When the snow squall hits at the boat launch — the one you’d hoped would be more fall-like than wintery — the layer you want more than a plane ticket to Hawaii is a down jacket. With a thick layer of insulating down and a cinched-up hood, nothing beats down for warm security and comfort. When you’re zipped into a puff coat, survival is assured and comfort is way more immediate than the interminable wait to climb into the sleeping bag when the day is over.
If you push the edges of the season, if you love the flame of fall and bloom of spring, even if it risks the occasional return to winter, some version of a down jacket should be on your gear list. Consider this range of options, from full-on arctic protection to lightweight under-shell layers, and match them up to your seasonal fortitude. When the water bucket freezes solid at dawn and your companions are hopping from foot to foot to rev up body heat, you’ll be glad you did.
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