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.
With my pediatric-sized earlobs, I’ve had more luck carrying a boom box on my shoulder than getting iPhone-issued ear buds to stay in my ears, most especially while running. And the quality of sound is a whole other beast. To find a pair of high-performance buds that cater to the small-eared lot was a God send, because a six-mile run just isn’t the same without a little classic rock. The Yurbuds Inspire Limited Edition Headphones do just that, they inspire. Inspire you to run harder, faster, longer—just like those who take on the Ironman, the company that Yurbuds joined forces with to release this product to the public. The headphones come with five different shapes and sizes of silicone ear fittings to ensure an adjust-free fit (you can also choose between ambient aware and noise isolating). The twist lock technology is simple—place the buds into your ear and then twist and lock into place—but it works. Allowing also for a hands-free run, the tangle-free, sweat-resistant cord features a iWhatever-friendly control that allows you to switch songs, answer calls, and change the volume without ever having to touch your music-playing device. Yurbuds is so confident in their design that they’ve issued the buds with a lifetime warranty, and the option to send in a photo of the buds in your ears for a custom pair to be made and sent to you free of charge. There’s no denying that there’s something inherently cool about a boom box, but there is little that compares to finishing mile ten to a soundtrack of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.”
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.
As we mentioned after the Summer Outdoor Retailer, New Zealand’s Icebreaker continues to expand their line of high-quality merino wool into designs that marry their magical wool with soft shell exteriors to provide weather-proof pieces with all the all-natural qualities already associated with the brand. The Viento Jacket (hooded: $325; non: $300) and the Stealth Jacket ($300; pictured left) and Hood ($325) will boast a water-repellent, breathable, wind-proof exterior, with a comforting merino wool lining. We particularly like the fashion- and fit-forward silhouette of the women’s Viento Hood ($325; pictured center), with its slim hourglass cut.
Their GT line—technical apparel dialed for high-aerobic activity like winter running, Nordic skiing, and skiing and riding—will expand with new garments like the Drive Long-Sleeve Half-Zip top ($140; pictured right), with wool has been treated with nanotechnology to add water and stain resistance. This bluesign-accredited technology integrates tiny nano particles on a rigid surface to reduce the contact area to let mud, water, and oil simply run off the fabric.
Perhaps most compelling, however, is the slight revamp to their travel-inspired line, which expands its formerly slim/athletic fit to become a wee bit roomier. This should make products like the woman’s Vista Skirt ($100) and windproof soft shell three-quarter-length Highline Jacket ($380), the men’s Escape Hood Stripe ($140), and the Seeker Pants ($180) appeal to a broader swath of smart travelers.