Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Buying an insulating jacket

Back in 2002 I started my AT thru-hike really early in the season (I had to catch a David Bowie concert in February 22nd in NYC, so my thru hike arranged itself around that), and I had some really cold days and nights early on. I did not carry a special down, or even synthetic, jacket. All I had was this simple EMS fleece outer layer. During the colder times I just put everything on, from polartec baselayer, to hiking clothes, fleece and rain gear on top. I was cold, but it worked.

This time around I decided I'd like to have a simple, light-weight, insulating jacket. The highs are higher on the PCT, and I expect to be camping in snow at least several times, so I should be prepared for it. Besides, it will replace the heavier fleece layer.

I checked out Outdoor Gear Lab's down jacket comparison, and marked some brands to check. At first, I was really looking into the water repellent down that was recently introduced into the market. The only company that offered such jackets was Sierra Designs, except for the Ghost Whisperer by Mountain Hardwear, which seems to be an awesome jacket. But I wanted to have the hooded option, which did not contain the treated Down. I decided I'd wait until the winter 2014 season options be available, hoping that the treated down will appear in more options and more brands.

About a month ago I noticed that Mountain Hardwear have finally renewed their offerings, and are not selling a Hooded Ghost Whisperer with Q Shield Down (Their brand name for water repellent down). I was really looking into buying it, trying to figure out the best way to have it shipped to Israel without paying too much. The web site did not ship outside of the US, but REI and Backcountry Gear did, for about $50 more. I was also looking into a delivery company that gives you an address in the US, and then ships the stuff to Israel itself. I used it once to buy a pair of New Balance shoes. Their rates were $30 for the lightest package, and up. And they were also going through customs and VAT when bringing the package over, so there's no point in hoping it will slip under the radar.

After many evenings trying to decide which jacket I should purchase, and how should I get it over here, I finally decided on a synthetic one. I know down is lighter and compresses better, but I figured that since I got the down quilt, I can spare some poor geese their feathers, and manage with a heavier option after all. I did buy a rather light Thermostatic Hooded Jacket from Mountain Hardwear, so I'm not complaining much. The weight difference is 306g (on my home scales) to 212g (the Hooded Ghost Whisperer, according to their site's specs), so it's about 100g difference. And it's also about $70 cheaper, which is another little perk.

About the shipping, I made the mistake of using the delivery company, hoping the light weight jacket will be only $30, but at the end the bulk of the package caused it to be $50, and then I had to pay another $50 for the VAT in Israel. So next time I'll just order directly from Backcountry Gear. Lesson learned.