Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody Long-Term Review

Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody

For an easy insulating layer, it’s hard to beat the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. 

Patagonia’s Nano Puff Hoody has become my Old Standby, but that’s not the way things started out.

When I resolved to “get back out there” after nearly two decades away from the outdoors,  I knew it was time to retire my mid-1990s REI three-in-one Gore-Tex-shelled down coat.  My trusty blue coat had carried me through winters in the U.S. mountain west, in China and Russia, and on the U.S. East Coast.  But twenty years on, I found that the waterproof shell would leak in heavy rain and the zip-in down liner was showing its age.  And that ’90s styling. . . . Continue reading “Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody Long-Term Review”

Patagonia R1 Hoody Long-Term Review

Patagonia R1 Hoody

Preparing for a trip, the routine of weighing—figuratively and literally—every item of clothing and gear to balance weight with safely and, ideally, comfort is an accepted fact of life. How cold will it be? How hot? Will there be rain? Bugs? Will we need to climb snow or rock? With all the considerations to be had, it is great to have a few pieces that one knows will come along, no matter what. No thinking required. For me, the Patagonia R1 Hoody is one of these.

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La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX Mountaineering Boot Long-Term Review

La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX

“Are these warmer than the Nepals?”  “Do they front-point as well?”  Lighter?  Heavier?  More or less supportive?  As durable?  What about the price?

From climbing blogs to message boards, it doesn’t take long to find someone making a comparison to the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX boot.  And it should come as no surprise that La Sportiva’s Nepal Evo is one of the most popular mountaineering boots of all time; a combination of rugged, supportive 3.2mm Perwanger leather, classic lacing system, lugged Vibram sole with rigid midsole, all lined with insulated Gore-Tex to keep a mountaineer warm and dry (elusive conditions, to be sure) add up to a serious boot that may not be the best at any one thing, but proves consistently strong across the board.

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enLightened Equipment Revelation Quilt Review

enLightened Equipment down quilt

For years as a Boy Scout I struggled to keep cool enough in my sleeping bag to sleep well. More often than not, I ended up with the heavy synthetic-fill mummy bag unzipped as far as it would go—to my knee—and my leg closest the zipper outside on the tent floor. It wasn’t until years later—and after many discussions with my wife concerning optimal nighttime thermostat settings—that I realized I was by nature a very warm sleeper.  Of course, everything is relative; camping out in Southern California is a completely different game from anyplace that gets truly cold. Nonetheless, my foray into sleeping quilts has proved a remedy to nearly all my outdoor-sleeping idiosyncrasies.

What is a sleeping quilt?  Essentially, a sleeping bag with a large part of the bottom removed.

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When Weather Doesn’t Cooperate: Attempt on Hiuchi-yama (火打山) and Myoko-san (妙高山).


Climbing partner J and I have already delayed our trip one week due to heavy rain, and now it’s June 27 and we’ve decided to take our chances on the oscillating weather forecast.  We load our packs into J’s Honda and hit the road for Niigata, where we hope to summit Hiuchi-yama today and Myoko-san tomorrow, before returning tomorrow afternoon.  Traffic is light at 5:30 a.m., and aside from one 15-minute detour courtesy of our GPS unit, the trip is largely smooth.  As we near the trailhead at Sasagamine, we drive past a family of monkeys moving through the roadside trees; they’ve attracted a dozen cars, all parked along the two-lane road, eager to photograph them.

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Darn Tough Boot Sock Review

Darn Tough Socks

The lowly sock.  It’s battered, stretched, soaked, wrung, rolled, crushed and worn through.  It is one of the least expensive pieces of our wardrobe, but has perhaps the most significant, sustained contact with the body, whether on the trail, the mountain or the slope.  A good sock is remembered only when donning and removing, while a bad sock is at best an annoyance and at worst can jeopardize a trip or even one’s health.

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Patagonia Nano Air Hoody Review

Patagonia Nano Air Hoody

Patagonia’s Nano Air Hoody is my Goldilocks mid-layer: not too warm, not too cold.  Just right.  


One of the first lessons to hit home as I started learning to ski was the importance of staying warm on the lift ride up the hill.  Several times this winter, we’ve been lucky enough to have near-storm conditions at the resorts here in Japan, Japow dumping all over the piste.  Each time, though, the snow rode in on strong, cold winds felt especially clearly suspended in the chair, making warmth a priority. But on the way down, the muscles are working and the blood is flowing again; the trick is finding a way to avoid the chill on the way up while also not arriving at the bottom of the run swimming in sweat. The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody strikes this balance and has proven itself one of my most versatile mid-layers.

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Looking Down is the Best Part: How I Conquered my Fear of Heights

A desire to climb compelled me to conquer my fear of heights. This is how I did it.

I remember the first time.  It happened, of all places, at the La Brea Tar Pits, in Los Angeles.  The Wilshire Boulevard site doesn’t sit on any particularly steep relief.  But one of the buildings, set on a very small hill, is ringed with a cement sidewalk wide enough that, from my low perspective as a child, seemed to drop off into the air.  With no railing to protect passers-by, from my “safe” location next to the building’s full-length glass walls I warned my father not to get too close to the edge.  My dad, with his usual sense of humor, walked carefully up to the edge and “fell” off into the abyss.  I remember feeling extremely distressed, but soon my mom’s laughter hinted that I had missed something.  With her coaxing, I tentatively worked my way up to the edge, finding my father sitting on the hill, looking up at me.  Relieved, the experience passed from my immediate memory as we continued our visit to the museum, but looking back, I’m pretty sure that was the first significant time I associated a perception of height with a sensation of danger.

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Westcomb Shift LT Hoody Review

Westcomb Shift LT Hoody

Let’s get this out of the way.  I’m a sweater.  For as long as I can remember, whenever I start physical activity, my body flips a switch and out comes the sweat.  Doesn’t matter if I’m fat or thin.  So when I read about jackets with “waterproof/breathable” membranes, I always have to chuckle a bit, because I know that I’m the kind of guy who would sweat jogging bare-chested (sorry for that mental image) on a cool day, and if I have a waterproof jacket on and I start some vigorous movement, I’m quickly going to become a sauna.  So I have pretty realistic expectations for how today’s hardshells perform, and I’ve been able to use a number of them with different membranes, designs and technology.

The first thing I noticed wearing Westcomb’s Shift LT Hoody was that I could feel air from outside the jacket cooling my body.  This was different from what I’d experienced with other waterproof jackets, and was reminiscent enough of wearing a softshell that I wondered whether the Shift was truly waterproof.

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