Gear Guy

What’s up with these new single layer jackets?

Please explain the new REI One Jacket! I saw it advertised as a single-layer jacket to replace multiple layers, so I tried one on the last time I was in an REI store. Problem was that it comes with no hood and the pockets are so low in the hip belt area. It doesn't seem comfortable enough to wear without a light layer, or waterproof enough to ditch the rain layer. So, what exactly does it replace? Chris Silverdale, Washington

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.

While I haven’t used the REI One Jacket ($199), I do know it’s made of Polartec Powershield, and I have a Cannondale cycling jacket made of the same stuff. It’s what’s called a “soft-shell” piece, a new class of clothing that shows some promise but is having a hard time with consumers who are understandably a little confused by it. The idea behind the REI One Jacket and anything made with Powershield is to create a single piece that can be worn in a variety of conditions—cool and windy, cool and damp, cool and windy and damp, cool and dryByou get the idea. You also shouldn’t have to keep donning your rainjacket.

Typically, I wear my Cannondale piece over a light synthetic T-shirt. I find it remarkably warm and versatile, especially when out on weeknight winter rides with my local cycling club. Cycling is a pretty tough test for an insulating or windproof piece, as you can be sweating up a storm when going uphill, then get badly chilled when descending the same hill. But I find that the Powershield piece keeps my torso temperature steady for the entire ride. It also keeps me dry in light rain.

For hiking, backpacking, that sort of thing, the REI item could be taken in place of a fleece jacket. A very light rain shell (Powershield is water resistant, but not waterproof) could replace a heavier Gore-Tex-type jacket. The One Jacket would be what you wear most of the time, and when it starts raining hard you pull on the rain shell. It’s true that it doesn’t have a hood; I prefer hats, anyway, so that doesn’t trouble me. As for the low-riding pockets, you’re probably right that a hip belt would block get in the way.

So that’s the Gear Guy lowdown. Good luck!

promo logo