DHQ – Wardrobe Essentials, A Winter Coat

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Over here in merry old England there is a definite developing chill in the air as winter approaches. We are told by our skilled team of meteorologists that we can expect a long, cold and wet winter, and if this is true then I am severely under equipped for it. My basic plan was to get through winter by wearing heavy flannels, hoodies and sweatshirts under my flannel lined Trophy Reservoir Hood, but unfortunately whilst “the Hood” is an amazing multi purpose jacket, it may not quite be up to facing the rigours of a severe English winter single handed. It looks like I need a new winter coat, and that seems like a good opportunity to look at a few options right here on DHQ .

Not many folks know more about winter wear than the military, in the event of war breaking out during the colder seasons or harsh climates they need to be able to keep their forces mobile and warm, so they provide a good place to start looking at winter wear with some serious options, many of which have been reproduced by some of my favourite brands, for instance…

The M65 Field Coat

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The M65 is a general purpose field coat, designed to be used in a variety of environments all over the world. It was used in Vietnam, and is also issued to troops deployed in extreme cold weather with the handy addition of a detachable lining. The definite plus points for the M65 are that it is light, has plenty of pockets and has a hood which can be stowed away easily into the collar, not to mention that some great high end versions are made by brands like Real McCoys and Iron Heart, with some very nice mid range versions done by actual military contractors like Spiewak and Alpha Industries. The down sides are that they aren’t actually waterproof and they are tough to wax due to many small details and pockets, not to mention that the liner does not come as standard and can be difficult to find. The main issue I have with the M65 though is that it doesn’t actually suit me, and I struggle to be comfortable in one, just a matter of personal taste.

N-3B Extreme Weather Parka

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The N-3B was the flagship winter coat of the US military, a hip length, insulated, waterproof coat with a alpaca lined hood featuring coyote fur trim. It has pockets, zips, buttons, draw strings and press studs galore to make it fit and fasten just as you like, needs no liner and is readily available at a good price from brands to match any budget, but it’s far from perfect. The N-3B is quite bulky and if anything is a little too warm, ok for wearing in the frozen arctic but not so good for a day out shopping in the winter sales with the family unless you enjoy sweating profusely. I would say that this is the perfect coat for those of us who spend a large amount of time outdoors, but if you are in and out of buildings it can become quite uncomfortable.

N-1 Deck Coat

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The N-1 Deck Coat is jacket designed by the US Navy for personnel who spend time on the deck of a ship exposed to the elements. It is waist length and features a lined collar (usually with alpaca) and button downed zipper flap to keep to cold wind out of unexpected places. The outer is generally made from whipcord or grosgrain, which are both extremely tightly woven fabrics with a degree of natural water repellence, the entire body is usually either quilt or wool lined whilst the sleeves feature internal storm cuffs to protect from the elements. It is shorter than the M-65 and heavier, though not as heavy or bulky as the N-3B, I have previously owned the Iron Heart version, which was extremely impressive, and I have also handled the Trophy version which features horse hide framed pockets and detailing at key stress points. After an absence of a couple of years it does look as though this is the jacket for me due to the duel benefits of durability and utility.

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Obviously there are non military alternatives, but I trust the design of things made to protect servicemen in combat over things made to protect trust fund college kids as they hurtle down the slopes of Aspen or Whistler, I’m simply not “rad” enough for Burton or any of the high end technical jackets favoured by that particular scene. Plus, I find that the military style designs look much better with denim and boots which is basically all that I wear.

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