February has been a month full of cold-weather adventuring for the Backpacker staff. Baselayers seem to be the most-popular picks for our favorite gear of the month, and there are some skis, sunglasses, and other enticing winter products to round out the lineup. Here’s what the staff’s loving right now.
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Zoe Gates, Senior Skills Editor: The North Face DotKnit Crew
My new favorite do-it-all baselayer locks in heat while doing an amazing job at wicking sweat away. The garment is designed to push moisture to the surface to accelerate evaporation. And it’s warm, too: While I usually ski uphill wearing both a baselayer and fleece, the DotKnit was all I needed to keep warm on a snowy skin up Colorado’s Winter Park resort. I felt neither sweaty nor chilled during the 1,600-foot climb, and the outside of the garment repelled falling snow without wetting out.
Robert Sayer, Art Director: Alpaca Threadz Andean Alpaca Wool Blanket
I’m not typically a blanket collector, but this wool one is extremely warm, non-itchy, and surprisingly thin and packable for the warmth it provides. Both hypoallergenic and sustainably sourced, it’s perfect for laid-back campers who may have a bit more space in their car or pack. It comes in a variety of unique colors and sizes, and a portion of the proceeds are given back to support Ecuadorian artisans. One note: Because it’s made of alpaca wool, you’ll have to take a bit more care of it during washing cycles.
Micah Abrams, Vice President of Content Strategy: Pit Viper The Rubbers Exciters
What are those things on your face, fellow skier? Guhg … gog … googles? Oh! I remember those! No, no I don’t wear goggles anymore, not since getting these Pit Viper Exciters. You see, goggles are superfunctional, but also sorta dorky-looking—particularly if you have a small face like mine. But Pit Vipers? Pit Vipers are what I believe the kids call “dope,” and the Exciter is designed like a classic pair of glacier glasses. That means side flaps provide exactly 83 percent of the wind protection you get from dorky looking goggles. Does the 17 percent of wind that reaches my eye tickle a little? Sure. Does that outweigh how dope these things look? No, no it does not.
Kristin Smith, Destinations Editor: Patagonia R1 Pullover
For years I insisted that my other baselayers were perfectly fine and I didn’t need some fancy, pricey Patagucci top when I had my decade-old REI pullover. How much better could the R1 possibly be? But this year I finally caved and bought one, and it turns out the answer is: a lot better. I’ve worn the R1 while hiking, running, and even cross-country skiing, and I was never too hot or too cold—the temperature regulation was amazing. It was comfortable too, with an incredibly soft surface against my skin, and the half-zip let me vent heat when temps rose into the 40s while I was out Nordic skiing in Washington’s North Cascades. I’m definitely a convert now.
Eli Bernstein, Senior Gear Editor: Völkl Blaze 106
I realize I’m stepping on SKI’s toes a little bit here, but one of their editors did recommend this ski to me so they should consider it a compliment. The Volkl Blaze 106 has been my go-to plank for skiing this winter, and while I initially bought it for its flotation—I’m a small guy, so 106 millimeters underfoot is plenty to pop me to the surface in deep powder—a prolonged spate of high pressure in the Tetons has me appreciating the ski’s performance on groomers and hard snow. Although the Blaze is light enough for touring (I put hybrid Marker Duke PT 12 bindings on it and sometimes use it for going uphill), it doesn’t twitch around too much while I speed down the mountain. Now, if it would just snow so I can test that powder performance again.
Emma Veidt, Assistant Skills Editor: Raw Elements Baby and Kids Zero Waste Sunscreen Stick
I’m trying to break up with single-use plastics in 2022, and this Raw Elements sunscreen stick is helping me leave them once and for all. This hypoallergenic wonder gives my sensitive skin the UV protection it needs, all in one sustainable, compostable package. It’s also sweat-proof and didn’t sting my eyes on a 85°F backpacking trip in the California desert this month. Downside: The heat nearly melted the sunscreen, so after a couple of hours, it came out of the applicator in gelatinous globs instead of a clean swipe.
Adam Roy, Senior Digital Editor: Runderwear Running Base Layer
I like to get my miles in even in the winter, and anything that can make that easier to do gets the nod from me. Enter Runderwear’s smart run-specific base layer, which comes with a pair of built-in mitts tucked into a pouch in the wrist cuffs. On runs (and the occasional cross-country ski) around my home near Denver, they’ve kept my digits warm even when temps dipped into the teens. (Do they look good? That’s a, er, different question. With the thumbless mitts deployed, I’ve been told I give off a distinct “Green Man” vibe.) The baselayer itself is cozy too, thanks to a seamless, synthetic-blend design complete with micro-sized holes to help you vent in steamier temps.