Product review: 7 jackets for fall and winter

Posted October 14

THE GREAT OUTDOORS — With temperatures dropping and snow more common in the higher elevations, it’s time to think about busting out your favorite jacket or coat.

A well-worn, comfy jacket is one of life’s great joys. But after years of use, the insulation can start to break down. With synthetic insulation, a jacket might start to lose substantial warmth after six or seven years. A down jacket, on the other hand, can often provide consistent warmth for up to 20 years.

That’s not to say that down is always superior to synthetic insulation. For one thing, synthetic insulation usually keeps its loft better when it gets wet and provides more warmth in extreme conditions.

So what’s the best option? That completely depends on your budget, location and lifestyle. There are more options than ever these days and each new technology offers tempting benefits.

This review looks at a handful of jackets with different designs and technology. Some are great for everyday use, while others are made with technical-precision for winter sports.

Cotopaxi Kusa Jacket

PRICE: $199


What makes the Kusa different than most jackets? For starters, it’s filled with llama-fleece insulation from the Altiplano of South America. This isn’t merely a marketing gimmick—the hollow-fiber composition of llama fiber is impressively lightweight and insulating. Put on the Kusa and you seriously might forget you’re wearing it.

The jacket’s outer layer is 20D nylon ripstop with a DWR finish. The result is a stylish-looking jacket that might not fare too well on a hike through scrub oak. It’s durable enough for regular use, but if you go too far off the trail, snags or tears could result.

The Kusa is reversible, which is always a great way to improve the versatility. It also has a sleek profile and sleeves that are long enough for tall guys (which is more rare than it should be).

686 Women'S GLCR Solstice Thermagraph Jacket

PRICE: $260


The GLCR SOLSTICE is a technical jacket with impressive features. It starts with the outer, which is tough enough for most winter terrain. The fully taped seams block out the cold and the AquaGuard zippers are water-resistant. The result is a feeling of imperviousness.

Additional features include internal wrist gaiters, adjustable welded cuffs and a zip-off adjustable powder skirt. The hood is helmet compatible and you’ll find the GLCR SOLSTICE is designed in a way that complements just about any winter activity.

With all these features, it’s important to note that this jacket is still fairly lightweight. It has a soft liner and is extremely comfortable to wear.

L.L. Bean Signature Lightweight Parka

PRICE: $199


This jacket perfectly bridges the gap between lightweight and indestructible. It has a glossy waxed cotton shell that’s water-resistant, tear-resistant, stain-resistant, and feels rugged enough to withstand just about anything nature can throw at it.

At the same time, its streamlined design keep the weight down and ensures it’s not too bulky. The flannel lining is incredibly plush and warm. And the oversized hood has a faux-fur ruff that seals out the cold on blustery days. Additional features include an internal drawstring at the waist and side hem zippers that allow you to adjust the fit.

This isn’t a technical jacket, so you won’t want to wear it on your next snowboarding adventure, but it’s perfect for everyday use throughout the winter months.

Ortovox Merino Hardshell 3L LA Grave Jacket

PRICE: Varies by retailer


The 3L LA GRAVE JACKET from ORTOVOX definitely leans to the technical side. Its Toray Dermizax NX membrane (with a water column of at least 20,000mm) ensures it’s waterproof and windproof. At the same time, it’s extremely breathable. ORTOVOX recently redesigned this jacket and now make it with a more closely knitted yarn that repels water and dirt.

This may be a hardshell jacket, but it’s made with merino wool, giving it surprising comfort. It feels lightweight on your back and the integrated stretch membrane gives you free range of movement for activities like skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing.

Other features include two-way zippered underarm ventilation, adjustable seam width, felted wool around the chin area and an adjustable storm hood. The 3L LA GRAVE JACKET simply feels like a top-quality jacket that will provide reliable performance for years to come.

Clothing Arts Cubed Travel Jacket

PRICE: $380


Like many innovative products, the Cubed Travel Jacket from Clothing Arts started on Kickstarter. Promising to be “the one jacket you will never want to leave home without,” the campaign surpassed its $50,000 goal and finished with $83,924.

So is the Cubed Travel Jacket something you’ll never want to leave home without? Depending on your preference, it definitely could be. It’s a four-season jacket made with an eVent DVStorm membrane, which is an exceptionally waterproof and breathable fabric. And the taped-seam construction keeps you consistently warm and dry, though it results in a somewhat stiff fit.

There’s no doubting the ruggedness of the jacket, but it doesn’t allow for generous range of motion. Perhaps once it’s been broken in more, that wouldn’t be a problem. But the Cubed Travel Jacket seems to be a robust jacket that puts more emphasis on protection than comfort.

686 GLCR Ether Down Thermagraph Jacket

PRICE: $300


This rugged jacket from 686 fits like a glove. It has a trim profile that hugs your body and reduces gaps for cold air to enter. Add the fully taped seams, water-resistant zippers, Lycra wrist gaiters, adjustable cuffs and adjustable powder skirt, and you’ve got an uncompromising shield against the elements.

Of course, this jacket is also built with comfort in mind. It has a Thermagraph Body Mapping Insulation System that employs 600 Power Down Fill. And the underarm vents enhance the already impressive breathability.

Like most good winter sport jackets, this 686 jacket also has features like a goggle storage pocket and helmet compatible hood. It’s a solid contender for anyone who wants a technical jacket that can handle just about any conditions.

Grant Olsen joined the team in 2012. He covers outdoor adventures, travel, product reviews and other interesting things. He is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." You can contact him at


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