Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I was subject to all manner of hip and not so hip jackets of the era. I had the swishy Starter jackets that were polyester pullover anoraks. Eventually I graduated to the Columbia Bugaboo three-in-one parka with a fleece liner I still own to this day. However, times are changing. Layering is a little different than it once was. Maybe it’s because I have a little more budget to play with than when I was 12, but the technology has improved.
My hunting jacket at the time was not much better, a mostly polyester blaze orange jacket with a Gore-Tex lining that offered little to damn little insulation depending on configuration. So what do you do when the cold is creeping in, and you’re in for a long sit in the woods? You add a layer with some fluffy insulation, usually down. The loft created by that insulation allows heat to get trapped around your body rather than escaping, keeping you warm. The Uncompahgre Insulated Jacket from First Lite provides the loft of poly-fill batting that creates a pocket of warmth to surround you.
A Woobie you can Wear
It’s all the rage now it seems. Every veteran owned or targeted company is coming out with a woobie or a hoodie made from the same material. For those of you not in the loop, a woobie is also known as a Poncho Liner, Wet Weather 8405-00-889-3683. It is, for all intents and purposes a ripstop nylon blanket with polyester batting sandwiched in a grid pattern. It became popular during the Vietnam war as a security blanket providing warmth and comfort to our troops. A bond of affection towards a piece of kit like that is hard to break. To those in the know, it is everything. So when I took delivery of my First Lite Uncompahgre insulated jacket in Fusion camo that’s exactly where my brain went. Little did First Lite know, it was years ahead of the manufacturing craze of the woobie hoody.
The jacket is camp comfort in a lightweight package. While, like the woobie, I wouldn’t get it near a fire for the same reason. Much of that comfort was originally manufactured in a laboratory somewhere. That lab created warmth is all incredibly flammable. Even what would be traditional down insulation has become 37.5 synthetic. So First Lite is really bringing some of their synthetic sorcery into play here. Unlike the various merino offerings that First Lite puts out, this jacket will stink a little if you sweat it up. So be sure to wash it semi-regularly per the instructions on the tag. Treat it mostly like a sleeping bag, I’d say hand wash and tumble dry so as not to lose loft in the jacket.
The Uncompahgre jacket is both an insulating layer and soft shell in your layering system. Granted, I say soft shell, but it doesn’t really take much foul weather. It’s wind resistant but not wind proof, it’s water resistant, but not waterproof. The exterior is DWR coated which stands for durable water resistant. It’s not GoreTex but it does the job of not getting you soaked.
Since it’s part of a layering system if you’re going to get really wet, I’d suggest a waterproof layer that you can adjust the venting on like First Lite’s Seak Stormtight Jacket. I will say that it does a heck of a job at keeping you warm on the move or in a static position during the cold weather though. The original jacket was so successful First Lite updated it and is now offering the Uncompahgre 2.0, giving you a clue as to it’s adoption in the hunting and outdoors community.
A two way zippered coat pocket in the 2.0 version allows the coat to be packed and stowed into itself. Bonus points, it serves as a camp pillow if you’re in need of one and didn’t pack it. Cinches at the hood and hips keep the cold air out, and the warm air in. Pockets are zippered, offering one slash pocket at the chest and two hand pockets to keep your fingers toasty.
It’s available in 6 colors: First Lite Fusion, First Lite Cipher, Ash Grey, Black, Dry Earth (Brown), and Conifer (Green). The MSRP on the Uncompahgre Puffy Jacket is $210, sizes Small through XXL.
The First Lite Uncompahgre insulated jacket is practically always in my truck or my pack. It stuffs down very well and can jump back to life easily with a little shake-fluffing. For as lightweight as it is it’s surprisingly warm. This means that it feels like carrying nothing in your pack, but it’s everything when you’re sitting in the cold. It’s not something you’re going to throw on to brush bust through brambles and breaking trail through tangles. But you wouldn’t treat a Patagonia Puffy or Nanocell this way either. So why be rough on something designed for hanging out or light hiking?
If you treat it well, the First Lite Uncompahgre Puffy Jacket will keep you warm and cozy when you need to layer up. And it’s a fine camp pillow or blanket when you’re back home to rest for the evening. We generally bring the Uncompahgre with us on every outing when the weather gets chilly. It’s earned it’s place in our packs.