Depending on how you look at it, October is a mixed bag. Some days feel like full-on winter, while others can make you wonder if summer is really going to end. To Outside staffers, it’s one of the best times of the year to be in mother nature, enjoying whatever she throws at you. Here’s what we used to do just that.
Stone Glacier Chilkoot Zero Degree Sleeping Bag ($600)
On a mid-October rifle hunt I was camped at 11,800 feet in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northern New Mexico. One morning I woke up to eight inches of snow on the ground and freezing temps. Once the clouds cleared, it got even colder, and one night it dipped to around five degrees. Inside my three-season tent I was thankful to have the four-season Stone Glacier Chilkoot zero-degree sleeping bag. Stuffed with 850 fill power water-resistant down, it weighs just two pounds, ten ounces, and kept every part of me warm— including my feet—on one of the coldest nights I’ve spent outside in recent years. My campmates, who had zero-degree bags from competing brands, said they spent their nights shivering. I also have to credit the Rab Ionosphere 5 insulated sleeping pad ($180). Launching next spring, the Ionosphere weighs just 17 ounces and packs down to the size of a coffee cup, but was a comfortable and reliable shield from the cold air coming off the ground. —Jakob Schiller, contributing writer
Senchi Designs Lark Hoodie ($90)
Whenever I’ve tested Polartec Alpha Direct insulation it’s been the lining of a jacket and was mated to an outer shell. But the Lark Hoodie is made entirely of Alpha Direct with nothing covering it up. As a result, this thin hoodie feels a little flimsy, but is surprisingly warm and very breathable—more so than any other fleece I’ve ever tested. Over the past couple weeks it’s been my go-to hiking, cycling, and running layer because it cuts the chill but dissipates sweat incredibly fast. As you might imagine, it also layers well under a windbreaker. The jury is still out on how much abuse the Lark will put up with, but so far it hasn’t shown any signs of falling apart. —J.S.
Montana Knife Company Stonewall ($325)
Processing wild game is about as hard a task you can ask a knife to perform. The hair and hide are abrasive, quickly wearing down a blade’s fine edge. And bones work to make it even duller. Plus, the whole time you’re working, your hands are slick with blood. For both safety, and effectiveness, you need a sharp blade. I’d been using a replaceable blade knife for those reasons, but carrying one of those means carrying another knife to perform camp chores. So, this fall, I switched to the Stonewall. It’s big enough to split wood, features a generous, comfortable handle, and held its edge through a month of weekend camping trips and two entire deer. Sharpening it afterwards took just minutes. I’m also a fan of MKC’s sheaths, which are light, simple, and strong, and allow you to carry the blade both horizontally, or vertically, on both belts and pack straps. Now this is the only knife that accompanies me into the field. — Wes Siler, contributing editor
Outdoor Research Tundra Aerogel Booties ($89)
For three years, my husband and I fought over a pair of these down hut slippers. (I had a different pair, but liked his better.) They’re light and compressible, with a cinchable ankle cuff that seals out drafts and snow. Most importantly, the sole is bolstered by a layer of aerogel, a space-grade material with an unmatched warmth-to-weight ratio. The resulting shoe is light enough to carry cold-weather backpacking, and yet warm enough to stand directly on fresh snow without getting cold feet. So when the forecast for our 2023 Editors’ Choice backpacking trip called for 19-degree lows and several inches of snow, I immediately made sure that the rest of my colleagues could test out the booties’ magic for themselves. Spoiler: they saved the day. We only wish the soles had better traction (beware the midnight bathroom trip on icy snow). —Ariella Gintzler, associate gear director
HydroFlask 12 oz Mug, $28
As a gear editor, I’m inundated with free drinking vessels: plastic water bottles, insulated thermoses, and metal coffee cups adorn every corner of my small office. Hydro Flask’s 12-ounce mug, however, gets pressed into use almost daily. A gasketed push-in lid and easy-to-slide drinking port keep coffee from splashing and leaking, even on bumpy drives down our local gravel roads. The brand’s vacuum-insulated technology works exceptionally well: at an outdoor gear conference with temps hovering in the 40s, my spiced chai was still piping hot after I forgot about it for at least six hours. My favorite feature? The cork exterior is wonderfully neutral in a cabinet full of bright neon drinking vessels and has a soft, pliant texture that keeps it from slipping off of surfaces. —Benjamin Tepler, gear editor
PAKA Ankle Socks three pack ($46)
With temperatures dropping in October, I found myself slipping these warm, fuzzy socks on as soon as I stepped out of bed, and wearing them as slippers around the house mornings and evenings. I’ve worn them daily for up to a week without washing, and haven’t noticed or heard any complaint about odor. When I have cleaned them, the blend (41 percent baby alpaca fiber, eight percent bamboo, 50 percent recycled nylon, and one percent spandex) weathered the washer and dryer well, keeping their shape and softness. Due to sweaty feet, I usually wear ultra-thin socks to run in, so these originally seemed too thick. Then one frosty morning I kept them on when changing into my running kit, and was surprised at how comfortable and dry they kept my feet. I’m going to need more pairs to make sure there’s always a clean one when I need them, whether to temper cold wood floors or morning miles. Bonus: It’s totally cool that they’re woven in Peru and I can trace their origin to the exact coordinates where the wool was sourced. —Jonathan Beverly, senior gear editor
Rapha Women’s Trail Lightweight Pants ($150)
These buttery, lightweight, well-cut mountain bike pants have become a major staple in my wardrobe as the weather cools off. The waistband is low-profile and flattering, with a stretchy band at the back and a traditional button-fly at the front. Thoughtful details like a single zippered pocket and reinforced cuffs elevate the performance, but what really makes them stand out is that they’re simple—they look nice enough to wear around town, comfortably double as hiking pants, and they still offer the technical features I need. I do find that they run a bit big compared to other pieces in their line, and could have sized down from my typical Rapha size. —Abigail Barronian, senior editor
Breeo Y Series Portable Fire Pit ($495) with Outpost Grill ($150)
I’ve been testing the new portable Breeo with the Outpost Grill for a few months now, and I’ve used it to cook steak and burgers, as a bonfire at my backyard wedding, and even brought it over to my friend’s house for her baby shower. At 31 pounds, with a sturdy handle, it’s easy to take anywhere. The circular, vented design means smoke is minimal and fires are easy to start, and it has retractable legs that allow you to move it to three different heights. My only complaint is that there’s only one handle, which can make it a little awkward to carry. I’m headed up north this weekend, the forecast calls for snow, and the place I booked doesn’t have a fireplace or pit. But it doesn’t matter; my Breeo’s already loaded into the back of my truck. —Abigail Wise, digital managing director
RockyMounts WallRide ($39)
I have a lot of bikes in my garage and all but one are hanging from those “heavy duty” hooks you can buy at any Home Depot. Each one of those is bent and the protective rubber is peeling off, just waiting to scratch or ding expensive wheels or other components. The lone outlier is the RockyMounts WallRide, which secures to a stud with two vertically oriented bolts. This is by far the sturdiest of the bunch and has me thinking that I need to replace all the other hooks I have with these instead. It’s rock solid, so I have no fear of it failing, and the TPU peg the wheel hangs on is soft on wheels, but sturdy. It’s a major upgrade from dangling thousands of dollars worth of bike off a $2 hook. —Will Taylor, gear director
Brazyn Life Talon Massager ($269)
I love percussion massagers: they give you all the pain and relief of foam rolling but you can just sit on your couch and watch TV instead of grinding away on the floor. I also love massage canes like the Bodyback Buddy ($40), which let you accurately decimate knots in your back by yourself. So when I heard about the Talon Massager, a love child between percussion massagers and canes, I had to try it. Reader, it did not disappoint. The gun is small, powerful, quiet, and comes with a carrying case with any of the different heads you might prefer. The clincher, though, is the foldable arm that the gun easily clicks into. You can now reach any part of your back yourself with the massager. No more begging for massages from your significant other. —W.T.