Field Notes: Boots, Jackets, Tents, And More

The latest word from our testers. This month, we test the Marmot Cauldro jacket, Gregory Z65 pack, Exped Andromeda, tents, Danner Formation boots, and more.

Jacket

Marmot Cauldron

This insulated jacket is the year's top choice for a versatile fall-through-spring mid and outer layer, thanks to its low weight, high warmth, and durability. It sailed through a full winter of hiking, camping, cragging, skiing, and climbing in temps from 0°F to 40°F. The hoodless design and features are minimalist: elastic cuffs, zippered handwarmer pockets, inside and outside chest pockets, wicking DriClime-lined collar and chin guard, and a drawcord hem. The low-bulk profile easily slides under any shell, and the fit allows full range of motion without the hem and sleeves creeping up. Bonus: The Cauldron, which packs down to cantaloupe size, is filled with Marmot's 80 percent recycled EcoPro 100 insulation. And the shell is recycled poly, which in testing appeared just as durable and water-resistant as the standard stuff. $120; 1 lb. 1 oz. (M); men's S-XXL; marmot.com. Reader Service #113

Pack

Gregory Z65

Last year, Gregory launched the Z55, which testers loved for its low weight and incredible comfort with a weekend load. This bigger version can handle trips up to a week long–and it still weighs less than four pounds. After several days of hiking in Idaho's high desert, our tester judged the pack luxurious even when he carried 40-plus pounds, thanks to a well-padded and stable harness, a rigid hipbelt, and good airflow across the back. "It never shifted even when I scrambled off-trail in very steep, rocky terrain," he said. Features include top- and front-zipper access, a floating lid, and exterior and hipbelt pockets. But some hikers may not like how the curved backpanel (which allows the cooling ventilation) cuts into pack bag capacity. The design also puts the load's center of gravity a bit farther from your core than a traditional pack. The women's model is the Jade 60. $229; 3,966 cu. in.; 3 lbs. 13 oz. (men's M); men's S-L, women's XS-M; gregorypacks.com. Reader Service #114

Pants

Royal Robbins Bivy Pants


Cotton kills, right? Wrong, at least not in the case of these hardworking pants. The Bivys are made from a fabric blend–70 percent cotton and 30 percent nylon–that proved marvelously versatile in the field. In conditions ranging from a drizzling 50°F to sunny and hot, the Bivys offered the comfortable breathability of cotton but were as quick-drying as many similar weight 100-percent nylon pants we've tested. The secret: Cotton fibers are treated with Schoeller 3XDry, which sucks moisture to the outer surface where it dries more quickly. And we found them as durable as a pair of blue jeans; the pants' gusseted, reinforced knees didn't rip even on a granite fall that drew blood underneath. Fit is loose for ease of movement but tapered in the legs. The soft mesh waistband is comfortable under a hipbelt. $55; 14 oz. (33-34); men's waist 30-40, length 30-34; royalrobbins.com. Reader Service #115

Tent

Exped Andromeda


Does your camping season ramp up just as others' are winding down? This winter-ready tunnel tent delivers expedition-grade shelter for two or even three gear-laden adults. On shoulder-season trips in Utah and Colorado, our testers praised the Andromeda's weather protection, garage-size vestibule (30 square feet), and fast-pitch convenience (rainfly and inner tent go up together). "There's only one door, but we had plenty of room to keep all of our packs, boots, and climbing gear dry–and cook as well," one tester reported. There's ample length for six-footers to stretch out, and enough headroom (39 inches) for most users to sit cross-legged in the center. Above timberline on Capitol Peak, the tent easily shed 40-mph wind gusts, freezing rain, and wet snow buildup. Ventilation is excellent, even in high humidity, thanks to huge wind scoops at each end. It's no featherweight, but comes fully outfitted, right down to pre-rigged guylines with attached stuff bags for deadman anchors (the tent is not freestanding). Bonus: Pitch it fly-only and save three pounds. $430; 35 sq. ft.; 7 lbs. 9 oz.; outdoorresearch
.com
. Reader Service #116

Boots

Danner Formation GTX


Twenty-seven Grand Canyon miles in less than 24 hours–it's the perfect boot-testing trial by fire, and the Formations passed with out-of-the-box, all-day comfort. "A descent through slushy snow, 15 miles of speed hiking along the Tonto Trail, scrambling in Lonetree Canyon, and a 3,500-foot ascent," said our tester, "and my feet were fine." Our crew deemed the waterproof, fabric-and-nubuk Formations ideal for high-mileage trail days, with adequate support for loads up to 35 pounds and traction good enough for the slickest trails. The lacing system is comfortably snug and doesn't loosen during long days. Our samples showed minimal signs of wear after close to 200 miles of testing. Best for medium-width, medium-volume feet, and available in wide sizes. $150; 2 lbs. 9 oz. (men's 9.5); men's 7-12D (regular), 8-12, 13EE (wide); danner.com. Reader Service #117