Jackets are a crucial part of survival. They have to keep you warm, dry (from the rain and your own perspiration) and not weigh you down. There are many types of jackets and depending on the climate, some may work better for you than others. I’m going to touch on the three which are my favorites, but I’ll ask if you’d like more info on a particular category to just let us know, and I’ll be happy to go further in depth.
Category 1 : Softshell
The soft shell is a fantastic piece of equipment for areas where it’s not too hot and not too cold, or where it’s very cold and you’re doing a lot of physical exertion. Places like the Southern Appalachians to Mid-Atlantic in the fall come to mind. The term “soft shell” means that the fabric is typically either 100% waterproof or very close to it however the seams are not sealed. What this means for you is that if you’re in some snow, or maybe a steady rain your jacket will keep you dry. If you’re in hurricane, heavy snow, or “shit, I just fell in the river” situations, this is NOT the jacket for you. Soft shells are very flexible and great for athletic exertion. They come in different weights and my favorite middle of the road soft shell is…
The Arcteryx Gamma LT Hoody
The Gamma LT is a bomb proof, super comfortable water resistant active wear piece. It has stretch elements that allow you the freedom of motion to do what needs to be done, without being too bulky.
You can combine this jacket with a lightweight fleece jacket and have enough warmth and water protection for all but the most sever of weather conditions.
This jacket is available for men or women and it kicks ass for both!
Category 2 : Hardshell
So the defining difference between hard and soft shells, as you may have noticed in the last section, are the seams. A waterproof garment is only as waterproof as the weakest seam on the shell. Hardshell jackets typically employ either a waterproof taping or membrane overlap to ensure no water gets in. That’s just one side of the coin though. A garbage bag will keep water out, what you need in a hardshell is one that will let the moisture from your perspiration “breathe” out as well. This is the difference between a $50 jacket and a $500 jacket-the breathability. You can find all levels of jackets along the price range, from garbage bag to “I didn’t know I had a jacket on”, but you’re going to pay more for better breathability. As this isn’t an exhaustive list, let’s take a look at the jacket I use and which gets my vote as #1…
The Mountain Hardwear Compulsion 3L Jacket
Two words: Game Changer. This Compulsion 3L is the pinnacle of waterproof breathability. The fabric is Mountain Hardwear’s DryQ Elite, and they have raised the bar in the world of jackets with its invention. This jacket is incredibly waterproof, but also incredibly breathable. The weird thing is that it feels so durable that you can’t really imagine it would be that breathable. You really have to wear this one to believe how comfortable it is. Mountain Hardwear knows they’ve made an awesome piece with this one, they’re so confident that you’ll love it they give you a life time guarantee. If you’re EVER dissatisfied with the breathability, they’ll give you a new jacket or your money back. No one in the outdoor industry does that. That’s how good this jacket is.
Category 3 : Triclimate
Sometimes it’s tough to make a decision. Sometimes you may need a little of this AND a little of that. That’s ok, Tri-climate jackets have you covered (literally). A Tri-climate is exactly what it sounds like, 3 jackets in one. They are made up of a Hard Shell outer piece, and a fleece or soft shell inner piece that is removable but that can be worn on its own. It’s the all around, Swiss army knife of the jacket world, and it’s great for those of us who just don’t want to lean too hard in any one direction with this whole “jacket” business.
The Columbia Bugaboo Interchange Jacket
This is the jacket that started it all… well the tri-climate notion, not the zombie apocalypse! HA! What you’ve got is a great waterproof shell, combined with an insulated and removable inner layer. The insulated inner component is filled with a light weight synthetic insulation which is quick to dry if it does get wet and also great for keeping you warm in just about any condition. If it’s too warm you simply remove and stow the liner piece and wear the shell. If it’s kind of cold but not raining, you can take the shell off and just wear the lining. This jacket is a great all-around, durable and affordable piece that would make a great addition to ANY survival kit (it comes in men’s and women’s!).
So let’s stay warm, stay dry and keep on surviving! (And let me know if you’d like more info on any of these categories!!)