An extremely cool makeover brings high performance and style to the latest generation of fleece

I'm after a down jacket or sweater that could replace a fleece jacket in my pack, hopefully adding lots of warmth for only a few ounces extra. I'd hope it would keep me warm by itself to about 45 degrees, and be a layer after that. I don't want it to be too warm or heavy—California isn't usually very cold. I was looking at the EMS Super Sweater, for exple. Any thoughts? Jonathan Thousand Oaks, CA

My back always gets wet then cold when I skiing, snowshoeing, or doing other activities that get my heart pumping. Is there any clothing that will take away the moisture? Bari Edmonton, Alberta

I hope this question qualifies as a gear question. My boyfriend and I always argue about whether or not I should wear less before running, skate-skiing, or mountain-biking, or if I should be warm at the beginning and take off layers as I warm up. I absolutely hate starting out cold, so would much rather layer up, get warm, and take things off as necessary. He thinks I weigh myself down and less efficient since I'll be warming up in a few minutes anyway. It takes me much longer to get sweaty than it does him! So which approach is better? P Arvada, Colorado

If I were to be standing outside in the Arctic, not exercising, what could I wear to stay warm? I'm not interested in down-filled coats or any other animal-based materials. I'm just after warmth over fashion, either men's or women's styles. Brooke Niagara Falls, Ontario

I'm looking for a pair of pants that will be good for trekking the Everest circuit in April. I tend to overheat easily, so they have to breathe fairly well. The trail will be rocky, so they have to be able to take a few of my inevitable slips. Oh yeah, and I'd rather not spend more than maybe $150. Ideas? Craig Brooklyn, New York

I looking for some mountaineering gloves or mitts to keep me warm on summit attempts of Chimborazo and Cotopaxi in Ecuador this January. Any suggestions? Mychael Fort Collins, Colorado

What are the advantages of wool versus synthetic base layers? I going on an 80-day NOLS mountaineering/sea-kayaking expedition in Patagonia, so my base layers are going to get a lot of consecutive use. What is the best option: wool or synthetic? Wool doesn't stink like synthetics, but does it wick as well? What would you go with? Kirby Austin, Texas

I'm looking for a warm three-season jacket. I have a hard shell and a TNF Denali for really cold situations. I've been researching the Arc'teryx Gma line and the Mountain Hardwear Synchro as options for a good jacket that can be worn for spring and summer hikes in the Sierras and Rockies. Any suggestions? Also, why do many soft shells not come standard with a hood? Michelle San Diego, California

My daughter has just begun her studies at the University of Chicago. Her dorm is quite a distance from the main cpus and, as a result, she'll be spending time waiting for buses and walking to classes. What jackets provide good protection from the cold and wet yet are stylish enough for her to wear? A hood seems to be a necessary part of the jacket. What do you recommend? Rowan Potomac, Maryland

I looking for a lightweight insulated jacket, preferably using synthetic insulation for greater resilience to wet conditions. What are the relative merits of the different types of insulation available? PrimaLoft and Thinsulate (plus Thinsulate Lite) seem to be the most commonly used for this type of application, but how do they differ in terms of warmth and durability? Chris Perth, Western Australia

Whether you're headed to the cabin or the corner café, fend off fall's chill with luxe sweaters and jackets made to last a lifetime

Can you take a company to the top when you can't stand nearly everything about traditional business and what it represents? You can if you're Yvon Chouinard. In an exclusive excerpt from his new management guide, Let My People Go Surfing, Patagonia's contrarian founder talks about breaking the rules�and creating the world's most iconoclastic adventure-ap

I about to transfer to the hot, humid tropical island of Gu with the U.S. Navy. I need a recommendation on an extremely lightweight, breathable outer shell. With an average temp of 87 degrees and daily humidity at 80 to 90 percent, I certainly need a light and breathable rainjacket. I was thinking of the Marmot PreCip or REI Ultra Light. Andrew San Diego, California

Workers, unite! Get dressed, gear up, and turn that commuter grind into a grand detour—you'll kick-start the day

I have a wicking shirt that's several years old that smells like sweat even after being freshly washed. Is there anything to get the body odor out of quick-drying fabrics? Melissa Minneapolis, Minnesota

I tend to get cold around cp and want to get an ultralight jacket to replace the fleece & two thermals I typically wear. I'm looking at the Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket and the Bozeman Mountain Works Cocoon Pullover. Any suggestions? Chris Santa Monica, CA

I climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in August. I have been skiing before but never in sub-zero conditions. Will two layers of long underwear under two layers of fleece and a waterproof, windproof shell jacket be enough to handle the cold at over 19,000 feet? Or do I really need to get down or something like it? Steve Moorpark, California

Soft shells, soft shells...that's all you ever hear about these days. But for next winter's mountaineering season, I'm in the market to replace my ten-year-old North Face hard (and I mean HARD) shell. What's out there ong the hard shells—both high end and more affordable—that's durable, well-designed, maybe even innovative? John New York City

I've read about the Moonstone Lucid's light weight and compressibility, but because I won't wear clothes for which animals are slaughtered, I wonder if there's something comparable made of Hollofil or some other man-made fiber that's equally warm, compressible, and lightweight (and for men, since I understand the Lucid is only available in women's sizes). Nicolás Buenos Aires, Argentina

I recently saw a pair of $42 Patagonia shorts and, after recovering from the sticker shock, looked to see what "technical" stuff made it so expensive. All it had was some mesh that acted as a second pair of briefs, a handful of pockets, and it was pretty cool and light. That for $42? David California

I'm going on a weeklong backpacking trip in the Sierras this August. Given this year's extraordinary snowpack, I'm expecting an equally extraordinary year for mosquitoes. I have been eyeing Ex Officio's line of Buzz Off clothing as an alternative to rub-on bug repellents. Is this stuff for real or just marketing hype? Larry Long Beach, California

Several years ago, my husband and I hiked across England on the coast-to-coast route, making good use of some rather inexpensive umbrellas. We are planning a repeat trek, and require strong yet lightweight umbrellas. Any suggestions to help keep our aging bodies dry? Although we are well acquainted with Gore-Tex, it is nice walking under cover! Victoria Toronto, Ontario

After a number of successful three- to four-day hikes, I have recently been extending my trips up to a week. I have found that during extended warm periods (over 95 degrees F) I sometimes develop a bit of chaffing in the groin region—ouch! What is the best clothing (both base and outer layers) to prevent this? Tim Melbourne, Australia

Protect your baby blues with sunglasses designed for a summer's worth of action and adventure

I looking to buy Patagonia's Ready Mix as my first soft shell. What's your opinion on this shell? Will it repel light to moderate rain showers as advertised? Dan Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Do you have a solution for sweat getting in your eyes while hiking? I have tried wearing a visor but I like to get sun on my face. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

For the U.S. military, there are no priorities higher than troop readiness and efficiency of field medical treatment. A remarkable new tool for improving both could be new combat T-shirts that allow commanders and medics to assess soldiers’ fit-to-fight status and perform rapid triage miles from the fray. The lightweight,…

Many high-tech products from jackets to sleeping bags ask that they be washed in a "mild soap." Some say a "pure soap." But none ever give an explanation of what that means, nor a recommendation of any actual brands or nes. Can you share some wisdom? Tad Urumqi, China

James Dean, Liz Taylor, and Rock Hudson had a "Giant" time in this high-desert corner of Texas—and so have generations of on-the-road seekers and, more recently, art-world hipsters. Whether you roll on down to the Rio Grande or stick around town, Marfa is the perfect place to shake off winter and look good doing it.

I'm a news photographer headed to Iraq this summer. I need some long pants (for protection), but they need to be very light, breathable, and quick-drying. Further, good-sized cargo pockets and belt loops that will allow me to wear a sturdy belt would be helpful. I can't seem to find a good combination of the above. J. Lee Washington, D.C.

Boom-shaka-laka: Explore the old-school landscape of retro runners and seventies sneakers cool enough to take you back to the future

New-school technical pieces look after the serious business of snowbound fun, while playing nice with the classics of cold-weather style

I'm planning a coast-to-coast walk across England this spring, covering 190 miles in about two weeks. What are your top three choices for a rainjacket? Sid Susanville, California

I need a really, really warm fleece for a trip on the Pacific Crest Trail this coming season. I'm having a hard time deciding on the right fleece, especially with all the soft shells on the market to muddy the picture. I own a soft shell, which is great for when I'm actually walking with a pack or up a hill, but otherwise it doesn't really keep me warm at night or when I'm just getting moving. Gear Guy, what is this fleece I seek? Do you know its ne? Sarah Santa Barbara, California

I want a pair of sunglass lenses that will take me from bright and snowy skiing conditions to sailing on the ocean and inland lakes. What is the best color for a broad array of activities, and are polarized lenses worth the extra expense over regular sunglass lenses? Laura Evans, Georgia

Slimmed down and styled up, expedition parkas are taking back the streets. Winter doesn't stand a chance.

I looking for some really good cold/freezing-weather cycling gear. All the gear makers have clothing that is supposed to be super warm, but which one's garments are the warmest and most affordable? I heard Pearl Izumi makes some of the best cold-weather gear. Is that true? What actual bib/tights and jacket would you suggest? Ian Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I looking for a good pair of durable pants for hiking in cold weather (late fall to early spring). I see construction workers out in their Carharrts year round. Aren't they made of cotton? Would I be better off buying wool pants from L.L. Bean or Woolrich? Or is there a better option? Matt Albuquerque, New Mexico

I'm a woman with an athletic build. For years I have purchased and used gear for men (including ski boots and inline skates), thinking that it is better made. But is there really a performance edge in gender-specific gear? Think I can rp it up by making the switch? Diane Highland Park, New Jersey

I live in the wet and mild Northwest, where I cycle to work five days a week, preferring to be in the rain than inside on a stationary bike! Here's my dilemma, though: My ass gets wet from the rain or my own sweat if I wear rain pants. I've been told by sales folk in cycle shops that most clothing manufacturers are based in places that aren't even particularly wet. How do you pedal at 15+ mph on your road bike and keep your rear end dry? Steven Portland, Oregon

The latest in waterproof shoes will surprise you—the same protective qualities you’d expect in your rugged hikers are now popping up in casual boots and even dress loafers. The result is dry-foot comfort in the face of the season’s first cold rains. Dr. Martens's Waterproof Rigger Dr. Martens’s Waterproof Rigger…

The lighter side of warm: From left, get cotton’s durability and cashmere’s luxuriousness with 1.) NAUTICA’s cable-knit crewneck ($128; 877-628-8422,; channel Paul Bunyan with 2.) WOOLRICH’s washable wool pullover ($69; 800-966-5372,; stand out from the crowd on game day in 3.) POLO…

I've been looking at soft shells for an early fall trip up to Voyageurs National Park, and certainly like what I see from REI, The North Face, Marmot, and the like. Thing is, there's A) way too many choices, and B) I'd like to get something that I could also wear casually around the city. Any ideas? Henry Chicago, Illinois

My kids are very sensitive to sun and mosquito bites. Can you recommend any sun-protective clothing, and have you heard of clothing that protects from mosquitoes? They are seven and 12, and we live in a hot, humid environment. Beth

Pretty much everyone with whom I go backpacking or hiking has always told me never to wear pants made from cotton. And so, I have avoided jeans and khakis most of the time, usually favoring polyester blends. However, I long for nature's own fabrics again and again. Recently, I saw hemp pants available online, but I wonder if they'd be suitable for backpacking and hiking? Brice Rough and Ready, California

I learned most of my wilderness know-how from experienced paddlers, who taught me that you should always have a set of dry clothes set aside for sleeping. Now, I'm branching out into hiking and wondering if that advice still holds true, or if I can shave a few ounces off my poor back and knees (and save a few bucks, to boot) by wearing the se polar fleece day and night. What do you think? Catherine Montreal, Quebec

I wear sunglasses for mountain biking, both for sun protection and shielding my eyes from flying branches and stuff, even during night riding. The climate here in the Bay Area has my glasses fogging up most of the time. I've tried the Smith No-Fog cloth and Cat Crap, with no real success. Do you have any suggestions to prevent this problem?

Give your barking dogs some luxe love with the new generation of super socks

I love the athletic look of soft shells and would love to buy one. The only problem is I've heard they're just that: shells, meant more for layering than for providing a single layer of protection. In your opinion, are there any soft shells that can provide both heavy-duty warmth and stand up to the rain and snow? I'll use this shell more for "getting around town" than I would for aerobic activities, so I want something that would keep me very warm in cold temperatures. Megan Spokane, Washington

I've been looking into soft shells to take on a NOLS [National Outdoor Leadership School] expedition to the Himalayas and have narrowed the selection down to Patagonia's Mixmaster or Beyond Fleece's Cold Fusion. I was hoping you could help me choose one based on durability, performance, and warmth. Kevin Mahopac, New York

Your prescription for matching next-generation outerwear with your favorite winter pursuit is ready

Put your hands together for the newest crop of toasty, weatherproof winter gloves

What's the deal with Ex Officio's Buzz Off shirt and pants? They claim to ward off skeeters. Does this really work? Does the protection wear off after repeated washings? Mark Chantilly, Virginia

My friend and I are planning a one-week ice climbing trip north of Lake Superior to an area known as Agawa Canyon, where the mean daytime temperature is less than zero degrees Fahrenheit. I would like to get a pair of mountaineering boots for the trip that will keep my 41E feet warm, so I was considering either the Scarpa Invernos or Alphas (both plastics). Is my foot width too wide for the Alphas? Having the extra feel of the lighter boot would definitely be a plus in my book. Are there any single-boot alternatives that might suffice, or are doubles my best bet? John Toronto, Ontario

I'm planning on climbing Mount Rainier, so I'm trying to find the best clothing setup. I'm interested in combining a soft shell with a lightweight hard shell, but having a hard time sorting through all of the options. I'm partial to gear from Patagonia and Marmot, so is there anything I should consider between these two companies? Is Marmot's PreCip enough for this type of climb if I use it in combo with a soft shell, or do I need to go with a more substantial waterproof-breathable jacket? Bob Sterling, Colorado

I've bought the upper-body clothing in preparation for some winter backpacking near the SoCal beaches, followed by Yosemite next summer. But what should I get by way of pants? Would The North Face's Apex's or Arc'Teryx's Gma LTs be too warm? Or should I just pick up some plain or convertible nylon pants? Matthew Claremont, California

Lieber Ausrüstungmensch: Looking at the change of seasons and your report on the latest and greatest in the gear world, I'm trying to come up with a clothing strategy that maximizes economy of budget and weight. I'm a keen hiker currently living in Germany (near the Alps), but who will be moving back to the East Coast of the U.S. (Smoky Mountains!) soon. I want a system that will cover me when it's warm, cool, and wet. Should I go with a fleece-plus-shell combo, lugging around the deadweight when I'm not using it, or should I buy one of the do-it-all soft shells? Patrick Frankfurt Main, Germany

I know it's only August, but I have recently taken up running and looking ahead to the looming Ottawa winter. In preparing to outfit myself, I have been doing some reading about soft-shell jackets. The claim seems to be that I won't need to do the usual layering job with one of these—the soft shell can do it all. Is this right? Would a soft shell be the answer to a big part of my winter running wardrobe? Eric Ottawa, Ontario

I've collected the very best ensemble of outdoor gear, but I still require one last item: sunglasses! Price is no object, but quality is. I need the best all-purpose outdoor fres that are compatible with prescription lenses. Cebe comes to mind, but do you have any other suggestions? Paul Boulder, Colorado

I looking into buying a soft-shell jacket and interested in the Cloudveil Serendipity, the Arc'teryx Gma, and another jacket from Salomon. What are your opinions on these jackets and are there any others that I should consider? Mike Kane Rock Island, Illinois

This past summer I started running and now have continued into the winter. On the longer runs my privates get awful cold. Is there any underwear out there made of microfleece and/or windproof fabric? I run in tights and wear cotton briefs under them. The cotton is the problem. I don't like wind pants or wearing shorts over my tights, but are they the only answer? Tom Faherty Scituate, Massachusetts

I'm wondering if you know the difference between all the soft-shell fabrics, specifically Power Shield and Schoeller Dryskin. Also, what's the deal with the ultralight rain shells like Patagonia's Microburst or Arc'Teryx's Sirrus SL? REI's Web site used to say that Sirrus SL is "truly an ultralight shell, thus should not be for everyday use." Are they suggesting the ultralight jackets are not that durable? Does it make sense to carry both a soft-shell and an ultralight rain shell on a long backpacking trip? Jenny San Diego, California

I was thinking about buying a pair of convertible pants following a trip to Mount Washington on which the weather went from warm to pretty cold. With a three-day trip planned to the Presidentials this summer, I thought convertible pants might be a good option for any varied weather. What are your thoughts? Scott Cbridge, Massachusetts

Any idea where I might look for prescription sunglasses that I could use at high altitude? My local optician says the lenses he could sell me "might" block both ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) rays, but he's not sure. Is blocking both UV and IR really important? Andy Billings, Montana

Oh, Gauis Gear Guy (bet you haven't heard THAT one before), I have a multitudinous problem. I wrote to you years ago about detached toenails, and you delivered the goods shiningly. My problem is still with my feet. The last two trips I've taken in my Zberlans boots have left me hobbled, with huge Susan B. Anthony pus-bubbles on either heel. I went to a clinic and was informed that my feet were "problematic" and that I was wearing the wrong boot. My right foot while standing is about a quarter inch longer than the left. My feet are wide and low profile, with anemic arches and narrow heels. Oh yeah, I also have weak ankles. Now I have June trips planned in the Grand Canyon and the Sierra. I've bought the Superfeet shrink-to-your-dogs prosthetic insoles, but I need a new boot. What do you recommend, outside of foot-transplant surgery? Thanks, Thomas Perkins Alexandria, Virginia

Do I need to replace my 1994 Oakley sunglasses? I wondering if the 100 percent UV protection in the lenses breaks down over the years with repeated exposure to the sun. If so, are glass and plastic lenses equally vulnerable? Joel Las Cruces, New Mexico

Much of my clothing made with high-performance fabrics, such as Coolmax, states that you should not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets. Why is that? If they are accidentally dried with a dryer sheet will they return to normal after the next wash or are the performance aspects ruined? Joe Helm Canal Winchester, Ohio

We're searching for a pair of sunglasses with a protective nose shield for a friend who has reoccurring skin cancer. Can you help us out? Tmy Tarentum, Pennsylvania

With all the high-tech lenses out there, I'm looking for a pair or two that will provide good protection in a variety of situations. I would be using them for downhill skiing, water sports, motorcycle riding, driving, hiking, mountain biking, roller blading, etc. The three brands I considering are Revo, Oakley, and Serengeti. I was also told by someone a long time ago, that it is not a good idea to wear polarized lenses when riding a motorcycle, as they will hide oil spots on the road, causing a potential slide. Can you tell me if there is any truth to that? Tom Player Toronto, Ontario

On extended backpacking trips, does it make sense to pack both a soft shell and a waterproof jacket? Or just take along the rain jacket? Also, since I come from Europe, I'm a little bit confused about what exactly cross-country skiing is. I know what telemarking is (those graceful people on the piste) and also langlauf (with the thin skis), but what is cross-country? Karl Cottenie Leuven, Belgium

Are there any objective tests comparing the hard- and soft-shell products of different gear manufacturers? Yes, there's a huge ount of marketing hype easily available, but beyond XCR's assertion that it's "25 percent more breathable than standard Gore-Tex," there doesn't seem to be any hard numbers comparing materials. This is surprising when you consider how much consumers are prepared to pay for the latest and greatest. Jeff London, United Kingdom