Gadling’s cold weather gift guide

Patagonia Wanaka jacket coat cold weather gift guide winter Gadling gadlingChristmas is less than two weeks away (and Hanukkah wishes are now being expressed belatedly), and that’s still plenty of time to shop for all of your favorite people. We’ve already covered the best gifts for outdoor travelers and the top luxury travel gifts, so this time around we’re focusing on people who embrace winter.

You know the type: the adventurers who see snow and can’t wait to get outside to enjoy the season. OK, these gifts are also for people who barely tolerate a cool breeze and just need some gear to help them survive the next three months.

However, don’t have to simply survive winter. You can enjoy it – and look good – with the right gear. So, bundle up, pour some hot cocoa into your favorite travel mug (we’ll get to that shortly) and head outside. We rallied the Gadling troops and put together a list of our favorite winter gear. This is Gadling’s cold weather gift guide.

Mike Barish

I love the Patagonia Wanaka down jacket (pictured above). There’s nothing I hate more than someone in a fashionable pea coat complaining about the cold. Maybe if they dressed properly, they’d be comfortable. On the flip side, so many warm coats are just plain ugly. Unlike all the bubble jackets you’ll see everyone wearing every winter, the Wanaka is a down jacket that actually looks good. It manages to combine fashion and function by looking sleek while packing 600-fill down inside. ($349 at Patagonia)

I also never leave the house without my Dale of Norway knit cap. Dale of Norway gear is beyond warm and I could probably wear nothing but their knit cap and still be comfortable outside. I haven’t been able to find my exact hat online (my girlfriend picked it up while she was in Norway) but you can shop for their gear at high-end sporting goods stores and sites such as Amazon and Zappos. ($49 on Amazon)

If you like to take coffee (or, if you’re like me, hot chocolate) with you, then you’re going to want to carry it in Klean Kanteen’s insulated bottle. It will keep your beverages hot for an astonishingly long time. (Starting at $22.95 at Klean Kanteen)

Grant Martin

icebreaker realfleece aspiring hood winter gear gift guide GadlingOur well-traveled editor is a big fan of the Icebreaker 320 RealFleece Aspiring Hood. He’s sung its praises previously and continues to enjoy Icebreaker equipment. The merino wool keeps you warm and doesn’t absorb odor. Great for when you’re breaking a sweat on the slopes, chopping wood or just building a snowman. ($200 at Icebreaker)

Darren Murph

Leave it to our favorite Engadget Associate Editor to recommend the Recon-Zeal Transcend goggles with built-in GPS. As he noted on Engadget, these goggles are “equipped with a Zeal Optics’ frame design with a micro LCD display, which appears to hang approximately six feet in front of the user. That head-mounted display provides real-time feedback to the wearer, including speed, latitude / longitude, altitude, vertical distance traveled, total distance traveled, a chrono / stopwatch mode, a run-counter, temperature and time.” Wow. ($399 or $499 depending on model at Zeal Optics)

Scott Carmichael

For someone who lives in Chicago, Scott sure does hate winter. Maybe that’s why he recommended Zippo’s new hand warmer. It might look like a classic Zippo lighter, but you won’t see any flame coming out of this hand warmer. It uses Zippo lighter fluid to provide hunters, skiiers and Chicago commuters with portable warmth when their fingers start to go numb. ($19.95 at Zippo)

Kent Wien

gadling gear guide winter arc'teryxGadling’s resident pilot loves Arc’teryx gear (so much so that he let us use a picture of his lovely wife, Linda, modeling some of her favorite pieces). Linda highly recommended her Beta AR jacket and Strato fleece. According to Kent, “You’ll be drawn in by the colors and schemes, and hooked when you see the functionality (pockets everywhere). And then you’ll likely take a step back when you see the price. But if you take the plunge, you’ll probably be hooked on their products for life.” ($450 and $175, respectively, at Arc’teryx or much cheaper on Amazon)

Alex Robertson Textor

Alex loves Fox River Socks’ Red Heel Monkey Socks. According to Alex, “Fox River Socks manufactures the original Rockford Red Heel monkey sock, and apparently every pack of socks from Fox River comes with monkey sock instructions. I love these socks for their warmth and feel during winter.” ($12 at Fox River Socks)

Laurel Miller

Laurel gushed about her Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket. “It’s microlight (9 oz.), compresses to the size of a softball, 850 plus fill power goosedown, and it’s gotten me through a winter in Telluride (including skiing, which I usually won’t do in down), and mountaineering in a blizzard on the world’s highest active volcano in Ecuador. I wore a waterproof shell over it in that instance. I’ve slept in it on camping trips, and have generally abused the hell out of it and it’s still maintaining it’s loft, and is in perfect condition (albeit a bit grubby). I got caught in a Seattle rainstorm yesterday wearing it, and it still didn’t soak through. It’s the ultimate traveler’s/backpackers jacket, and great for women like me who are perpetually cold, but don’t want to wear a bulky jacket or loads of layers.” ($260 on Amazon)

Kraig Becker

Perhaps no one at Gadling knows more about outdoor gear than Kraig. When he recommends products, we all listen. He’s a big fan of the Outdoor Research Alti Gloves. “A good layering system is only part of the answer for staying warm. You’ll also want something to keep your hands and head warm too. For the hands, I recommend a pair of Alti Gloves from Outdoor Research, which are designed for technical climbing in extreme conditions, which means they’ll also keep you warm on the slopes, during a winter hike, or any other winter outdoor activity.” ($150 at Outdoor Research)

Kraig also recommends layering in the winter, including starting with PolarMax Base Layers. “These base layers come in three varieties; warm, warmer, and warmest. Most Gadling readers will probably be very happy with the “Travel Weight” option, which is light weight, but still very warm. For colder weather outdoor adventures, such as backcountry skiing or snowshoeing, jump up to the “Mountain Skins,” which are high performance gear for the active cold weather traveler.” (Starting at $19.99 at Sport Chalet and other sporting goods retailers)

Lastly, Kraig loves the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Hangfire Hoodie. “Their Hangfire Hoodie is an amazing piece of gear that works great as an outer layer jacket in cool weather and an insulating layer in under a shell in cold weather. It is form fitting, but designed to move, making it easy to be very active while not limiting motion. It also looks great and is just as comfortable for use around town as it is in the backcountry. I highly recommend this one!” ($99 at Eddie Bauer)

Annie Scott

Annie loves the feel of cashmere and recommends White + Warren for all of your cashmere needs. That said, when it’s time to be practical with a pair of gloves that keep you warm and let you use your iPhone, she has other ideas. “Tec Touch gloves let you use your iPhone and other devices with your gloves on.” (Starting at $20 at 180s)

McLean Roberts

I recently invested in a pair of Pajar Davos boots. They’re the perfect winter weather wear – not so much gear as they are a fashion statement that actually keeps you both warm and comfortable … Think more apres ski in Telluride or Aspen than anything else. Made of real fur and lined with sheep, these sturdy and comfortable boots are both waterproof and durable, boasting a sturdy rubber liner at the bottom that prevents slipping. Oh, and they aren’t Uggs, so people won’t make fun of you. Okay, they might…I look like I’m wearing a small animal on my foot, but at least I’m warm.” ($350 at Jildor Shoes)

Melanie Nayer

gadling winter gear guide stanley flaskWe’ll wrap things up with the wise words of one of our editors:

I love winter. The idea of bundling up in warm sweaters, cozy scarfs and mittens and cuddling by the fire after snowshoeing through the mountains is a perfect way to celebrate the season, in my opinion. But when it comes to the best winter gear, I simply have no idea. I take whatever is warmest from my closet and layer it on, but when Mike asked us to submit our favorites I couldn’t ignore his request.

A good flask and a little whiskey go a long way. I couldn’t tell you what brand my snow boots are or what layer of warmth my ski pants are tagged, but I can assure you a little Johnny Walker Black can warm you up nicely on a cold winter’s day.

So very true. Melanie didn’t recommend a specific flask, but we’ve long had our eyes on this handsome model from Stanley. It holds eight ounces of your favorite warming liquid and you’ll never lose the cap. ($20 at Stanley)

Gadling gear review: Arc’teryx Gamma MX Hoody

Many people turn to a single jacket when winter weather rolls in. They have a go-to parka that keeps them warm and dry. If your winter activities are limited to commuting to work and running errands, then one such warm coat probably is all you need from November through February. But if you are as active in the winter as you are in the summer, then you know that aerobic activity can often keep you warmer than any amount of down filler can. As such, you need a coat that is breathable, water-resistant and allows for an active lifestyle.

That’s why I was excited to test out the Arc’teryx Gamma MX Hoody. Arc’teryx is known for making outdoor gear with sleek lines and durable construction. The Gamma MVX Hoody is made for alpine conditions, and, as such, provides flexibility and warmth while remaining breathable. I brought the Gamma MX Hoody to Newfoundland, Canada for some adventure activities to see if it lived up to the Arc’teryx reputation.First, the nitty gritty. The Arc’teryx MX Hoody has the stretch necessary to allow for a full range of motion. With two chest pockets, two hand pockets and one sleeve pocket, there is ample storage space. It does, however, lack an interior pocket. It is well-sealed, water-resistant and immaculately constructed. You get the impression that you could fall off of a mountain, hit every rock on the way down and the jacket would be in perfect condition (even if your body wasn’t).

The fleece lining in the Gamma MX Hoody provides ample warmth provided it is supplemented with aerobic activity to generate additional heat in your core. It is not meant to replace a solid winter coat for when you’re walking the dog or waiting in line for a movie in sub-freezing temperatures. But, if you’re snowshoeing, mountain climbing or hiking, you’ll be more than comfortable in the jacket.

The warmth and resistance to the elements come from the Polartec Power Shield softshell fabric that makes the jacket both durable and breathable. It also allows for that full-range of motion that an outdoor athlete needs.

Like almost all other Arc’teryx gear, the Gamma MX Hoody features a very slim cut. I wear a medium in virtually every other coat that I’ve worn (ranging in manufacturers from Cloudveil to Patagonia to Mountain Hardwear). Arc’teryx gear is taut and constrictive on me in anything less than a large. However, in the proper size – in this case, a large – the Gamma MX Hoody fit snugly while still allowing for several base layers to be worn comfortably.

The snug fit did pose a problem in the cuffs. Many winter coats provide Velcro straps on the cuffs to allow for adjustment in the tightness around gloves. The Gamma MX Hoody lacks these tabs. As such, the cuffs on the Gamma MX Hoody are tight, which makes taking the jacket on and off more challenging than it should be. Adjustable straps would solve this problem simply.

As you can imagine from the name, the Gamma MX Hoody comes with an attached hood. It does not retract into a pocket, so, regardless of the conditions, the hood will be hanging off of your collar. Since I much prefer a coat that allows for rolling the hood into a zipped pocket in the collar, it took some getting used to when I would find my hood uncomfortably wedged beneath my backpack. The hood is made to fit over a helmet, which is necessary considering that the jacket is intended for alpine use. However, despite being able to tighten the hood, I still found it comically large when I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Despite attempts to tighten it fully, the hood often billowed over my head and would fall off as I walked. This would expose my neck and face to snow and rain.

As always, I like to boil things down to the basics:

Pros

  • Outstanding construction and incredible durability
  • Flexibility allows for full range of motion
  • Plenty of pockets
  • Water-resistant and well-sealed
  • Fleece lining provides warmth to supplement aerobic heat

Cons

  • Slim cut may create a tighter fit than expected
  • Tight cuffs with no adjustable straps
  • Hood is large and does not retract into the collar

Overall, this is a fantastic coat if you maintain an active lifestyle in cold weather. While it is not a replacement for a heavy parka, it is an excellent addition to the gear collection of any winter adventurer. The jacket provides ample warmth once you start your activities and is built to last. However, I strongly recommend that you try it on in person, as Arc’teryx products are cut much slimmer than other outdoor gear brands.

You can purchase the Gamma MX Hoody directly from the Arc’tery website for $379.00. The durability of the coat will surely ensure that it pays for itself over years of aggressive use.

5 days 5 bags – day 3: ARC’TERYX Blade 30

Welcome to day 3 of our “5 days 5 bags” luggage lineup. The Arc’teryx Blade 30 (cool name!) is a travel backpack designed as part overnight bag/part laptop bag.

The Blade 30 features 2 main compartments – one portion is designed for your clothes and other items, and has an integrated fold-out suiter, the other has a laptop sling designed for most 15″ machines.

On the front of the bag are 2 expandable pockets, one for small items like your mobile phone and MP3 player, and another for slightly larger items like a water bottle or toiletries.

The bag has an integrated hard plastic shell in the back, and molded foam padding to reduce the load when you carry your stuff around.

The inside of the main portion with the folding clothes bag, perfect for keeping pants and shirts from getting (too) wrinkled.

On the back of the bag is a hidden pocket, which is perfect for tickets and other valuables. On the top of the bag is an oversized carrying strap, which you’ll also find on the side.

This side handle is very well designed, as it is built around a hard plastic frame, which means you can carry it using the handle, without the bag sagging.

I really like the concept of a rugged and well designed bag suitable for a day trip. I packed the bag with the kind of stuff I’d normally drag along on an overnight trip, and even when I placed a 15″ laptop in its side loading compartment, everything fit very nicely. The thick padded straps and molded foam back plate made it quite comfortable to carry.

I was especially impressed by the hard plastic protection inside the back of the bag, which helps add a little extra protection when you store a laptop inside it. My only (very minor) complaint with the Blade 30 is the color of the inside portion – I’m convinced that bright green is a color just asking to get grimy after a couple of trips.

Dimensions (W*H*D): 14*21*4
Weight: 3.51lb
Colors available: Black, raisin
Warranty: Lifetime
Price: $199.95
Product page: Arc’teryx

Gadling Gear Review: Arc’teryx Atlas AR Jacket

Nothing is more important in your adventure travel than packing the correct gear for the job. Whether this is the right set of cams for a pitch through Joshua Tree or a comfortable pair of all purpose shoes for exploring Venice, the wrong gear can drastically affect the way you travel and ultimately can make or break a trip.

Skiing, in particular is a sensitive topic for me. Having spent each winter on a different hill for the past dozen years, I’ve always struggled to find the right gear to keep me warm – keep my fingers and toes correctly insulated, my face dry and my head covered, and I’ve constantly been let down by the performance of my gear.

Four years ago I finally found a system that worked well for me in the Salomon Advanced Skin line of jackets, a two part series that is extremely waterproof and just as warm to boot.

Technology has advanced, since then, however, and on a recent ski excursion to Snowbird in Salt Lake City I decided to take a look at the newest state of the art. Arc’teryx’s Atlas AR jacket, their top of the line insulated mountainside system was where I started

Key requirements? It needed to be lightweight, warm and waterproof. But with technology as advanced as it is today, all jackets should have these features, right? So I’ll take a look through some of the finer details of the jacket, what takes the technology above and beyond the competition, what areas I’d like to see improved and explain what justifies the $400 price tag.
Among adventure gear brands, Arc’teryx has long had a reputation as one of the best designers and manufacturers. Zippers are taped and seamed, and zippers are well and thoughtfully built to be waterproof and not invasive. So regardless of how much snow or sleet you splash onto them they won’t let in moisture. The Atlas AR is no exception, with two hip pockets, a left sternum pocket, two inner compartments and a left arm pocket.

Outside, the jacket is large and well styled with smooth Gore Windstopper material on the outer faces. At 6’3″, the Large was almost too long for me, although I suppose that’s important for keeping snow out of your pants when you wipe out. The tall collar has a zippered compartment from which a hood can be extracted, adding an additional layer if conditions are hazardous, but this also limits your side-to-side visibility, so if you’re bombing down the mountainside you probably want to keep this down.

Inside, the waterproof shell is insulated with lightweight, PrimaLoft media. This means that you get the waterproof, lightweight benefits of a regular shell but you also have insulation inside of the jacket so that you don’t need an extra fleece layer. It also means that you’re going to be warm on the mountainside. With the weather at about 30 degrees I wore a base layer, long sleeve t-shirt and sweater underneath my Atlas AR jacket, and by the time I reached the chair lift I was roasting.

It’s misleading in a way, because the jacket is so light and compactable, but that little amount of insulation in the jacket goes a long, long way.

It’s also got a standard powder skirt, draw strings at the waist and nifty sleeve skirts for wrists so that you don’t get snow up your arms.

One interesting feature of the jacket is the Recco avalanche beacon. A small black patch on your upper right arm is where the passive beacon sits, and in case of any emergencies, anyone (presumably, the ski patrol) with a Recco detector should be able to find you under the snow by tracking this beacon. Pretty cool, if you’re skiing in avalanche zones, but probably not necessary if you’re riding on the paltry hills of the Midwest. Unfortunately, I was not able to test the Recco avalanche beacon.

Taking the jacket down the hill, the first thing that you’ll probably notice about the Atlas AR is how windproof it is. If you tuck your face into the tall collar, you can barely feel an external effects on your body, and I took more than one run in this manner.

The tall collar is great for this use, but with it in close proximity to your mouth, it does tend to build up moisture and if your neck is small like mine, it’ll scoop up snow pretty quickly while you’re tomahawking down the hill. Many jackets have a felt or cloth material right at the collar to keep your face warm and dry, but the Atlas AR doesn’t have this. Any resulting moisture around your neck area will therefore just bleed down the inside front of the jacket.

This can be a bit of a concern if you’re carrying your phone or camera on the inside of your jacket. I usually keep my electronics inside of my jacket or well positioned in case (when) I fall, but I found that the outside pockets were in sensitive places and the inside pockets were moist, so I ended up keeping most of my equipment in my jeans. Comparatively, in my Solomon jacket there is an external clavicle pocket where I tend to keep my camera.

Otherwise, the jacket performed well on and off the hill, keeping me warm, away from wind, and providing a wealth of places to store gear. Oh and on top of that, it looks great. Even though my demo model was Oscar-the-Grouch-green, I got a lot of compliments.

Would I buy one? Maybe not for the $400 off the shelf, but if it was a good price at the end of the season I would seriously consider it.