One Jacket To Rule Them All
Last year I learned how to live on 50 liters worth of stuff—as in, only what I could fit in a 50-liter pack. Most of that was variable: playing cards, books and souvenirs I’d trade along the way, plus other travel disposables like food or toilet paper. Like most long-term travelers, I learned how little I truly needed to be happy, healthy, and self-sufficient.
One of the few physical items I truly needed was an industrial-strength piece of outerwear. When I left on my trip, I knew I’d be spending most of my time in mountain environments, trekking through the Himalaya, climbing in the Russian Caucasus and day hiking across the Alps. My down time would be spent in a mix of cities and transit. Between my gear and personal items, I had limited room to allow for clothing, and realistically, only enough space to carry one jacket that had to do it all.
After a month poring over reviews, soliciting advice, and conducting tireless web research, I landed on the Outdoor Research Floodlight Down Jacket. I chose this piece for a few important reasons that aligned with my travel plans:
- 800 fill down: The number one thing I needed out of a jacket for my extended trip was warmth. When I would be climbing above 20,000 feet or trapped in camp during a howling blizzard, I needed to know that my outerwear was virtually imperishable.
- Stuffs into sack: When compressed into its own left pocket, the Floodlight packs down to the size of a large burrito. Saving space and weight was at the top of my priority list, and this jacket covered both.
- Waterproof: That’s right, the Floodlight is 100% completely waterproof – I finally found a solution to having to lug a heavy puffy and a waterproof outer layer... the Floodlight does it all.
Here’s how I got to put these features to the test.
I found myself emotionally stuck in Nepal for the duration of my 90-day permit. Every chance I’d think of flying out to explore a different part of Asia, I’d get sucked back in with the discovery of a new trek, irresistible mountain range, or appealing glacially-carved valley. From chilly nights spent in villages perched above 12,000 feet, to pre-dawn hikes over snowy mountain passes, the Floodlight kept me comfortable and worry-free in all my endeavors.
The next section of my trip was brief and exhilarating. My adventure partner Nina met me in northern India, near the border of Tibet, for a week-long climb up to the 20,182-foot summit of Stok Kangri. Once again, the Floodlight never failed me, from cozying up at our base camp of Leh at 11,000 feet, to our very first summit above 6,000 meters.
Switching gears from my newly adopted mountain lifestyle to a three-week long transit adventure, I was nervous that the only jacket I’d brought along would be some awful combination of stifling hot, super bulky, and prone to snags or tears. Lucky for me, all those expectations were shattered and I was left with the perfect puffy -turned- pillow for 55-hour stints on the train to off-days spent wandering around small Russian villages.
I left my friends in Moscow for a week-long visa window to visit the remote Baskan Valley, where I was greeted with two new concerns: Would I meet fellow solo climbers, and would my Floodlight stand up to the demands of the highest mountain range in Europe? I received my answer when I was the first of the morning to summit Mt. Elbrus, decked out in my Floodlight and an ear-to-ear smile.
By this point, I was confident in the Floodlight’s ability to handle cold evenings and colder summits. Our summertime circumnavigation of Western Europe’s highpoint didn’t require much use of my now-favorite travel item, but it was nice to have along for the downtime. When I set off for the top in prime alpine conditions, I only needed a thin base layer and the Floodlight to ward off soft snow and keep me looking sharp.
It’s bittersweet to think that just nine months ago I had taken my Floodlight on its last international trip, where it reached the 22,841-foot summit of Argentina’s highpoint, and where I’d reached my own personal altitude record. Rest assured, this won’t be the last time this jacket gets its share of sweat, dirt, and bad weather thrown its way.