Converting from pants to shorts (when you’re wearing a two-in-one combo) typically means sitting down, unzipping the legs, and then wrestling them off over your hiking shoes. And if your kicks have gotten muddy, the pant leg interiors will get muddy, too—unless you add another step and remove your footwear. REI’s Sahara Pants have a simple, ingenious solution: they’ve run side zippers up the full length of the lower leg, providing both an easy method to cool off and an efficient way to remove the legs without so much as sitting down. Just unzip vertically, then unzip the loop at the thighs and you’re in shorts mode, no muss, no fuss, and no dirt or mud (the color-coded thigh zips also make it easy to put them back on). The lightweight nylon fabric has a UPF 50+ rating and has been treated with a DWR finish to help shed moisture and stains, and the elastic waist helps dial in the fit. We love the travel- and trail-friendly profusion of pockets, including side cargos, front hand, a zippered coin pocket, and two rear pockets (one zippered). The gusseted crotch also allows for freedom of movement on the trail. Sizing, however, might prove tricky; the inseams come in two-inch increments (which is great as the pant’s can’t be easily hemmed), but the S, M, L, XL designation could leave some between sizes.
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shop.hellyhansen.com, 8.4 ounces
Unlike your offspring, you can play favorites when it comes to gear. But it’s also easy to get lost in all the different attributes that inspire that affection. The Odin Fastpack Jacket makes it easier for you by hitting a particular sweet spot: a go-to jacket when conditions carry some threat of rain but you still want to go as minimal as possible. At a feathery 8.4 ounces, it’s the lightest jacket in Helly Hansen’s line, with two wide zipper pockets that double as vents, thin Velcro closers on the sleeves, a chord at the hem, and an easy-to-adjust helmet-compatible hood. That’s it—and that’s all you need in a jacket that disappears into your pack until the weather takes a turn for the worse. The hood felt a bit loose when not worn over a helmet—we were able to adjust it to fit a bare head by pulling in the draw chords, but you may want to wear a visor or baseball hat underneath to add structure. The jacket’s thin fabric boasts HH’s proprietary waterproof/breathable treatment, which kept us dry in a moderate downpour, with only sweated out in really hot, humid conditions. Waterproof zips add to the coat’s moisture-repelling properties. The lightweight fabric won’t stand up to rigorous bush-whacking; those needing a more durable jacket (with the corresponding increase in weight) should look elsewhere.
Every so often, we find ourselves splurging for the best with the hopes that the initial investment will be far outweighed by functionality, durability, and the evergreen style of an item. Outlier’s Storm King Shell Parka is such a piece. With taped seams, pockets galore, and Egyptian cotton fibers, it’s a supremely cut and navigable alternative to synthetics that promises to last. Full-sleeve and invisible pit zips allow for extra ventilation, a clear-view hood gives you an unobstructed view of the road ahead, and a high collar eliminates the need for annoying draw cords. Whether you weather your storms on your morning bike commute, treks through the African savanna, or weekends spent on the water, this Parka reigns supreme. What really makes it stand apart, although curated and produced in New York City, is the unique 100% Supermarine Cotton sourced from Switzerland. Outlier calls the fabric a 21st-century edit on a storied fabric that reaches back to World War 2 pilots. We call it soft, durable, water resistant, and almost completely windproof. If you’ve ever rationalized a technical article of clothing with “price per wear,” the Storm King can weather the elements of regret. An important note is that the sizing runs rather large, I suggest ordering an entire size down.
www.outdoorresearch.com; 6.8 ounces
For the always be prepared category, we introduce the Helium Jacket. At a mere 6.8 ounces this all-2.5-layer ripstop nylon shell packs to the size of a tennis ball (or into its own pocket) for stash-and-forget ease. But when the storms rise up, it offers hardcore protection against all elements. The features are minimal: a chest pocket with a waterproof zip, elastic cuffs, and single elastic-pulls at the hood and waist—in other words, just what you need and nothing you don’t. It ain’t the most breathable shell on the market, but when you find yourself on the trail or disembarking a plane just as a monsoon descends, this jacket will become your best friend.
Comes in both men’s and women’s