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The Green Life: GEAR: Warmth, From Inside Out

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November 03, 2011

GEAR: Warmth, From Inside Out

Layers are crucial to enjoying a winter outdoors. Here are Sierra magazine's recommendations. 

UNDERNEATH

1. RAB's Pull-On (Boreas for men, Aurora for women) is hard to pigeonhole. Thin enough to wear under or over another piece, it stretches in every direction, is breathable enough to run or bike in, and repels water, so that a little drizzle doesn't faze you. This ultralight soft shell is likely to become the most used top in your closet. $75

2. The Capilene 3 Midweight Zip-Neck from PATAGONIA is the kind of top you'll use every month of the year: for running on chilly November mornings, as a mid-layer while snowshoeing in December, and as a jacket when backpacking in spring. The fabric is good on the body and on the planet: It's made of partially recycled brushed polyester, which can be recycled again when it finally wears out. $59

3. Wool apparel has come back big in the past decade. It's unbeatable as insulation, especially with today's high-grade, no-itch merinos. ICEBREAKER, a leader in developing new wools, offers the women's L/S Sweetheart Top. Warm when it's cool and cool when it's warm, the soft top can be worn as a base layer while skiing or on its own during a cool-weather hike. $68

IN BETWEEN

4. Mother Nature still insulates best: Ounce for ounce, down remains the most efficient way to ward off the chills. PATAGONIA is one of the few brands that insists on no live plucking; its Caulder Down Jacket is the result. This slightly urban, fully technical piece works on its own or under a shell. It's made with recycled polyester and stuffed with 600-fill down. $229

5. Fleece made from 100% postconsumer waste has a reputation for being scratchy and rough, but Polartec and its yarn suppliers have invested in new processes that return plastic soda bottles to a chemically virgin state before they're recycled into fabric. The Warmlight Jacket from MARMOT is one of the first products to incorporate this innovative fabric, Repreve 100. It feels identical to polyester's snuggly fleece: warm, cozy, and versatile. $100

The "belay jacket" is the synthetic version of a down puffy. ARC'TERYX's interpretation, the Solo Jacket (not pictured), makes a perfect choice for damp conditions. Designed to keep ice climbers warm while they belay drippy partners, the jacket's ThermaTek layer maintains warmth, even when conditions are sopping. No big thing, it weighs just 14 ounces. $299

ON TOP

6. After years of making value-friendly but not quite cutting-edge apparel, the Seattle giant COLUMBIA is stepping into the high end. The 14-ounce Peak 2 Peak waterproof jacket is made from the company's Omni-Dry fabric, which rivals any breathable fabric. It works from both inside and outside to keep you dry. $350

7. Gore-Tex, the venerable fabric maker, just introduced Active Shell, which is significantly lighter than its past versions. MAMMUT has put the material to good use in the Felsturm Half-Zip Jacket, a stripped-down, all-weather, fully waterproof shell that weighs a mere 10.2 ounces. Light weight doesn't mean lightweight, however: The hood fits over a helmet, the zipper slides easily even in an ice storm, and huge pit zips help you vent during exertion. $450 

8. Polartec's NeoShell, a new fabric developed to challenge Gore-Tex, shows up in the NORTH FACE's multisport Jammu Jacket. This outerwear piece is softer than a traditional waterproof, making it quieter and more comfortable. In conditions in which your old shell might have gotten overwhelmed, the Jammu keeps the wet out. $399

--Steve Casimiro / photos by Lori Eanes

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