Words and photos by longtime Coalatree Ambassador Eric Bennett. Eric is a full-time landscape photographer who offers instruction at home and in the backcountry. You can learn about his work and offerings on his website.
When the folks at Coalatree told me they had a new puffy jacket they wanted me to try, I was nervous about traveling with it. If the temperatures dropped while I was in the mountains thousands of miles from home and this thing wasn’t warm enough, I would be screwed. In the backcountry there is no plan B, no second choice if your first one doesn’t work out. But since their gear has never let me down before, I gave it a shot. Since I have been using this new jacket, I have gone backpacking in the Uinta Mountains, the Olympic Peninsula, the Dolomites, and the Wind River Range, and it hasn’t failed me yet. My conclusion? This is an awesome, three-season jacket. When your other puffy seems too bulky and hot, this one will do just fine.
As a full time traveler, there are three important factors when choosing the gear that takes up precious space in my backpack. First, I need gear that works in all different kinds of climates; windy, wet, dry, hot, cold. I don't have space to pack something different for each type of possible weather condition. Second, it’s important to have something that is durable and effective while still packing down small and lightweight. This is a rare combination to find but it is necessary when you need to be able to carry everything on your back and hike for dozens of miles. The last requirement is that it be warm while still being breathable so I can use it comfortably in a wide range of temperatures without overheating or getting too chilled. This is another tough expectation to have, but I’m thrilled to say that Coalatree nailed it on all three of these with this new puffy jacket.
The Camper Hooded Jacket works great in humid conditions
While I was up in the Olympic Peninsula, camping in the rainforest, the temperatures were fairly mild and never got down below the mid 40’s, however, there was a lot of rain and fog and, being a rain forest, it is a very humid and damp climate. Some jackets have a high temperature rating, but once you get into a wet environment, they can totally fail on you, and the moist, damp air can come right through. I’m happy to say with this jacket, no cold, wet air was getting through, and I stayed dry and cozy the whole trip.
The Camper Hooded Jacket is versatile enough to pack everywhere
I like to travel for longer amounts of time than most people, so I am usually carrying a large and full pack. My camera gear and food for long amounts of time take up the most space, so I can’t afford to waste room on clothing that is bulky or heavy. I was able to stuff this jacket into my pack without even noticing it, and it is so light weight it was never a burden to carry in my daypack while going out on hikes just in case it got cold later. I was never bummed to have it in my pack like I have been with so many other big, bulky puffy jackets. I also toss a lot of other stuff in my bags which in the past has ripped my delicate, down clothing. This jacket is super durable and never got a single hole or rip even with lots of camera gear on top of it in my pack, while hiking through dense forests with lots of branches to snag on, or while sliding against granite boulders. For me, it’s paramount to have a jacket that I can be confident will last during long trips.
The Camper Hooded Jacket is warm
While I wouldn’t recommend this jacket for the extreme winter, it is plenty warm for the low temperatures that can happen during spring/summer/fall at high elevations without being overkill. For me it has seemed just right on all of my trips. It’s warm enough for sitting around at night but also breathes well to wear during the day to block mosquitos. While hiking in the brisk early morning to sunrise locations in the Dolomites, I was able to keep it on the whole time without getting sweaty and the annoying need to stop, drop my pack, strip off my jacket, and stick it in my bag, only to pull it right back out again once I stop moving and the chill sets in. It’s a jacket that can both insulate and breathe at the same time, a must-have for quick summit assaults or trying to catch the first light of the day.
Bonus Pro Tip: If you need a little extra warmth at night, stick your puffy jacket in your sleeping bag around your feet and lower legs. This will also keep your jacket nice and toasty to put on in the morning.