Jacket Reviews

Cabela's Thermal Extreme Fleece 60 Windshear Jacket

      Cabela’s, “the world’s foremost outfitter,” is well-known throughout the hunting and fishing worlds for their high quality clothing and gear.  I’ve tried a couple of their garments in the past, and although they are usually of pretty high quality, it’s usually the fit of the garment that can be a deterrent for me.  The T.E.F. 60, while providing a pretty good fit, is not ideal, but it is windproof, and, coupled with a lightweight insulation, is quite warm, too, a good choice for those who want something that’ll keep the wind off, and keep them warm in the process.

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The North Face Geosphere Jacket

      As a rule of thumb, I like to have at least one windproof jacket in my collection of outerwear.  This does not include hard shells, since hard shells are inherently windproof (although, to be perfectly honest, I have seen a very few fully seam-taped hard shells in my lifetime that were merely wind-resistant).  The Geosphere has the potential to fill that slot: a windproof, water-resistant, breathable shell.  Constructed from TNF’s proprietary Hydrenalite fabric, and given a good dose of DWR, the jacket’s designed to keep you dry in most conditions, like a softshell, although, given the option, I’d probably more accurately classify this one as a windshell, suitable for cool, windy weather with a chance of rain.  At over 17 ounces, the Geosphere gets a good kick in the pants from many windshells that are very comfortable in the 3-7 ounce range.  But then again, it’s a good deal more durable, and feature-packed,  than those shells, and could probably stand up to even a bit of bushwhacking.

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Mountain Hardwear Aiguille Parka

Mountain Hardwear Aiguille Parka

I think that in the search for the perfect hardshell, there are three characteristics that take top priority (already assuming full waterproofness): durability, breathability, and light weight.  Due to a problem with a previous jacket, I was given the opportunity to own a Gore-Tex jacket of my choosing (thank you, Gore!).  I decided on the Mountain Hardwear Aiguille Parka, which I now consider one of the best jackets I own.  It’s got durability (Gore-Tex XCR on the hood, shoulders, and upper arms).  It’s got breathability in spades (Gore-Tex PacLite for the main body of the shell, and good-sized pit zips).  And it’s definitely lightweight, weighing in at only 16 ounces, very impressive for a fully seam-taped hardshell with a lot of features.  It doesn’t get much better than this, folks.

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REI Boreas Jacket

REI Boreas Jacket

 No season in the outdoors is safe from unpredictability; spring and fall, of course, hold more uncertainty than summer and winter.  It’s always nice to have an emergency shell to throw on in the event of a sudden rain- or snowfall.  Compressibility is of high priority, and it’s nice to have a hood, as well.  The REI Boreas is an excellent candidate for an emergency shell.

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The North Face Redpoint Optimus Jacket

The North Face Redpoint Optimus Jacket

For being part of TNF’s Summit Series line of clothing and gear, the Redpoint Optimus is relatively inexpensive, at under $200.  But that doesn’t mean it skimps on quality or features.  An adjustable hood, seamless shoulders, stellar water resistance and the ability to stuff the jacket into its own interior pocket adds up to a solid entry for cold, wet weather wear.

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Cabela's Cimarron Peak Windstopper Jacket

Cabela's Cimarron Peak Windstopper Jacket

Hardshells are not necessary for the majority of wet weather cases.  Often a softshell, with or without a hood, will do just fine.  And if you can find one with Windstopper, Gore’s proprietary windproof membrane, that’s even better, because windproof garments are inherently water-resistant.  From all appearances, Cabela’s Cimarron Peak fulfills these requirements: a Windstopper membrane, lightweight, a fully adjustable hood, and seamless shoulders.  But there is another, less pleasant side to this jacket: really wonky fit, as we will see.

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Cabela's 550 Goose Down Vest

Cabela's 550 Goose Down Vest

A down vest can be an excellent addition to any wardrobe, for when the weather turns colder, but it doesn’t quite justify a full down jacket.  Most down vests can be easily layered over a fleece or softshell, and layered under a hardshell.  This is what I sought: a down vest that was warm enough to justify wearing over a fleece, but compressible enough to wear under a hardshell.  I found it in Cabela’s 550 fill-power vest.  It’s very simple; no frills, not even zippers.  Just metal snaps on the front and slash handwarmer pockets.  But it gets the job done.

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Lowe Alpine Flash Jacket

Lowe Alpine Flash Jacket

The Lowe Alpine Flash utilizes Triplepoint Ceramic, Lowe Alpine’s proprietary waterproof/breathable material.  Lowe Alpine no longer uses this fabric, having switched to eVent, and now Gore-Tex, but it is a solid membrane, and the jacket itself is one of the most fully featured, complex jackets out there, even for a mountaineering shell.  It’s not for lightweight jaunts through the park in spring drizzles, but it does what it was made for very well: extreme wet weather and cold protection, even up on the mountain.

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Marmot ATV Jacket

Marmot ATV Jacket

Sometimes, simpler is better.  It looks like Marmot got the message, with the ATV Jacket.  It’s a simple softshell, water- and wind-resistant, with two handwarmer pockets and a smallish Napoleon pocket.  But it’s well-made, and it is one of the best-fitting jackets I own.  But more on that later.

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