Full disclosure: REI provided two jackets for us to complete this REI Co-Op Jacket Review.
In Southern California, we just don’t do winter weather. It’s pouring rain outside as I write my first draft of this, and navigating the streets of LA during a rainstorm you’d think we got Buffalo proportions of snow or something. And so as Laura and I prepared for a recent whirlwind around the world trip that included, amongst many great things, freezing cold weather with wind, rain, and a possibility of snow, we were at a loss. I must have stood in front of our “coat closet” for a good five minutes hoping I could will one of my hoodies or windbreakers into a legitimate winter coat, but alas no such luck.
A few hours later, I’d exhausted my search online as well as at a few department stores, faced with an even more troubling dilemma: We wanted to have our cake and eat it too. Here’s what I wanted in a winter jacket:
1. Weather resistant. No wind nor water falling from the sky should impede upon my travels.
2. Stylish yet functional. I want to wear it in a variety of settings, from trekking to dinner.
3. Affordable. Turns out this winter weather gear can cost A LOT of money.
4. Heavy on the warmth, lightweight on the baggage. Laura and I pride ourselves on flying carry on, ALL THE TIME. So I wanted a jacket warm enough for temps in the low 30’s, and yet one that could be packed quickly and easily when hopping on a plane.
I called a friend from this mythical land called the east coast, and he laughed. “Dude, you’ve got to sacrifice somewhere, you won’t be able to find all of that, at least not for under $200.”
But he was wrong, as wrong as I was warm in the jackets we chose. Want to learn how to travel in style, do it affordably, and do it in a jacket as light as the snow that falls around you?
Because a non bulky jacket was a must, we found ourselves shopping down jackets. We looked at everything from Patagnoia to Northface, and balked at the $200+ prices. But when push came to shove, I found my jacket. We were fortunate enough to work with REI, one of my favorite stores to explore before any big adventure. Turns out REI launched a new jacket line called the REI Co-Op Brand. After a quick exchange with REI’s marketing team, our men’s and women’s jackets were in the mail. The jackets traveled with us on a whirlwind tour of Rome, Budapest, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Kyoto. They faced cold, wind, and rain (often a combination of the three- we’re talking about you Budapest) and also were used on beautiful sunny and slightly warm fall days (Thank You Tokyo!). And I’ve got to tell you, the REI Co-Op Down Jacket was AMAZING!
So here’s the deal, if you’re not clued into REI, now is the time to learn a bit about them.
Here are the top three reasons we love REI:
1. They’re a co-op. In other words, you the shopper, can also become a member, and thus a key stakeholder. REI lifetime membership costs $20, and the benefits are insane:
- 10% annual dividend.
- One of the most generous refund policies ever. I bought a pair of boots before I moved to Chile and in Chile, I learned a bit later than I would have liked that the boots weren’t going to work out. Over a year later, I brought the boots back and REI refunded me for them, no questions asked!
- Exclusive members only deals and discounts on everything from in store shopping to travel and classes!
2. REI walks the talk when it comes to values millennials believe in. Long story short, they see themselves as stewards of the environment as much as we do. They’re focused on sustainable business practices, on protecting the outdoors, and on fostering a positive work environment for their employees. I like shopping at a store that I know values what we vare about as much as we do. What’s more, I’ve had 3 friends who worked at REI, and they have nothing but high praise for the business practices of the company and how they were treated.
REI also has a foundation committed to it’s environmental values, and last year they provided grants totaling more than 4.2 million dollars. This investment in the natural areas they know their clients frequent for adventure has helped to empower more than 300 community nonprofits to do good work that benefits you and I.
3. They have a blog with some of the most awe inspiring photos you’ll find on any adventure or travel website.
But what about the jackets?
If you’re like us, the stuff above isn’t just a cute add on. It’s the real deal, the type of thing that makes us proud to put our money to supporting a company like REI. But aside from the great ethical reasons we shop at REI, we also find the quality of their store brand gear and clothing to be top notch. I’ve got some smart wool socks that have been through everything from construction projects in Tijuana to frigid cold exploration of the beautiful monuments in Washington D.C. The stuff is reasonably affordable, and of the highest quality. So why would we expect the jackets to be any different?
Here are the top four features of the jackets:
1. They truly were versatile. We wore them around town in the worst of conditions. On the days where there was light rain, wind, and weather in the low 30’s the jacket kept me warm with nothing more than a long sleeve base layer beneath it. On the days I wore my favorite smart wool base layer long sleeve, I was cozy as could be. But here’s the really crazy thing: Laura, infamous for her inability to tolerate any weather that dips below a chilly 65 degrees, was warm as can be as well. On our coldest night in Budapest, her only complaint was negligible: “Why the hell hasn’t REI invented down pants yet?” she asked as she complained of the cold her legs felt. They do, but the only people who wear them are usually on ski slopes.
2. The jackets were lightweight. We were able to stick to our carry on only rule, and we didn’t have to wear the jackets everywhere. Whenever we reached the airport, I quickly unzipped my small suitcase and stuffed my down jacket inside. The jackets were warn enough for the heavy lifting, and light enough to let us travel lightly.
3. They were stylish. “Nice jacket” we were told time and again. And those times someone emphatically pointed at me and said something in a language I didn’t understand- I’ve chosen to believe they too were complimenting my slick clothing choice. The jackets wore well with all our outfits. The jackets could truly be worn anywhere, anytime.
4. Here’s the best part: The price! Like I said earlier, most jackets we researched like these cost over $200. The new REI Co-Op Down Jacket review was simple for us because of everything above, combined with one great thing: The $99 price tag.
It’s in the details
The price is right. The jacket is both warm and stylish. And the variety of colors dizzying. These are jackets we not only would recommend for friends and family, but jackets we might be buying for them as well! A few things to keep in mind if you do buy the jacket:
1. Sizing. I felt the men’s jackets ran slightly small, more like a hybrid regular/slim fit jacket if anything. I got a large, and while it was slightly tighter than the other larges I have, I liked it because the difference was small, and actually made the jacket less bulky and more comfortable. Laura reported no difference in the sizing on her jacket.
2. Colors. Like I said, REI has kept it fun. We went with a simple black and gray, but if you like your colors to pop, REI has you covered.
3. That pocket inside the jacket isn’t actually a pocket. I love hidden pockets. And so one day when I noticed what I thought was a pocket on the inside breasts of the jacket, I went to drop my wallet in it. And my wallet went in, and right out, as in fact the pocket, well, it really wasn’t a pocket.
What could be improved?
For the price point the jacket comes at, not a whole lot. Like I said above, being a fan of secret pockets, I would have loved if these jackets had an easy to access interior pocket for a phone or wallet. One friend who saw the jackets said a hood would be a cool addition. I disagree, feeling like that detracts from the simple and practical style of the jackets. Like I said earlier, Laura, known for a lack of cold weather tolerance, can’t stop raving about how warm this jacket kept her.
A traveler’s final thoughts
In a couple weeks, we’re bound for Hong Kong, South Africa, and Doha. Not exactly cold places. But we’re also stopping in Chicago for 48 hours to visit my family, and for once we won’t be walking off the plane ill prepared for the windy city praying my family remembered to bring extra winter coats to pick us up at the airport. This time, we’ll be packing our REI Co-Op Jackets. Even though we’ll only REALLY need them for two days of the trip, we know they’ll serve us well on cooler nights in South Africa or Hong Kong, and they’re so damn light it’s not even an issue of space to consider bringing them along.
So if a certain friend or loved on in your life is in the market for a new jacket, check out the REI Co-Op line. You’ll be supporting a great company, at an incredible price, and you’ll get a wonderful product to boot. That’s a win-win-win if I ever saw one!
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