Confessions of a Puffy Coat Addict



Me and my Compressor, Mt. Khatadin 2006

They say the first step to dealing with a problem is admitting that you have a problem, so here it goes: I’m addicted to puffy coats. Whether it’s insulated with down, synthetic, or even a hybrid of the two, I just can’t say no to them. In fact, in the spirit of honesty, puffy vests are also problematic. Really, puffy anything…I even own a pair of puffy pants!

My addiction to puffy coats started innocently enough with the purchase of just one coat, a Mountain Hardwear Compressor. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this midweight marvel served as a gateway coat, as I quickly fell in love with how warm it was, how little space it took up in my pack, and how good it made me feel when I was wearing it. A testament to that first coat’s powerful effect on me is that there is still a very tattered Compressor floating around in my closet to this day; now in its golden years, it’s happy to have been relegated to simply puttering in the yard with me.

Sadly, my Mountain Hardwear Compressor lacked a hood, so I began rifling through pro deal forms, obsessively checking Steep and Cheap, and intensely researching slightly heavier and hooded puffies which led me to another Mountain Hardwear jacket whose name now alludes me (they say you never forget your first, but there have been a lot of puffies between the second one and today.) With the purchase of a new hooded puffy, the warm feeling of that first jacket was reproduced, and the spiral toward addiction was underway.

Before I knew it, my first Mountain Hardwear Compressor was becoming well worn, leading me to replace it. After that was the attempt to find an equally warm but less-bulky version of my other Mountain Hardwear coat. The spiral continued as I bought a Primaloft vest to wear under my ski shell. Then came an insulated jacket for skiing on really cold days. Traditional insulated jackets eventually gave way to jackets that blended panels of fabric with insulated panels. Next came active insulation—like any junky, I bought these to deal with the highs and the lows (temperatures, of course).

Anyone who has dealt with [gear] addiction knows the heavy price you pay, especially when trading with dealers like Arc’teryx. The first victim of my addiction was closet space, then it became space on my credit card. From there, my puffy addiction accelerated and began interfering with all aspects of my life. Suddenly I found myself unable to do any of my favorite activities…well, unable to do them without a violent internal struggle to decide what the appropriate puffy coat for said activity was, anyway.

Breaking an addiction is hard, but I am proud to say that I’m on my way. Recently, I’ve started using the patch, taking time to repair my puffies rather than replacing them. I have also been learning about rehab, and how using special washes and treatments can make old jackets perform like new. With each passing day, it gets a little easier to say no to puffies, and I think I may finally be on the road to recovery. At least let’s hope so, my closet—and Visa—can’t handle any more coats.