Gadling Gear Review: The North Face Jammu Jacket

gadling north face jammuWaterproof winter jackets don’t always leave you dry. Sure, they keep the rain, snow and ice out, but they often end up leaving you drenched in your own sweat. The breathability of a jacket is almost as important as how impenetrable it is to the elements. Sadly, most coats that try to combine warmth and waterproofing end up sacrificing personal climate control. If you’re going to be active throughout the winter, finding a jacket that’s comfortable, allows for a full range of motion and keeps you dry and warm is a necessity. That’s why I was so eager to try the new Jammu jacket from The North Face.There are plenty of lightweight hard shell layers that attempt to combine all of these elements and fail miserably. The Jammu features Polartec’s NeoShell technology that provides both stretch and warmth with breathability and accomplishes everything far more effectively than most of its competitors.

What struck me immediately with the Jammu is its weight. At less than two pounds, the Jammu is remarkably lightweight and, as such, comfortable. The stretch and give of the fabric makes hiking, snowshoeing and climbing easy. And, unlike other jackets with helmet-compatible hoods, the Jammu and its hood fit properly even if you’re wearing nothing on your head.

The breathability – which is noticeable the moment you start working up a sweat on the trail – is exactly what you want from a jacket made for an active winter lifestyle. I wore the Jammu hiking and was impressed that it kept me dry in a light rain while also making sure that I didn’t stew inside it.

While incredibly durable and well-made, sadly the Jammu is not as warm as I expected from a Summit Series jacket from The North Face. While it’s certainly suitable for engaging in winter sports, it lacks the insulation of other jackets of similar weights. The Polartec NeoShell does a fantastic job of keeping you dry, but it seems to sacrifice some warmth in doing so.

This is not to say that it’s not a winter jacket. So long as you’re wearing suitable base layers and staying active, the Jammu does what it promises. However, once you’re off the trail and back in town, it’s not quite warm enough to act as your only winter jacket. As with all technical gear, the Jammu is meant to be paired with an active winter wardrobe that allows for layering.

That Jammu is an impressive jacket without a doubt. It keeps you dry, allows sweat to escape, withstands the wind and is incredibly lightweight. The Polartec NeoShell is remarkably effective at keeping water out and making sure that sweat doesn’t stay in. However, it is unmistakably a technical jacket intended for use with other technical gear to ensure your total comfort.

If you’re looking for a jacket that allows you to stay active all winter, the Jammu is a great option and will handle everything that you throw at it. Just be sure to combine it with the appropriate gear so that it can do its job properly.

The Jammu is $399 and available via The North Face,

Gadling Gear Review: Insulated fleece jacket from LL Bean

Let’s set aside the jokes around polar fleece as the uniform for us Pacific North-Westerners. First of all, I can take it and secondly, dude, polar fleece works. And really, it’s getting better, the fabrics are getting softer and hold up longer and wash better. Even while I’m developing a preference for natural fibers, I’m finding myself pawing the new polar fleece performance clothing and thinking, “Hey, not bad, actually.”

LL Bean has a new line of jackets out that are lightweight and weather resistant and really warm. Bonus, they’re cut with quite a nice mind for style and have some details that make them worth packing.

Heads up — they’re not water proof, they’re water resistant, that’s a different animal. You’ll be fine running for the car or the bus, or in transitional weather, but you’ll want to add a rain jacket if it’s really coming down.

LL Bean’s insulated fleece jacket has all the basics that I look for in this kind of gear. There are zippered side pockets and a zippered upper pocket for your phone or wallet. And yes, there’s a pull through for your headphones. The waist has an elastic pull so you can cinch it in place to keep the wind out. There’s soft stuff where you want it — the neck is lined with a fluffier material and the collar with a slightly smoother fabric that won’t scratch your face when you’re all zipped in against the cold.

Some additional nice details… the sleeves have a narrower cuff, great for keeping the wind out. Also on the sleeves, a heavier, wind-stop fabric. The jacket feels well constructed with double stitching and flat seams. The fit seems true to size, I got a medium, and it fits as I’d expect. It looks nice, too; I’ve had compliments when I’m wearing it. And it comes in a couple of different colors, a cranberry and a teal for women, and a gray, a dark blue and a burgundy for guys.

I’d have liked the black/gray to come in women’s sizes too, I have a personal preference for neutral colors for the travel wardrobe. I’d also have liked to have a two way zip in the front, again a personal preference that helps with fit.

LL Bean rates this jacket as good down to 35 degrees/ -15F. I’ve been wearing it out in 40 degree temps and really liking it — I’m warm without being weighed down. I stayed dry in damp, not quite pouring conditions, and I haven’t felt constricted, it’s great for running around in. A little bit of insulation combined with the Polartec wind-stop fleece seems to be doing its job.

Right now,the jacket is $124.00 directly from LL Bean, down from the original $149.00. Want one? Get it directly from LL Bean.

Gadling gear review: Mountain Hardwear Jovian Jacket

The Mountain Hardwear Jovian JacketThe line between a once in a lifetime adventure, and a miserable trip that can’t be over fast enough, is a fine one. There is nothing worse than finally visiting your dream destination, only to have inclement weather ruin the experience. The right gear can make all the difference in those situations however, turning a potential disaster into an amazing outing. Mountain Hardwear is one company that has earned a reputation for creating equipment that performs well under the worst of conditions and their Jovian Jacket definitely lives up to that legacy.

Incorporating Mountain Hardwear’s proprietary DryQ technology, the Jovian is a super lightweight shell with a minimalist design that still manages to include all the features you should expect out of your active gear. It has been cut to be form fitting without restricting motion, and when worn while on the go, you barely notice that you have it on. The jacket includes large, zippered pockets that keep their contents well protected from the elements and are conveniently placed to allow access, even while wearing a backpack or climbing harness. Internally, the Jovian features a small zippered pocket, as well as a water bottle holder, which is much appreciated on cold days in the mountains. The large, adjustable hood fits over a helmet, but can still be drawn up snugly, even if you’re not wearing anything on your head at all, and the high quality zippers feature pull tabs that are easy to use, even while wearing bulky gloves.

The Jovian was designed for alpine adventures, but I found that it performed very well in a wide variety of settings – particularly when used with an effective layering system. In warmer weather, the jacket works great on its own, keeping moisture out, while still regulating temperatures, thanks to its outstanding ability to breathe. Adding base and fleece layers underneath extend its use into much colder temperatures, while the jacket’s included pit-zippers provide plenty of ventilation, without compromising protection from the rain or snow. This is a nice feature not found on a lot of similar jackets from other manufacturers, but it is much appreciated when you find yourself overheating despite the weather.As someone who likes to travel as light as possible, I appreciated the fact that this jacket packs so much performance into such a small package. The Jovian weighs in at just 17 ounces and packs down nicely so as to not take up much room in my backpack. I appreciate the fact that I can stuff it in a bag as a “just in case” option, and rest assured that it is there when I need it, without adding bulk or weight to my gear.

The MSRP on the Jovian is $475, which is likely to induce sticker shock for the average traveler who doesn’t need the kind of performance from their gear that this jacket provides. But Mountain Hardwear‘s core audience are hardcore adventurers and mountaineers who travel to some of the most remote places on the planet. Those men and women require that their gear performs at a high level at all times, and as such, they are willing to pay for superior equipment. The Jovian, for example, is the type of jacket that will not only perform well for years to come, but will also withstand the rigors of being used in active outdoor pursuits in some of the worst environments on the planet. In fact, the gear is so good, that Mountain Hardwear offers a lifetime warranty on all of their equipment. Consider that when your cheaper jacket falls apart on your next trip.

If you are the type of traveler who rarely has the need to battle the elements or face inclement weather, than this probably isn’t the jacket for you. But if your travels frequently carry you to remote places, where you either endure the conditions or miss out on the adventure, than Mountain Hardwear has built a shell that will serve you well for many years to come. Its ability to keep you warm and dry, while not restricting your movement, makes this jacket worth every penny to the audience for which it is designed. The Jovian gets a big thumbs up for adventure travelers, mountaineers, climbers, cross country skiers, and anyone else who takes their outdoor pursuits very seriously – rain or shine.

Gadling Gear Review: Patagonia Men’s Lined Canvas Hoody

gadling gear review patagonia lined cavas hoodySo much of the gear that’s out there these days is incredibly technical and specialized. Ski jackets that are impervious to the elements yet breathe so that you don’t sweat too much. Raincoats with 16 pockets and stretchy materials so that you can also scale a rock face while wearing them. These products serve many purposes and are innovative, but they also end up being expensive and including unnecessary advancements that the average consumer doesn”t require. Sometimes you just need a coat that will keep you warm, can handle getting roughed up a bit and doesn’t break the bank. That’s what I was looking for this fall and it’s why I was excited to try out the Patagonia Men’s Lined Canvas Hoody. It’s a seemingly basic coat that’s practical and durable rather than technical.As you can tell from the name, the jacket’s exterior is a heavy-duty canvas, a material often associated with work gear. In fact, at first glance you might mistake this coat for something that Carhartt would produce. Being that it’s from Patagonia, however, its made from organic cotton and recycled polyester (inside the sleeves). It’s a no-frills jacket that’s meant to get dirty.

The coat is incredibly warm, thanks to the fleece lining that wraps your core. The cut of the jacket keeps the fleece close to your body, but also can feel a bit constrictive at first. While it fits properly in the sleeves, the body of the coat can feel tight and narrow.

It’s always nice to look fashionable and have gear that excels in both form and function. In that respect, the Lined Canvas Hoody is a bit of a plain Jane. That said, for activities such as raking leaves, winterizing your home, taking your dogs out for chilly walks and other outdoor chores that come your way as the days get shorter, a useful work coat such as this deserves a place in your closet.

Little details like the fleece-lined exterior pockets and interior breast pocket make the coat even more practical. As does the drop-tail hem, which is needed since the jacket is snug and short. The hem keeps your back covered when you bend down (say to pick up leaves or a pumpkin). What it lacks in space-age fabrics it more than makes up for in durability and usefulness.

The lack of technical advancements and innovations benefits your wallet, as well. As a basic work jacket, the Lined Canvas Hoody is a very reasonable $149.

If you like your gear to be the latest, greatest and fanciest, this isn’t the coat for you. However, if you need something that can handle work – not adventure activities, but real work – or just want a low key piece of outerwear that will keep you very warm, then this coat is perfect for you. And hey, fashion is subjective. Some people like a subdued, almost retro work coat. And there’s no question that this coat will keep you warm and comfortable during less demanding activities such as attending a chilly football game or fall festival.

The bottom line when it comes to the Patagonia Lined Canvas Hoody is this: It’s well-made, practical and will stand up to whatever you throw at it. Sometimes that’s more important than owning the fanciest or most advanced piece of gear.

The Patagonia Lined Canvas Hoody sells for $149 on Patagonia’s website and at other outdoor retailers.

New Mid-Layers from Triple Aught Design

Can you have too much polar fleece? I’m struggling with the answer to that question as I eye the gear that’s coming out for fall. I’ve got a lot of it, some of it quite old, as it seems to last longer than I expected it too. Even while I’m switching out a lot of my wardrobe for natural fibers, I’m looking at new polar fleece mid-layers with much better design than my old stuff.

I’ve been trying out hoodies from Triple Aught Design; one fleece, one wool. Packing a hoody is essential for this traveler; it’s perfect airplane wear and you need some kind of warm, versatile mid-layer when you travel.

The fleece version is the Valkyrie. It retails for over $200.00, a steep price tag when you’re used to getting your fleece as corporate swag like I am. It’s made from Polartec Wind Pro — that’s their breathable wind stop fabric. You’ll need a rain shell if it’s really wet, but for a little damp weather, it’s just fine.

The Valkyrie is covered in pockets — hand warmer pockets at the waist, biceps pockets on each side for your mp3 player or phone (with pass-throughs for your headset cables), and a key or lift ticket pocket on the left lower arm. There’s a pass through pocket in the back, too, There’s no interior wallet pocket, though — that’s what I’d add.

There’s a fitted hood — the shape is great and there’s some heavier weight stuff around the outside to help it keep that shape. When the zipper is all the way up, the tab tucks into a finished slot so it doesn’t scratch your face; a nice details. The underarms are vented with button holes rather than zips; kind of a nice change to the usual pit zips, plus, because the pockets are mesh lined on the inside, you can open them for venting. There’s a drawstring at the waist to keep the wind out.The truth? It’s a really nice mid-weight moderate weather sweater-type layer. It’s made in the US, and how many companies can you say that about? I’m struggling with the price tag, though, American made apparel or no. I did a little comparison shopping; the prices are comparable with other similar items made out of the same material. My sticker shock might be due to the fact that my older wind-stop fleece jacket is office swag.

I’m less stressed by the 159.00 price tag on the Artemis hoody, a streamlined merino wool version of the classic sweatshirt hoody. This thing looks great and feels great. The cut is super stylish, fitting, with a soft draping hood and thumb loops in the sleeves. You can absolutely wear this as a base layer in the outdoors, but it’s great on its own too. It comes in black or gray, so it’s appropriate as your evening formal hoody though you’ll be perfectly happy wearing it with those flannel jammies while you wander around with a cup of coffee in hand. The sweater bears a “Made in China” tag, that may explain the more mid-range pricing.

Triple Aught Design has a full line of outdoor gear — if the stuff I’ve been trying out is any indication, their clothing is cut quite nicely and they’ve got a keen eye for materials and detail. I kind of like their travel porn inspired Flickr feed, especially this one featuring their packs.

Want your own Triple Aught Design gear? Check their website.

Images courtesy of Triple Aught Design.