Best Outdoor Gear and Equipment — Shape Best In Fitness Awards 2023

Take on the great outdoors with the best hiking boots, pickleball paddles, mountain bikes, and more.

Venturing into the wilderness, setting sail, or simply frequenting your neighborhood park requires reliable outdoor gear. As any seasoned adventurer will concur, a single blister, a wet sock, or shoulder chaffing is enough to mar your time spent in the great outdoors. However, this year's selection of the Best Outdoor Gear and Equipment is guaranteed to stand up to every hike, climb, or paddle you undertake. These are Shape editor- and expert-endorsed products that should find their way into your collection. Among them, you'll find hiking boots with excellent grip, longboards suitable for beginners, and chalk bags designed to prevent spills.

Best Hiking Boots: Thesus The Weekend Boot

Handmade with more than 95 percent natural and recycled materials, these lightweight hiking boots feature a water-resistant upper, contouring gel insole, and temperature-control lining that will keep your feet dry and comfortable on all your treks. The anti-slip rubber sole will help you stay upright in even the slickest conditions. 

Expert Review: “I’m an all-season hiker, so I put my hiking boots through the wringer and demand a lot of them. Comfortable, grippy, and waterproof are my must-haves, and these boots check all the boxes. As a vegan, I’ve found it pretty challenging to find a non-leather hiking boot that meets my standards, but this boot delivers.” — Maggie Peikon, Shape assistant social media editor

Best Hiking Daypack: Osprey Daylite Plus

This 20-liter daypack is equipped with all the essentials: a roomy main compartment, an interior sleeve to stash your hydration pack or laptop, two water bottle holders, a mesh-covered foam back panel for supreme ventilation, and pockets galore. For added stability when you’re hauling hefty loads, fasten yourself in with the sternum and hip belt straps.

Professional Opinion: "The Osprey Daylite Plus has been my reliable companion through various adventures. It has survived camping escapades, international voyages, and being squished inside packed luggage during several relocations. This is the go-to daypack that I can always rely on. It boasts compartments for a hydraulic water pack, additional water reserves, and small items such as a book or sunscreen," says Anne Reuss, a NASM-certified fitness trainer and inclusive conditioning expert.

Best Hiking Socks: SmartWool Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks

Made with breathable merino wool, the SmartWool Hike Light socks feature padding and ventilation in the areas you need them most (read: no stinky feet or blisters). The crew height adds coverage on the trails to protect your ankles from thorns, brambles, or whatever may cross your path.

Expert Review: "I never thought I'd be one to preach about socks, yet here we are. Not only are these socks supportive and comfy, but they're also incredibly durable. Seriously, they're all I wore when I hiked Mount Kilimanjaro. Also, they were engineered specifically for the anatomy of women's feet, which is a nice bonus." — Kristen Geil, NASM-certified personal trainer and Shape senior fitness editor

Best Pickleball Paddle: Recess Classic Pickleball Paddle

The Recess classic pickleball paddles are made of strong yet light fiberglass with a durable edge guard. The foam grip is covered by perforated custom faux leather to help prevent your hand from slipping during intense rallies, and the paddle even comes with a canvas cover.

Expert Review: "Not only is the Recess paddle a pleasure to hit with, but I feel incredibly cool using it on the court — not a feeling many people associate with pickleball. The designs are on-trend and developed in-house, and each paddle makes a statement. " — Geil

Best Stand-Up Paddleboard: Feath-R-Lite Inflatable Stand-Up Paddle Board

This 10-foot inflatable paddleboard is 35 percent lighter than other models on the market, weighing in at just under 19 pounds, and is equipped with a handle that makes transporting it from the car to the water no problem. The non-slip pad will help you stay upright as you paddle across the waves. Multifunctional elastic strings keep essentials in place, and it even comes with a waterproof bag for your cell phone.

Expert Review: "Stand-up paddling is such a rewarding activity for the mind and body and gets you under the sun. I don’t think pricing or size should scare people away from this accessible activity. I have not had an issue with this affordable product and love that it’s portable.” — Reuss

Best Mountain Bike: Trek Marlin 8 Gen 2

Available in seven frame sizes, this mountain bike is a perfect match for riders of any height. The bike features a locked suspension to increase pedaling efficiency, rack mounts to carry all of your essentials, and shift and brake cables that are housed inside the frame to create a seriously sleek look.

Expert Review: “This bike rides amazingly on the road or the trail; I love its versatility! The Marlin 8 has impressive features that keep the ride smooth, fun, and comfortable for any terrain.” — Peikon

Best Longboard for Beginners: Paradise 40" Drop-Through Longboard

Outfitted with comfortable foot placement areas, this 40-inch longboard is perfect for cruising through the neighborhood or local park. The base plates of the trucks are mounted through the deck (hence the name drop-through), placing the board closer to the ground and giving you more stability as you ride down hills. The wheels are designed to quickly accelerate while providing a smooth ride.

Expert Review: "I bought my 40-inch Paradise drop-through longboard shortly after learning how to ride about eight years ago, and it's been smooth sailing ever since. The board is plenty long and wide, so you can easily find and adjust your footing between pushes, and the lowered platform keeps you stable as you pick up speed." — Megan Falk, Shape assistant editor

Best Road Bike: Specialized Allez

This bike is billed as an entry-level road bike, and it features everything new riders need to take to the streets. It features a lightweight alloy frame and a carbon fiber fork (the part that holds the front wheel) for smoother riding and easier turns.

Expert Review: "The Specialized Allez is my first road bike and [is] high-quality [and] durable at a relatively low price point. I'm 5’10", and only a few adjustments were necessary to make this a perfect fit!" Kayla Jeter, NASM-certified personal trainer and certified functional strength coach

Best Rock Climbing Shoes: Scarpa Origin

Designed specifically for beginner climbers, these rock climbing shoes have a sticky rubber sole for supreme grip, a leather upper for a luxe feel, and a Pressure Absorbing Fit system that supports an improved heel fit. The two adjustable strap closures give you the chance to make the shoes as snug as you like.

Expert Review: “I was lucky enough to find these at an REI Garage Sale — they’re comfortable, and I love the easy-on and easy-adjust Velcro straps. The rubber is sticky, which feels like a helpful assist for a new climber, and the pull loops are great for clipping them to my climbing bag or crash pad.” — Peikon

Best Chalk Bag for Rock Climbing: Cotopaxi Halcon Chalk Bag

The 1.5L colorful chalk bag is fitted with a structured rim opening and an adjustable drawstring closure, as well as an elastic loop to carry your brush as you scale the wall. To ensure your chalk doesn’t spill on the ground beneath you, snake the included waist belt through the bag’s two loops.

Expert Review: “Colorful and capable, this chalk bag holds a sizable amount of chalk and keeps it from spilling everywhere with an easily adjustable drawstring closure. The back pockets might be my favorite feature, though — they can hold my oversized phone (iPhone 12 Pro Max), my keys, and snacks!” — Peikon

Best Bluetooth Speaker: JBL Charge 5

This bluetooth speaker features an incredible 20 hours of battery life, so the party never has to stop. It's waterproof and dustproof, perfect for outdoor adventures, and the built-in power bank lets you charge your phone without missing a beat.

Expert Review: "My household's JBL Charge goes everywhere with us — to the lake, to the golf course, to picnics, and it even served as our car's speaker for a few months while ours was broken. It's small, but mighty." — Geil

Best Hiking Shoes: Allbirds Trail Runners SWT

Combining all-day Allbirds comfort with the function of a water-repellent upper finish and a grippy, lug-sole bottom, these hiking sneakers were made for tougher terrain. A snug collar keeps debris out to prevent pesky pebbles from slowing down your trek, while the ripstop fabric and thick mudguard stay durable, even in questionable conditions.  

Expert Review: "I can't even begin to count the number of sneakers I've ruined on muddy, wet ground, but I've finally found my go-to pair for training under challenging conditions. This tractioned hiking style is tough enough to handle practically any terrain — from slippery pavement to rocky new heights — while keeping my feet supported, protected, and dry." — Zarah Kavarana, beauty e-commerce editor at Dotdash Meredith

Best Hiking Fanny Pack: Janji Multipass Sling Bag

While technically a running bag, this fanny pack is tough enough to take on the hiking trails, thanks to its water-repellent fabric, a breathable back panel, and multiple storage compartments. Wear it around your waist for quick access to your essentials or across your back as you scramble.

Expert Review: "Janji's roomy sling bag has permanently replaced my small daypack. It's big enough to stash my phone, keys, wallet, snacks, and even my lightweight running jacket, but compact enough that it doesn't restrict my movement. Plus, the honeycomb back panel keeps my back from becoming drenched in sweat on mid-summer hikes." — Falk

Best Portable Hammock: Eagle Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

This lightweight, silky hammock is just the size of a grapefruit when rolled up, so it won't take up valuable space in your hiking bag, backpack, or tote bag. The 9.5-foot hammock is large enough to comfortably fit two people, and it packs into its own "stuff sack" to make storage a breeze.

Expert Review: "My DoubleNest hammock has traveled everywhere with me over the last six years: local parks, hiking trails, campgrounds, backyard hang-outs, and yes, even living rooms, but it doesn't show any signs of wear and tear. My partner and I slept in it together while camping in frigid temperatures, and we both slept like babies." — Falk

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