Icebreaker Stratus Jacket Review

IMG_2857

Icebreaker wasn’t exactly wool-gathering when some smart design person conceived the new Stratus long-sleeved hooded jacket.With a few tweaks, this coat could become an ideal equipment addition to any snowshoer’s or cold-weather hiker’s list of must-have items.
The jacket, which is lined with reclaimed and recycled wool from the company’s manufacturing process, does an awesome job of being practical, sporty and stylish all that same time.
When it comes to outdoor clothing, I’m all about the practicality, but I can be swayed a little by looks too. This coat, in a silver and orange colour combo, is striking. The coat features a quilted outer shell, which adds a distinctive appearance. It’s wind and water resistant, which is always useful. It breathes as well as you would expect from a wool item.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve worn the jacket in a variety of conditions, from 10 Celsius to -15 Celsius with a wind, and it’s performed superbly. Keep in mind that this isn’t a coat that’s truly designed to keep you warm while you’re just standing around in cool or cold weather. That’s a good way to look cool, and not in the manner which you would prefer. Instead, this is clearly a jacket intended for active usage. As I write this, I’ve come back from a short snowshoe at a temperature of -13 C (8.6° F), and a wind chill of -20 C (-4° F). As it turned out, I over-dressed for the occasion, and worked up quite a sweat without a lot of effort. That’s welcomed warmth, and it comes with very little bulk.

The coat features two hand-warmer pockets and one interior chest pocket intended for our ubiquitous cell phones. Another feature I really, really enjoy is the interior cuffs on the sleeves. Well done, Icebreaker. You don’t see much of this feature anymore, and these are particularly well designed.

There are three distinct areas where the jacket could definitely be improved. One is an important problem, while the other two are less so. I found the fit of the coat to be peculiar. While overall, the length of the coat and the sleeves was excellent, the torso has been designed for a snug fit I dislike considerably. During equipment reviews, I have frequently chided manufacturers for their apparent assumption that everyone buying their clothing is built either like a model or a superbly-toned athlete. I don’t fit that description, although I have as much need for quality sporting clothing as their target demographic.

While I can squeeze into the Stratus, I don’t find it completely comfortable, nor is it easy to layer up underneath it as a result. I could live with that deficiency if the coat also came with a double-zipper. That would alleviate some of the pressure on the coat due to the snug fit. I’m also a big believer that manufacturers miss the boat by not adding high-quality double zippers to their coats, especially winter coats. To my knowledge, Canada Goose is the one manufacturer that’s realized the importance of such zippers.

Third, while I love a coat with a hood, the hood on the Stratus isn’t as functional as it should be.
It’s oversized, and without any adjustment mechanism. Without wearing a baseball cap, I find it falls over my eyes, rending it fairly useless. With it being oversized, it also tends to let too much air in around my face. Adding some some kind of pull-cord adjustment would make it far more useful, as would something to control the depth of the hood.

Ironically, my wife was quite surprised to hear my grumbles about the jacket, since she’s seen me wearing it on a near-constant basis. That’s why I think a few minor tweaks are in order, because I truly like the jacket.

Leave a Reply