Wind-chill is the Achilles’ Heel of traditional fleece. Westcomb’s Boreal tackles this problem head-on via a tightly woven Polartec fabric (“Wind Pro”), which boasts four-times the wind-resistance of fleece while retaining 85 per cent of its breathability. With a water-repellent finish and waffle-faced interior, the Boreal suits snowshoeing, cool-weather hiking and cycling. And it has thumbholes, always a big win with me. I wore this “super fleece” as an outer-layer to successfully fend off the North Atlantic wind in Newfoundland last fall and as a mid-layer when the season changed. Westcomb touts the high durability of its gear, and since they know I could easily walk to their local Vancouver factory to complain, I have no reason to doubt it.
Super.Natural 1/4 Zip 175
As a base-layer geek, newcomer Super.Natural has piqued my interest. They distinguish their line of wool/synthetic blends by using fabrics constructed from blended yarn, rather than weaving together individual strands of wool and synthetics to create a blend. (Enhanced durability, reps say.) The 1/4 Zip 175 is equal parts merino and polyester plus four per cent Lycra — a stretchy, comfy, moisture-wicking mix. This mid-weight base-layer is best for cool/cold weather activities and the zip helps vent heat when the going gets tough. My summation? The wick of poly and the smell of merino.
Canada Goose Timber Shell Jacket & Ridge Pant
($675, jacket; $595, pant; canada-goose.com)
Canada Goose's Timber Shell Jacket and Ridge Pant attract attention. Lookie-loos tend to be surprised that this company, most famous for down-insulated apparel, also produces hard shells. They do — and darn good ones too. Designed and constructed in our great nation, these three-layer-laminate technical shells are very well suited for athletic pursuits in wet and cold climates. The first thing I noticed about the fully seam-sealed, waterproof-breathable apparel (with watertight YKK zips) was the supple fabric and ample four-way stretch. The next was the slim cut — the Timber Shell Jacket has articulated and tapered arms with Velcro cuffs as well as multiple adjustment points throughout; the Ridge Pant keeps snow at bay with a high-rise waist, detachable suspenders and internal gaiters. The last was the exceptional breathability — while backcountry skiing in Nunavik, I often noticed my non-Goose-outfitted partners stripping off their shells while I simply opened the pit-vents and continued my slog.