outdoor clothing

Patagonia Mixed Guide Hoody and Patagonia Merino Wool

All Fall 2012 including reviewed pieces on sale now (up to 60% off) at Patagonia.com

Blaze orange and loving it. While this jacket is specifically made for ice climbers, I have found it to be a fantastic jacket to layer underneath as needed for dropping temperatures and at the same time a great shell in virtually every season.

Mixed Guide Hoody-PaintbrushRed

What I love about this piece:

The hybrid soft shell material and Patagonia H2No® Performance 3-layer nylon ripstop fabric with a waterproof, breathable barrier, bright color, lightweight, and range of use and range of temperatures. The soft-shell areas are made of highly breathable, wind resistant Polartec® Power Shield® keeping you cool at all times.

The hood itself is large enough to slide over a ski helmet as needed and the draw cords are well done.  the best thing about the hood is your vision is not impacted in the slightest. It moves with your moves…a rare but stellar attribute in a hood. A great pick up for year round utility.

What to wear under this shell? Fear not Patagonia has an impressive lineup of Merino Wool to keep you regulated no matter your activity.

Here is my go to baselayer on a cold day: Patagonia Merino 3 Midweight Zip-Neck Shirt – Wool…great for any multi sport activity of just under a sweater at the office.

Merino 2Pataagonia Merino 3 MidWeight Zip Neck

Patagonia Merino 2 Lightweight Crew Shirt – Wool…another excellent base layer that is great to wear alone next to your skin. Patagonia Merino 1 SW Crew – Long-Sleeve – a wonderful lightweight merino shirt that welcomes any training session.

While Patagonia has become a leading outdoor brand they have also become a leader in world wide conservation efforts. The companies commitment to sustainability is not only window dressing but common practice for employees and devout followers of the brand. This is demonstrated by the Uncommon Threads Initiative  partnership with eBay to make buying their brand more sustainable. Have you taken the pledge yet? 

Merrell’s Avalon jacket for women…warm, waterproof, and pretty

Guest editor, Leigh Curtis, providing her insight of the Merrell Avalon jacket:

This is an impressive jacket.  I would qualify it as a cold weather winter coat vs. a piece one might choose for a somewhat crisp fall day.  I tested this out during a recent autumn Nor’ Easter that brought driving rain, wind and very chilly temperatures.  It performed extremely well during this 2 day weather event, and kept me cozy when I braved the outside nastiness while walking the dog.  While my legs were wet and cold, my upper body was undeterred by the storm raging around me.
What I especially like is the detachable hood- so easy to zip on or off, depending on the day.  Today, for example, is sunny and cold, so I removed it and wore it as a parka.  However, in rain or snow or very cold temps, the hood is much appreciated to keep your head (and neck!) warm and dry.

Other features include zip up pockets – nice for people like me who tend to ‘drop’ (i.e. lose) keys, etc., as well as pit zips, for when you feel the need to cool down/air out a little.  The arm cuffs also cinch down with adjustable velcro, and there is a snowskirt giving this coat a ski jacket feel.
Finally, for it’s outward appearance.  I am a huge fan of the 4 feminine snap closures over the zipper, as this feature makes this piece really stand out among other standard cold weather parkas.  That, combined with the very subtle herringbone pattern, elevate this jacket to pretty.  And that’s not an easy feat because – make no mistake – this is a performer.  It’s warm and waterproof meant for serious weather, almost ‘burly’.  But those feminine features soften it and make me feel as though I can wear it on an icky winter day with jeans and boots or to a dressy holiday party with heels.
Well done, Merrell.

Merino wool is nature’s gift for warm weather

I have spent the last few months wearing some remarkable merino wool items by Icebreaker. I have been hooked the last few summers on wearing merino wool throughout the dog days of summer and Icebreaker has impressed. I was provided a Tech T Lite, Tech Polo, and Distance Short.

The Tech T Lite feels super lightweight and super soft. The merino wool pulls any sign of moisture right off the skin and transfers away. The breath ability and quick dry natural fiber is amazing in this tee as well as all the Icebreaker items. After many washes the shirt remains form fitting. Range of use is ridiculous from any highly active workout to lounging in a soft, comfortable t-shirt.

As far as versatility the shirt has been an ace in the hole all summer. The feel of the Tech Polo is that of a lightweight tee shirt with a collar which makes for the best golf shirt I have probably ever worn. This is a casual shirt that can be worn at the golf course, BBQ, the office and on the trail.

The only thing about this Ultralite 150 and it’s SuperFine weight is it’s durability. I have found this not only with Icebreaker but with other wool clothing companies that make a more lightweight blend of merino. Little holes began to appear near the bottom of the shirt about after three-four months of (a lot of) wear and wash (all items laid flat to dry).  Any issues are quick to be resolved at any company providing top quality merino products which provides confidence in the product and future purchases. This is a great shirt for weekend travel in the summer as it can be worn multiple times without the stink and wear of cotton.

Of all the merino wool product I have worn or reviewed I have never tried out shorts. The Distant Short is made for primarily for running, but I found them great for a routine at the gym or time on the mat at the yoga studio. They came with a liner but I still felt the need to where a my underwear. Anyway, they performed just as any merino tops and exceeded expectation as who would think wool shorts become the go to for an any highly active pursuit.

With all the synthetic alternatives out there they still can’t beat nature’s gift of merino wool.

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

This ultralight, waterproof jacket is just another reason Outdoor Research has become a favorite of mine. Weighing just over 6 ounces, it packs away into a pouch to go anywhere. OR ultilizes a lightweight Pertex weatherproof shield to keep your torso dry at all times.

The Helium II trims the fat of a full featured rain shell- offering one chest pocket and no pit zips. The jacket breathes notably better than the first version of the jacket… but will get clammy when doing higher endurance activities. I originally thought of it as an ‘in case of emergency’ jacket but it quickly has become my go-to heading into the Summer months. It’s more of a windbreaker that happens to be a fully taped seam waterproof shell to boot! The hood has a great cinch cord on the back although a little hard to manage with one hand on the fly.

I can’t get over how lightweight it feels when wearing and it’s never is left out of the bike pannier, backpack, golf bag or any other weekend bag.

This jacket is the perfect solution to prepare for the unexpected weather in your travels around town or into the hills.

Key feature overview:          

  • Ultralight waterproof/breathable
  • Fully seam taped
  • Adjustable hood
  • Water resistant zippers
  • 7.5″/19cm internal storm flap
  • Zippered chest pocket
  • Stuff pocket with carabiner loop
  • Elastic cuffs
  • Drawcord hem

Polarmax Technical Base Layers and All Year Gear

Polarmax products are all 100% made in the USA and utilize superior green initiatives with packaging.  I had the opportunity over the last month to put multiple Polarmax products through their paces. Being a strong proponent of all things merino wool this was a true test as I didn’t use any of the Polarmax merino base layers straying from my comfort zone.

The Heavy Weight Comp 4 Max Stretch top and bottom are made of 90% Acclimate Dry Polyester and 10% Spandex. The super athletic cut of the fabric made the spandex a key component allowing for the necessary flexibility dropping the knees for my turns down the 7 inches of fresh at Cannon Mountain. Cannon was also the perfect venue to understand if they would keep me warm but also breath. Being an East facing mountain staying warm is paramount at Cannon. Once at the top and in search of fresh tracks we hiked over to Mittersill and both pieces wicked away the moisture from my skin keeping me comfortable on the way up. It was warm for Cannon being around 24 degrees but a wind chill making it feel like 12 degrees.  I can see why Polarmax is the official supplier of the National Ski Patrol as I never felt cold, wet, or clammy beneath these base layers.


What I didn’t know before receiving the product from Polarmax was that they produce a year round product made of cotton. I did say cotton! This isn’t your everyday cotton though as they have developed a wicking and stink free performance cotton.  The “All Year Gear 365” (AYG) made of 96% cotton and 4% spandex giving that additional support and stretch in the boxer brief and their short and long sleeve crew tops. The shirts did run pretty long even though I have a longer torso. I think the AYG shirts could be tailored with more of the athletic cut found in the heavy weight base layers offered by Polarmax and the AYG boxer briefs. The AYG shirts and boxers are perfect for all day or more appropriately in the gym or other active pursuit as they provide a no stink, quick drying fabric.

Helly Hansen Zeta 2L HT CIS Jacket

Guest Editor- Matt LeDoux

Helly Hansen is thought to be one of the best brands for outdoor gear. This jacket had a lot to live up to with such a heritage.

A little background: my first ski jacket was a Helly Hansen. My dad bought my brother and I matching ones for Christmas long ago. It was a shell, a new concept back in the 80’s. It was fluorescent colored, water resistant and did it’s job well.  I skied many years with it, from powder days in Austria to icy, finger numbing days in the northeast. Another reason I was eager to see how this jacket would stack up.

The Zeta 2L HT CIS (Component Insulation System) has many pros and a few cons.

-Thin (minimal bulk) yet warm. The perfect combo as it’s easy to maneuver in yet warm on the bone chilling days with the Primaloft inner jacket.
-Welcoming pockets. The Pockets are lined with a soft felt-like material, it’s a little detail but it’s nice when you need a quick hand warm up.
-Ample pockets. I always have my iphone on me, and I dont want it in the lower pockets because it rubs against my keys and scratches the glass face plate. This Helly has two upper pockets on either side for safe, convenient cell storage.
-Pit vents. This is a nice feature. Plus, dual zippers are provided to zip open the vent from either side. Good if you’re wearing a pack.
-Inner Primaloft jacket and Helly Tech 2L waterproof breathable outer shell. This 3-1 jacket makes it a great all season multi-use jacket. Wear the shell in the rainy seasons for breathable protection and the inner jacket alone in the colder months when not needing waterproof protection from the outer shell.
-Solid helmet compatible hoody fit. A lot of ski jacket hoods are too baggy. I pull the chords but can never get it right. Or they hang too far over my face, like a flappy baseball cap. This one is dialed in in terms of proper fit. Nice to see.
-Weather proof zippers. Nothing new, but good to have. Velcro cuffs. I thought the cuff length was too long when I first put the jacket on but with the adjustable Velcro cuff it fits my short arms perfectly.
-the hood doesn’t detach. I don’t always want the hood, it’d be nice to have the option.
-missing an inside pocket. Lots of outside pocket options, but no inside pockets. I like putting my wallet, iphone or camera there when skiing.
Overall: Helly Hansen has once again made a solid jacket for outdoor adventures. Only a few minor things were missing. The most important features, like being thin, warm and cut well overshadow those. This is a jacket I’ll ski many days in, and a product that once again lives up to the HH heritage.One warning, this jacket runs small in the shoulders (athletic cut). The large size fits like a medium. Keep that in mind if making an online purchase.
Thank you to HH for providing the jacket for review.

Outdoor Research Sensor Glove

I am thankful to Outdoor Research for providing me with their touchscreen Sensor gloves. Much of my Winter commute is time spent on the platform waiting for the T. I was having a hard time using my smartphone without freezing my fingers.

While other brands provide gloves with one or two fingers to use the touchscreen these OR gloves use Touchtec leather on the entire palm side of the glove. OR uses a 100 weight-Radiant Fleece to provide warmth and wind resistance. This is more then adequate for the expected use of the Senor glove. OR does offer beefier gloves with Touchtec leather to provide more warmth for those who want to access their phone or iPod on the ski lift. While the gloves are warm for the commute they are by no means a ski glove which OR also offers. 

The sensor gloves did take some getting use to as the ends of the fingers are squared off and needing a specific motion to scroll through applications on the phone. As for typing, I can’t say they are that easy to type with but then again I don’t send to many detailed messages from my phone with our without gloves. Beyond the Touchtec abilities this glove looks and feels a step above your garden variety fleece glove as the leather palms give it upgrade in style as well.
Per the usual, Outdoor Research is innovating above and beyond their competitors with this glove for mobile devices.