New Winter Gear: How Do These Perform?

Lots of us walk and hike outside all year, so we love good cold-weather gear that keeps us warm through our long Minnesota winters!

woman with winter coat, buff and hat outside hiking
It’s winter already! Time for another gear round-up

Snow, wind and cold temperatures are all part of the weather here, so we need gear that can deal with them all. Gear that keeps us warm but not too warm, depending on the activity.

I had the chance to test some new items as we’ve experienced winter-like temps this week. I hope this helps you find some gear that works great for you, too!

Terrex Xperior Jacket (adidas)

New for me in just the past couple of weeks, I’ve worn my Terrex Xperior Jacket from adidas several times already. Yesterday and today were the real test with temps at 10º yesterday morning and between 12-15º this morning, with a light wind both days.

(NOTE: Underneath the jacket, I wore a short-sleeve performance tee and a mid-weight fleece quarter zip.)

Materials and Performance

The Xperior is insulated with PrimaLoft®. PrimaLoft® is a brand name for a specific synthetic insulation which, in this case, is made from 100% recycled materials. It’s extremely lightweight and low-profile, yet surprisingly warm.

The jacket’s shell is made from something called Pertex® Quantum. The tag shows a graphic with beading water on the surface which, assumingly, means it’ll repel snow and sleet. It’s windproof/wind-resistant, very soft and lightweight.

The combination of these materials makes the Xperior packable—easy to stuff in the corner of a backpack or overnight bag.

the author wears adidas' Terrex Xperior Jacket in Shadow Red
I love the fit and color of the Xperior Jacket from adidas!

The color I chose is called Shadow Red, and I think it’s gorgeous! Several people have commented on it just in the few days I’ve worn it so far. I’m not a fan of any of the other colors available for the women’s version so I’m glad the red was in stock. The men’s version has a couple of other options as well.

How It Fits

As soon as I put this jacket on I noticed its feather-light weight and the freedom it allows in the shoulders. It’s definitely designed for movement! Terrex is adidas’ outdoor line, and the Xperior is sold as a hiking jacket.

The fit is streamlined but not tight, with room for a midweight layer underneath. Because I had ordered an XL in a couple of other adidas products that’s the size I went with, and it fits perfectly. The arms are long enough for me (not a given!) and the length is mid-hip.

There are two zipped side pockets that open and close easily. There are also a couple of generous mesh pockets on the inside that would work well to stow a trail map or light snacks.

The Hood Gets Its Own Section

One of the things I love most about the Xperior is its low-profile but fully-insulated hood. It has big advantages over the hoods of my other winter jackets and coats:

the author wearing her Terrex Xperior jacket from adidas, shows the hood
The Xperior Jacket has a functional hood that doesn’t get in the way
  • It allows me plenty of peripheral vision because it doesn’t come past my face.
  • There are no cords around it or adjustments in the back. Rather it’s semi-fitted around the edges so it fits well around my face without needing further adjustment. It’s neither tight nor loose enough to get blown off in the wind.
  • It’s smaller than my other hoods, which means it doesn’t get in the way so much when I don’t have it up.

Anything Not to Like?

First, while the zipper works fine generally, it catches for some reason at my neck when I want to zip it all the way up to my chin. Not sure what’s up with that.

Next, the sleeves don’t have cuffs at the wrist, so there’s not a tight seal between them and my mittens (the ones I wore, reviewed below, don’t have elastic cuffs either). That could allow cold air to get in unless I wore gloves or mittens with a ribbed cuff to fit underneath.

showing the gap between the mitten and coat sleeve
The jacket and mittens have the same slightly-fitted hem—but no airtight seal

Finally, it’s pricey! The retail price is $250. That’s maybe not a lot for some, but I wouldn’t spend that much normally. I actually didn’t spend that much—adidas offered me a gift card to choose some gear in exchange for linking back to their site, so this is one of the items I chose. I waited for a good sale first, though—which is common with adidas. If you sign up for their (free) membership, they’ll send you frequent members-only offers.

When to Wear the Terrex Xperior Jacket

This jacket is ideal for late fall, winter and early spring weather—nice or inclement—when temps are in the 30s down into the teens and even single digits, depending on your activity and personal thermostat.

Change out what you wear underneath and it’ll work for walking, hiking and snowshoeing in a wide temperature range. Low-key cross country skiing, maybe. It’s probably too warm for running or active skiing except in below-zero temps.

Take a look at the Terrex Xperior Jacket for men and women. Available from the adidas website.

Take a look at our Digital Guide Series

Catalyst Mittens (Storm Creek)

My hands tend to run cold so keeping them warm in the winter is a high priority for me! Over the years I’ve experimented with many different brands, thicknesses and materials for gloves and mittens. Some have worked great, others not so much.

I’ve been on the search for VERY warm mittens for several years. I found some in my Polar Mitts (see my review here)…but those are too warm unless it’s below zero.

A friend picked up an old pair of Columbia mittens for me about 20 years ago at a garage sale for 25¢. Those have been my go-to pair for cold winter days ever since—but they’re bright blue!

They matched the down coat I had back then, but don’t match anything I have now. So I was really happy to pick up Storm Creek’s Catalyst Mittens at their Warehouse Sale a few weeks ago.

the author wears Storm Creek's Catalyst Mittens
These unisex Catalyst Mittens from Storm Creek are warm and comfy!

Materials and Performance

These super soft mittens have two layers: Storm Creek’s sweater knit is the outer layer while a “lofty fleece” makes up the inner layer. They use 50% recycled fibers between them.

I wore these first for walks in temps in the 20s. They kept my hands plenty warm for the first mile or two. I had to take them off eventually because they were too warm!

When I wore them the past two days with temps right around 10º and then the mid-teens they were really nice. When I headed into a slight headwind my hands got a bit cold—more on that in a minute.

How They Fit

I have small hands, so it’s nice to have the option of S/M or L/XL sizes. The S/M fit my hands well.

One feature I appreciate is the “sticky” dots on the palm side of the fingers and along the thumb joint. They won’t slip on the steering wheel while driving, and you can hold your phone without fear of it slipping out of your hand.

the sticky dots on the Catalyst Mittens from Storm Creek
These “sticky” dots on the mittens make them great for driving too

Anything Not to Like?

I wish they were windproof! Wind is such a factor in the winter for us. Even a light breeze can be frigid when the temps are low enough. In 10º the tops of my hands got a little cold when I turned into the wind.

Fleece isn’t naturally wind-resistant, so I’d love to see Storm Creek add a lightweight windproof layer between the two fleece layers in this mitten. Then these would be fine into sub-zero temps.

The only other feature is the lack of a fitted cuff at the wrist. This is only a negative when I’m wearing a jacket that doesn’t have a fitted cuff either. And even in the temps this week it really wasn’t an issue because I wasn’t moving my arms around that much.

When to Wear the Catalyst Mittens

I’m looking forward to wearing these all winter long when the temps are above zero, as long as it’s not too windy. They’re SO soft and comfortable.

They’re available in heather Platinum, which can match any of my winter coats and jackets. That’s a big plus!

As I said, I picked mine up at Storm Creek’s Warehouse Sale earlier this month for half-price. But after wearing them, I’d have no trouble paying the full price of $30. Very reasonable for these mittens.

Check out the unisex Catalyst Mittens. Available from Storm Creek’s website. Get on their mailing list for sales.

Mountain Classic Hiking Shoe (LL Bean)

2023/24 will be my second winter season with these hiking shoes, but I haven’t reviewed them yet so I’ll include them here.

First I’ll say that LL Bean doesn’t market these as winter footwear. But because they’re waterproof I like them for cold-weather hiking and neighborhood walks. (Really, any waterproof trail shoe can work for winter hiking, running and walking.)

the author wears LL Bean's Mountain Classic Hiking Shoe in the snow
This is my second winter with LL Bean’s Mountain Classic Hiking Shoes

Materials and Performance

The Mountain Classic Hiking Shoe’s upper is a waterproof nubuck leather and mesh combination. They say it wicks moisture from your feet—good news for those whose feet run warm.

I’ve had frostbite a couple of times over the years, so my feet get cold pretty quickly. Still, I can wear these with midweight wool socks and have comfortably warm feet with temps as low as the teens. Being waterproof means they’re windproof too—always a plus.

I find these very comfortable for paved trails and roads, but their aggressive tread is designed for trails. Because I need higher arches than most brands have in their shoes, I almost always take out the insoles and replace them with my own. This shoe is no exception.

One detail I love about these hiking shoes is the use of metal grommets for the lacing system. LL Bean calls it “speed lacing” and it’s true. These are very easy to lace up quickly, then untie and get off quickly.

I wore these regularly last winter as long as we didn’t have several inches of fresh snow or below-zero temps. Then I switched them out for my Alpine Hiking Boots (also from LL Bean). I plan to do the same this winter.

How They Fit

I normally wear a women’s 10, and that’s the size my Mountain Classics are. They fit perfectly.

Anything Not to Like?

There’s really nothing I don’t like about these shoes. The only possible change I could suggest is more color options.

Mountain Classic Hiking Shoes on a cold November day
These hiking shoes work well for me with wool socks in temps in the 40s down into the teens

When to Wear the Mountain Classic Shoe

Even though they’re designed to be breathable and worn in warm weather I save these for when it’s in the 40s and below, down into the teens with warm enough socks. Above that I stick with regular running or trail shoes.

If your feet tend to run warm, these would work for you into the single digits and even below zero with wool socks…and still remain breathable.

Of course they’re best for dry pavement and trails, but their excellent tread helps out a little in snow. For slick and icy conditions simply add traction devices and you’re good to go.

One of the biggest pros for this hiking shoe is the price. Retail is just $109. Get on LL Bean’s mailing list for sales.

Here’s the Mountain Classic Hiking Shoe for men and women. Available from LL Bean’s website. It’s possible the Mall of America retail store carries them, too.

Take a look at our Digital Guide Series

Other Winter Gear Content for You

Our winter gear content is growing! Here are other blog post you’ll like too (that we haven’t already linked to in this post):

Sharon Brodin
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