Spring weather is characteristically unpredictable. Whether your lifestyle entails walking around town or summitting 14,000-foot peaks, you’ll need a jacket that can keep the cold out, but is also breathable enough to continue wearing all day, and light enough be packed away easily when the mercury climbs.
We’ve taken a look at three light jackets from outdoor outfitters that use a variety of insulation types: natural down, synthetic down, and a quick-drying faux fur. And, to protect your dome from the chill, all three are hoodies.
The City Boy: Aether Space Hoodie
The ideal jacket keeps you warm while helping you maintain your cool. Aether’s Space Hoodie jacket ($300) uses internal baffling and a slim cut to prevent the Michelin Man look, and the 60 grams of Primaloft synthetic insulation keeps your body temperature at a survivable level. There aren’t a lot of outdoorsy features — the Space Hoodie lacks hood adjustment cords, and there are no cinch-closures on the sleeves or waist. It’ll keep you warm on the ski lift, but you’re likely to get a few pounds of snow down your back if you catch an edge on the trail. But that’s not where the Aether is meant to thrive. This baby’s made for the mean streets, and it looks darn good out there.
The Lightweight: First Ascent Microtherm Down Hoodie
At a mere 12 ounces for a men’s size medium, Eddie Bauer First Ascent’s Microtherm Down Hoodie ($200) is the outfitter’s lightest insulated jacket. Padded with 800-fill goose down, the Hoodie packs its insulation loft in the lightest, most compressible package of all the jackets tested. On day hikes when the temperature stayed between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the hoodie was plenty warm and effectively blocked wind, while the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish easily shed two hours’ worth of light rain without wetting out. Stretchy side panels added extra mobility, and the jacket packed down to roughly the size of a paperback book. My only issue with this jacket was that it initially seemed to lose a bit of down every time I wore it. But after a month, the leakage stopped, and the jacket never seemed to lose any warmth as a result.
get-gadget Lightweight and very warm. Packs down into its own chest pocket. Stretch panels make for a comfortable fit.
TIRED No drawstring hem. Builds up enough static electricity to defibrillate a cat.
The Cuddler: Triple Aught Design Shag Master
Triple Aught Design’s Shag Master hoodie ($200) is one of the warmest and softest jackets I’ve ever worn. The warmth comes from the Polartec R3 high-loft fleece, which covers the interior and exterior. On winter hikes, the jacket worked great when I was walking on the flats and when I stopped moving to have lunch in the middle of a snowstorm. When I picked up the pace, though, the jacket was prone to overheating. Even if you sweat in it, the fleece construction will dry off quickly. One night in Park City, some clown spilled a whole glass of whiskey on the Shag Master while I was wearing it, so I hung it on a chair and it was dry in about 10 minutes. The jacket’s an attention-getter as well. People seem to dig the Muppet look — wearing the Shag Master definitely increases the frequency of hugs and petting. If you don’t like being touched, this isn’t the jacket for you.
get-gadget Extremely warm. Dries quickly. Chest and arm pockets. Lets you wear “fur” without fear of PETA activists throwing red paint on you. Logos on the back of the hood glow in the dark for night hikes.
TIRED Not windproof. Heavy. Breathability can be an issue. Requires orange safety vest during bear season.