Breathable Insulated Jacket
L.L. Bean PrimaLoft Packaway Fuse Jacket
$159, 13 oz. (men’s medium regular)
Sizes: men’s regular S-XXL, men’s tall M-XXl, women’s misses XXS-XL, petite XS-XL
Someday, outdoor enthusiasts of a certain age may reflect back on the dark ages of the early 21st century by saying, “Remember when an insulated jacket was something you only wore when you weren’t moving?” Well, given the growing profusion of jackets with breathable insulation, those “ancient” shells that are essentially half a sleeping bag with sleeves are already obsolete. I wore the most affordable piece of active insulation I’ve yet seen, Bean’s PrimaLoft Packaway Fuse Jacket, at times on wet, chilly, windy days trekking the Dusky Track and Kepler Track in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park in early March, and in camp on cool evenings and mornings (days were quite warm) on a five-day, family-backpacking trip down Paria Canyon on the Utah-Arizona border in late March. It’s as versatile as some pricier competitors and will fit more people than other jackets in this category.
Bean calls the Fuse the first jacket to feature PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active, a synthetic insulation designed to be exceptionally breathable and not shift around inside the shell (which can create cold spots). The hoodless jacket features body-mapped ProStretch panels under the arms and on the sides to make those areas even more breathable than the shell fabric and PrimaLoft (which naturally have limits to their breathability). Combined with the compressible, wind- and water-resistant Packaway shell fabric, what you have is a jacket that delivers warmth when hiking (or ski touring or snowshoeing) in cool wind, or under a rain jacket when precipitation is falling steadily.
For people who head out in all kinds of weather, the Fuse offers warmth when you’re on the go as well as when taking a break or in camp—you can wear it constantly, making few layering changes because moisture from body heat passes through the insulation, drying a damp base layer. I don’t get cold easily, and the jacket kept me warm, wearing it just over a midweight, long-sleeve base layer, while sitting around in camp in temps in the mid-40s Fahrenheit. I could wear it while hiking at a moderate pace in cold wind with temps in the 30s and colder. The ProStretch side panels, while increasing breathability there, also let the wind cut through to your arms and core.
The fit is loose enough to layer underneath it, while a high collar, drawcord hem, and elasticized cuffs keep the cold out. The zippered chest pocket can stash a hat and map, and the two, zippered hand pockets warmed my digits quickly in temps just above freezing. Stuffing into one hand pocket, the jacket packs down to a bit larger than a liter bottle, is machine washable and you can throw it in the dryer. All for a price that’s hard to beat.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to buy a men’s or women’s L.L. Bean PrimaLoft Packaway Fuse Jacket at llbean.com.
See my tips on finding the right gear and apparel in my story, “Buying Gear? Read This First,” and my other reviews of breathable insulated jackets, my reviews of all insulated jackets and all my reviews of outdoor apparel that I like, and all of my reviews of L.L. Bean products. You may also be interested in my story, “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun.”
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.
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