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Review: Outdoor products for the new year
Where will your adventures take you in 2018? - photo by Grant Olsen
THE GREAT OUTDOORS Whether youre hiking in the foothills near your home or trekking deep into the Wind River Mountain Range, having the right gear can have a huge impact on the experience.

Heres a quick look at several outdoor products that might be worth your consideration.


PRICE: $25


The simplest products are often the most effective, and the BUFF UV XL definitely fits into this category. Just a hollow cylinder made from seamless microfiber fabric, it can be worn as a headband, neck gaiter, face mask, hair tie, balaclava and a handful of other ways.

You can easily stash a BUFF in your pack, then grab it when you need it. Theyre wind resistant and provide protection from 95 percent of UV rays. The fiber wicks moisture and dries quite fast. Plus, the Polygiene treatment repels odors so it stays fresher even on long treks.

While most BUFF products are marketed as one-size-fits-all, they might be a little too snug if youve got an extra-large noggin. So this XL version is the way to go, because its more than an inch wider than the regular size.

FITS Performance Trail Socks

PRICE: $18


Its easy to take socks for granted. But when youre on a long-haul hike, they become a crucial part of your gear. If your feet get too sweaty or have painful contact points, the whole experience goes downhill fast.

These Performance Trail Socks from FITS are top-notch, as theyre designed to stay snug on the contours of your foot. With no loose areas, you wont get pesky rubbing and the problems it brings.

Vented for improved breathability, these socks have a medium weight that also provides some warmth during winter hikes. They also have extra cushioning in the heel, toe and arch for comfort, so you can go longer distances without your feet feeling pummeled.

Flylow Crowe Jacket

PRICE: $275


There are lots of super comfy, sleeping bag-type jackets on the market, but they often feel bulky and cumbersome. Not the Crowe Jacket, which takes the warmth and softness of a mummy bag, then makes it light, packable and flexible.

The outer fabric is quite breathable, which is perfect for outdoor activities where youll work up a sweat. Its also treated with high-performance durable water repellent to keep water at bay. Inside, you get Primaloft Eco insulation that keeps you snug. You can wear it on its own, or under a shell on particularly stormy days.

The Crowe is made with winter sports in mind, as its ripstop outer is stretchy and flexible enough to give you free range of motion. It also has a helmet-compatible hood, multiple pockets, durable zippers and an adjustable waist cinch.

Costa Hammerhead Sunglasses

PRICE: $169


Costa sunglasses get lots of love because of their high-end lenses. They block 100 percent of UV rays, but thats nothing unique. What sets them apart is how well the polarization nullifies glare and delivers clarity. They block out harsh light and boost dynamic colors, which can make a world of difference if you spend much time on the water.

These Hammerheads are distinct because they have one of Costas largest frame sizes. They provide full-wrap coverage and the stainless-steel spring hinges give them a flexible fit that wont apply too much pressure even when worn all day.

As with other sunglasses from Costa, Hammerheads have above-average durability. The frame is tough enough to survive multiple drops, though they might not survive if you were to accidentally sit on them. As for the lenses, they have a protective coating to protect against scratches.

Big Agnes Womens Yarmony Hooded Jacket

PRICE: $169


Big Agnes makes some awesome outerwear, and the Yarmony lives up to the family name. Its got lots of little details that show the designers put themselves in the wearers shoes. For example, the zipper pulls are textured so you can use them with gloves. And the thumb holes help you seal out the cold between your sleeve and gloves.

The Yarmony uses a synthetic insulation Ive not encountered before. Its called Pinneco Core, and its definitely impressive. Its lightweight and warm. Its breathable and water-resistant. Plus, its engineered in a more sustainable way than other insulation options on the market.

While this jacket has a relaxed fit (to allow for layering), its quilted construction reduces bulk and makes it feel quite sleek. In fact, you can pack the whole thing up in the interior chest pocket, which doubles as a stuff sack.

Granite Gear Cross Trek 32-inch Wheeled Duffel

PRICE: $209


There are times when you want all your gear in one place. The Cross Trek is a great solution, as it offers an impressive 131 liters of capacity (expand the bottom compartment and youll actually get 157 liters). With this big of a pack, youre obviously not expecting something thats lightweight. But at 11.5 pounds, its not too hefty.

You can wear the duffel on your back with the tuck-away shoulder straps, load-bearing hip belt and sternum strap. When you want to drag it, simply use the retractable aircraft aluminum handle and rugged wheels. The wheel housing is impact-absorbing, so it can handle less-than-ideal ground.

As for the outer fabric, its Repelaweave and Repelagrid, so it can really take a beating. There are also corner protectors and a kick plate, to help keep it trail-ready. The zippers are water-repellent and theres a reinforced front pocket zipper for electronic devices.

Ortovox Fleece Melange Hoody

PRICE: $180


The Fleece Melange Hoody is made with top-grade merino wool on the inside, which keeps you cozy in most conditions. It feels soft on your skin and is exceptionally breathable. For the outer material, Ortovox uses polyester for flexibility and protection. Its a great combo. Flexible and tough enough to take a beating, making it perfect for winter sports.

This versatile hoody has an ergonomic fit, so its sleek and fits close to the body. Basically, it has hardly anything in common with the boxy, oversized hoody you got at your work retreat last fall. Theres also a storm hood that fits more snugly than a bulkier hoody.

Additional features include a bonded chest pocket for small personal items. The sleeves are quite long, so itll fit tall people. And there are thumb loops to seal out the cold even more for extra warmth on cold days.

L.L. Bean Sportsman's Rolling Gear Bag

PRICE: $279


This massive gear bag gives you 122 liters of cargo capacity, yet tips the scales at well under 10 pounds. Its perfect for solo long hauls or as a family-sized tote. The outer is abrasion-resistant, durable 1,000-denier nylon. And the inside seams are taped and double-stitched to prevent fraying.

One of its greatest features is maneuverability. The wheels are wide-set, so you dont get the wobbling and tipping typical of narrower luggage. Plus, the wheels are loaded with ball bearings, resulting in an extremely smooth glide.

This gear bag is spacious enough for all kinds of outings, with a large U-shaped opening for easy access. Plus, theres a drop-bottom compartment for separately storing your shoes or dirty laundry.