I’ve tried quite a few skis, poles, boots, snowshoes, kayaks, jackets, helmets, headlamps, tents, hiking boots, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, water purifiers, cameras, dresses, running shoes, outerwear, underwear, and anything else that qualifies as “gear” since I started as an intern at Outside magazine in 1995. Sometimes it can get overwhelming, especially during testing season—like now, when I’m testing upwards of 60 women’s jackets to find the perfect fit for the 2012 Winter Buyer’s Guide. The fact is, most of these jackets are so well made that they will keep me warm, dry, and happy in virtually any weather. It’s the intangible qualities—the look, the feel, the personality—that give some of them an edge. Yesterday, when I became way too overwhelmed by the sheer volume and über-tech of it all, I took out my old standbys, a pair of wooden Iverson snowshoes I won in a snowshoe race about 15 years ago. These hand-crafted beauties remind me of everything I love about the best gear—simplicity, ease of use, elegance, and practical function. Wearing my Iversons while trudging up the mountain in the freshly fallen snow reminded me that, ultimately, it’s not about the gear. It’s where it takes you.