Mountain Hardwear Ventigaiter
Though your typical gaiter may look like a stovepipe, unfortunately it doesn't really expel heat from your smoldering foot. The cool alternative? Mountain Hardwear's FTX Ventigaiter ($95; 800-953-8375), the slickest winter accessory made for the prosaic chore of keeping snow out of one's boots. The innovation is an 11-inch zipper that runs diagonally across the outside of your lower leg—a pit-zip for your shin. Simply slide it open, roll back the triangular flap to expose a generous swatch of open mesh, and air out those legs on, for instance, a daylong slog up Rainier. (You'll need to move your pants cuffs out of the way to let the breeze in, of course.) The Gore-Tex shell fits snugly around heavy-duty footwear of all shapes, including backcountry telemark and plastic mountaineering boots, though they're too bulky to seal against lightweight hiking boots. A layer of fray-proof, rubber-impregnated nylon called Hyperguard extending high up the instep-side should prevent damage from run-ins with crampons or ski edges. Likewise, the strap that runs under-boot is unlikely ever to fail since it's made of robust, urethane-coated nylon. In fact, the durability easily lives up to the clever design. Which is a very good thing—because who wants to worry about gaiters more than once a decade?
Trying to decide whether to don that fashion disaster of a balaclava before catching the first chair? Check the windchill readout on the Kestrel 3000 Envirometer ($159; 800-784-4221), a veritable palm-size weather station. At the press of a rubber-sealed button, it also displays data like wind speed (current, maximum, and average), temperature, relative humidity, and even dew point. Weighing less than three ounces, it's the sort of gadget you can tote on outings all year long. Contemplating a midday August run? The 1-by-2-inch LCD will calculate the heat index, a function of heat and humidity. (Work out at a heat index above 105 degrees and you can expect cramps, heat exhaustion, or worse.) And anyone skinning up the slopes in sleet will appreciate a definitive answer to the question: "How many degrees before this misery turns to snow?"