Let it begin! (you're not using anything that new in the next few weeks, anyway) Try to keep it to three items, as an intellectual exercise, and recall: this is most interesting when we hear and see how it worked on trips, not just in your backyard!!
For me, the first item on my list is an easy one:
2009 was the year Big Sky released Moose Drool in a can, and made beerpacking the world over better and more diverse. Try though I might, I'm just not that much of a liquor person. Good scotch I can appreciate, good wine I like, but nothing says lets sit on top of this mountain, was the dust away, and watch the world disappear like a cold beer. Fat Tire in a can is not bad. Newcastle is great, but hard to find consistently. Moose Drool is a thinking man's beer for all seasons. One of the best BPin' moments of this year was sitting on the south shore of Shoshone Lake in YNP on a calm, bluebird day in late September, eating salami and cheese, watching the clouds not exist, and drinking a Moose Drool.
The second item is a trend, really, because 2009 was when I actually started making my own gear from scratch, not just modifying and hacking existing stuff. So the second best item of 2009 is my homemade All-Pack.
The best part of making your own gear is of course tailoring it so you get exactly what you wanted. And with this I did.
I've always needed and wanted less suspension for a given load than most, and appreciated a dead simple design that flexed and moved, and was overkill bombproof at the same time. A pack with my zippers, no pockets, and a doubled Ballistics bottom will get you that.
A thread with futher details is here (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=20430).
Highlights and things I learned about this pack:
-The Ridgerest provides the perfect balance of flex and support for the burrito approach to suspension.
-Thin and narrow straps are just fine provided the padding is firm and the fit perfect.
-A webbing hipbelt is fine for 30 pound loads. The canted bottom means that the burrito-pad doesn't go all the way down my back. I stuff the tarp into the bottom, sleeping bag on top of that. The result is that the fabric bottom hugs my waist perfectly, and the friction of the fabric helps it carry surprisingly well.
-The beavertail pocket rules, especially for winter toys.
Making and using this thing has been immensely satisfying.
The third item is shown in the picture above, and is as simple as it is essential to all wilderness trips: the black wool beanie.
The Smartwool cuffed beanie is the one hat to rule them all. Wool works better for this than fleece, even if it does dry a bit slower. The Smartwool is big, no worries about cold ears, and flexible. It stays on my head through a night of restless sleeping. And now, with the BPL SUL beanie, I have a lighter hat with all the requisite features.
On the whole, 2009 was a good year for backpacking. I did a bunch of trips, and most especially really saw a lot of Montana. I've got a good backyard now, and am more psyched than ever to keep investigating it (winter and summer).