The parka is one of the most quintessentially American of all garments–in the broader sense of the Americas, with its hemispheric reach from the top of Greenland to Cape Horn. In its sealskin and caribou incarnations, it protected the Inuit people from the often brutal cold in some of North America’s most extreme latitudes.
Earlier this year, I traveled to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Despite the mountain’s proximity to the equator, its elevation demands gear that will stand up to cold, wind and snow. My existing parka, with only modest warmth, was not up to the task.
Enter Goosefeet Gear, an American cottage maker of outdoor clothing. You won’t find parkas on the company’s website. But Ben will be more than happy to make you one on a custom basis, crafting a piece based upon your measurements, the amount of fill you need and want and your fabric preferences. And he’ll do all that at a price that’s competitive with ready-to-wear, American-made down parkas from Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends.
It’s a streamlined garment, with nary an unnecessary touch. Just a couple of outside pockets, drawstrings along the hood and waist, elasticized cuffs and a full front zipper.
Coming in at one pound on the dot, the parka boasts a full nine ounces of 850 fill power goose down (the new water resistant variety)–a remarkable ratio of warmth to weight. It is, in the parlance of our time, crazy warm.
So how did the parka stand up to the challenge of one of the world’s great mountains? Splendidly, I’m happy to report. I had call twice to use it: the first time for dinner at Barafu Camp when everyone seemed to be struggling to stay warm; the second on the way from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak on a snowy February summit morning.