hiking apparel reviews

A backcountry skier in Idaho's Boise Mountains.

The Best Clothing Layers for Winter in the Backcountry

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 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, snowboarding, climbing, or trail running in winter. That’s money spent wisely to make us more comfortable and safer.

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Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket.

The 12 Best Down Jackets of 2024

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, skiing, climbing, and hut treks, 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 purposes, and it spotlights the best down and synthetic insulated jackets available today.

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The Beyond Ascent Glide Pant.

Review: Beyond Clothing Ascent Glide Pant

Soft-Shell Hiking Pants
Beyond Clothing Ascent Glide Pant
$135, 9 oz./326g (men’s 30 short)
Sizes: men’s 30-42, short, regular, and long
beyondclothing.com

On the second morning of a three-day hike in early October on the 22-mile Boulder Mail Trail-Death Hollow-Escalante River Loop in southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we started hiking down Death Hollow in the deep shade of canyon walls, wading in the chilly creek through pools as deep as mid-thigh with air temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit (around 5° C) and a steady wind blowing. We had to wear pants for the occasional, unavoidable bushwhacking through stands of head-high poison ivy along the creek banks. Inevitably, the legs of my Beyond Clothing Ascent Glide Pants got soaked (as did my boots; I relied on insulated top layers to stay warm).

Several hours later, we reached our campsite with my pant legs still soaked from walking most of the day in water. But in the short time I took unloading my pack and pitching my tent, they dried completely on my body. I never had to remove them and wore them throughout that evening in camp.

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The Rab Mythic Alpine Down Jacket.

Review: Rab Mythic Alpine Down Jacket

Water-Resistant Down Jacket
Rab Mythic Alpine Down Jacket
$390, 11 oz./313g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

A weeklong backpacking trip in Glacier National Park in mid-September presented a quandary: Starting out with the weight of a week’s food gave me added incentive to trim all superfluous weight from my pack; yet the possibility of temperatures dropping near or even below freezing made bringing adequately warm layers essential. The Rab Mythic Alpine Down Jacket achieved both goals, keeping me warm on our coldest mornings in Glacier while weighing less than most comparably warm puffy jackets.

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The Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody.

Review: Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody

Hooded Fleece Jacket
Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody
$179, 12.5 oz./354g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XXS-XL, kids XS-XXL
backcountry.com

As I’ve repeatedly written at this blog, virtually no piece of outdoor apparel offers more versatility than a highly breathable, midweight insulation layer; arguably, the only “layer” you will wear more is your skin. Find a highly breathable midweight jacket that’s soft and fits like it was custom made for your torso and you have a winner. Patagonia’s R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody could play that role for almost any outdoor user, from hard-core backpackers, climbers, and backcountry skiers to the average dayhiker or fitness walker, as I found wearing it on backpacking trips in Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies, not to mention countless days around town and at home.

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