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The North Face Redpoint Vest : Featherweight Eco Synthetic Insulation!

I've been testing gear for many years, so I shouldn't be surprised anymore when I find a garment like the Redpoint Vest that keeps me warm and dry--and weighs less than a pound.

I guess the trauma of 26 years of frigid Midwest winters bulked up like the Michelin man still haunts me - even after living in the Northwest for almost 20 years.

So, about the vest: I love it. Available in both men's and women's sizes, this vest is thin, slim, and super lightweight. It's also an incredible insulating layer and does a great job of repelling water.

I've been wearing it for months. First, over a lightweight merino wool baselayer. Also, over a merino tee and wind jacket. During the few actually cold days (as in temps in the 30s) we've had this season, I wore the vest under a rain shell for some long urban treks (since I can't get out to the mountains as much as I'd like to I often go for long hikes in the city to run my errands -- no matter the weather).

Basically, it's one of the most versatile pieces of gear I have. Because I'm almost 6' tall, I tested a men's vest. The women's vest has the same features, but slightly different stitching, and a shorter back length from neck to hem (24.25 inches vs the men's 27.5 inches). Both vests can be stowed in one of the generous zippered side pockets. Both have elasticized arm holes - a thoughtful detail that adds to the vest's trim appearance and makes it less bulky for layering.

I love the chunky and durable front zip, and I really love that when I zip the jacket all the way up the collar becomes a snug and effective neck protector. With some vests and jackets, I feel like I have to hunch up to get the garment to hug my neck, but this vest gives me the close fit I like so I don't have to wear a neck gaiter or scarf. If I want a closer fit at the other end of the vest, the bottom hem has adjustment toggles on each side of the vest.

All of the pocket (two side and a chest pocket) zippers are discreetly hidden under thin vertical panels of material. I like that clean look, and this style is another factor in making the vest easy to layer.

Finally, I appreciate that the North Face has used Primaloft's eco insulation (made with 50% recycled materials).

Available in men's and women's sizes and in three colors. Also available as a jacket. I'm normally a women's L or men's M in jackets, but tested a men's S--which has a nice body-hugging (but not tight) fit. The women's L also fit well.

Materials: rip stop nylon and Primaloft insulation.

Bottom Line :  A versatile vest for almost any outdoor activity. Act fast if you want this vest--several online stores I checked are running out of sizes.--E.D. (Dec 09)

BUY ONLINE : $99, men's & women's vest - free shipping , click for , click here for men's vest

Manufacturer's Site:

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When hiking or camping, always carry the "10 Essentials":

Extra clothing, extra food and water, lighter or water-proof matches and fire starter, map in waterproof envelope, compass, pocket knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, flashlight or headlamp, first aid kit, emergency shelter.

Source: Seattle Mountain Rescue and Seattle Mountaineers.