Which Winter Jacket is Right For You?
This post is for the thousands of people who come into our stores each year and ask “What’s your warmest winter jacket?” It’s a simple question with a complicated answer.
At Eastern Mountain Sports, we sell dozens of different styles and brands of winter jackets. With so many different options to choose from, strolling through our outerwear section can be a bit daunting. When it comes to narrowing down your choices and picking the right winter jacket for you, you first have to know what’s available to you and what types of activities they’re best suited for. You also need to know the intentions and limitations of the latest technologies. For example, the same “technical shell” that you see hard core ice climbers using on frozen waterfalls could make for a miserable day of ice fishing.
If you’re looking for a new winter jacket or you’re considering one as a gift for a friend, here’s a breakdown of what’s available to you in our stores and on our web site:
Twenty years ago, fleece was a miracle fiber that you could only get at outdoor stores like Eastern Mountain Sports. Not anymore. Fleece jackets are everywhere. Whether you spend $79 for one from us instead of $29 at a discount store, depends entirely on how you plan on using it. If you’re simply trying to cut your fuel bills by lowering the thermostat and bundling up while you’re watching TV, there’s no need to spend money on a performance fleece. On the flip side, if you’re going to be wearing your fleece to a football game, during your morning run or on a hike with your family, you’re going to want to invest in a quality product that will stand up to the outside world. If you decide a fleece is right for you, you have a new set of options between LIGHTWEIGHT (can be worn alone on forty-five degree + days or used as a midlayer during aerobic activity) MIDWEIGHT (can be worn alone on 40+ degree days or as a midlayer on cold days. HEAVYWEIGHT (can be worn alone on 35+ degree days or as a midlayer on extremely cold days). Choosing the right fleece for you depends on whether you run cool or hot, what the weather conditions are and how much heat you’ll be generating on your own through physical exertion. If you have any questions, give us a call at 888-463-6367 or stop by your local store!
While fleece is awesome for keeping you warm, most weights and styles have problems combatting wind and moisture. That’s where lightweight, stretchy softshell jackets and their durable water repellent finish (DWR) provide the next level of protection during aerobic outdoor activity. I stress aerobic activity because the beauty of softshells is their breathability and mobility. Roughly translated, you can run in a softshell jacket without worrying about overheating or feeling weighed down. When temperatures drop into the 20′s choose a soft shell jacket with a fleece lining for extra warmth.
Insulated Jackets For Layering or Cold, Dry Weather
Once the temperature dips down into the 20′s, a fleece jacket or softshell jacket alone just isn’t going to cut it for most people. That’s when you need to enlist the extra warmth of a jacket stuffed with goose down or synthetic insulation. Once again, you have lots of options in brands, styles and insulation levels that can have you looking like anything from a streamlined, state-of-the-art athlete to a marshmallow. MOST of the jackets in this category are water resistant, not waterproof which is an important thing to remember. While options like DownTek or Thermoball from The North Face have qualities that will enable them to keep you warm even when wet, you don’t want to be caught in a freak rain storm in one. That’s where you need the extra protective layer OVER your nice, warm insulated later…
Also known as a waterproof breathable jacket or a technical shell, these lightweight, form fitting jackets are the outerwear equivalent of a super suit because rain bounces off a W/B jacket like bullets from Superman’s chest. Because they are your last line of defense from the elements, these jackets often have a wide array of cool, technical features like welded zippers that block out the rain, lots of pockets, draw cord waists and adjustable sleeves. They are designed to keep you dry and to help you vent extra heat during aggressive activities in wet weather like ice climbing, cross country skiing or snowshoeing. They are NOT intended to keep you warm. That’s where the right insulating midlayer is critical. That said, if you’re the kind of person who wants it all in one winter jacket, you’re going to want to skip all of my previous suggestions in favor of…
Insulated, Waterproof Jackets For Skiing or Cold, Wet Weather
Jackets in this category answer the “what’s your warmest jacket” question for most people and are perfect for skiers/snowboarders who are doing short bursts of intense activity followed by long stretches of sitting on chairlifts in cold, windy conditions. An insulated, waterproof jacket will keep you warm when you’re walking the dog, ice fishing, or walking from the car to work in just about any winter weather you can imagine. These are the types of jackets our friends at the Mount Washington Observatory require when they’re taking their measurements in the dead of winter. You’ll be warm as can be but keep in mind that the more active you are, the hotter they get.
SO, now that you know all the options that are available, what winter jacket is right for you? The answer depends on what you and the weather are doing on any given day. If you’re making a snowman in the backyard, one jacket may be fine. If you’re climbing Mount Washington in January, you may need a combination of three jackets. When it comes to choosing the right one(s) for your next cold weather adventure, please give us a call at 888-463-6367 or call the store nearest you wherever you happen to be.