09 March 2017


When you have a dog, but you don't have a fully enclosed yard, you have to walk the dog, regardless of the weather, so you have to have appropriate seasonal clothing. I have had to venture out with the dog during blizzards, and I have a heavy-duty Eddie Bauer down parka that I bought over 20 years ago (still made in USA, back then) that is too warm to wear if it's above 20 or so.

But when conditions aren't quite so bad, I still need to be warm and (preferably) dry. About ten years ago, I bought a Woolrich jacket from Cabela's, and somehow it ended up being designated as my winter dog-walking (and snow-shoveling) jacket. I thought it was a good idea to use one jacket as much as possible, to minimize getting dog hair on everything. The shell is a wool blend, and it has a fleece lining and also some insulation.

But after many years of use, I was starting to feel like the jacket wasn't cutting it anymore. Even in temperatures around 25 to 30, with layers underneath, I was still cold, and it's not exactly waterproof or even water-repellent. Wool does have some natural water resistance, but I decided it was time to replace it with something more winterized. The challenge was finding something that hit my targets for functionality, with style being a secondary consideration, but still important enough.

I didn't want anything with down, because I already have that, plus I'm not a fan of the current trend in the styling of down outerwear (I can never not think of the Michelin Man). I did think it would be a good idea to get something with a waterproof shell, and also a hood; while I always wear a hat, and sometimes those behind-the-head earmuffs, there are times when the added protection of a hood is welcome. I used to hate coats with hoods, but sometimes it's more important to be practical. But if I'm going to use a hood, I want it to have some insulation in it, and not just be a piece of fabric that rolls into the collar (because then what's the point?).

I spent a couple of weeks browsing through multiple online stores, including outdoor outfitters I would never otherwise have reason to visit. I saw a lot of coats and jackets that were much more than I wanted to spend, and a lot of stuff I thought was quite ugly. I kept circling back to the standbys L.L. Bean and Lands' End. Bean has serious winter parkas, as well as a number of "3-in-1" jackets, but I didn't need or want to be able to separate the jacket into layers, and I found them to be a little overpriced too.

Lands' End has had a bumpy few years, so they are always offering some sort of a discount code. If you miss one, chances are there will be another in a few days. And every now and then they do 50% off a single item. I decided to watch for one of these offers, and one showed up about a month ago. I also wanted the jacket to be red if possible, figuring it would be reasonably visible both at night and against snow.

I found a jacket that I liked, but it was only available in black, navy, or safety yellow. Yellow is not red; yellow and I have never gotten along. I don't like navy either, so that left black. (Maybe there were other colors available earlier in the season?) I wouldn't have wanted to pay the original asking price of $150, but for a marked-down $100 it was all right; with the code, half off that made it a legitimate bargain. I was pleased to find that it's decently put together, seems like it will last a while, and keeps me warm enough.

It does have a hood that's lined with fleece, so it is actually useful in the cold (with proper layering underneath). I'd had it about a week before I realized that the hood is removable. (It probably says that somewhere in the description, but I didn't catch it.) I had only one minor complaint: when it's zipped up all the way, there's a gap between my neck and the coat. When I'm taking the dog out for "last call" at 11 pm or so, I don't want to have to fuss with winding a scarf around my neck. So I found one of those "neck warmer" things to fill the space. When it's cold enough, it's quicker and easier to pull that over my head.

I just need to be careful when I'm crossing streets, and remember that I'm not quite as visible as I ought to be.

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