If you’re like most of us, when asked what we want for Christmas or or our birthday, we generally don’t know how to respond. You may tend to save-up or just purchase the items you really want instead of listing specifics to a family member. Were you missing a key element to your loadout or are you looking for an upgrade ? Our buyers guide is intended to point you or a family member in the right direction this year. As winter is upon us, most of these items are great for more than just the coldest of months.
We’ve had the chance to put our hands on all of these items. Most are still in the process of a full review, but solid enough to make the list. We haven’t covered every category and not all these items are great for everyone, but we hope there’s at least one or two that catch your eye. Most descriptions and opinions are kept short for the guide, so feel free to ask additional performance/feature questions regarding certain products in the comments below or on Facebook. Look for full reviews in the coming months and we hope you have a hard charging winter.
Columbia Heatzone 1000 Turbodown Hooded Jacket
With a 900-fill-power water-resistant goose down outer layer welded to a 100-gram layer of synthetic Omni-Heat insulation on the interior, and further enhanced with an Omni-Heat reflective lining, they may be on to something. Instead of traditional stitching of the down baffles—a great source of heat loss—Columbia uses “wave technology.” This eliminates the stitching and incorporates welded baffles that are offset between the layers, eliminating the typical cold spots found on more traditional down parkas.An early observation of the Columbia Heatzone 1000 TurboDown jacket is the fit.
It is a longer jacket that extends below the waist, measuring at 32” compared to other sport specific models. It feels more like an Après ski jacket or a stadium jacket than one I would typically consider for activities like climbing or skiing. That said, it does feature an attached helmet-compatible hood and zippered ski-pass pocket.
Bottom Line: Super warm for those who want to play outside in the most fridgid of climates.
La Sportiva Cham 2.o Down Jacket
For a company that’s been in the clothing game for such a short time, these guys have upped their game to match the quality of their footwear. The standout feature of this amazingly warm down jacket is the fit and firmness of loft. With top-end features such as Primaloft in placed in what would be sweatier portions and softshell sections on the sleeves and shoulders, this jacket begs for backcountry and expedition use. One reviewer stated this as the “best fitting down jacket I have ever worn.” Wins most comfortable hood of the year in our book. It has all the necessarry features found in a quality belay jacket with excellent fabric and insulation placement. This jacket is sized athletically and you may want to go up on size US for the correct fit. The Cham 2.0 is also reasonable priced at an MSRP of $299 when compared to other brand name jackets of similar quality. Get your La Sportiva Cham 2.0 here.
Bottom Line: For a hand tailored feel, this jacket seems to have all the right features in all the right places.
Get the La Sportiva Cham 2.0 Jacket here.
Black Diamond Access LT Hybrid Hoody
Lightweight Primaloft Gold insulation combined with a breathable Schoeller material on the sides makes this Jacket another pick for those always on the go. Perfect for cool nights during the warmer months, layering under a ski jacket, or as an outer piece when your lungs are screaming for oxygen. The side panels help moisture evaporate while still blocking the wind and light moisture from slowing you down.
Bottom Line: Lightweight, seasonal versatility, and extremely breathable without losing essential weather protection.
Bergans of Norway Bladet Insulated Jacket*
Over the last 15 years wool has made a big comeback and has been on the rise for quite some time. You can find a multitude great lightweight layering systems and socks made from the timeless fabric. Recently, it’s made its way into hight performance jacket insulation. The Bladet is one such jacket and is perfect for the active mountain athlete. Designed for ski touring and mountaineering, the Bladet pulls all the benefits of wool and adds even more wether protection. Although is performs well in dry and cold conditions, I’ve found it really stands out when the temperatures are hovering right around freezing and the humidity is high – making it an ideal Pacific Northwest and Northeasterner jacket for someone always on the go.
Bottom Line: As warm as a 60 g/m Primoloft jacket with greater moisture wicking and all the basics including some extra features in the wrist and elsewhere.
Get the Bergans of Norway Bladet Jacket here.
Keeping with the benefits of wool, Duckworth continuously “knocks it out of the park” when it comes to versatility, warmth, durability, and overall comfort. 100% sourced and made in the USA, Duckworth’s base layers offer a non-shrink technology created without chemicals. After wearing the same top and bottom for over a week without a wash and countless other excursions, proved that there aren’t many better products than Duckworth’s.
Bottom Line: Whether running, hiking, skiing, hunting, or lounging around a campfire, when the temperatures drop, there isn’t an article of clothing we reach for more often than Duckworth wool.
Check out Duckworth’s full line of wool here.
Arc’teryx Procline AR Pant
A winter pant that can take just about any abuse thrown its way. The Arc’teryx Procline AR Pants are built to last season after season of ski hut touring, mountianeering, lift service skiing, and pretty much any other snowy/icy encounter. The GORE Windstopper fabric blocks rain, snow, sleet, and high winds while still keeping you comfortable with a full range of motion. The fit of these pants is second to none and feel like they were custom made. With an integrated gaiter, avalanche beacon pocket and cuffs that seal around a variety of footwear, there pant won’t slow you down. Another Arc’teryx product that proves you get what you pay for.
Bottom Line: Unreal comfort and protection for the ski mountaineer and snow junkie.
Get the Arc’teryx Procline AR Pant here.
La Sportiva Hail Jacket
Waterproof breathable jackets keep getting lighter and lighter. With its stretch waterproof membrane the Hail Jacket by La Sportiva is an essential item for every packing list. At only 178g (6.3 oz.) it’s light enough to carry just because and has the mobility and protection you need. It’s ideal in almost any situation, whether you’ve got a rainy 10k to do or a big hike with varying temperatures, you’ll stay cool, dry and light. It does run slim, so go one size up from your normal outerwear.
Bottom Line: Ultralight waterproof protection that is too light no to carry.
Get the La Sportiva Hail Jacket here.
Opedix Knee-Tec Tights
Compression garments have been around for quite some time, but they do very little in the way of joint stability. Enter the Opedix Knee-Tec Tights. These have become a staple for every workout and ski outing I’ve made this fall. With over 60+ days of use I can feel the lateral and medial stability advantage of these tights. Worn under ski pants or on their own during a cold morning run, they add warm stability on uneven terrain and the hard lateral impacts associated with downhill skiing. If you’ve ever had a serious knee injury like myself, you know how vital healthy knees are to everyday life and an outdoor adventure lifestyle. Although on the expensive side, I’ve felt the value of noticed less fatigue when worn than without.
Bottom Line: Take the aches and pains out of your knees and keep charging hard no matter what outdoor or physical pursuit you enjoy.
Get your Opedix Knee-Tec Tights here.
Mammut Trovat Polartec Power Wool
Mammut’s line of Trovat mid and base layers are made from Polartec’s new Power Wool. The blend of merino wool and synthetic fibers create a best of both worlds set of tops. The Trovat Pro ML Jacket is an ideal midweight layer for hight aerobic activities or layering under a hardshell jacket while skiing. The Trovat Pro Half Zip Longsleeve top helps regulate body temperature during cold morning runs and wicks moisture as a base layer under any combination of layering systems. The Power Wool dries incredibly fast and the merino fibers help keep the stink at bay. I’ve worn both layer for over a week without washing and neither have aquired any nasty body odors associated with synthetic only fabrics.
Bottom Line: Mammut’s meticulous design coupled with an outstanding new outdoor industry fabric for layering, wicking, and high activity.
Get the Trovat Pro ML Jacket here.
Get the Trovat Pro Half Zip Longsleeve here.
Arc’teryx Lithic Mitten
Say goodbye to cold hands. Welded together with a combination of GORE-TEX and Primaloft insulation, the Lithic Mitten provides an amazing amount of dexterity. These travel with me on any trip to the mountains. Attach them to a climbing for quick deployment at a belay or wear them all day at the ski resort for full hand protection and warmth. To test the waterproof feature, I soaked my hands in a bowl of water for over five minutes without a single leak or bit of moisture leaking through the seams. When sized properly, they can easily accommodate a thin liner for even more warmth.
Bottom Line: If bombproof construction and warm hands are high on your list, then these are for you.
Get the Arc’teryx Lithic Mitten here.
Outdoor Designs Denali Glove
Able to withstand the wear and tear that normally accompanies time spent in the mountains, the Outdoor Designs Denali Glove delivers in all the right areas. These gloves are not only extremely warm and tough, but the provide they dexterity necessary to handle small items, rope work, or fishing an item out or your pack without the need for removal.
Bottom Line: The goat leather, Primaloft Gold insulation, and waterproof membrane combine to make a glove that delivers in at a very affordable price point when lined up against other gloves with similar features.
Get the Outdoor Designs Denali Glove here.
Footwear & Accessories
Under Armour Fat Tire
With amazing comfort and a GORE-TEX waterproof membrane, its understandable why these have become very popular in some hunting circles. The thick sole may look goofy until you wear them around for the day. From runs to trudging through the snow, the Fat Tire have kept my feet comfortable, warm, and dry. The BOA lacing system doesn’t get any easier and the Michelin sole even grips onto wet rocks and ice. They may not look like your average shoe or boot, but they have all the right features in a weight that doesn’t match the appearance.
Bottom Line: An innovative shoe for every activity.
Get the Under Armour Fat Tire here.
Chaco Brio Leather Boots
Know for years as a sandal company, Chaco not only rules the river rafting footwear world, but also make some kick ass dry land shoes and boots. The Chaco Brio boot is no exception. Let face it, as much as would love to, we can’t spend every day in the mountains or on the river. The Brio is the perfect boot for just about any activity around town, including some Après-ski time at your local brew pub. The oiled full grain leather upper repels rain and snow while the insole adds additional cushion for those days when you are on your feet for hours at a time.
Bottom Line: An extremely comfortable boot for everyday wear to the office or the pub.
Get the Chaco Brio Boot here.
Salewa Alp Flow Mid GTX
Next to food, water, and basic clothing to protect you from the elements, footwear is up on the list in order of importance. You can find every form of opinion regarding support, style, waterproof or not, heel to toe drop, single, double, leather or synthetic. I prefer to choose footwear based on fit and environment. Most individuals can’t afford a different boot or pair of shoes for every activity they’re involved. The Salewa Alp Flow GORE-TEX Surround covers a large variety of terrain and temperatures, including moderate winter temperatures. The GORE-TEX Surround is breathable enough for warmer temperatures, yet the protection is enough to occasionally stomp through snow drifts.
Bottom Line: Boots for the entire year. The Alps will enable you to travel over just about any type of terrain with ease. BONUS: Salewa offer a blister-free garantee.
Get the Salewa ALP Flow Mid GTX here.
Merrell Fraxion Adventure Shoes
The overall performance of these shoes has been nothing short of impressive. I’ve been wearing them on a daily basis for several weeks with absolutely no issues. I’ve done plenty of normal day to day walking, mountain biking, and hiking. The one thing that really stands out to me is the weight of these shoes. It almost feels as if you’re wearing a minimalist shoe. If you’re looking for an adventure shoe for your fall hikes and adventures, give the Merrell Fraxion a serious look.
Bottom Line: Light and functional for a variety of activities.
Get the Merrell Fraxion here.
Hillsound Super Armadillo Nano Gaiter
For toughness and ease of use, the Hillsound Super Armadillo Nano Gaiter adds warmth and protection from the elements/punctures. The stretch waterproof upper material conforms to a variety of layers and the lower SuperFabric resists abrasion and punctures from rocks, sticks, and crampons. I put a number of holes in my pants when not wearing gaiters and have yet to make a noticable mark on these after multiple swipes while wearing crampons. There are many instances when gaiters are not necessary, but when needed, they are indispensable. These gaiters have kept my boots free of trail debris, snow, and added a few degrees of warmth as well. I was originally skeptical of the zipper, but without any issues, I now prefer it to other models that use velcro for closure. Bonus: They are light enough to keep in the bottom of your pack until the conditions dictate the need.
Bottom Line: Gaiters that are built to take extreme amounts of abuse and still do their job.
Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro
I own five different models of crampon and these have become my go to when I only need the traction for short sections and weight is a concern. Do to the simplicity, I don’t have to worry about what footwear I using. The Trail Crampon Pros are not intended to climb ice or for expedition use. What they are great for is when on a trip where crossing snow fields or short sections of steep snow climbing may be necessary. These crampons will fit all types of footwear. From snowboard boots to running shoes, the quick attachment system is simple and secure. If you hunt, travel, or backpack during seasons or regions where steep, but short sections of snow are a possibility, the Trail Crampon Pro is worth the addition to your loadout.
Bottom Line: Added safety and security in a simple to use, affordable, and versatile crampon.
Get the Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro here.
NEMO – Sonic 0 °F Sleeping Bag
For comfort, temperature regulation in a cold weather bag, and weight, you’d be hard pressed to find a better bag. As I used this for a sheep hunt in the Chugach Range of Alaska, this bag is probably a little warm for the season, but I slept comfortably and only got too warm on a couple times. Better to be a little warm that shivering all night. The vented gills on the Sonic really to help shed extra heat when the temps rise. The thing also packs away incredibly small for a 0 degree bag. NEMO Sonic bag has got anyone covered in the northern or mountain states six months of the year.
Bottom Line: Heat regulating innovation in a super cush, warm, and compact bag.
Get the NEMO Sonic 0 °F Sleeping Bag here.
Smith Optics I/O7 Goggles
Smith Optics started their trade making goggles and that is one thing they still do remarkably well. When paired with a Smith helmet the IO/7s create a seamless fit for long days on the mountain. The quick detach system allows you to interchange between the two included lenses as lighting and conditions change throughout the day. It’s simple enough that you can change out the lens on the lift ride up without even having to remove your gloves. The shape and size of the goggle creates an all day fit that doesn’t cut down on vision. Available in multiple lens options, the IO/7 can accommodate any lighting condition on the mountain.
Bottom Line: Incredible all day comfort and easy lens interchangeability.
Get the Smith Optics IO/7 here.
Fogging goggles are common problem during the winter, especially when humidity is high. Newer high-end goggles have all variety of vents and even electric fans to help keep the lenses crystal clear. Most days, these vents work, but there will always be conditions when it’s almost impossible to keep the inside of the lens dry and fog free. This is especially true for those who hike to gain access to side-country and backcountry terrain while skiing or snowboarding. ABOM recognized this problem and they have an absolute solution. Similar to the technology that defrosts the rear window of your vehicle, ABOM sandwiches a battery powered heat conductive layer between the inner and outer lens. With the push of a button you can forget about your eyewear and focus on ripping the perfect line.
Bottom Line: A goggle with a solution to a real problem that quickly clears the lens. Easily one of the most innovative and must have products of this winter season.
Get ABOM Goggles here.
Smith Optics Guides Choice
The Smith Optics Guides Choice features killer ChromaPop clarity with an integrated leash that keeps them with the wearer and not anywhere else. Available in a variety of lenses, the Ignitor lens is outstanding when on the water or in flat light conditions. Comfortable enough to wear throughout the day without nose or temple discomfort, the integrated leash keeps things simple when you want to let them hang from your neck. With or without the leash, the Smith Optics Guide’s Choice are built for the fisherman and outdoorsman in mind.
Bottom Line: Amazing clarity with a leash that keeps them hanging around.
Get the Smith Optics Guide’s Choice here.
Granite Gear Nimbus Trace 70
I didn’t take a hunting specific pack for the hike into basecamp. In recent years, I haven’t been on many larger scale hunts that would require a specific pack like the ones below. Plus, having a pack for every activity can get very expensive. I instead chose the Nimbus Trace Access 70 because it’s the exact model that Lonnie Dupre used to make his summit of Denali in January of this year – the first winter solo summit of the mountain. On the heavy side, I had it right at 60 lbs and it felt like 35 lbs on my back. For heavy loads, this is without a doubt the most comfortable pack I’ve ever worn (I obviously haven’t worn them all, but for versatility and comfort I haven’t used better). From weekend to two-week long trips, this pack is a definite winner.
Granite Gear Virga 26
Right at 16 ounces, the Virga 26 is perfect for the minimalist. The pack does not have a frame or stay, so its easy to roll up, stash away, and then bust out when needed. Use a hydration bladder or an old piece of foam sleeping mat to prevent any awkward pressure points in your back. Solid construction, materials, and light weight make this the perfect ultralight adventurer/hunters day pack.
*Gear keeps getting lighter and in an upcoming article I show how to combine this pack with a 35 degree sleeping bag, pad, tent, and stove, all under a combined weight of 7 pounds.
Klymit Motion 35
Klymit takes their sleeping pad construction and integrates it into an ultralight pack capable of carrying more weight than any other “frameless” pack. Weighing just 1.5 lbs, the Motion 35 is a minimalist pack with all the features of a full frame pack of equal size. The Air Beam Framesheet inflation can be adjusted depending on the load and user preference. Additionally, the Air Beam can be deflated and stuffed minimal space until needed. Overall, the comfort of the Air Frame is quite amazing and durability has not been an issue. In the event its needed, the Air Beam can also be used as a bivy pad or seat on rough and uneven terrain.
Bottom Line: An ultralight pack with innovative comfort.
Get the Klymit Motion 35 here.
GEIGERRIG – Tactical 1600
The folks at Geigerrig have developed one of the best bladder/hydration systems I’ve used. If you are unfimiliar with their products, the bladder has two chambers, one for water and one for air. The air chamber can be filled to create pressurized drinking system. This is great for time when you are breathing hard, need to share water with your friend or dog, or need to spray something off (like cleaning the sand out of an M4 magazine).
I carried the Geigerrig Tactical 1600 system everyday while hunting. The pack is very comfortable and the materials are extremely abrasion resistant (500D Cordura). The coating on the inside of the Cordura kept the inside of my pack dry during light rain, but I suggest getting a pack cover for heavier rains. In retrospect, I probably would have left this pack at home and brought the bladder if I was on this type of hunt again. This pack is perfect if you are on a mission overseas or working out of a basecamp.
Bottom Line: Good pack with and even better hydration system.
Get the GEIGERRIG – Tactical 1600 here.
Hill People Gear
This was the one piece of kit that went with me everywhere with me during hunting season. I’ve even skied while wearing the Kit Bag. For carrying the essentials, it is hard to beat the Kit Bag. The Kit bag sits comfortably on the chest and can be adjusted however high or low you want. I carried my compass, map, emergency survival gear, lunch and a simple repair kit all on my chest. The access is fast and easy. When loaded down, there are extra buckles that can affix to your pack straps and create a counter balance. At one point, I wore the Hill People Gear Original Kit Bag on over 12 hours a day over the course of a week. When packing for my next trip, this will be the first item on my list. I look forward to getting my hands on some of their other gear.
Bottom Line: Easy access to the essentials in a burly constructed and comfortable chest rig.
Deuter On Top ABS Series
As more and more people venture into the backcountry, the need for proper avalanche educatoin and gear more necessary than ever. Saying that, an avalanche air bag pack is definitely a niche item and they are not cheap. Deuter has teamed up with ABS to create a pack that will keep you on top if disaster strikes in the mountains. Some may balk at the price, but there are multiple individuals that may not have survived if it weren’t for an air bag deployment during an avalanche. Dueter continues to make some of the most comfortable and functional packs on the market with the inclusion of the ABS system. The On Top series of packs ranges from daypacks to packs capable of 3+ night trips into the mountains.
When needed, the t-handle can be pulled which initiates a nitrogen canister inside of the pack and inflates the bags. During an avalanche all of the large pieces stay on top an that’s exactly what you want to be in the event of a disaster.
Bottom Line: Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. All the features of a high-end alpine climbing pack with the safety of an ABS system.
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 32 w/AvaLung
The Dawn Patrol pulls features from Black Diamond’s line of Alpine and Ski packs, combining the into one bad ass pack with the safety of the AvaLung. Although the AvaLung can’t prevent you from being buried in the event of an Avalanche, it can give you the time and air you need to survive while rescue efforts take place. Our resident professional mountain guide, JC, has been beating the Dawn Patrol up and down the Sierras this winter. Able to carry either skis or a snowboard, there is also room for all your daily essentials to include shovel and avalanche probe. The Dawn Patrol replaces the need for a alpine climbing pack and skiing pack and combines it into one functional survival tool for the back or side-country.
Bottom Line: All the features you need with the added bonus of breathing while buried.
Knives and Tools
Helle of Norway Utvær
This is the sharpest “out of the box” blade I’ve ever encountered. To test how sharp this blade really is, I shaved a section of my face and it didn’t disappoint or send me to the hospital. Made from Sandvik 12C27 steel the Utvær will not only slice with ease, but the full tang and blade thickness inspires confidence during aggressive use. From the leather sheath to the birchwood handle, each Helle of Norway Utvær is handmade in Norway. As a hunting or woodsman knife, the Utvær is an ideal companion. A bit too large to be used as an EDC, the Utvær’s place is in the mountains.
Bottom Line: A beautiful hand constructed blade that begs to be abused.
Get the Helle Norway Utvær here.
Gerber Freescape Folding Sheath Knife
Depending on your budget this may be the knife you decide to carry for everything; hiking, camping and outdoors related. If the knife is used within its means then it will serve you well for many years. Gerber knives have been around for many years and manufacture a solid product, I know because I carried a Gerber knife during my active duty years as a Marine, and it never failed me. Overall, this blade performs pretty damn good for basic tasks in the yard, or out at the camp site. The blade excels at prepping sticks for roasting marshmallows or hotdogs. I was able to produce several feather sticks for fire prep – something I believe every field knife should be able to do.
Bottom Line: A reasonably priced blade that can perform a myriad of task when called upon.
It’s no secret that we at the Loadout Room are huge fans of Emerson blades. If you are looking for a great knife you can count on for many years, look at the the CQC-15 Mini, or one of the other models we have reviewed. Like other Emerson knives, the CQC-15 Mini features the wave. When pulled from a pocket, the wave feature creates a one handed auto-deployable blade. Made in the USA and from some of the best materials available, this knife will not let you down. If you are willing to spend the money, this may be the last knife you will ever need. In an EDC size, the CQC-15 Mini easily fits into a variety of pockets, yet is easily deployed at a moments notice.
Bottom Line: Superior craftsmanship in an EDC blade when you need it most.
Get the Emerson CQC-15 Mini here.
Hults Bruk Almike Hatchet
Due to the compact size of this hatchet it is at home on your belt – just slide the handle through your belt and the axe head will keep it in place. The Almike hatchet is ideally suited for small game processing, processing wood for the camp fire, and other woodsman tasks. In a pinch, this small hatchet could be used as a close quarters weapon. Rogers Rangers included the hatchet in their ‘Rules Of Ranging‘ twice indicating it was an important piece of their loadout – keep your powder dry and your hatchet sharp.
Bottom Line: A smaller sized hatchet that can accomplish some very big jobs.
Get the Hults Bruk Almike Hatchet here.
Mammut 8.7 Infinity Dry Rope
Trad, sport, or ice, the Mammut Serenity 8.7 mm rope will keep you as light as possible. Being one of the lightest and thinnest single ropes on the market, the Serenity clips like a dream and won’t weigh you down on multi-pitch climbs or days in the mountains. Mammut’s dry treatment keeps moisture and dirt out of the rope fibers in the most extreme conditions. Not only does the rope has a very soft catch in the event of a fall, but this ultra-thin rope is also extremely durable for its size. Built for the hardest of climbs, the Serenity will save you the weight when every gram counts.
Bottom Line: You don’t have to be the best climber in the world to appreciate how well this rope handles.
Get the Mammut Serenity here.
Designed for those always on the go, the Java Can contains every you need for a perfect cup of coffee. Created by a current US Army Special Forces member, the Java Can is designed to travel everywhere you want to go. Do to its compact and clean nature, you don’t have to worry about make a coffee ground mess or irritated friends when you realize you forgot the filters at home. Our Media Director, Nick Cahill, keeps a Java Can in his bus, so he always has a fresh brew during his travels.
Bottom Line: A compact and clean way to make a regular cup of coffee or a fancy capuccino.
Get the Java Can here.
Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire
Running, skiing, mountaineering, strength training, or a night out, this watch does it all. Every time this timepiece is used, a new feature is discovered. If you are looking for that one watch for all your outdoor pursuits then this is it. The Fenix 3 easily tracks your runs at the ski area, to how much vertical you put in on your latest backpacking trip. The sport options are easily customizable and also compatible with Garmin’s heart rate monitors and even syncs to your smartphone. Over the last few months, durability has not been an issue and the watch is rarely taken off. The Sapphire comes with an adjustable metal band as well as a standard sport band for the more active.
Bottom Line: If this watch was lost or stolen, I would be breaking out the plastic for a quick replacement.
Get the Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire here.