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December 3, 2012

Merrell Big Sky Jacket Review

Hey, guess what?  It’s Vendemmia season!  One of the sweetest events of the fall, and I feel kind of bad that it’s taken me this long to acknowledge it.

OK, I had to Google it; I had no idea what Vendemmia was.  But that’s why I like doing research for these product reviews: because I never know what sort of interesting information I’m going to stumble across. I got to Vendemmia via Merrell’s Big Sky jacket, which of course I’ll tell you about shortly – but first, a bit about its inspiration.

Merrell Big Sky jacket

Vendemmia is the fall grape harvesting and crushing time in the historic wine regions of Italy.  It’s hard to predict the exact dates, as the kickoff depends on the grapes reaching their peak ripeness, which can vary by vineyard throughout the country.  Vendemmia is the time of year when wine-making families stop whatever else they're doing to focus all their attention on getting grapes off the vine and processed – it's a period that entails long days of labor and careful attention to detail.  Nights are spent relaxing, and by late fall the first editions of new wines are available in restaurants and tasting rooms for the public to enjoy.

Merrell used the traditional Vendemmia as the inspiration for a line of fall apparel that combines Old World materials and styling with performance and comfort features.  The Big Sky jacket comes from that collection, which the website says is made for “long days on the trail and longer nights with friends.”

Interior fleece on left, exterior wool on right

The exterior of the Big Sky is about as traditional as you can get, with an all-weather wool fabric blend that is brushed smooth and soft, with practically no itchiness that wool sometimes causes.  However, the interior layers bring the jacket into the 21st century, with super soft fleece interior lining, and Merrell’s Aeroblock fabric that provides high wind resistance and breathability.   

There’s also a bit of nylon to provide stretchiness and full range of motion, resulting in an overall fabric blend of 62% polyester, 27% wool, and 11% nylon.  Wind resistance of the jacket is 12 cubic feet per minute per square meter (or CFM – I had to look that one up too), which places it squarely in the 10-15 CFM range of most midweight softshell jackets.  However, the Big Sky insulates better than soft shells, as the wool combination maintains body heat much more effectively than many synthetic materials.

Even more than the material performance, I’m most impressed with the styling of the Big Sky.  It’s got a classic Old World look, and truly would be equally at home on the trail or a fancy Italian restaurant.  And since the jacket is so cozy and comfortable, you can wear it for hours on end with no problem.  I wear it to church on Sundays, and keep it on for lounging around the house the rest of the afternoon.

Sometimes there’s a lot to be said for the old ways, whether it’s the longstanding art of winemaking or the stylish utility of well-designed apparel.  Merrell’s Big Sky is an ideal casual option for cool autumn days and nights – whether you’re enjoying Vendemmia in Italy or fall festivities closer to home.  It is available in four colors and retails for $139 from the Merrell website.

*Product provided by Merrell.

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