Our testers spent several months last winter putting the best 2016 Nordic gear to the test for you. These ten winners make up an ideal cross-country kit, designed to keep you comfortable, warm (but not too warm!), and fast on the trail.
Louis Garneau Alpha vest
The Alpha’s asymmetrical zipper won’t rub on your chin, and the form-fitting athletic cut won’t impede movement or catch the wind in a tuck.
Swix Down shorts
These shorts are the winter equivalent of mountain-bike baggies: a functional statement piece. Keep them on while warming up, then zip them off when temps rise or it’s time to go fast.
Madshus Nano Carbon Race UHM poles
Stiff, lightweight poles are to nordic skiers what carbon wheels are to cyclists. The Nanos let you quicken your poling cadence, adding power to push. madshus.com
Swix Carbon jacket
The Carbon is one of the most versatile tops ever made. Essentially a simple full-zip shirt, it has enough wind blocking to protect you during chilly descents, while still being plenty breathable for hard efforts.
Craft Storm tights
These tights are purpose-built for cross-country. The cut won’t hinder your diagonal stride, and the DWR-treated stormproof fabric up front protects you in wet squalls.
Helly Hansen Softshell Smartgloves
We like these gloves for their dexterity and lack of insulation, which means our hands never overheat. Plus, the neoprene cuff and water-repellant shell keep out wet, sloppy snow.
Fischer RC7 boots
The race scene drives nordic gear, which means solid trickle-down. The RC7 has an anatomically snug speed-lace system, thermo-fit sole, and well-crafted internal heel cups—features that let recreational skiers leave the shop with a competition-ready boot.
Salomon Escape beanie
Your alpine ski hat is too thick, but a cycling beanie is too thin (plus, no pompom). Cross-country skiing requires a simple, breathable acrylic cap like this one from Salomon, which kept our ears warm (but not too warm) and comfortable while doing intervals on the track.
Julbo Sniper sunglasses
Nothing about the Sniper says casual skiing. The styling is classic 1980s Euro, and you can flip the lens up if you need to shoot at something (like a biathlon target). Bonus points: the high-contrast, polarized Zebra Light Fire lens offers goggle-quality optics.
Rossignol R-Skin skis
The R-Skin is part of a new breed of fast, high-end classic skis built around mohair skin inserts. Beyond occasionally waxing the glide zones, there’s no upkeep. Leave them in storage until conditions look good, then step in and go. Replace the inserts after 100 days of use.