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Columbia Millennium Flash Shell Jacket

Columbia Millennium Flash Shell JacketSometimes, despite getting out in the winter cold, you need something that allows you to move more easily than a big bulky jacket will. But sacrificing bulk shouldn’t mean giving up protection from the elements.

The women’s Millennium Flash Shell jacket packs some of Columbia’s best technologies together to allow you to be comfortable in the winter’s wildest weather. First, there’s the company’s premium stretch material with Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining, which retains warmth while getting rid of moisture. Next, the Omni-Tech fabric provides waterproof, yet breathable, protection—just the kind of jacket you want to have on your side in the rain or snow.

Use it to ski, like I do, and you’ll appreciate the removable, snap back powder skirt. I’m also a big fan of the zippable sleeve pocket—a handy place to stash my lip balm when I’m skiing.

Columbia Millennium Flash Shell JacketThere are two more waterproof exterior pockets to keep your gear safe. Two interior pockets are good spots to tuck away your phone and sunglasses. The helmet compatible storm hood and the hem both have drawcords, to tighten up when the wind blows.

The Columbia women’s Millennium flash Shell Jacket comes in purple and red and lists for $280 on the Columbia website. There’s also a men’s version that’s on their site but also more widely available at online retailers like Backcountry and Zappos.

See more Practical Travel Gear reviews of Columbia Sportswear items.

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Canada Goose Camp Hoody Jacket

In the market for a big ticket winter jacket? I count my two Canada Goose jackets as the warmest I own, and they’re among my most comfortable, too. Canada Goose’s Camp Hoody is also one of the most versatile, lightweight enough to grab for a travel day or a quick cover up, yet substantial enough for nearly any weather situation. It should be noted right out of the gate that the Camp Hoody retails for $450, which I realize is not unheard of in winter apparel, but still warrants explanation.

canada-goose-camp-hoodyThe million dollar (or in this case, $450) question, of course, is: is it worth it? What makes the Camp Hoody worth the price? Answer: it’s extreme warmth and coverage combined with its ability to stuff down to almost nothing. This is a highly functional jacket, built for technical situations experienced by true outdoors-women. On a backcountry winter excursion during which down warmth is required and yet space and weight is at a premium, the Camp Hoody would be priceless. For a day on the ski slopes with easy access to the car or locker? Probably overkill (though you’ll certainly be comfortable). Therefore, I refer back to my opening question: are you in the market for a premium winter jacket? If your outdoor travel warrants a ‘yes’, the value is definitely here.

The Camp Hoody is a dream to wear. It sits on your body like a cloud, and you feel light as a feather in it (which makes since, as it’s stuffed with white duck down. The fill power is 750, and the double-layer windproof shell provides incredible protection from the elements. I won’t lie: I haven’t trekked to the Arctic in this jacket (yet), but I have experienced wicked cold days on the slopes have haven’t felt a thing. On the other end of the scale, I’ve slid into this jacket with nothing but a t-shirt underneath to walk the dog in the Oregon fog and wind, and felt completely warm. You get a front storm flap to protect against drifts and wind, and a chin guard behind a two-way locking reversed-coil zipper. In other words, wind is not getting in here. The hood is full-sized and adjustable to fit over a helmet or hat, and the hem falls to the hip with a dropped tail. Once you’re in this jacket, you might as well be cozied up in a sleeping bag.

You get two front zippered pockets and an interior mesh google pocket, a Canada Goose logo patch on the arm, and elastic wrist cuffs that really keep out the snow (and which thick gloves can slide over easily). I squished up the Camp Hoody to bring it along via plane on a Colorado ski trip, and once folded and refolded, it fit in my palm about the size of a melon. Packing tip: lay it flat at the bottom of your bag instead of folding it, and let clothes on top compress it down to nothing.

Pick up the Camp Hoody at Moosejaw and Amazon. On the Canada Goose site, you get your pick of colors, ranging from sunset orange (highly recommended), summit pink, red, white, black, or ocean, though colors are more limited at the retail sites.

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Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket for Men

Mountain Hardwear ThermostaticSometimes even the most dedicated light packers need a jacket with real insulation to keep them toasty in cold weather. But these days, warmth and bulk don’t have to go hand in hand.

This men’s Thermostatic Jacket from Mountain Hardwear has come with me on a few cool place trips lately and I haven’t had to worry about how much space it was taking up in my suitcase. On the other end, however, after an hour or two on a hanger or back of a chair it looked just like it did when I took it out of the closet at home.

This is one of those winter jackets that works for a wide range of temperatures. It doesn’t make you burn up if you put it on when the night is just a little chilly. When the temperature really drops, however, the Thermostatic jacket’s Thermal Q insulation really shows its stuff and with another layer underneath, could take you down to freezing just fine.

This is not a down jacket and there are lots of advantages to that. I got caught in two rainstorms while wearing this coat on trips and not only did none of that moisture make it to my clothing underneath, but after two hours in my hotel room it was completely dry again. Furthermore, I know I’ll never have to worry about those feathers poking out after I wash it.

The main advantage of synthetic insulation is the smash-up factor. I’ve subjected this Mountain Hardwear jacket to some serious abuse in my suitcase and it compresses and puffs back up no problem. In theory it stuffs down into its own pocket, but it doesn’t do that as well as several others I’ve tried, which is mostly a matter of having a one-sided zipper instead of a two-sided one. It’s kind of awkward to get closed, so I usually just jam in into my suitcase wherever it will fit.

One key thing sets this model apart for me though: it looks good on. It’s trim-fitting and has dual hem draw cords to pull it in tighter in the wind or snow. The elastic cuffs work well without being too tight and this insulated jacket is super-light: barely over half a pound. “Wispy but warm” is a good description. I also like having two pockets to stick my hands in.

With six colors to choose from, you can get as subdued (black) or as bright (yellow) as you’d like. Get the Thermostatic Jacket for $200 direct from Mountain Hardwear (where there is also a women’s version) or check prices at Backcountry.com

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Sherpa Adventure Gear: Langtang Jacket and Naulo Pant

If you’re not familiar with Sherpa Adventure Gear, the brand has a nice story behind it: founded by Tashi Sherpa in Nepal, purchases help support the education of Sherpa children. The company donates $.50 for every product sold to the Paldorje Education Fund, which then grants scholarships to deserving students. Plus, purchases help support the families of Sherpa guides through a royalty on sales.

This is awesome, but you’ll want to buy their products regardless; their clothing includes the features I look for most in travel wear: versatility, comfort, and rugged construction.

Naulo pantNaulo pant:
The Naulo pant is tough enough to withstand a full day on the trail, hiking or scrambling, but lightweight enough pack down small in your bag and comfortable enough for a long plane or car ride. They’re true four-season pants: they breathe in summer and yet protect enough for winter excursions in mild climates. They’re not waterproof, but very water resistant, which makes them a great pick not only for wet days but for travel use (i.e., spills will wick right off). The waist is fitted with a comfortable snap and zippered fly closure, with a soft fleece panel lining at the waist. The 4% spandex helps with the comfort factor. Four flat zippered pockets are convenient (you get two at the top and two mid-thigh). The pants look much more fitted and sleek than standard trekking pants, with the same wicking and range-of-movement benefits. On a strenuous hike in the Canadian Rockies, my Naulo pants took a beating with mud and snow, then were packed away in dirty laundry for four more days. Upon arrival back home (and into the washing machine), they washed out perfectly. Of course, you can play it safe by treating them with Nikwax, my favorite stain block for outdoorsy travelers.

The inseam for the regular is fairly short, and the pant comes in sizes 2-16. They’re $124 on Sherpa or as low as $89 at Idaho Mountain Touring, and you’ll be able to wear them for every aspect of your trip, from dinner out to the day on the trail. Pick between black and tan.

langtang jacketLangtang jacket:
The Langtang jacket is an indulgence you’re not likely to regret. The softest zip-up, lightweight jacket I’ve ever owned, the Langtang is made of high pile polyester fleece, and so soft you’ll think you’re wearing some sort of fur. For an extra treat, wear in the spring or fall with only a t-shirt underneath to feel the material against your skin all day. The design is simple, with two front zippered pockets and a front full-length zipper closure. You get a nice, subtle Sherpa emblem on the back, and no other exterior design. The Langtang comes in four rich colors, including a gorgeous coral in sizes XS-XL, and can be picked up for $90 at REI or on Sherpa.

See reviews of other travel clothing on Practical Travel Gear.

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Packable Trail Drier Windbreaker From Columbia

Trail Drier windbreakerHere at Practical Travel Gear we’re big fans of jackets that pack down to nothing in transit. This Columbia Trail Drier Windbreaker is a great one to fit into a carry-on bag when traveling somewhere that is windy and cool, but not freezing cold.

For most trips this year, I’ve been traveling to places where the weather is a little iffy, with a good chance of wind and rain, but not cold enough to justify a real coat. So I’ve often been packing this Trail Drier jacket from Columbia. It served me well for the morning chill on a biking trip in Portugal and I just wore it to start my day while in Quito and the Cuenca region in Ecuador. In between, several other trips to cool places.

I’ve been very happy I brought this jacket along in each case, especially since it took up almost no room in my bag. I could stuff it, roll it, or cram it into my daypack and it still looked fine on the other end.

This is no slouch windbreaker though. It’s got Columbia’s Omni-Shield to keep water out and their Omni-Wick properties to wick the sweat off if you’re doing something strenuous. In my travels both technologies have worked quite well, keeping me dry in a drizzle and not getting clammy when I was climbing steep hills on a bicycle.

Trail Drier reviewAnd since this is billed as a windbreaker, happily it does well in that regard also, keeping the body warm when big cold gusts come along, as I felt at 12,000 feet in a national park in Ecuador.

Otherwise, you get a chest pocket with a seam sealed zipper, two side pockets, and a hood. Not a lot of frills, but that’s not the point: this is a great jacket that covers the basics without adding hardly any weight or bulk to your packing list.

Since it came out in the spring, it’s already on sale too. You can get it in four colors at the Columbia Sportswear website for around $45, or check prices at Backcountry. Yes, there’s also a women’s version, which has all the same properties but is more shapely.

See reviews of other Columbia Sportswear travel gear.

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