Time spent in the field offers invaluable insights into the performance and reliability of outdoor gear. At Switchback Travel, we take pride in our in-depth reviews. Whether it’s backpacking, climbing, skiing, or any of the other activities that we all love, these articles showcase our experiences—the good and the bad—with thorough write-ups focused on product quality, performance and value. By constantly trying new products and pitting them head-to-head against our established favorites, we aim to make your buying decision easier.

We frequently test gear here in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and send it out to remote locations from the Sierra Nevada to Patagonia. If you would like to support our site after reading a review, please use our handy price comparison tool at the bottom of the page or visit our support us page.

Arc'teryx Alpha SV hardshell jacket

Review: Arc'teryx Alpha SV

Arc’teryx is no stranger to hardshell jackets, and long has been a go-to option for protection from harsh weather. For the 2016-2017 season, they’ve updated their bomber Alpha SV with sturdier Gore-Tex, an innovative new zipper design, and...
Brooks Caldera trail-running shoes

Review: Brooks Caldera

In December of 2016, Brooks released a brand new shoe—the Caldera—filling a much-needed hole in their trail running lineup. The timing was perfect: in January of 2017, I completed training for and ran my first ultramarathon. During testing...
Arc'teryx Proton LT Mt. Baker photo

Review: Arc'teryx Proton LT Hoody

High-output activities like ski touring and winter climbing require an insulated jacket that balances warmth and ventilation. Arc’teryx jumps into this growing “active insulation” market with their...
Patagonia Reconnaissance

Review: Patagonia Reconnaissance

Backcountry skiing can be very demanding on both the participant and their gear. It requires garments to be breathable during high-output approaches yet durable enough to withstand heavy snow, pelting sleet...
Altra Lone Peak 3.0 trail-running shoes

Review: Altra Lone Peak 3.0

The Lone Peak 3.0 is the latest version of Altra’s most popular trail shoe, released last year as a replacement for the 2.5. The core elements of the design—zero-drop platform, wide toe box, and significant cushioning...
Arc'teryx Satoro AR Zip Neck

Review: Arc'teryx Satoro AR

The Satoro AR Zip Neck LS is Arc’teryx’s newest offering in the world of performance baselayers. Consisting of merino wool woven around a nylon core, it has a super soft next-to-skin feel...
Five Ten Guide Tennie

Review: Five Ten Guide Tennie

When I jumped into the world of climbing years ago, one of my first purchases was a pair of approach shoes (the La Sportiva Boulder Evo X). Not only did my new kicks identify me as a climber, they made my clunky leather hiking boots obsolete...
Hilleberg Niak backpacking tent

Review: Hilleberg Niak

Until this year, the Anjan was Hilleberg's lightest 2-person tent model at 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) packed weight. Enter the Niak, a new 2-person tent that weighs 3 pounds 12 ounces (1.5 kilograms), yet still offers impressive weather...
Outdoor Research Realm

Review: Outdoor Research Realm

An epic fat biking and packrafting adventure through the wet and rugged coast of Southeast Alaska served as ideal proving grounds for the Outdoor Research Realm. This new lightweight...
Patagonia Ultralight Down Jacket

Review: Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody

The Patagonia Ultralight Hoody is a quintessential all-arounder down jacket, one that works well as a midlayer and outer layer, but also plays nice for daily wear. Despite falling into...
Arc'teryx Cerium LT Down Jacket

Review: Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody

Always designed with a specific purpose in mind, we consider Arc’teryx as the outdoor industry’s equivalent to Tesla Motors. Both create super high-end products where...
 REI Co-op Down Jacket

The Best Cheap Down Jacket: REI Co-Op

We’ve spent months wearing and testing a huge range of down jackets from entry-level models from the likes of Outdoor Research and Columbia to premium options from Patagonia, Arc’teryx...
Outdoor Research Filament Down Jacket

Review: Outdoor Research Filament Down Pullover

With the ultralight down jacket market dominated by a number of $300-plus options, the Outdoor Research Filament Down Pullover is an intriguing jacket at $225 (and we’ve often see it on sale for considerably less). Although it’s...
Patagonia Down Sweater

Review: Patagonia Down Sweater

Climbers, hikers and winter outdoor adventurers of all types have enjoyed Patagonia’s Down Sweater for years. It’s a go-to piece that has defined a jacket category, as any...
Columbia Compactor down jacket

Review: Columbia Compactor

Columbia Sportswear is an outdoor industry veteran with decades of experience and a high level of brand trust. You learn to expect quality at a reasonable price from the folks in Portland, Oregon. Their products...
Brooks-Range Alpini Anorak Down Jacket

Review: Brooks-Range Alpini Anorak

This winter we tested and reviewed a wide range of lightweight down jackets from brands like Arc’teryx, Patagonia, and Montbell, all of which are known for their warmth-to-weight ratios...
OR Uberlayer Jacket

Review: Outdoor Research Uberlayer

The new-for-2015 Outdoor Research Uberlayer shakes up the high end of the synthetic jacket market, with a relatively steep price tag but impressive breathability and a host of features designed for backcountry use...
Arc'teryx Nuclei AR Jacket

Review: Arc'teryx Nuclei AR

Billed as the “next generation” belay parka, the Nuclei AR Jacket is well on its way to earning that title. Constructed with a seam-taped Windstopper outer layer that protects Arc’teryx’s proprietary...
Best Down Jacket

Best Down Jackets of 2017

Nothing beats a great down jacket, whether it’s for causal use or tearing around the backcountry. Below we break down the best down jackets of 2017, including the top down sweaters, ultralights, and winter down jackets. You’ll find a healthy range of...
Synthetic Insulated Jacket

Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets of 2016-2017

If you’re looking for a jacket that offers solid warmth at a good value, synthetic insulation is the way to go. You don’t get quite as high of a warmth-to-weight ratio as down, but synthetic jackets resist moisture...
Outdoor Research Realm

Review: Outdoor Research Realm

An epic fat biking and packrafting adventure through the wet and rugged coast of Southeast Alaska served as ideal proving grounds for the Outdoor Research Realm. This new lightweight...
Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody

Review: Arc'teryx Norvan SL Hoody

In February of 2016, Arc’teryx introduced two new minimalist jackets: the Norvan Jacket and Norvan SL Hoody. In the latter, the “SL” stands for super light and the jacket is marketed as the lightest...
Montane Minimus 777 rain jacket

Review: Montane Minimus 777

UK-based outdoor gear maker Montane hits the mark with its Minimus 777 Pull-On Jacket (also made as a full-zip jacket). What immediately stands out is its 4.7-ounce weight and incredibly compact size, but we were also impressed...
Arc'teryx Alpha SV hardshell jacket

Review: Arc'teryx Alpha SV

Arc’teryx is no stranger to hardshell jackets, and long has been a go-to option for protection from harsh weather. For the 2016-2017 season, they’ve updated their bomber Alpha SV with sturdier Gore-Tex, an innovative new zipper design, and...
Arc'teryx Zeta LT

Review: Arc'teryx Zeta LT

The new Arc’teryx Zeta LT represents a distinct break from the hiking rain jacket status quo: design and performance that nearly match an alpine hardshell, but with the comfort and weight of a packable...
Outdoor Research Foray Rain Jacket

Review: Outdoor Research Foray

As fellow Seattleites, Outdoor Research has had ample opportunities to test out rain jacket designs, and we love what they've come up with in the Foray: a do-it-all rain jacket that's lightweight enough for hiking...
Patagonia Alpine Houdini Lake

Review: Patagonia Alpine Houdini

Nearly ten years ago, Patagonia released their lightweight wind shell, the Houdini jacket. For mountain athletes, this layer has been a game changer like none other. It is incredibly lightweight...
Marmot Minimalist

Review: Marmot Minimalist

To start, the name “Minimalist” is a bit of misnomer: Marmot designed this jacket with more features and weight than either the entry-level PreCip or ultralight Essence models. We do, however...
Arc'teryx Tenquille Hoody

Review: Arc'teryx Tenquille Hoody

Encroaching on territory that typically favors a waterproof rain jacket, the Arc’teryx Tenquille is a wind- and water-resistant softshell...
The North Face Venture Fastpack

Review: The North Face Venture Fastpack

The North Face recently made the jump into the ultralight shell category with the Venture Fastpack, a trimmed down version of their popular Venture rain jacket. It’s a thin piece...
Rain Jacket

Best Rain Jackets of 2017

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we know a thing or two about rain. From months of daily drizzle to heavy downpour in the mountains, we’re acutely aware of the benefits of a quality waterproof and breathable jacket. The rain jackets for men and women...
Salomon X Ultra 2 hiking shoe

Review: Salomon X Ultra 2

New for 2016, the X Ultra 2 continues Salomon’s popular line of trail shoes that are lighter and lower cut than hiking boots. We put the X Ultra 2s to the test on steep, technical terrain and came away...
Salomon Quest 4D II GTX Hiking Boots

Review: Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX

Appreciated for its light and nimble feel, the original Salomon Quest 4D GTX quickly became a go-to hiking boot for serious day-hikers and fast moving backpackers. The 2nd generation...
Arctery'x Bora2 Mid GTX Hiking Boots

Review: Arc’teryx Bora2 Mid GTX

Arc’teryx made the jump into footwear for 2015, and to little surprise, mimicked no one in the process. The Bora2 Mid GTX hiking boots combine the protection and grip...
Scarpa R-Evolution GTX Hiking Boot

Review: Scarpa R-Evolution GTX

Lightweight backpacking boots are a big ticket item these days, as hikers of all kinds appreciate the benefits of cutting a pound or two off their leaden feet. Scarpa’s entry into this category is the boldly...
Keen Durand hiking boots

Review: Keen Durand Mid WP

With a compelling mix of ankle support, light weight and durability, the Keen Durand Mid WP boots take aim at the popular light hiker category. To see how they compared...
Lowa Innox GTX Mid hiking boots

Review: Lowa Innox GTX Mid

The Lowa Innox GTX is at the forefront of the hiking footwear movement: it’s a lightweight boot that’s comfortable, nimble, and has a Gore-Tex waterproof liner. And despite weighing 2 pounds for the pair, ankle support is plenty sufficient for hauling...
Vasque Inhaler

Review: Vasque Inhaler Low

The Vasque Inhaler Low hiking shoes are in many ways representative of the modern hiking shoe: stiff and supportive enough to tackle rocky trails, yet light and breathable....
Hiking Boots

Best Hiking Boots of 2017

Hiking boots are critical to your comfort and performance on the trail, but this no longer means a stiff and burly model that will weigh you down. The trend is toward lighter materials that still offer decent support, and waterproof boots...
Lightweight Hiking Shoes

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes of 2016

The momentum in hiking footwear is moving away from bulky boots toward lightweight shoes and even trail runners that are faster and more comfortable. You do lose some ankle support when carrying...
Hilleberg Niak backpacking tent

Review: Hilleberg Niak

Until this year, the Anjan was Hilleberg's lightest 2-person tent model at 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) packed weight. Enter the Niak, a new 2-person tent that weighs 3 pounds 12 ounces (1.5 kilograms), yet still offers impressive weather...
MSR FreeLite 2 tent

Review: MSR FreeLite 2

MSR’s new FreeLite tent has design similarities with one of our favorite backpacking models, the Hubba Hubba NX, but with significant weight savings. At 2 pounds 11 ounces on our scale including poles, stakes, and guylines...
Nemo Hornet 2P tent

Review: Nemo Hornet 2P

We are “weight weenies,” so we were thrilled to get a hold of Nemo’s Hornet 2P tent for a few recent fastpacking trips. The Hornet is attractive for many reasons and has all the features we love in an ultralight 2-person tent, including...
MSR Hubba Hubba NX backpacking tent

Review: MSR Hubba Hubba NX

Discerning backpackers look for a high quality, lightweight, and durable tent. From our experience with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX, it checks all of those boxes emphatically...
REI Half Dome 2015

Review: REI Half Dome 2

Well designed and constructed with quality materials that rival tents nearly twice its price, the REI Half Dome 2 is ideal for weekend backpackers and those on a budget. It’s quite spacious on this inside and REI shed...
Outdoor Research Alpine bivy

Review: Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy

For a number of years, I’d thought of replacing my two-person tent that often serves as my home on solo adventures, with a bivy sack. The idea of reducing weight, saving space, and having a shelter with...
Best Backpacking Tents

Best Backpacking Tents of 2017

An ideal backpacking tent is lightweight, packs down small, and is tough enough to handle inclement weather. The welcome news for backpackers is that tent technology has come a long way even over the past few years...
Camping Tents

Best Camping Tents of 2017

Spacious, bulky and feature-rich, tents for camping are made for a relatively luxurious experience in the outdoors. These behemoths offer plenty of room to set up cots or even chairs and a table for card games on a rainy day...
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 backpack

Review: Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60

I typically purchase gear with an eye toward fastpacking, and previously thought of high-capacity packs as being for slower thru-hikes or weeklong trips into the backcountry...
Hyperlite Windrider packrafting

Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider

Cutting-edge Dyneema Composite Fabrics—formerly Cuben Fiber until a recent name change—are at the forefront of the ultralight gear movement. And the leader at producing backpack...
Osprey Atmos AG backpack

Review: Osprey Atmos AG 65

One of the few downsides in the industry-wide transition to internal-frame packs is ventilation. In creating a backpack that hugs the body, very little air passes through the space between...
Granite Gear Lutsen

Review: Granite Gear Lutsen 55

Best known for their ultralight gear, Granite Gear has changed its tune lately with a series of innovative but not necessarily paper thin backpacks. First, the Trace Access hit the market with its gorgeous...
Granite Gear Kahiltna backpack

Review: Granite Gear Kahiltna 29

In recent years, Granite Gear has built a solid reputation as ultralight pack specialists with a knack for knowing where to cut weight without sacrificing functionality and comfort...
Gregory Baltoro 65

Review: Gregory Baltoro 65

Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, Gregory Mountain Products has been building packs that stand apart in their comfort and support. The previous generation Baltoro pack was a legend on the trail for its heavy hauling expertise. Comfort seekers...
Thule Stir 20 pack

Review: Thule Stir 20

Thule, the Swedish company known mostly for their car rack systems, recently ventured into the world of backpacking with the successful introduction of their first technical packs. In 2016, they have expanded their line of packs...
Backpacking Pack

Best Backpacking Packs of 2017

Gone are the days when backpacking consisted of strapping on a huge external frame and lumbering through the forest with an aching body. Trends in backpacks these days err towards minimalism and...
Daypacks for Hiking

Best Daypacks for Hiking of 2017

A key piece of any gear closet is a go-to daypack. It’s what you grab for nearly any type of outdoor adventure, whether it’s a hike, bike ride, or day on the slopes. Generally, what most people look for…
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Max SV

Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Max SV

In the same way that the words “Velcro” or “Kleenex” are used to describe categories of products, “Therm-a-Rest” has become synonymous with lightweight sleeping pads...
Platypus Water Filter

Review: Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter

Water treatment is a sometimes annoying and always time-consuming process, but remains an absolutely essential part of any backcountry trip. In the hopes of delivering convenience...
Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Pad

Review: Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Pad

Australia-based Sea to Summit is best known for their reliable waterproof gear and accessories, but the company made a big splash in sleeping pads for 2015. We first saw their new pads at Outdoor Retailer...
SPOT Gen3 Messenger

Preview: SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger

Since the original SPOT was released in 2007, the device has grown from a niche product used by ultra outdoorspeople to a go-to safety item that has just recently celebrated its 4,000th rescue...
Hiking

Hiking and Backpacking Gear Reviews

Of all the outdoor activities we cover here at Switchback Travel, hiking and backpacking are two of the dearest to our hearts. They are some of the easiest ways to get outdoors for people...
Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail-Running Shoe

Review: Salomon Speedcross 4

As one of their most popular and recognizable designs, the Speedcross trail-running shoe has been a huge hit for Salomon. The toothy, exposed traction and bright colorways are a common sight at...
Saucony Peregrine 6 womens

Review: Saucony Peregrine 6

Saucony’s Peregrine has long been a favourite among trail runners, so much so that introducing changes could be seen as a risky move. With their sixth version of the Peregrine...
La Sportiva Bushido trail-running shoes

Review: La Sportiva Bushido

Over a decade ago I purchased and wore a La Sportiva Wildcat trail runner, and though I loved the tacky tread, the stability was unimpressive. I easily dismissed the brand as simply...
Adidas Terrex Agravic trail-running shoes

Review: Adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic

The new Terrex Agravic is further proof that Adidas can crossover from track and road running to the trails. Featuring their proprietary Boost midsole, the shoes are well cushioned and...
Trail-Running Shoes

Best Trail-Running Shoes of 2017

For many, running on varied and challenging trails is a welcome break from the monotony of pounding pavement (or even worse, the belt of a treadmill). Better yet, trail running is...
Patagonia Reconnaissance

Review: Patagonia Reconnaissance

Backcountry skiing can be very demanding on both the participant and their gear. It requires garments to be breathable during high-output approaches yet durable enough to withstand heavy snow, pelting sleet...
Arc'teryx Satoro AR Zip Neck

Review: Arc'teryx Satoro AR

The Satoro AR Zip Neck LS is Arc’teryx’s newest offering in the world of performance baselayers. Consisting of merino wool woven around a nylon core, it has a super soft next-to-skin feel...
Arc'teryx Lithic gloves

Review: Arc'teryx Lithic Glove

We value a company that is always innovating and questioning industry norms, and Arc’teryx does that about as well as anyone. Examples include their 2-piece Bora2 hiking boots and recently announced avalanche...
Hestra Moon Mitt

Review: Hestra Moon Mitt

Oh, how we love the new Moon Mitt. Made by esteemed Swedish manufacturer Hestra that specializes in handwear, this mitten is extremely warm, plush on the inside, and perfect for casual use and winter walking even in the most frigid...
Skiing 2015-2016

Ski Gear Reviews

If your ski gear is even a few years old, there’s new technology out there that will help make good days on the snow even better. There are important considerations when making a purchase...
Five Ten Guide Tennie

Review: Five Ten Guide Tennie

When I jumped into the world of climbing years ago, one of my first purchases was a pair of approach shoes (the La Sportiva Boulder Evo X). Not only did my new kicks identify me as a climber, they made my clunky leather hiking boots obsolete...
La Sportiva Genius

Review: La Sportiva Genius

La Sportiva calls the Genius, “the highest performance climbing shoe on the market.” Climbing companies love to make superlative claims like that, but when it’s La Sportiva, it definitely gets our attention....
Scarpa Boostic climbing shoe

Review: Scarpa Boostic

Combining Italian craftsmanship with an aggressive, downturned shape, the Scarpa Boostic is a solid performance shoe. Priced at $179, it does fall into the extremely competitive high-end of the market...
Mammut Infinity Protect climbing rope

Review: Mammut Infinity

I’ve been climbing for close to 16 years and have owned more than 20 different ropes, not to mention the countless other ropes borrowed other climbers. So it was not exactly a shot in the dark for me...
Evolv Shaman 2016

Review: Evolv Shaman (2016)

Chris Sharma is one of the greatest sport climbers of all time, if not the greatest. It goes without saying that he could choose any shoe company, and any shoe in their lineup that he wanted, and get paid to wear...
Five Ten Anasazi Pink climbing shoe

Review: Five Ten Anasazi Pink Lace-Up

Ah, the Anasazi Pink. If only I could review arguably my favorite shoe ever every day. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. You edge on a dime, fit like a glove, conquer virtually all terrain...
Evolv Addict climbing shoe

Review: Evolv Addict

The Addict is a relatively new climbing slipper from Evolv, and a solid one at that. Built similarly as the time-tested design of Five Ten’s excellent slipper, the Moccasym, Evolv managed to create a shoe that...
Rock Climbing Shoes 2016

Best Rock Climbing Shoes of 2017

We love rock climbing shoes, and we bet you do too. The good news for climbers is that there are more quality products and styles to choose from than ever before. Impressive new models...