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September 2005 Baselayer

Apparel Review: More For Your Money

Budget shopper or big spender? We have the perfect three-season layering system for you.

©Matthew J. Reigner

(INSULATION)

L.L. Bean Wind Challenger

If you’re looking for one screaming deal here-no matter what your budget-this is it. The Polartec Windbloc fleece is warm enough for camp wear down to the high 30s, and cuts gusty weather when worn as an outer layer on cool days. On Shasta the jacket took the sting out of a chill breeze but never caused overheating. It has four zippered pockets (two outside, two in), and a collar that protects to the chin. Tradeoffs are minor: No hem drawcord, and fit runs large; consider going down a size to take advantage of the fabric’s stretch and to to minimize layering bulk. $59; men’s S-XXL, women’s S-XL; 1 lb. 1 oz. (800) 809-7057; www.llbean.com.

©Matthew J. Reigner

(PANTS)

Columbia Omni-Dry Venture Cargo Convertible

There’s nothing thriftier than convertible pants. But you get more for your dollar with these quick-drying, feature-rich nylon models. Six smart pockets provide plenty of secure storage without excess bulk; ankle zips help get the pants on and off over boots; and low-profile zipper covers keep the dork factor low. The fabric isn’t as tough as the pricier pants in the other systems, but it held up well through normal wear and tear, and the seams and zippers show no signs of weakness. The fit runs loose, which lets you layer them over microfleece for extended-season use. $44; men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL (3 lengths each); 15 oz. (800) 622-6953; www.columbia.com.

©Matthew J. Reigner

(HAT)

Outdoor Research Novo Watch Cap

If you’re worried that cost-conscious might look, well, cheap, put on this beanie and hold your head high. I picked it because it boosts the warmth of my system in freezing temps, but this hat is so light and versatile it belongs in any pack-and it squashes so small it’ll fit in your pocket. The thin, synthetic fabric retains precious little moisture and dries lightning fast. It fits nicely under a helmet or hood, and offers just enough insulation for on-the-go activities in cold weather. Fit is snug. $16; 2 sizes; 1 oz. (888) 467-4327; www.orgear.com.

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