I picked up one of these on a whim at STP this summer for a ridiculous price. I was looking for a mid layer that would be low profile and not too much insulation to wear with my Softshell jackets and for uber cold days to wear with my Flylow Iceman down jacket. I needed something that was breathable, moved with me and still provided good warmth. I don't like wearing a lot of layers.
The Variant comes in 2 versions, hooded and non hooded. Its a tighter fitting jacket made of Polartec Power Stretch with Thermal R insulation on the front of the jacket. The Thermal R is a thin, lightweight insulation that adds the extra warmth in front only allowing the rest of the jacket to remain warm but highly breathable. I find that for skiing and other high output activities like Mtn Biking, I don't need or want a lot of bulk or warmth, I do like the extra warmth in front however. Its easy to dump excess heat if needed by just opening the front zipper but on a windy cold day, the extra insulation comes in handy. I wear a pack or a camelback so I don't need anything on my back for insulation. The variant wicks and breathes extremely well keeping you dry.
I have worn this jacket now for 9 days of skiing and a few hiking. It has become my go to piece. I wore it on several days of sub zero skiing along with a thin Merino base layer and my Flylow Iceman jacket and kept warm. I have also worn it on normal teen to about 20* days with the same merino base and a Arc teryx Softshell jacket and it was very comfortable.
The fit of this jacket is definitely athletic and the Large on my 6' 168#, 41.5 chest was great. The Polar stretch material allowed free movement and there was no binding or pulling. The sleeves are smooth enough that when putting on a jacket the sleeves glide over the Variant which is a huge issue with many mid layers. It falls a bit longer than waist which is perfect. The sleeves were plenty long too. The zipper was smooth and functioned well. The collar is comfortable and the zipper does not rub your chin. Another nice thing is that the zipper pull is large enough to use with gloves on. (a pet peeve)
Pockets on this jacket are also great, 2 front and an interior zipped chest pockets are great when wearing alone or for stowing snacks that tend to freeze when skiing. My energy bars stayed warm and didn't freeze!
I have the hooded version which I wasn't too sure of but STP was dumping these so I couldn't refuse. I am actually very happy with the hood. its quite thin and lays nicely on my Jackets hood. I actually figured out a way to roll it up to add extra neck protection from wind and snow. Its also large and stretchy enough that I am able to pull it up over my helmet which has come in very handy. Its not a bulky as my shells hood so it adds some warmth and wind block when its honking out. It moved with me when skiing and I forgot I had it over my helmet at one point. Its cut so that it doesn't block peripheral vision.
Last week I ran across a friend who is an instructor at the boat, she was wearing the variant, She told me it was her favorite piece too!
Here's the variant.
Edited by Finndog - 12/24/13 at 6:16am