It's that time of the year again with all the top outdoors brands releasing their best bits of gear for autumn / winter and to get an idea of what's hot out there, we asked a host of the top outdoors brands to select their best bit of kit for this winter and tell us why they rate it.
They chose a broad range of stuff, including lots of winter-friendly insulated jackets, a smattering of waterproofs, a brand new technical mountain pack and lots more besides. If we had to generalise though, we reckon it's going to be a good year to choose a new insulated winter jacket.
Scroll down the page to check out all the gear or follow the links below to skip straight to your favoured brand.
Arc'teryx Cerium SL Jacket - £250 / 185g
As the lightest down piece in the collection it functions primarily as a warm mid-layer. Down Composite Mapping strategically places Coreloft synthetic insulation in areas where moisture may buildup, down in the core and the hood provides maximum warmth. The new super lightweight Thisela face fabric with DWR provides light moisture protection.
Down done differently - Minimalist design for maximum performance, built to the highest levels of craftsmanship, with innovations for increased range of comfort and conditions. Efficient, lightweight and durable enough to wear every day.
With high warmth-to-weight ratio by conforming closely to the body trapping heat closer to your core, the Cerium SL is a very efficient mid layer to keep you warm this winter.
Berghaus' Men's Ulvetanna Hybrid Hydrodown Jacket - £250 / 409g
Combining innovative materials with cutting edge design, the Berghaus men's Ulvetanna Hybrid Hydrodown and Hydroloft® Jacket is an exceptional insulated garment for your winter climbing trips. This jacket has been extensively tested in extreme conditions and is the latest product to emerge from the renowned MtnHaus® design and development team.
The Ulvetanna Hybrid boasts body mapped insulation, along with high performance Pertex Quantum and Pertex Microlight face fabrics for great warmth and extended comfort in use. A fixed, helmet compatible hood and strategically placed essential features complete an outstanding technical winter climbing jacket.
Great wind and water resistance thanks to the lightweight Pertex Quantum face fabric in the down areas, with a ripstop finish for added durability.
Pertex Microlight provides great water and wind resistance in the synthetic insulation areas, along with mechanical stretch for excellent freedom of movement.
Stay warmer for longer with Berghaus' innovative body mapped 850 fill goose Hydrodown and synthetic Hydroloft Elite Pro insulation.
Quick access to your essentials in two zipped hand-warmer pockets and one internal zipped pocket. Added protection from the elements thanks to a fixed and adjustable helmet compatible hood with a stiffened peak. Stretch binding at the cuffs and a drawcord at the hem deliver added comfort and adjustability. Stuff sac for easy storage when not in use.
More info: www.berghaus.com.
Columbia Men’s Platinum 860 TurboDown Hooded Jacket - £150 / 860g
Soft, lightweight, and very warm, this new turbodown collection is set to keep your core cosy in the coldest conditions wherever you are during the autumn / winter season coming up. Basically, it's like a down jacket on steroids. But it’s legal.
The American-based outdoors brand has combined Omni-Heat Thermal Insulation with premium down fill to create TurboDown: Performance-Enhanced Down.
The natural warmth of down plus the science of synthetic combines the best of nature and science together. The best of synthetic insulation and Omni-Heat Thermal Insulation was fused with the best natural insulation, premium down, to create TurboDown.
TurboDown is combined with Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective which reflects body heat while maintaining a high level of breathability.
More info www.columbia.com.
Haglöfs Roc Spirit Jacket - £350 / 395g
The brand new Roc Spirit Jacket - there's also a women's-specific Q version - is a light, tough, all-round mountaineering shell made from top-end Gore-Tex Pro, which the Swedish brand reckons is its most versatile mountaineering jacket.
So what's it like? Reasonably light at 460g for a large - 395g in a medium Q version says the brand - and sleek without being overly spartan would be a decent summing up. It has water-resistant zips all-round, just two large hand-warmer type pockets designed to sit above harness level and full-length pit-zips with a double-ended zip for multi-adjustability.
It's aimed at mountaineers so it gets a helmet hood, but a slightly different one. For starters, the adjustment system is like those first seen on the lightweight LIM jackets, partly external with a shock cord on the back of the head though there's also a hidden front cord as well.
More info: www.haglofs.com.
Merrell Veterra Hiking Boot - £130 / 382g
The Veterra, from outdoor performance experts Merrell is the ultimate technical all-rounder, providing a lightweight, agile design coupled with a glove like fit.
The shoe is highly protective and supportive for easy movement across a range of terrains but comfy enough for the approach, utilizing technologies and materials developed in Merrell’s trekking and running ranges to deliver a shoe that’s the perfect choice for speed hiking, scrambling and more intense outdoor activties.
A reinforced rubber toe and heel merge into the shoe’s lightweight technical mesh upper featuring Merrell Gore-Tex ConnectFit, the result of a year long collaboration between Merrell and Gore-Tex that provides superior comfort, breathability and protection against the elements, keeping feet dry in wet conditions yet not restricting movement and flex within the shoe to promote a natural stride.
Specifically designed to ensure lasting traction a tear resistant and self-cleaning M-Select Grip outsole combines flat lugs with increased surface contact that bites into the ground and aids quick and aggressive lateral movements. The addition of Merrell’s highly versatile Omni-Fit lacing offers a tight fit and responsive ride over wet rocky terrain but can be quickly loosened for walking.
A stable take-o! and soft landing is provided by an MBound Trek midsole o!ering specialized, resilient cushioning and immediate feedback from the ground to the foot which is designed to last.
Other technologies include M-Select Fresh that eliminates odour-causing bacteria (by the clever use of natural enzymes) and Stratafus technology that injects the foot cage into the mesh upper for incredible durability.
More info: www.merrell.com.
Montane Minimus Hybrid Jacket - £240 / 578g
Developed to provide high thermal insulation combined with stormproof protection. The Minimus Hybrid Jacket is one of the lightest garments in its category, delivering versatility and high breathability. Featuring the remarkable light weight Pertex Shield + fabric as its outer shell, it can pack down into a rucksack during cold weather activities and can serve as both waterproof shell and/or thermal insulation when required.
The jacket specialises in hardcore autumn/winter activities such as mountaineering, ice climbing and mountain walking but can also be used for hill walking and general use.
More info: www.montane.co.uk.
Mountain Equipment Lhotse Jacket - £330 / 530g
Where the Lhotse really shines, is in the fit. The gist of it is that the brand spent two years working with elite Swiss pattern cutters to optimise the fit of their shell jackets - the aim was to eliminate loose fabric, but still create a cut that works for more people and doesn't limit mobility.
There are two versions: a closer-fitting Alpine Fit and a more generous Mountain Fit to allow for extra layers. We couldn't try the fit before as ME's sample size is 'large', but our Lhotse is a medium and uses the alpine version of the cut and it's immediately and obviously a brilliant fit and as good as anything else we've seen full stop.
It's sleek and slim in the torso and hips, hugs the curve of our lower back and should work well with pack and harness with minimal billowing. It's also wide enough for broad, climber-ish shoulders and has long, climbing-friendly sleeves that also roll up for extra cooling if you need it.
The clever bit about it all is that it does all that, fits closely with it, but when you reach out or up there's not only no restriction on your movement, it all happens without loose, billowing extra fabric because it's simply been cut really well. Those Swiss guys clearly know what they're doing.
If all that sounds unlikely, we'd suggest you simply go and try one of for size and see what you think. It's medium long as well rather than being a sawn-off dedicated climbing jacket, which promises to make it a cracking mountain all-rounder.
More info: www.mountain-equipment.co.uk.
Mountain Hardwear Super Compressor Jacket - £200 / 479g
The Super Compressor jacket is made from Mountain Hardwear's proprietary new construction technique combined with the brand's award-winning Thermal.Q Elite synthetic fill, this state-of-the-art, proprietary insulation construction offers the loft and warmth of a down jacket.
How it works is that the fill has heat trapping air pockets that increase warmth without added weight while also mimicking the dense and stable structure of down to create the highest warmth to weight ratio available in synthetic insulation.
As well as being extremely warm, the jacket is easily compressible, so perfect for packing away, and has a helmet-compatible hood with a single adjustment for a customised fit. Mountain Hardwear say the Super Compressor Jacket is the ideal stand-alone piece for cold belays, winter mountaineering adventures or layering up in damp conditions.
More info www.mountainhardwear.eu.
Osprey Mutant 38 Pack - £100 / 1190g
Like the original Mutant, the new ISPO award winning pack is a minimal but durable technical sack developed for year-round use, whether that’s climbing in summer or winter, with a variety of new features making it superlight, strippable and versatile.
The new model has been developed to be tough but simple, just like the original. Looking at the images, it appears to have a neater, alloy bar, ice axe attachment system as well as a backwards-facing lid pocket zip, similar to Montane's 'Buddy Pocket', which allow your mate easy access to your stashed chocolate bars. No need to take the pack off, just ask nicely.
The ventilated foam backpanel and harness are designed to function in either warm summer environments or bitterly cold winter ascents and the removable HDPE frame-sheet and aluminium stay provide the suspension needed for carrying gear whilst offering enough dynamic flexibility not to hinder any key movements. Plus you can strip the pack down to save grammes if that's your thing.
It only weighs in at 1.19kg (M/L) thanks to its clean and intuitive design. Like the current pack, it's available in two volumes, 38L and 28L, so it can be used for a single day or multi-day climb.
More info: www.ospreyeurope.com.
Paramo Enduro Jacket - £350 / 750g
New this winter, Paramo's new men's Enduro Jacket is arguably the best mountain shell from the brand ever with a brilliant combination of UK-friendly fabric performance with a neater, closer technical cut and well thought-out features.
Paramo's unique Nikwax Analogy fabric is a longtime favourite of ours for UK winter use. It combines a proofed windproof outer with a liner fabric that's designed to move moisture outwards. The result, no matter how it works, is a fabric combination that's effectively waterproof, breathes very well, is durable, rustle free and resists condensation.
It can allow water in under localised pressure, but to counter-act this, the latest versions have a new gridded, waffle-liner under shoulders and pack areas.
Analogy's not perfect, it's heavier and warmer than conventional waterproof fabrics, but in the UK's damp, cold conditions, it works very, very well.
More info www.paramo.co.uk.
Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket - £200 / 354g
The Nano-Air Hoody and Jacket with FullRange insulation is an entirely new kind of insulating garment for Fall 2014 that’s unlike anything ever seen before. Offering excellent temperature regulation and four-way mechanical stretch, the Nano-Air Jacket can be worn continuously during aerobic, stop-start activities in the mountains, and mitigates the need to adjust layers when the body heats up.
The jacket's nylon face fabric has a DWR finish to repel precipitation, making it the ideal outerlayer or midlayer. The Nano-Air products are incredibly breathable, allowing airflow up to 40 CFM (cubic feet per minute) while still maintaining stretch and warmth, due to the exclusive combination of FullRange insulation and nylon fabric.
FullRange Insulation is a multi-denier synthetic fill insulation made from several different types of polyester fibers, developed by Toray Mills in Japan. It's built in much the same way as traditional fill insulation, but has a proprietary element that gives it added stability against fiber migration, and allows for great stretch and recovery. Nano-Air garments use a 60-gram insulation weight for versatility in a wider range of temperatures. Utilizing a blend of hydrophobic fibers that repel moisture, FullRange insulation will maintain its warmth and loft when wet, and dries fast.
More info: www.patagonia.com.
PHD Hispar 500 K Series Sleeping Bag - £618 / 770g
The new Hispar 500 "K Series" Sleeping Bag, made with the new 1000 down, has a Typical Operating Temperature of -15C (5F) for full winter conditions and is one of a set of six extremely lightweight Hispar sleeping bags for camping in mountains anywhere in the world.
PHDs specialist experience and knowledge in down insulation has excelled in the design of these bags and together with water-resistant lightweight Ultrashell outer fabric and PHD's unique 1000 fill power down, exceptional warm to weight performance has been achieved.
Weighing only 770grams (for a standard size) these bags are individually hand made to order and can be made any size from short and slim to extra long and extra wide, and of-course everything between.
More info: www.phdesigns.co.uk.
Rab Infinity Endurance Jacket - £285 / 570g
New this autumn, the Men's Infinity Endurance is a beefed-up version of the lightweight Infinity jacket. It has a water-resistant, Pertex Endurance outer rather than the ultra-light Quantum GL of the original and a full helmet hood- essentially it's intended as a technical alpine mountaineering jacket and weighs around 100g more than the original Infinity at 570g claimed for a large.
The down is top-notch 850+ fill power stuff - water resistant - and the construction is stitched through to minimise weight. So light, warm, helmet-compatible and able to cope with exposure to snow and light rain is where its at.
More info: www.rab.uk.com.
The North Face Summit Series Fuse Uno Jacket - £340 / 351g
The new FuseForm construction from The North Face utilises advanced manufacturing techniques that make it possible to weave two material properties into a single fabric. Because it eliminates the allowance, thread and tape of traditional seams, FuseForm construction creates garments that are lighter, less bulky, stronger and more durable, and it gives them a clean, modern aesthetic both inside and out.
FuseForm is a technology that revolutionises the way clothing is made and has allowed North Face to use a single piece of HyVent fabric to create the Fuse Uno Jacket. This first-of-its-kind design reduces weight and bulk while improving performance and durability.
Sustainable savings have therefore been made by reducing the amount of cut lines, seam tape and adhesive. This also eliminates the waste created by different fabric consumption and assembly. The variable yarn strength is built into the pattern creating different physical properties within a single piece of fabric, therefore creating varying degrees of abrasion resistance.
The North Face say it's the most technically innovative alpine climbing shell the company have ever created.
More info: www.thenorthface.co.uk.