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Earlier this month we introduced you to LifeLabs, an innovative outerwear brand that’s making waves for its sustainable, groundbreaking textiles. The startup, co-founded by a pair of Stanford professors, employed years of material sciences research to develop outerwear that’s better at managing body temperature. As a result, LifeLabs aims to reduce our planetary impact by helping us improve our individual energy efficiency. When we regulate our bodies with LifeLabs apparel, we rely less on external heating and cooling to keep us comfortable.
Among the brand’s various odds and ends, you’ll find the MegaWarm Jacket. Muted and unassuming, the jacket’s no-nonsense appearance would lead most anyone to believe it’s nothing more than another nameless parka. After all, it features a hood, a few pockets and cuffed sleeves, not unlike the winter coat that’s already in your closet. But according to LifeLabs, the MegaWarm holds a significant title: the world’s warmest jacket.
Think about that for a minute. From The North Face HMYLN Down Parka worn by alpinists on Mt. Everest to the fur-trimmed Canada Goose jackets that take over city streets, there exists a world of puffers and parkas built for the outdoors that use ungodly amounts of insulation and material to keep you warm. So how exactly does this humble, plain-jane jacket deliver 40% more warmth than the competition and weigh over 50% less? And does it really keep you warm when the going gets cold?
With these questions in mind, we shipped the MegaWarm Jacket (and one of our editors) to Canada, in the dead of winter, to find out how it performs.
It’s Not Rocket Science (But It’s Close)
In order to understand why the MegaWarm ranks as the world’s warmest jacket, we first need to discuss the value system by which outfitters reach such conclusions — CLO values.
First developed in 1941, CLO values allow brands such as LifeLabs to accurately determine how warm an article of clothing is in the real world. For instance, a CLO value of 1 is equal to the amount of clothing required by a resting human to maintain thermal comfort at a room temperature of 71 degrees Fahrenheit. And the higher the CLO value, the more insulation is provided by the clothing in question. Put simply, a CLO value describes the degree of insulation provided by an article of clothing.
Unfortunately for us, major outfitters from Patagonia to Arc’teryx don’t typically disclose CLO values for a litany of reasons. But what we do know is that the MegaWarm has the highest CLO rating of any jacket in existence at 9.25. To put that figure in perspective, The North Face’s Summit AMK jacket has a 6.06 rating, Canada Goose jackets are around 6.7, and Arc’teryx jackets reach 7.91, according to data shared by LifeLabs.
LifeLabs relies heavily on science to achieve such a high CLO value. For instance, the MegaWarm is built with proprietary WarmLife technology, a textile that reflects 100% of your radiant body heat back onto your skin via a nano-layer of aluminum. It also uses “ethically sourced,” 800-fill-power goose down that’s designed to more evenly distribute feathers inside the jacket, eliminating potential cold spots. And the entire piece is made with 87% recycled materials, which significantly lessens its impact on the planet without sacrificing warmth.
Warmth is a subjective feeling, but that didn’t stop us from taking the MegaWarm Jacket to British Columbia where temperatures commonly fall below freezing in the dead of winter. And despite the fact that we didn’t rely heavily on quantitative data, we found the MegaWarm to be exceptionally cozy no matter how cold it got out there.
We started by wearing the jacket with a short-sleeve shirt and cotton sweatshirt underneath, as these are common layers you’d wear under any winter coat. The jacket’s rib-knit cuffs locked out chilly drafts and the pockets that come lined with a fleece-like material provided plenty of additional protection from the cold. But even as temperatures fell below freezing during the day, the additional layers weren’t necessary — if anything, they made life in the MegaWarm a little too hot. But after shedding the cotton sweatshirt and replacing the t-shirt with a long-sleeve tee, conditions in the jacket improved drastically.
It wasn’t until the dead of night when temperatures fell into the teens (and below) that the MegaWarm really came in handy. Dawning a baselayer and t-shirt, the jacket’s down insulation distributed warmth evenly across the torse, back and arms, eliminating any noticeable cold spots. Throwing on the adjustable hood protected sensitive skin across the face, ears and neck, and the jacket’s waterproof, metalized shell stopped any flurries from soaking softer fabrics underneath. At no point did we notice a need for more layers, nor did we overheat, thanks to the jacket’s superior breathability.
As simple as that testing may seem, it’s important to remember that preparing for the cold is a challenge all its own. We often rely heavily on breathable baselayers and technical fabrics that trap warmth underneath a winter coat, and even these efforts may not be enough to prevent unwanted chills. But the MegaWarm is capable of maintaining warmth regardless of what you wear underneath no matter how cold it gets out there. Heck, you could even wear nothing underneath and stay warm if you felt so inclined. Even in the midst of a Canadian winter, this jacket performed exceptionally well, and at no point did we feel left out in the cold.
As for drawbacks, we noted only two: the MegaWarm isn’t well-suited for high-output activity, nor is it very graceful. If at any point you decide to hike a mountain or run down the street, there’s a good chance you’ll get hot in this thing. It’s a double-edged sword because the warmth is comfortable and inviting until it isn’t. And while LifeLabs is positioning itself as techy and chic, there are moments when the MegaWarm feels like an awkward marshmallow. We asked others what they thought of its appearance and received mostly positive reviews, but sometimes you want your winter style to embrace “slim” and this jacket ain’t that. That said, we found it incredibly comfortable while walking down the street or commuting to work, and the lofted appearance didn’t attract unwanted attention.
What’s in a Claim?
At $699, there’s no denying that the MegaWarm Jacket is expensive, but then again, it isn’t really a jacket for everyone — those of us who experience average winters might consider it overkill. But for the rest of us who endure brutal, frigid winters year in and year out, the world’s warmest jacket is as good as it gets.
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