« Black-and-White Update | Main | For Football Fans »

Monday, 01 January 2018


Among the best down jacket makers is a Seattle outfit called Feathered Friends. They make all their garments in-house, so custom modifications are possible, including higher loft down, more down in certain places, and fancy fabrics. No connection to them, other than being a satisfied owner of two custom-made sleeping bags that have kept me warm in very cold places.

I heartily recommend Columbia. For these temperatures their “three way” jackets/coats are effective and versatile.

Even more, they are guaranteed for life. I managed to mangle the zipper pull of the shell in a car door with the first jacket I had. I sent it in and they repaired the zipper and returned it with no shipping charge.

About 20 years later the zipper stopped working, this time on its own. I sent it to Columbia. They couldn’t repair it and there was no replacement due to the style being long discontinued. So they sent me a link to a list of jackets that were available as a replacement. I picked out a replacement (I think the retail was over $200) and they sent it to me. I even have liner from the old jacket.

Funny that I also had some challenges with a moonrise few days ago; the contrast range is huge and it's hard to convey the feeling of a winter moonrise in a photo.

But be happy you have proper winter: I'm used to have my new year's walk in crisp weather, but once again it's not even freezing and there's no ice to be seen. My patience with climate change deniers is wearing thin.

As for coats, I have a cheap North Face that mainly serves the role of keeping the wind out (ironic isn't it) and I layer various wool items underneath it. Gets me through a wide range of weather along with proper headwear and gloves. My recommendation is to check out reliable reviews on good outdoor brands.

Hie on down to Watkins Glen and Famous Brands Outlet--they usually have a good selection of name brands you can try out for size and style. Failing that, head diagonally across the street to salvage the day with a good lunch at The Wildflower Cafe. Their healthier options are as tasty as the decadent stuff.

That moon looks like about a 300mm shot to me. Correct exposure is “sunny 16” with a bit of bracketing.

For a coat I’d check out sales at your nearest department stores and outdoor stores. Farmer stores can be good too. Coats get cheap around this time of the year.

Happy New Year. Stay warm.

I can recommend LLBean Baxter State Parka. Best winter coat I’ve had in 75 years and perfect in this prolonged cold snap in Boston. Not too bulky, either.

Happy New Year to your house too, Mike. Enjoy your days off.

{mom}Want a warm winter coat? Put on a good wool sweater first, then the coat. And wearing a long sleeved shirt goes without saying.{/mom}

Happynew year!
Take advantage of the current exchange rate. An example:

Most really warm coats are to expensive for me or to bulky to drive in.
I gave up and went to silk long sleeve T shirts, that and a wool sweater are good enough for me down to zero, DO NOT FORGET THE WOOL HAT/CAP, enough of your body heat will go out the top of you head to cause a heart attack at your age.
If it is going to snow or rain I will take my Bean coat, light Gore-Tek.


Regarding a winter coat, try L.L. Bean. I've got one, and with the hood up, I'm almost - almost - impervious to the minus five mornings we've been having for over a week here in Northern Mass, while I walk the dog. Mine is called the Baxter State Parka, and it's easily the warmest coat I've ever owned (I'm in my sixties, so I've owned a few). I'd buy another in a heartbeat.

Try Cabellas for inexpensive and warm winter coats.

Ed Hundert

LLBean...all merchandise, sale or regular price....25% off, ending tonight.

Coats - Eddie Bauer. Big end of season sale on now. Everything from arctic parkas to light-weight puffy coats. Good quality. Good prices.

Mike: Have a look at this coat:


It is LL Bean's Maine Warden’s 3-in-1 Parka, with Gore-Tex. I have one and am pretty happy with it. Needed the XXL to get around my gut. I am roughly at your latitude in VT...this is the coat I beak out for seriously cold weather.

I'd also consider this Bean offering:


(Baxter State Parka) I have no experience with that model, but at this point I trust the brand.

I also have a Carhart. Much heavier, but less expensive than the Bean coat. Not waterproof, more like water resistant. Hood optional for extra. But very durable. Wore it today...no complaints.


Re: winter coat: 20+ years ago while in Santa Fe, I bought a Woolrich wool coat because it was on sale and a real bargain. I was living in Austin, TX and didn't have much opportunity to wear it until we moved too North Carolina a few years ago. It is the red and black plaid model with a warm lining, so it probably isn't all that fashionable, but it is the warmest coat I have ever owned. It also has large pockets, good for small cameras. It has kept me warm during our winters so I can recommend it without reservation.

My experience with LL Bean has been excellent. Returns are easy and reliable and once you've nailed down your size, everything you order fits.


I’ve had great luck with Taiga coats from Canada. Wide selection and competitively priced considering They are made in Canada. The exchange rate is good now too. https://www.taigaworks.com

I ended up giving that one to my brother, who claims to be six feet tall, but who my other brother and I are quick to claim is actually 5 feet, 11 and 15/16ths inches tall.

¿Tiene cuantos años? Last time I visited a doctor’s office, the technician measured my weight (which I was prepared for) and my height (which I wasn’t). He told me the latter was a little over 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm). Not possible, I explained: I'd been 5'11.5" (182 cm) since I was 20.

‟Well, you’ve probably been getting shorter since you were 50,” he replied. (I just turned 70.) ‟Spinal compression—happens to everybody.”)

I also have two brothers, both somewhat younger, who both seem to be shrinking more-or-less synchronously with me.

But at least we're all still breathing. . . .

I've been wearing a US Navy issue Pea Jacket for 26 years. I'm on my third... One was stolen from a poetry reading in 1995; another was stolen from the back of my barstool in 2002. Both times, I went down to the Army/Navy store and bought another one. Best $390 I've spent ($130 x 3). They've gone up a bit since I bought one last, but they're a great jacket. https://www.armynavysales.com/usn-genuine-peacoat-new-mj157-669.html

I live in North TX, so it doesn't get that cold, but the Pea Jacket lasted me fine in Springfield, IL for 3 winters, and fine on Long Island for 3 more. I picked up a fancy winter coat from the Netherlands, and wore it for about 2 weeks before giving it to charity. It was too warm. I think it was called a Hoodlamb, one of these, I think https://www.hoodlamb.com/collections/fw17-jackets/products/aw17-mens-nordic-parka or near enough. (It was about 200euro less than that in 2007). If a Pea Jacket won't cut it for you, that might be an option, though they are ludicrously expensive.

No need to post this- but get the "Rugged Ridge" coat from L.L.Bean.
(I worked there part-time for 5 years, and I'm from Rochester.) So I can claim some expertise...their Eastview mall store is nearby- but you may have to order one from Maine, given your recent weather.

Instead of ordering your next coat online, perhaps you should go to an actual store so you can try them on to see if they fit.

Look for a coat made by a company in Minnesota. They know how to deal with cold weather and clothing for same.

LuLu needs some doggie mittons to avoid frostbite, eh ?

Just curious: How low did it go last night? Here in SE PA we logged minus 3 (F).

And sometimes you do just need a break. (Even if it makes you get behinder and behinder ... which is where I'm at. Yikes!)

Since you are not really in that cold and area the LL Bean Maine Warden's Parka would be overkill. Go with something lighter and made for your winter temperatures. On footwear - visit a Military Surplus store and get a pair of "bunny Boots" - the white air filled rubber boots used in the arctic. You can lace them loosely and slip them on and off like slippers for going out side in the snow and cold. Your feet will keep warm and they slip off easily on coming back in.
We use them for standing on frozen lake ice in the winter and they keep the feet warm when it is 44 below zero. Merino Wool socks are what I prefer tho some newer synthetics work well also.
Whatever winter coat you get make sure it is windproof. Warm is nice but when the wind cuts through the material it is still miserable. Same thing for a head covering/hat. Windproof makes all he difference in the world. Dressing in layers still works well.

Happy New Year, Mike. Looking forward to another year of your writing. I’m with you on the moon shot, as I too was faced with my limits. A fox showed up in our backyard and I failed to get a good shot of it because my camera settings were wrong as I tried to capture it. Made me humbler...

Mike, as one who lived in Wisconsin, you should know about LandsEnd - their Squall Parka is the one that works for me, if anything, it’s sometimes too warm, yet not too bulky. I’ve been out shooting sunrises in minus freakin’ too cold and was able to weather the cold quite well.

I suggest LL Bean for the coat. They make/carry good stuff and their customer service is great--they will work with you until you get the one that works for you. Maine makes an excellent winter testing ground for winter gear.

If you’re wanting HDR without the crazy, Lightroom 6 has a painless and very handsome HDR mode. You select the pix, give LR the go signal and it does the rest.

Have you tried a merino base layer? Truly wonderful, will boost the warmth of anything you wear over them. Wool, very thin, non-itch, machine washable, non-smell. Not sure how wide spread they are, but here in NZ I've found the best ones are by Icebreaker and Kathmandu, with Macpac not far behind. One word of warning - moths. Make sure you put them away for summer in ziplocks (though they can be worn all year round).

A quick web search suggests Smartwool might be a good source for US.

Check out the coats from Carhartt. My wife gave me one last year and I decided it was too warm for working outside in the cold (in Michigan!).

They have a wide range of styles and sizes, and some are even made in the USA.

My wife and I have had 4 Samoyeds over the past 20 years, and they simply never get cold. It took me longer than you might expect to realize that I needed really serious winter gear if we were going to have these dogs.

I went with a North Face parka. May be the same one you mentioned - there is a cool spot on each arm, but if I have more on underneath than a long-sleeved t-shirt, I don't even notice. I basically never feel cold in it. When we left for a walk this morning it was -7F in Evanston; the only thing I needed to do during our 30+ minutes outside was take the hood off for a bit so I didn't overheat.


[Beautiful dogs! --Mike]

Quite possible the greatest MJ quotes of all time: "Either my skills are not sufficient to find out if my patience is deficient, or my patience is not sufficient to find out if my skills are deficient."
(and applicable to many endeavours)

You can take a drive north to Geneva and stop at Super Casuals. They sell Carhartt and the great thing is that you can try before you buy.
Lots and lots to choose from. Or, you can try Premium Outlets on Rt 318 (about 3 miles east of thruway exit 42). I believe they have a Columbia outlet. Good Luck.

Mike has almost a whole month to work on his lunar photography skills before the next lunar eclipse on January 31.

First Blue Moon Total Lunar Eclipse in 150 Years Coming This Month
Along the U.S. West Coast, the total phase begins at 4:51 a.m. PST. The farther east you go, the closer the start of the partial phases will coincide with moonrise. Along the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard, for instance, the moon will have only just begun to enter the darkest part of Earth's shadow, the umbra, at 6:48 a.m. EST when it will disappear from view below the west-northwest horizon.


My experience, with winter jackets, has been that more stylish jackets are less effective. I've been buying stuff from LL Bean since I was in college (and no one outside of Maine knew who they were)and have never been disappointed. A quick spin through their web site should turn up something and a phone call will get you help re fit. Their service is first rate.

I too started the year doing absolutely nothing. Happy New Year and thanks for efforts to come....

Mike, my husband reviews tools and Milwaukee Tools sent him their heated gear to review. They also sent him quilted overalls. We spent a lot of time shooting in frigid weather this weekend - he wore the overalls, heated hoodie and jacket and never turned the heat on. He was thrilled. Plus they look cool. :-)


Go with a high-ish loft down filling, baffled (not sewn-through) in the body and arms, and a sturdy face fabric and you've got a good start. The recommendations for the Bean parkas are smart. I have a Mountain Hardware Glacier Guide Parka and it seems impervious to cold. I bought it for standing in the cold at protests. While the protests' effectiveness was questionable, the coat was great.

Mike, Happy New Year
If You want warm with style, I swear by Barbour with various button in /zip in liners.
But if you just wasn't WARM at a very fair price, do as GRJ suggested above Get a Carhartt.
A few years ago a friend a told me that a friend of his (who had once done some work for me was ill and in need of a coat. So I went to a local store that sells 'work wear' and bought him a Carhartt coat. It was very nice, so I bought one for myself to do chores in winter.
The coat is SO warm that it is unwearable above 15 degrees. It is just the warmest coat I've ever owned
As Ken James suggested above, warm starts with layers. Two or three years ago when we had a particularly cold winter, I was doing a project on the ocean & Montauk in the winter. I bought a couple of long sleeve undershirts called Tactical Base Layer Warm. You never get hot but never feel cold, they are simply amazing. So 90% of the time if it is cold and I am Driving I'll wear one of those under a heavy blue Chambray work shirt and a vest, scarf & Hat
Great to drive in , incredibly warm.
I'm sure you have readers who know all about the new 'Scientific Long Johns" but they WORK!



As a desert dweller, I have no winter coat recommendation but this did remind me of a nice quote.

"Art's a staple. Like bread or wine or a warm coat in winter..." ~ Irving Stone

It rarely gets cold enough in Seattle for a down jacket, but a few years ago I bought a Mountain Hardwear Phantom Jacket that I primarily use when traveling. I think their current equivalent is the Kelvinator, and it looks like it's on close-out at REI. Weighs less than a pound, and stuffs into a very small sack. I stuff it into a small pillow case made for backpacking, for a better pillow on planes or if I get stuck at O'Hare or MSP during the inevitable blizzard.


I have an earlier version of this belay parka: https://arcteryx.com/us/en/shop/mens/dually-belay-parka

It is incredible lightweight yet is the warmest garment I own.

I know you're not a climber but neither are you a lumberjack... it's wonder to wear something featherweight instead of heavy, soggy winter coats.

Make sure the coat has some wrist adjustment - elastic or snaps - so that cold air doesn't go up your sleeves. You can do-this-yourself with strong-adhesive velcro patches.
{another mom hint} Scarf, hat, gloves and sweater make any coat warmer!{end another mom hint}

Check out the Canadian Military Extreme Cold Weather Parka. These parkas are rated to -40 Celsius and are available used for less than $100 Canadian and new for about $200.

They are not stylish or fashionable but they keep you safe and warm in the Arctic cold.

I am sure that they will work well in upstate New York, even though they were intended for our Canadian Winters.

I’ve been happy with my western mountaineering down jacket. No-frills, warm and well made. With a couple of wool layers underneath it’s served me well the past couple of winters, including through our current cold spell in Boston.

I also find that I feel much better when I keep my neck warm. A scarf is ok, but I’ve been using an icebreaker merino vest with a high, close-fitting collar, or a big wool sweater with a turtleneck.

As far as winter coats and staying warm are concerned, you might also want to consider what you wear under your coat. Since you value craftsmanship and well-made things, how about checking out the woolen fisherman's sweaters by Rymhart, www.rymhart-troyer.de? They are very warm, extremely well made, knitted from thick wool, and they do seem to last forever. I have two of them that see heavy use, and they look like new after several years. Mostr amazingly, they do not develop these little knots that almost every other woolen sweater gets over time. Very comfortable to wear around the house as well.

I'm glad to know Lulu is still part of the family. I haven't seen a picture of her in years. I hope she's aging gracefully.

I'm a fan of Kuhl clothing, and as I recently moved from California to Maryland, I picked up a Kuhl parka since I now needed something for actual winter. Their Arktik down parka is not inexpensive, but it is absolutely beautifully made and is very snug and warm. It has a style that isn't overly mountaineer/Michelin man, or overly utilitarian. Outer material is reminiscent of waxed canvas, which I'm a sucker for, and just feels fantastic. Like all Kuhl items, it should last for many, many years. Warm, cosy, functional, stylish. http://www.kuhl.com/kuhl/mens/outerwear/ms-arktik-down-parka/

I can't vouch for this particular jacket:


but I do really like their classic Kiwi trousers:


Seeing this on Friday, Jan 5th (late)!

Too bad you aren't in mostly sunny northern California, where rain is struggling to fall (what is snow?). I have a closet full of beautiful, new, un-worn, premium winter coats & vests in L & XL sizes, some between 10 and 20 yrs old. But what for?

We all have a few crazy little habits and one of mine was (when I was able to afford it) to buy clothes I had no immediate need for but anticipated a future need. So I'd see a $ 175 outdoor garment on sale and grab it. Now I have 7! And drawers full of shirts, etc. I just keep wearing the same old stuff no matter how ragged it looks.

I neither live nor intend to live in weather that would require that new stuff and, at near 75, will probably spend even less time than ever in adverse weather. I keep dreaming about the unlikely opportunity for a winter Yellowstone trip. So I'd be all set for cold, with only lens rental costs to face!

But should misfortune befall me and my next home is under a bridge, I'll I'll be ready for that too :-)

Best winter coat I ever had was from one of those overstock stores. Cost me $35. It's a bit like a bigger warmer field jacket. The outside is waterproofed cloth, not scratchy ballistic nylon. It's warm. It fits. It's soft. It's (IDK) 10 or 15 years old, and looks ratty; my wife tries to throw it away every year. So far I've been able to defend it.

At the moment it's 3 degrees (F) here in Michigan. The old coat is just fine.

I've bought, or been given, several coats since; they were all really expensive. I wear them when we go someplace nice, despite the fact that they're bulkier, or scratchier, or not as warm.

Try "The Rack" or "Coats Unlimited" or whatever such store might be in your neighborhood.

The comments to this entry are closed.