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U.S. Military ECWCS Gen II Brown Bear Jacket

photo: U.S. Military ECWCS Gen II Brown Bear Jacket fleece jacket

This is an old school fibre pile jacket made for extreme cold weather. It's not pretty, but it works!

Pros

  • Very breathable
  • Extremely warm
  • Low maintenance
  • Lightweight
  • At $20 you can't go wrong.
  • One of the few pieces of clothing that is pure function.

Cons

  • It does pill, but that is not a problem for me.

I purchased this item a few years ago to replace my old Borglite Pile jacket from the early '80s. I usually wear wool, but for travelling north of the tree line I often wear pile. Pile should not be confused with fleece; they are not the same. Whereas fleece resembles brushed flannel, fibre pile is more like wool shearling. However, because pile does not have a windproof backing it breathes much better than anything else I know. Also, the base fabric is polyester, which is hydrophobic so it does not absorb much water and dries very quickly.

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This is a very basic, no frills jacket but what it lacks in fashion it definitely makes up in warmth. As mentioned above it is made of old school polyester fibre pile about half an inch thick; thicker and therefore warmer than modern fleece. It is quite porous and wind permeable but this aids in its breathability which I find is better too than modern fleece.

Fibre pile wicks moisture away from a body very quickly through capillary action; breaking trail on skis I tend to perspire quite a bit and this jacket winds up all frosty on the outside, inside though I am warm and dry. Even when totally soaked this jacket dries out very fast from body heat alone, a good quality when skiing north of the tree line.

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Its construction is basic too; there are no gimmicks here. Seams stand out and I guess some people could complain of rubbing and hot spots and such, but I don’t. Hand warmer pockets are efficient and made from the same pile fabric. Two bellows chest pockets with Velcro flaps are utilitarian and hold plenty of items like note book and pen, a small camera, etc. I guess it would also hold a cell phone if you are so inclined to carry one; I am not.


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There is also Velcro on the wrists to cinch down and a high collar for added protection from the elements. Interestingly, there is no pile fabric in the armpit region. This effectively aids in dumping some of the heat produced while skiing, snowshoeing or hiking in the cold. The material doesn’t compress well but that’s a good thing too especially while wearing a backpack.


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As an avid backcountry skier and winter camper I find this jacket to be so far superior to much of the fleece jackets on the market today. It works well at minus 30°C or so with just a thin wool baselayer underneath. When I stop for a while I can throw on a wind shell to keep all that heat in.

It isn’t pretty by any means but it does the job. Warm, lightweight, breathable and at only 20 dollars you can buy ten of these for the price of one of the high-end fleece jackets I see people sporting today. But you will only need one; this stuff lasts a lifetime.

For anyone looking for protection from cool to extreme cold temperatures while not wanting to pay the outrageous prices charged by retailers today I would highly recommend this jacket.

Source: I purchased this new from an Army Surplus Store.

I bought one of these a couple of years ago, not pretty but I did not buy it for that. I use it on the range by itself or under a shell. Brilliant. I am very much a layer person and this fits right in. Just recently got a Gen II ECWCS shell parka for $60, who could complain at a price like that for Goretex etc, as compared to other shell products at a couple of hundred more. It is winter here, sitting in my office and what am I wearing but this bear jacket.

Pros

  • Warmth and ease of care
  • Large pockets
  • Layering under a shell jacket
  • Obviously the price

Cons

  • The only thing would be the pilling on the outside, but that is the nature of the fabric.

Great product, not pretty, but who cares. Layers perfectly with other gear. It breathes and is easy to look after. Who can complain about the price of government issue gear that works, it has to!

Experience

Lots of experience in outdoor clothing and equipment, from work environment and sport.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $50

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