Kevin Callan
Credit: Kevin Callan

The cold weather is here and it’s time to layer up.

I’ve done some field-testing over the past couple of weeks—with a couple of backpacking trips back to back—and I have two more weeklong trips to go before Halloween. Here’s what is working for me this cold shoulder season:

Outdoor Research Vindo Hoody ($165)

OROutdoor Research

This is a new jacket from Outdoor Research, and it’s made perfectly for rambling through the fall woods. It’s a high-tech design constructed from a hybrid of upscale fabrics. The outside woven shell is an ultrasonic quilted polyester that deflects wind better than other designs of lightweight down jackets I’ve owned. It’s also warmer than it first appears. The synthetic insulation beats chilly temps, with wool/polyester arm and side panels adding extra warmth. I’ve worn this under a rain jacket during soggy nights and early evenings around camp and never felt a chill.

Filson Mackinaw Cruiser SF Wool Jacket ($400)


I’ve always wanted one of these jackets, ever since working as a Forest Technician back in the early 1980s. When I realized I was about to spend more time outdoors than indoors this fall, it was time to splurge. Yes, it’s an expensive jacket—but it’s worth it. The Mackinaw jacket has been around since 1914, and not much has changed—which is a good thing. Made of 100 per cent virgin wool, it is breathable and able to absorb over 30 per cent of its weight in water without becoming damp or clammy. Extra bonus pieces are the hand-warmer pockets and rear full-width map pocket.  

Woolpower Merino Flame-Resistant Full Zip Jacket ($225)


My first choice of layering fabric is Merino wool, and my favourite brand is Woolpower. It’s made with Ullfrotte Original, a material that's two-thirds Merino wool and one-third synthetic, giving the product ultimate strength and durability. It’s also knit with a distinctive terry loop stitching, which provides the best overall insulation. Merino wool has that magical “self-cleaning ability,” meaning it knocks down body odour. You can also get a mid-layer jacket with Aramid fibres added to the wool. This provides extra heat and fire resistance, meaning a spark from the fire won’t burn a hole in your sweater. The full zip sweater has a high, reinforced collar and cuffs with thumbholes. The back is longer to keep the chill out (and hide your plumber crack). Another bonus, as well, is that you can wash it in warm water without shrinkage. That’s incredible.