www.mammut.ch, nine ounces
We talk a lot here at Gearzilla about one’s relationship to gear. How one item in our arsenal suddenly becomes our go-to must-have, the one that you describe to anyone who will listen. For one intrepid, snow-obsessed tester that had been his pair of Mammut ski gloves, which were stolen last year (or…left behind after après). This season we arranged for him to test a pair of the Extreme Siams, and all of his prior allegiance is like dust in the wind. These two-chamber gloves are a worthy partner for all high-alpine applications. The “upper” chamber (read: wearing the glove with the full use of insulation) provides hearty protection against the cold, cold winter. Then, in warmer conditions or when more dexterity is needed, you slip into the lower chamber, which pushes the insulation to the back of the hand and gives you solid tactility.  The palms are lined with tough sheep leather, while the outer shell keeps things dry thanks to a Gore-Tex XCR three-layer waterproof/breathable insert. The glove has been pre-curved for optimal fit, with reinforced knuckles, a wicking liner, Velcro straps at the wrist, and easy pull cords on the gauntlet-style cuffs. Pull loops make it easy to get ‘em on (even if your hand is wet), but we do wish they also had interior wrist leashes.  That would make us feel safer about yanking them off while on the lift—or keep us from leaving ‘em behind after one too many.


Already highly praised by the backcountry crowd due to the R.A.S. (Removable Airbag System) avalanche airbag packs, Mammut looks to make things even lighter for backcountry skiers and riders in fall 2013. The company is introducing the P.A.C. backpack—this fully R.A.S.-compliant, lightweight pack boasts better cushioning in the shoulder straps, hip belt, and back panel than the old R.A.S. packs, so the carry is more comfortable. Mammut has upped the performance quota by providing more trauma protection for the upper torso with a design that’s intended to keep you floating feet-first in the snow in the event of an avalanche.  It’ll come in five new sizes, but  in order for the airbag to offer full protection, wearers must have at least a 16.5-inch-long torso.

$299 for the pack, $699 for the pack and kit.

You won’t find better fitting, more stylish base layers for kids than the Indie hoodie and long johns from Ibex.  Both pieces are made out of superfine, 18.5 New Zealand merino wool. This is the outfit you’ll dress your kids in for cold days at school (the pants come in bright colors as well as black, and look rad with boots). They are light enough to be worn under jeans, but really show their backcountry creds under snow pants, with a soft next-to-skin feel, just the right amount of warmth, and an unbelievably feather-like weight. Plus, in contrast to other wool base layers we’ve tested for kids, these don’t snag, run, or pill. Our test samples have 40-plus days in action. They’ve been washed a dozen times and still look new.  Colors are vibrant—we like the Cherry Bomb orange for girls, and a mellower “turf” for boys. The hoodie has flatlock seams and ragland sleeves, so there are no hot spots when worn under a jacket or with a pack. Plus there are thumb holes—the sleeves are a bit long, and can be pulled down over hands to thwart cold and keep out snow.   A seven-inch front zipper lets kids vent off excess heat, and makes the top easier to pull on and take off. You might think a hood is superfluous on a base layer, but it adds extra warmth under a ski or bike helmet in the winter and provides sun protection in the summer.
The Hoodie and Long Johns comes in sizes small to large (5/6 to 12) and the Indie Long Johns; we recommend going up a size—that way the child should be able to squeeze in at least two to three years of wear.


Tested In:

Good For: skiing, snowboarding, everyday, for when pajamas are too much trouble

Outdoor Research has been in the game for amost three decades, but we’ve really fallen in love with their products over the last few years. (The company was started by a hard-core purist named Ron Gregg, who died in an avalanche in 2003. Dan Nordstrom, of the eponymous retail giant, stepped up to continue the tradition of dependable gear at a fair price.)  And, if their booth at Winter Outdoor Retailer is any indication, that love affair should continue well into the fall 2013 season.

Just as their ubiquitous “OR” logo will expand into a stamp design with the full company name, their design aesthetic has evolved in new and promising ways. Thankfully, this move also includes some interesting innovation. Take the Floodlight jacket ($375, pictured), a 800-fill down jacket wrapped in a Pertex Shield+ waterproof-breathable shell, bonding the interior to the exterior for superior performance. This cold-weather warrior leads a variety of ski- and snowboard-specific appear in their fall 2013 line, including the new sidecountry-specific Valhalla hoody ($350) made with stretchy Gore Tex Windstopper with a touch screen-compatible internal pocket, and the Igneo jacket ($299), a freeride-style resort-specific piece, and the new Gore Tex Pro Maximus jacket ($495). (New Gore Tex Pro is redesigned from last-season’s material—and is an estimated 28 percent more breathable with the same stalwart waterproofness). We also loved to see that the new line of performance gloves start at the highly-affordable $55 Riot, which delivers solid warmth for sidecountry and resort skiing performance for a price that doesn’t cause us to gasp.

They’re also expanding their mountain lifestyle line, offering a sane alternative to casual wear for both men and women. The already-popular Feedback Flannel will come out in a variety of new colorways and patterns, and will be accompanied by the vertical-striped Sawtooth shirt ($85) and the men’s Bullwheel and women’s Decibelle jackets ($110, $140 respectively), worker-style soft shell jackets with a DWR water repellant that’s more at home chopping wood or kicking it around town than skinning up in the backcountry.

www.deuter.com, one pound, three ounces
When you’re squeezing yourself through a narrow, ice-covered chute, the last thing you want is your pack or one of its appendages to get stuck—which was exactly what our tester was thinking while putting this pack through its paces on an icy day hike in Shenandoah National Park this winter. No such problem with Deuter’s Speed Lite 20, which seems to combine the design ingenuity of a BMW with the robust handling of an Audi (those German gear eggheads even managed to stitch illustrations for making distress signals to an airplane inside the pack). The sleek profile of this 20-liter pack includes a tapered design to allow for greater arm freedom while hiking, trail running, or ski touring; and the chest and hip belts are pared down to add to the pack’s minimalist aesthetic. Inside, the main chamber provides a surprising amount of room for spare layers, gloves, hats, lunch, even an extra pair of shoes. A cavernous top pocket swallows and protects more expensive items like your camera and phone, nestled close to the small of the wearer’s back rather than in an exposed area of the pack that might get knocked by branches or rocks. Two mesh side pockets easily house water bottles and snacks, while big, easy-to-grab fabric loops on all the zips make a mockery of those fiddly little metal zips found on other packs on the market. The pack itself feels refreshingly light, but the ripstop 210 nylon held up to significant abrasion tests, and the compression straps helped keep things truly svelte the tight squeezing that became a necessity during the test trials. They can also double to hold skis or hiking poles in a pinch. The U-shaped frame can also be removed for truly ultra-light outings, or when compression is essential.