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A man in skin-close, anatomically-contouring athletic tights is a man with his priorities in the right place. I am going to stake that claim. There are haters of the body-hugging look, no doubt. But I say vanity and self consciousness about style — decency even! — must at times be…

FORCE FIELD If you’re often out in the wet conditions typical of places like the Pacific Northwest, a classic Gore-Tex shell like the Albaron is an indispensable outer layer. It’s cut from Pro Shell, Gore’s best material, so it’s the most water- and windproof piece here, with user-friendly pit zips,…

ALPINE DO-IT-ALL Take a hard-shell jacket, stuff it with sleeping-bag insulation, and you’ve got the Gravitor. It’s made with the same synthetic insulation as Mountain Hardwear’s sleeping bags. It sounds bulky, but it isn’t. The warmest jacket here, the trim-fitting Gravitor was designed with cold-weather climbing and hiking in mind.

SMART INSULATOR Like the Gravitor (left), the Prima Fusion is also an insulated hard shell—with a few key differences. First, it’s insulated only in strategic areas along the chest, back, shoulders, and tops of the arms. The uninsulated sides, helmet-compatible hood, elbows, and pit-zip-equipped underarms make it cooler but…

PUFF LIGHT Of all the jackets we tested, none saw as much field time as the Xenon. The slightly puffy top is stuffed with enough PrimaLoft insulation to be worn alone down to about 30 degrees. And while its face fabric appears thin and fragile, it’s anything but. One tester…

BARGAIN SOFT SHELL The Ascent’s house-brand, fleece-lined soft-shell fabric is windproof and nearly waterproof. Raindrops beaded and poured off the stretchy face fabric for hours, while a three-point adjustable hood sealed out blowing snow. And when we picked up the pace, the core zips let us dump heat. So what’s…

HOTHOUSE How good is Arc’teryx at making jackets? So good that it’s managed to build a streamlined, stylish soft shell that thrives in the backcountry but looks at home in the city. On bitter Minnesota evenings, when everybody else started reaching for their puffies, our tester stayed toasty in the…

It isn’t quite the holy grail, but for high output in bad weather, like ski-touring in a storm, this jacket gets darn close to solving the weatherproof-breathable equation. While it’s not technically waterproof—the seams aren’t taped—one tester stayed dry for hours in sleet and wet snow. And when the…

Last year, when I wrote about a pair of bike pants from Outlier clothing, I noted the company's products are made for a “small, affluent market niche.” Indeed, Outlier's tagline–“Tailored performance clothing for cycling in the city”–nods to the New York City-based company's theme of design that treads a line…

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