Kayak Companion : A Guide by Joe Glickman
When Joe isn't testing gear for us, he's busy kayaking and writing about kayaking. Check out his book...more...

Helly Hansen Virtue Jacket: The Perfect Solution

If nature doesn’t cooperate, a product tester who needs to know if a waterproof jacket has the right stuff – I’m talking enduring a Noah-esque downpour – may be forced to step in the shower and turn it on full blast. This is a waste of water and makes the product tester feel silly. Plus it’s tough to know what to wear underneath.

Luckily, my Helly Hansen Virtue jacket arrived on day two of eight straight days of rain--the wettest October on record in New York. Ten days later, a nor’easter that drew energy from the remnants of Hurricane Wilma battered New England with 20-foot waves and winds as strong as 70 mph. The conditions converged to create The Perfect Test.

A little background: I live in Brooklyn, walk everywhere, and disdain umbrellas. Hustling a mile through the sloppy streets on a 55F day to pick up my daughter from school, I unzipped the pit vents and remained sweat-free. The formidable hood, with built-in visor, kept my face dry and shielded from the wind; I’ve never worn a storm jacket with a larger one. Waiting in the school yard with my aqua-phobic pooch, I zipped my pits and listened smugly as the raindrops bounced off my head. The jacket remained 100% waterproof, thanks to the sonic seam technology (SST to you and me) that eliminates pinholes caused by stitching. Pocket connoisseurs will be pleased: the jacket has enough inner and outer receptacles to accommodate everything I need on a blustery day--from goggles, music, cell phone and snacks to a tennis ball (for dog) and a jump rope (for daughter).

While I didn’t make it above sea level in my Virtue jacket, it’s so light and compressible (compared to other storm jackets, that is) that it’s easy to pack. Trekking across a parking lot on route to a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, I had my Virtue stowed in a day pack, where it fit easily along with a modest amount of a controlled substance (actually, raw cashews, I was thinking of the last time I saw Bruce, circa 1984). The heavens opened and a stiff wind whipped umbrellas inside out. As scores of chilled Boss fans sprinted to the door, I strode purposefully, hood cinched, hands in pockets, zipped to my chin, with the swagger of an aging rock ‘n roll icon.

My only quibble is the zipper is stiff and requires vigilance – an issue if you’re up high on a hill in a storm, trying to zip up with gloves on. Still, factor in form, function and versatility and the jacket passes with flying colors. Even the apple green and hot orange color will come in handy in a blizzard. (In the green XL, I bore a passing resemblance to the famous pea-growing giant. If you don’t want to stand out, it comes in charcoal as well.)

Bottom Line: This stitchless, breathable, lightweight jacket with the bomber-tight seams is a proverbial, portable, port in any storm. Or any shower stall, should things come to that.--J.G. (Nov ’05)

Price: $399.95

Manufacturer's Site: www.hellyhansen.com

BUY ONLINE : , Outdoor Gear & Clothing

The first flashlight was invented in 1898. Joshua Lionel Cohen, original owner of the Eveready company developed the concept of using a battery to run a light bulb, which he shared with an Eveready salesman, Conrad Hubert. Hubert then turned the idea into a flashlight.

Source: "Invention of the Flashlight," by Mary Bellis, posted on inventors.about.com.