Gadling’s cold weather gift guide

Christmas 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

Our 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’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

We’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)

Wool fleece: smarter than your average fleece

We’re in an era now of green travel and green experiences. Bio fuels are the new sexy pronouncement in the airline industry, and with every mile traveled, we’re encouraged to offset our carbon to save parts per million per million somewhere further down the road.

Nary a trip out the front door goes by without the opportunity to stay green, but with tangible travel goods it’s hard to escape the benefits afforded by oil. It’s all around us — the vinyl in our tents, the Lexan in our water bottles and the polyethylene terephthalate in our jet black fleeces. Popular as those goods may be, they’re all cracked from long-chain petroleum hydrocarbons and in the end, contribute to our dependence on fossil fuels.

Unfortunately it’s hard to escape oil when trying to source good, outdoor travel clothing. Most of the warm, breathable fabrics that are used in a flexible, athletic cut are based on a space-aged stretchy polymer or some sort of other synthetic, non-biodegradable material. Gore-tex windstopper fleece, for example, is made from the same base material that Teflon and some armor piercing bullets use — all created from oil molecules.

Some of the outdoor gear industry is starting to go green though with the creation of merino wool fleeces. Technical wool clothing, if you’re up to snuff on your gear, has been around for some time, but it’s usually used in socks and the occasional base layer. Whether it was a limitation with the manufacturing process or the targeted demographic, thicker piles of wool clothing were never developed until the last season or so, but they’re now starting to creep into the mainstream consumer market. Follow the gearjunkie over at twitter and you’ll get a good idea of how often the material is discussed.The obvious benefit of the material, of course, is its natural source and structure. Most of the merino wool on the planet is produced from Merino sheep in Oceania, South America and the United States, and the nature of the material makes it biodegradable, warm and inexpensive. From a user standpoint, the material remains warm even while wet and has excellent breathability.

Another key benefit to the material is its ability to repel odor. Because of the way that the wool fibers interact with foul smelling bacteria, fewer smells stick to the fabric and create the longer appearance of cleanliness. Our editor at large Justin Glow is said to have worn his Icebreaker baselayer for two weeks straight without any foul odor setting in.

All of these traits are great for athletic gear, so it was only a matter of time until a savvy designer adapted the technology to fleece. Two of the industry leaders, Icebreaker and Ibex have released the first waves of technical wool fleeces, a series of eco-friendly clothing that’s supposed to be just as warm as traditional gear and with a lower ecological impact.

Needless to say, eco-virtue and trendy design can be trumped by performance and fit in real life, so Gadling Labs checked out on an Icebreaker 320 performance fleece on a test run this fall.

The pile in this lightweight fleece isn’t what one would expect in a traditional, oil based material. There is a subtle coarseness about it, a realness to the fabric that’s intrinsic to the merino wool. While not as thick and fuzzy as a traditional fleece, its feel against your skin is still warm and gripping, yet low profile enough such that it can be worn around the house without difficulty.

Icebreaker’s designs tend to lean more towards a slimmer, athletic cut, which works particularly well for slender or lean people. At 6’3″ and 145 pounds, the large 320 fits our editor Grant Martin’s frame well, as opposed to a medium North Face fleece which would still be to roomy around the torso. Part of that cut is also a function of the material, as a small amount of stretch and grapple is also afforded by the wool.

Besides fitting exceptionally well, the 320 is moderately warm, waterproof and windproof. Merino wool naturally tends to wick away water and if thick enough, can insulate from the wind. If either are encountered in excess, however, you can count on feeling them through the fleece. For something water and windproof, the synthetic materials still have the lead.

On the road and in practice, however, the Icebreaker 320 has performed impressively at Gadling Labs. There is enough give in the material to permit full movement, yet it’s cut well enough to not feel cumbersome and baggy. The 320 is warm enough for late fall, it’s eco friendly and most importantly of all, it looks pretty damn good to boot. With those qualities, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

[sheep flickr photo via David & Chi Basson]

Gadling Gear Review: Patagonia R3 Regulator Fleece Jacket

With winter upon us, it’s time to start bundling up. And if you have any cold weather vacations planned for the holiday season, you’ll want to be sure that you have the proper gear before you get to your destination. Keeping your core warm is not just about comfort; It’s a matter of safety. At the heart of any layering system is a solid, insulated and wind-proof fleece coat. I decided to put the Patagonia R3 Regulator Fleece Jacket to the test on a recent trip to the Yukon.

There are tons of fleece jackets on the market these days. Many are less about performance and more about fashion. With the temperatures in Whitehorse ranging from -25C (-13F) to -4C (24F), I needed a fleece that could actually keep me warm, and thus, healthy. I wore the R3 while splitting wood, hiking and dog sledding in some of the coldest temperatures I have ever experienced. Let’s break down how the R3 handled the conditions.The problem with many of fleece jackets is their inability to deter the wind. No matter how warm the jacket may be, if cold winds pierce the surface, the end result is a chilly core. The R3 is made of a microfleece that did a stellar job of keeping the wind out during my tests. The jacket is made partially from recycled Polartec Wind Pro fabric that claims to block “four times more wind than regular fleece.” I won’t attempt to quantify its wind-blocking abilities, but I can say that, unlike other fleeces I have worn, the R3 prevented me from feeling the wind chills will still remaining quite breathable.

The interior of the jacket is quite plush, which generated a fair amount of warmth against my base layer. The R3 managed to wick away most of the moisture generated when I was sweating during aerobic activities. It is certainly warmer and more insulated than your average fleece, so at times I did feel quite warm when indoors while others were still comfortably wearing their coats.

The R3 looks and feels like a durable product. The seams and pockets are sturdily stitched and the pockets are are glued-in to provide extra dependability. And while it’s solid and warm, it never felt heavy when I was wearing it. At $200, this is not your entry-level fleece and it is clearly made to last.

The fit of the jacket is snug but not tight. I have rather broad shoulders and a long torso, so the R3 did feel somewhat fitted around my shoulders and at times seemed somewhat short. However, it still comfortably fit when worn above a base layer (or two). I would certainly recommend that you try the jacket on at a store before purchasing to ensure that you find the appropriate size.

The purpose of a fleece of this quality is to keep you warm first and foremost, but you don’t want to own an ugly coat. The R3 is quite handsome and the snug fit, while worrisome if you are exceptionally broad, does cut some attractive lines.

While a fleece jacket is not suitable as your sole winter coat due to it’s penchant for absorbing water when it’s raining/snowing, the R3 was pretty impressive in frigid weather on dry days. On a hike up Grey Mountain outside of Whitehorse, I quickly shed my down coat and wore only the R3. It deterred the wind, kept my core quite warm and never felt heavy or damp as I began to sweat. It handled the blustery conditions in Carcross, YT, as well, despite the chill coming off of Bennett Lake.

A quick look at the pros and cons of the Patagonia R3 Regulator Fleece:


  • Wind-proof
  • Incredibly warm
  • Durably crafted
  • Plush interior wicks away moisture
  • Lightweight and breathable


  • Snug fit depending on your shoulder width and torso length

Overall, I highly recommend the Patagonia R3 Regulator Fleece Jacket if you are looking for a well-crafted fleece that can handle particularly low temperatures. It may be warmer than you need if you don’t anticipate dealing with below-freezing temperatures where you live or during your travels. At $200, it’s reasonably priced for how stellar a jacket it is and would be a wise purchase for anyone who is planning a winter filled with outdoor activities.

The Patagonia R3 Regulator Fleece is available on the company’s website and at many outdoor gear suppliers.

Product review – Scottevest “Scott Jordan Signature System” jacket and fleece

Let me open by apologizing if this review seems messy; I’m more used to reviewing products with lights, buttons and beeping noises.

Reviewing fashion isn’t really “my thing”, but I had no problem making an exception for this review.

The SeV Scott Jordan Signature System consists of 2 different products; the Quantum jacket, and the Fleece 5.0.

Scottevest (SeV) has been making “technology enabled clothing” since 2000, and their products are essentially a travelers best friend; plenty of pockets, innovative ways to store anything from a water bottle to a small laptop, and high quality fabrics and stitching.

I’ll break this review into 2 small portions and will start with the jacket. Each product is available separately and functions perfectly on its own, but if you are heading towards a really cold winter, you can combine both into the “Signature System”. The Jacket and Fleece do not connect together, which was a decision SeV made based on customer feedback (I have to agree with them here).

The new SeV Quantum Jacket

The Quantum jacket is the fifth generation jacket from SeV and combines all their experience and innovations into a rugged winter coat. Some of the features of the jacket are:

  • 28 different pockets on the inside, outside and even on the sleeves
  • Removable hood
  • Magnetic front closure flap
  • Handwarmer pockets deep enough to stick half you arm in
  • Integrated wire management ports (SeV call this their Personal Area Network) – these small openings run through most of the pockets and allow you to route cables from pocket to pocket
  • Clear touch-screen accessible pockets – perfect for your smartphone or iPod
  • Headphone cord management – allows you to hide your headphone cord and bring it up into the collar
  • Weight management pockets for holding heavy items
  • Individual pockets for your keys, PDA stylus, memory cards, eyeglass cleaning cloth, change and even water bottles or a hydration pack.

The list of features and innovations in this jacket is endless. The jacket itself is made of breathable and water resistant ENAFF material.

The new SeV Fleece 5.0

The new SeV Fleece 5.0 is, as the name describes it, their fifth generation fleece jacket. Just like the Quantum jacket, this fleece has a huge list of features. The main differences (besides the fabric) are that the fleece has removable sleeves and no hood. The fleece jacket has 24 pockets (just 4 less than the jacket) and all of the other innovations that I listed for the Quantum jacket.

The “Signature Edition” price and use

Both the jacket and the fleece feel absolutely fantastic, and you can really tell a lot of effort was put in to the design and manufacturing process. You won’t find any loose threads or bad stitches on this thing.

The Quantum jacket retails for $250 and the fleece costs $140. If you purchase them together as the “Signature System”, you’ll save $50 ($340). This is in line with any other premium winter jacket, but has the added advantage of all the SeV features.

I’ve spent well over $300 in the past for a good jacket, and only got 6 pockets. The best part of the investment is that you actually get four different garments: a jacket, a fleece, a fleece/jacket combo, and a vest (when you remove the sleeves from the fleece). The 2 products should provide comfort for autumn, through winter to early spring.

The best part about the jacket or fleece filled with gadgets, is that you don’t even notice them; the pockets have been specially designed to be “no bulge”, and with the weight distribution system, you don’t feel like you are carrying your office in your pockets. Once you reach the airport, you simply take your jacket off, and place it in a bin.

To give you an idea of the storage space, I filled my jacket with all the usual stuff I carry in my laptop bag, including a Cradlepoint wireless broadband router with 3G modem, 3 phones, an iPod touch, a digital camera, a backup battery pack, several memory cards, my Slacker G2 music player, a Livescribe Pulse smartpen with notepad, a Franklin speaking global translator and 2 Bluetooth headsets (one stereo). The back of the jacket even has one massive pocket large enough for a small laptop (my Acer Aspire One fits just fine). Of course, I am hardly an average user, so my extreme example won’t apply to most travelers.

Final thoughts…

The SeV Scott Jordan Signature Edition is kind of like finding presents under the Christmas tree. Once you are done opening everything, you always find one or two other packages everyone missed. With these jackets, it is no different; even after wearing them for an hour, I kept finding new pockets, or other ways to access a pocket.

SeV have added a small business card in every pocket describing its function, what it can store and whether it is connected to the “personal area network” cord management system. In one of the front pockets is also a stack of “Vestimonials” which are perfect if you want to spread some SeV love around.

Even if you are not a gadget freak like myself, the SeV jacket and fleece provide a great quality winter combination, and are fine if you only plan to carry some basic things like your iPod, phone and some lip balm.

There really isn’t anything I can complain about with the jacket or fleece. Naturally some may find it a little on the pricey side, but if you compare it with other pro-grade winter gear, you’ll see that it is very much in line with their prices. If anything, the only minor complaint is that washing the jackets will take longer, because you have to go through all 52 pockets to be sure you didn’t leave any of your gadgets behind.

The Scott Jordan Signature Collection is available directly from their site.


Scottevest announces “Fleece 5.0” with a $20 pre-order discount

Scottevest (SeV) was featured here several weeks ago as my daily deal, so some of you may be familiar with their products.

This morning, they announced the pre-order availability of the newest garment in their lineup; the SeV Fleece 5.0. This jacket comes with most of the goodies found on their other products, including a record 24 pockets, the patented Personal Area Network, and an improved weight management system which allows you to carry tons of stuff in your pockets, without the jacket pushing down on your too much or being out of balance.

The new fleece also has special clear touch pockets, which allow you to store your iPod or Blackberry inside the jacket, and still have full access to the controls.

The inside of the fleece is covered in a fine mesh material, which should help keep you from overheating, as well as reducing the overall weight of the jacket.

The new Fleece 5.0 won’t be out till September 30th, but if you pre-order now, SeV will take $20 off the regular price of $140. Shipping is just $5, and they won’t charge your credit card until the item actually ships.

The jacket has already proven to be quite popular, as it was chosen by Blackberry as the official gear for the 2008 Blackberry developers conference. To learn more about SeV products, or to place an order for the new Fleece 5.0, click here.