I have this thing about all-purpose itemsI love having one thing that will take the place of many and will serve as the only pen, shirt, hat, coffee cup, etc., that I'll need for an entire season, if not a decade's worth of said season. Oh, and low-maintenance, like a half-inch haircut, is key. Outdoor Research's Neoplume Jacket falls into this category and then some.
Weighing in at 16.1 ounces and stuffed with PrimaLoft, the Neoplume, in many ways, does what my thicker down jacket did about five years ago, with about half the bulk. It's the kind of jacket that you can pack in just about any small or midsize pack and forget about, busting it out if the time comes to throw that extra layer on without ever really noticing that it's there in your pack. And, damn, is it warm. Roaming around town on a crisp fall day here in Santa Fe, I found that I was practically sweating with nothing but a T-shirt and the Neoplume on. I wore it on a couple of road trips up to Colorado, and on a New Mexico night hike at the end of October at 11 p.m. in 25 degrees, sifting through snow up to 10,000 feet with nothing but a long-sleeve thermal shirt on underneath. After about a half-hour, I was finding myself unzipping the Neoplume to let some cold air in to cool off. Plus, with less bulk, I was able to fit a Lowe daypack securely on my back, waist straps and all, without feeling like a staggering StayPuft Marshmallow Man. On the way down the mountain, I snagged my arm on a barbed-wire fence marking the trail and, with a groan, looked over at my arm, expecting a gash with white Primaloft seeping from it like Frosty's flesh. Nothing. Not a tear, not a scratch. To this day, I can't figure out where it caught. Must be thanks to the 40-Denier ripstop shell, a minuscule grid of tightly woven material that prevents you from tearing open.
With cinch cords around the waist, the cut is streamlined to my body, allowing for free movement in the shoulders and arms, without sacrificing warmth for that mobility, and the wind-stopping outer shell put up with the various blasts of arctic air that would creep up over the mountain.
In early December, I even wore the Neoplume on a mid-afternoon run with temperatures in the low twenties. Again, it kept the heat in, but was mobile, flexible, and light enough to work.
In short, it's got my vote for a great fall and early winter jacket. It might not have enough PrimaLoft to make it through extended midwinter activities, but, with a layer or two, I definitely wouldn't rule it out. Now if they'd only make a never-ending cup of coffee Now that would be something. $139; www.orgear.com