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.
Gear for the Granite State
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.
Tested by sheep
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.
Own Your Wilderness Overnight
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.
Gifts for the resident jock
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.
Gear for the Top of World
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.
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.
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.
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.
Neither rain nor sleet nor snow...
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.
Advancing the Science of Surf
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.
Tomorrow's Gear, Today
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.
The Gear for 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.
Still doesn't cure tennis elbow
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).
Go forth and perform
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.
Board optional, shorts required
Some of the best days of summer are spent out on the water — or at least relaxing, sipping beers and socializing near it. But what to wear? Board shorts are the safest (and best) bet in our book, providing the rugged construction necessary for water sports with a look and form — thanks to a rigid waistband, fly, snaps, ties and quick-drying, stretchy material — that also lends itself to an inland hike for boardwalk pizza. We’ve herded our five favorite board shorts of the year for your wearing pleasure here.
A Hard Shell for the Hard Charger
Traveling fast and light on a backpacking or climbing trip is a worthy goal. But while less junk stuffed in your pack means easier miles of trail, sometimes what’s left behind would otherwise keep you warm, dry and comfortable. Westcomb’s Focus Hoody claims to provide excellent protection in an ultralight form. We took it into the elements to see how it would fare.
Kicking It Old School
Soccer has never held our collective national attention like other sports — with Landon Donovan’s goal in extra time against Algeria during the 2010 world cup and Brandi Chastain’s sports bra celebration being the two possible exceptions. So who knew that 2013 represents the 100-year anniversary of the birth of U.S. soccer, originally established as the United States Football Association, a not-for-profit, governing body of soccer in America? Nike’s Centennial kit celebrates this notable milestone with throwback duds for players and fans alike.
Look Like a Local
It doesn’t matter if you’re heading to Whistler for early spring powder turns or Fort Lander for the summer climbing festival; mountain style is a little different than your garden variety runway fare. Put the moonboots and sweat pants down. You’re not fooling anyone. We’ve put together a few indispensable mountain style standards, chock full of storied, quality brands, to help you blend in with the locals — unless you’re heading to any ski resort in Montana. In that case, it’s time to stock up on Wrangler and Carhartt.
Ride hard, look sharp
If you’re going to climb on a bicycle and tear up some terrain you’re going to want to first don appropriate gear — the best, most protective and comfortable out there (this has been, and will always be, our concern, dude). Only problem is that high-tech performance cycling clothing isn’t always up to snuff for wearing around the office after your commute (showoff). Giro’s New Road apparel blends the worlds of performance and fashion in a big way.
Shoes for the year-round runner
Winter in the Northern Hemisphere lasts four months, but for all intents and purposes the conditions it imposes on runners — cold winds, snow, ice, mud and generally unpredictable terrain — are good for another two. That’s half a year on a treadmill or cross-training in another discipline. That won’t do for most runners. Aside from the functional pre-race advantages of running on roads and trails, exercising in the cold has been associated with all kinds of health benefits, from increased calorie burn to improved stress-coping capacity.
Fortunately, there’s a battery of winter running shoes that perform and protect, many of them incorporating positive design elements from the minimalist running movement — shoes that are, in other words, more than glorified lightweight hikers. We’ve got the 10 best here. Lace up, put the law offices of Jim Sokolove on speed-dial, and get outside.
Who needs a bike to look cool?
Aether shook up the outerwear market by blending the technical chops of today’s most advanced outerwear with the clean lines and styles of the city. The newly revealed Aether Skyline Motorcycle Jacket ($650) looks poised to do the same thing for a niche most fashion brands ignore.
Survival on, brother
If it was good enough for downed British pilots during WWII, so the saying goes, it should be good enough for you. Though that adage is entirely fabricated, the Survivalon Contrast Jacket ($398) was indeed made to protect Limey pilots; it is also easily good enough for you.
Get more pep from your step
In the age of smartphones and tablets, sports companies have scrambled to embrace technology as a new vehicle for pushing the limits of athletic performance. Even so, the Adidas Boost Running Shoe ($150) hopes to prove that re-thinking existing footwear construction still offers plenty of game-changing potential. Its padding stores and unleashes energy more efficiently than existing material.
Wear your heart on your chest
It’s apparently no longer enough to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve — or wrist. Under Armour’s new Armour39 system attacks the digital performance monitoring question with a new “bug” device, which comes with a special sleeve that straps to the chest; like other bluetooth-enabled fitness computers, it records exercise data and stores it in the cloud.
Protect your hide
We’re always huge advocates of motorcycle riding safety, and you can’t scrimp when it comes to protection on the mean streets or on the tarmac. The Alpinestars Atem Leather Jacket ($700) boasts the kind of materials and design that make it one of the most complete riding jackets available today.
Down With It
Depending on your activities of preference, winter is either your joyous playground or whitewashed personal hell. No matter what, staying warm is critical. Down jackets have been a preferred winter option for many years, and for good reason — they’re super warm (when dry), wick moisture away from your body, are packable down to small sizes for travel and have yet to be matched by any synthetic fibers. Here are our five favorite goose-based options to beat the winter freeze.
New winter gear
Every six months all the major players in outdoor sports get together to show off their latest and greatest wares for the season. It’s like Comic Con, except cool: Outdoor Retailer has been the launch platform for just about every groundbreaking piece of skiing, climbing, backpacking and paddling gear that’s come to market. We were on the ground at this year’s winter show, and here are the fruits of our efforts: the best gear of Outdoor Retailer 2013.
Now we're really piste off
With record storms dumping fresh powder in the Rockies and Pacific Northwest, we couldn’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year than celebrating with a trip to the nearest ski hill. What fun would a resort trip be without ducking under the safety ropes to sneak a few turns in the untouched backcountry? With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of gear that will be equally useful bombing through 20 inches of fresh powder and charging lines of freshly groomed corduroy snow inbounds.
It’s widely known that swimmers and rainy weather joggers (and really all audiophiles hindered by humidity) are more than a little jealous of the ease with which their fellow athletes can take in tunes while exercising. Sony’s whipped up the next in their line of wet-weather answers: the Sports W Series Waterproof MP3 Player, a…