I’ve tested my share of down jackets this past year, and the Outdoor Research Floodlight Jacket is on a whole different level. This warm 800 fill down jacket is waterproof, a word that you don’t usually associate with down. This jacket doubles as a hardshell, protecting you from the elements while keeping you warm.
This is the third time I’ve found myself celebrating something in Ouray. First, getting engaged on the summit of Mt. Sneffels, second my bachelorette party, and now ringing in the New Year/my birthday. The town holds a special place in my heart and the good times and beautiful views never disappoint.
Once again, for the third year in a row, I wanted to spend my birthday ice climbing. With coworkers already planning a trip for New Years, I jumped at the chance to join. Andrew and I packed up our gear and drove down on the Saturday after Christmas. With little experience, we tagged along with others to the Ouray Ice Park. I felt intimidated by the steep and narrow canyon of ice, that I would soon be lowering into.
Every year around this time I look back and reflect. This year I can’t help but look back a little further.
In 2010 I finished up my final semester of college with student teaching. I loved it. I loved teaching kids, I loved watching them learn and grow, and I loved art. When I graduated the following summer with a degree in Art Education, I applied to a few jobs here and there. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t more inspired to start teaching. It took me a few months of reflecting to realize that while I did love teaching, I didn’t love the politics that went along with being a teacher, and I didn’t feel inspired to keep up with the latest art trends. Art had been a creative outlet for me, especially when I lived in Florida. I enjoyed seeing kids grasp that art could be something more for them too, but it wasn’t quite enough. It was hard accepting that what I just got my degree in, was probably not what I wanted to do. Now what?
Julie (whose last name I’ll leave anonymous) has been living on a beautiful plot of land, on Guanella Pass, since the 60′s. Her house, along with three other cabins, sit on the edge of Duck Lake, at the base of an old abandoned ski area called Geneva Basin (which closed in 1984). Every year she is isolated from civilization when the snow forces the pass to close for over six months. When one of Andrew’s co-workers made a trip up there to bring her supplies, he mentioned to Andrew that we should check out the skiing and visit with her. After a short phone call with Julie, we were invited to come visit and see where she lived. When Andrew thanked her for allowing us to explore her property she said, “Honey, I don’t own this property, it belongs to nature.”
We arrived to find an adorable cabin and one of the friendliest people you will ever meet. We drank coffee with her, and asked her questions about the area. After coffee, we shoveled snow out of her drive-way so she could head down into town, for what might be the last time before May. ”My house is your house,” she told us as she drove away. Just like that we had three cabins and a lot of property to explore.
We wandered through the other cabins, all available for rent in the summer, but abandoned in the winter time. Besides the appliances, the little cabins looked like they hadn’t changed in years. Old jackets hung by the doors, posters from the 80′s. and artwork from Julie’s friends, who have stayed in year’s past, hung on the walls. Remains of the old Geneva Basin ski lodge, said to have burned down, sit near Duck Lake. According to Julie, the lake has some decent sized trout.
If it were up to Julie the pass would stay open in the winter, and folks would come stay in the cabins and get use out of the old resort. Reluctantly, she sees herself selling the property in the next few years and moving into town. Her ideal buyer would be an organization like the Colorado Mountain Club.
After exploring the little cabins we grabbed our skis and followed an old chair lift line up the mountain. Snow was deep, until we hit treeline. The warm week had melted the new snow away. Our plans to ski the old resort were foiled. Luckily, we had also brought camera gear to film a gear review. After the review we skied a couple great turns back to her cabin. We will be back to explore the skiing this winter. From what I’ve seen online, Geneva Basin is home of some fantastic backcountry skiing without the crowds.
Less than a week after our visit with Julie, Guanella Pass will close for the winter. Julie doesn’t seem to mind, she’s been living there since the 60′s. Her dogs keep her company, a warm old stove heats her place up nicely, and she has plenty of books and hobbies. Best of all, beautiful views right outside.
As I write this, I’m wearing the Outdoor Research Soleil Hoody. There’s something about fleece, on a cold day, it makes everything feel warm and cozy.
That being said, this is the most surprising piece of gear I’ve received from #ORInsightLab, because I didn’t expect to get so much use out of it. I don’t always think of fleece as the best option during outdoor pursuits. It’s not as light and packable as down. Still, most days are not jam-packed with intense activity, and on those days weight doesn’t matter. Also, fleece makes more sense to wear indoors than a down jacket.
I’ve certainly found myself reaching for fleece this fall, more often than I expected. Here are some of my favorite times to wear the Soleil Hoody:
- Walks with the dog
- Hikes around town
- Down-time at the crag
- Running errands on a cold day
- Layering on a chilly ski day at the resort
- Lounging around the house
Favorite Soleil Hoody features:
- Incredibly soft material
- Feminine fit with a little extra room for layer
- Good length of the sleeves
- Cozy hood
- Full frontal zipper
- The zippered chest pocket (perfect for my phone or credit card)
The color options for this hoody are really fun too! I’m always a fan of the basic colors, like this Charcoal, but it’s also available in bright colors.
If I were to add anything to the Soleil Hoody it would be draw-cords around the hood and waist. This would help block the wind and snow, but it isn’t necessary. Not having draw-cords keeps the weight down.
See what others are saying about the Soleil and other Outdoor Research products by following #ORInsightLab.
Are you a fan of fleece? What activities do you wear fleece for?
I’m excited to announce I’ve been chosen to be part of this winter’s OR Insight Lab!
What is #ORInsightLab? Well, we’re bloggers and social media folks, testing gear for Outdoor Research (OR) and sharing our results with the hashtag #ORInsightLab. The goal of this project is to have real people, testing real products, and sharing the results with both OR, our friends, and social media followers. And, of course, all this hash tagging is generating a buzz around OR products. This will be my first experience with Outdoor Research (besides a pair of gaiters), but I think it’s pretty great that a big company is taking the time to work with people like me and not just the big name athletes.
For a little over two weeks, I’ve had a few great opportunities to test the Enchainment Jacket. That’s not enough time to become an expert and know every little detail of how this soft shell jacket works, but it’s enough time for some solid early testing feedback.
I think it’s important to understand the differences between a hard shell and a soft shell. Basically, soft shell jackets are designed to be breathable, water resistant, and block wind. Hard shell jackets are waterproof, which means they’re not as breathable. I almost always bring a hard shell with me during mountaineering, but on dry cold days (which we have a lot of in Colorado) I choose a soft shell for high aerobic activities.
The past few weeks in Colorado have been dry, cold and windy. Perfect soft shell testing weather. Here’s what I’ve found so far:
- The length and fit are great for my body type (height: 5’7″).
- The stretchy material allows for a lot of flexibility, perfect for climbing.
- The Enchainment does a great job of blocking wind (Catch my short video on top of the first flatiron)
- The jacket fits snug around a helmet and I like the wire brimmed hood.
I’m interested to see how breathable it will be when doing high aerobic activity, such as skinning uphill or ice climbing. Instead of pit zips, OR uses a Nano Sphere technology under the arms. I’m a pretty big fan of pit zips and so it will be exciting to see how the Nano Sphere technology works. It hasn’t been snowy, but this soft shell seems to really rappel water really well (including that cup of coffee that I spilled on myself). I look forward to testing the shell out in snowy/wet conditions.
If you’re interested in learning more about #ORInsightLab, make sure to follow along. I know a handful of the great folks involved in the testing, and I suspect as the winter goes on we’ll see some fun product photos and honest reviews.
I’ve lived in Colorado for just about six years now, and when the temperatures drop below 60, I’m cold. In the winter there is one piece of gear that I can not live without, a down jacket. I mean, my skis are up there too, but when it comes to clothing, I need down. The only thing that would be better than down? A fully heated body-suit. That’s how cold I get.
First Impressions and Overall Performance: I was impressed with the Icarus right from the start. At 12.8 oz. it’s on the lighter-weight level for jackets. I also approved of the length of this jacket, which doesn’t happen very often. The jacket has a flattering feminine fit, combined with a nice-looking stitching pattern, for an all around good-looking jacket. The material is comfortable and I appreciate the fleece-lined collar located in the inside of the jacket. The zippered hand pockets are always useful and the interior pocket is great for storing your cell phone. Considering the fleece, zippered pockets and pull-tabs, it’s pretty impressive how light this jacket really is.
I mainly tested the Icarus at higher (Colorado) altitudes, because we are still getting fairly warm weather here in the Front Range. It did a great job of keeping me warm at temperatures in the low teens. I was also pretty surprised at how well it blocked the wind above treeline. When it’s really cold, I always appreciate having a hood on my jackets. The Icarus hood cinches down with a pull-tab located on the backside of the hood. The pull-tab tightens the hood around the top of your head pretty well. I do wish it cinched around my face a little more. This jacket easily packs down in the bottom of a backpack or zips into itself, without taking up too much space or weight. When zipped into itself it comes out about the size of a Nalgene (see photo below).
DownTek Technology: DownTek is a newer technology in the outdoor world. Used as a treatment applied to the down feathers, it helps make the down feathers more water-repellant (keep in mind repellant is different from water-proof). After looking into this technology I have a few personal opinions on it. This technology seems best for humid/wet conditions. Here in Colorado, it’s a little more difficult to test how effective DownTek is in a down jacket, because we don’t have a lot of humidity and we don’t get super wet conditions, too often. Long story short, here in Colorado, I don’t seek out down jackets with this technology, but it never hurts to have water-repellant gear on, and it doesn’t affect the performance of the down, so it’s all good.
Bottom Line: The Icarus is not the lightest down jacket on the market, but at 12.8 oz. it runs about average to most of the lighter, high-quality, hooded down jackets on the market, at a lower price. It’s been a pleasure testing the Icarus and it’s quickly becoming my go-to down jacket.
Fill: 850 goose down featuring DownTek
Weight: 12. 8 oz.
Disclaimer: I received the Eastern Mountain Sports Icarus Down Jacket free from EMS for testing purposes. Check out this EMS video of the Icarus for another look at the jacket.