If there is one piece of gear that I have fallen in love with this winter it is The North Face Etip Gloves. I try not to let the cold stop me from being outside, so I needed something where I wouldn’t have to take off my gloves to type, read, or take pictures on my iPad mini. With cost in mind, I first tried a pair that were knit and had a tiny sensor ball in the index finger… it worked maybe 50% of the time and typing a message was nearly impossible. So after some extensive research, I bit the bullet and spent the money to get something that most claimed worked. The stretch knit gloves are comfortable, keep my hands warm, AND the X-Static finger caps work every time I want to flip a page on my Kindle app, type an email, or take a photo. I also really like the silicone pattern on the palm as it allows me to feel that I have a comfortable grip on my iPad. Trust me, these gloves are worth the price.
If Conrad Anker were the CEO of some well-known social-networking site, this is the kind of hoodie that he’d be seen sporting. In short, it does the business when conditions are at their worst, including during several frigid nighttime rides and downpours this winter. The jacket employs Schoeller’s sophisticated Nanosphere technology to offer reliable water- and abrasion-resistance (a claim to which we can attest, with the caveat that water beads up and has habit of dripping off onto other more casual, non-water-resistant apparel like shoes and jeans!). Compared to other burlier winter coats, the Stealth Hoodie almost feels a little flimsy, but this is an illusion. Triple Aught’s “c_change” membrane provides wind- and waterproofing, while offering breathability when things get more aerobic than running from a little rain; the non-fussy nylon exterior protects against abrasion without making you look like Robocop. By itself, it’s not the warmest of pieces, but layer up and you’ll be snug. Overall, as Mark Zuckerberg might say, “Like!”.
Editor’s Note: We also reviewed an earlier model of the Slealth Hoddie LT; the new one boasts additional features (like the use of Nanosphere)…and a higher price.
“The Internet of Things” was a big, buzzy phrase at last year’s CES, as online accessibility continues to become part of our daily lives. And while the outdoor industry probably won’t ever go full-cyborg on us, we have seen some smart tech-centric products over the last few years, from avalanche airbag backpacks and outdoor-focused apps to smartphone cases with batteries and high-def videos of…everything. And in fall 2013, Osprey’s Portal line of packs (pictured) will continue this trend, targeting traveler and touch screen-dependent subway riders. The seven packs, like the Tech Commute, will have touch screen-friendly see-through windows and padded sleeves for tablets and smart phones, in both messenger bag and backpack styles, starting at $99.
They’re also making packs for the more active commuter (read: the cyclists, runners, and in-line skaters—hey, we see one in DC every once in a while!). Designs like the Radial ($159) and the Spin ($139) will have a nicely vented back panel, a padded laptop sleeve, an integrated rain fly, and bike-friendly features like a dedicated U-lock pocket.
We also look forward to the new line of snow packs. The Reverb ($89), for example, will target the lift-access resort set who might also want to do some in-bound (or sidecountry) hikes. It’ll open via the back panel (so it lays in the snow with the shoulder straps facing up, thus keeping them dry), let you carry your skis diagonally (or your board vertically), and has space for all the essential backcountry tools as well as an extra layer and a hydration reservoir. The Kode ($129) ups the ante with more storage (including a stowable helmet pouch on top), the ability to carry the skis A-frame or diagonally, side-zip access, and a hydration sleeve in three different pack sizes.
When you wear this piece for the first time, it feels much too stylish to be dragged through the muck. But like that pretty-boy quarterback who can actually stand up to the game’s rough and tumble, the Breakaway jacket performed for our tester when conditions required on road crud-splattered winter bike rides and blustery, wet day hikes. (It’s easy to wash, too; just put it on a delicate cycle and line dry.) A durable shell at the torso and arm areas keeps wet and wind out, while a four-stretch Climawool weave on the back and inner arms lets the piece breathes easily when doing aerobic activities like biking and running. The fabric blends merino wool with Lycra and nylon to create a warmer, more durable layer . There’s a front-panel chest pocket and cavernous back pocket to stash exercise essentials, without overloading the shell with zips and trimmings (no bad thing, as it cuts a svelte outline for uses other than outdoor exploration). A patch of reflective fabric near the bottom of the left sleeve also adds another layer of visibility that was often appreciated by our commuting cycle test team, while the stylish two-tone aesthetic didn’t scream that we’d rather be on our bikes—a touch of style that helped in more fashion-forward spots we occasionaly frequent after the long ride toward home.
A wispy jacket that can be scrunched up and stashed in a pocket, you’d be forgiven for accidentally putting this out with your plastic-bag recycling (big mistake, though, given the price tag). In fact, this jacket may qualify as the biggest example of looks can deceive. Our tester managed to put this piece to the sword on fall and winter bike rides when conditions would fluctuate from balmy to windy to wet. The lightweight jacket—designed after the transparent rain capes worn by pro cyclists to allow for visibility of sponsors’ logos and race numbers—is surprisingly warm and comfortable. In fact, our tester even wore this out during a late-night bar hop and was pleasantly surprised to be the recipient of multiple compliments and requests to finger the lightweight micro ripstop nylon (yeah, we know, the sacrifices we ask our gear testers to make here at Gearzilla…). But cycle-specific detailing like the elastic cuffs, a drop tail, laser-vents, reflective logos, and a burly DWR laminate do keep it firmly in place on the saddle.