Winter is on its way. Epic powder days and sub zero temperatures are right around the corner. This is the best season to be outside as long as you have some basic skills and the right gear. The only downside is that the required gear list can be long and also expensive.

One of the most expensive, but necessary, pieces of gear is a breathable jacket. This is what will protect you from wind, snow and rain so it makes sense to buy a quality shell. You can easily spend hundreds of dollars on a great shell at EMS or REI. However quality does not need to come at a high price. The U.S. military issued ECWCS (Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System) Gore-Tex parka is one of the best jackets out there yet it can be bought for as low as $80 depending on where you look.

The ECWCS parka is built to function in extremely cold environments. Its features include, pit zips, 8 pockets and a freeze proof zipper. I also like how all the pockets have Velcro closures and all the zippers have extra long ties so you can access everything while keeping your mittens on. I have worn this jacket skiing and climbing in temperatures as low as -20 Fahrenheit. It has been subjected to a wide range of abuse and still works great. The only downside with this jacket is that it is heavy. Also, it is typically only available in some form of camouflage so it isn’t exactly the most fashionable garment. However, it will meet and exceed all your cold weather outdoor needs.

Check out this video for a detailed overview of the jacket’s features:

No one is paying me to make this recommendation; I just want to give you options. If you want to spend a few hundred for a shell from REI or EMS then go for it. Those stores sell great stuff that will undoubtedly serve your needs. However, if your budget is threatening to keep you indoors all winter then the ECWCS parka can help you afford to get out there and do it. You can buy these parkas on Ebay or at many online vendors such as US Calvary (