We admit we’re a sucker for wool insulation. If it can keep little baby sheep warm and cozy on frigid, blustery cold days in the outback, we know that in our semi-civilized situations, it will be the next-best-thing to central heating. But at first we were mystified with the PhD SmartLoft Full Zip. On the inside is a lining of merino wool. The jersey knit is ultra-fine and soft—so thin it could qualify as lingerie weight. And over it is an ultra-light nylon shell. The merino is truly cotton-soft. And the shell is supple, quiet, and as soft and light as a whisper. The shell has a DWR treatment, means water beads before it permeates the material. That doesn’t mean it is waterproof—but that you can wear it longer than you could a cotton hoody without getting soaked. Plus, there’s no doubt that you’ll stay warm. The layer is deceptively simple—there’s a front zipper with a draft flap and chin guard. Stash your cell, wallet or gloves in the twin zip handwarmer pockets; inside are convenient stash pockets for sunglasses, plane ticket, or even flask. This jacket will keep your core warm on spring days, and keep your entire upper torso toasty if you layer it with an outer jacket—and we just love having options.
$220, TK oz., smartwool.com
Good for: 3-season activities, hiking, biking, backpacking, urban adventure, PTA meetings
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www.alitedesigns.com, 1.6 ounces
The self-portrait may be the reigning Facebook profile photo trend, but all those close-to-the-camera, off-kilter shots with your arm extending into the great beyond shouldn’t dominate your wall. Alite’s Twig Pod offers an easy solution, ideally suited to help you document your outdoor adventures. This quick-to-assemble monopod has a rugged stake at one end so you can literally plant it in the earth, angle the shot, set the timer, and let the world bear witness. The 30-inch height is perfect for a from-the-hip angle, and the ball-head mount lets you position the camera in all imaginable angles. Then, when you’re done posin’, the Twig Pod collapses (much like a tent pole) to fit into a seven-inch-long stuff sack. Then you can stash the 1.6-ounce device and forget about it until you need it again. You can also use the Twig Pod to take long exposure shots, and it’s suitable for point-and-shoot cameras (as well as iPhones when accompanied by the $15 Glif, a one-piece stand and tripod mount). Serious photographers are better off with a true monopod, but for lighter cameras and people looking for fun ways to get real self-portraits, this one’s a low-cost winner.
A provocative recent trend in men’s footwear is to combine a sole with the appearance and/or technology of an athletic shoe—often in an eye-popping color—with the upper of a traditional brogue, wingtip, or chukka. It represents a novel cross-breeding of old school tradition and high-tech materials that speaks to our culture’s fixations with cutting edge technology and artisanal craftsmanship, not to mention comfort and style. Rockport has followed suit with its truWALKzero line, which combines a super-flexible Adidas adiPRENE-cushioned EVA outsole with a thin, supple leather upper. To be fair, as a subsidiary of Adidas, Rockport has long used adiPRENE performance tech in their work and dress shoes, but the truWALKzero lets it out to play. And play it does. Surprisingly light, the truWALKzero is cool, fun, funky, well-constructed, and exceedingly comfortable. The adiPRENE sole is shock-absorbent and its flexibility—enhanced by a deeply furrowed tread—offers full range of movement. The upper features a padded and elasticated built-in sock liner that protects the instep from blisters and pressure from the laces. The overall impression is of wearing an ultra-lightweight, springy slipper, an ideal shoe for some fashion-forward urban stomping and traveling. And they look pretty good, too, especially in the chocolate brown and vibrant orange wingtip colorway. Be warned, the orange sole is so bright that it verges on quasi-fluorescent. The truWALKzero is also available in black and grey, but this palette smacks of playing it safe. And what’s the point in that?
www.patagonia.com, 10 ounces
Patagonia is hardly a brand that needs to shock its customers—so we suspect the use of naked refers to the fact that your feet feel as close to au naturale as they can get when you’re wearing a pair of the Naked Maui Mocs. But unlike your bare feet, you also get the protection of light-but-spongy EVA outsoles and breathable hemp uppers. Our testers deemed these shoes as light and carefree as spring day—they are perfect for the beach, Starbucks, or even a quick session on the slackline. The loosely woven hemp upper proved surprisingly durable over four months of everyday wear. One tester even tossed hers into washing machine on the delicate cycle after they got a bit stinky and they emerged clean and fresh-smelling. (The hemp will shrink on hot settings, so make sure you only use cold water). The lightly padded poly lining on the inside Inside helps to wick sweat. While the shoes aren’t as breathable as flip flops, they don’t get overly sweaty in hot, humid weather. We like the roomy toe box and no-slip heel. One tip: Buy them ½ size smaller than your normal shoe size, especially if you’re planning on wearing them barefoot.
Test Notes by Page Townsend
www.adidas.com, 7.1 ounces
Traditional boat shoes have always struck us as more politician trolling a wine-and-cheese event on some yacht on the Potomac than footwear befitting a hiker, camper, or sailor. And Adidas must agree, because they’ve subverted all the preppy leanings with their Climacool Boat Lace Shoes. At first glance, you notice the sport-centric three-stripe visual Adidas logo, supplemented with sly use of deep green and purple accents. But there’s a hefty amount of multisport tech at play in these 7.1-ounce kicks. Proprietary moisture-wicking fabrics make for easy, comfortable venting for the entire foot, the textile mesh uppers offer additional breathability, and synthetic overlays add the support you need. The soles are lined with rows of drain holes that are porous enough to expel water in a flash, yet residue stays out—save for full submersion, when water naturally flows into the top of the shoe. But this a problem very few pieces of aquatic footwear can solve. The rubber tongue has been molded to conform to the natural curve of your foot, and the water-friendly laces stay secure with a strong square knot. Best of all, the shoes boast exceptional grip in wet and slippery conditions, from a water-covered boat deck to slick rocks. We experienced some minor skin abrasion just below one ankle after wearing them, nonstop, for three very wet days, but when we added a pair of socks and used them as a camp shoe that night, all was well.