Outdoor Research product reviews

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 at Evolution Lake on the John Muir Trail in Evolution Basin, Kings Canyon National Park.

The Best Backpacking Gear for the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

So you’re planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail and making all of the necessary preparations, and now you’re wondering: What’s the best gear for a JMT hike? Having thru-hiked the JMT as well as taken numerous other backpacking trips all over the High Sierra—mostly between late August and late September, which I consider that the best time to walk the Sierra, to avoid snow and the voracious mosquitoes and blazing hot afternoons of mid-summer—I offer the following picks for the best ultralight and lightweight backpacking gear and apparel for a JMT thru-hike.

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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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Backpackers hiking past a tarn off the Highline Trail (CDT) in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2024

By Michael Lanza

Glacier National Park. The Wind River Range. The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Iceland. The John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, and Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Yellowstone. Southern Utah’s Escalante canyons. The North Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear and apparel reviewed at The Big Outside—so that I can give you honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you find the best gear for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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