It is cold and snowy out. Down coats are for sale. And on various online forums, people are asking for good jackets around town AND for outdoor use.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t like wearing my outdoor clothing around town.
Part of it is an aesthetic choice: I don’t want to look like I am about to put someone on belay on an isolated mountain top when I am simply getting the groceries. Outdoor GuyTM is not a character I need to play at all times.
Part of it is practical: My outdoor clothing gets worn out a bit, becomes dirty, patched, scruffy and so on. It is clothing I use regularly. My beater down coat has a nice patch of Kenyon tape, the nylon pants have some ground in canyon dirt, a Boulder hipster down coat with its ultra-thin nylon shell has a small tear in the sleeve and the 100 weight fleece is faded from many days out in the winter sun. And so on. You get the idea. Wear this clothing out to dinner with a partner? Probably would not work….
And, probably a big part of it, just could be from my upbringing. Work clothes became worn and well used. They fit a specific need. Why wear them when you are relaxing, going out, and, well, not working? “Make sure you have a nice pair of pants!” as my very colorful mother would say. (I can’t, or at least shouldn’t, print some of the more colorful phrases Mom would say. She’s perhaps five feet tall. I would not mess with her…) And a nice pair of pants, or a jacket, does not have ground in dirt, patches, frayed cuffs and is faded from the sun. 🙂
In my career, my work clothes tend to blend into “nice clothes”. My leisure clothes on the other hand, well, see above. I don’t think I spend more money by having some outerwear for town use. I figure it is not used as hard so the clothing lasts longer.
So my town clothing, esp outerwear, tends to be “nice clothes” that happen to be practical, durable, and (I think) looks good for daily wear. And will not be dated, hopefully, ten years from now.
So what do I wear for the mainly dry, even when snowy, Colorado?
Moderate to cool temps (mid-40s to low-60s) with light precip?
An all black soft shell. A Kirkland special (Costco) Good for mid-40s (with a sweater) to mid-60s. Nice, all-purpose town jacket. Works for casual wear. Being all black, looks decent when wearing something a step up from jeans, too. May become a bit outdated before the other two coats below, but at $30, it is not as big an investment. For the price, it functions well and has worn well.
Cool to cold (mid-40s to mid-20s)?
Like many people in Colorado, I tend to have a fair amount of GoLite clothing or gear. One item of theirs that I liked, but probably was an example of their lack of direction for a core business model, was their Journey down coat. It was also on clearance just before they went bottoms-up… Looking a bit like the classic 60/40 parka but with down insulation instead, the Journey is a warm and durable around town coat. With a DWR coating, it is perfect for most late fall and winter days in Colorado with its typical light precip. With the GoLite Journey’s soft fabric, as opposed to shiny nylon, and subtle gray color, it just may be a coat I use for a while yet.
Cold and snowy or cold and damp?
I’ve written about my Filson “double Mack” before. Burly, durable, effective and classic. As mentioned in my original article, it is indeed expensive. But I suspect this coat will last a long, long, long time. Paired with a scarf, warm wool hat and a sweater underneath, some memorable (below zero) winter days were made tolerable.
…and for my hands, while I prefer mittens in the backcountry, a simple pair of wind block fleece gloves works well enough. Black in color, the gloves go with all three of my garments, work better than mittens for everyday use, and being wind block with a light DWR coating, repels wind and water enough for brushing the snow off the car or grabbing the mail. I get perhaps 2-3 seasons out of these types of gloves before they start wearing out.
So that is how I dress when not out in the backcountry. I co-opt some outdoor clothing that fulfills a different role than some beat up clothing I use in the backcountry.
And anyone who is in public with me is thanful for that…or at least my Mom’s influence. 🙂