Outdoor Apparel Reviews

Gear Review: Marmot Variant Hoody

Marmot Variant Hoody review
Marmot Variant Hoody

Hybrid Cold-Weather Jacket
Marmot Variant Hoody
$185, 15 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL

Whether a fast-forward winter sport like skate-skiing, or a pack-carrying activity like hiking, ski touring, and snowshoeing, many cold-weather outdoor adventures demand a jacket that doesn’t quite fit into the traditional definition of insulation, hard shell, or soft shell. Short story: You need more insulation in front and breathability on your back and arms. Enter the Variant, a hybrid cross between lightweight insulation and a soft shell. I’ve really grown to like it for my two primary winter sports, skate-skiing and ski touring, but it would function equally well for hiking and snowshoeing.

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Gear Review: Lorpen and Merrell Socks

Lorpen Trail Running Multisport Sock

Lorpen Trail Running Multisport Sock
$13, 2 oz. (men’s medium)

Lorpen Midweight Hiker Sock
$21, 3.5 oz. (men’s medium)

Lorpen Merino Light Ski Sock
$22, 3 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes (for all models): men’s M-XL women’s S-M

Merrell Men’s Chameleon Stretch/Women’s Siren Sport Sock
$18, 2 oz. (men’s medium)

Merrell Men’s Courant Solid/Women’s Scamper Solid/Stripe Sock
$18 2 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes (for both models): men’s and women’s S-XL

How much can you say about socks? The best feel comfortable, keep your feet dry to prevent blisters, and hold their shape for more than just one day—important when you’re on a multi-day backcountry trip. After numerous days of trail running, dayhiking, backpacking, and backcountry and resort skiing, I’ve picked out some favorites.

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Gear Review: The North Face Jammu Jacket

The North Face Jammu Jacket

Winter Shell
The North Face Jammu Jacket
$399, 1 lb. 9 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-L (women’s only available online; see bottom of review)

Temperatures well below freezing magnify the challenge of staying comfortable when you’re exerting hard for many hours in the backcountry, in activities like backcountry skiing and climbing. You sweat hard going uphill and get wet; then you lower your exertion level on gentler terrain, or to ski downhill or belay, and you get cold because you’re still wet. What’s needed is a winter jacket that delivers good warmth and protection from wind and flying snow, yet breathes so well that your base layer dries out before you get cold. Enter the Jammu Jacket.

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Gear Review: Norrona Lofoten Warm2 High Loft Jacket

Norrona Lofoten Warm2 High Loft Jacket

Norrona Lofoten Warm2 High Loft Jacket
$199, 13 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: Men’s S-XL, women’s XS-L

A highly breathable fleece jacket is a layering staple for almost any cool- or cold-weather outdoor activity year-round. This lightweight jacket raises the bar in the two most important characteristics to look for in this type of piece: insulation and breathability. After wearing it on numerous winter days backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, I’ve decided the Lofoten is the Goldilocks insulating layer: it always feels just right.

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Gear Review: Westcomb Recon Cargo Pants

Westcomb Recon Cargo Pants

NOTE: See my updated review of these pants here.

Trekking Pants
Westcomb Recon Cargo Pants
$200, 13 oz. (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XS-XL

One of the best pieces of advice I got this year was when a friend recommended these soft-shell pants to me for a weeklong, hut-to-hut trek in Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park in July.

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