Gear Roundup: Fall Running & Hiking

Fall running and hiking offer a refreshing escape into nature’s changing colors and crisper air. With summer’s scorching heat behind us, we can enjoy more comfortable temperatures while exploring the trails. The vibrant foliage and muted sunlight here in New England create a scenic backdrop for both casual outings and workouts. It’s a season of transformation, and what better way to embrace it than to hit the trail with some new gear?

This fall I’m testing some new gear from Jack Wolfskin, Kuhl, Helly Hansen, and Appalachian Gear Co., and will provide some thoughts and considerations for hiking and running this fall.


Jack Wolfskin

Prelight Alpha Jacket – $179.95

The Prelight Alpha jacket is like a cozy middle-ground between a windbreaker and a puffy coat. It’s perfect for when the weather gets chilly and windy, but it’s not raining. From my own trial runs, I can tell you it keeps you toasty and lets you breathe like a champ, and it fits like a dream. I’m a big fan of the synthetic insulation that keeps you warm, rain or shine, and those two handy pockets are a lifesaver. This has been a regular part of my gear for those late fall and early spring peak-bagging adventures.

Terraquest Texapore Mid – $199.95

I haven’t rocked a pair of waterproof leather boots in ages, and generally, I wouldn’t suggest them. But there’s this one scenario where they actually come in clutch: cold, soggy hikes. Picture March when the trails are a mushy mix of half-frozen goo and mud. Having that waterproof layer really shines then, and I can see these boots being a game-changer in those situations. The traction and fit have been spot-on so far, although I’d appreciate a roomier toebox. Only time will tell if they can handle the rugged trails of New England.

3D Aerorise 40 pack – $499.95

At first glance, this pack might not catch your eye, but the amount of cutting-edge tech it packs inside is mind-boggling. To start, the four separate back panels are created through 3D printing, and they cleverly mold to your body to ensure weight distribution is perfect. They maintain their form while staying flexible and breathable. The pack’s body is crafted from 100% recycled CROSS RIP 70D synthetic fibers, boasting a roomy, waterproof main compartment with a roll-top closure and a variety of pockets and sections for your gear. In my testing thus far, it rides supremely well and is shockingly  lightweight at 32oz – rare for a company that doesn’t specialize in ultralight gear. This pack is available in 20L, 30L, and 40L options.


Kuhl

The One Shirt-Jac – $149

Kuhl’s “The One” clothing line claims to be the ultimate solution for specific needs, and while I’m typically skeptical of such bold statements, I have to confess my genuine affection for the Shirt-Jac. It strikes a fantastic balance with just the right amount of insulation, combined with an outer shell that fends off the wind like a pro. It’s somewhat hard to put into words, but it seems to have this magical ability to keep your temperature in check. The fit and craftsmanship are top-notch. Even though it’s perfectly suitable for the trail, I find myself reaching for it around the house and for casual outings more often because of its incredible versatility. It has easily become a new favorite.

Quick tip: Consider going up a size when you get this, as it tends to run a bit small with a tapered fit that doesn’t leave much room for layering underneath.

Airspeed shirt – $99

The Airspeed shirt is purpose-built to keep you cool even in scorching weather. It achieves this through cleverly positioned knit panels on the arms, sides, and back, ensuring optimal breathability and stretch, all while offering UPF 30+ sun protection.

I first donned this shirt in late summer, and although it’s not crafted from the lightest fabric, it excels at letting in the breeze and dries lightning-fast. Moreover, the fabric feels incredibly soft against the skin, making it a top pick for all my guided trips this fall. It remains robust enough to handle the transitioning autumn conditions. What I particularly dig is the button-down collar, which keeps it crisp and tidy instead of flapping around.

Response Lite Shortsleeve – $79

Much like the Airspeed, this shirt is tailor-made for sweltering climates. Crafted from ultralight polyester fabric, it’s so light that it feels almost weightless, yet it’s built to withstand some serious wear and tear. While it might not be my first choice as the late fall chill sets in, it’s a valuable addition to the wardrobe for those balmy early autumn escapades.

I went for a larger size since this shirt runs a tad small, and I’ll probably have it tailored for that perfect fit. Nonetheless, I’ve got big plans for this one in the upcoming season.

Revolt pant – $109

The Revolt pants have the appearance of chinos but provide the comfort and flexibility of sweatpants. They offer a stretchy, soft, and well-fitted design. Instead of traditional belt loops, there’s an external drawcord for waist adjustment, a thoughtful feature, although I’ve noticed that it tends to loosen throughout the day, making me wish for an alternative closure method. These pants are also equipped with numerous pockets and extra stitching, ensuring their practicality and durability.

I’ve made The Revolt pants my go-to daily outfit, often pairing them with The One shirt-jac, as shown in the photo above. They strike a perfect balance between comfort and a polished appearance, avoiding the “pajama” look that joggers can sometimes give. Thanks to their slightly heavier fabric, they are ideal for fall outings and hikes, and I find myself reaching for them regularly.

Suppressor Jogger – $99

I mentioned earlier that I avoid wearing joggers in public due to the pajama-like look, but the Suppressor is a departure from this norm with its durable and robust construction. Despite being soft and lightweight, its fabric offers UPF 50+ sun protection, water and abrasion resistance, and excellent breathability. Featuring multiple pockets for your cell phone and daily necessities, along with an elastic waistband and ankle cuffs, the Suppressor caters to practicality.

While I personally still prefer not to wear these on hiking trails, they are the perfect choice for tackling household and yard chores or running errands around town.


Helly Hansen

Roam Wind Jacket – $100 (currently on sale for $50-80)

I have a soft spot for straightforward windshells, and the Roam fits that description perfectly. In contrast to the Jack Wolfskin Prelight jacket I mentioned earlier in this post, the Roam is unlined and straightforward. It’s a lightweight, durable layer that’s easy to pack, featuring an eco-friendly DWR coating and raglan sleeves, making it an excellent choice for wearing with a backpack or while cycling.

Wind is a major factor that can lead to discomfort on the trail, and a basic, lightweight garment like the Roam can help keep you warm and shielded during longer outdoor excursions. I carried a wind layer with me for a significant portion of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike and still make it a staple on most trips because of its versatility and the weight savings it offers compared to a conventional rain jacket, which is unnecessary when rain isn’t in the forecast.

HH LIFA Active Solen Hoodie – $80 (currently on sale for $40)

In recent years, I’ve truly embraced the sun hoodie as an essential part of my outdoor wardrobe. While many hikers may traditionally favor short-sleeved shirts for hot and sunny conditions, I’ve come to appreciate that a lightweight hoodie often offers the best solution. It provides superior sun protection without the need for sunscreen, and its lightweight, breathable materials wick moisture away from the skin while promoting better airflow, resulting in a cooler and more comfortable experience. Additionally, they help regulate body temperature effectively. One personal favorite aspect of using a hoodie for summer hiking is the added benefit of potential insect protection when treated with Permethrin, which is particularly useful in Maine.

The LIFA Active Solen hoodie embodies all of these qualities and serves as an excellent choice for warm-weather wear or as a baselayer for cooler outdoor adventures. I frequently pair it with the Roam wind jacket to create a flexible and warm combination that works well in various fall conditions. My only wish for this is that it had thumb loops.

LIFA Active Solen T – $55

The Active Solen T-Shirt stands out as the perfect choice for both sun protection and comfort during outdoor activities with prolonged sun exposure, such as sailing, spring skiing, and hiking, to name a few. Crafted from LIFA ACTIVE fabric, this shirt excels in moisture-wicking capabilities, quick drying, odor resistance, and durability, and its made of recycled fibers.

I’ve noticed that the fabric used for this shirt is somewhat thicker and sturdier compared to my lighter-weight shirts, which are my go-to options during scorching summer days. However, when the temperatures start to drop, having a heftier option like this one provides increased comfort. It also proves to be an excellent layering piece, offering versatility in creating adaptable combinations with other clothing items.

Tech Trail shorts – $85

The Tech Trail shorts are meticulously crafted to prioritize both comfort and functionality. Featuring an adjustable waist with a drawcord, they provide a personalized fit, and because they lack a liner, they can be easily paired with a variety of undergarments, even full-length tights for cooler weather. The hand pockets offer convenient storage solutions, while the wicking finish fabric efficiently manages moisture, ensuring you stay dry. These shorts boast 4-way stretch fabric and an elastic waist, granting exceptional flexibility and a sense of complete freedom of movement, all while maintaining a remarkably lightweight feel.

Their comfort and flowy design make you almost forget you’re wearing them. Although I can’t see myself parting ways with my beloved PATHprojects Graves PX shorts permanently, it’s always nice to have an alternative choice in the rotation for those occasional needs.

HH Falcon Shoe – $140 (on sale for $83.99)

The Falcon trail running shoe is Helly Hansen’s most versatile trail runner, combining support and stability with flexibility. Engineered with a lightweight frame, it incorporates their proprietary “HH Max Grip” and “HH Tough Wear” compounds in specific areas to deliver exceptional traction and durability.

Initially, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a trail runner by Helly Hansen, but my initial tests showed promise. Negotiating muddy trails and slick bog bridges proved to be a breeze, thanks to the ample lug size and spacing on the outsole. I found them comfortable enough for all-day wear, though, akin to the previously mentioned Jack Wolfskin footwear, I do wish the toebox offered a bit more room for those of us who prefer a more spacious feel up front. While these might not become my everyday footwear, they’ll certainly stay in my rotation as I assess their durability over time.


Appalachian Gear Company

All-paca Hoodie – $165

After all the buzz surrounding this fleece, I was eagerly anticipating trying it out. It’s a staple among many of the guides I work with, and now I see why. Crafted from 100% Alpaca fiber, its knit structure is geared for both toughness and breathability, making it the ideal midlayer for warmth and resilient enough to withstand rough handling when used as an outer layer.

The Alpaca fiber has the remarkable ability to dry quickly and resist moisture absorption. Its loosely woven texture facilitates easy perspiration escape while retaining its remarkable insulation qualities. I sported this midlayer during my guided backpacking trips this autumn and was thoroughly impressed by its warmth and comfort. Although it tips the scales at 11 ounces for a Men’s Medium and isn’t the lightest option around, its performance is outstanding, earning it a permanent spot on my gear list.


Aprés-Hike: TINCUP Fourteener Bourbon Whiskey – $69.99

I was introduced to TINCUP’s Fourteener last year during their inaugural release, and with the recent celebration of Release No. 2, I was eager to secure another bottle.

TINCUP’s Fourteener is a mature straight bourbon, aged for a remarkable fourteen years in fresh, American white oak barrels. It is then cut to proof with pure Eldorado Spring water. Each annual release showcases limited edition packaging adorned with an esteemed Colorado “14er” (peaks of more than 14,000 feet in elevation). Release No. 2 pays homage to and contributes to the preservation of Quandary Peak.

This caramel-hued spirit boasts enticing aromas of vanilla and sugar cookie, accompanied by flavors of caramel, syrup, and a delightful butterscotch finish. Its delectable character makes it a fitting choice to savor at the culmination of a mountain adventure.

Beyond the exceptional bourbon itself, I appreciate that each package includes a screw-top “tin cup top” for effortless measuring and sharing. The unique hexagonal bottle shape not only adds to its distinctive appeal but also enhances its packability and prevents unwelcome rolling. I’m a huge fan of this whiskey and can’t wait to make a Hot Toddy with it this fall.


Final Thoughts

Throughout this review, I’ve delved into a variety of new gear, and, by and large, I’ve been impressed with the quality and practicality of these products. If I had to single out the items that left the most lasting impression on me, they would be the Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha jacket, the Kuhl One Shirt-Jac, Helly Hansen Tech Trail shorts, the All-paca Hoodie, and the Fourteener bourbon. This isn’t to diminish the performance of the other gear, as they all served their purpose well. However, I consistently found myself reaching for these select items time and again.

I find these comprehensive roundups, conducted a couple of times each year after extensive testing, invaluable for shedding light on new releases that can effectively fill gaps in your gear collection, much as they did for me. It’s also an opportunity to offer insights from the perspective of a long-distance hiker and trail runner.

 
 

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