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 expensivenearly $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 pieceit'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.