Winter is coming, and it could be a doozy. Both the Farmers’ Almanac and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting a colder-than- average winter and above average snowfalls for New England this coming season. No problem; you can look good, keep warm, and stay dry with the latest and best outdoor winter gear. Here are some of our favorites; prices are suggested retail.
Puffer jackets just keep getting better: look for a lightweight, packable, breathable jacket with cruelty-free, synthetic insulation that’s warmer than down. We like the North Face Ventrix Jacket (www.thenorthface.com, $199), a new down-free puffer with loads of high-tech innovation. They’ve put in a ventilation system with “heat release technology’’ that either “dumps heat or contracts and retains it as you move.’’ No more zipping down and up, no more sweating and freezing while you move through various conditions. Backpacker Magazine gave it a 2017 Editors’ Choice award — for good reason. It comes in men’s and women’s sizes, and various colors.
“Love the feel and look.’’ “Super lightweight.’’ “It’s my go-to winter jacket.’’ “Add base layers and it’s warm even on the coldest days.’’ That’s what people are saying about the men’s Flylow General’s Down Jacket (www.fly lowgear.com, $250). Filled with 800-fill goose down, it’s one of the lightest, most packable winter jackets you’ll find. Put it under a shell when it’s snowing; wear it alone when it’s dry. It’s sharp looking, too.
You’ll look good and stay warm in the classic men’s Fisher + Baker Passage Jacket (www.fisherandbaker.com, $328), whether you’re walking city streets or hanging on the ski lodge deck hoisting a brew. The elegantly simple design (in black or navy) features their patented DownTek filling, a water repellent 750-fill down.
The big difference in high-quality waterproof, windproof outer layers is Gore-Tex Pro. It features three layers including a membrane that has “9 billion pores per square inch, with each pore 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet.’’ This means that wind and water can’t make it through, but your body’s perspiration can. This stuff is rugged, lightweight, and breathable.
“You can fall in a lake and still stay dry in this jacket,’’ one of our testers remarked. He was talking about the L.L.Bean North Col Gore-Tex Pro Jacket (www.llbean.com, $399). No matter what Old Man Winter throws at you, you’ll be covered with this good-looking workhorse. If you need something to absolutely keep you dry in the worst conditions, and last for years, this is it. If you want head-to-toe coverage, splurge on the L.L.Bean North Col Gore-Tex Pants, too. Both come in men’s and women’s sizes.
The popular Patagonia PowSlayer Jacket (www.patagonia.com, $699) also uses 100 percent recycled Gore-Tex Pro fabric, and has been a top seller with outdoor enthusiasts looking for an absolutely, reliably waterproof outer shell. Look outside: it’s sleeting and snowing and the winds are howling. No worries: throw on a base layer and this jacket, and you’re good to go. They’ve also tweaked the design this year, making it even more lightweight and eco-friendly.
According to the company, the new North Face Apex Flex GTX Jacket ($199) with a Gore-Tex 3L membrane, is its very first fully waterproof softshell rain jacket. We like that the stretchy outer fabric is much quieter than other rain shells (no more scratchy sounds when you move), and the price point is lower than most. It’s a little heavier, but it’ll definitely keep you dry; water simply beads off this baby! It’s great to wear on a miserable, snow-mixed-with rain winter day (and we see plenty of those in New England).
All in one
It’s all about the layers. Start with a good base layer, add an insulated midlayer, and end with a weatherproof outer shell. All those decisions, all that money! Enter the 3-in-1 jacket; you get an outer shell and a separate zip-in liner, and likely save money. Take the popular men’s and women’s Columbia Bugaboo Interchange Jacket (www.columbia.com, $175); you get your shell, you get your fleece lining; put them together and you get killer warmth. And, their new thermal, reflective layer adds even more heat and breathability. No wonder it perpetually gets a 5 out of 5 rating by a slew of loyal wearers. Add a pair of Bugaboo Snow Pants ($95), and you can meet the elements head-on.
You can skip the bulky midlayers with the women’s Marmot Repose Featherless Jacket (www.marmot.com, $325) Waterproof: check. Windproof: check. Breathable: check. Stylish: check. Powder skirt: check. Pockets where they should be: check. Removeable hood: check. Warm: you bet! The two-layer construction includes a patented exterior shell that’s weatherproof without being stiff and stuffy, and their new soft Thinsulate featherless insulation feels like down, keeps you warm like down, but performs a lot better when it gets wet. Men’s featherless insulated jackets are also available.
Another good option, at a decent price point, is the popular men’s and women’s L.L.Bean Carrabassett Ski Jacket ($229), featuring TEK2 waterproof/breathable fabric, with super soft, PrimaLoft insulation, and weatherproof exterior. Our reviewers raved: “Super warm.’’ “Comfortable fit.’’ “Not too bulky.’’ “Love all the pockets!’’
Hands and toes
This is how it goes: you’re tired of being cold or putting on so many bulky layers that you can’t move. So, you decide to invest in a good base layer and you buy the Merino wool Icebreaker BodyfitZONEWinter Zone long sleeve, half-zip shirt and leggings (left, www.icebreaker.com, shirt $130; leggings $120), because you’ve read the reviews. They’re soft, wicking, warm, and fit like a glove. You don’t want to take them off. And one day, because you’re wearing them all the time, all winter, you decide you need another pair.
That same scenario will be repeated with socks. You’ll buy your first pair of Smartwool socks, and soon you’ll have a drawer full of them. The Smartwool PhD Ski sock (below, www.smart wool.com, $25.95) is our go-to pair for a day on the slopes. It boasts lots of high-tech stuff, including its IndestructaWool Technology. What that means in layman’s terms is you get a sock that’s warm, breathable, well-cushioned, and super comfy, that won’t bunch up or wear out after a few washes. Women’s sizes come with a narrower fit, too.
Whether you’re schlepping from parking lot to ski lodge or tromping through slushy city streets, you’ll need a good pair of boots. And, you can’t beat a proven classic like Sorel, with its patented waterproof leather, removable liners, and sturdy construction (www.sorel.com). The women’s Joan of Arctic boot ($180) is a perennial favorite, with a toasty warm liner (the boot is rated to -25 degrees), and a tuft of faux fur for added style. Parents also rave about the kid’s version of Sorel’s top-selling 1964 PAC, with Velcro straps ($70).
You could spend hundreds of dollars on gloves with liners, and heaters, and solar technology, and more bells and whistles than you’ll ever need. Or, you could buy a pair of men’s or women’s L.L.Bean Waterproof Ski Gloves for $39.95, and be good to go under most conditions. They’re soft and warm inside and waterproof and rugged on the outside. If it’s really, really cold, throw in some HotHands, or stay inside with a good book and/or a stiff drink.
You can see clearly now
Is it impossible to get a pair of ski goggles that fits your face, keeps you warm, and doesn’t fog up — without busting the budget? Not impossible: check out Bolle (www.bolle.com). The Bolle Tsar (starting at $109.99) claims to be the first universal fit goggle, which means the frame can be adjusted to your face so it doesn’t pinch, or whistle or allow your breath to fog the lens. It also has some other high-tech stuff, like the Flow-Tech venting system, an anti-fog layer and a double lens thermal barrier. It’s a lot of goggle for the price. We also like the men’s Bolle Emperor and the women’s Bolle Duchess (both starting at $99.99).
We love the feel of cashmere (who doesn’t?) but feel guilty about the rapid overgrazing that’s outpacing demand. That’s why we can justify buying the new Patagonia Recycled Cashmere Hoody, made from 95 percent recycled cashmere scraps and 5 percent wool. It’s not cheap, at $279 women’s and $299 men’s, but it is feel-good cashmere.
The men in our life love the retro cool Flylow Richie Hoodie ($130). It combines the relaxed style of a sweatshirt with water resistant materials. You could wear it on the slopes as a midlayer or stand-alone on warm days. But everyone we know brings it out for apres-ski.