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Q:

Which jacket can stand up to working outside all winter?

I work outside year-round (at the flightline of an airport), and in the winter the cold wind really gets me. I need a jacket that is comfy, warm, and tough, and that blocks wind. With all of the shells out there, I'm overwhelmed. What do you suggest? What about pants? Mike Apalachicola, Florida

I work outside year-round (at the flightline of an airport), and in the winter the cold wind really gets me. I need a jacket that is comfy, warm, and tough, and that blocks wind. With all of the shells out there, I'm overwhelmed. What do you suggest? What about pants? Mike Apalachicola, Florida

A:

Yikes! That is a challenge, Mike. I fly plenty and see you guys out there in all kinds of crappy weather, and I completely sympathize. You’re working hard for 30 minutes in one stretch, and then standing around while the wind is freezing a plumber’s behind for the next 30 minutes.

L.L. Bean Nor’easter Commuter Coat

Nor’easter Commuter Coat

So I don’t think any single piece will do it. I’d layer up. Start with a very light layer that wicks moisture and offers some thermal assistance. Patagonia’s Capilene 1 is ideal for this ($38 for long-sleeve tee). Over that, wear something warmer and woollier. Throw on an Icebreaker Mondo Zip ($70), a mid-weight layer that really packs a lot of thermal agility. When you’re working hard, it breathes. When you aren’t, it holds warm air close to the skin.

Tricky part is: what next? My vote is for an REI One Jacket ($190). This is a soft shell—a piece that has some insulation, is nearly windproof, and easily shrugs off light rain and snow. So it’s great for those stop/start kind of days. You might think, at first look, it’s too light. But it’s a very impressive piece. Tough as hell, too. More reassuring visually is L.L. Bean’s Nor’easter Commuter Coat ($200), a longer piece than the One, with Gore-Tex and Thinsulate insulation, but one that, in my opinion, doesn’t offer the same agility and flexibility as the One.

All of the above have complementary pants, usually for a bit less than the top or jacket.

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Filed To: Snow Sports / Soft Shell

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