As the weather starts to (mercifully) cool here, it’s time to start digging out those warmer outer layers for our outdoor adventures – whether you’re hiking, backpacking, sitting around a campfire, or even just the chilly drive to an early morning trailhead. I took two pieces of Merrell’s new 2014 fall line with me on our recent fall foliage expedition in the Eastern Sierra – the Forest Seeker Jacket and the Baltic II Hoodie. First, the camp gear: Baltic II Hoodie On the Quick: Fabric: Synthetic with Wool accents Garment: Mid layer Style: Hooded Zip-up Fleece Tech: REGULATE heat reflection MSRP: $129 The Baltic II Hoodie is a stylish, form-fitting mid layer that’s sort of a combination of a fleece, sweater, zip-up, and hoodie. Its core is made of a material Merrell calls “Woolyester” (love it) – a mostly synthetic material that tries to blend the best of both wool and synthetics. The hoodie itself is slim but toasty, with an elastic inlay that keeps it tight and locks that heat in, too. It has built-in hand-warmer pockets (great for when you want to keep your hands ungloved) and altogether fits very snugly against the body without ever feeling too tight. I felt like I had very good mobility even with the hoodie over my head and never dealt with the garment riding up my torso when I was moving my arms around. Overnight lows on this test run ran between the mid 40s to upper 30s and the Baltic II kept me toasty as a mid layer with a jacket above. I wouldn’t recommend it as a solo outer layer if you’re not moving around, but I would definitely take this as an outer layer on a cool weather day hike … not to mention to the post-hike pub. The style on this garment is very nice – and if I were still back in New England I could definitely see myself wearing this to a nice cider mill around this time of year.
The Baltic II is available in a dual gray (Manganese) and dual brown (Stout) color. Forest Seeker On the Quick: Fabric: Full synthetic Garment: Outer layer Style: Hooded jacket Tech: Thinsulate Platinum 100g insulation, durable water resistant finish, stain resistant MSRP: $259 The Forest Seeker is a lightweight, durable jacket that provides protection from the cold and rain without being bulky. Featuring 3M Thinsulate Platinum 100g fill, the jacket repels water with both its hydrophobic fibers and a DWR finish – and will still repel water and keep you dry when it’s damp. The jacket itself, like the Baltic II, is slim, form-fitting and very stylish (I think my entire wardrobe is neutrals, earth tones, and plaids – so a bright red jacket was a nice change of pace). The nylon exterior is ripstop and resists rips and tears, and all four exterior pockets (2 chest, 2 hand-warmers) are seamed with waterproof tape (an additional interior pocket has a regular zipper). The main zipper will seal your torso all the way up to your chin and has a few buttons that also help secure the closure, and the sleeves have adjustable velcro that will let you easily use the jacket with gloves on if you’re into that sort of thing. The Forest Seeker also has drawstrings on both ends – on the hem and hood – to make sure it’s always nice and snug. I’ll be honest, here. I don’t really like hiking with jackets – I know once I get moving for a bit and the sun comes up I’m more likely to run hot than be chilly – but while hiking in McGee Canyon we got an early start and it was pretty dang cold in the shadow of those big peaks. Hiking with this jacket on was great. It never felt bulky or in the way and I had a full range of motion – even when grabbing an awkwardly placed GoPro from a clip on the back of my backpack. When the sun inevitably did come out and the mercury rose a bit, I was able to roll up this jacket and stuff it into my daypack’s exterior pocket with plenty of room to spare – they’re really not kidding when they say this thing is lightweight but warm.
Overall I was very impressed with the Forest Seeker on the trail – and of course it also performed admirably when we were relaxing by a campfire at the end of the day. I can’t wait to use it on some early morning treks in the high San Gabriels soon. If you’re not as into the color red as I am, the Forest Seeker is also available in gray and black versions.
Merrell provided these items to Modern Hiker for free but did not compensate us nor did they exercise any editorial oversight on this post.