The Bombproof "Active Jac"

The above photo is not doctored. There is nothing propping up the jacket from behind. This is what it looks like when you set it down.

Be careful what you wish for. Not long ago, I bought an outdoor retailer's hooded jacket because it was made of "12-ounce, heavyweight, firm-hand, 100%-ring-spun, cotton duck." Within a year of knocking around the woods, the "firm-hand" (does anybody know what this means?) fabric was ripped to shreds. The jacket had so many loose threads that it had grown its own fur.

When I went looking for a replacement, I wanted something bombproof. My two main criteria were that it had to have a hood (as any bald man would want), and its shell could not be made of cotton. No matter how heavyweight or firm-handed.

I thought I'd found it on the Carhartt website. Nearly every coat or jacket they make has a cotton shell. But they had one, the J 133 Extremes Arctic-Quilted Active Jac, that was just what I was looking for. (By the way, what's with the long names of simple objects these days? "Active Jac"? Because otherwise I'd take it for, what, a "Passive Jac"?) It had rib-knit waist and cuffs, "arctic-weight" polyester insulation, two outside pockets, and two inside pockets. Best of all, the shell was 1,000-denier Cordura nylon. And it was a deal at $109. I jumped on it.

The coat is everything promised. The fabric is so stiff that the jacket practically stands up on its own, grabs your chainsaw, and heads out to work. This I can handle. I like that you can crawl through barbed wire in this jacket. It stops wind in its tracks. It's not waterproof, but you could stay out a long time before you got wet. All of this is fantastic.

What you can't or shouldn't do with this jacket is wear it while driving. The hood, like Rocky Balboa himself, refuses to lie down. You can push it off your head, but that's about it. The first time I tried to pass another car, I turned my head to check my left blind spot. And all I saw was hood. I tried to compress it into a ball and keep it that way by pressing my neck and head into the seat's headrest. This solved the problem. Right up until the instant I moved my head for any reason. At which point the hood sprang back open like a jack-in-the-box.

In time, this may work out. Or not. That 1,000-denier Cordura feels like it's good for the long haul. I love my new jacket. I wear it all the time. Except when I'm driving.