this thing's incredible

I’ve Tested Dozens of Winter Jackets, and This Is the Only One I Wear

Photo-Illustration: retailer

I’ve been a gear tester for four years. In that time, I’ve tried all sorts of stuff, from snowshoes and cross-country skis to muck boots and truck-bed toolboxes. But what I have the most love for, out of all of it, are winter jackets. It may be that I grew up in cold and snowy Rochester, New York, or that I spent my college years in (and recently returned to) the bone chilling cold of Vermont, but I know cold. I hate cold. And so when a jacket that actually keeps me warm comes along, I pay attention.

Nearly every winter coat I’ve tried has a flaw. Many of the warmest coats are so puffy I doubt I could actually get my arms up to give someone a hug. If some get wet, the wind cuts right through them. Some have delicate outer layers that prioritize light weight over durability. Every year, we’re promised change. New hyped features, innovations, and technological marvels make claims of warmth you could expect only in the depths of hell. But then a stiff December breeze comes along, blowing away all of that hype and leaving me with the shivers.

That’s not the case with the Eddie Bauer EverTherm Down Jacket. Even during a Vermont cold snap, when the temp is five below zero with a ten mph wind and I’m soaked with sweat after an eight-mile XC ski, I can put on this jacket and stay outside for another hour or more. That’s why, out of all the jackets I have tested, this is the one that hangs on the hook by my door.

The warmest coats are almost always down, and the EverTherm is no exception. It’s the design, both inside and out, that sets it apart. To keep you warm, down needs loft. The trapped air creates a layer of insulation, which is why most winter jackets are puffy. They also typically have baffles, channels, or quilting stitched in to create pockets that allow loft and hold everything in place. (Without that stitching, all of the down would fall to the bottom of your jacket.) But that’s not how Eddie Bauer does it. The down feathers in the EverTherm jacket have been crafted into seamless sheets — sheets that don’t need to be held in place. That means they don’t need baffles, which means you don’t end up with down-free spots near the stitching that let the cold right through. Just as important, those sheets let the jacket be incredibly toasty while also staying incredibly thin. It’s no puffier than a good thick sweater — but as warm as wearing 15 of them. At only 19.2 ounces, it’s among the lightest options I’ve tried. It’s definitely the lightest one that keeps me this consistently warm.

With moderate activity, Eddie Bauer rates this jacket for -20 degrees, and I believe it. I’ve worn it to walk the mile and a half to work on a December day with only a button-down underneath. As opposed to some down jackets, it sheds the wettest snow with ease. It can even handle rain. And its shell is tough, blocking wind and able to stand up to any scratchy bushes and branches you might run into. It can handle moments of idiocy, too, like when a $2 PBR night led me to carrying a friend in my arms, then tripping on the six-inch stump of a broken signpost sticking out of the sidewalk. With my hands full, I couldn’t stop my fall, and I ended up sliding across a foot of rough, cold concrete, scraping my face from chin to temple. My jacket, of course, was fine. Although I was a little bloodied, I was also very, very warm.

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After Testing Dozens of Winter Coats, This Is the One I Wear