Gear Review: EMS Women's Divergence Pro Jacket

I'm a little selfish when it comes to layering. I don't want to have a mid-layer for every possible situation and every possible outdoor pursuit. It has to be a jacket I can wear running errands around town, and a jacket I could just as easily hike or backpack in. I've worn the fall/winter 2012 version of the Eastern Mountain Sports Divergence Pro Jacket during a number of activities, and based on what I've seen, it's a piece that can do it all.

At first glance, it's hard to tell whether the Divergence is meant to be a jacket or a thick mid-layer designed to be worn under a shell. The answer? Both.  Instead of reinventing the wheel with the Divergence, Eastern Mountain Sports has been working to find innovative ways to update and refine outdoor wardrobe staples.

Previous versions of the Divergence were heavier. They also included stretch panels on the shoulders and elbows to make an otherwise inflexible jacket easier to move around in. But the new version of Polartec Wind Pro fabric is so flexible, it's the only fabric necessary.  The Divergence is stretchy, thick, lightweight and quite warm on its own. I wore it out on a road bike ride and a hike in 40 degree fall weather, and the jacket moved well with me during both activities.

Staying warm and comfortable on a fall hike.
Unlike normal fleece, the Divergence is made with Polartec Wind Pro fabric, which is designed to keep the wind out. One of my biggest complaints with standard fleece jackets, even an EMS fleece I love and have had since 2005, is how chilly I get when the wind picks up. When I took the Divergence out for a bike ride, I could feel the wind coming when I was cruising around at 15-20mph. But the jacket isn't designed to be completely wind-proof, like a hard shell. It's designed to be breathable and wind-resistant. I was glad to feel a little breeze on the bike; I would've been sweaty and uncomfortable otherwise. The Divergence has pit zips as well, which I'm beginning to think are must-haves for all of my jackets.

Aside from being functional, the jackets I keep in my wardrobe need to serve multiple purposes. The Divergence has proven ideal for cool weather outings, but it's also a great piece to wear around town. The designers at EMS have fit for women's jackets down to a science, as evidenced by the number of pieces currently in my outerwear collection.

The Divergence has long sleeves, a flattering silhouette, and leaves enough room for a base layer or sweater underneath. This winter, I plan on taking it to wear as a mid-layer on ice climbing or skiing excursions, then wearing it après-climb or après-ski on its own.

The bottom line? The Divergence Pro is an updated take on an EMS wardrobe staple, and one worth adding to your layering arsenal for cool weather activities.

Thanks to EMS for providing me with a complimentary sample version of the Divergence Pro for testing. It's currently available on the EMS website, and as of this posting date, it's half off for Black Friday! (Regularly $169, currently $84.50) Get on it!