If you needed an excuse to upgrade your gear, we have it. June is Great Outdoors Month and National Camping Month. Better show your support by getting out there...and maybe with an awesome new tent or sleeping bag or light hiker. We asked Steve Casimiro, veteran gear reviewer and editor of Adventure Journal, to give us his picks for the best of the best gear for hiking and camping. Check them our by category here on the blog or see the complete Ultimate Hiking and Camping Gear Guide.
Ultimate Hiking and Camping Gear Guide: Best Jackets
Jacket, Durable Water Repellent
The North Face’s Verto
It isn’t just that The North Face’s Verto jacket is a scant 3.2 ounces. There are lots of three-ounce shells. It’s that the Verto is fully featured, with an elastic hood, storm flap behind the zipper, and hip length that keeps wind blasts off your lower back—plus it doesn’t feel clammy against the skin. Made of Pertex Quantum, it is water and wind resistant and compresses to the size of a baseball ($99; www.thenorthface.com).
Jacket, Hard Shell
First Ascent BC-200
First Ascent from Eddie Bauer has been riding a wave of publicity and good will thanks to a mountaineering team that includes all-stars such as Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker. But the question that’s often raised is whether the product is as good as the PR. And the answer is yes. After testing at least a dozen of First Ascent products over the last couple years, including the 11-ounce BC-200 three-layer shell, it’s clear the brand has done its homework and builds “guide tough” gear. Indeed, the BC-200 is light but not the lightest: Its greater focus is on being the best combination of waterproof and breathable, and we found it every bit as airy as Gore-Tex, if not more so ($199; www.eddiebauer.com).
Jacket, Women's Lightweight Hard Shell
When there’s rain in the forecast and you’re heading for a hike, the last thing you want to shove into your pack is a heavy, old-school shell. As with most gear technology, Gore-Tex has been on a diet for a few years. Witness the result in the wafer-thin Marmot women’s Whisperlite jacket. At eight ounces, you won’t find a much lighter Gore-Tex shell, nor, with the Paclite fabric, one that’s more durably waterproof. Our favorite feature: the moldable hood brim, which can be sculpted to ward off rain or even sun ($250; www.marmot.com).
Rab’s Boreas Pull-On defies definition, so we’ll just call it the perfect shirt. It’s a stretch-woven material, aka soft shell, that’s thinner than most base layers, but is constructed like a pullover hoodie. It’s comfy as comfy gets, stretching whichever way you move whether you’re reaching to place climbing protection or to shoulder a pack. Wind has to work to get through it, but moisture escapes readily. And with the hood, it adds an extra level of insulation should the weather turn foul ($75; www.rab.uk.com).