Tag Archives: outdoor apparel reviews

Review: The Best Base Layers and Shorts For Hiking, Trail Running, and Training

February 11, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
Arc’teryx Satoro AR Zip Neck LS

Arc’teryx Satoro AR Zip Neck LS, at Mount Whitney, California.

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 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. Continue reading →

Review: The North Face Desolation ThermoBall Jacket

January 25, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
The North Face Desolation ThermoBall Jacket.

The North Face Desolation ThermoBall Jacket.

Hybrid Insulated Jacket
The North Face Desolation ThermoBall Jacket
$199, 14 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
Men’s: moosejaw.com
Women’s: backcountry.com

Backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains in heavily falling snow, I pulled my Desolation ThermoBall Jacket on over my waterproof-breathable shell for extra warmth while digging a snow pit to assess avalanche conditions. Finishing that, with the Desolation ThermoBall’s shell damp from snow, I stuffed it inside my pack while we made a couple of downhill runs and climbs. Later, I pulled it on over my shell again for the ski down to our car, as snow continued dumping and temps were dropping fast. Although damp, the jacket kept me warm. It did the same on other ski tours in temps in the teens Fahrenheit, repelling light, falling snow and giving me the warmth I needed by simply wearing it over my shell—no getting blasted by cold wind to add a layer. That illustrates the versatility of The North Face Desolation ThermoBall Jacket, an insulation piece that won’t just sit in your pack. Continue reading →

Review: The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket

January 18, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket.

The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket.

Fleece Jacket
The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket
$179, 1 lb. 6 oz. (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL
backcountry.com

What can you say about a fleece jacket? Its simplicity of design belies its versatility in all seasons, especially for on-the-move activities in cool and sub-freezing temperatures of fall, winter, and spring. Consider The North Face Novelty Denali Jacket, which kept my teenage son warm through several hours of backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, on a day when it snowed hard for hours and temperatures sat in the teens Fahrenheit (he wore it mostly under a soft-shell jacket). There isn’t much to this jacket, and yet, it could be the piece of outerwear you slip into more than any other. Continue reading →

Review: Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket

January 11, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket

Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket

Winter Shell Jacket
Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket
$350, 1 lb. 7 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

From the moment we left our car, through several hours of backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains—uphill and downhill, in dumping snow and temperatures from the teens to the 20s Fahrenheit—until we got back to the car, this soft shell never left my back. Not once. The only layering change I made all day was to twice pull an insulated jacket on over the shell. The fact that I can’t remember the last time I wore any shell jacket all day, through a huge range of exertion levels in winter conditions, speaks to this shell’s superior breathability. But it proved superior by many performance measures as a shell for backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, mountaineering, and ice climbing. Continue reading →

Review: The North Face Flight Series Fuse Jacket

January 4, 2017  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
The North Face Flight Series Fuse Jacket.

The North Face Flight Series Fuse Jacket.

Ultralight Wind Shell
The North Face Flight Series Fuse Jacket
$250, 5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-L
backcountry.com

Biting winds hit us on the 1,400-foot, third-class scramble up 10,651-foot Snowyside Peak, roughly halfway through an 8.5-hour, 20-mile, 4,500-foot, mid-September trail run-hike of the Alice-Toxaway Loop in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. So I zipped this ultralight shell up tight and yanked the hood over my head, and got what I needed from it right then: a shield from the wind, to keep me warm.

I also wore it in temperatures in the low 40s Fahrenheit for the first couple of hours that day, mostly running uphill, and for a long stretch on the downhill side of our loop that afternoon, when the temp topped out around 50. And it was equally ideal when I dayhiked to waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains of western North Carolina, on a mid-October day of light rain and temps in the 50s. Those situations spotlight the strengths of The North Face Flight Series Fuse Jacket, an ultralight shell made for runners that transitions over to long dayhikes when you’re trying to travel light. Continue reading →

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