Tag Archives: hiking clothing reviews

The 5 Best Rain Jackets for the Backcountry

November 24, 2017  |  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 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 simple for you.

I’ve tested dozens of rain shells while hiking through soaking rains all over the world over the past two decades; I’ve learned how to distinguish the mediocre from the excellent. Here are my picks for the five best rain jackets for backcountry adventures.

These top-performing shells range in price from $275 to $549, with great deals available right now on some of them (see the links below). I think you’ll find one of them is just right for your dayhikes, backpacking trips, and climbing and other outdoor adventures.

I’d love to read your thoughts on them or other jackets you like in the comments section at the bottom of this story. Continue reading →

Review: 6 Super Versatile Layering Pieces

October 17, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment

 

Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody

Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody

By Michael Lanza

Whether climbing peaks, taking an ultra-dayhike or trail run, Nordic or backcountry skiing, or backpacking, the more time I spend in the backcountry, the more I value and wear lightweight jackets and vests that pull double duty as middle and outer layers. Unlike with heavier, warmer, and less-breathable jackets, you can often wear this type of garment while on the move—while your body is producing heat, but you still need some warmth. That makes you more comfortable and, ultimately, safer in widely ranging mountain weather. Plus, you get more bang for your buck from versatile layers like these because you use them more.

Here are six of the very best. Continue reading →

Review: Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant

October 12, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant.

Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant.

Soft-Shell Pants
Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant
$240, 11 oz. (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
moosejaw.com

With heads bowed against the steady rain and driving wind, we plodded uphill toward the Grand Col de Ferret, a mountain pass at 8,323-foot (2537m) marking the border between Italy and Switzerland on one of the world’s great multi-day treks, the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps. Throughout that July day when the weather ranged from light rain to a wind-driven tempest, I never wore rain pants, only the Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant. I also wore them at other times on that nine-day trek, in light rain, cool wind, and in milder temperatures and sunshine, and through heavy rain and thunderstorms and temps in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit on a 39-mile, mid-September backpacking trip in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. All of those situations demonstrated how these three-season soft-shell pants excel when the weather turns foul. Continue reading →

Review: Patagonia Pluma Jacket

September 5, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments
Patagonia Pluma Jacket.

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

All-Season Shell Jacket
Patagonia Pluma Jacket
$549, 14 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XL, women’s XXS-XL
backcountry.com

For two straight days trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc in July, rain fell much of the time and strong gusts of wind seemed to hit us from all directions, while the temperature remained stuck in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit. On the long, grinding ascent of nearly 3,000 feet to the Grand Col de Ferret at 8,323-foot (2537m), walking straight into a wind-driven tempest, I could focus on making sure my family and other companions were doing fine because I stayed completely dry—and thus warm and comfortable—in Patagonia’s new, all-weather super shell, the Pluma Jacket. Continue reading →

Review: REI Talusphere Jacket

August 30, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment
REI Talusphere Jacket.

My daughter, Alex, wearing the REI Talusphere Jacket on the Tour du Mont Blanc.

Rain Jacket
REI Talusphere Jacket
$149, 15 oz. (women’s small)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XXL
rei.com

When trying to outfit themselves for backpacking and other backcountry adventures, many people may prioritize dollars for a better backpack or tent, and settle for a bargain waterproof-breathable rain jacket—especially if they intend to mostly avoid hiking in the worst weather. Parents trying to outfit a growing kid for the backcountry may feel similarly inclined toward frugality. To test that gear-buying strategy, I got my 14-year-old daughter a sub-$150 rain jacket that many consumers will undoubtedly consider, the REI Talusphere Jacket, for our eight-day trek on the Tour du Mont Blanc in July. Mixed weather—including wind on most days, and a day of hiking through wind-driven rain and cool temperatures over the 8,323-foot (2537m) Grand Col Ferret—spotlighted this jacket’s strengths and weaknesses. Continue reading →

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