Gear Guy

The Shuksan     Photo: courtesy, REI

Q:

What's the perfect mountaineering jacket?

I still try to find my holly grail of mountaineering jackets but despite the vast variety my quest is unfinished! After using dozens of jackets, I can't still find one that can beat the versatility of my old Lowe Alpine Foraker (backpacking, mountaineering, skiing, and discrete for urban use). I just want handwarmer pockets and chest pockets for loading the essentials (all with storm flaps—the linated water-resistant zippers seem just.. resistant), two-way main zip with double storm flap, enough length to cover my hips from those backstabbing breezes, and enough abrasion resistance to withstand skiing, backpacking, and thorny rocks. Did I mention water-windproofness and breathability? Pit-zips are optional! Some help from your gearness? Jimmy Washington, DC

A:I have to ask: "After using dozens of jackets"??? What did you do—try them and return them? Just curious.

I dunno about finding a Foraker look-alike. That is really a pretty antique design, although I see the practicality. Must have weighed a ton, or at least two pounds. Lowe Alpine does make a jacket called the Peak Jacket, which is somewhat similar to the Foraker. About $200 U.S., if you can find one. Lowe Alpine has become largely a European maker, and is based in Italy.

Were I shopping for a jacket, I probably would start with REI's Shuksan ($289). It uses eVent fabric, which I think is as good or better than Gore-Tex. Has a hood, hand-warmer pockets, two chest pockets, and two inside pockets. It doesn’t have storm flaps—it uses waterproof zips—but hardly anybody uses storm flats (they add weight and manufacturing complexity). It's an excellent piece. And in graphite, fairly low-key.

Another first-rate jacket is the Arc'teryx Beta AR ($425). It uses Gore’s new 3L Pro Shell, which is nice stuff. Built for mountains, but okay for all-around use. Handwarmer pockets and one chest pocket. Pricy, but a really well-made, durable jacket.

Lastly, Mountain Hardwear's Exposure II Parka ($200) has a classic all-mountain profile, handwarmer, and chest pockets, most of what you seem to be after. It uses Mountain Hardwear's proprietary Conduit fabric, which is a decent waterproof-breathable fabric.

I’d start with the Shuksan, and go from there. If that doesn’t suit you…well, you’re a hard man to suit.

Expand your search by examining out our annual Winter Buyer Guide.

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