Vaude Timbu Jacket

This insulated jacket weighs 524g; all the pockets are external with zips; the hem adjusts with a drawcord while the cuffs are elasticated; the collar is lined and the zip has a chinguard; it comes with a smallish stuffsack. But the price is creeping up for what you get; features are okay but it’s still rather bland with little to make it stand out; no hood or neck cinch.

Tog rating 2.5

A high price for a basic design.

Vaude-Timbu-copy.jpg

Rohan Frostlight jacket

This insulated jacket weighs 300g; reversible with a smooth ripstop fabric for outdoor use, or a ‘crêpe feel’ fabric for town; elasticated cuffs,

hem and collar; one zipped pocket to stow the jacket into plus two open handwarmer pockets. But for the price it’s seriously slim on features and adjustment.

Tog rating 2.7

Good for city breaks when you need something to wear off the plane.

Ronhan-Frostlight-copy.jpg

Nike ACG Storm Fit Essential Jacket

The only jacket we looked at with its own snowskirt and an MP3 pocket; adjustable hood; plenty of pockets (internal and external, zipped and mesh); Velcro cuffs and drawcord hem adjustment. But it’s heavy at 1016g; it’s a ski jacket and thus better kept for the piste rather than the hill-walker.

Tog rating 2.6

It will no doubt be fabulous if you’re going skiing.

NikeACG-Storm-Fit-Essentia-.jpg

Macpac Sundowner

This is a very lightweight duvet jacket at just 592g yet it is packed with top-quality down to provide a good level of insulation for general winter use. It has a fleece-lined collar to add extra comfort and warmth around the neck. You get the usual zipped hip pockets, internal pocket and elasticated cuffs. The shell is very water-resistant too and feels reasonably durable. It will be ideal for those who want a good level of warmth with good all-round performance for use in UK winter mountain situations. But it is not quite as warm as some other jackets and you do not get a hood. Others are lighter, too (but not as warm). The cuffs are not adjustable either.  So not a lot wrong, but personal preference may make or break the sale. Like most other duvet jackets, this is stitched through, so cold spots are possible.

 

Outer: Gore-Tex Windstopper laminate
Inner: nylon
Insulation: 180g 90/10 down 600 fill power
Sizes: S-XL (men’s); S-L (women’s)
Weight: 592g (men’s size L)
Made in China
Stores in UK: England 4; Wales 0; Scotland 7; Ireland 0

Verdict: Buy it if you want a lightweight warm layer for year-round warmth at a good price with good all-round mountain walking features.


Alpkit Fantom

If you want a top-quality duvet jacket but don’t want to pay the earth, this is your best option by a massive degree. It weighs 638g and comes packed with 320g of down insulation, which makes it a warm jacket that has a reasonable weight. I also like that the zipped pockets are massive and located slightly higher on the body than most, allowing easy access while wearing a rucksack. You get a fleece lining inside the pockets too. The movement in the sleeves is outstanding, so the cuffs or hem don’t ride up easily. There is a fixed hood that can be rolled down to the collar and secured. This duvet is ideal for most people heading out to the British hills and needing some extra insulation for summit breaks, camping or lingering to take in the evening view. The unbeatable price is the main advantage. But the hood is not removable. As with most garments, cold spots are possible where the insulation is stitched through. You don’t get a fleeced lining around the collar or reinforcement on the shoulders or sleeves. But the main drawback is that it is only available over the Internet, so cannot try before you buy.

 

Outer: i-vent, 10m hydrostatic head
Inner: nylon
Insulation: 320g of 700 fill power goose down
Sizes: S-XL
Weight: 638g (size L)
Made in China
Stores: website only

Verdict: Buy it if you want a top-quality down duvet at a low price this is unbeatable and ideal for typical winter UK winter mountain users.


Cloudveil Down Patrol

This duvet jacket uses down insulation; Windstopper membrane protects down; pit zips; removable hood; removable snowskirt; adjustable cuffs; brushed fleece chin collar; fleece-lined pockets; great features for general outdoor use or ski trips. But most mountain walkers won’t need pit zips and snow skirt; a heavy jacket (958g) with a high price tag to match.

Verdict: Buy it if you are going to be spending many hours standing/working in snow and need pit zips and a removable hood.


Rohan Silver Fleece Zip

Getting hot and sweaty tends to result in smelly gear, which is none too pleasant whatever the circumstances. The X-Static silver fibres in this fleece mid layer reduce odour by controlling the growth of bacteria. Apart from that smell advantage, this is a useful top for wearing under other mid layers, as it is a thin and lightweight fleece that adds just a notch extra warmth to your layering system. The smock design and lack of pockets means it is ideal when extra warmth is required. The casual styling also makes it useful for general use off the hill. But with no pockets, no hem drawcord and no hood this is not the most technical design. Also the smock design greatly limits the wearer’s ability to control their body temperature through venting.

 

Fabric: 90% polyester with 2% X-Static silver
Sizes: S-XL (men’s); S-L (women’s)
Weight: 286g (size L)
Made in China
UK stores: England 100; Wales 4; Scotland 8; Ireland 0
 
 

Verdict: Buy it if you want a casual fleece for the pub or as a spare fleece on the hill to wear under other more functional layers such as soft shells or other mid layers.


Timberland System Fleece Vest

This fleece mid layer is a good all-rounder if you want some proper pockets but don’t want to look like you’ve just stepped off the cable car from the high peaks. The fabric has a tight knit, making it a little more wind-resistant than some without reducing breathability. The material also looks quite inoffensive and not overtly technical. Two chest pockets are positioned high on the body and allow easy storage and access to maps for example while wearing a rucksack. The rest of the design is pretty standard with elasticated cuffs and hem, plus a high collar. A great fleece for general use, backpacking and hill-walking. But like most fleeces this does not have a hood. A drawcord at the hem and some cuff adjustment would be welcome, as would a collar drawcord perhaps. Other mid layers are a little more stretchy too and also some are much lighter.

 

Fabric: polyester
Sizes: S-XL
Weight: 596g (size L)
Made in China
UK stores: no info provided
 

Verdict: Buy it if you want a good all-round practical mid layer for hill-walking and backpacking.


Vaude El Cap

This fleece mid layer weighs 356g (size L); four-way stretch fabric; close weave for wind resistance and durability; full-length front zip; two hip pockets; close-fitting style without being restrictive. But pocket access is easily obscured while wearing a rucksack; pockets too small for a map.

Verdict: Buy it if you want a close-fitting mid layer for biking or climbing rather than a well-pocketed design.
 


Salomon Power Full Zip

This fleece mid layer weighs 364g (size L); Polartec Powerstretch fabric; more open-knit fabric under the arms for greater breathability; two map-sized hip pockets, one chest pocket; good close fit without restricting movement. But no zips on hip pockets; access is easily obscured while wearing a rucksack.

Verdict: Buy it if you want a close-fitting mid layer and don’t require the best pocket access or a hood.
 


Lafuma Djebal

This soft shell was a runner-up in March 2006. If you are after a practical jacket that fends off light rain and wind while being more durable than fleece, then this is just the job. It’s made from four-way stretch Gore fabric. The result is that you put it on and you feel comfortable and ready for action while not having to worry about brushing against rock, as it is reasonably durable. There are two huge chest pockets that take OS maps easily and are accessible when wearing rucksack belts. A hem drawcord and Velcro adjustment at the cuffs keeps the draughts out. Fleece lining in the pockets adds insulation too, while for 2007 the jacket gets a collar drawcord to help keep the wind out. Use this for hill and mountain walking, mountaineering, scrambling or sitting in the pub and you won’t be disappointed. There is nothing better at the price. But there is no hood, and others offer a little more warmth or a little more water resistance or a little more breathability. But for most people these drawbacks will not be an issue as this jacket puts ticks in most of the boxes that most hill-goers are concerned about.

 

Material: Gore Windstopper
Sizes: S-XXL (men’s); XS-XXL (women’s)
Weight: 480g (men’s size L)
Made in Far East
Stores in UK: 40

Verdict: Buy it if you want a good all-round mountain soft shell with great pockets – and don’t want to spend more than £80.


Salomon X Windstopper

This soft shell weighs 582g; 4-way stretch fabric is very durable and wind- and water-resistant; map-sized hip pockets; useful small  chest pocket. But other fabrics are more stretchy and feel less restrictive; access to hip pockets is easily obscured by rucksack belts.

Verdict: Buy it if you want a durable jacket for mountain sport, and can live with the pocket access.