Expensive Outdoor Gear Options

November 20, 2009

Top-end gear manufacturers love to push the limits of outdoor adventure—and stretch the boundaries of consumers’ wallets as well. Even in these times of economic malaise, there’s no shortage of budget-blowing options for the most expensive, highest-end outdoor gear on the market. As winter swirls in, do you ever fantasize that Santa might bring you the most swanked-out, ultra high-end winter gear for the holidays? Here are some of this season’s best options for bankrupting old St. Nick.

First ask for some quality Gore-Tex body armor. High-end shell jackets have danced around the $500 mark for years, but this year several manufacturers handily break the half-G barrier. The new $600 ceiling for outerwear features razor-thin seam allowances, bomb-proof Gore-Tex Pro, off-set waterproof zippers, and “laser-cut infused polymer construction,” among other things. The North Face hits the $569 price point with its Free Thinker II and Sedition III jackets, while Arc’teryx offers up three jackets—the Sidewinder SV, Alpha SV, and Fission SV—for $599 each. Add on a pair of equally top-notch Arc’teryx Alpha SV bibs ($499), and you’ve got more than a thousand dollars of Gore-Tex power.

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Next choose your activity. If your goal is to launch maximum Santa funds into the gear-o-sphere, definitely focus on downhill ski equipment. Request a pair of downhill skis like the Volkl TigerShark 11, also known as the TigerShark 11 Foot Power Switch Skis with iPT Speed Ride 12.0 TS D Bindings ($1,500). A pair gives you maximum tech (and product name) for the money, including the ability to adjust tension to three settings—cruise, dynamic, or power. Clip in the cutting-edge design of Apex Alpine Ski Boots ($1,295)—a radical re-think of boot design that hybridizes ski- and snowboard boot technology—and you’re ready for the slopes.

Downhill not your thing? Perhaps a pair of race-level Nordic skis will satisfy your desires instead. Have Santa invest in maximum carbon fiber to save weight, perhaps the X-ium WCS skate ski from Rossignol ($599), their top-end competitive offering. Complete the set-up with the equally ultralight  X-ium World Cup Skate Boots ($399) and Swix Carbon CT3 poles ($155). Wax up for cold conditions with a high-performance, 0.8-ounce block of Swix Cera F Solid Cold Turbo Glide Wax ($125)—the 100 percent fluorinated carbons will send you flying faster than Santa’s sleigh.

After Santa has blown your mortgage for the next month or two, it’s probably a good idea to have alternative lodging on your wish list as well. Make sure it’s up to Everest-level conditions, because you never know where you’ll end up. Mountain Hardwear offers a full line to satisfy every space requirement. Consider the single-wall EV3 ($799) if you need less room, the six-person Satellite 6 ($2,200) if you need more, and the ginormous geodesic Space Station ($5,900) if you need room for the entire family, plus furniture. Finally, don’t forget a sleeping bag warm enough for anywhere on Earth, like Western Mountaineering’s Bison GWS ($865), which keeps you toasty down to minus-40 with 10 inches of loft from its ultra-premium 850-plus fill power down.

Hooray fantasy Santa!

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.