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March 2008 Perfect System: Southwest

Insulation
Isis Whisper Hoodie

Cold-blooded female testers swear by this lightweight, 700-fill down vest. It has a snug-fitting insulated hood–an unusual feature for a vest that boosts warmth significantly. It’s ideal for shoulder-season hikes and cool desert nights. $139; 11 oz. (M); women’s sizes only; isisforwomen.com. Men: Check Cloudveil’s Inversion Vest, a 700-fill toaster that packs down to orange-size and has a fleece chin guard and hand warmer pockets (sorry, no hood). $170; 13 oz. (M); cloudveil.com

Base layer
Brooks HVAC T

The polyester HVAC sucks sweat like a sponge and disperses it over the shirt’s exterior for fast evaporation. Mesh panels on the sides allow air circulation. Only complaint: The light fabric snags on brush, which compromised aesthetics but not performance. $54; brooksrunning.com

Bargain!
Pack

Deuter Aircontact Zero 60+10
Lightweight, air-conditioned, and abrasion-resistant, this pack easily handles 40-pound loads in hot, rugged country. A large hydration sleeve inside the packbag, along with two generous water-bottle pockets on the outside, provide plenty of liquid-carrying capacity for dry trails. It also comes in a women’s model. $145; 4,250 cu. in.; 3 lbs. 14 oz. (M); deuterusa.com

Pants
Outdoor Research Venture

These nylon Supplex pants are as durable as denim jeans but a fraction of the weight. Not even a bushwhack through thickets of cat’s claw fazed them. The men’s version is called the Equinox. $65; 10 oz. (women’s L); orgear.com

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