L.L. Bean Nor’easter Commuter Coat
Nor’easter Commuter Coat
Gear Guy

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

L.L. Bean Nor’easter Commuter Coat

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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

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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