When you’re outside trying to overcome the cold, your first line of defense is always a jacket. Layering is an important part of keeping warm, but if that exterior shell fails you, you’re in for a chill 10 times out of 10. Last year a company called Walls, which makes “industrial grade” clothing a la Carhartt, released a heavy-duty hooded coat called the Walls Benbrook insulated jacket. The jacket has a host of durability attributes, but I was most intrigued by its place in the company’s Zero-Zone lineup. Could the Benbrook really keep me warm as advertised?
In a word, “yes.” That endorsement comes with a few caveats, which I’ll get to. But if you’re looking for a heavy-duty, working-class jacket that’ll keep you warm, the Walls Benbrook insulated jacket beats the cold like a champ. I’d make a joke about “pound for pound” heat, but doing so would underscore one of its shortcomings. Namely, that anyone looking to stay warm during any sort of recreational activity needs to seriously consider the Benbrook’s weight.
It’s about six pounds.
Let that sink in for a moment. Six pounds. That’s a heavy shell. If you’re headed outdoors on a hike, bike ride, snowshoeing adventure or even a casual stroll, you’ll notice each of those six pounds immediately. Truth be told, I asked my wife to hold it for a moment just while I put on my hiking shoes, and she blurted out “holy crap, that’s heavy.” She’s right. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my wife.
There’s something instinctively gratifying about heaving the Walls Benbrook insulated jacket over your shoulders and heading outdoors. I suppose it’s that Neanderthal-esque “if it’s heavy, it must be good” mentality. I wore the jacket in a variety of settings, from yard work to a hike in the snow, and each time it seemed like I was donning an iron shield. For outdoor chores around the property, that weight didn’t bother me. I can only presume that means it’d work pretty well on construction and other such work sites. But for more adventurous outdoor activities, I really needed something lighter.
Most of the snowboarding/skiing/all-purpose-winter jackets out there use down or another lightweight fill for insulation. This leads to some rather featherweight coats. By comparison, the Walls Benbrook insulated jacket uses 10 oz. of 100% cotton single-fill duck as a filling, then adds a thick layer of 360GSM 100% polyester sherpa fleece to the torso interior (not the sleeves). Its exterior shell then incorporates Kevlar, making it incredibly durable and puncture-resistant for jobsite use, but further adding a bit of weight. Taken as a whole, there’s no question the jacket keeps you warm. It just does so with a weight premium.
The heavy fleece-lined hood is a really nice touch, but its overly large opening ironically defeats itself on windy days. There are two drawstrings to tighten the hood, but the Walls Benbrook insulated jacket I tested didn’t include any spring-loaded cord locks to keep it that way. Like a big, open hangar, the hood caught wind like a mitt and turned it into little more than a chilly wind tunnel. I overcame this by wearing a beanie, but that almost completely defeats the purpose of a hood. Likewise, these cord locks can easily be purchased on Amazon, but it seems like something that should’ve been included.
Had the Kevlar-imbued exterior shell been waterproof, the hood might have still served a purpose over my hat. But it’s not. The exterior is treated with a substance Walls calls Dry IQ, which adds water resistance in light rain and light snowfall. But in wet conditions more intense than a drizzle, the jacket’s water resistance completely gives way. As you might imagine with a coat this thick, if moisture soaks into the material it stays wet for quite some time. And where there’s moisture, there’s cold.
If this review sounds like a lot of complaining, it’s only because I had really high hopes. The coat kept me toasty warm on several occasions. If you don’t mind the six-pound weight, if it’s dry outside, if it’s not windy and if you’re not planning to wear an additional shell outside its bulk, the Walls Benbrook insulated jacket is like the Hulk Hogan of keep-you-warm coats. But that’s too many “ifs” for my liking. I’m trying to find ways to beat the cold so I can get outdoors and be active with my kids. The Walls Benbrook insulated jacket helped with the “beat the cold” part, but it just came with too many asterisks to really enjoy outdoor recreational activities.
The Walls Benbrook insulated jacket was provided for review. All opinions and words are my own and honest, and there are no affiliate links herein.
Walls Benbrook Insulated Jacket
- Quite warm, but only under certain (and strict) circumstances
- Very cozy and thick lining
- Kevlar in the exterior shell makes it very tough and durable
- Affordable compared to other outdoor-activity jackets - but it's not really apples to apples
- Allows you to move/work freely
- Too heavy for most any outdoor activities
- Hood acts more like a sail than a heat inducer
- Only one semi-closable pocket
- In spite of mobility features, it feels quite bulky