Tag Archives: backpacking clothing reviews

May 20, 2014 High Divide Trail in fog, Olympic National Park.

How I Decide What Touches My Skin: 5 Features to Look For In a Hiking Base Layer

In Gear Reviews, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

What’s your body type when you’re hiking, backpacking, or otherwise active outdoors? Do you run hot or cold—or both? Over many years of dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, trail running, cycling, skiing in its various forms, and other activities, I’ve discovered this about myself: I run very warm when I’m moving, but I cool off in a flash when I stop. To some degree, many people are like that. And those that aren’t—who just plain run consistently hot or cold—still have to tackle the same question I do: How do you pick the best base layer top for you? Continue reading →

Gear Review: L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket

April 7, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket

L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket.

Kids Puffy Jacket
L.L. Bean Puff-n-Stuff Jacket
$59, 13.5 oz. (boys large/14-16)
Sizes: boys’ and girls’ S-XL (8-18), little boys’ and girls’ S-L (4-7)
llbean.com

From wearing it as a layering piece under a shell when skiing, to backpacking in late March in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park when the temperature dropped below freezing, to innumerable school days, my son has worn this hooded, insulated jacket so much it has hardly seen a hanger (partly because he doesn’t appear to know how to use a hanger). When buying outdoor apparel for kids, you sometimes have to choose between high quality and affordability. I’m a believer that, like adults, kids enjoy the outdoors more when they’re comfortable—but it’s hard pulling the trigger on an expensive item, given how few seasons a kid wears something before outgrowing it. At 59 bucks, the Puff-n-Stuff Jacket is a steal. Continue reading →

Gear Review: The North Face Radium Hi-Loft Jacket

January 6, 2014  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
The North Face Radium Hi-Loft Jacket

The North Face Radium Hi-Loft Jacket

Fleece Jacket
The North Face Radium Hi-Loft Jacket
$170, 15 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
thenorthface.com

Given all the modern choices in outdoor apparel for the backcountry, is the classic fleece jacket obsolete? Not hardly. An insulating layer that’s highly breathable remains indispensable when you’re active in cold temperatures; I always have some kind of fleece layer when out backcountry skiing, cross-country ski touring, hiking, or snowshoeing in winter or any time of year in temps in the 30s or colder. The good news is that advancements in fabrics have transformed your father’s fleece into a more versatile outer or middle layer—like The North Face Radium Hi-Loft Jacket. Wearing it quite a lot while cross-country skiing on a four-day, December yurt trip in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, and as a middle layer while resort skiing as well as around town, I found it impressively warm, comfortable, and functional. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Marmot Alpha Pro Jacket

November 15, 2013  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Marmot Alpha Pro Jacket

Marmot Alpha Pro Jacket

Hybrid Cold-Weather Jacket
Marmot Alpha Pro Jacket
$225, 13 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
marmot.com

If you’re like me and cycle between being hot and cold when you’re active outdoors in cold temperatures, here’s a secret weapon for comfort. I wore this jacket frequently over the course of four days of wonderful backcountry skiing in the Baldy Knoll area of the Tetons last March, when daytime temps ranged from around zero Fahrenheit into the high 20s, often with strong winds and bright sunshine combined. I also wore it ski touring in Idaho’s Boise Mountains in temps typically just below freezing, at times in a cold wind and snow flurries. Both places presented challenging conditions in which to stay warm and dry. But the Alpha Pro shined, keeping me remarkably comfortable in rapidly shifting conditions where I would have otherwise been repeatedly taking a shell on and off—all while making my layering system lighter and simpler. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Big Agnes Hole in the Wall Jacket

November 4, 2013  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Big Agnes Hole in the Wall Jacket

Big Agnes Hole in the Wall Jacket

Down Jacket
Big Agnes Hole in the Wall Jacket
$220, 14 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
bigagnes.com

When I unzipped my sleeping bag after a night spent under the stars at nearly 11,000 feet by Columbine Lake in Sequoia National Park in August, I wasn’t thinking about what’s inside the new Hole in the Wall Jacket. Cocooned warmly inside my bag, I had been hammered by strong gusts all night; and with that cold wind still blowing when I woke up, I didn’t want to get out of it. But I pulled on this fat puffy and all but forgot about the wind—reminding me that sometimes the characteristics that make for a good puffy jacket are what you can’t see. Continue reading →

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