Spring weather can be tricky in Southern Appalachia. Sunny skies can quickly turn into a snowy whiteout. Hikers need to be prepared for anything that Ma Nature might throw at them. Here are some ideal gear for adventures on the cusp of spring.
Nemo Sonic Sleeping bag, $499
At, $500, this bag ain’t cheap, but if you’re looking for a toasty warm, durable sleeping bag that will last a lifetime, it’s worth the investment. The 850-fill duck down ensures balmy comfort down to it s zero-degree temperature rating. In warmer temperatures, two long gills on top of the bag unzip to vent heat. And for restless sleepers—or folks wanting to snuggle—the stretch stitching allows ample mobility inside the bag. $500. nemoequipment.com
SCARPA Neutron, $129
This is our pick for the best dual-purpose training and racing shoe of early 2016. The featherweight 9.7-ounce Neutron allows you to rack up the miles in comfort. A lugged sole and just enough toe protection give you the freedom to push the pace on rocky, uneven terrain and make it home with happy feet. Breathable mesh and synthetic uppers keep your feet cool in summer, while resisting wear in high-abrasion areas. This is a race-inspired but training-worthy trail shoe.
RefrigiWear Heavyweight Fleece, $85
Looking for an affordable, durable fleece that looks snazzy on the trails or in the taproom? The RefrigiWear Fleece is soft, stretchy, and super-warm, but it’s also tough enough to handle the worst and most unexpected wintry weather. refrigiwear.com
Avex FreeFlow AUTOSEAL Water Bottle, $16
The one-liter FreeFlow is the perfect water bottle for outdoor adventurers. It’s easy to drink out of the high-flow-rate drinkng lid, and it fits easily into the side pocket of any backpack. Our tester dropped the BPA-free plastic bottle several times on rocks and roots, and the bottle barely registered a scratch. And the cross-bolt lock prevents accidental spillage or leaking. This is our tester’s new go-to water bottle for trail adventures.
Altec Lansing Sport EarBuds, $60
These waterproof buds stay securely in your ear even when you’re dripping with sweat or covered in mud. They can even go under water for lake swims or laps in the pool. With 20 hours of battery life, these Bluetooth buds are comfy and snug, and they deliver top-notch sound to power you through your next workout.
Trail Crampon Ultras, $67
Most Southern Appalachian summits are still icy and slick in spring. These 18 stainless-steel spikes offer aggressive traction on any icy surface, with welded double-sided chains built to endure repeated torque and wear. The heel plate and velcro strap over the top helped ensure a snug secure fit.
myCharge All-Terrain, $25
It’s the first waterproof, temperature proof, drop proof and dust proof portable battery pack. Charge your phone or devices on big backcountry adventures without worrying about the elements.The All-Terrain is waterproof up to two meters for one hour and can withstand extreme heat and cold without losing charging capabilities.
SoftScience Terrain UltraLyte Boot, $80
Don’t want a big, clunky boot but still want ankle support and watwerproof protection? The SoftScience Terrain UltraLyte is your new favorite boot. It has all of the benefits of boots—like more high-cut protection and durability—but without the heavy, cumbersome drawbacks of traditional boots. This is the lightest, most agile, and most comfortable boot we’ve tested.
Mizuno Wave Catalyst, $110
Aiming for a spring marathon? Hoping to notch a PR? The lightweight Catalyst is an ideal shoe for training and racing. Runner’s World named it best spring debut of 2016, and for good reason: the 9.4-ounce shoe is versatile and agile, able to handle long training runs as well as 5K races. For spring training, this shoe will deliver miles of glide.
Avex Freeflow Tritan Water Bottle, $17
This 34-ounce bottle is perfect for day hikes or multi-day trips in the backwoods. It’s shatterproof and BPA free, and best of all, it doesn’t leak. Toss it in your pack and never worry about leaks.
Leki Instructor Lite Hiking Poles, $110
Leki is the industry standard for hiking poles, and the Instructor Lites don’t disappoint. With rubber fitness tips, adjustable trigger straps, an innovative patented Shark Grip releasable strap system, and 100% carbon shafts, the poles are lightweight yet durable. The poles are easily adjustable, too, allowing multiple users to size the poles to their needs.
Howler Brothers, Matagorda Tech Shirt
Technical shirts are a dime a dozen these days, but Howler Brothers has outdone themselves with the Matagorda Tech Shirt, the newest in an apparel lineup that is being heralded by industry pros and weekend warriors alike. The key to the Matagorda’s functionality is its streamlined simplicity. The design is clean and focused and the breathable nylon fabric is engineered for extreme flexibility.