A jacket that changes with the seasons, a dagger-like supertool and the cure for dreaded goggle fog?
The Deep South is the last place you'd expect innovation in insulation, but VersaLayer, a fledgling company out of Alabama, has done just that. Its Ability jacket ($350; www.versalayer.com) is a softshell -- stretchy, breathable, yet still water-resistant -- but it's lined with a retractable layer of polyester insulation across the lower back and core.
Tug on the blue straps inside the pockets and the layer is pulled to the side, letting heat escape. Yank on the red straps and you're toasty again. Sounds like a gimmick, but when I put the Ability to the test while hiking in the Sierra Nevada, the system (stunning in its simplicity) worked remarkably well. And though it's not the jacket you'd take on a trail run (too heavy), it's just what you've always dreamed of on a hike: cool while you're chugging up the trail, but warm the moment you stop.
One-handed knifery sounds like a recipe for bloodletting -- at least until you consider the new, ergonomic Buck/Whittaker X-tract ($50; www.buckknives.com). The push of a thumb unleashes a three-inch knife, spring-loaded pliers and screwdriver heads. Also, with only six basic tools, it weighs in at a paltry 5.6 ounces.
Goggle fog bad, clear vision good. Smith Optics Prodigy Turbo Fan ($180; www.smithsport.com) parts the haze with a tiny, almost silent blower that moves air out of the frame and keeps condensation down. And unlike older, bulkier (i.e., geekier) models, it's sleekly designed and can be pimped out with eight customizing kits ($10).