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Proving Big-Brand Isn't Bad

Tested: Under Armour Speedform Apollo

Under Armour takes its first shot at a race-weight running shoe with the Speedform Apollo. We took a pair for a spin to see how they stack up.

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Light shoes, fast hikes

The Best Hiking Shoes for 2014

If you’re traveling light and fast in the mountains or just need something to walk the local trail system, you can skip a full-fledged hiking boot in favor of a hiking shoe. These are our five favorites.

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Warm, Dry, and Comfortable...that's far from base

Second Skin: 5 Best Base Layers

Whether you’re training for a ski mountaineering race or just sick of shivering on your morning commute, staying warm and dry is objective number one. The base layer you choose to wear while doing battle with the elements can’t guarantee success, but it sure as hell can guarantee ruin. But have hope. New synthetic fabrics offer amazing moisture-wicking properties, while merino wool is experiencing a renaissance with temperature regulating properties that are borderline miraculous. We’ve done the leg work to find the best base layers for every outdoor activity and situation for upcoming winters, falls and springs.

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Get wet, stay warm

Tested: Patagonia R1 Wetsuit

Patagonia has always been a company with one foot in the mountains and one in the sea — climbing and skiing one day, surfing and paddling the next. When they introduced wetsuits to their lineup a few years ago, it was a big leap for the company, but not one they were unqualified to make. In fact, their experience building warm, lightweight and bombproof alpine gear transferred well to wetsuits, which we found out recently while testing the R1 wetsuit during a week of diving in Belize.

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Gear for the jungle and the reef

Kit: Underwater and Underground in Belize

Packing for a tropical getaway usually only involves deciding what color swim trunks to pack. But when your plans include jungle hiking, cave exploration and scuba diving, things get a little more complicated. The key is versatility — you need gear that works underground or underwater just as well as it does topside. For our week in Belize we made sure everything we took did more than just one thing well. This saved space in our luggage and let us be nimble yet well prepared. Here’s a sampling of what we took.

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Gear for the diehard winter rider

Kit: Fat Bike Racing

Fat bikes can effortlessly glide over snowy conditions like a set of snowshoes, and they’re cushy enough for riding in frigid temps without shattering your frozen tuchus. But the bike can only take you so far. Staying warm and dry — and returning home with all your fingers and toes — requires the right set of gear for when the weather decides to take a serious turn for the worse. These winter fat biking essentials will help you battle the worst Mother Nature can throw your way.

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Beg for mercy, prep mercilessly

Rewind: Bad Weather Gear

What’s that bright thing in the sky? Is that…is that the sun? We’re not done with winter’s worst yet, but a look back at some of our cold-weather pieces should help you fill out your much-needed wintry gear set. Only a few more weeks, folks. We’re almost there.

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To Russia We Fly

Kit: Capturing the Olympics

Packing for a trip to Russia for the Sochi Olympics is no small feat. There’s weather, international travel, technology and a desire to stay light on our feet to consider. Gear needs to be tough, functional, lightweight and understated. Here’s a sampling of what we’re packing to use on a normal day in Sochi.

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Speedier Skating

Breakdown: Under Armour Mach 39 Speedsuit

Speedskating — not to mention its thrilling short track sibling — is known less for its technical innovation and more for its excitement. Under Armour, partnered with Team USA and Lockheed Martin has set out to change all that. Come February 8th at 6:30 a.m. EST the USA men’s 5000m contenders will be the first to don the menacing and impressive Mach 39 Speedsuit in anger. We break down the high-tech super-skater suit.

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Live From Salt Lake City

Best of Outdoor Retailer, Winter 2014

We like to get our hands on new gear early, and short of theft and corporate espionage one of the best ways to do that is by checking out Outdoor Retailer, a biannual product show for retailers, manufacturers and other industry pros. We were on hand at the Winter Market 2014 show at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT, where every brand with a stake in the great outdoors showed off their future cold-weather wares. Of everything we touched, tasted and saw, this gear stood out most.

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A Jacket of All Trades

Tested: Aether Alto Jacket

When we stopped by the Aether office and showroom to take a look at the second version of the Alto ($395) jacket, their crew handed us a sample and sent us on to their on-site testing facility — an industrial walk-in freezer — where we got a preview of how it would perform in the wild. Our adventures with the Alto would take us from chilly nights in Los Angeles to face-mashing wind in Detroit to a short stint inside New York’s polar vortex. And Vegas. That set of varying destinations is where the Alto, a true multipurpose jacket, is meant to shine.

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These should come in handy

Winter Gloves for Every Sport

These, the five best winter gloves, will give you free range of motion, excellent grip and reasons to start conversations — all while maintaining a high standard of comfort. So whether you’re into something sporty, stylish, svelte or something else, we’ve found the right fit for you.

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Weatherproof Jackets for the slopes and otherwise

Shelling Out: 10 Best Winter Sports Hardshells

There’s no such thing as bad weather — only bad gear. And in the age of industrial manufacturing and waterproof fabrics, there’s no good excuse for bad gear. Modern hardshell jackets are designed to provide a first layer of defense between you and the elements, whether “the elements” are an alpine whiteout or an afternoon thunderstorm. They’re the crown jewel of any outdoor kit: they’ll keep you warm, they’ll keep you dry, and most of them weigh less than a pair of blue jeans.

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Be faster than the freeze

Cold Warrior: 10 Best Winter Running Shoes

‘Tis the season of calorie intake, so keeping one’s running regimen going strong should be a priority. Thing is, winter weather — the snow, slush and cold — is prohibitive at best. Fortunately, gentlemen, we have options. These are the best winter running shoes for facing the cold on pavement, trails and mountains.

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It's never too cold

Kit: Winter Running

It’s not like getting up for that pre-work run was easy during the summer or fall. Now it’s pitch black, relentlessly cold and the streets are covered with ice, snow and salt. But a brisk jog before sunrise is a one-way ticket to a fulfilling day, not to mention a long winter of staying fit despite a dining regimen of braised short ribs and mashed potatoes. The right gear will keep you warm, dry and, most importantly, stable when the ground beneath you isn’t.

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Light, fast, local

Tested: NW Alpine

There are big-name brands in the outdoor clothing market that turn out lustworthy, cutting-edge shells, baselayers and insulation pieces season after season. But every once in a while, we stumble upon a small brand doing things a little bit differently yet equally well. One of those is NW Alpine, based in that outdoor playground, Portland, Oregon. We got to test out three pieces of NW Alpine gear in the mountains this fall: the Black Spider Hoodie, the Fast/Light Pant and the Simplicity Jacket.

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Gear for the Granite State

Kit: Hiking Hut-to-Hut in the White Mountains

Even when you’re sleeping in huts every night, hiking in the White Mountains requires considerable planning. With New Hampshire’s notoriously unpredictable weather, it’s wise to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That means shells for rain, layers for warmth and good footwear for all that granite. Here’s what we took on the final part of our Mountain Series, a three-day hut-to-hut excursion.

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Tested by sheep

Tested: Icebreaker Sierra Long Sleeve Zip

We’ve been wearing Icebreaker’s Sierra Long Sleeve Zip jacket ($180) all summer and fall for mountain hiking — and though merino sheep have a few more centuries of wear-testing on their coats than we ever will, we’ve managed to form some opinions of our own.

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Own Your Wilderness Overnight

Kit: Multi-Day Hiking

It doesn’t take much to pack for a day hike: throw on a coat, pull on your boots and tuck a beanie in your back pocket in case the weather turns chilly. But if you’re heading into the woods for more than a stroll, a little preparation goes a long way, whether it be technical fabrics to combat inclement weather, a portable stove to heat your three square, or dominos to entertain companions after the sun sets. We’ve got a selection of gear to get you started on your next multi-day hiking adventure.

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Gifts for the resident jock

12 Guys of Christmas: The Athlete

Part of you doesn’t want to buy The Athlete any gift at all. He roughhouses at the Thanksgiving football game; he runs negative splits at the charity 5K; he seems to be toweling off every time your girlfriend is around. While we’re all worse for wear, he’s aging like a Rodin. But ultimately, he’s a good guy who just really likes to get the blood flowing. He whipped you into shape for Tough Mudder, remember? And who came along for a second opinion when you bought the used Cervelo? Who’s consistently willing to do an aerial chest bump? Yeah, that’s him. Go ahead, get him a little something nice for the holidays this year. We’ve got all the ideas you need.

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Gear for the Top of World

Kit: Free Solo Climbing

Sometimes the mountains just call your name. Whether you’ve got a season to train for a summit bit up Mt. Rainier or just a Saturday afternoon to log some miles hiking up the local ski hill, the right gear can mean the difference between enjoying the majesty and struggling through misery (or worse). Here’s the gear we used for our recent solo free climb of Mount Olympus in Utah — but it’s perfect for any ultralight mountain mission.

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Mother Goose

Patagonia Encapsil Down Belay

If there’s one constant in almost all mountain activities, it’s that sooner or later you’re going to come across nasty weather. It doesn’t matter if you’re chasing big walls in Yosemite, powder lines in Courcheval or summit days in the Canadian Rockies — staying warm is the difference between owning a harrowing expedition and bailing back to civilization with your tail between your legs. Patagonia’s Special Edition Encapsil Down Belay Parka ($699), a perfect fusion of purpose-driven engineering and uncommon design, is the most formidable backcountry armor on the market.

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Fleet Footed

Best Running Shoes

Collectively we spend a lot of time running: we’re Ironman finishers, ultramarathoners, trail runners, joggers and ad-hoc sprinters, police fleers (seldom to never) and woman chasers (only when we know her). 2013 was a good year for running shoes of all stripes and three of them stood out to us. These shoes — the New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez, Hoka One One Rapa Nui 2, and Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra ($120+) — are drastically different in design, but each is free of gimmicks and encourages a natural running stride.

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Ultra prepared

Kit: Vermont 50 Ultramarathon

There are basically two schools of thought when assembling a kit for an ultramarathon: comprehensive preparation and more weight, or as minimalist as possible. For first-time ultra-distance runners, the decision can be a little confounding. You want to be very prepared and very light. This setup for the Vermont 50 — a trail run — reflects a good balance of preparedness and weight, with a bias toward the former in the choice of a hydration pack.

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Neither rain nor sleet nor snow...

All-Weather Endurance: 5 Best Running Jackets

If we had it our way, every run would start and finish in perfect weather. But Mother Nature’s idea of perfect isn’t always a picturesque sunset or a sunny beach. For those of us not living in a running commercial, sometimes the long-mileage day may start with a thunderstorm or a few inches of snow. Whether you’re just heading around the block a few times, working on your interval training or putting in a marathon, we’ve found the best running jackets for soldiering through the tough stuff.

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Advancing the Science of Surf

Breakdown: Oakley Blade

You’d be forgiven for letting your mind wander to barely functional woody wagons and an everyone-wins community when pro surfing comes up in conversation, but you’d be mistaken. Like any other sport, pinnacles of technology are used and abused to eke out any minuscule advantage. Oakley’s recently released Blade 4 Board shorts and top claim to be “simply the best board short on the planet”. We break down the textile wonders above.

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Tomorrow's Gear, Today

The Best of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013

Every summer the outdoor industry gets together to show off their latest products and innovations for the next season — and every summer we drool over the best climbing, hiking, and outdoor gear money can buy. If you spend hours researching your next ultralight backpacking kit purchase, geek out over climbing shoe rubber, or spend late nights planning your next backcountry camping trip, the Outdoor Retailer show is a mecca. We were on hand to scope out the best gear for this fall and next spring so you can be first in line when the time rolls around.

limits-promo-logoThis article is part of a new original series, LIMITS, dedicated to exploring the physical and mental borderlands of human capability. And beyond.
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The Gear for Rainier

Kit: Climbing Mount Rainier

To take on our recent ascent of Mount Rainier, we rounded up some of the latest and greatest mountaineering gear. And after two days, 9,000 vertical feet of climbing and weather that ranged from downright scorching to subzero wind chills, we’ve got a thing or two to say about each piece. So whether or not you plan to use any of this gear in your urban, or more rustic, adventures, you can be assured we’ve put it all through rigorous testing in a worse place. Just don’t take an ice axe on the subway.

limits-promo-logoThis kit is part of a new original series, LIMITS, dedicated to exploring the physical and mental borderlands of human capability. And beyond.
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Still doesn't cure tennis elbow

Tested: Wilson Rush Pro

To quote some guy in a movie, “My momma always said you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes, where they’re going, where they’ve been”. Although that guy may have been more into table-tennis than tennis-tennis, he was right. In a game where footwork is key, Wilson’s Rush Pro ($120) has a hard job. We got our hands on a pair and made ‘em squeak between the white lines (mostly).

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Go forth and perform

Kit: Summer Running

Warm weather: we can’t say enough good things about it. There’s something noble about putting on cold weather gear and sticking it out all winter, but running in the summer, sweat pouring off your brow, hat and clothing looking like the Bonneville salt flats, the first sip of Heed after a 20 miles in the scorching heat, runner babes in short shorts — this is pure, unadulterated sport pleasure. Here’s the gear we’re wearing. If you’re prepping for a race or just like to hit the pavement for an hour after work, this stuff has performance written all over it.