The unspoken cardinal rule of backpacking goes something like this: “carry only what you need in thy pack, no more, no less. Pack half of what you think you need. And for goodness sake, save the heavy stuff for another trip.” Essentially, ultralight backpacking gear is a must. Fall is in full swing and I can tell that the frigid New York winter air is days away from threatening to chap and bite my face. I’m a Minnesota girl, born and bred, and I love snow. I love winter. But only if I have the right gear to keep me warm. Ironically, I loathe being cold.
For the last month or so, I’ve been using an insulated vest and a softshell jacket from GoLite. GoLite’s design directive is to create simple, high-performance gear for active travelers and trail athletes based on the GoLite index that reduces the environmental impact of GoLite products. The jacket and vest are part of their women’s line that was sent to me for review. When I first got the gear package in the mail I thought the company made a shipping mistake. It was so light that I was sure they forgot part of my order, but when I tore into it, everything was there. Collectively, the package weighed just over two pounds–peanuts in shipping terms. I was in backpackers gear-heaven. I started using the gear the next day, and the fabric breathability of both the vest and the jacket kept my body’s temperature comfortably regulated from early fall through the beginning of the late-night winter chills.
Wind River Softshell Jacket
Unfortunately, jackets are my packing-enemy. They are typically bulky, but painfully necessary for winter trips. The bulkier the jacket, the less space you have for other clothes. But it’s tough to find a jacket that is lightweight, warm, packable, non-bulky, AND easy-to-wash. The Wind River Softshell jacket fits all of my criteria, and as an added bonus, it’s sporty stylish. The Wind River is designed for winter athletes who get out in the backcountry–it is meant to be used. Added reinforcement in high abrasion areas protect the jacket from wear and tear. It is highly breathable, water resistant, wind resistant, and the spandex/nylon fabric allows for a superior range of motion. I have tiny wrists, and the Velcro wrist cuffs let me pull the jacket tight to keep drafts from traveling up my arms. The jacket weight 1lb 3oz, or 530 grams–a dream jacket in packing-world. It’s tailored in so it fits along my body without being too tight– a size small comfortably leaves room for a hoodie underneath. The side pocket is big enough to fit my phone and iPod, and the side arm pocket is a perfect safe place for my apartment key if I go for a run wearing the jacket. I replaced my old Columbia activewear jacket with this Wind River, and look forward to using it throughout the winter on deep-woods cross country ski trips, winter runs, and when I don’t feel like wearing a huge down parka. The Wind River is avaliable in sizes XS-XL and 4 combinations of colors. $175.00.
I own exactly one vest from Gap that I bought when I was 14 years old. I used to think vests were overrated and a waste of packing space because I didn’t need a bulky coat-wannabe along for the ride. But when I wore the Cady 2477 Synthetic Insulated Vest for the first time, my skepticism vanished. I realized that I didn’t own a good vest that applied to my packing standards (lightweight, warm, packable, non-bulky, easy-to-wash) hence the reason why I never packed it, and rarely used it. Gear companies do indeed make practical vests ideal for traveling. And GoLite’s Cady vest is awesome. It feels almost paper thin to the touch and it’s not overly stuffed with insulation, because I don’t feel like a marshmallow wearing it. But boy, it’s toasty warm. The vest is ideal for travel when a warm core counts and freedom of movement is essential. It zips all the way up, the fleece-lined side pockets are perfect places to tuck cold hands, it has a special pocket with cord routing ideal for an iPod or MP3 player, and it comes in a GoLite stuff sack–like a mini sleeping bag. I actually fell asleep in my Cady one night and I didn’t wake up too hot or too cold. Its breathable temperature regulating fabric works with your body to maintain a comfortable balance. It weighs 9 oz/ 255 grams. The Cady is available in sizes S-XXL, and four colors: bright blue, black, chili pepper and granite. I have the bright blue Cady and paired with a white knit hat it’s perfect for a brisk fall hike. $120.00.
GoLite gear started with a simple idea: that experiencing nature would be better with less gear–less weight, less fuss, less waste. The GoLite guarantee says the company will replace any gear with a manufacturing defect for the lifetime of the product, free.