The Best Gear of 2014

Take a look at the most popular gear from 2014.

Garmin VIRB Elite

Garmin’s VIRB Elite captures the moment at full speed HD or in ultra-slow-motion video modes depending on how you want to play it back: 1080p@30fps, 960p@48fps, 720p@30/60fps.

The Olympus Tough TG-2 iHS

The Olympus Tough TG-2 iHS comes loaded with shooting modes including low light and microscope. It can be equipped with a telephoto or fisheye lens.

The Tiwal 3.2

Come Sail Away Sailboats, even small ones, are seldom used as water toys or tenders because their awkward shapes are tough to stow, even on the largest of charter yachts. Tiwal Designs is changing that with its inflatable sailing dinghy, the Tiwal 3.2 ($5,950). Named innovation of the year by our sister publication Sailing World, it’s 10½ feet high with a sail area of 75 square feet and is capable of carrying two adults (or one adult and two children) on a wind-powered adventure. When you’ve had enough fun, the craft collapses to fit inside two 59-by-16-by-14-inch bags (one for the body and another for the rigging). Once you get the hang of assembly and disassembly, it will take you about 15 minutes to set up and another 15 minutes to stow, the folks at Tiwal say.

Minox Nautik DCM Binoculars

Spotting a finning billfish and seeing in-water obstacles are just two reasons for having a reliable pair of binoculars on board. Minox understands this and dives headfirst into today’s multifunction world with its BN 7×50 Nautik DCM binoculars ($595). Besides offering ­crystal-clear optics and 7x magnification, these binoculars have an embedded inclinometer that stabilizes viewing in angry seas. A built-in digital compass allows you to save three headings, helping you quickly track multiple points without having to look up. Fogging in tropical climes is a notorious issue with binoculars, and Minox solves it by adding nitrogen to the housing, which floats. A stopwatch and digital barometer with history graph round out the Nautik’s functionality.

The Wide Angle Scuba Series HD 1080p Dive Mask Camera

Carrying an underwater camera on your snorkeling and scuba trips can be cumbersome, but you don’t want to miss capturing the moment a school of tropical fish emerges from behind some brain coral or the look on your child’s face as a curious sting ray swims by. The Wide Angle Scuba Series HD 1080p dive mask camera ($299) from Liquid Image ensures you’ll never miss a memory. Operational to depths of 130-plus feet, the hands-free camera shoots 1080-pixel videos at 30 frames per second and 12-megapixel (manual) still photos. Its 135-degree, wide-angle lens records everything in your field of vision. Upon returning to land, just plug a USB cable from the mask into your laptop and share your underwater adventures with friends and family.

The Ditch Kit

When you are prepared for any situation, you have peace of mind. That is what licensed captain and survival expert Dan Cohen hopes his new Ditch Kit line will provide. Should disaster strike, the buoyant kit can be quickly thrown into a life raft. The Ditch Kit ranges from $700 to $2,700 and addresses the emergency needs of coastal cruisers and ­ocean-crossing voyagers alike. The kits include everything from flares and whistles to sat phones, EPIRBs and VHFs. Cohen explains that the key to his Ditch Kit’s success is its organization. “It can be flipped upside down and shaken up and everything will be in its designated place when you open it,” says Cohen. A lifetime product notification service alerts owners when items in their kits, like flares, need to be replaced.

The 3-ounce Remix Headlight

Whether you’re reading a book in the cockpit before dawn or making emergency engine repairs on the darkest of nights, a durable headlamp has myriad uses aboard a boat. The 3-ounce Remix Headlight ($40) from Princeton Tec is a smart, lightweight option. Push a button and a 125-lumen LED light provides a long-distance beam, which is useful in many situations — as anyone will attest who has tried to find his boat in a mooring field at night. For up-close-and-personal projects like inspecting breakers when your boat’s lights go out, three smaller LEDs illuminate your line of sight while conserving power. A third, red LED option is best used when navigating at night because it won’t disrupt your or your crew’s night vision.

The Yeti Cooler

There are tough coolers and then there’s the Yeti . You may have seen the promotional videos in West Marine — you know, the ones in which a 500-pound hulk of a man or a grizzly bear tries to break the cooler. Neither can. Constructed from roto-molded polyethylene (the stuff used to make white-water kayaks), these coolers can bounce around in your boat’s cockpit in large seas without issue (but be careful opening those carbonated beverages). Two inches of insulation around the body, 3 inches on top and a full-frame gasket sealing the lid keep your contents frosty. Built-in handles allow for convenient carrying, while a nonskid base and a built-in tie-down system keep the cooler in place in snotty seas. Sizes from 7.2- to 100-gallon capacity ($299 to $1,400) ensure that you’ll find the right cooler for your boat.

The Watershot Pro Underwater Housing for iPhone and Galaxy Devices

The Watershot Pro underwater case ($189) lets you take an iPhone 5 down deep to shoot video and photos. (Models for other Apple and Android phones are available.) Submerging your phone may seem scary, but the case’s robust plastic housing and locking latch are designed to prevent leaks. Submersible to 195 feet, the housing has five buttons that work with a free app allowing you to toggle between shooting photo and video without surfacing. An array of lenses for the Watershot Pro are sold separately.

The Chest Pack

Boaters today are keeping more and more items on their person, from phones and keys to wallets and knives, but there are only so many places to hold them all, especially while scurrying about on deck changing sails or while navigating the tender to shore. Spinlock created the chest pack ($20), which attaches to its deck vests, to offer hands-free holding in those situations. A two-way zipper provides easy access to your belongings, and the pack is lightly padded for added comfort. If you take off your life vest, a double-fold Velcro attachment allows you to wear the pack around your waist. With enough room for a personal locator beacon, portable VHF and flare, the pack can double as a secondary ditch bag.

The Panerai Barometer

Barometers have been used to forecast weather on the water since physicist Evangelista Torricelli invented them in 1643. More than three centuries later, these devices, while technologically out of date, are still finding a home as salty decorations that pay homage to our nautical heritage. With that in mind, Italian watchmaker Panerai created a series of classic-meets-modern instruments, including a barometer ($5,200) for the Bermudian ketch Eilean, built in 1936. Now available to the public, the instruments are encased in stainless steel to combat the corrosive saltwater environment. A black dial adds to the modern appearance while allowing for easy readability. Other available instruments include a clock, hygrometer and thermometer.

The Ricoh WG-M1

The Ricoh WG-M1 ($300) is just plain tough. Waterproof to a depth of 32 feet after attaching the lens protector, it’s shockproof and said to withstand falls from a height of 6 feet. It’s also impervious to dust, cold and heat, ideal when filming your next passage.

The14 x 40 Bylite Gyro-Stabilized Binoculars

If you’re in the market for a solid pair of bird-­watching binoculars, the 14-by-40 mm gyrostabilized Bylite ($4,400) from Fraser Optics is overkill. Designed for first-responder use in extreme conditions, the Bylite’s most prominent feature is its stabilizer that, according to Fraser, removes 98 percent of the image motion that comes from being on a boat at speed. Not just steady, it offers powerful 14x magnification. A CR123 battery (included) powers the binoculars for up to 12 hours, and, should you need more time, a built-in regulator allows for the binoculars to receive continuous external power. Like anything originally intended for use in the military, the gyrostabilized Bylite is shockproof, waterproof and completely buoyant.

Ultralight 403 Kayak Motor

Kayaking is a great way to get a water’s-eye view, but novice kayakers may fear that a strong current, stiff breeze or fatigued arms will leave them adrift. An electric Ultralight 403 kayak motor ($600) from Torqeedo fits any size kayak via mounting bracket and gives paddlers peace of mind by powering them home at a speed of about 2.5 mph for 26 miles on a single battery charge. For additional range, pack the solar charger (sold separately). Exceptionally quiet, the motor can be used when stalking fish. Weighing just over 15 pounds, the 403 is simple to set up and stow.

The SLXtreme 5

We’ve seen rugged and waterproof phone cases and portable chargers before, but combine them into a single, sleek, colorful device and now you’ve piqued our interest. Aside from protecting your iPhone 5 or 5S from 6-foot falls and extending its battery life by 150 percent via a built-in charger, the SLXtreme 5 ($149) by Snow Lizard is impervious to sand and water, which is helpful if you use a phone for help navigating your tender. Its waterproof headphone jack allows you to listen to your favorite tunes in the elements. A solar panel on the flip side of the case recharges the phone should you be away from a power source for extended periods. A bike mount and belt clip are included. Available in white, black, orange, yellow and camouflage, this is a smart case for your smartphone.

Maui Jim Five Caves

Maui Jim Five Caves ($279) have large wraparound lenses that block sunlight reflected off the water, or the way the frames fit snugly to your face, even in choppy seas; its scratchproof lenses are a nice option too. Designed for U.S. Army Air Corps pilots in World War II, aviator-style sunglasses found widespread popularity in the 1960s and are still a crowd favorite today.

The Rocna Fisherman Anchor

Anchors Aweigh When judging the worth of an anchor there is generally only one question: Will it keep my boat put? Answering in the affirmative is how Rocna is making a name for itself. Designed by Cavalier Yachts co-founder Peter Smith, Rocna anchors feature a large, self-righting roll bar, ensuring the blade is always at an ideal angle to the bottom. Ranging from 9 to 606 pounds ($149 to $10,600), the anchors have a proportionally large blade area for strong holding power in varied bottom types. If the wind and tide change direction, the roll bar should allow the anchor to automatically reset itself.

SatSleeve For iPhone

Can You Hear Me Now? Satellite phones have been the communication tool of choice for world travelers for decades. That may soon be changing thanks to the SatSleeve ($102) from Thuraya, which transforms your Apple or Android smartphone into a sat phone that can be used in more than 140 countries. With full walk-and-talk capabilities, the simple plug-in device also allows you to surf the Web and access social media. The case also acts as a portable charger, and an emergency call button allows you to dial a preset number without having your phone docked. Airtime can be pre-purchased online with plans ranging from $13.50 to $525 a year.

Photojojo Lenses (For Your Mobile Device)

Gone are the days of lugging around a heavy camera bag filled with lenses and filters to capture great photographs from your cruise. Today’s smartphones are capable of snapping high-quality images that can be shared almost instantly via email and social media. Those looking to put some creativity into, or find a new angle for, their photos should give smartphone and tablet lenses from Photojojo a try ($20 to $30 each). Options include wide-­angle, fisheye, super fisheye, polarizer and telephoto lenses ($100 for all five), so it’s easy to capture one-of-a-kind photos. To install, simply place an included magnetic sticker around your Apple or Android phone or tablet camera. The lenses attach to it quickly, allowing you to swap them out with ease.

The Ion Air Pro 3

The Ion Air Pro 3 ($350) proves you can’t judge a camera by its size. Measuring just 4 inches long, the high-definition camera’s metal screw barrel lets you mount it in the harshest locations, like on the bow of your boat or perhaps on your new hoverboard.

Spyderco Tusk

Twenty-five years ago, Sal Glesser, Spyderco’s founder, set out to create a compact mariners’ tool with a corrosion-resistant blade and marlinespike. Armed with modern materials, his son Eric finished the job and released the Spyderco Tusk ($400). The marlinespike, a traditional nautical tool used for splitting, sewing or untangling lines, is locked in the open position by a ceramic ball bearing. The Tusk comes equipped with two shackle tools. The 2.3-inch stainless-steel blade has myriad uses, cutting everything from medical tape to anchor lines. Its titanium body is rust-resistant, and finger grooves provide exceptional leverage.

Hot Shot Signal Mirror

Today’s emergency electronics help ensure a timely rescue of those lost at sea. Despite these advances, the news is still littered with stories of vessels that go missing. The possibility for electronics to fail or be lost is one reason why marine safety electronics provider ACR is releasing the Hot Shot Signal Mirror ($20), a modern iteration of the signaling mirrors distributed to members of the U.S. Navy during World War II. Four by 2¾ inches, the plastic-encased mirror boasts a built-in viewing window that allows you to direct the sun’s reflection to a passing ship or plane. In low-light situations, an attached U.S. Coast Guard-approved whistle alerts rescuers, and a float prevents the mirror from sinking if dropped. It’s a simple item, but it’s stood the test of time for one reason.

GoPro Hero4 Black

The Hero4 Black ($500), has a processor that is twice as powerful as its predecessor’s, allowing for higher-quality video and the ability to snag 12 MP still images from the video.

The Sea Dragon 1200 photo/video dive light

One of the biggest challenges of underwater photography is lackluster lighting. The Sea Dragon 1200 photo/video dive light ($400) resolves that issue by attaching to any SeaLife or GoPro camera. Rated for a depth of 200 feet, the light produces 2,000 lumens, which is more than enough to get a great shot or double as a secondary diving flashlight. A 100-degree, wide-angle beam illuminates everything in the scene you’re trying to capture without producing image hot spots, and a lithium-ion battery runs the LED light at full power for up to 75 minutes.

WeatherFlow’s Wind Meter (For Apple and Android Devices)

Knowing real-time wind speed and direction can help you make the right call on heading out for a day cruise or staying put for dockside cocktails. More important, it can make all the difference between crashing into a neighbor’s boat or docking perfectly. Your phone can now tell you what the wind is doing thanks to WeatherFlow’s Wind Meter ($35), an anemometer that plugs into the headphone jack of your Apple or Android device. Install the free WeatherFlow app and hold the device up in the direction of the wind, and you’ll have a digital readout of the wind direction, the average wind speed (from 2 to 125 mph) and highest gusts. Two taps on the screen and your data can be shared by means of Instagram, email or Facebook. This crowd-sourced data is available at the sister site

Gill Harness Rescue Tool Titanium

For offshore yachtsmen, a harness is a lifeline. It’s the difference between slipping on deck or becoming a man overboard. It’s not uncommon, however, to hear about harnesses behaving badly and trapping sailors in compromising positions, which is where Gill’s Harness Rescue Tool ($17) comes in handy. Made from titanium, it’s an extremely sharp cutter that can dispense with harness webbing, cords and small lines. This pocket-size tool is easily tethered to a life jacket or harness. Its shackle keys and flat-head screwdriver help to tackle small maintenance tasks too. A built-in bottle opener addresses a different onboard emergency.