In the winter, we’re skiers. And we never forget it. But in the summer we can be anything we want. Some of us bike, some of us hike, some of us trail run, or rock climb. Some of us spend as many hours of daylight possible on the river, and some of us do a lot of those things but none of them very well.
In the summer, we try to entertain ourselves while we wait for that first October storm. Luckily, summer outdoor gear has far more crossover potential than ski gear, which tends to be rooted in its initial intended use and hard to use for warm-weather excursions in the mountains.
For whatever ways you choose to distract yourself this summer, here are a few stand-out pieces of outdoor gear that are well equipped to serve you on the trail, river, and rock wall as you try to make sense of these next snow-free months.
The Mia Tank is one of those tops I keep in that in-between spot between drawer and laundry hamper because I’ve been roughing it up for days, but I can’t commit to giving up on wearing it by delegating it to full-on dirty. Constructed with a perfectly stretchy polyester, merino, and spandex blend, the Mia racerback feels light while you sweat, with a super flattering cut that looks good on all shapes and sizes. I’ve worn it hiking, biking, climbing, running, floating, gardening, baking, and roadtripping, and I still have yet to find a situation where I don’t reach for this top first. The hidden phone pocket on the back seam is also genius. I don’t know why I’ve never seen a pocket in the middle of the racerback before but it’s brilliant since you can stash a phone or granola bar for easy access without even noticing it’s there.
This is the layer I’ve been looking for for a while and could never seem to find. It’s not too heavy, not too light, and breathes just well enough a spring climb or long hike. Lined with soft merino fleece, the lining feels cozy and luxurious and it has a waffled pattern that breathes pretty well while I’m working up a sweat.
The hoodie fits a little slim and lately I’ve been wearing it as my next-to-skin layer because the fleece is so darn soft (although it can easily fit a tank top or light T-shirt underneath with room to spare). Scuff guards on the shoulders protect against wear from backpacks and the reinforced elbows have come in handy at the crag. The hood is pretty snug, probably designed to fit under a helmet, so it looks a little goofy if you wear it on its own, but stretches perfectly over a trucker hat.
A do-it-all summer short for climbing, hiking, or floating on the river, the Piz Selva is a sweet little pair of shorts constructed with a sturdy fabric that feels similar to climbing pants. The shorts are moderately slim-fitting, but not constricting, the perfect cut to sit flat against a climbing harness without bunching.
I’ve hiked quite a bit in these and appreciate the minimalist design and how well the DWR-treated fabric wicks moisture, although I will say the abrasion-resistant fabric feels a little rough to the touch. I wouldn’t say it’s scratchy, but I think if I were to go on a long run it might start to chafe since the minimalist design foregoes any lining. The stretchy merino waistband is a much-appreciated addition of softness to the Piz Selvas, snug and secure with a clean line that integrates smoothly into the shorts.
Since these shorts don’t take up much space, it is easy to throw on a pair of wind pants right over them.
I promise I’m not one of those people who insists on backpacking in sandals, but if I were to hike in sandals, Chaco’s Banded Z/Cloud Sandal actually makes a pretty solid case for letting your toes breathe fresh air along the trail.
The Banded Z/Cloud has an extra strap than the classic Z/Cloud, which creates a far more solid and stable feel on your foot that inspires a little extra confidence hiking on uneven trails or while scrambling through rocky river crossings. The extra strap does add a split second of extra foot wiggling to get into, but once you’re in there’s no unwanted slippage.
Chaco’s classic Luvseat midsole provides the same comfort and support you already know and love, and the grippy rubber soles with 3.5mm lugs feel super solid while scrambling up to a crag.
An incredibly versatile pack, the Alpha AR 35 Backpack transcends seasons since it can function as a hiking, rock climbing, ice climbing, or ski pack. I’ve found most of the backpacks I own have highly specific features that make it difficult to crossover from different sports (a summer hike is no fun with an airbag pack), which can be frustrating since a backpack is usually a decent investment.
The Alpha AR was made for those like me who suffer from a severe case of backpack buildup, a lightweight alpine design that sits comfortably on my back whether I’m wearing a ski shell or a tank top.
There’s a removable brain which has an easy access top zipper and internal security pocket and a strap that holds a rope securely with or without the lid. I’m a big fan of the webbing on the back which is a great spot to stuff a layer without having to open the whole pack.
Two ice axe loops keep your pointy things from clanging around, and the compression straps allow for an A-frame ski carry in the winter. The bare-bones design doesn’t really skimp on anything big, although I was glad to have small organizing cubes and stuff sacks so I could reach for gear easily without dumping out the whole thing.
This shirt is light. Like really light. So light that if I close my eyes it kind of feels like there’s no shirt at all. The Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt has become one of my favorite summer pieces, perfect for hot, sweaty days in the mountains. The polyester top weighs just over 2 ounces (less than a Clif Bar), with a flattering scoop neck and slight drop tail that stays firmly in place while pedaling my bike.
It’s a super solid piece for summer ski tours, bike rides, trail runs, you name it. Plus, it packs up so small you can literally stuff it in your pocket. The only downside to this synthetic fabric is that although it’s got an odor-control treatment, it still stinks quite a bit after a wear or two.
I have yet to find a merino top that’s this breathable and light, but I still might choose something that sheds odor a little better if I’m going on a long trip where multiple wears are more of a consideration.