Seasons are something you can take for granted when you live in LA — I do — rarely giving you an opportunity to truly test cold weather gear. Granted our desert climate can create temps in the high 30s on winter nights, but it’s still not the right environment for challenging the winter gear that comes across our desks. So when the producers of Translogic told me we’d be shooting in Europe for two and a half weeks I instantly coordinated with the cold weather warriors at the New York office to go hands-on with some winter wear.
After explaining I’d be spending 18-days planing, training, driving and public-transportation-ing my way through six cities across England, Switzerland, France and Germany, the cold weather warriors at GP HQ quickly brainstormed and tasked me with winter wear for warmth, packability, style and reliability. Quickly thereafter, I was greeted with a Sir Edmund Hillary approved Canada Goose Expedition Parka ($500) in midnight black packed with white duck down, and an easily-packable arctic blue Helly Hansen Cross Insulator Jacket ($150) sporting a PrimaLoft warmcore synthetic down fill.
Here’s how things went down.
Photos by Bradley Hasemeyer
Canada Goose Expedition Parka
I’ll admit, my initial giddiness to tear into the Canada Goose Expedition Parka was subdued by the sheer size of the parka. I thought it was too big. Paired with the more trimmer tailoring that I prefer, the CG created a bit of a water tower silhouette. The relaxed fit, however, is more about science than fashion. Using the dead air created within the loose down feather structure, the parka staves body heat loss. Just ask the scientists at the Antarctica McMurdo station who wear the Expedition. Every day.
What started in a small warehouse in Toronto has today become a global brand. From London to Paris, Frankfurt and Zurich — Canada Goose jackets have permeated the outdoor market. Their signature tells, a fur hood and iconic red Arctic disc patches.
Not unsurprisingly, the Goose lives up to every bit of its hype as a mainstay. From the water resistant Arctic-Tech shell, four massive storage pockets that housed everything from gloves to a mic-pack, zippered hand warmers located behind fur-mouthed pockets, shapeable wire-rimmed carry strap and fur hood, the Expedition parka brought functionality — and gobs of warmth — to a whole new level. The result: a parka that kept me warm while waiting for cameras to roll, interviewing people in the Swiss Alps and walking around on damp London nights.
Helly Hansen Cross Insulator Jacket
Why go with the natural bulk — and price — of down? Hauling around a bulky parka along with our moving production setup isn’t exactly convenient, and the price compared to synthetic can be difficult for some to swallow. Synthetic down is also lighter, hypoallergenic, and can still retain heat if it gets wet. Enter, our Helly Hansen Cross Insulator Jacket.
Created by a Norwegian sea captain in 1877, Helly Juell Hansen established his company for extreme weather needs. Today, if you’re an ice fisherman on Deadliest Catch or sail in the Volvo Ocean Race, your outermost layer probably has an HH insignia on it.
On our pan-European trip, the combination of mild(er) and rainier days provided a perfect backdrop to get to know the Helly. The fit sits a few comfort-notches below the sharp tailoring of Aether. It can be worn over a sweater or under a shell (or in between). The Cross Insulator is made to layer. It’s also roomy enough to wear with a scarf — this is Europe after all — and when I found myself glove-less my hands were appreciative of the fleece-lined pockets. In a most-unscientific test of windproofing, the Cross Insulator kept my qrm quite balmy while sticking it outside a window going 112 kph (70 mph) from London to Oxford. Not an inkling of wind or moisture thanks to a combination of a ripstop shell, PrimaLoft synthetic down and sealing elastic sleeve cuffs.
It’s worth noting that the Cross Insulator is a near-perfect traveler. It cam cram into a pack, cleans easily (cold only), and when rolled up serves as an excellent pillow for those extended train journeys.
That’s a Wrap
Over the course of 18-days shooting for seven episodes, driving some incredible vehicles, meeting interesting people, and learning to say “another beer, please” in three more languages, I came to appreciate — if not downright love — both the Canada Goose and Helly Hansen (hat tip to my product gurus in New York). Separately and together. From chilly late-night visits to Big Ben and the Eiffel tower, after double-digit hours of shooting at Frankfurt’s Christmas Market, and countless hours in-transport, these two jackets became a lifeline.
Sure, maybe you don’t live in the bitter-cold crosswinds of the Swiss Alps but let’s just say Boston in January isn’t that much different, even if you’re a LA weather weakling like me. With winter in full swing, climate change bringing ever more whacked-out temps, and ever-increasing spontaneous snow storms it’s worth taking a closer look at these two cold defenders for your adventures, both near and far.