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Posts Tagged winter

Pakems Packable Boots

In my quest for the perfect apres ski boot and all-round, packable outdoor travel shoe, I gave Pakems a trial run. This brand new product designed by a single mom is marketed as a lightweight, compressible shoe designed for use after a ski day. Pakems come in two styles (for both men and women): a high top for winter use and a low top for summer. Both are made from water-resistant ripstop fabric with an insulated, DWR-coated upper, and EVA midsole, and a rubber outsole. Both tighten with a very simple single-pull lace system.


The shoes are undeniably simple, but that’s the point. They’re meant to get you from Point A to Point B in comfort, after changing out of your technical footwear (ski boots in winter, hiking boots in summer). The sole is quite flat, and you don’t get a terribly secure fit, which for me means I won’t be walking in them too far. However, they’re comfortable, and after a day of exercise, they’re certainly a relief to slip on.

How small do they pack down? My size 8 Pakems measure about 10 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 2 inches thick. They weigh about 13 ounces (a size 10 weighs 15). They come with a small compression bag, but I ditched that pretty quickly in favor of simply squishing my Pakems down into my backpack or bag. If you do use the compression bag, it comes with a strap designed to attach to a backpack or even your waist…I found this overkill, but the strap does also work as a ski boot carrying device when you’re wearing your Pakems, which I’ll admit is pretty nifty.

In most cases, I have room in my ski boot bag for a standard pair of snow boots to change into, but for the days I don’t want to (or cannot) secure a ski locker and opt to carry a small backpack all day, the Pakems fit nicely. They’re also nice to keep in the car to slip your feet into for the drive home (from winter sport days or summer hikes). I’d also bring mine along for river rafting days in the early summer or late fall, when my feet get cold after being wet.

Pakems boots

My Pakems are comfortable, but not very breathable…again, these are not designed for long-term wear or long distances. They’ll easily get you from the ski lodge to the parking lot or village, and look decent on your feet while grabbing that apres ski drink, but aren’t meant to go the distance. The low top version is ideal for backpackers who like to bring an extra pair of comfortable shoes for evenings around the campfire; I now favor them over my sandals for this purpose, as they keep my feet dry and clean in addition to giving them a much-needed hug after a day of hiking. Think of them as slippers for the backcountry.

The only difference between the high top version and the low top version: the high top covers to just above the ankle, whereas the low top is cut below. You’ll want the high top for winter wear. At the time of my review, Pakems came in only black, but they have now come out with a variety of fun patterns and colors. Pick up a pair at the Pakems website for $70 (high top) or $60 (low top) or Amazon for as low as $47 for the high top. They’re also available at

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Free Country Plaid Softshell Jacket

If you’re looking to snag a mid-winter ski jacket deal, I’d look no further than Free Country. Always a solid pick on a budget, Free Country’s softshell jackets, including the women’s Plaid Softshell, are nearly half off this month. But let’s take a step back: why a softshell in the first place? If your ski or winter travel ensemble already includes an outer waterproof shell option, a fleece or two for layering, and perhaps a down jacket, a softshell jacket is a great addition for those late winter/early spring ski days.

free-country-plaid-softshellFree Country’s Plaid Softshell is water and wind resistant as well as lined, making it a one-piece option for days that fall in the mid-range on the chill scale. You get all the features you’d expect in a high-end jacket, including oversized hood, chin protector, and adjustable cuffs to fit over gloves, without the high-end price. Will your Free Country softshell be the absolute cutting edge of ski jackets? No, but it doesn’t need to be. Instead, I bet it’ll be your ‘reach for it most often’ jacket that simply gets the job done, as it does for me.

It’ll look good doing it, too. The women’s softshell comes in a variety of colors in the solid Saunter softshell version, and in two women’s plaid patterns in the Plaid softshell version. There’s also a floral option. All versions include a flattering women’s tailored cut (though I do wish more movement was allowed in the shoulders and arms), and all include two side zippered pockets. The plaid comes in either black or white, and the pattern is subtle.

Pick up a softshell for $55 (marked down from $100) from Free Country, or pick up a solid color at Amazon for only $40. Grabbing a softshell this winter will definitely carry over through the spring season and into next year.

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Sierra Designs Stretch DriDown Hoody Jacket

DriDown HoodyA warm down jacket that stretches when you move, sheds water, and has quick-dry down that won’t stay wet? It sounds too good to be true, but they’ve pulled it off in this Sierra Designs Stretch DriDown Hoody.

There has long been a trade-off when choosing real down over the synthetic stuff. The big one is that it can get soggy and wet if you get caught in a drizzle or the snow just melts on your sleeve. It then takes a long time to dry out and the feathers can clump. DriDown has been a major technological advance. The process takes regular down and treats it with a polymer at the molecular level to make each individual down plume water-resistant. I got to feel it with my fingers at two Outdoor Retailer shows though and it feels (and performs like) untreated down. You only know it’s there when the people around you are getting wet and you’re not.

A side effect is that it “lofts better,” which is a fancy way of saying the feathers won’t break down and clump together as easily. With 800-fill down that repels water (on top of the coating on the outside), you stay warm and dry in any environment. (For more on DriDown, check out Jill’s review of the Clo sleeping bag.)

The other beef with down jackets is when the feathers start poking out. Most companies avoid making their down jackets stretchy since that potentially opens up more space for tiny plumes to go through. The stretchy fabric in this one has supposedly conquered that challenge though. I haven’t been trying this out for years, so I can’t vouch for the long-term validity of that, but so far no signs of any wayward white stuff.

DriDown hooded jacketAll this technical stuff aside, this is just a great jacket that looks good on me and feels expensive. For all those times when there’s no bad weather to deal with and you want outerwear that is toasty but flattering, this is a great choice. The diamond stitching makes it stand out and the cut shows your body shape instead of hiding it.

There are plenty of pockets in this Stretch Hoody, which is always a welcome thing for travelers. Inside are two deep pockets and one zippered one. Outside are two zippered hand pockets. There’s a cinch line at the bottom of the jacket and one for the hood, so you can make it more snug to keep out the wind.

With a good baselayer underneath, this lightweight but warm cold weather jacket should be good down to freezing temperatures and has enough give for active outdoor pursuits.

The Sierra Designs Stretch DriDown Hooded Jacket comes in four colors and retails for $229. If you’re fit but not too pumped up, order your shirt size. Otherwise you might want to take it up a notch as this is a snug jacket you wouldn’t wear a lot of layers under. This is a new jacket that’s just getting into the marketplace, but you can find it online at and Amazon.

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Sigg Thermo Classic Bottles

Sigg-thermo-bottle‘Tis the season for steaming drinks after outdoor excursions! I’m something of a collector of thermal bottles and mugs, as evidenced by the disarray in my cupboards, but given that I use thermal containers nearly every day of the winter, I feel justified.

The new Thermo collection at SIGG includes four sizes of bottles ranging from 0.3L to 1L, and come in teal, classic white, and smoked pearl. They look as good as they sound, with a sleek minimalist design characteristic of SIGG. I really like the tall and thin style, as I find the bottles fit better in my backcountry pack (even in the water bottle pocket) and take up less room in my soft-sided cooler. However, both the .75L and 1L are taller than any other thermos style bottle I own, so adjustments to my packing style are sometimes necessary.

The bottles are sized at 0.3L (personal tea or coffee bottle), 0.5L (could be big enough for individual soups), 0.75L (my personal favorite for hot water to serve 3-4 people a warm drink) and 1.0L (tall and lean…ready to keep a group in hot coffee). The two smaller sizes come equipped with a tea filter, if that’s your bag (sorry about the pun). The two larger models come with adjoining cups that serve as lids, and while I’ve certainly seen this done on many other thermal bottles, none I own are as generous in size (see photo below). The SIGG lids are big enough to serve as a genuine bowl for that cup-o-noodle you’ve been packing across the slopes all day.

It’ll come as no surprise that SIGG Thermo bottles are made of high-end stainless steel that is both odor and taste neutral and are of course BPA and Phthalates Free. They’re advertised as able to keep beverages hot for up to eight hours; I tried this out after sealing in boiling water at 7 am and opening it again at 1 pm. Our water was warm enough to heat our drinks and soup packets, but not piping hot (after six hours). The Thermo performed as well as our other thermal bottles, but I did hope for a little more heat retention. More importantly to me, however: I experienced zero leakage from the Thermo while it remained packed in my pack during those six hours.


All in all, the SIGG Thermos are a solid pick for your thermal liquid needs this winter. They range in price from $24.99 to $39.99, depending on size. Grab one on the SIGG site, or find them at Eastern Mountain Sports for a little less.

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Canada Goose Camp Hoody Jacket

In the market for a big ticket winter jacket? I count my two Canada Goose jackets as the warmest I own, and they’re among my most comfortable, too. Canada Goose’s Camp Hoody is also one of the most versatile, lightweight enough to grab for a travel day or a quick cover up, yet substantial enough for nearly any weather situation. It should be noted right out of the gate that the Camp Hoody retails for $450, which I realize is not unheard of in winter apparel, but still warrants explanation.

canada-goose-camp-hoodyThe million dollar (or in this case, $450) question, of course, is: is it worth it? What makes the Camp Hoody worth the price? Answer: it’s extreme warmth and coverage combined with its ability to stuff down to almost nothing. This is a highly functional jacket, built for technical situations experienced by true outdoors-women. On a backcountry winter excursion during which down warmth is required and yet space and weight is at a premium, the Camp Hoody would be priceless. For a day on the ski slopes with easy access to the car or locker? Probably overkill (though you’ll certainly be comfortable). Therefore, I refer back to my opening question: are you in the market for a premium winter jacket? If your outdoor travel warrants a ‘yes’, the value is definitely here.

The Camp Hoody is a dream to wear. It sits on your body like a cloud, and you feel light as a feather in it (which makes since, as it’s stuffed with white duck down. The fill power is 750, and the double-layer windproof shell provides incredible protection from the elements. I won’t lie: I haven’t trekked to the Arctic in this jacket (yet), but I have experienced wicked cold days on the slopes have haven’t felt a thing. On the other end of the scale, I’ve slid into this jacket with nothing but a t-shirt underneath to walk the dog in the Oregon fog and wind, and felt completely warm. You get a front storm flap to protect against drifts and wind, and a chin guard behind a two-way locking reversed-coil zipper. In other words, wind is not getting in here. The hood is full-sized and adjustable to fit over a helmet or hat, and the hem falls to the hip with a dropped tail. Once you’re in this jacket, you might as well be cozied up in a sleeping bag.

You get two front zippered pockets and an interior mesh google pocket, a Canada Goose logo patch on the arm, and elastic wrist cuffs that really keep out the snow (and which thick gloves can slide over easily). I squished up the Camp Hoody to bring it along via plane on a Colorado ski trip, and once folded and refolded, it fit in my palm about the size of a melon. Packing tip: lay it flat at the bottom of your bag instead of folding it, and let clothes on top compress it down to nothing.

Pick up the Camp Hoody at Moosejaw and Amazon. On the Canada Goose site, you get your pick of colors, ranging from sunset orange (highly recommended), summit pink, red, white, black, or ocean, though colors are more limited at the retail sites.

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