — what good would it do if you were too tired to ride?

From the moment we unzipped the board from its bag to when we (begrudgingly) rolled it back up at the end of the day, Red Paddle’s Ride paddle board consistently provided us with an extremely enjoyable experience. We’ve harped on accessibility and this board has it in spades. Price, ease of use, low learning curve, you name it — this board is our new favorite way to spend a day on the lake.

Runners up

REI’s Co-Op Cycles DRT 2.1 Bike is the perfect entry-level mountain bike for those looking to break into the sport. Featuring a lightweight air-sprung suspension fork, massive 2.8-inch tires on 27.5-inch wheels, and a Shimano SLX drivetrain, the fact it costs roughly $1,600 is a small miracle. It’s intended for singletrack courses, and that’s exactly where the bike shines, with commanding grip from those beefy tires and a cushy ride.

REI Co-Op Cycles DRT 2.1 Bike

Upon hopping onto Diamondback’s Haanjo Trail Carbon bicycle, we were immediately hooked. This extremely lightweight and comfortable bike is not only a blast to ride, but it tackles gravel and pavement with ease. Designed as a sort of hybrid cross, touring, and road bike, the entire Haanjo line is almost impossibly versatile. Constructed out of a hand-built carbon frame with hydraulic disc brakes, a Shimano 11-speed drivetrain, and thru axles, it’s a durable everyday bike that’s just as capable of serving a commuter as it is on a country trail.

Diamondback Haanjo Trail Carbon bike

Make sure to check out all the winning products for Cooking, Sleeping, Trekking, Recreation, Unwinding, and a special award for Innovation. And we’re giving away one of every winning product, so enter our contest!

Videos and photography by Dan Baker/Digitaltrends