If you’re like most people, you’ve been raised to believe that layering is the unshakable foundation of how you dress for the outdoors. It makes sense, too. If you get cold or it starts to rain, you add a layer. If you get hot or the skies clear, you lose a layer. Simple, functional math.
However, applying that philosophy to the meteorological and stop-and-go smorgasbord that defines ice and alpine climbing isn’t so easy. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to do the calculus you’d need to keep up with drips of pitch one, the slog through deep snow between pitch three and four and the howling winds dumping spindrift on you from the summit. You just can’t be bothered with hauling excess layers around, let alone getting in and out of them while trying to maintain that super-efficient movement that’s key to getting you home from the mountains. In these conditions, complex layering systems are going the way of the woolly mammoth, rag wool socks and plastic boots, yielding a simplified philosophy that packs the performance of multiple layers into one piece.
The Iceline Jacket—in women's and men's—is a member of this new generation of apparel. It delivers the performance of three distinct jackets in one, taking you from car to car, in a wide range of conditions, without ever having to take it off.
“It doesn’t fall into the old paradigm of, ‘this is your shell and this is your insulation,'” says Jeannie Wall, lead designer on the Iceline. “Your body is a really good thermoregulator,” adds Wall, “and most clothing systems just get in its way. The Iceline design is based on simplifying, and letting your body do what it does best.”
The Iceline Jacket delivers its magic by blurring the lines between a hard shell, a soft shell and a midweight insulation layer. Here again, the idea of Hybrid Mapping—placing the right materials with the right performance in just the right areas—is key, as is the specific combination of materials.
“You’ve basically got a 3-in-one jacket,” says Wall. “You’ve got a grid fleece lining for insulation, the protection of waterproof and breathable Ventia™ laminate in the areas you need it most, and stretch-woven ventilation panels in areas where waterproof is overkill, and dumping excess heat is essential.”
Specifically, the Iceline is waterproof with taped seams over the vast majority of the jacket, so ending up under a gusher pitch is no problem at all. However, under the arms and around the waist you’ll find the classic, water-resistant, stretch-woven fabric associated with the added comfort of a soft shell. Even though all the fabrics in the Iceline jacket have stretch, these panels offer a bonus amount, plus awesome breathability and less bulk for better overall movement. The underarm panels work so well, they allowed Wall to eliminate pit zips entirely.
“They’re really not necessary with the stretch-woven,” adds Wall. “The breathability lets your body dump heat, but you’ve still got wind- and water-resistant protection. Not having zips under there really reduces bulk. Together with our Dynamic Reach patterning, you get amazing freedom of movement.”
The rest of the jacket stays true to so many of the Outdoor Research standards for a highly technical jacket. The Halo™ Hood stays with you—helmet or not—for excellent visibility, and the moldable wire brim lets you fine tune your ultimate line of defense. There’s also the added protection of YKK® AquaGuard™ zippers and molded hook-and-loop wrist closures to seal out the nastiness.
And storage? Yeah—it’s got plenty. Two external Napoleon pockets, two hand warmer pockets and two internal Shove-It™ pockets let you store just about anything you could want. And of course, they all stop short of your harness, keeping you free from exploding energy gel packs between you and your waitbelts.
Being an experienced ice climber herself, Wall also chose one final touch: heat pack pockets on the inside of each wrist. A couple of heat packs in there can make all the difference for the coldest days or for people with bad circulation.
Margo Talbot, an Outdoor Research ice climbing ambassador based in the ice climbing Mecca of Canmore in Alberta Canada, has been testing women's outdoor apparel since it came online in the mid-'90s, and for her, the IceLine Jacket “Hits the jackpot.”
“Ice climbing is a sport that juxtaposes intense bursts of activity with periods of standing still,” says Talbot. “It demands a jacket that protects from the elements to the same extent that it wicks and breathes. That’s why the Iceline is my go-to jacket for wet conditions throughout most of winter.”