$150, jacket; $140, pant (Columbia.com) My favorite thing about Columbia’s Expedition Ridge Wool Jacket and Pant isn’t the tactical design–relaxed fit, -military-style slant chest pockets for quick access when wearing a pack, substantial two-way zipper, and reinforced shoulder, elbow, and knee patches–but the price. I’ve tested wool jackets that cost three times more and been less impressed because they were too bulky for quick shooting and too heavy for anything but sit-your-butt-on-a-stump-and-hope hunting.
To keep weight and price down, the fabric here is recycled, lightweight wool woven with reclaimed synthetic fibers (mostly polyester). This initially gave me doubts, as one of wool’s selling points is that it doesn’t melt when sparks fly–unlike synthetics such as fleece. So, I lit up some spruce and turned my arm like a rabbit on a spit. The fabric sizzled and eventually flared up, but then, pure wool will catch fire, too, after a while. So far, so good. A week of spring gobbler hunting proved the clothing’s versatility in 40-degree shifts in temperature.
If you want outerwear that will see you through a blizzard, this isn’t it. But if you like wool’s silence and warmth, at a very affordable price, look no further. –Keith McCafferty