Outdoor Retailer Roundup: Three-Season Hiking From The Inside Out

Staying cool, smelling fresh, packing light, and looking good come together in this Summer OR hiking ensemble assembled by our Reader Reporter.

On Day One of the actual show, my assignment was to find the ultimate three-season hiking outfit. Navigating the show floor was a bit like a game of “getting warmer, getting cooler," but I found a great variety of gear.

Sweat Smarter, Not Harder

This summer, the hottest story is about staying cool! And against the backdrop of temps in the mid-90s in Salt Lake City, Columbia burst onto the scene with their Omni-Freeze ZERO “sweat-activated” technology, to be incorporated into over 40 styles next spring including hats, shirts, sleeves, and pants. Visible blue rings embedded in fabric contain a cooling polymer which, when exposed to sweat or moisture, swell to create a cooling sensation. The Freezer Zero Neck Gaiter ($30) is a must-have for any summer hiker’s arsenal to stay cool. Either sweat or water (from your bottle or a creek) will activate the polymer and keep you cool, in addition to providing UPF50 sun protection. columbia.com

Smell Fresher for Longer

I’d never heard of UK-based Rab, so I headed over to their booth to see what’s new. Their Helium Tee ($37) is a great baselayer that combines the odor control of Polygiene STAY FRESH treatment with the quick-drying properties of Cocona. This hybrid technology speaks to the other big story at this year’s show – keeping clothes smelling fresh. Polygiene’s active ingredient is silver salt, a naturally occurring mineral that inhibits growth of odor-causing bacteria within the fabric. It is effective for the life of the garment, and retains 99% effectiveness after 100 washes. The Helium also includes mesh panels in the underarm and back that incorporate Cocona, activated carbon particles derived from discarded coconut shells. Since it’s contained inside the fiber, it will not wear out or wash off. Also, it’s not a chemical treatment and refreshes with heat from washing and drying. At just 2 oz, this is an ultralight hiker’s dream baselayer. rabusa.com

Fashion-Friendy Bug Protection, Squat Fearlessly In A Skort

I never knew ExOfficio made a whole line of clothing beyond underwear! I tried on their Lumen Hoody ($60), a permethrin-treated long-sleeved hoody. I wanted to curl up in its kitten-like softness, and was thrilled to see such a cute, comfortable piece with the functionality of insect repellent. I seem to fall in love with an item each day, and my heart belongs to the Lumen today. I was also determined to find a new skort today, and ExOfficio delivered again with its Kukura skort ($85). New to the design is a hidden stretch waistband in the back, which looks like a traditional pant waistband from the outside but hugs the body like the ExOfficio underwear we know and love. That means no more “plumber’s rear” when you squat or bend over, and, the company claims, no bunching, even under a backpack. DWR treatment, four-way stretch fabric, and the metal Indestructible Button sewn directly into the waistband in front add to the hiker-friendly features I love in this skort. exofficio.com

Leave Your Fleece At Home

MontBell, the self-proclaimed “Patagonia of Japan”, is less known in this country. As I entered their booth, the Tachyon jacket ($109) immediately caught my eye, and when I dove a little deeper I realized could revolutionize my spring and fall layering mindset. This ultralight, rip-stop nylon jacket is designed as a wind layer. So on those cool mornings, leave your fleece at home and wear this over your favorite base layer. When it warms up in the afternoon and it’s time to peel it off, the 1.6-ounce Tachyon will pack down to a tiny palm-sized pouch hidden in the inside bottom seam. Sounds a lot better than the bulky fleece jacket I usually end up tying to my pack after that morning chill burns off. Mesh underarm inserts help with ventilation, and DWR treatment will get you through a mid-morning sprinkle in a crunch. What I liked was that, unlike other lightweight non-breathable layers I’ve tried in the past, I didn’t get that instant sticky feeling when I tried this on, even under the hot lights of the booth. montbell.us

Fun and Functional Underwear For Hiking And Beyond

Rounding out my hiking ensemble with some fun performance underwear for women, I chose Terramar Hottotties’ new femininely-styled versions of their long-standing line of Pro Mesh essentials. Polyester with spandex provides moisture wicking and range of motion, while new lace paneling provides both ventilation and the option of crossing quickly from a dayhike to dinner in town afterwards. The tank ($20) and hipster ($16) each weigh in at 5.36 ounces. hot-totties.com