Gear Geek: Top Fall-to-Winter Jackets

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Gear Geek: Top Fall-to-Winter Jackets

Temperature may be a reliable form of measurement, but 50 degrees mean different things to different people. To some it’s still t-shirt weather, while others hear that in the weather forecast and celebrate the triumphant return of sweaters and boots. This handful of jackets keep that variable in mind, profiling layers suitable for hot-running high-octane travelers and cold-blooded layer-lovers alike.

1. Aether Ion, $350; 2. Nau Felt Up Shirt, $235; 3. Prana Rhett Down Blazer, $159; 4. Cotopaxi Fuego Down Jacket, $270; 5. Alpha Industries MA-1 Souvenir Shinto , $225; 6. Lole Clauidia, $180; 7. Kuhl Firefly Jacket, $190.

Photo: Aether

Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).

Aether Ion

Aether has updated the WWII bomber in just the right way with their Ion jacket. You get the classic elements—a soft, smooth nylon exterior with a cozy rib knit at the collar, cuffs, and hem. But you also get loads of warmth from high-end 800-fill goose down, sewn into a subdued square quilting pattern that it fits perfectly, without bulk. Zips at the hand pockets mirror the center zipper. Inside, another pocket with an audio valve to channel your headphones. The insulation comforts, but it's likely the speckled patterns and subtle use of color in the knitting that you'll notice more.

Nau Felt Up Shirt

The name might be tongue-in-cheek, but this "shirt" is more a jacket, and a fantastic one for fall/winter transitions. Made of felted merino, it shapes and falls beautifully, buoyed by a classic style that's been updated with stylish touches like raw edges, two front-welt hand pockets, and a curved hem with side zips. Seven snaps help lock down against the elements.

Prana Rhett Down Blazer

This colder-weather jacket employs 650-fill insulation from Allied Feather and Down, the first adopter and primary supplier of certified responsibly sourced down for the outdoor industry. So it'll keep you warm and offer a bit of ethical comfort as well. The design takes its lead from the traditional blazer, with a center zip that reaches to just above the sternum and a drop-down collar that can convert to full coverage when conditions demand. You also get two hand pockets, an internal security pocket, elastic cuffs, and a two-tone yarn-dye poly cross-hatch shell fabric (say that fast three times!), which provides a most sophisticated-looking water-repellent finish. It runs a bit baggy, ideal as an outer layer when you've bulked up on layers. Otherwise, consider sizing down.

Cotopaxi Fuego Down Jacket

Ready to curse at winter's cold? The Fuego will change your opinions on the season. It uses 800-fill goose down packed into strategic body-mapped panels to keep you cozy in even the coldest of climates, along with a water-resistant outer. But it also uses Polartec Alpha, a breathable insulation that automatically regulates your temp when things get warmer. The bright colorways on the inner lining add a bit of splash to what is often otherwise be a pretty monotone scene.

Alpha Industries MA-1 Souvenir Shinto

If the Aether Ion is a modernist's take on the classic bomber, then the MA-1 is the unabashed throw-back to the fighter jackets of old, complete with patchwork on the front and back depicting the Japanese gods of rain and thunder and lightning and bold white and maroon color blocking. The mid-weight jacket runs slim, with zippered utility/pen pocket on the sleeve; striped knit rib collar, cuffs, and hem; and snap-close hand pockets. And if the bold graphics prove too loud for certain occasions, it's fully reversible into a camel color—but be bold; this jacket pays homage to when WWII soldiers embroidered their own coats with regional motifs, creating one-of-a-kind souvenirs before shipping home.
Alpha Industries

Lole Clauidia

This mid-thigh-length down jacket collapses into a tiny ball, ideal for traveling to locations where temps can plummet without a moment's notice. A fixed hood adds extra warmth, the V-shaped back slit allows for ease of movement, and two zip hand pockets keep things simple—which is often exactly what you need.

Kuhl Firefly Jacket

The Firefly is like a collage of all the best in outerwear tech. It utilizes ultra-breathable Primalloft Gold insulation that keeps you warm and comfortable when executing high-octane activities, with four-way stretch and breathable soft shell panels on the elbows, arm, and side to amp its performance. On the outside, Japanese-sourced DWB nylon fights off moisture—along with a touch of spandex for stretch, all of it complimented by Kuhl's 3D patterning and body-mapping to reduce bulk and deliver a slim fit that never fails or shifts. And pockets? You get loads, including zippered hand pockets, an internal drop pocket, and two zippered side-access chest pockets.