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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > L.L. Bean Wind Challenger Hooded Fleece > Owner Review by Kurt Papke

L. L. Bean Wind Challenger Hooded Fleece Jacket - Owner Review

Review date: January 15, 2009

Tester Biographical Information

Kurt Papke
6' 4" (193 cm)
220 lbs (100 kg)
Email address
kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

Backpacking Background: mostly in Minnesota and Oregon - all of the Superior Hiking Trail and Border Route, Isle Royale, dayhiking and backpacking in the Columbia River gorge.  Extensive dayhiking in Utah, Colorado and Oregon.  Mostly Spring/Fall season hiker, but easing into more cold-weather/Winter backpacking.  I do a lot of dayhikes and snowshoeing in the Winter, and am always looking for gear to properly regulate my temperature in cold and windy conditions.  I am quite tall and long-waisted, and finding jackets I want in tall sizes is a constant challenge.

Product Description

The L. L. Bean Wind Challenger hooded fleece jacket is made from windproof, water-resistant Polartec Windbloc fabric.
The fabric stretches nicely for freedom of movement.  Windbloc fabric is not very breathable.  If I hold the jacket up to my mouth and try to blow through it, I cannot get even a puff of air through.

My jacket has two external zippered hand-warmer pockets.  The model currently being sold adds one zippered chest pocket.  All external zippers have draw cords.  There are two zippered interior chest pockets.  All pockets in the jacket are mesh.

The cuffs are elastic, and fit moderately loosely.  My jacket, purchased in 2007, has an elastic hem.  The model now being sold has a draw cord hem with two pulls.

The hood has an elastic hem with no cord.

Front, side and back views of the jacket as worn by me are shown below:

Product Information
L. L. Bean
Manufacturer website
Year Manufactured
Size tested/used
Large, tall
Available in regular sizes S,M,L,XL, XXL
Available in tall sizes L,XL,XXL
Color tested/used
Mountain Red/Black
Available in:
 Black Spruce/Graphite
 Dark Taupe/Ash
 Mountain Red/Burgundy
 Navy/Slate Blue
 Stone Blue/Dark Indigo
Women's model available in different colors
Tall sizes: $89 USD
Regular sizes: $79 USD
Weight (measured)
26.1 oz (741 g)

Field Information

This jacket has been used in two principal locales over the last two years:
Field Usage
Chanhassen, MN - near my home
Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota
725 to 925 ft (220 to 280 m)
625 to 1150 ft (190 to 350 m)
Temperature range
-5 to 25 F (-21 to -4 C)
-10 to 15 F (-23 to -9 C)
Wind velocity (estimated)
Maximum of 40 mph (64 km/hr)
Maximum of 20 mph (32 km/hr)
Wooded hills and valleys, open roads
Wooded forest with some open areas
Day hiking, snowshoeing
Snowshoeing, backpacking

SHTThis jacket is my standard for Winter day hikes and snowshoeing near my home and has been used many dozens of times in extremely varied conditions.  It has been on the Superior Hiking Trail three times, twice for single-day snowshoeing trips, once for backpacking.

The photo at left is from one of the Superior Hiking Trail snowshoe trips where I wore the jacket and illustrative of the terrain, in this case along the Split Rock River.
MN Valley Wildlife Refuge
The photo at right shows the typical conditions I've worn the jacket in for snowshoeing near my home.   This hike was in the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge, near a very large glacial erratic popular with local rock climbers.  The wind was blowing pretty good and the falling snow is somewhat visible in the photo.  The jacket did a great job of shedding snow on this hike.


  • I have been amazed at the extremely cold, windy conditions in which I can venture out for hours wearing only a long-sleeve T-shirt underneath this jacket and still be warm.
  • The Windbloc fabric construction is very effective - I have never felt wind through the jacket.
  • The hood is one of my favorite aspects of the garment.  Even in cold, windy conditions I can venture out with only a headband to keep my ears warm.  I put the hood up when I hit a windy spot, and push it off when I reach a more protected area.  The old saying that "if your fingers are cold put a hat on" is germane here: the wind-blocking hood keeps my extremities warm.
  • I sweat a lot.  I do have to be careful wearing this jacket to ventilate by doffing the hood and/or unzipping the front when I get warm.  Failure to do so results in an interior drenched with sweat.  The sweat is not problematic on a dayhike, but when backpacking in freezing conditions the sweat does not evaporate, it simply freezes into ice.
  • I don't use the external pockets to warm my hands, but they are very convenient for bandannas, spare gloves, lip balm, and other items I access on a regular basis.  The interior pockets most often carry my iPod and sunglasses.
  • The elastic cuffs mate nicely with my gloves to keep my wrists warm.  I like the elastic as I take a glove off frequently, and a quick pull snaps the cuff back over the glove.
  • I have never worn the jacket in temperatures warm enough for rain, so I cannot comment on the water-shedding capability.  I have worn it many times in snowstorms, and it was quite impervious to even very wet snow.
  • I appreciate that L. L. Bean makes Tall sizes.  This jacket covers my lower back and butt nicely, visible in the pictures above.
  • The fleece fabric really picks up lint.  I have to be careful what other clothing I launder it with, and I have to be careful not to drag it on a dusty floor as it is a dust magnet.
    The manufacturer's instructions call for the jacket to be washed in cold water with like colors, but they omit any mention of not mixing it in with garments which give off lint.
  • The 200-weight fleece does not have enough insulation power to keep me warm on hiking breaks.  When I sit down to rest I have to cover it with a down garment.  The Windbloc fleece is not bulky, and layers nicely beneath a down vest or parka.
  • It has worn well, and washes up nicely.  I can't say it looks brand-new after two years, but I'm not ashamed to wear it in public.


I am a big fan of this jacket.  I've worn it a lot, and I'll continue to wear it into the foreseeable future.

  1. It is available in a Tall size for my long torso
  2. Windbloc fabric keeps me warm in cold windy conditions.
  3. Good value: I feel this is a lot of jacket for the money
  4. The hood and front zipper allow me to quickly regulate my temperature under varying conditions
  5. Not bulky
  6. Useful pockets
  7. All the zippers work easily with gloves or mittens
  8. Resists snow well
Areas for improvement:
  1. Some kind of fabric treatment to make the jacket less likely to pick up dust or lint would be nice
  2. Not the lightest-weight jacket I own

Kurt Papke

Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > L.L. Bean Wind Challenger Hooded Fleece > Owner Review by Kurt Papke

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