Gear & Beer: Outdoor Research Helium HD Jacket, Good To-Go Dehydrated Gourmet Meals, Wolaver’s Organic Wildflower Wheat

unnamedOutdoor Research Helium HD Jacket

I’m always skeptical when it comes to products that claim to be both waterproof and breathable, but the Helium HD jacket by Outdoor Research left me pleasantly surprised. This rain shell is available in both men’s and women’s sizing and is compressible and lightweight (the women’s weighs 8.2 ounces and the men’s comes in at 9.1 ounces.) The zippered chest pocket serves double duty as a stuff sack, making it easy to bring this piece along on all types of adventures regardless of your pack size.

The first true test for me occurred on a typical summer day in Vermont. I looked forward to my mile walk home after a long hot day in the office, only to realize on my way out the door that a summer downpour was in full swing. Luckily, my Helium HD jacket was waiting to make its debut from the depths of my commuter pack.

I love the wire brimmed hood, which helped keep its shape and kept the rain from falling on my face no matter how I adjusted the draw cord. The sides of the hood pull back so you can customize fit while maintaining peripheral vision — an important consideration when crossing city streets during rush hour. Another draw cord at the waist hem and adjustable wrist closures round out the customizable features, which helped keep the rain out.

The rip-stop nylon and waterproof coating kept me dry while being quite breathable. Pit zips run long on this jacket so you can access pockets underneath or climbing gear easily, plus they help speed up evaporation if you start overheating. I stayed completely dry without any of the sweaty moisture that can accumulate inside waterproof jackets during one of the hottest days this summer. The lightweight fabric dried quickly when the rain stopped and I was happy to pack it back up and into my pack for the next adventure. It’s a very thin layer, so I’ll be sure to pair this jacket with warmer layers as the dog days get shorter and nights get cooler. $199.99

Good To-Go Dehydrated Gourmet Mealsunnamed

If you’ve ever tried to dehydrate your own meals for a healthy alternative to the lightweight packaged options available out there, you’ve probably run into a few challenges. It can be tough enough to get your plans and gear dialed in, never mind the time and testing required to prepare a nutritious feast that won’t break the bank — or your back. The creators of Good To-Go, a chef and an outdoors enthusiast, recognized this struggle and created a line of three gourmet recipes dehydrated to enjoy during their own adventures.

The ingredients in the Herbed Mushroom Risotto (classic risotto with sautéed mushrooms and basil pesto), Smoked Three Bean Chili (traditional chili with corn and caramelized onions) and Thai Curry (spicy yellow coconut curry with vegetables and jasmine rice) read like descriptions on a menu and include items like white wine, extra virgin olive oil and lemongrass. You won’t find any preservatives or unnecessary additives, just a list of pronounceable and recognizable ingredients you can find in most grocery stores.

Each of the favors are gluten free and the risotto and chili are vegetarian, while the curry is pescatarian. The meals are easy to make and come in single or double serving packets. After adding the recommended amount of boiling water to my first meal, then waiting the recommended cook time, I decided to make my next meals with slightly less liquid and a longer wait to allow the water to fully rehydrate the veggies. My first meal was a little underdone, but the following two turned out great, with only a slight crunch left in the stubborn peas. The combination of spices and natural ingredients in the Good To-Go recipes were satisfying and also had a great flavor.

It’s nice to have a convenient product to bring on the trail that is also mindful and tasty. Good To-Go is based in Maine and can be found at many local outdoor retailers, according to the location search tool on their website. $5.75-$6.75 for single serving packets and $9.75-$10.75 for double servings.


Wolaver’s Organic Wildflower Wheat

In 1997, Wolaver’s became the country’s first certified organic brewery, an official nod to the locally grown and sustainably sourced ingredients in their line of beers. Located in Middlebury, Vt., it recently became the state’s first brewery to be verified by the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization that preserves and builds the non-GMO food supply through consumer education and product verification. Wolaver’s timely verification came as Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the nation’s first GMO food labeling bill that will require genetically engineered food be labeled by 2016.

The entire line of Wolaver’s Organic Ales has been certified, which includes the India Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Alta Gracia Coffee Porter, Pumpkin Ale and their summer seasonal, Wildflower Wheat.

Like all of Wolaver’s offerings, the Wildflower Wheat is unfiltered and it’s hazy, light gold hue is inviting on a hot day. This wheat ale is brewed with organic chamomile flowers and organic Vermont honey lending to its aromatics and a slightly sweet taste. At 4.5% ABV, this brew makes a great addition to the variety pack and is available bottled and on draft.

This summer, be on the lookout for bottles of Wildflower Wheat that have been outfitted with biodegradable packets of wildflower seeds. Plant a patch of wildflowers while sipping your wheat beer and help keep the bees happy and the honey supply flowing.

Hilary DelRoss

Hilary grew up in southern New England where she developed her love of nature and outdoor recreation, including learning to ski at Rhode Island's only ski hill. After exploring the Rocky and Cascade mountain ranges, she transplanted to the Green Mountain State where she snowboards, skis, hikes, bikes, kayaks and stokes campfires from her home base in Montpelier.