Mailbag: Jacket Recommendations from Our Team

A reader reached out for advice on buying a quality, inexpensive 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 jacket. Our Outdoors Team responds with a more layered approach.

Writers AJ Powell and Tanner Bowden testing jackets in the Idaho backcountry.

Welcome to Mailbag, a roundup of the best comments, questions and tips from you, our readers. Some are nice, some are not so nice. But here they are.

What’s the Best 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 Jacket?

From the Outdoors and Fitness Team

We received the following email from a reader, Adam.

I live in Western New York and I spend most of my outside in the Western New York region.I also spend time outside in the winter in the Finger Lakes region, Adirondacks region, Canada and other states in the USA. The activities I do are cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, winter camping, winter hiking, winter backpacking, ice hockey and running. What is the best 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 jacket for me?
I’m looking for a jacket that is cheap and inexpensive.I’m looking for a jacket that is waterproof, breathes well and is warm. Please look into all the jackets I have listed and please give your honest opinion on each one. I know you don’t carry all these brands but I would like your non-bias opinion on all these jackets. If there are any other jackets you would like to suggest please do.

P.S.- Please let me know what choices you would recommend and please feel free to add any choices that are not on this list. I was thinking of buying the Marmot KT Component 3-in-1 Jacket – Men’s.

Our writer, AJ Powell shared some buying advice from his own experience.

Hi Adam,

Thanks so much for reaching out and for your question. It’s always great to hear from our readers. My name is AJ Powell and I handle all of the outdoors and fitness coverage here at Gear Patrol.

My advice is this. While 3-in-1 and 4-in-one jackets seem like a great idea in theory, I’ve never had a good experience with one. The systems to keep the inner layers connected are often counter-intuitive and add unnecessary bulk to a jacket.

The best system for any outdoor pursuit, particularly aerobic ones like those you listed in your email, is a layering system. By investing in a good layering system, you’ll not only be happier in the long run, but you’ll also get more use out of the gear.

The best way to start is with a long-sleeved merino wool t-shirt. These can be pricey, but are well-worth the investment. Some of our favorites are the Ibex All Day Crew, Smartwool Merino 150 Baselayer and the Woolrich Long Sleeve Merino Wool Crew. This acts as a baselayer and helps regulate both temperature and moisture.

The next piece to the puzzle is a midlayer. The latest and greatest are jackets with “active insulation,” which is highly breathable. Again, they are worth every penny. A few great ones are the Outdoor Research Uberlayer, Patagonia Nano-Air and the Mtn Logic Alpha Ascender.

Finally, you’ll need a hardshell to waterproof the system and help block the wind. This is likely where you’ll spend the most money. They come in a variety of materials, from those exclusive to different brands to more well-known names like Gore-Tex. Depending on your budget, you can go pretty crazy here. A few good entry-level options are the North Face Apex Flex GTX, Patagonia Windsweep, and Outdoor Research Realm. Again, hard shells can get up there in cost, and generally spending a bit more will get you a better jacket. The bonus is that you can use it as a rain jacket in the summertime.

I hope this helps and feel free to reach out with any more questions.



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