Head to Toe: Trail-Ready Apparel
Published on 04/17/2012
By Peter Reese
Check out these 5 pieces of apparel: they kept our testers happy on the trail.
BROOKS-RANGE BACKCOUNTRY SWEATER
The down shirt phenomenon appears to be crested as mass-merchandisers and outlet stores stuff their racks with quasi-outdoor styles. While the price points are enticing, the performance-to-weight and suitability for layering are big question marks.
No surprise that Brooks-Range offers a bomber, center-of-the-kit option with the Backcountry Sweater. More like a cloud inflated with premium 800 fill down, the B.S. is no joke when temperatures drop. For around camp wear, testers gained confidence in the durability of the Pertex skin despite the scary-light feel of the piece. Be prepared to pay what this piece is really worth, given the all-season utility B-R offers with this one. A comfy fleece collar and sensible pockets make the B.S. a backcountry and adventure travel companion that’s always at the ready – and one that imitators are not likely to touch anytime soon.
BRIDGEDALE X-HALE TRAILBLAZE SOCK
The bio-engineered, genetically programmed sock thing is beginning to, quite literally, wear thin. No amount of lab time can guarantee trail-worthy performance across months and repeated wash cycles. Thread alchemy boils down to one metric: Comfort Per Mile. Despite hundreds of options on the peg hooks across the U.S., few stay the course the way Active Junky expects.
The Bridgedale name is familiar to serious trekking amateurs and a significant number of expedition leaders. More intentional than whimsical in make-up and design, the X-HALE model is akin to military issue rather than weekend dress-up, round-the-parking lot hiking socks. Cushioned in the right places while mustering a four-element fiber recipe that includes 31% Merino wool, the Bridgedale scores well above average on Comfort Per Mile. Part of a diverse line that balances warmth against cushioning, X-HALE rated highly in waterproof boots as it managed the foot environment for sustainable comfort.
AYG TRANSDRY BOXER BRIEF
Range far and wide, from urban clubs to whitewater runs, and keep the underwear situation manageable. Frequent laundromat visits are as abhorrent as well-aged briefs when adventure calls (but personal hygiene gets in its two cents as well).
AYG (All Year Gear) could be said to come to the rescue in this essential category. Fit, fly function and durability are solid. So is the anti-microbial, easy-care nature of the AYG, offered in 96% cotton/4% Spandex to hold the line when washed in sinks or hostel showers. Faster drying than other options while providing superior comfort, Active Junky testers only regretted the plain colors tested didn’t fully allow for personal expression. A reasonable trade-off for globetrotting utility, the team agreed.
POLARMAX TECHNICAL BASE LAYER
The epic (and not-soon winnable) war between synthetic and natural base layer fibers wages on. Active Junky testers have worn their share of poly and poly-blend tops that promised great value but fizzled in real-world settings. Many pill or pull easily, while others have a plastic-coated feeling that doesn’t work next to the skin.
PolarMax is the outdoor athlete’s friend as the fiber war lasts another season. Cut for aerobic pursuits more than ice fishing or tail-gating, their heaviest models including the QUATRO FLEECE ZIP combo up with a well-sealed shell to enjoy outside activities down past the freezing mark. A bargain on the weight side, PM launders easily without retaining body odors. Despite frequently cleaning, testers have yet to push this one into the pilling zone or feel like they’re encased in plastic food wrap. In fact, the QUATRO among the best in insulating value while retaining welcome breathability.
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TERRAMAR THERMAWOOL BEANIE
Connect with a beanie that covers a lot of ground, whether frozen or not. Under a ski or cycling helmet or by itself in the backcountry, the right headwear can pack a lot of protection and style into a few, crammable ounces.
Terramar’s THERMALWOOL BEANIE is simply smart. From the reversible 96% 18.5 micron merino wool/4% Spandex blend all the way to a smooth jersey knit fabric, this beanie was an instant success with testers. Breathability and insulation is part of the merino story, one Terramar jumped on to land a sensible product at an accessible price. Cut to stretch or slouch at will, the beanie lands more on the side of functional than attention getting at clubs. Travelers with fast and light on their minds will want to put this one into their brains – and on their shopping list.
Earn cash back on the Terramar Thermalwool Beanie (Search "Terramar beanie" to find this hat!)