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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Mountain Equipment Lumin (2015)

Features
This jacket uses water-resistant 675+ fill power 90/10 down, production of which is audited via Mountain Equipment’s Down Codex scheme to ensure it does not include live plucking. The outer is a lightweight ripstop nylon. The hood gets a wired peak, volume adjuster and face drawcords, and it can be rolled down and secured at the collar. 5/5

Fit
The Mountain Equipment Lumin comes in men’s sizes S-XXL and women’s sizes 8-16. The fit is good with a slightly longer back protecting the bum and reasonable movement in the sleeves to prevent the cuffs or hem riding up. The hood allows good vision, although it didn’t turn with the head as well as the best jackets. The cuffs have no tab adjusters to refine their fit. 4/5

Comfort
This jacket feels great on, with the insulation gently hugging the body and providing great temperature control for average winter conditions, meaning it’s a good general jacket for hillwalkers camping or spending nights in a bothy. The weight of 534g (size L) makes it comfortable to wear and to carry in pack. 5/5

In Use
If it gets damp that comfort is maintained thanks to the water-resistant down. The pockets are nice and large, and the hood – while not perfect – protects the head pretty well. Some jackets are slightly warmer than this, although this is warmer than the lighter options. It is great for summer Alpine use and winter valley use in the UK. 4/5

Value
Very good performance for the price as it’s a great all-rounder that will suit the needs of most walkers and campers. 4/5

Verdict
The Mountain Equipment Lumin is a great general down jacket, ideal for anyone who can’t afford the best but wants more than budget options can muster. 4.4/5

www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2015

 


Mountain Equipment Vulcan (2014)

There’s something retro about this new jacket from Mountain Equipment. With its chunky zips and vintage colour, from a distance it’s easy to mistake the Vulcan for the old-style fleece jacket that in a way it spiritually replaces. Thick and soft, it has the feel of a drysuit and the Gore Windstopper’s impressive DWR (durable water repellent) continues this illusion. It gives a generously long, sculpted fit, with a high collar, helmet-compatible hood and a wired peak. The inner is a soft microfleece grid that – while not as lofty as the Rab Vapour Rise Guide Jacket’s plush lining – is very comfortable. The fabric has a bit of stretch in it, though not much, and such is its warmth and robust design, the Mountain Equipment Vulcan will be as at home as a cold-weather winter layer as it would be as a standalone jacket for autumn and spring. This comes at a cost in terms of weight: this is the second heaviest in our test, along with the warmer, cheaper Rab, and the jacket feels very substantial when on, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what time of year you’re using it. To increase its potential versatility you get pit zips for venting. You also get four pockets – one small gadget pocket in the chest, an inside zipped pocket and two handwarmers that will (just) take an OS map. The zips are excellent: a double, harness-compatible zip up the front and smooth-running zips everywhere else, with double cinches on the waist to help refine fit. Also, like Rab, ME has long been the trusted choice of professionals, and the Vulcan will no doubt prove a very durable, long-serving jacket. But while quality necessarily costs, £200 still feels like a big ask for this jacket considering the competition. 

Specifications:
Outer fabric Gore Windstopper
Weight 660g (size M)
External pockets 3
Internal pockets 0
Hood? yes
Pit zips? yes
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.mountain-equipment.com

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Vulcan combines unflashy high-quality traditional elements with contemporary design to make a warm jacket for the shoulder season and winter that will serve any walker or mountaineer well. The brand is well-proven, but that price is still a sting.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine September 2014

 


Mountain Equipment Shroud (2014)

The Mountain Equipment Shroud is a jacket that I’ve been wearing regularly for four years and amazingly its price hasn’t changed in that time. It’s built around Polartec 100 fleece fabric, which for me provides just the right degree of insulation to wear year-round in the UK over a base layer or under a waterproof jacket. The fabric also offers medium levels of air permeability, so there are more windproof options as well as more open-weave options, but for me this fabric is about right for most hillwalking situations. The hood, underarm and sides of the jacket are made from Polartec Powerstretch, which is more elastic and helps to improve the fit. As there is no adjustment the Shroud’s hood either fits or it doesn’t, which is a drawback, although for me it does fit fine – but if this doesn’t work for you then another fleece jacket may be better. The two main pockets are large enough for maps and they’re ideally placed for easy access when wearing a rucksack. The cuffs get thumb loops, which are useful in winter. A worthwhile addition to the latest version is a flap inside the front zip to keep draughts at bay when the Mountain Equipment Shroud is worn without a waterproof over the top to block the wind.

Specifications:

Material Polartec Classic 100 Micro, Polartec Powerstretch
Men’s/unisex sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Weight 376g (size L)
Hood yes
External pockets 2
Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

An excellent blend of fabrics and design make the Mountain Equipment Shroud ideal for a wide variety of outdoor activity, but check the hood fit as there’s no adjustment provided. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine March 2014

 


Mountain Equipment Bastion (2014)

Synthetic insulation cannot compete with down in terms of keeping you warm in the coldest of conditions, but it’s ideal when you need to stay warm while being active. The Bastion uses Mountain Equipment’s own Polarloft synthetic insulation and this is combined with a Gore Windstopper shell, which provides water and wind resistance. There are stretch side panels where there’s no insulation, and this aids mobility but also means the jacket isn’t as warm as some others. The hood lacks a volume adjuster and doesn’t fit over a helmet, and while it provides good protection it doesn’t turn easily with the head. The two external pockets are map-sized and can be accessed while wearing a rucksack. As it has a water- and wind-resistant outer it can be worn without a waterproof, if there isn’t prolonged heavy rain. There isn’t a huge amount of insulation, though, so the Mountain Equipment Bastion is best used for staying warm while moving in cold conditions.

Outer Gore Windstopper with stretch side panels
Insulation Polarloft Micro (polyester)
Weight 486g (size L)
Men’s sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes 8-16
www.mountainequipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Bastion was the best jacket for active synthetic performance in our test.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2014

 


Mountain Equipment Trojan Hooded Jacket (2013)

Not all Gore Windstopper fabric is the same, and the version used in the Mountain Equipment Trojan Hooded Jacket is a lighter weight without added insulation inside – and the result is a more general-purpose garment that is slightly lighter in weight than some options. The Trojan offers the wind- and water-resistant qualities of other jackets, but has a softer and more stretchy feel as well as a closer fit. This fit means it won’t easily go over extra insulation layers worn underneath, so it is less flexible than other jackets. There are pit zips though in case you overheat. The two main pockets are slightly lower on the body than some jackets, but you can still access them reasonably easily and they are OS map-sized. There is a small chest pocket that would be fine for a GPS receiver too. The hood gets a rear drawcord and face drawcords and this allows it to fit closely and move easily with the head. There is a wired peak on the hood, although it is almost too small to be of real benefit. Overall the Mountain Equipment Trojan Hooded Jacket feels great for climbing and mountaineering as well as travelling light and fast, as long as you can wear it over appropriate base layers to provide insulation, but that close fit does limit its ability to be worn over extra insulation.

Material Gore Windstopper X Fast 230
Weight 551g (size L)
External pockets 3
Internal pockets 1
Pit zips yes
Men’s sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website
www.mountain-equipment.co.uk 

Verdict
The Mountain Equipment Trojan Hooded Jacket is a close-fitting soft shell for fast and light action in the mountains, but in colder conditions you won’t be able to wear much underneath. It won Trail’s ‘Best for Women’ award.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2013


Mountain Equipment Bastion (2013)

Slim and close-cut for activity, the Mountain Equipment Bastion, a new jacket, is very well-featured. Gore Windstopper Active Shell makes up the outer, cutting wind chill and increasing water resistance while retaining breathability. Mountain Equipment has catered closely for the British walker: the company’s own weather-resistant Polarloft fill looks after insulation; soft-shell cuffs make the fit around the wrists both neat and comfortable; the roomy hood is adjustable; and you get three zip-up pockets (none of which can take an OS map, tut tut), an adjustable hem and excellent arm movement. Fit is on the lean side, so if you want a jacket principally as an over layer for stops rather than a mid or outer layer, you’d do well to bear this in mind when selecting your size. That said, this is probably the jacket most viable as a stand-alone outer layer; I was really impressed with the Bastion's ability to cope with quite persistent rain, and this – coupled with breathability, and all-over warmth that isn’t excessive – makes the Mountain Equipment Bastion both the best-featured and most versatile jacket here. These features do come at a price, though; if the general spec works but the price doesn’t, the Berghaus Ignite should be your second choice.

Weight 429g (size S)
Outer fabric Gore Windstopper Active and Windstopper X-Fast
Insulation 80gsm Polarloft Micro (100% polyester)
Stuffsack/packable? stuffsack (+13g)
Adjustable hood? yes
Men’s sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Verdict

Superbly featured, comfortable and versatile, the Mountain Equipment Bastion insulated jacket is a pricy option – but you’re getting a lot for it. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine March 2013


Mountain Equipment Lightline (2013)

Mountain Equipment’s Classic Lightline, a frequent winner of Trail ‘Best in Test’ awards, is now renamed the Lightline, although it remains otherwise unchanged this year. There is a good amount of quality down used so it feels genuinely warm, thus you can feel safe in the knowledge that it’ll beat the chill. The outer is Drilite fabric, which is waterproof to 1500mm of hydrostatic head – which in simple terms means that the down will stay dry even when the snow or ice melts or the jacket comes into contact with some condensation inside your tent. The hood is removable, which is ideal; and it fitted me okay too – although I’d like some volume adjustment to make it a slightly snugger fit. The Mountain Equipment Lightline’s sleeves are not as shapely as some but they are acceptable, and you get Velcro adjustment at the cuff to lock in the warm air. The two zipped hip pockets are positioned just high enough up so you can access them with a rucksack on if needed. Nice extras are a wired peak and a brushed polyester chinguard at the top of the zip.

 

Outer Drilite
Insulation 316g of 675+ fill power 90/10 down
Weight 769g (size L)
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

 

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Lightline is the down jacket that sets the standard for general purpose winter insulation, and it remains hard to beat for the hillwalker. If in doubt just buy this and head to the hills knowing that it’s a proven classic! It won the ‘Best Value’ award in our test.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2013


Mountain Equipment Alpamayo Jacket (2012)

Designed primarily as a belay jacket to go over other layers, the Mountain Equipment Alpamayo is, as expected, generously sized as well as water- and wind-resistant. It’s very warm too – second warmest on test after the Páramo jacket – but then with extra warmth comes extra weight (526g, size 10 – third heaviest here) so it really depends on whether you think the extra insulation is worth the weight.

It is feature-packed, with an adjustable, helmet-compatible hood that also boasts a wired peak for keeping a good shape – though in the wind the toggles can fly about a bit, which is a bit annoying as they’re not secured. There is a draught excluder behind the main easy-to-open zip and an adjustable hem, plus Velcro-adjustable cuffs that all help keep the heat in and fit well over gloves. A comfy chinguard is provided, though it’s smaller than some of the others. The pockets are well-sized and lined with soft material for comfort.

With its warmth and helmet compatibility the Mountain Equipment Alpamayo Jacket is good for climbing and will keep you warm at camp. However there are  others that offer similar features for £30 less, weigh less and are still warm enough for the average hill-walker, so it may not appeal to all.

 

Weight 526g (size 10)

Outer fabric Drilite Loft II

Inner fabric polyester

Insulation PrimaLoft One

Women’s sizes 8-16

Men’s sizes S-XXL (Fitzroy Jacket)

Website www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Verdict

The Mountain Equipment Alpamayo Jacket is warm and feature-packed but its heavier weight and higher price might be a turn-off for some.

 

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine March 2012

 


Mountain Equipment Shroud (2012)

A technical style of fleece designed to perform well on the hill as part of a technical layering system. It’s a little too lightweight for wearing on a blustery day without a few other layers, and is really for those moving a little faster. Microfleece fabric provides most of the warmth, and allows moisture to wick away to outer layers. The tight fit of the top helps trap moisture and the addition of Polartec Power Stretch fabric under the arms helps to boost comfort, preventing the top from lifting when reaching and stretching. The hood is also made from the soft shell-style fabric to give extra warmth with its wind-blocking properties. Inside the top, the fabric has a great fleecey layer that really traps heat in, while the outside has an anti-pill treatment.

Sizes: S-XL

Fabric: 100 weight microfleece, Polartec Power Stretch hood and body zoning

Weight: 381g

Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 0161 366 5020 www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

Review from Country Walking magazine, February 2012


Mountain Equipment Astron Hooded 2011

The Mountain Equipment Astron Hooded is an extremely popular jacket that has in the past been Trail’s ‘Best in Test’. It’s made of Polartec Powershield, which has a perforated membrane to make it very windproof yet breathable. There’s also a brushed lining that gives it just about the right amount of insulation for winter walks, with the addition of a very thin microfleece or a thick base layer underneath. The sides of the jacket use a Powerstretch fabric, which is less windproof but more stretchy and breathable.
The Astron has just two chest pockets, but the two it does have are are nice and big, and they’re easily accessible while wearing a rucksack harness. There’s a good hood too and the sleeves are designed to prevent the cuffs from riding up.
The Mountain Equipment Astron Hooded is a superb jacket for mountaineering, scrambling and backpacking; but it is shaded into second place in our test by the Montane Sabretooth, which offers a little bit more in terms of features, warmth, performance and value. For some people this will be a winner – it’s light, has two good chest pockets and feels very durable. For many, that will make it the perfect choice.

Material Polartec Powershield, Powerstretch
Weight 422g (size men’s L)
External pockets 2
Internal pockets 0
Hood yes
Pit zips no
Men’s sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.mountainequipment.co.uk

The Mountain Equipment Astron Hooded is a perfect soft shell if your priorities are weight, a hood and two mega pockets; but other jackets have advantages.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2011


Mountain Equipment Orion Vest 2011

The first thing that’s apparent about the Mountain Equipment Orion Vest is its rugged durability. The fabric is EXOlite II, which is hard-wearing as well as having four-way stretch for freedom of movement. It was one of the most water-resistant gilets in our test, and would certainly see off intermittent showers on the hill, as well as providing a breathable windproof layer.
The cut is longer than most of the other gilets we looked at, and the scooped tail allows extra protection over the backside, but our size Medium tester found the fit on the skinny side – bad news if you have any extra baggage (such as a beer belly) to conceal!
The stretch fabric lends itself to unrestricted movement and the hip pockets can be accessed while wearing a harness, which is good for climbers, scramblers and those using the hipbelt on a rucksack.
Other gilets deliver greater insulation per gram than the EXOlite II, but the Mountain Equipment Orion Vest performs well as a robust, windproof soft shell.

Size S-XXL (men’s); 8-16 (women’s)
Weight  330g (size M)
Outer fabric EXOlite II
Insulation low
Water resistance high
Wind resistance high
Pockets 3
www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

The Mountain Equipment Orion Vest is best if you want a windproof gilet.

First published in Trail magazine September 2011


Mountain Equipment Classic Lightline 2011

The Mountain Equipment Classic Lightline is only a tenner more than in 2007 when it was Trail’s ‘Best in Test’. Put it on and it is very cosily warm and ideal for sitting on summits in winter or making a brew outside a tent. The hood is well-insulated and has a wired peak so you get excellent protection in a cold wind. In fairer weather you can remove the hood too. Unlike some jackets you get Velcro-adjustable cuffs, which not only help lock out the wind, but also on warmer days allow valuable cooling airflow here to prevent overheating. Like others there are two zipped pockets on the outside, but you also get a cavernous internal mesh pocket. The front zip also has a good anti-snag strip on the inside to ensure the zip runs smoothly and to keep draughts out. Nice touches includes a brushed polyester collar and chinguard for added comfort. But I’d prefer a volume adjuster on the Mountain Equipment Classic Lightline’s hood to improve the fit and movement. This may be warm but it is also heavy at 798g, so it is only of use if you are going to be out in the cold as otherwise lighter but less well insulated duvets will suffice. The sleeves are not as close-fitting as others.

Outer Driloft nylon
Inner nylon
Insulation 316g of 675 fill power 90/10 down
Sizes S-XXL (men’s); 8-16 (women’s)
Weight 798g (size men’s L)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 185

 

The Mountain Equipment Classic Lightline is a superb price for the performance and ideal for cold winter days on the hill, by the tent or walking to the pub. It deservedly won ‘Best in Test’.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2011


Mountain Equipment Shield 2010

Arguably, soft shells work best in winter and alpine conditions, which is exactly what the Mountain Equipment Shield is designed for. Unlike most soft shells it makes use of a Gore Windstopper fabric as well as a Polartec Powershield fabric in combination to provide optimum performance in one jacket.

Design
The body of the Mountain Equipment Shield is made from the Gore Windstopper fabric, which is extremely wind-resistant and therefore also more water-resistant than some other fabrics. This fabric extends over the hood as well, making this ideal for quite moist conditions. But the underarms and sides are made from less wind-resistant fabric, which improves breathability in these areas. This does highlight the drawbacks of some soft shell fabrics, but equally this hybrid construction does provide a route to overcoming those drawbacks. The features include two Napoleon chest pockets plus two lower pockets. The hood is particularly impressive as it has a wired peak, face drawcords and a volume adjuster, and it can be rolled down when not in use. It is designed to fit over a helmet if needed.

On the hill
Compared to some other jackets there is less stretch in the Mountain Equipment Shield’s fabrics, so when this is combined with a slightly closer fit it feels a little more restrictive than some others. The sleeve movement is ideal though, thanks to careful profiling. There is no adjustment on the cuffs and I’d prefer a Velcro adjuster here as the arms can feel a bit hot. The lower pockets are a little lower than would be ideal, but they can just about be used with a rucksack or harness. The hood fits over a helmet, and this is ideal for alpine mountaineering situations where helmets are worn for much of the day and rain is not usually experienced.

In the lab
In terms of insulation the Mountain Equipment Shield had similar values to others, at 0.70 TOG. However in terms of air permeability it is the most windproof. The body provided just 0.12 cm3/s/cm2 of airflow, but the sides were more breathable at 2.79 cm3/s/cm2. This makes this jacket ideal for wearing on its own, but the least practical under a waterproof hard shell as it lacks breathability in the body areas. So while this will perform well in Alpine conditions it would be less suited to rainy UK days when used in conjunction with a hardshell waterproof top.

Fabric Gore Windstopper and Polartec Powershield
Sizes S-XL
Weight 586g (size L)
Made in Hungary
Stores in the UK 80
Stockist details – tel. (0161) 366 5020; www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

The Mountain Equipment Shield has extremely wind-resistant fabric; excellent sleeve movement; average warmth; good pockets; excellent hood; more breathable sides.
However the windproofness makes this less breathable and not ideal for use under a waterproof; no Velcro adjustment on cuffs; pocket access not ideal for use with a harness. The jacket would perform well in an alpine situation, but others are better for less predictable conditions.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine September 2010


Mountain Equipment Astral Hooded

Lightweight and incredibly comfortable in a lovely feminine yet sporty design, the Astral  is fleece-lined throughout, with lovely soft cuffs and chin guard. The fabric provides a decent amount of insulation and is also incredibly weather-resistant and very breathable. It’s stretchy, too, with Powerstretch panels under the arms for extra venting. It comes with a fully adjustable rollaway hood, which is windproof and fleece-lined for extra comfort. There are two well-placed handwarmer pockets, with a mesh lining for venting. The only downside is the non-adjustable cuffs which won’t pull up easily when the going gets warm.

 
Sizes: 8 - 16
Fabric: Polartec Powershield Lite
Weight: 300g
Men’s version: Yes, Astron Hooded
Contact: 0161 366 5020; www.mountain-equipment.co.uk

First published in Country Walking magazine, September 2009