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SIMPLE BUT VERSATILE First impression: generic name, not many features. But we decided to give it a chance thanks to its comfy fit, good looks, and the fact that it costs half as much as the most technical jackets here. Final impression: It’s a solid jacket for the money.

MINIMALIST PERFORMER Good for Backcountry Like the Marmot (near left), the waterproof-breathable Shuksan was a tester favorite among all-season jackets. True, this pared-down shell has no winter-specific features, but that doesn’t mean it can’t handle the cold. The well-designed hood can accommodate a helmet, and the…

Good for Resort “It’s like you’re wearing a Muppet,” one tester said of the Flow’s ridiculously plush fleece lining. This jacket—the warmest here—is what you want if you’re heading somewhere frigid, like Wyoming or Alaska. But because all that insulation is wrapped in a waterproof-breathable eVent membrane,…

LIFT SERVANT One tester described this pack as “a wallet on your back with water.” The 275-cubic-inch Scorpion’s two-liter bladder kept testers hydrated both on quick tours before work and skiing all day at the resort. Lunch, a spare pair of goggles, and an extra layer fit in the main…

LOVES BIG LOADS Can’t decide whether to pack the pinot noir or the grigio? Bring ’em both—and the cast-iron skillet. On a multi-day trip in the Cascades, the Argon’s burly suspension system and memory-foam hipbelt and shoulder straps didn’t flinch at 60-plus pounds. It’s also crammed with tons of user-friendly…

Chances are you won’t be tracking a wolverine anytime soon. But that’s exactly what one of our testers—an employee of Alaska Mountain Guides—did for several hours in the Stretch Ascent. His report: The 2.5-layer fabric fended off brambles and waves of heavy rain, while the combination of pit zips…

Get these soft-shell pants for classic winter conditions: more cold, snowy, and windy than wet, slushy, and rainy. The Gore Windstopper fabric is tough on the outside, but has a soft fleece lining. cloudveil.com…

Good for Resort 1. This hybrid jacket uses soft-shell material on most of the body, which gives it a slightly stretchy athletic feel and fit. But because it’s seam-sealed and reinforced with waterproof-breathable (hard-shell) nylon panels in strategic places—like the hood and the tops of…

Got straps? The 3,350-cubic-inch Mountain Guide has plenty, making it a favorite with our most fastidious testers—you know, the guys who spend hours fiddling with their pack until it’s just right. The vertical-carry center straps held a Therm-a-Rest, snowboard, or snowshoes equally well and, thanks to sturdy molded-plastic reinforcements,…

LIKES TO GO FAST We started testing this aptly named piece last spring, skiing Colorado’s Indian Peaks, and never put it away. It’s made with a tough but stretchy version of Gore Windstopper, a soft, light fabric that breathes incredibly well and still repels the elements. Though it’s not completely…

IGNORE THE FORECAST Good for Resort The Hoback is our favorite fully insulated ski jacket. The incredibly light Gore-Tex Pro Shell exterior is as waterproof and breathable as shells get, repelling even high-moisture squalls in the Cascade Range better than any other fabric we tested. Inside…

Good for Resort Resort jackets used to come in two varieties: There were the big, bulky numbers designed to keep you warm on the chairlift, and there were the lightweight shells you could take into the backcountry. But innovations in insulation, ventilation, and waterproof-breathable fabrics have…

FREERIDER’S DELIGHT It’s tough to find a backcountry pack that carries skis as well as a snowboard, but the 1,600-cubic-inch Pro 2 excels at both. An easy-to-use retract­able-cable system can handle even the fattest of powder skis, and it can accommodate snowboards horizontally or vertically, making it the best board-hauling…

1. An eco-conscious makeover of one of Marmot’s most popular pieces for the past 15 years, the redesigned Catalyst won over nearly every tester. An outer polyester fabric kept out blasts of wind, and the soft recycled-polyester liner stayed cozy even while wicking sweat. Our favorite update: Stretch-fabric panels…

With the hood stowed away in the collar, the Carbon is sleek and stylish enough to blend in downtown (there’s even a subtle honeycomb pattern on one side of the back of the jacket for added evening flair). But it made the grade here because it’s also built to…

These pants were impervious to Cascade storms, but still light enough for spring touring. The key: strong and breathable Gore-Tex Pro Shell, and removable suspenders that make for a smooth transition from foul to fair. scottusa.com…

AEROBIC MASTER Good for Resort Hesitant about wearing a soft shell to the resort? Relax. In drier climates, the fleece-and-soft-shell Gamma SV is the perfect choice for hard-charging lift-lappers. Built with cozy, high-loft Polartec Power Shield fleece in the chest and a lighter version of the…

The svelte, 2,150-cubic-inch Koa 35 was ideal for light, fast overnight trips. Testers loved the breezy mesh back panel and the cram-friendly roll-top closure. And although it looks minimalist, the Koa is actually bedecked with a bunch of clever features. There’s a stretchy zip-away pocket on the front of the…

BEST IN BAD WEATHER The Touring Hoodie is fashioned completely from Polartec Powershield, a time-tested fabric that still provides one of the best combinations of stretchiness, breathability, and protection from the elements. Its sleek, understated design makes it a great choice for everything from day hiking to walking the dog,…

SKI SHARP Good for Resort Look as good as you ski. The Spectre is for the guy who wants street-smart style but not at the expense of top-end technical performance. Beneath the understated, retro tweed is a waterproof-breathable Gore Performance Shell membrane protecting the jacket’s blizzard-ready…

While pack makers continue to experiment with new suspension and ventilation systems, fit is still the most important factor. Go to an outdoor specialty store and try on several. Load up with at least 20 pounds, adjust them, and walk around. Take time to fiddle with all the straps…

Aigle Shems – Midweight Jackets: Reviews   With a soft fleece interior and warm, durable merino wool/nylon exterior, this jacket combines our favorite fabrics in one versatile top. 1.9 lbs; aigleusa.com         Patagonia Pau – Footwear: Reviews (Terry Heffernan) The coolest mocs we’ve ever laid eyes…

BIG PROTECTION The anorak is back (also see the Triumph, below)—and we like it. When a group of testers got stuck in a downpour on a mountain-bike tour in Utah’s Abajo Mountains, the only guy who stayed bone-dry was the one in the Alpha SL anorak. Credit the material, Gore’s…

Soft ShellsWe barely noticed this five-ounce piece in our packs. But when conditions changed, we appreciated every feature, from its chest pocket to its stashable hood. The cut is just generous enough to fit over a fleece, while the DWR-coated ripstop nylon is water-resistant enough to fend off a…

Warm, yet wild. Touches of corduroy give these waterproof, PrimaLoft-insulated pants a dash of outlaw flash. But what feels downright illegal is when you shed your base-layer bottoms, go commando, and still feel warm and fuzzy inside. powderhorn-world.com…

BACKCOUNTRY STANDBY Good for Backcountry Technically, the Vanquish is a “soft” shell, but it certainly didn’t behave like one in the field. Gore-Tex’s Soft Shell material is fairly breathable and virtually waterproof—we didn’t test it in driving rain, but it easily shed several hours of…

The light-yet-stable Vapor Flash bridges the gap between an overnighter and a multi-day hauler. At 3,200 cubic inches, this traditional top-loader is just big enough for several days’ worth of gear (one tester even hauled a six-pack in it). But at a waifish three and a half pounds, it…

SUMMER-WEIGHT CHAMP Meet our new warm-weather favorite. The track-suit-inspired Avido was a godsend in the middle of summer when we didn’t want to stuff a full-on rain shell in our packs but then got blasted by cold winds up in the hills. The reason, as one tester pointed out, is…

THE WHOLE PACKAGE Good for Resort System jackets might seem passé to some, but the reasonably priced three- in-one Rodeo Magic, which can be worn as a shell, a midlayer, or both, is a pretty sweet (and, of course, versatile) garment. While not as waterproof…

All-Season Workhorse The Lookout 45 was designed with winter in mind—there are ski-, snowboard-, and snowshoe-specific straps. But our testers liked it so much, they kept grabbing this 2,870-cubic-inch bag for weekend adventures all summer. That’s because everything—from maps to hydration tubes to camera cases—has its place on this tricked-out…

HIGH-PERFORMANCE HIPSTER Newcomer Scapegoat absolutely nailed “performance casual” with the Rosti, which instantly felt like an old favorite. It’s ideal for resort cruising and sidewalk surfing. On the slopes, the waterproof-breathable fabric, PrimaLoft One insulation, and meticulous seam-taping stood up to driving squalls at Beaver Creek. It doesn’t have tons…

SUPER-PACKABLE On those days when the forecast is for full sun, take the Triumph. Extremely packable and weighing in at an obscene five ounces (a bit more than a bag of potato chips), the Triumph is as spartan as they come—there’s one tiny front pocket and a basic but slightly…

Soft ShellsThe soft Cocona-and-polyester lining makes the Kenosha the warmest wind shell here. It proved its mettle on everything from a whale-watching trip in Maine to a 30-mile mountain-bike epic on the Colorado Trail. We even used it as a midlayer on a spring skiing tour in Rocky Mountain…

1.The Patrol 35 nails the most important feature in a winter pack: how well it carries skis or a snowboard. TNF’s Fly-Trap carrying system compresses skis (A-frame or diagonally) or board (vertically) amazingly close to your center of gravity. The result is excellent stability—which made me feel balanced and…

DUDE CRED Good for Backcountry FlyLow has a sense of humor. The care-instructions tag in this piece advises you first to “Drink Cold Beer.” But the Denver-based company also has a solid reputation for making durable, no-nonsense gear. And by using a highly water-resistant, stretchy “kung…

The 3,970-cubic-inch, top-loading Sentinel may not look as sleek and stable as the other packs here. But it’s sturdier than it looks. The traditional suspension system consists of two aluminum stays, while the main compartment includes rear sleeping-bag access and a generous stuffsack. What impressed us were the extras…

PRACTICALLY WATERPROOF If you took your favorite base layer, hard shell, and soft shell and threw them all in a blender, it would be a terrible mess. But Westcomb’s mash-up makes terrific sense. A thin layer of merino wool on the inside wicks away moisture (like a base layer),…

GATE HOPPER The 1,098-cubic-inch Silo 18 is an ideal choice when you’re jumping between the lifts and the sidecountry. Three stash pockets (one internal, two external) help you keep track of quick-grab items. The polyethylene back panel is just tough and stiff enough to make a solid base for ski…

Can Take a Beating The Ascent 40 was designed with climbing in mind; for example, it comes with a rope tarp. And while it does a fine job getting rope to the crag, we also loved it as an adventure-travel pack. That’s because the 2,450-cubic-inch Ascent is basically, as one…

THE CLASSIC If Toyota made a jacket, it would be a lot like the Escape: solid performance, great value. Made of Gore-Tex Performance Shell (the new name for the classic two-layer waterproof-breathable fabric), the Escape shucked off the elements in the nastiest Northwest storms. It’s not as light as comparably…

STYLE AND PERFORMANCE Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but our testers were unanimous: Thanks to its sleek design and refreshing lack of logos, the Shelter is the best-looking shell in the bunch. And, like nearly everything the eco-conscious, Portland, Oregon–based Nau makes, much of the Shelter…

The most breathable soft shell here, the Verglas was our favorite jacket for high-energy excursions. Whether testers were climbing or simply riding their bikes home from work, they were impressed with the Verglas’s vast comfort range. Credit the thumb loops, hood, and a woven nylon fabric that’s treated with…

DAY TRIPPER If your passion is touring, get the nimble Drift. “It’s the perfect size and profile for the typical day trip,” said a tester who put miles on the pack in the Colorado backcountry. Skis or snowboards strap on easily and stay rock-solid, with three different carry options. On…

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