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Sun Protection & Stay Warm Backpacking & Camping in Outdoor Research Hoodie and Outdoor Vitals Jacket

If you backpack, you know every ounce counts. That also holds if you’re more of a day hiker like me. On a backpacking trip in Big Bend National Park in early March, I put two pieces to the test. One is a hoodie for sun protection from Outdoor Research and the other is a puffy jacket to keep you warm without bulk from Outdoor Vitals.

I’ve had the Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie since last fall, but hadn’t been able to really test it out until this trip. Good thing it’s ultralight, breathable, and odor-blocking since I wore it the entire time on our overnight trip. Anyone who has hiked with me will tell you that’s super rare. I’m normally a layer up and down kind of gal, because I typically run hot and sweat. On this trip I wore the hoodie without a t-shirt or tank underneath because temperatures climbed into the 80s during our first day of hiking in the Chisos Mountains. Rated UPF 20, it gave me the sun protection I needed. I really like the hoodie aspect because I was able to cover my ears when I felt like they were getting a little too much sun and the thumb holes made sun protection for the tops of my hands super easy. It was also a great extra layer when it got chilly at night and early morning. The hoodie has a pony port, which is an added feature I really like. The wicking and quick drying aspects of the ActiveFresh™Odor Control AirVent™fabric are excellent. A big bonus with this piece is it is made with 100% recycled materials. The Seattle-based company has been a longstanding leader in making outdoor apparel more sustainable. I love this hoodie so much I’m getting a second one in the teal shade of Deep Lake since it’s also a great travel piece. Outdoor Research also makes a Men’s Echo Hoodie.

While prepping for this backpacking adventure, I discovered Outdoor Vitals and their recently launched Vario Jacket. “Vario” comes from the root word of “variability” and is a great name for a product that can be used for various activities and conditions. The Utah based company specializes in ultralight clothing and gear for backpacking, camping, and hiking. I didn’t want another black jacket and initially I wasn’t keen on the other color option of mahogany, but ended up really liking it while I was wearing it. This puffy is super light. The Men’s Vario in medium weighs 9 ounces. I got the Women’s Medium which weighs less than that. The ultralight jacket is made with 50% recycled 3DeFX Insulation, which has high warmth value and body-mapping breathability plus 0% performance and durability degradation. I particularly like the perforated material for pit vents and the unobtrusive insulated hood. I wore the jacket in the evening at camp and first thing in the morning when it still chilly. Staying warm without the bulk while sipping coffee was bliss at our campsite first thing in the morning. I also got a big kick out of Alisha with Terradrift gear testing the Vario on the trip too. Not only is the jacket a great technical piece, it also looks good on different body types. It can pack down into one of its pockets to almost the size of a grapefruit. That alone makes it a great travel piece too since I always take a puffy with me while traveling, even in the heart of summer. It’s not cheap, but is really three jackets in one. It a great windbreaker and is water resistant for a multi-purpose jacket on the trail, for urban exploration, or wherever your travels take you. Outdoor Vitals does have a membership for a one-time cost of $10 for discounted prices, exclusives, and other benefits. I can’t wait to test out their Kotaul Ultralight Travel & Adventure Backpack along with other gear from this fast growing company.

Author Jennifer Broome gear tests products for travel and outdoors throughout the year to select for her holiday gift guide and seasonal gear lists. Check out her 2022 Holiday Gift Guide for the Traveler, Hiker, or Adventurer for more.