Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.
Shopping for me is an eclectic, multi-day process. Like a good story, I start with a problem: a need or lack triggered by a change in temperature or a sense that I am missing a staple. Before shopping, I spend a half day scrolling through flickr feeds, defunct blogs, fave shops and Rakuten stores for leads and examples (my court and spark).
I’m currently on the hunt for a lightweight down layer (in Patagonia parlance, a down sweater), preferably one that could be worn indoors. Body liners originated as insulating layers worn under military, equestrian and hunting garb. My preferred versions are made with down rather than poly fill, sport snaps over zippers, and feature a high collar. In Japan, this kind of “inner down” layer is much more common and is frequently featured as a unisex option in lines by Danton, Mont-Bell, and Snow Peak.
Here are the best examples on the market these days. Most of my shopping options lead to a Japanese shopping shopping cart.
1) Danton – Inner Down Vest
Danton is my go to brand for staple garb (in essence, Japanese Gap by way of France). This vest is the best, most affordable, and ubiquitous option on the market. Danton rolls out the same model each year with mild tweaks to the design (this year, round over slash pockets). I love the high collar which gives the vest a finished, business polish if you want to wear it at work.
Available for $131 from Aranciato.
2) Rocky Mountain Featherbed: Six Month Vest
Rocky Mountain Featherbed is primarily known for their John Denver-ish western style vests with leather yokes (channeling 1970s, Robert Redford chic). However, they are the new style stars when it comes to innovating ways to stuff goose down into everyday staples like hoodies and tees. My advice is to go for the signature Six Month Vest with its striking vertical baffles and vintage life preserver aesthetic. As the name implies, this could be that one garment you wear daily for the next half year. The version for women swaps vertical for diamond shaped baffles and adds length.
Available for $265 from Golden State.
3) Snow Peak: Inner Down Campfield
A year ago, you’d need a proxy service to pick up this uniquely patterned down liner from Snow Peak. Now, the U.S. distributor is importing more of the core apparel line. To my mind, Snow Peak is edging into Engineered Garments territory with their new twists on traditional outdoor garb (updating heritage designs with quirky fabrics, quality materials, clever pocketing, and trim cuts). And of all of my vest selections, the Campfield Vest pushes its design furthest into the category of workplace garment; the high collar is styled to be worn over a high collar shirt and the playful pattern makes this vest feel less ski slope and more coffee break.
Available for $350 from Snow Peak.
4) Western Mountaineering: Flash Vest
Less stylish than its Japanese counterparts, the made in USA Western Mountiainering Flash Vest is a purpose built garment designed for serious outdoor use (and indoor warmth). What the Flash lacks in style (ugh, that neck shape) it makes up in serious build quality, insulating prowess (850+ down fill), and feather weight (only 3.5 ounces).
5) Mt. Rainier: Down Zip Vest
One of my fave elements of the down liner category is the imaginative way in which the staples frame is reimagined through the addition or subtraction of features: pockets, zips, and baffles. Case in point: Japanse brand Mt. Rainier Design chops off the traditional down vest’s familiar full zip and morphs the garment into a stylish pullover. Genius. Like many of the vests in this review, the Mt. Rainier Design version comes with its own stuff sack.
Available for $245 from Kafka Mercantile.
Plus One – Mont-Bell: Superior Down Round Neck T
For my plus one, I’m sneaking sleeves onto my vest. Mont-Bell rivals Danton in popularizing the lightweight down liner in Japan. While the basic vest version fits the bill, I’m drawn to Mont-Bell sleeved tee perhaps because it is so compellingly well worn by Engineered Garments designer Daiki Suzuki in this popular pinterest snap.
Available for $87 from Mont-Bell Japan.