Gear Reviews

Outdoor Research Helium Insulated Hoodie.

Review: Outdoor Research Helium Insulated Hoodie

Breathable Insulated Jacket
Outdoor Research Helium Insulated Hoodie
$199, 11 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

On a late-September backpacking trip in Yosemite, this lightweight and packable puffy jacket kept me warm on evenings and mornings in the 40s Fahrenheit—including one morning when a steady, chilly breeze blew through our camp beside Yosemite Creek, even though I wore it over just one midweight, long-sleeve base layer. But the story only begins there. The Helium’s breathable synthetic insulation greatly expands its versatility to four seasons, wet weather, and wearing it while hiking, climbing, or pursuing backcountry snow sports in cool to cold temps. And it’s made from partly recycled materials.

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Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket.

Review: Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Jacket

Rain Jacket
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket
$299, 11 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

Sometimes, mountain weather refuses to cooperate with your plans. On an August trip backpacking in the Wind River Range with my son, we saw patches of blue sky only on our first afternoon—followed by a couple of days of rain, culminating with us hiking out nine miles in a wind-driven tempest and temps in the 40s Fahrenheit. On days like that, I’m happy to have a shell that will reliably keep me dry and comfortable like the Zeta SL.

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Backpackers at night with headlamps in a campsite in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.

The 5 Best Headlamps of 2021

By Michael Lanza

A headlamp is unquestionably essential gear for hiking, backpacking, climbing, trail running, ultra-running and ultra-hiking and other backcountry activities that sometimes push into darkness. But with so many to pick from, how do you choose which one to buy? Price? Brightness? Design and range of lighting modes? Go with a brand you know and trust? This review cuts through the information overload to help you pick the right headlamp for your adventures.

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Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket.

The 10 Best Down Jackets of 2021

By Michael Lanza

Whatever you need an insulated jacket for, there’s a down or synthetic puffy for your needs, within your budget. And whether you want a puffy jacket for outdoor activities like backpacking, camping, and climbing, or just to keep you warm around town or at outdoor sporting events, this review will help you figure out how to choose the right jacket for your needs, and it spotlights the best down and synthetic puffy jackets available today.

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Sea to Summit Alto TR2 ultralight backpacking tent.

Review: Sea to Summit Alto TR2 Ultralight Backpacking Tent

Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Sea to Summit Alto TR2
$449, 2 lbs. 9 oz. (rainfly, tent, and poles)
backcountry.com

Backpacking five days in September through some of the northernmost mountains in the Lower 48 in Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness—sharing the trails with Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers finishing up their 2,650-mile walk as well as backpackers on shorter journeys—we wanted a shelter that could protect us from the wildest, late-season weather possible. It would also be nice if it wasn’t too heavy, given the rugged terrain there. Sea to Summit’s Alto TR2 fit the bill and demonstrated its cred as an outstanding ultralight tent.

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