Tag Archives: outdoor apparel reviews
All-Season Shell Jacket
Montane Ajax Jacket
$380, 16 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: US men’s S-XXL, women’s 6-14
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 →
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 →
Smartwool Men’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Jacket
$115, 4.5 oz. (men’s medium)
Smartwool Women’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Jacket (hooded)
$120, 5 oz.
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 →
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 →
Breathable Insulated Jacket
Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody
$249, 12 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
The range of activities, conditions, and seasons in which you wear a jacket arguably says more than anything else about its value, so I’ll tell you what I’ve done (so far) in my Ascendant Hoody: On a 39-mile, mid-September backpacking trip in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, I wore it in camp on cool, windy mornings and evenings. I’ve worn it as a middle layer on days of skiing downhill at resorts, and as an outer or middle layer skiing up and downhill in the backcountry. And I’ve regularly pulled it on to ride my bike on errands around town this winter. Its versatility derives from having just the right amount of breathable insulation to make it the insulated jacket you grab more than any other all year. Continue reading →