Gear
Gear Guy
Q:

Is $400 too much to spend on a Gore-Tex jacket?

I enjoy weekend hiking and overseas travel. At the se time, I want to look good when I dress casually. Because of this, I spent $400 on a Patagonia XCR Gore-Tex jacket when Patagonia opened its first branch in Hong Kong last year. It's a very expensive outfit, but I do like it. However, after reading all your gear recommendations, it seems I could have bought something similar or even better. So, I'm now thinking of buying a fleece jacket for cold weather. Do you have any cheaper recommendations? June Hong Kong

A: Nah, you didn't do anything stupid buying the Patagonia XCR jacket, which I think is probably the Ice Nine ($460 in the States; www.patagonia.com). True, it's probably more jacket than you'll ever need, but you'll also get many years of use out of it and always enjoy having it.

But, it's also true that a lot of good-quality jackets cost less. I draw a parallel between the outdoor-gear evolution and the dot-com boom. I recall hearing a presentation two years ago from a major gear maker's PR person about that company's new Gore-Tex jacket and pants. Like the Ice Nine, they were expensive—nearly $1,000 for the set. This is getting ridiculous, I thought to myself. A grand for a rain suit?

I wasn't alone in being skeptical. Since then, gear makers have been trying to simplify their wares and cut costs. It's no coincidence that the best-selling rain jacket around is probably the Marmot Precip, a perfectly good (although not Gore-Tex) jacket that sells for $99 (www.marmot.com). Other garments made with Gore-Tex XCR that offer good value include Marmot's Liquid Steel ($375) and L.L. Bean's Mountain Guide Parka ($299; www.llbean.com). So you see, you didn't overspend wildly.

Patagonia makes fleece jackets that zip right into the Ice Nine, among them the midweight R2 ($149), which is an extremely good piece—it's very light and is compressible yet warm. But, at the end of the day, I don't see a zip-in liner as being all that useful. It adds a tiny amount of convenience, as you can have an insulating piece and rainwear all together. But I almost always pack them separately, anyway. So you don't have to buy a Patagonia piece. In the U.S., REI makes a fine fleece jacket called the Muir Woods that sells for a mere $65 (www.rei.com). L.L. Bean makes a slightly warmer jacket called the Grid Fleece that's $89. These are both extremely good buys.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
More Gear