Tag Archives: hiking apparel reviews

The 5 Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking

March 27, 2018  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Patagonia Pluma Jacket.

Wearing the Patagonia Pluma Jacket on the Tour du Mont Blanc.

By Michael Lanza

Shop for a rain jacket for dayhiking, backpacking, or climbing in the backcountry and you’ll see shells for adults ranging from under $100 to over $600, and from less than half a pound to over a pound—with just as huge and confusing a range of opinions on them from reviewers and consumers. I’m going to make the choice easy for you.

I’ve tested dozens of rain shells while hiking through soaking rains all over the world over the past two decades, writing reviews for this blog and previously for Backpacker magazine; I’ve learned how to distinguish the mediocre from the excellent. Here are my picks for the five best rain jackets for backcountry adventures that you can buy today. Continue reading →

Review: Montane Ajax Jacket

March 20, 2018  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Montane Ajax Jacket

Montane Ajax Jacket

All-Season Shell Jacket
Montane Ajax Jacket
$380, 16 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: US men’s S-XXL, women’s 6-14
rei.com

As the wind-driven snow came down heavily while a partner and I backcountry skied in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, I cinched the hood of my Montane Ajax Jacket closely over my head, looked around, and thought: “beautiful day.” We were skiing untracked, light powder, and despite wind chills around zero Fahrenheit or below hammering us for hours, I felt dry, warm, and almost completely sealed off from the inclement conditions in this all-season shell. If your usual mountain playgrounds often turn meteorologically unfriendly, the Ajax’s performance and price warrant a close look. Here’s why. Continue reading →

The Best Ultralight Hiking and Backpacking Jackets of 2018

March 12, 2018  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Montane Minimus 777 Pull-On along the Tour du Mont Blanc.

Montane Minimus 777 Pull-On along the Tour du Mont Blanc.

By Michael Lanza

You’re out on an all-day hike in the mountains, or a long climb or trail run, or backpacking. The weather forecast looked pretty good before you set out—but no one shared that memo with the wind that just started hammering your summit ridge, or the spitting rain and hail now pelting you as you contemplate the sudden drop in temperature and the miles between you and shelter. The question now is: What’s in your pack?

If you’re smart, it’s an ultralight jacket that takes up little space, but is about to gift you with just the right amount of weather protection right when you need it. Here’s how to choose the best ultralight shell for your needs, followed by my picks for the best models on the market today, based on real-life field testing and my 25 years of experience reviewing outdoor gear and apparel. Continue reading →

Review: Smartwool Ultra Light Sport Jacket

February 14, 2018  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Smartwool Men’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Jacket.

Smartwool Men’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Jacket.

Ultralight Jacket
Smartwool Men’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Jacket
$115, 4.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: S-XL
backcountry.com
Smartwool Women’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Jacket (hooded)
$120, 5 oz.
Sizes: XS-XL
moosejaw.com

Whether hiking, trail running, or mountain biking, when I need a jacket to manage variability in my exertion levels and/or the inevitable wind, temperature swings, and maybe light precipitation, I look for a couple of qualities in that shell: high breathability and reeeally low weight. From a chilly and very windy October dayhike of 11,749-foot Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range, to numerous fall and winter trail runs and rides in the Boise Foothills near my home, in cool temps and conditions all over the meteorological map, Smartwool’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Jacket has had my back. Here’s why its breathability distinguishes this ultralight shell from the competition. Continue reading →

February 5, 2018 Backcountry skiing in Idaho's Boise Mountains.

The Best Clothing Layers for Winter in the Backcountry

In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

There’s one certainty about the clothing layers we use in winter: We get our money’s worth out of them. While a rain shell or puffy jacket may rarely (or even never) come out of our pack on a summer hike or climb, we almost invariably wear every article of clothing we carry when backcountry, Nordic, or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, climbing, or trail running in winter. That’s money spent wisely to make us more comfortable and safer.

Every winter, I test out new clothing layers doing all of those activities frequently. Here are the best shell and insulated jackets, base layers, and pants I’ve found for high-exertion and moderate-exertion activities in winter. Continue reading →

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