free country peak soft shell jacket

Growing up in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, with nor’easters and lake-effect snow changing the weather conditions at a moment’s notice, you could never have too many jackets. Except that, well, who wants to fill their entire closet with winter jackets?

That’s why I’ve come to like the idea of more versatile jackets, such as this Free Country Peak 3-in-1 Softshell Jacket.

In case you’ve never owned a 3-in-1, it’s basically two jackets put together. Or, if you’re a “glass half empty” kind of person, one jacket divided into two parts.

However you look at it, you can wear the insulated liner, the water-resistant outer layer, or both together. Three different options. One jacket. Simple, right?

These jackets are great because not only can they be adapted to changing temperatures, you get two completely different styles! In this case, there’s the gray/black plaid inner and the white/gray outer.

What is a softshell jacket?

levi wearing free country peak

Many winter coats, especially those for skiing and snowboarding, are hardshell jackets. It means the material is fairly rigid and has no stretch to it. When the main concern is protection and warmth, you kind of have to accept that.

My Billabong jacket is like that. It’s a great snowboarding jacket, and it’s very warm, but it’s only mobile since it’s big and roomy.

A soft shell material, on the other hand, offers much more flex for better range of motion and more freedom of movement. The concept is awesome, because I can get a smaller size jacket that doesn’t bunch up, without worry of it being too restricting.

The fabric itself is actually three layers. There’s a soft inner layer, a tough yet stretchy outer, and then a breathable membrane between them. Not much different than a hard shell’s construction. Except that the outer layer, or “soft shell,” is very stretchy and flexible.

It’s not going to be ideal for extreme situations, but for everyday use, I think softshells are a wonderful idea!

A detailed look at the Free Country Peak

Here are my thoughts, categorized for your skimming pleasure.

Fit and Sizing

According to their size chart, I could fit a size small, but I was right on the line, so I sized up to a medium. That’s generally a good idea, especially if you’ll be wearing winter base layers beneath it.

If I’m wearing the whole jacket, the fit is great! The thing is, if I’m just wearing the outer layer, the medium actually feels like a large. I’d like to keep the medium liner and pair it with a size small outer… unless I put the liner in, in which case I’d want to go back to the medium outer to have room for it!

So, it looks like I’ll either wear the entire jacket or just the liner. Wearing the outer layer by itself just doesn’t work out that well.

I should also point out, I have to use the sleeve Velcros since the sleeves are so long. (That’s great news for anyone with long arms.)

levi wearing free country knit visor cap

Style

The jacket definitely looks cool, and I absolutely love that it’s two completely different looks (the silver/beige and the charcoal plaid.)

The style is probably what I like most about this jacket. The inner layer is very stylish and looks like a casual coat, while the outer layer looks very outdoorsy.

And it’s a perfect match for the Pinnacle visor cap I got. It’s my new favorite winter hat!! It’s warm, soft, comfortable, stylish, and fits perfectly!

The cap is also reversible, so there’s the black inside you see here, while the other side is a charcoal gray in a sort of waffle knit pattern.

Versatility

As I mentioned already, this jacket is quite versatile.

I love the inner lining on its own. It’s light and comfy but very warm at the same time. So it was great for cool to cold days, as long as it wasn’t raining too hard.

The outer layer on its own was nice for cool days with light rain, as long as I had a hat.

If I was wearing the entire jacket, and the temperature climbed in the afternoon, I could just zip the layers apart, unsnap a few buttons, and I was down to one layer.

levi wearing free country peak plaid puffer

Protection and Warmth

This jacket is surprisingly big and heavy when it’s all together. In a good way! The liner by itself is super hot on a 45 degree day, and with the outer layer on top, I’m nice and cozy for hours at 30 degrees. I even spent a couple hours in the jacket standing still in 25 degree weather, and though I got pretty chilly, the jacket was working!

Taking on windy, wet weather is a different story. The wind- and water-resistant shell works well… for a short period of time.

If you’re outside for 10 minutes, water will bead up and roll right off. And in a snowstorm, it’s fine and dandy. In pouring rain, though, the jacket will get soaked on the outside and won’t “resist” water any more. (Always remember that water-resistant does NOT mean waterproof!) I never got wet inside the jacket, but that’s because I knew when to seek shelter!

All in all, you get a warm jacket that’s cozy at freezing temperatures, resists light rain, and provides moderate wind protection.

Quality and Features

The material itself, for the outer shell, seems to be high quality. And there are plenty of welcome features, such as adjustable Velcro cuffs, multiple internal and external pockets, and zippers for security (all four pockets on outer shell are zippered.)

Both the inner and outer layers have zippered chest pockets. So you always have at least one zippered pocket, no matter how you’re wearing the jacket. On the outer layer, I really like the zippered patch pocket on the left sleeve – it’s easily accessible without removing backpack straps!

Unfortunately, you can tell this isn’t a top-of-the-line jacket like you’d get from Columbia, Mountain Hardwear, or Arc’teryx. It’s the little things. Some of the zippers are sticky or just not that smooth, and the one on the plaid puffer’s chest pocket often catches on the material beside it (since it’s kind of going for that “hidden zipper” style.)

But hey, those other brands cost wayyyy more! (The new Mountain Hardwear Compulsion jacket is $650.)

Durability

We’re only a few weeks into the winter weather, so I can’t say too much here.

Unfortunately, I’ve already had one attachment point that ripped, and it was an important one in the sleeve. I will have to re-sew that, because without it, the sleeves get turned inside out and are hard to get back in order. It doesn’t make me happy, but I’ve had the same thing happen on other jackets in this price range.

I feel like the materials themselves will prove durable, but if a zipper breaks or more threads come undone, I won’t be surprised!

Pricing

I got this jacket free to review. Lucky me! As I write this, it’s now $90 on special (with the retail price listed at $200.)

That’s quite a bit higher than a Wal-Mart jacket price, but it’s far lower than anything from The North Face. I don’t even think an REI brand jacket can be found for under $100.

Thing is, I know from experience that Columbia jackets in the $100-200 range are very high quality and worth the money. REI jackets seem to be good, too, and if you ever have a problem, they honor their warranty.

Free Country… I just don’t know if it will stand the test of time. I’d still be a little hesitant to spend $90 on one.

Now, if you can find this jacket for $50 or so (since I’ve seen them run some good sales,) it’s well worth it. Especially if you’re looking for something casual.

levi wearing free country jacket and cap

My final verdict is…

If you’re spending $100 or more on a winter jacket, I suggest going with a well-known brand such as Columbia, from a reputable retailer such as REI.com. They’ll have style, but more importantly, be very durable and dependable on your crazy wilderness adventures.

But for under $100, the Free Country Peak is a good choice that offers versatility and style. It’s great for casual wear and would be alright for occasional skiing in mild conditions.

Official website: www.FreeCountry.com


Product Review Details
Company: Free Country
Product: Free Country Peak 3-in-1 Systems Softshell Jacket
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Date last updated: 2013-11-27
Obtained Product: Free sample from company.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

Click here if you would like to get your product reviewed on CoachLevi.com.

Leave a Reply