We've all done it: put on our pricey new down jacket to go do some dirty work, and what happened? Rips. Tears. Filth. If you're really unlucky, a whole bunch of money down the drain. So here's an idea: for those outside jobs where you need to stay warm while getting some real work done, work that may involve heavy weights, sharp edges and the potential for permanent stains, get a jacket designed for the job.
RefrigiWear has been keeping working men and women warm since 1954, so they know a thing or two about it. Their Puffer jacket has synthetic insulation they say is good down to 20F. After wearing it for the past few weeks, I'd say that's about right for just standing around doing light work. If you're doing heavier work, you can wear it at considerably colder temps.
We tested the Vertical Puffer, with vertically oriented insulation channels. It is by any description bare bones: no adjustments, no zipped pockets, no zipper garage under your neck (for the record we experienced no neck bites, so not an issue), just two open handwarmer pockets and two inside open dump pockets.
In action, the Puffer is plenty warm and plenty tough. The microfiber shell resists snagging, punctures and tears very well. The high collar provides plenty of neck warmth and mates well with a balaclava should you need it. The sleeves are a bit on the short side but this allows them to work well with gloves and they don't bunch up. If you absolutely must have zipped hand pockets, RefrigiWear makes a Horizontal Puffer jacket with those, but you give up the interior dump pockets. The horizontal model also has full-length insulated sleeves if that's your thing.
So it's economical, practical, tough and warm, what are you giving up? Well, any kind of adjustment for one, but this didn't bother us at all. An exterior zipped chest pocket (or two!) for cell phone and wallet would be nice. Mostly what you're giving up is breathability. If you anticipate working up a sweat, you're going to have to unzip, because the Puffer is bulletproof, and the venting through the hand pockets is not particularly effective. But this isn't a climbing jacket. It's designed for low-tempo jobs with occasional bursts of energy, e.g. drivers, the Puffer performs admirably, and most importantly it will shrug off abuse that would shred your expensive alpine climbing jacket. That's a worthwhile investment.