Outdoor Apparel Reviews

The Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Sun Shirts of 2024

By Michael Lanza

Whether backpacking, dayhiking, climbing, trail running, fishing, paddling, or active outdoors in myriad other ways, sun protection becomes critical not only for preventing skin cancer, but also because the hot sun can wear you down and exacerbate the effects of heat, elevation, and dehydration—especially in the mountains and desert.

While there are a variety of styles of sun shirts, for active pursuits in warm to hot temperatures, nothing really beats a lightweight, breathable hoody for maximum protection and keeping you cool—while adding minimal weight and bulk to your kit. This review spotlights the best sun shirt hoodies.

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The Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie.

Review: Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie

Water-Resistant Down Jacket
Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie
$299, 15.4 oz./437g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-3XL, women’s XS-XL, plus sizes 1X-4X
backcountry.com

The wind blew strong and steady and the temperature sat just several ticks above freezing on our mornings and evenings backpacking the three-day loop through Owl and Fish canyons in southern Utah in early May. I was happy to have not brought an ultralight insulated jacket on that trip—as I often do in spring in the Southwest—because my Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie had the heft to keep me warm in that below-freezing wind chill. And it delivers rare protection from wet weather—at a price lower than most high-quality down jackets.

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A backpacker hiking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.

How You Can Tell How Warm a Down Jacket Is

By Michael Lanza

While sleeping bags have temperature ratings, with down jackets and other insulated jackets, there exists no easy way to determine how warm any specific garment will be without wearing it outside. But despite the absence of a precise metric for gauging the warmth of down and synthetic puffy jackets, there are ways to assess a specific jacket’s relative warmth before you even see it, using simple metrics. This article will explain how to do that.

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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 Best Base Layers, Shorts and Socks for Hiking and Running

By Michael Lanza

Let’s admit it: We don’t always take our base layers as seriously and we do our outerwear and insulation—or packs, tents, boots and other gear, for that matter. But this under-appreciated first stage in a layering system for the outdoors really sets the table for how comfortable you’ll be. Base layers that don’t perform well probably won’t kill you, but misery isn’t a good companion. This is what we wear against our skin. It matters.

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