When I moved to SF, all the seasons melted together. But at Lake Tahoe, in this Winter-wonderland, what makes a good gadget is an entirely different thing. Here's my list or requirements.
(I am strictly speaking about electronic gadgets, although many pieces of camping and ski and snowboard gear also carry these attributes.)
1. Buttons are cute, but not when you're wearing mittens or gloves and can't press them. Designing them slightly taller or bigger helps a ton.
2. Bright colours help a gadget be seen when dropped in the snow. And they all get dropped in the snow, unless...
3. You provide (include in the box) straps and lanyards of all sorts. To be attached to backpacks, zipper loops, keychains, around the neck, etc. I've lost at least 1 Sanyo waterproof camera, one Casio rugged phone, one Pentax in heavy surf, and one helmet cam that popped off its mount
4. Basic battery insulation: Batteries generate power less easily in the cold as temperature drops affect chemical reactions. The Uniden walkie talkies I use power down after 20 minutes of use in 20 degrees of weather, although they are rated for hours and hours. A little insulation goes a long way.
5. Simplicity over feature richness: This also helps define the button situation. Fewer things to ice over, fewer things to break, fewer things to fiddle with when you're at the top of the lift and your friends are waiting for you to strap into your board and ride. I once had a Motorola/Burton jacket with Bluetooth and an iPod connection. The ribbons (cables) were too short. Every time I moved, it would unplug and I'd have to stop and plug it in, which put a serious dent in my day.
6. As related to the point above, winter gear needs to be rugged and water resistant. Not necessarily by design. The iPod Shuffle is water resistant and rugged enough for me, considering its low price. A little snow won't hurt it, and the battery life goes on forever.
7. Low Profile: If if fits in a pocket and won't bruise you when you fall on it, all the better.
What do you guys think? Did I miss anything?