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
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. Youre working hard for 30 minutes in one stretch, and then standing around while the wind is freezing a plumbers behind for the next 30 minutes.
L.L. Bean Nor’easter Commuter CoatNor’easter Commuter Coat
So I dont think any single piece will do it. Id layer up. Start with a very light layer that wicks moisture and offers some thermal assistance. Patagonias 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 youre working hard, it breathes. When you arent, 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 shella piece that has some insulation, is nearly windproof, and easily shrugs off light rain and snow. So its great for those stop/start kind of days. You might think, at first look, its too light. But its a very impressive piece. Tough as hell, too. More reassuring visually is L.L. Beans Noreaster Commuter Coat ($200), a longer piece than the One, with Gore-Tex and Thinsulate insulation, but one that, in my opinion, doesnt 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.
The 2008 Summer Outside Buyers Guide is now online. From riding to trail-running to camping, get reviews of nearly 400 gear must-haves.