Jack Wolfskin Thunder Bay Fleece Jacket

Pros
+ Very comfortable
+ Good cut
+ Big inside pockets
Cons
- Expensive
- Low quality zip

Introduction
In terms of comfort, it’s hard to beat fleece. I have been a convert for many years, especially as I don’t like wool next to my skin. I’ve got a fleece hat, gloves, shirts and 2 jackets. None of these are from top (or rather, expensive) manufacturers, but they all do the job when the weather gets colder.

The Thunder Bay was meant to be a replacement for a jacket which had been battered and washed to death for the last three years in the colder days of spring and autumn.

The Jacket
I bought the jacket a few weeks ago at the local Jack Wolfskin shop for €75 after failing to find it cheaper online. I found this expensive for a not so thick fleece jacket, but my wife was adamant that this one suited me best. The material is Nanuk 200, which apparently is Wolfskin’s answer to all other fleeces out there competing in the medium-warmth category. The jacket weighs 480g (16.9oz) and has 2 side pockets and 2 inside pockets. It also zips into other Wolfskin products, for example a waterproof jacket, to keep you warm and dry. The jacket has a two-year guarantee.

What’s it like?
First of all, the jacket is very comfortable to wear and soft to the touch compared to my earlier fleece jackets.  I am not sensitive to the cold, and I have already worn it at freezing point over a long-sleeved thick shirt. To be on the safe side for those who feel the cold, I would say +4 or +5° (39 or 41°F) would still be comfortable.

It is definitely not a windstopper, but it is not advertised as such. I’ve tried it in cold winds with plus temperatures and felt very exposed. I guess this is where you need the zip-in over-jacket. (or a warm jacket without the fleece).

I’ve also tried it in rain and sleet, but not for a long time. I did not get wet and the jacket dried very quickly.

For those of you who like to stow everything in your jacket, you should have more than enough room. I’m a very light traveller and don’t even take my mobile phone and tactical led flashlight with me everywhere. I did a quick test today. To give you an idea, the inside pockets are each big enough to easily stash a paperback book and two DVDs. Surprisingly, this does not weigh the jacket down too much, but, with so much gear on board, you will find it uncomfortable putting your hands in the outer pockets. Neither inside pocket has a zip.

The inner pockets are big enough for smaller items such as wallets, led flashlight and keys and to warm your hands at the same time. The zips for these pockets have a tag so that you can open and close them with thin gloves.

The jacket zip is, in my opinion, the weakest link. You will certainly not be closing your jacket with gloves on (although you can open it), and those of you with bigger hands may find this a frustrating start to your trip outside.

Conclusion
The Thunder Bay is very comfortable to wear and certainly has a lot of stow room. It is, however, expensive and for this price I would have expected a better quality zip. I will update this review for details on how it washes and stands the test of time.

Product Update: Jack Wolfskin Thunder Bay Fleece Jacket

I bought the jacket last year and felt it was high time to provide a short update.

The jacket has been washed twice and looks as good as new. Jack Wolfskin emphasize that you should not put it in the tumble drier.

The Thunder Bay is starting to grow on me because of its simplicity. Put on, zip up, go. No extra buttons, toggles or Velcro to worry about.

I’ve tried it out in light to moderate rainfall for a maximum of 30 minutes. It get’s heavier, but it still keeps you dry and dries out very quickly.

You will need two layers of clothing underneath the jacket once the temperatures get close to freezing. If it is also windy, I would leave the jacket at home and wear something warmer.

My initial reservations about the zip have so far proved to be unfounded. The main zip and those for the outside pockets are still intact. None of them have ever snagged.

One downside: keep the jacket away from your dog or cat. It is the ultimate magnet for their hair.