The big test: Insulated jackets reviewed (2018)

If you want to stop on a mountain to drink in the view, an insulated jacket will take away the chill – but should you choose a fleece jacket, a down jacket or a synthetic insulated jacket? Trail headed to the hills to find out...

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The runners up


Haglofs Heron Hood £100

Tester: Tim Butcher

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  • Material Pontetorto Technostretch fleece

  • Men’s S-XL

  • Women’s XS-XL

  • Weight 425g (men’s XL)

The fleece fabric on this jacket has a good abrasion-resistant finish on the outside, while on the inside it’s quite fluffy to add more warmth. The hood was the best fitting out of the fleece jackets that I have used too, and so overall it feels very comfortable and ideal to wear as part of a layering system. However it is quite a lightweight fleece, so its use is limited to that of a mid layer in warmer weather. On cold days or for winter in Scotland I’d need either a thicker main insulation layer or an additional insulation layer to stay warm. I also noticed the wind driving through this layer easily. The price makes it feel like a luxury for something that won’t keep you warm year-round. But this lightweight fleece is ideal for walking in the UK from late spring through to early autumn.

Pros

Price, weight, packed size, great hood, works well as a warm-weather mid layer.

Cons

Not warm enough for colder spring or autumn days and so extra layers will be needed regularly and more so in winter.

Buy it if

You want an excellent fleece jacket for walking in warmer conditions.


Rab Alpha Flux £140

Tester: Jon Bennett

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  • Materials Polartec Alpha synthetic insulation

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s 8-16

  • Weight 328g (M)

Polartec Alpha insulation has a core of lofted knit fibres, so it traps more air than fleece, and offers far more insulation, which makes it ideal as an additional layer to throw on over other layers when the temperature dips. It’s also exceptionally breathable, therefore it works well under waterproof layers. This jacket also gets stretch side panels, giving it a closer fit than other jackets and again making it ideal as part of a layering system. I also liked the way the hood fitted and moved with my head. It’s not the warmest option though. Yes it is great as an additional layer when moving, which is what it is designed for, but when sitting around I’d need extra insulation on colder days. It’s not that windproof either, so expect to need a wind or waterproof shell over the top to stay warm.

Pros

Weight and packed size, price, great hood, works well as part of a layering system when moving.

Cons

Warmer than fleece, but you’ll need extra insulation in cold weather, especially if not moving.

Buy it if

You want extra insulation to wear as part of a layering system while moving.


Arc’teryx Cerium SL Hoody £270

Tester: Graham Thompson

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  • Materials 850 fill power down, Coreloft synthetic insulation on shoulders and cuffs

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s XS-L

  • Weight 236g (men’s L)

A new jacket using very efficient 850 fill power down, which ensures you get an extremely low weight. But importantly you also get synthetic Coreloft insulation in areas that may collect moisture, which would impact on the down performance, so this is placed on the cuffs and shoulders and also at the top of the front zip. Another huge benefit of this jacket is that you get rear cord volume adjustment on the hood, so it fits really well and moves effortlessly with the head. There is a hem drawcord too – a feature many jackets lack. You also get two main pockets. The main drawbacks are the price and it’s not quite the warmest option. But if you can afford it (and another jacket for colder winter days) this is a great jacket for year-round use.

Pros

Weight and packed size, warm enough for mild conditions, great hood, additional synthetic insulation.

Cons

Price, not quite warm enough in winter, no cuff adjustment, slightly short body compared to others.

Buy it if

You want a very lightweight insulated jacket for spring to autumn and on the mildest winter days.



The top three


Berghaus Privitale 2.0 Extrem Fleece Hoodie £90

Tester: Tim Butcher

This is a modern, practical fleece jacket, but is it warm enough to beat the chill you’ll experience at the lofty heights of a mountaintop lookout?

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  • Material Stretch polyester fleece

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 593g (XL)

It’s good

The Privitale is an immensely comfortable and warm jacket at a great price for what you get. Its stretch polyester fleece fabric has a tight knit on the outside to improve wear, while inside the looser knit increases warmth and comfort. The fit is close but as the fleece is very stretchy it does not restrict movement. The hood is particularly well-designed with a close fit, and turns with the head easily. The baffle behind the zip, long sleeves with thumb loops and generous back length protected my 6ft 2in body well to keep out draughts and retain body warmth. A great benefit over many jackets is that the pockets are large and easily accessed while wearing a rucksack. Also as fleece is very breathable this works great under a waterproof jacket as part of a layering system. The Privitale is versatile enough to be worn over a base layer and under a waterproof jacket, so it can be used as your main insulated layer or as back-up insulation.

However

Whilst I’d be happy with this as my only mid-layer on most hill days, I’d still want something a little warmer and with more wind resistance, such as a down or synthetic insulated jacket, for back-up in autumn or winter, particularly for camping on the hill or for bothy nights or for really snowy Scottish mountains days. While I like the price tag, I’d be happy to pay a few extra pounds for a hem drawcord to lock out drafts and retain the great fit if I was lucky enough to lose a few pounds in weight on a trip. But the main drawback here is the weight and bulk of this jacket compared to warmer jackets, as any back-up jacket that is spending much of the day in the rucksack needs to be as light and compact as possible, and others are better in this department. Sadly there is no women’s option either.

Verdict

For me it’s the perfect mid layer, providing reassuring warmth and ease of movement at a great price, but others are lighter and offer more weather resistance.

  • Features 4/5

  • Packability 3/5

  • Weatherproofness 3/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 76%


Montane Icarus / Phoenix £150 

Tester: Jon Bennett

Does the latest Primaloft Thermoplume insulation make this jacket ideal for taking on the hill when extra warmth is needed at a reasonable price?

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  • Material Primaloft Thermoplume

  • Men’s S-XXL (Icarus)

  • Women’s 8-16 (Phoenix)

  • Weight 605g (M)

It’s good

New for 2018 and made from the latest Primaloft Plume insulation, which is said to offer similar levels of performance to 550 fill power down. Not surprisingly perhaps, this was very warm – in fact the warmest jacket we tested. The outer Pertex Quantum Eco nylon shell fends off wind and moisture well, and is also reasonably breathable so you don’t get sweaty. This jacket feels pretty warm and cosy, with a good length, well-insulated hood, and elasticated cuffs and hem to lock out draughts. The two main handwarmer pockets are well placed to allow access even when a rucksack is worn, and there’s a third useful GPS receiver-sized zipped chest pocket. So this jacket is ideal for stopping for a brew on the hill or sitting around a bothy or campsite, with the added bonus that the synthetic insulation won’t be impacted by dampness as much as a down jacket. It’s as warm as a down jacket too, but with a far less chilling price.

However

It costs more than a fleece and is quite heavy and bulky too. So while great in terms of warmth, you may think twice about carrying it regularly in your rucksack. It’s not as breathable as a more open-knit fleece either, so isn’t so great for walking with. Also, while the fit was good, the hood doesn’t move quite as well with my head as the hoods on some other jackets, and the cuffs didn’t fit as neatly as they could. As there is no Velcro adjustment on the cuffs there is no way of tightening or loosening the fit here to allow the cuff to fit over gloves. The hem is elasticated, but again has no additional adjustment. This jacket is great in terms of warmth but it could be too warm for mild autumn days, so with its extra weight and bulk this is one for colder days only.

Verdict

Great for stopping out on a cold, British winter mountain, with a price that’s more attractive than a down equivalent. But the weight and packed size are drawbacks.

  • Features 4/5

  • Packability 3/5

  • Weatherproofness 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%


Mountain Equipment Arete Hooded £160  

Tester: Graham Thompson

Down insulation is extremely efficient, so is this lightweight jacket the best option for stashing in your rucksack as a back-up jacket?

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  • Material 700 fill power down

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s 8-16 

  • Weight 370g (M)

It’s good

The use of 700 fill power down inside this jacket ensures that it is very lightweight. It also packs down small, and both of these features make it great for stashing in a rucksack just in case you need it on the top of the mountain. The level of insulation is less than the heavier, synthetic Montane jacket featured here, but more than fleece, making this a great general-purpose jacket for autumn and spring. And for me it is just about warm enough for mild winter conditions too. The outer is a lightweight Helium 20 nylon which fends off wind better than fleece and keeps some moisture away from the down. The hood and cuffs are only elasticated, but you do get a hem drawcord so you can fine-tune the fit more easily than some others. There are just two main pockets and these are placed low to make them good for hand-warming. The price is also more attractive than some other down jackets you could consider!

However

For the depths of winter you may need something even warmer if camping in snow or sitting around for long periods high on a snowy mountain. As the Arete uses down, lots more care is needed to ensure this jacket stays dry, as its insulating performance drops off dramatically if it does get wet. Also, of course, this is not as breathable as a more open knit fleece, so it’s not one for wearing while walking. While the fit is okay, the hood disappoints in this area and did not turn easily with my head. Also some adjustment on the hood and cuffs would be a real benefit. The pockets are okay, but again on other jackets these are placed higher or are bigger or there is a third chest pocket. There are some niggles with this jacket and you can get lower-priced fleece or synthetic jackets if cash is tight. 

Verdict

Ideal for stowing in a pack year-round just in case it gets chilly, but some lower-priced jackets are warmer or perform better if damp.  

  • Features 4/5

  • Packability 4/5

  • Weatherproofness 4/5

  • In use 5/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

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Test of the best: down jackets under £200 reviewed

CHINGUARD
In cold weather, a soft panel of material at the top of the jacket zip to protect the chin is a really welcomed feature. Some jackets have a very wide panel of soft material, others a small strip of soft material and others have none.

INSULATION
All the jackets featured here incorporate down insulation, which is more efficient than synthetic insulation. The warmth of down is measured by its fill power. Fill power is a measure of the loft or ‘fluffiness’ of the down; for example, 800 fill power down is more fluffy and traps more air, and therefore you need less of it for the same insulation than a 600 fill power down. A lower fill power down will be heavier and more bulky to achieve the same level of insulation as a higher fill power. However there are other factors such as jacket construction and fit that effect how warm

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DRAUGHT EXCLUSION
To stay warm you need to trap warm air inside the jacket. But this is difficult if air can escape through the hem or around the cuffs or even blow through the front zip. So look for a baffle behind the main zip, drawcords at the hem and elasticated or ideally adjustable cuffs to trap warm air inside the jacket.

HOODS
To stay warm in cold weather you also need to protect your head from heat loss. Surprisingly it is often the hood design that divides the best jackets from the runners up, so it pays to try before you buy. Look for a hood that can be adjusted to fit without obscuring your vision and ideally this should move with your head when you turn to look around. A wired or stiffened peak is a welcome bonus to allow easy vision in the wind or spindrift.

WATER RESISTANCE
Down insulation loses some of its insulating ability when wet. To overcome this, down insulated jackets sometimes feature enhanced water-resistant outers or more recently the down itself is being treated to make it more water resistant, or hydrophobic (waterhating). As seams will leak, only a waterproof jacket with taped seams is guaranteed to keep the insulation dry, so you may need to wear a waterproof jacket over your down insulated jacket in


Sprayway Kimo/Nuna £130

  • Men’s S-XXL (Kimo)
  • Women’s 8-18 (Nuna)
  • Weight 379g (size L)
  • Packed volume 1.8 litres
  • Insulation 700 fill power duck down

IT'S GOOD As down jackets lower in price many become less warm, but this one manages to maintain a better level of insulation than most, so you could use it in a tent or bothy or for a quick brew stop on the hill. It’s a good weight at just 379g (size L) and packs down small so you can easily stash it in a rucksack. Unlike many budget jackets you get a hem drawcord and an internal flap behind the front zip to lock out the wind. There is even a small patch of soft material at the top of the zip to protect the chin, which is very welcome in cold weather. The two pockets are also zipped.

HOWEVER There is no hood so you need a good hat to wear with this. Also while it is warmer than most lightweight and low-price jackets if you pay a little more and can tolerate more weight and packed size then you get a really warm jacket that would be even better for colder nights in a tent, or a bivvy or during a Scottish Munro summit brew. The shell is made of polyester so it’s not as durable as nylon. Also some higher-priced jackets feature down that maintains better performance if damp and some have even higher spec down for lower weight. So there are drawbacks but for many walkers this is probably all you need.

VERDICT A relatively warm jacket for its price and weight. It does not have a hood, but it is still a good general-purpose jacket.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
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Jack Wolfskin Neon/Selenium £150

  • Men’s S-XXXL (Neon)
  • Women’s XS-XXL (Selinium)
  • Weight 559g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.1 litres
  • Insulation 700 fill power duck down

IT'S GOOD A great combination of features here make this ideal for many hillgoers. Firstly the price is great, but you also get a good amount of down insulation so this is a little warmer than many of the lighter jackets. The hood has synthetic insulation, rather than down, as well as a rear volume adjuster. Hem drawcords lock draughts out and there are two main zipped pockets plus a third chest pocket. Get it on and it feels warm enough for a brew on a summit or sitting in a tent. The hood fits closely and even moves with the head a little. This all makes this good for general hill use.

HOWEVER There are drawbacks as this is a little heavier than others and slightly bigger when packed down than the smallest, but it does offer a good middle ground as it is not too big or too heavy to take on the hill. The cuffs don’t get any adjustment other than elastication and on me they did not fit very closely, so this area is chilly. The hood is not quite as warm as the heavier jackets, but it is okay for general conditions. For really extreme conditions, such as winter camping on the hill, I would want a little more warmth and some better details but for valley camping and summit brews this is great.

VERDICT A good all-round general-purpose hillgoers insulated jacket. It is not the lightest, nor the warmest, but it does offer a good overall package of benefits.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
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Alpkit Filo £160

  • Men’s S-XL
  • Women’s 8-16
  • Weight 629g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.6 litres
  • Insulation 650 fill power Nikwax hydrophobic down

IT'S GOOD This offers much more warmth than lighter jackets making it far more suitable for staying cosy when camping in winter or lingering a little longer on a winter summit. It also benefits from hydrophobic down so it should maintain performance a little better if it gets slightly damp. The hood is removable and benefits from a wired peak and face drawcords and it is also very well insulated. You get two very deep zip pockets, a hem drawcord and elasticated cuffs. Get it on and there is a little more length to the body than some and the hood fits well. Overall this is very cosy and great for colder conditions particularly when camping, bivvying or sitting on summits.

HOWEVER This is heavier than other jackets and has a large packed volume, so it will take up more space in your rucksack. The outer is made of polyester rather than more durable nylon used on other jackets, so it needs treating a little more carefully to maintain performance. The down is just 650 fill power, rather than 750+ and that is in part why this is more bulky and heavier than others, but also why it has a lower price for so much more warmth. A slight niggle is there is no volume adjustment on the hood and also the hood does not turn with the head as well as higher priced designs.

VERDICT A good price for a very warm jacket that is ideal for tent use, but it is heavier and more bulky than others.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 88%
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Mammut Whitehorn IN £165

  • Men’s S-XXXL
  • Women’s XS-XL
  • Weight 680g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.2 litres
  • Insulation 650+ fill power duck down

IT'S GOOD There is really only one big benefit to this jacket and that is how warm it is. It is warmer than others featured here and that makes it great for throwing on in a tent or during a summit brew or when visiting a bothy. It is also designed to be reversible so you can choose to have a different colour on display if that is important to you. Apart from that benefit, though, there are few other features to talk about. You get a front zip and a well-insulated collar. The hem and cuffs are both elasticated. It is also a good price for the level≈of insulation it provides.

HOWEVER There are lots of reasons to think twice about investing your hard-earned cash in this jacket. It is relatively heavy and bulky and does not include a hood, so you need a good insulated hat to wear with it. Also, annoyingly, there is no hem drawcord to lock out draughts and you don’t even get a baffle behind the zip to block out the wind; there is no soft brushed area at the chin, either. The outer shell is made from polyester, which won’t be as durable as a nylon option. So there’s a lot to question here for sure, but that level of warmth it offers may just outweigh the drawbacks it presents.

VERDICT A well-priced, very warm jacket that is great in a tent or bothy but it has no hood, it’s relatively heavy and bulky and lacks some finer details..

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%
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Montane Featherlite Down £180

  • Men’s S-XXL (Kimo)
  • Women’s 8-16 (Nuna)
  • Weight 467g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.0 litres
  • Insulation 750+ fill power HyperDry Eco down

IT'S GOOD This is packed with goodies, starting with a price, weight and packed volume that are competitive and then adding down insulation that benefits from a little more water resistance than standard options. You get plenty of great details too such as a hem drawcord, three front zipped pockets and a hood that has a stiffened peak, along with face and rear volume drawcords. The shell is Pertex Quantum like other quality jackets. Get it on and the fit is close and the hood fits well, and while not quite the warmest it’s pretty good for short summit breaks or bothy use. The down is also certified as being responsibly produced and you even get a soft chinguard area.

HOWEVER It is not quite the warmest, although it is warmer than the jackets that are lighter. But for camping in winter or snowholing I’d want something warmer. Like most jackets here you don’t get cuff adjustment apart from elastication, but you’d have to spend quite a lot more to get that feature. The fit is slightly too close for me compared to other jackets of the same size, particularly under the arms which I found caused the sleeve cuffs or hem to ride up a little too easily. So you may want to consider trying a size up from normal just in case it’s a little too snug.

VERDICT Good level of insulation for summit and bothy use and a great hood and general set of features, but sizing is a little snug compared to others.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
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Criterion Activity Ultralight Down £185

  • Men’s S-XXL
  • Women’s none
  • Weight 344g (size L)
  • Packed volume 1.8 litres
  • Insulation 850 fill power goose down

IT'S GOOD A very light jacket that uses a high quality 850+ fill power down which you don’t generally find in other jackets at its price. That adds up to less weight and less bulk. A win-win. You also get a Pertex Quantum shell, which again is very light and something more often restricted to higher priced products. The hood gets a drawcord at the rear while the face is elasticated and there are two zipped pockets. To keep wind out you get an internal baffle behind that front zip, which is a feature not all lower-priced items have. So for throwing in a pack and wearing on the hill for short stops during a summit brew this is great.

HOWEVER This is not the warmest jacket available, so for chillier weather or long spells of use, you may need something warmer. There is no womens’ option and you don’t get a hem drawcord or cuff adjustment. Some higher-priced jackets also have a face drawcord and a soft chinguard at the top of the zip to increase comfort. Finally some jackets may be heavier but benefit from a shell that is tougher and perhaps is more resistant to water. You can also get more water-resistant down. Of course, all those little details would add cost, weight and bulk so they are not necessarily essential at all.

VERDICT Exceptional weight and performance for this price and ideal for stowing in a pack and throwing on for short breaks, but it’s not the warmest option.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 3/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%
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Rab Microlight Alpine £190

  • Men’s XS-XXL
  • Women’s 8-16
  • Weight 416g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.0 litres
  • Insulation 750 fill power hydrophobic goose down

IT'S GOOD Weight and packed size are good here and you get a hydrophobic down, so it is less affected by moisture than standard down. If that was not enough you get Pertex Quantum shell material, with its low weight benefit. So on paper this looks great. Get it on and it is not quite as warm as heavier or bulkier jackets, but you do get a hem drawcord and a hood with face drawcords and it’s fine for carrying in a pack and throwing on during a summit or bothy break. There is also a small patch of soft material at the top of the zip for more comfort at the chin, plus there is an additional chest pocket. 

HOWEVER The hood is a little disappointing as while it has face drawcords and a stiffened peak, which are big ticks in theory, it does not have a rear volume adjuster and I found it did not fit or move with the head as well as others. This jacket is not the warmest as mentioned, so for camping or bivvy nights I’d go for something warmer in winter, but its fine for milder situations, of course. You don’t get cuff adjustment other than elastication either. You can get lighter options and lower-priced jackets, but if you find the hood fits your head this is then a very good general jacket for hillgoers.

VERDICT Weight, packed size and price are all competitive and you even get hydrophobic down but the hood and insulation level will not suit all.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
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Mountain Equipment Skyline / Lightline £200

  • Men’s S-XXL (Skyline)
  • Women’s 8-18 (Lightline)
  • Weight 474g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.5 litres
  • Insulation 700 fill power duck down

IT'S GOOD There is more warmth here compared to many lower-priced jackets and this is instantly noticeable. It also uses a Drilite Loft 20 denier outer, which has a little more water resistance and a little more durability than some lighter options. The down is audited for animal welfare via the brand’s Down Codex programme. Nice touches include the hood that has a rear cord volume adjustment and the hem also has a cord adjuster. There are two pockets with zips and the cuffs are elasticated. A good baffle behind the front zip blocks draughts. All that for 474g is great. The nearest women’s option is the Lightline which is slightly warmer as it has more down insulation.

HOWEVER The price is not the lowest and also it is not the lightest or most compact option, so you need to decide if those benefits are really needed. There are not many drawbacks here, though. However you can get jackets with a higher fill power which would make it lighter and more compact for the same level of insulation, but that would increase the cost. Also you can get even more water resistance. A soft chinguard would be nice too as would adjustable cuffs – to get all these features you may have to pay more though.

VERDICT A great general winter down jacket with a good level of insulation for camping or summit use at a reasonable price and weight.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 88%
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Patagonia Down Sweaty Hoody £200

  • Men’s XS-XXL
  • Women’s XS-XL
  • Weight 454g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.1 litres
  • Insulation 800 fill power goose down

IT'S GOOD There is a good combination of features here that sets this apart from some others. So you get 800 fill power down and this is produced to limit animal welfare concerns. You get a hood with a rear drawcord that extends around the forehead and this did fit and move with my head exceptionally well. I also like that you get a large soft chinguard at the top of the zip for more comfort. There is a hem drawcord too. The cuffs are elasticated and the pockets zipped like others. So, overall, this is ideal for general winter use I would say, being small and light enough to stash in a pack but also reasonably warm.

HOWEVER There are still drawbacks here as this is not quite as warm as some others, so for longer periods in colder conditions more warmth will be needed. It is okay for short cold snaps though. Also you still don’t get adjustment at the cuffs, which comes on higher-priced jackets. If you pay more you also can get more water resistance from either the shell material or the down itself. Annoyingly, the baffle behind the front zip is quite small, and while this is not a major issue it could allow a little more wind through here than a more substantial design. The main drawback is that this is not the warmest option which limits its use a little.

VERDICT A good down jacket for carrying in a rucksack onto the hill, but its not the warmest and so not ideal for longer periods of use in colder weather.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

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Montane Tigertooth Pro (2015)

Features

The main fabric used in the Montane Tigertooth Pro is Polartec Power Shield, which has a membrane sandwiched between the outer and inner layers, making it more water- and wind-resistant. The outer is very abrasion-resistant while the inner is a very thick fibre pile layer. You also get four main pockets with great access and a hood with a wired peak. The drawback is the 794g weight. 5/5

Fit

The Montane Tigertooth Pro is available only in men’s S-XXL; it fits closely but I was able to wear a thin fleece under it for more insulation. The body length is average but the sleeves fitted me particularly well with no hint of the cuffs or hem riding up. The hood also fitted exceptionally well to allow great protection while maintaining perfect vision. Pity there’s no women’s version. 4/5

Comfort

This is a very warm jacket although as it is a bit thicker than others it does feel a little bulkier and stiffer. Also that weight of 794g impacts on the comfort. It fends off wind and water well, and as it has a membrane it won’t be ideal under a waterproof, as non-membrane materials will be more breathable. But overall this is ideal for the depths of winter. 5/5

In use

The Tigertooth Pro is really dedicated to Alpine or Scottish winter climbing, where it would excel. The hood, pockets and general design are ideal for climbing but it would also be great for walking across the Cairngorms in winter or battling through wind and snow up to any mountain summit. The problem is that it is so heavy you need to be wearing it all day. 4/5

Value

The Montane Tigertooth Pro’s price is high but you are getting a lot of jacket here and it is very, very warm. 3/5

Verdict

If you want a soft shell jacket for winter conditions this is it, but for any other situation alternative Montane jackets are better. It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

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Montane Micro Flux (2014)

Features
There is no hood on the Micro Flux, which for me is a major drawback, although Montane does have plenty of hooded options available, so choose one of them if you love hoods. There are two map-sized pockets and they’re placed high enough to allow access even when wearing a rucksack hipbelt. The cuffs are elasticated and they fitted me fine, but it’s always worth checking this for yourself before buying.
3/5

Fit
Sizes are limited, as while the Montane Micro Flux available in S-XXL for men, there is no women’s option. However, the jacket suited me fine: it was not too baggy or tight or overly shaped, unlike some others.
4/5

Comfort
This wasn’t the lightest model on test at 395g (size M), even without a hood, and the Pertex Classic Eco outer wasn’t as thin as other options. So while this was a comfortable jacket it was slightly bulkier than lighter and softer options with higher price tags. You also don’t get the soft brushed area around the chin offered elsewhere.
3/5

Insulation
Primaloft Silver Insulation Eco provides the insulation and is made from recycled fibres. This offers an ideal level of warmth for year-round backup, or to use with other layers in the depths of winter.  
4/5

Value
Even taking into account the fact that there is no hood, £100 is a great price.
4/5

Verdict
Environmentally friendly materials, a great price and good pockets make the Montane Micro Flux ideal for use all year round. It’s great during winter with other layers, if you can live without a hood.
3.6/5

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2014

 


Montane Sabretooth Jacket (2014)

The Montane Sabretooth Jacket is in many respects the one to beat here, having previously won both ‘Best in Test’ and ‘Best Value’ awards in Trail tests. There’s no denying that the Sabretooth has been designed with the British hillwalker firmly in mind. Features-wise, you get four pockets – two big ’uns on the chest plus two others above the level of the rucksack belt, a helmet-compatible hood with a wired peak, and a reversible zip with an internal stormflap. The fabric is premium Polartec Powershield, which is tough and light, blocks out wind and holds a decent amount of stretch. I’ve found it also keeps the worst of the rain at bay if frequently washed with a cleaner that restores DWR (durable water repellent). The Montane Sabretooth Jacket is very light and abrasion-resistant, and – being neither too warm nor too cool – strikes a pleasing balance for the changeable rigours of the UK climate. It isn’t perfect: the back length is on the short side, and consequently the jacket was prone to riding up; wired peaks are love-’em-or-hate-’em affairs; and the build quality and fit lack a certain finesse around the edges that nudge this out of contention as the most comfortable jacket here, but then that does depend who you are. It’s also a big negative that in a jacket this established there is still no women’s equivalent on the rail. But overall it’s a terrific choice.

Specifications:
Outer fabric Polartec PowerShield
Weight 530g (size M)
External pockets 4
Internal pockets 0
Hood? yes
Pit zips? yes
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes none
Website www.montane.com

Verdict

The Montane Sabretooth Jacket is a jacket well-suited to the UK hills that would find a justifiably welcome home in most rucksacks.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine September 2014

 


Montane Sabretooth (2014)

The Montane Sabretooth is a frequent winner of Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ award when reviewed as a soft shell jacket. However in our test, the drawbacks of a soft shell were compared with the benefits of a fleece. The Sabretooth is made from Polartec Powershield, which has a perforated laminated layer within the fabric. This provides far better wind resistance than a fleece, but is less breathable than fleece and not as warm when there’s no wind, so it doesn’t perform so well under a waterproof jacket as fleece. It also carries a much higher price tag than a fleece. However, it does resist wind and water well, which makes it ideal for walking or mountaineering in mist and light drizzle when a waterproof jacket is sometimes more than you need. In terms of design the Sabretooth is superb though. The hood has a face drawcord and rear volume drawcord adjustment as well as a wired peak. There are four huge chest pockets that can be very easily accessed while wearing a rucksack hipbelt or climbing harness. The cuffs also get Velcro tab adjustment. This design enhances the benefits of the fabric, by making the Montane Sabretooth ideal for all types of mountain activity. But a fleece may be a better option if you need something to wear under a waterproof jacket regularly.

Specifications:

Material Polartec Powershield
Men’s/unisex sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes none
Weight 562g (size L)
Hood yes
External pockets 2
Website www.montane.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Montane Sabretooth is the best soft shell jacket there is for mountain activity, but fleece has advantages in terms of insulation and breathability that are more important when choosing a jacket to wear under a waterproof shell.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine March 2014

 


Montane Prism (2014)

Synthetic insulated jackets are ideal as year-round garments, and the Montane Prism is one of the best all-rounders out there. It uses PrimaLoft Eco synthetic insulation that includes 50 per cent recycled fibres. The shell is made from Pertex and when combined with the insulation you get a very lightweight option at just 423g (size L). That weight includes a hood with a wired peak and volume adjustment, which fits and moves with the head very well. There are two chest pockets that are ideal for warming hands or stashing maps while wearing a rucksack. The cuffs are only elasticated, though, so they can’t be adjusted as easily as those with Velcro tabs. The cut is quite close on the sleeves while the body is a more average fit. This allows the Montane Prism to work well under a waterproof or over a fleece mid layer. It isn’t as warm as the down jackets, so it isn’t ideal for the depths of winter, but it makes a superb additional layer that can be worn all day or stashed in a pack ready for use. All that for £100 is very good value too.

Outer Pertex Microlight ripstop
Insulation Primaloft Eco (polyester)
Weight 423g (size L)
Men’s sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes 8-16
www.montane.co.uk 

 

Verdict

The Montane Prism was the best jacket for versatile synthetic performance in our test.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2014

 


Montane Sabretooth (2013)

A frequent winner of Trail tests, the Montane Sabretooth has everything a hillwalker, scrambler or mountaineer might need from a soft shell jacket. It is made from Polartec Powershield, a fabric that is water- and wind-resistant thanks to a membrane that is full of tiny holes. However the key benefit of this fabric is that it is not totally windproof, so it is very breathable – which means you can wear this under a waterproof jacket if needed without overheating. It also has a good level of general insulation, so it’s not overly hot in warm weather and can be easily combined with extra insulation worn underneath in colder conditions. It has a great set of pockets too, with a pair of Napoleon pockets on the chest and a pair of conventional chest pockets – and all these are easily big enough for maps. When the wind or a passing shower blasts into you it’s great to have a functional hood, and the Sabretooth’s is a fine example of this. It has a wired peak, and it fits and moves with the head really well, so you can wear it as needed with confidence. The Montane Sabretooth was only available in black in the past but now it comes in blue as well, as shown here. The only drawback is there is no women’s version, though Montane tell us to expect one in late 2014.

Material Polartec Powershield
Weight 562g (size L)
External pockets 4
Internal pockets 2
Pit zips yes
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes none
Website
www.montane.co.uk

Verdict
The Montane Sabretooth is the soft shell jacket that defines what is needed in the mountains, but sadly there is no women’s version. It won Trail’s ‘Best Value’ and ‘Best in Test’ accolades.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2013

 


Montane Alpha Guide Jacket (2013)

The story behind this pretty but initially unremarkable-looking jacket from Montane is the fabric. The Montane Alpha Guide uses the brand new Polartec Alpha, the latest innovation from the Massachusetts-based synthetic insulation wizards who have been keeping us warm and cuddly for over 30 years. The wheeze here is breathability and warmth, together as one in a jacket that – at a push – could be described as ‘puffy’. The result is a light jacket boasting a high inherent warmth and robust water-resistant insulation that cuts down on weight, which can be used for actual hillwalking without you drowning in sweat. The jacket is a hybrid construction, with the insulated areas covering the same core areas a gilet would. A stretchy, smooth-face fleece fabric makes up the arms, underarms and hood, allowing very good freedom of movement and decent reach in the areas where you need it. The insulation is certainly subtle: you wouldn’t know it was there if you couldn’t feel the benefit, or did a thumb-and-forefinger pinch on the insulated area. The outer on this core zone is a Pertex Microlight Stretch shell, which offers decent wind resistance and just a tiny amount of give, making this a particularly subtle, soft-shell-like jacket to wear.

Inside is lined with PEAQ nylon, which is comfortable in use. Wind resistance is good in the core area, and reasonable in the arms. The July heatwave meant that during testing water resistance couldn’t be fully explored, though a later dousing confirmed the Pertex shell was fairly water-resistant. However this makes no claims to be a rain jacket, though helpfully its insulation will continue to work when it’s wet: the big advantage of synthetic over down. Happily the mugginess did allow us to assess breathability, and it was certainly more impressive than other insulated jackets I’ve used before: the only area likely to get overly clammy is the back, so a rucksack with a floating back system is advised. Problems: not many, though the Montane Alpha Guide’s hood is a non-adjustable head-hugging affair that – given it is designed to allow use under a helmet – looks pretty awful without one, though it must be said feels fine, and competitor jackets fare little better looks-wise. Thumb-loops on the sleeves will be a love-them-or-hate-them feature, and highlight the appeal of the jacket for multi-activity users, as does the harness-compatible two-way zip.

Overall though the Alpha Guide is a solid product with some truly useful applications, principally as a fairly light fleece alternative that will keep you warm both in a chilly camp and on the move. Liveried in Montane’s pre-iconic blue/orange combination (though also available in black and yellow for Navy SEALs fans), it cuts quite a dash in the style stakes, too. 

Price £130
Weight (men’s M) 464g
Shell Pertex MicroLight Stretch; Mt Thermo X Stretch
Lining PEAQ Synthetic
Insulation Polartec Alpha
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes none
Website
www.montane.co.uk

Verdict
A quietly important debut by a useful fabric in the shape of a jacket that will no doubt become a minor classic. The Montane Alpha Guide is perfect for chillier walks in all seasons.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine September 2013

 





Montane Hyena Jacket (2013)

The Hyena is cut from the excellent Polartec Power Shield fabric, which is stretchy, around 99% windproof and pretty water resistant; yet it remains breathable when worked hard. It’s a good-looking jacket with contrasting stitching, yet it performs in the hills both as a mid-layer, where the warmth provided by the fleecy backer definitely makes a difference, and as an outer, where decent-sized pockets double as vents. The collar is high and cosy and the hem tightens with drawcords. It is let down by tight cuffs that won’t roll up, but that aside, it's an excellent all-rounder.

Sizes: S-XXL
Fabric: Polartec Power Shield/Dryactiv
Weight: 410g
Women’s version: No
Contact: 01670 522300; www.montane.co.uk

Published in Country Walking magazine, April 2013


Montane Prism (2013)

Long a stalwart of good kit and prices, Montane’s Prism is another example of kit purpose-built for the UK. Insulation is Primaloft Eco, which – while not as soft or thick as Premium Primaloft One – uses 50 per cent recycled fibres. It’s still good, warm and adds a pleasing earthy tick, and a weather-resistant Pertex Microlight outer offers further value. Two high-set pockets take an OS map and also serve as a pack-pouch, while other features include Scotchguard reflective decals, an excellent hood with a wired peak and a chinguard, and a robust stormflap behind the zip. A few elements let the Prism slip: the cuffs are of the chafey elasticated variety, so they can be pushed up the arms to aid venting, but they are aggressively elasticated (I found them too tight) and aren’t adjustable. The pocket zips have tabs to pull on, but the main zip tab is small and difficult to wrangle with gloves. Fit balances baggy and slim nicely, which means it works as either an over layer or a mid layer; but those tight sleeves are also quite short, which restricted my movement a little. But if the Montane Prism fits and is comfortable, it offers unbeatable value.

Weight 392g (size S)
Outer fabric Pertex Microlight mini ripstop
Insulation 40-80gsm Primaloft Eco (100% polyester)
Stuffsack/packable? packs into pocket
Adjustable hood? Yes
Men’s sizes XS-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.montane.co.uk

Verdict

The Montane Prism is a purposeful, versatile insulated jacket at an unbeatable price. Indeed, it won Trail’s ‘Best Value’ award.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine March 2013


Montane Featherlite Down Jacket (2013)

‘Micro baffle’ down jackets have become very popular recently. These narrow horizontal baffles contain small quantities of insulation that are adequate for milder winter conditions, and as they are relatively light and pack down small they are also ideal for spring and autumn use. The Montane Featherlite Down Jacket is an example of the genre that is quite well-designed and it benefits from a fixed hood with a stiffened peak and a volume adjuster at the back. The hood does fit very well and there is a nice patch of brushed polyester at the top of the zip to protect the chin. The sleeves are a close and comfy fit but the cuffs are only elasticated, so do check they provide a snug fit to prevent draughts. The body of the Montane Featherlite Down Jacket is slightly longer at the back, which helps to keep the kidneys warm. You get two hip pockets plus a chest pocket on the outside, a feature that is less common but useful. The shell fabric is Pertex Quantum so it is not as water-resistant as other fabrics, but it does benefit from being lightweight. You can get warmer jackets at this price for winter, although the Montane Featherlite Down Jacket is good for milder conditions.

 

Outer Pertex Quantum ripstop
Insulation 140g of 650+ fill power 93/7 down
Weight 452g (size L)
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.montane.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Montane Featherlite Down Jacket is a lightweight down jacket that’s suitable for spring and autumn conditions, but others are warmer for the same price.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2013


Montane Sabretooth (2102)

The Montane Sabretooth has been a Trail favourite for many years. It is made from Polartec Powershield, which is a laminated fabric where a perforated membrane is sandwiched between a stretchy, abrasion-resistant outer and a brushed, fleece-like inner. The perforated membrane does not keep heavy rain out but it is water-resistant, so light drizzle won’t get through; however its main benefits are that it is very breathable to reduce condensation and also very windproof. The effect is that you can wear this in most conditions except heavy rain, when you will need a full waterproof. The pocket design is particularly good for hill and mountain travel as you get two Napoleon chest pockets for maps and guidebooks as well as handwarmer pockets. The hood is great, too, and slightly better in this 2012 version than the 2011 version. The hood can be rolled down and secured when it is not needed. The Montane Sabretooth only comes in black with red zips, which is a slight shortcoming perhaps; but its weight, price and general performance when hill and mountain walking in the UK makes it a frequent winner in Trail’s gear tests.

Material Polartec Powershield
Sizes XS-XXL
Weight 560g (size L)
Website www.montane.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Montane Sabretooth is the best choice for hill and mountain use among the soft shells jackets we looked at.

 

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine August 2012