trail-running gear reviews

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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The Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie.

Review: Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie

Ultralight Wind Shell
Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie
$119, 5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

If, besides very low weight, versatility counts for everything in an ultralight wind shell, the variety of places, weather, and seasons I’ve worn OR’s wafer-thin Helium Wind Hoodie speaks volumes about its value. From hiking up and sometimes running down crazy-steep trails in fall and the earliest days of spring in Utah’s Wasatch, New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and Idaho’s Boise Foothills, to the breezy heights of Hawaii’s high point, 13,803-foot Mauna Kea, and the windblown depths of the Grand Canyon, this shell fended off cool wind while taking up no more space in my daypack than my long-sleeve jersey.

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The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell.

The Best Ultralight Hiking and Running Jackets of 2022

By Michael Lanza

You’re out on an all-day hike in the mountains, or a long climb or trail run, or backpacking. 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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Princeton Tec Vizz headlamp

Review: Princeton Tec Vizz Headlamp

Ultralight Headlamp
Princeton Tec Vizz
$50, 3.2 oz. (with three AAA batteries, included)
outdoorplay.com

As headlamps for the backcountry have continuously improved in terms of brightness, versatility, and low weight, some have acquired a level of complexity that demands spending a little time learning how to use it. Not so with the latest version of this longtime top-performer. Still among the brightest ultralight headlamps, Princeton Tec’s Vizz 420 stands out for many reasons that others do—plus simplicity: You don’t need a degree in electrical engineering to operate it—almost anyone who’s ever used a headlamp will intuitively understand how to use it. But many will most appreciate not having to study a user manual.

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Black Diamond Spot350 headlamp

Review: Black Diamond Spot350 Headlamp

Headlamp
Black Diamond Spot350
$40, 3 oz. (with three AAA batteries, included)
backcountry.com

BD’s latest update to its Spot line of headlamps, while incremental, maintains this light’s high functionality for backpackers, climbers, trail runners, backcountry skiers, and other users. The Spot350 illuminated moonless nights for me on a six-day rafting and kayaking trip down the Green River through Desolation and Gray canyons, demonstrating the reliability and versatility that its lineage has on many past adventures, such as rising before dawn to beat the heat on a 74-mile backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon in May and predawn mornings and dark evenings on a 94-mile traverse of the CDT in Glacier National Park and a 45-mile hike in the Pasayten Wilderness, both in September.

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