There are plenty of featured items though that are fairly affordable yet do what they do very well. I haven't personally laid hands on any of these, but I assume NGT gear reviewer Steve Casimiro has. Something tells me he's at the top of every gear company's mailing list.
Columbia Rapidfire Windshell - made of stronger-than-usual 20-denier nylon, water and wind resistant, but weighing only 4.5 ounces. At a list price of $80, this doesn't hit your wallet or your backpack very hard.
Hi-Tec V-lite Hornet HPi hiking boots - Could they make that name any longer? I've always viewed Hi-Tec boots as the cheapo choice, probably because I lived in Korea where they were made and you could buy them for a song in Itaewon. Apparently they have improved, as this model gets the nod for its innovative new moisture management system: some kind of plasma ion-mask that uses nanotechnology instead of the normal wicking membrane. Vibram tread and a 3/4 shank make it ready for any conditions and despite all the technology, list price is $115---not much above the norm.
KOR ONE Hydration Vessel - This gets featured for its cool-looking design and its BPA-free Tritan plastic. I like the fact it has a flip-open wide top so it's easy to fill and easy to purify (unlike the cool-looking but less practical Sigg bottles). Plus for this price, $30, you also get a rubberized base so it's not so slippery.
Nokia MD-8 - (picture below) OK, this is the one I'm really lusting over, to be honest. It's a "booming sound quality" iPod speaker set that blasts out tunes in stereo, yet fits in the palm of the hand. It runs for 40 hours on the batteries, has an FM tuner, and is a reasonable $50 list. Damn, too late for the Christmas list...
See a photo tour of the best gear items on National Geographic Adventure's site.