I used to work for an outdoor gear shop from 1997…
Price Paid: $215
I used to work for an outdoor gear shop from 1997 to 2004, and thanks to the crazy discount employees received, I had enough gear from Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Patagonia, Outdoor Research, etc., to outfit a small expedition. I had fleece in every shape and size, but none of them came close in comparison to the Valkyrie LT.
Every other windproof/resistant fleece I’ve owned felt bulky when layered under a shell, or wasn’t very warm as an insulating layer. The Valkyrie LT was comfortable under a rain shell, and was warm as an insulating layer. I was also extremely happy with the wind resistance the jacket provided.
I did a few short kayak paddles on a small lake at sunset, up north a few weeks ago, and even as the cool night breezes blew, I was toasty. I was very happy with the cut of the garment. There is just the right amount of material everywhere and it was never bulky. It fits like it was custom-made for me.
I like how articulated everything is; I can raise my arms and the body doesn’t rise up. When I bend my arms, it doesn’t feel all “bunchy” at my elbows. The tail is long enough to squat down, bend over, or sit, and there are no drafts swirling up the backside. I liked the longer sleeve length, but haven’t gotten used to the thumb holes yet. I will continue to try them as winter approaches and see if they make a difference with my cold hands.
The small zip pocket on the left forearm was very handy for stowing my earplugs during breaks when shooting at the range, or as a safe place for my car key so I'm not digging around looking for it. I’m usually searching through pants pockets trying to remember which pocket I put my earplugs or car key in.
I used the upper arm pocket a few times for my wallet, house keys, etc, more small items I didn’t want to be digging for when I needed them. I’m a big fan of zipper garages. I think they look clean. I liked that the chest pockets were up high; I could fully access them when wearing a duty belt. I thought the zippers on the chest pockets were just a tad too long. When the pockets were unzipped and I had my hands in them to keep warm, it was a bit drafty, and if I bent over with it unzipped fully, if there was anything in the pocket, it would fall out.
I thought the cord pass-throughs were neat, a feature I will try out when running/walking in colder weather with a IPod. I did not use the rear pocket, but thought it would be a handy place to stash gloves when not in use.
I really, really liked the longer length for normal wear. When at the range, I would fold the bottom up when I was shooting with my duty belt on. I would prefer to do that because outer layers that are short enough to not interfere with a duty belt, are way too short to be practical in every day life. Being that the fleece is grippy against itself, I just folded it up underneath, and it stayed put beautifully, and I still had good access to the front pockets since they are up high. That also provided a double layer around my midsection which was nice and toasty.
When I put the hood up, the first thing I did was look for the cinch cord to snug it down and was surprised to find none. After wearing it for a while I realized that there aren’t any because it doesn’t need them. The hood was small enough to keep my little pea head warm, but it also accommodated a knit hat.
I wore the Valkyrie LT during a driving vacation around Lake Superior and encountered temperatures over the 2 weeks from upper 40s to lower 80s. I wore the Valkyrie LT as an outer layer with a Smartwool NTS baselayer, and a Patagonia R.5, with a knit hat and was comfortably warm in the cold mornings, which amazed me. I usually break out the down once it’s under 50.
The Valkyrie LT was breathable enough that I could just unzip once I warmed up later in the morning. I wore it on cooler mornings and nights shooting on the range, day hiking, early morning potty breaks outside for the doggies, and sometimes simply to spur envy in the eyes of other gear heads, garnering the comment, “Look at you, rocking the TAD gear.”
The Valkyrie LT is every bit the feature packed, versatile, expertly constructed, do anything, go anywhere jacket that the web page says it is. The most important feature of the garment is that little red, white and blue tag that says Made in America.
Update: October 21, 2011
I wanted to make a change to the review I posted earlier, I had mentioned that I thought the front pocket zippers were too long.
I was walking my dog last week and the temperature was mild, but the wind was cold. As we walked and I got a little too warm, I didn't want to take the jacket off because of the cold wind, so I just unzipped my pockets and the longer front pocket zippers vented very well. Whenever I want to put my hands in them to keep warm, I just don't unzip them all the way.
I also really like that it maintains its "technical tacticalness", but still looks feminine. It's a very flattering cut that is also very practical.