us.icebreaker.com, one pound, eight ounces
Perfection is rare, but Icebreaker might have achieved it with the new Kodiak Hood. (Why it’s called a Hood Jacket and not Hoody still mystifies us). This elegant-yet-functional hoody is made from Icebreaker’s highly insulating Realfleece 320, a brushed, 100 percent merino wool fabric with Bluesign-accredited nanotechnology that adds water repellency and stain resistance to the wool. For those not in the know, Bluesign is a group that’s dedicated to maximizing consumer protection in the textile chain from raw materials and chemical suppliers through the manufacturing process to the consumer. The nano water repellency really works, earning this jacket four-season status. In three weeks of testing in the frequently-sodden Eugene, Oregon, our tester reported that moisture beaded on the jacket without penetrating in all but monsoon conditions. But the real artistry is the fit. The hood is shaped to fall over the forehead without blocking vision, with a slight peak at the center to keep rain off the face. And in contrast to many wool jackets that get saggy with wear, the Kodiak features five-inch-wide stretchy -side panels under each arm, continuing down the sides to the hem. The panels are made of a lighter-weight wool fabric than the body (which is definitely mid-to-heavy weight) so that it breathes better, and provides a more tailored but unrestricted fit. We love the ragland sleeves that also increase the jacket’s freedom of movement. The cuffs have are cut longer over the back of the hands, a nice sartorial touch that adds warmth on cold days. On the outside is a zippered Napoleon pocket with a media cord loophole—nice when we’re listening to tunes in a blizzard.
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us.icebreaker.com, one pound, eight ounces
www.petzl.com, 6 ounces
“Throw away all your old flashlights and headlamps,” said our tester after taking the NAO on a three-week road trip. “The reactive-lighting NAO is the only headlamp you’ll need, or want to use.” We don’t take the word “revolutionary” lightly, but the new NAO headlamp is worth getting excited about. In contrast to other lamps, the 400-lumen NAO has a beam that automatically adjusts to focus on your target. If you’re pouring over topo maps, the light adjusts to a wide beam with low output. When you look out the tent fly to see if it’s a raccoon or bear rustling by the picnic table, the beam focuses, with greater light intensity for—drum roll please—a distance of 300 feet. Other advantages include fewer manual adjustments and a better burn time than any other headlamp we’ve tested. The NAO comes with a single rechargeable lithium battery that’s guaranteed for 300-plus charges—we didn’t do the math, but that’s a lot of alkaline batteries you won’ t need to buy. Each charge provides nearly five hours of use in high Reactive mode (the auto-adjust) or eight hours in low Reactive. You can set the lamp on a constant function, which disables the sensor, but cuts significantly into the battery life, as the Reactive power setting really does make power use more efficient. The rechargeable battery can be replaced with 2 AAA batteries, but our testers swear that the rechargeable battery ups the lamp’s performance. We were leery of the downloadable battery management program that allows you to adjust the light intensity, burn time, and beam distance on a computer, but are happy to report that even techno-troglodytes found it easy (and fun) to customize the lamp’s performance. The easiest option is using the custom profiles pre-programmed to enhance performance for specific activities like climbing, running, trail running, and hiking. Two features worth noting: a big off-on knob that’s easy to manipulate with gloves or in the dark and a water-resistant shell that never leaked, even during a monster Texas monsoon that one tester encountered while night hiking up a mesa near Lajitas.
Carrying a hard, rigid, bulky water bottle takes up valuable space, which is why we’re partial to the soft-sided variety. Touted as “the Anti-Bottle,” the Vapur Element is constructed of a durable three-layer, BPA-free nylon plastic, and when it’s empty you can roll it up and slip it into a pocket, purse, or pack (try that with a hard bottle). In fact you can fold, spindle, and mutilate it—and it springs back to its original shape without cracks or dents. The dishwasher-safe bottle has a cap design that delighted our sausage-fingered testers: it flips open with the flick of the hand and seals soundly, with no leaks. What sets it apart from other flexible bottles is that it can be frozen, so you can use it for an ice pack, or fill it half way, freeze it, and then fill it up with liquid in the morning for an icy cold beverage. The free-standing bottle comes with its own carabineer, so you can easily clip it to a pack.
Available in 0.7 liter and 1 liter volumes and three color options
We’re always on the lookout for all-natural fabrics that are sustainable, skin-friendly, and not infused with chemicals. And while Nau never fails to wow us with their sleek, sophisticated, active-meets-haute designs, their new Tencel fabric gets a standing ovation. Made from the pulp of sustainably grown eucalyptus trees, Tencel has a smooth-fiber structure that’s softer than silk, easily washable, and durable. Nau selected this new fabric because to its “neutral electric properties,” which basically means your muscles aren’t affected by the material (in contrast to many synthetic yarns that feel itchy or clingy). The fabric was tested with electromyography, a method developed by orthopedic physicians to detect the excitability of muscles under the skin. In addition to not sticking to your skin, Tencel has excellent wicking properties, helping to regulate your temperature by absorbing sweat before it can get caught between your skin and shirt, keeping you cool in hot temperatures and warmer when you’re sweating on cold days. The regenerating fiber is manufactured using a closed-loop system, which uses a non-toxic organic solvent solution. A full 98 percent of the materials used to make Tencil is recovered and reused, making it one of the most eco-friendly regenerating fibers available.
Products with Tencel, like the men’s Arye T-Shirt and women’s Variant and Stratum dresses are now available at Nau’s online store.
Like a snake shedding its skin, spring offers the perfect excuse to trade our down-insulated apparel for lighter fare. The Vice Blazer remains one of our fashion-forward favorites. The jacket’s tailored details—the heathered texture, angled button-down pockets, half-lined interior—cast a casual, hip impression. Hidden within those sartorial details are a bevy of tech specs that appeal to our inner gear geek. The poly/organic fabric blend has been treated with DWR to shed water, the drop-in internal pockets are deep for your sundry must-haves, and a narrow U-lock fits perfectly in the zippered rear pocket. As with most Nau jackets, the sleeves also shape out at the cuffs, creating a cycle-friendly profile to cover that awkward space between glove and sleeve. The buttons synch all the way to the collar, but on cooler, windy days, the cold can slip through the buttons; a wind-proof layer is a smart accessory. The jacket performs equally well while traveling, letting you fit into whatever well-dressed scene might dominate. The Vice has proven so desirable, one tester had his stolen while attending a travel conference in Glasgow. Perhaps that’s how the jacket got its name?