Gadling Gear Review: Polarmax PMX Hoodie Base Layer

Polarmax PMX Hoodie base layerIt may be hard to believe, but the arrival of winter is now just a few short weeks away, bringing colder temperatures and plenty of snow with it. But the start of the season doesn’t have to mean the end of our outdoor adventures, provided we have the right gear to keep us warm and dry. Staying comfortable in the elements begins and ends with a good layering system, with the outer shell and mid-layer fleece both playing important roles. But the base layer is perhaps the most important piece of clothing in our entire winter wardrobe, as it sits closest to the skin, keeping us warm while wicking away moisture.

Polarmax is a company that specializes in making great winter gear, especially base layers. They offer their apparel in a variety of colors and weights, providing options for a range of temperatures. But perhaps the most versatile, not to mention fun, base layer in their line-up is the PMX Hoodie, a piece of gear that will keep you warm on the slopes or trail, and still looking great back at the lodge.

Made from a blend of Polarmax’s proprietary Acclimate fabrics and spandex, the PMX Hoodie is surprisingly lightweight and yet incredibly warm. Those same fabrics are designed to pull moisture away from the skin, keeping the chill off the body as much as possible. The exterior of the garment offers top-notch technical performance while the interior is lined with brushed fleece that is very soft against the skin. The Hoodie also has the benefit of being treated with anti-microbial and anti-odor guards, which help keep it clean and smelling fresh even after wearing it during vigorous workouts.As someone who routinely takes part in a number of outdoor activities, no matter what the thermometer reads, I found a lot to like in the PMX Hoodie. Its athletic cut fits snugly against the body, just as a good base layer should, but it does so without restricting movement in any way. This combination of qualities is very much appreciated whether you’re spending a whole day snowshoeing through the backcountry or running errands around the block. The built-in hood, from which the shirt derives its name, is also a great option for when the snow starts flying unexpectedly.

Unlike most other base layers, which generally resemble high-tech underwear, the PMX Hoodie is actually stylish enough to wear around town. In fact, unless someone pointed out that it was a piece of technical apparel, I doubt anyone would be able to tell the difference. Its casual good looks wouldn’t be of much benefit, however, if the hoodie didn’t perform well as a stand-alone layer. Fortunately, I found that it was comfortable and warm on its own even as the mercury drops.

As well as the PMX Hoodie performs on its own, it works even better as part of a full layering system. Pair it with a fleece layer for colder temperatures, and add a technical shell during more extreme conditions, and you have all the gear you need for most winter adventures. It is amazing how versatile a system like this one can be, particularly when traveling. Mix and match the fleece and shell layers as needed, and you truly have everything you need to enjoy active outings even in sub-zero temperatures.

Speaking of travel, the PMX Hoodie makes a great travel companion. Not only does it pack small, the fact that it is easy to clean and staves off odors comes in handy on longer trips as well. And when you return home, it is completely machine washable and dryable, and doesn’t shrink a bit. Not all technical garments are easy to care for and Polarmax should be commended for making it so simple for us.

They should also be commended for making such a great piece of winter gear affordable as well. The PMX Hoodie costs just $69.95, which is a real bargain for a base layer that performs so well. It’ll even make a great gift for your favorite skier or snowboarder this holiday season.

[Photo Credit: Polarmax]

Gadling Gear Review: High Peak Latitude Zero-Degree Sleeping Bag

High Peak Latitude Sleeping BagIt may seem hard to believe, but winter is a lot closer than any of us would like to admit. When it arrives, it will inevitably bring cold temperatures and plenty of snow and ice. But the shift in weather doesn’t mean we have to put an end to our outdoor adventures for the season. With the proper gear, we can still enjoy all of our favorite activities including camping. In fact, winter camping can be incredibly rewarding and fun, provided you go well equipped with a good four-season tent and a sleeping bag specifically designed for the cold conditions.

High Peak, a company that specializes in excellent, yet affordable, outdoor equipment offers a line of sleeping bags that are specifically designed for cool and cold weather camping. Their new Latitude line of bags come in 20°F, 0°F and -5°F versions, which make them perfect for a variety of conditions. These mummy-style bags are comfortable, warm and lightweight, which makes them perfect options for not only camping, but backpacking and general travel as well.

Using a proprietary fill that they call CozyTherm, High Peak has managed to create a bag that rivals traditional down in terms of warmth, while still keeping weight to a minimum. CozyTherm is designed to reflect body heat back into the interior of the bag, keeping the person inside comfortably warm. It also has the ability to wick moisture away as well, keeping the interior nicely dry. This comes in especially handy during the winter when cold, wet conditions can be a recipe for disaster.In addition to providing a warm and dry place to sleep, the Latitude bag has plenty of other nice touches as well. Its exterior is wrapped in durable rip-stop nylon that can take plenty of punishment on the trail without scuffing or tearing. The bag also has a comfortable hood that seals up around the head to provide extra warmth on cold nights. An interior pocket keeps small items, such as an iPod or headlamp close at hand, while high quality zippers keep the interior cozy, without hindering the ability to get in and out of the bag.

While I haven’t had the opportunity to test my Latitude 0° bag in severely cold temperatures as of yet, I can tell you that it definitely provides a warm and comfortable nights sleep. I believe that High Peak’s estimated temperature ratings on each of these bags is spot on, meaning that whichever version you select, it will perform well at the temperature it is designed for.

Having spent plenty of time in mummy bags over the years, I personally find them quite comfortable. Not everyone shares that feeling however, as these types of bags can feel a bit claustrophobic and restrictive for the uninitiated. Mummy style sleeping bags are the most efficient for use in cold weather however, as they help prevent excess heat loss and keep your head much warmer too.

Overall, the Latitude 0° sleeping bag has exceeded my expectations in terms of features and performance, but it stands out from the crowd for other reasons as well. For instance, this bag tips the scales at just 3 pounds, 2 ounces, which should make it a good option for backpackers concerned with the weight of their packs. High Peak has also priced the bag quite nicely too, as it isn’t often that you’ll find a good winter sleeping bag that costs just $115.

Unfortunately, High Peak doesn’t currently offer a “long” version of their Latitude bags, and at 6’2″ in height, I felt a bit cramped at times. If you’re shorter than I am you should have no real issues, but if you’re any taller, you’ll probably want to look for other options.

Those searching for a good sleeping bag for winter camping, that won’t put too much of a hurt on their wallet, will find the High Peak Latitude an excellent option.

[Photo credit: High Peak]

Gift Guide for Cold Weather Adventurers

Tis the season to give (and okay, get) good gear. And in the northern hemisphere, tis this season to not give up on playing outside, on traveling even though it’s cold and rainy or cold and snowy or just plain cold. Help the cold weather adventurer on your gift list by giving gear that extends the season. Here are a few picks, all field tested by Gadling gear heads, that make adventures easier when temperatures drop.

Vacuum mug: You’ve got dozens of these kicking around the house too, but how many of them keep your drink hot for four hours, or more? Stanley’s vacuum mug is the bomb. Not only does it keep your coffee at tongue burning temps, it’s nearly impossible to spill, it’s designed to fit in the water bottle cage on your bike, it’s got a grit guard for street spray, it’s top notch. Bike commuter, cross country skier on your list? Get them this. About $26.00.

Warming insoles: Warm feet go a long way towards having a great day out in the cold. No matter how great my shoes, how excellent my socks, I still get cold feet. I really dislike those throwaway single use chemical warmers. There’s an alternative. Thermasoles heated insoles are rechargeable and last for about eight hours, a full day of playing outside. Your giftee might think they’re dorky at first, but one use in wet and cold and oh, it’s all gratitude. About $99.00.

Merino wool underwear: My all purpose packing list includes merino wool long underwear, regardless of climate and destination, great outdoors or urban winter. There are a bunch of brands, SmartWool, Ibex, Icebreaker… I’m not brand loyal, but I am materials loyal. Get merino for your beloved (or yourself) and you’ll have a base layer that lasts for many years. Between $75.00-$100.00 per piece and totally worth it.Snowshoes: Your hiking friend gets cranky when snow curtails the season? Put them back at the trail-head with a pair of snowshoes. There are dozens of brands — look for bindings that are easy to work in gloves and cleats that won’t get choked with snow and ice. I like MSR’s Lightning line and the recreational snowshoes from Crescent Moon. Up to about $200.00.

Down sweater: When you add a down sweater to a rain proof shell, you get to extend your temperature range to “Man, it’s cold out!” Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent line is a great choice and not too shockingly priced. Patagonia makes a pullover version that packs into a tiny stuff bag, that’s a bit pricier. A great gift for travelers in transitioning seasons, a down sweater takes up very little room in the pack. From $85.00-200.00, depending on the brand.

Great winter boots: I’m crazy for my Bogs, they’re great for stomping around in the snow or on cold beaches, they keep my feet warm and dry. Teva makes super cute insulated boots that are great for city wear in cold or wet places. If your giftee is more of the back country kind, try Keen’s Summit Country, recommended and field tested by fellow Gadling gearhead Kraig Becker. Up to $200.00

Four season sleeping bag: If the adventurer in your life doesn’t quit camping when the seasons turn to snow, a good winter bag is something they want — need, really, so they sleep warm when they’re sleeping out. GoLite’s Adrenaline Four Season Mummy was also field tested by Kraig (on Everest, no less) and he swears by it. $475.00

Photo: Snowshoeing in Altaussee, Austria. Courtesy of Nerd’s Eye View

Gear Review: Zippo Deluxe Hand Warmer

Zippo Deluxe Hand WarmerIf you have ever worked outside in the Winter, like it’s your job to be out there not just a run in from the car or out to walk the dog, you know there are three body parts you need to keep warm. Your head, your hands and your feet. Take care of those and the rest of you does just fine. The Zippo Hand Warmer makes a good addition to your arsenal of winter cold weapons.

How it works
The Zippo Hand Warmer takes lighter fluid and a what could best be described as a flameless fire to function. I found it easy enough to fill, a little tough to light the first time but after that it was easy. Once lit, there is no way to stop the heat, you just have to let it exhaust the fuel but that is no big deal. The unit produces a nice warm heat that is good to put in the pocket of a jacket, alternating side to side occasionally.

Product Value
At $19.95 and an estimated 80-use life, the Zippo Hand Warmer is a way better value than the next best thing: disposable hand warmers that work via a chemical reaction. One “use” of this product lasts a whole lot longer too.

Who would like this
I’d recommend this for hunters, outdoor sports people of all kinds. People who find themselves waiting around in the cold, maybe to catch a bus, would like this too. Someone wintering in Russia? Must have one.

The Company that made it
Zippo is one of those companies that has been around a long time (1932) and survived in spite of a changing world. Best known for quality “windproof” lighters their product line has expanded and adapted to todays marketplace. Their almost cult-like followers can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Where to get it
The Zippo Deluxe Hand Warmer is available directly from Zippo or at most major sporting goods stores.