Midweight Insulating Jackets

AK tested tough stamp green copyAn insulating midlayer is one of the most often used pieces of apparel in any Alaskan's closet, year-round. Especially come October. As snow begins to fall higher in the mountains, and daylight wanes, Alaskans (and visitors) need a warm jacket to take them through the next seven months—even in Southeast. The good news is you won't need a heavy down parka most of that time (unless you're on the North Slope). Pack some layers, along with one of these midweight insulating jackets, and you'll cut the wind and keep warm (without roasting) while you work and play outside through the fall, winter, and spring.

Our team of Alaskan testers spent several months trying out the best midweight insulating jackets on the market by hiking and climbing in the Chugach and Alaska ranges, fishing on the Gulf of Alaska, cross-country skiing, and mountain biking, and doing just about everything else we could think of with 'em. These five came out on top.

HellyHansen FW14 OdinInsulatorJacket copyEDITOR'S CHOICE: Helly Hansen Odin Insulator

The warmest of the midweight insulating jackets we tested, the light (14 oz.) Odin Insulator proved to be the most versatile in a variety of weather conditions. Its dense, ripstop nylon shell effectively blocked all but the strongest glacial winds, so our testers typically only needed to don a shell over the jacket in heavy rain and wet snow. Our testers also enjoyed its high, wind-blocking collar, cinchable hem, and fleece-lined hand warming pockets. Bonus: It compresses down to the size of a cantaloupe. $300, hellyhansen.com

 

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Hiking Boots Fit for Alaska

AK tested tough stamp green copyAny Alaskan will tell you: If you're going to invest in one piece of outdoor gear, get a solid pair of boots, because if your feet aren't comfortable here, you won't be either. The trick is keeping your toes content while bumbling through uneven tundra, up and down steep scree slopes, or slogging through the rainforest, usually carrying a pack. You simply need a quality, well-designed pair of hiking boots to explore all of what Alaska has to offer—most of which is off-trail. The good news is you have plenty of great options.

Our local experts put some of the best all-around hiking boots on the market to the test for three months hiking in the Chugach and Kenai Mountains—looking for which boots kept their feet the most comfortable (and dry) from the day they took them out of the box. These five came out on top.

 

Gear DannerCraterRim silo copyEDITOR'S CHOICE: Danner Crater Rim

Hand-made in Portland, Ore., and worn by the American Special Forces in Afghanistan, Danner's Crater Rim boots were exactly what our testers expected—tough as a bull's horn. Weighing in at an, admittedly, hefty 3.6 lbs., they're ostensibly designed to take a beating, fit comfortably, and—most importantly— protect your feet; all key attributes when hiking anywhere in Alaska. Along with being 100% waterproof, the boots have a high-cut, full rubber "rand" that wraps the boot's leather upper (protecting it) and is stitched and glued on
(not just glued). Meaning: You can stub your toes on as many rocks as you like and it won't peel off. Bonus: The Crater Rim's simple construction lends itself to being easily repaired by any cobbler, and comes in half sizes and a range of widths, so you can ensure a proper fit. $300, danner.com

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Rainwear for the Last Frontier

AK tested tough stamp green copyRain and sun are both certainties in Alaska. The 49th state is home to the world's largest temperate rain forest and the midnight sun. You're likely to experience both; occasionally, several times in the same day. A good hardshell (read: rain jacket)—one that will keep the water out no matter what, while not making you feel like you're wearing a plastic bag—comes highly recommended in Alaska, winter or summer. And good news: You don't have to wear (or carry around) heavy waxed canvas anymore. Modern, lightweight synthetic materials are waterproof, breathable, and pack-friendly.

Our local experts put some of the best rainwear available to the test for two months, hiking, camping, skiing, and fishing—rain, snow, or sun—looking for what kept them driest when it was raining (or snowing), and packed the easiest when the sun was shining. These five came out on top.

 

Gear M Kichatna JacketEDITOR'S CHOICE: The North Face Kichatna

Named after an Alaska mountain range known for its terrible weather, the Kichatna Jacket kept our testers completely dry in heavy rain and wet snow, no matter what. With fully taped seams, burly two-layer Gore-Tex, and polyurethane-coated zippers, this jacket is built for years of abuse. Our testers particularly liked the smartly designed helmet-compatible hood and removable powder skirt, making it a great option for backcountry skiing. It's a true four-season shell without the bulk. Bonus: It comes

with a lifetime warranty.

$600, 1 lb. 4 oz.; thenorthface.com

 

 

 

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Backpacks

BACKPACKS: Tested Tough by Alaska magazine

From our June, 2014 Issue

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