Outdoor Apparel Reviews

The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell.

The Best Ultralight Hiking and Running Jackets of 2024

By Michael Lanza

You’re out on an all-day hike or a long climb or trail run or ride in the mountains. 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 when you need it.

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Beyond Clothing Alpha Aura Jacket.

Review: Beyond Clothing Alpha Aura Jacket

Hooded Fleece Jacket
Beyond Clothing Alpha Aura Jacket
$180, 12 oz./340g (men’s medium)
beyondclothing.com

On days of resort and backcountry skiing ranging from relatively mild winter temperatures just below freezing to a frigid day ski touring that dropped to 10° F by the time I finished, Beyond Clothing’s hooded Alpha Aura Jacket demonstrated its versatility as a supremely breathable middle and outer layer for cool- to cold-weather activities year-round, with unique design features that improve its weather protection and durability under a backpack.

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A backcountry skier at Baldy Knoll in Wyoming's Tetons Range.

How to Dress in Layers for Winter in the Backcountry

By Michael Lanza

If hiking, backpacking, and climbing from spring through fall teaches us the fundamentals of layering our clothing for comfort in variable weather, the backcountry in winter confers a graduate degree in layering. In mild temperatures, getting wet with perspiration or precipitation merely risks discomfort. In freezing temps, it can quickly lead to hypothermia and actually become life-threatening.

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The Himali Limitless Grid Fleece Hoodie.

Review: Himali Limitless Grid Fleece Hoodie

Hooded Fleece Jacket
Himali Limitless Grid Fleece Hoodie
$160, 9.2 oz./261g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL
himali.com

The evolution of fleece has traced an arc toward efficiency and versatility that now seems to be reaching its apex in lightweight fleece hoodies, perfectly exemplified by Himali’s Limitless Grid Fleece Hoodie. The breadth of activities, conditions, and environments where I’ve worn it just this fall speak to my point, from a 13-hour, four-summit dayhike in Utah’s Wasatch Range to a short hike in southern New Hampshire, backpacking in southern Utah’s Escalante region, camping and climbing in Idaho, and a local trail run in the chilly, fading daylight of a November afternoon.

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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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