Traveler's Gear Box: Staying Cool In The National Parks

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Icebreaker's Departure Short-Sleeve Shirt is a great, cool piece to have during the hot weather months. Works great in both backcountry and frontcountry settings.

Staying cool in the national parks this summer isn’t difficult, and it can even be stylish with what’s out on the market.

Icebreaker continues to refine and expand its use of merino wool in its clothing lines, producing products that are both comfortable and cool.

The Departure Short-Sleeve Shirt (MSRP $135) for men is 100 percent merino wool, though it feels as smooth as polyester. The wool is naturally odor repelling, making this a great choice for short or long hikes. The plaid layout isn’t your grandfather’s plaid; it’s much more stylish.

One thing to keep in mind: Icebreaker’s sizes run small. If you’re in the 6-foot, 180-pound neighborhood, opt for the extra large.

For women, Icebreaker’s Aero Short-Sleeve Crewe (MSRP $60) is 90 percent merino/10 percent nylon, which adds some flex to this attractive form-fitting top. As with the Departure shirt, this top can be machine washed, but don’t put it in the dryer. Instead, use a drying rack.

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The Aero Short-Sleeve is great under a backpack, or while you're tooling around the frontcountry

Mountain Hardwear’s DaraLake Gauze Long Sleeve Shirt (MSRP $65) is too pretty to hide beneath backpack. But it’s perfect light layer to toss on after you get off the river or for day hiking with a fanny pack. The gauzy, 100 percent cotton material is cooling...and a bit transparent, so you might want a light layer beneath if you go with the white version.

Staying dry is easily accomplished, too, no matter how stormy it might get. Last year we had the chance to test Helly Hansen’s Odin Guiding Light Jacket, and it quickly became a favored piece of gear for whatever the skies might toss at us.

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Helly Hansen's Odin Moon Light Jacket is a nice affordable alternative to the company's higher-end rain jackets/Patrick Cone

While a great piece to have in your closet, the $400 price tag is a big bite in the pocketbook. Fortunately, Helly Hansen’s Odin Moon Light Jacket is just half that price yet you lose little when it comes to weather protection.

The Moon Light also is waterproof, windproof, and breathable, made of a durable 2.5-ply treated fabric, has a fully adjustable hood, pit vents, drawcord at the waist, and water-resistant zippered pockets for your hands and a third on your chest. And it comes in an eye-squinting bright yellow so your friends won’t lose track of you.

Want to cut the price even more? Consider Helly Hansen’s Loke Jacket. At just $100, this jacket also is waterproof, windproof, and breathable. However, it only has two pockets and lacks the heavy duty water-resistant zippers.