By Max Lowe
Explorebigsky.com contributor

Imagine it’s a freezing cold morning in December, and you’re setting out for day of backcountry skiing. You have a few hours of strenuous walking before you strip your climbing skins and delve into the downhill.

Since it’s miserable to shiver for the first 20 minutes, you want a layer that’s going to keep you warm as you start hiking; but before too long, you’ll be sweating under the duress of the up if you wear an insulated puff layer.

The Rab Strata Hoody, new this year, is the solution to this dilemma. With the innovative Polartec Alpha insulation and designed for supreme breathability, the Strata Hoody offers up the perfect mid-layer for an active day in the hills, all in just 15 ounces.

What the jacket gives in breathability though, it loses in wind and water resistance: Becoming an alternative for a micro-puff insulating layer and a light synthetic layer, the Strata is the perfect pick when you’re out of the car and up the hill, but needs to be paired with a more wind and water resistant hard-shell.

The retail price is $225 – fairly standard for a higher-end lightweight, synthetic jacket. I have been wearing the Strata on my outings in the hills as well as just around town as the leaves have begun to turn and snow paints the distant peaks, and it has stood up to its design for finding a balance between warm and cold. With a hood that fits over or under a helmet, interior and exterior chest pockets for storage, and a slim fit, this is a piece I’ll be choosing this winter as my everyday insulating layer for backcountry missions.

Available in both men’s and women’s cuts, the Strata is sold at Pro-light gear in Bozeman or online at rab.uk.com.