GREAT GEAR RECOMMENDATION - Carhartt Waterproof Breathable Jacket, Coat and Extremes Coveralls

I have been a Carhartt fan for a long time.  To me the Carhartt brand meant hard work because the farmers, ranchers, horse shoers and vets I grew up around all wore Carhartt jackets, bibs and coveralls.  When I got a summer job running a jack hammer for a contractor, I went to the store and bought Carhartt work pants.  My standard field pants while on the sheriff’s mountain rescue team were Carhartts.  Even now, the pants I wear most often to hike and hunt in Arizona’s rough, rocky, prickly backcountry are Carhartts.  So when Carhartt called to see if I was interested in evaluating some of their outerwear products I was excited but a little skeptical.

I was excited because I love evaluating new gear and it was coming from a name that I had known and used for most of my life.  It’s Carhartt, what’s not to like.  I was skeptical because I wasn’t sure that their traditional cotton duck outerwear products would fit into the Hardcore Outdoor gear system.    

Boy was I surprised when the I opened the Carhartt boxes.  They sent me their new Waterproof/Breathable JacketCoat and Waist Overall pants along with a set of Extreme Coveralls and Work Dry Heavyweight Thermal Zip Mock top and bottoms.  I spent an hour inspecting them and trying it all on.  It was obvious that this was very nice stuff.  The fit and finish was first rate and the exterior fabric was beautiful.  A smooth, tight weave nylon that looked tough even by Carhartt standards.  I mean drag you behind a horse tough but not so stiff and cumbersome that it was binding or restrictive.  It was comfortable and cut for layering.  These were not the Carhartt products I was used to and I couldn’t wait to get out and put them through the ringer.  

I was just pulling into the house for dinner when I heard the weather forecast for the next few days.  We were going to get hammered with a fast moving cold front that was going to dump snow up North.  Perfect. 

I hit the road early, cleared the city limits without any problems and was making good time.  My plan was to get to one of my favorite spots above 7000 feet, run the Ranger for a few hours and hike up one of the prominent buttes to glass the elk herds until dark, then head back to the truck, load up and go home.  My progress soon came to a screeching halt because the storm that I was chasing hit sooner than expected and hard.  The roads were a mess.  By the time I turned off the interstate, visibility was down to about 25 yards and it was snowing steadily.  Half an hour later it was clear.  Half an hour after that it was coming down again only harder.  That pattern would continue for the rest of the day with the snow and wind getting worse each time.  Again, perfect.  These were the conditions I was hoping for.

Well that is where perfect quit and Mr. Murphy took over.  I got myself stuck on a dirt road I have been on a hundred times.  I went further than I should have and got into a snow drift that covered a low spot in the road.  Not a big bad up to the fenders stuck, I just couldn't get enough traction to get the big Dodge and the trailer backed up.  Great.  I am alone, at 7000 plus feet, the weather is getting worse and I hadn’t seen anybody since leaving the highway.  Well, I had the Ranger and enough gear to sink a battleship so I was good there.  I just needed to find somebody willing to come down that road and give me a straight tug backward.  I would just do my testing while I got myself unstuck.

Stupid is as stupid does.  It is not bad but stuck is stuck. You can see that I have gotten the Ranger unloaded and the trailer DC'd, turned around and headed back down the road a little. No, the Ranger would not pull it out.  I tried.

I jumped into the bed of the truck, put the Waterproof/Breathable Coat and Waist Overall pants on over the thermal underwear and swapped my Danners for a pair of Sorel Conquest boot pacs.  I figured I better let somebody know where I was so I whipped out my SPOT, turned it on, pushed the Check/OK button and put it on the cab so it could talk with the satellites.  Three minutes later I got the text message from SPOT which meant everybody else on my contact list did too.  Now all they had to do was check their email for a link to Google Maps showing my exact location.  Cool.  The main road was 3 miles behind me so I decided to run the Ranger back there and wait for somebody to come by.  On my way I saw a truck that must have come in right after me.  I hadn’t seen them on the way in and they were only 500 hundred yards from where I was stuck.  There was nobody around though.  I went back to the paved road and waited for an hour.  Nobody came, it was snowing hard and getting cold.  I put my Moonstone liner jacket on under the Carhartt and went back to the other truck.  Still nobody there.  I made that trip 5 or six times.  I noticed that except for my face, I forgot my balaclava and goggles in the Dodge, I was dry and warm despite the driving snow.  This Carhartt set was blocking the wind completely and shedding the snow and water just like it was supposed to.  Nice.  I liked this stuff.  I liked the heft of it.  These are not lightweight wispy shells made for running trails, they don’t have pit zips and the cuffs have interior elastic collars, which I happen to like for this application.  This stuff is made for riders (horses, ATVs, motorcycles, skis) or people who have to be out in the weather all day, everyday and don't baby their gear.  I also liked the storm flap that securely buttoned over the main, double zipper.  When you batten down the hatches on this jacket, nothing gets through.  This is old school Carhartt tough that has been remodeled and updated with modern technology.  It is nice looking too.  Nice enough for the boss to wear on the job site.  

I also really liked the Waist Overalls.  I didn’t think that I would but I did.  They fit me nicely and that is not easy because I am pretty thick through the seat and thighs.  They didn’t bind up on me when I sat down or stepped up onto the trailer and the built in suspenders kept the plumbers butt at bay.  They have full length zippers for donning and doffing without taking your boots off and the waist adjustments appear to be able to accommodate all but the most prodigious of guts.  They even have pockets for knee pads.  And again, I like this fabric.

It was starting to get late in the day and it was apparent that nobody was coming this direction.  No surprise, only an idiot would head out here in this weather.  I was gonna have to do this on my own or prepare for spending the night.  I called home and told Mrs. Nelson what was going on.  You know, I can remember when she sweated every minute that I was out on a rescue and jumped in my arms when I walked through the door grateful that I was home safe and sound.  Now, after twenty years of marriage there was laughter and admonishment for driving too far down that road.  You were absolutely right honey.  

I went back to the truck and changed into the Extreme Coveralls and grabbed a square spade because I had some work to do.  There was a pit somewhere around here and I was hoping that it was gravel or cinders.  It was cinders.  I moved all my gear from the bed of the Ranger to the back of the truck and went back to the pit for a full load.  It took me a couple of hours to clear a path and lay down the rock but it worked.  By the time I got the truck turned around and the trailer hooked up again I had about an hour’s worth of light left to play.  The Extreme Coveralls are not sexy but they are bad boys and very good for what they are designed for.  I think that they are an improvement over the older cotton canvas versions, not so heavy but just as warm if not warmer thanks to the Arctic Quilt insulation.  The exterior is made of 1000 denier Cordura so I probably wouldn’t do any welding in them but they are perfect for snow cat drivers, ice road truckers, snowmobilers, ice fisherman and idiots trying to dig their trucks out.  For me they are ideal for running the Ranger on the forest roads in winter weather.  I am sure the snowmobilers will agree.  They are also kind of cool in a utilitarian sort of way and they are extremely warm, hence the name.

The thermal underwear set also surprised me a little.  I mean thermals are thermals right?  No, not right.  These were heavy weight but tapered nicely at the ankles where your socks and boots meet them and at the wrists where your gloves come up.  The top had a deep mid chest zip T-neck which I really like.  When I was shoveling rock, it was nice to be able to open the Coveralls and unzip my T-neck to blow off some steam.  The fabric was smooth and comfortable and seemed to do a good job of wicking once I broke a sweat.  I liked them and would wear them again.

All in all, I like this new stuff from Carhartt.  It was well made, well thought out and performed as advertised.  However, I was a little worried that I hadn’t given the Waterproof/Breathable items enough water torture.  Fortunately we have had a wet winter and I have had ample opportunity to use them as rainwear.  The last time was a long hard rain that hit us late at night.  I got out of bed, suited up and spent four hours walking around the neighborhood and putzing around the yard.  No leaks.  I called my nephew in Seattle who is a land surveyor to tell him about these and he told me that he has had the Waterproof/Breathable Jacket for several months and uses it every day.  He loves it. 

I am very pleased to recommend these Carhartt products to you.  If you need hardcore weather protection that you don’t have to worry about hurting, you have to look at these.  And while price is not something we consider in our evaluations, I did notice that these items were priced well below many other waterproof/breathable shells that are a lot less durable.  Seems like a pretty good value to me. 


Wade Nelson

Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.

Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who won't or can't turn back.


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