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Group Tests and Best Buys

Best Down And Synthetic Insulated Jackets Reviewed 2016

We've reviewed more than 20 of the best down and synthetic insulated jackets on the market in 2016 to help you choose your ideal warm winter companion.

We’ve reviewed 24 of insulated outdoor jackets on the market including the best down jackets, synthetic jackets, and several examples of the new generation fills that either mix down and synthetic fibres for superior performance in damp conditions or are 100% synthetic fibres that work in a similar way to down.

Generally pure down is superior for warmth relative to weight and pack size and works best in cold, dry conditions. Meanwhile synthetics retain more warmth when damp and dry faster afterwards making them generally better suited to cold, damp conditions like the British winter.

What are the different types of down and insulation?

There is also new down-like synthetics and Primaloft’s Down Blend, which mixes down and synthetic fibres together blur the lines between the two giving warmth to weight ratios closer to down, but with better wet weather resilience.

Finally, more and more brands are using down which has been treated to make it water resistant. These are far better than untreated down under prolonged exposure to wet conditions and dry much faster, but for regular damp and cold use, we’d still recommend synthetic fills.

The insulated jackets we’ve tested

For each jacket, we’ve picked out its most important points, described the fit and tried to give you an idea of which conditions it works best in. It would be great to be able to say which are the outright ‘best’ buys, but actually very few of these jackets are lemons, they just work better in some scenarios than others. Here they are…

Navigate through the best down jackets

You can scroll down the page to move through the different jackets or follow the links below to jump to your favourite brand.

Alpkit | Arc’teryx | BerghausFjällrävenHaglöfsJöttnarKeelaMontane | Mountain Equipment | Mountain HardwearPatagonia | Rab | Sherpa | Snugpak | TNF | Yeti

Alpkit 2016 Filoment Jacket: £99 / 325g

Review

We’ve been bouncing around in a bright yellow Filoment for a few weeks now and we like it a lot. It’s not quite as warm or light as premium equivalents, but those bigger down channels mean it’s a fair bit warmer than before, packs decently small – you’ll need to invest in a stuff-sac though – and has few obvious flaws unless you want a hood, in which case you’re out of luck.

Good for evening in the tent or bunkhouse, outer wear when it’s cold and dry and possibly layered under a shell in proper gnarly conditions. It’s great value, as you’d expect, but it’s good enough that you don’t feel you’ve bought budget goods. It’s more that you wonder whether the premium for something lighter and warmer is really worth it.

Pros

Price, warmth, improved cut, ethically-sourced down did we mention killer value?

Cons

No hood, no stuff-sac

Value: 5
Performance: 4
X-Factor: 4

Brand website: www.alpkit.com/products/filoment-jacket-mens.

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Arc’teryx Cerium LT Jacket: £280 / 239g (medium)

Review

Our Cerium LT has been on the go for two years now and its the first thing we reach for on cold, dry days when pack size and weight are at a premium, When we first reviewed the Cerium, we said it was ‘almost indecently warm’ for its weight and nothing’s changed on that front.

It’s beautifully made too with little touches like the mini pocket-zip garages showing real attention to detail. More importantly Arc’teryx has got the close, athletic efficient cut absolutely spot on – it fits neatly under a shell too – and the combination of down and baffle sizes seems bob on too. Even the lightweight fabric manages not to feel fragile.

Not ideal in damper conditions despite the synthetic cuffs – they work well for washing up carelessness too – but if you want a killer balance of decent warmth and minimal weight for your winter backpacking, trekking or climbing adventures, you won’t go far wrong with the Cerium.

For an extra £20 and 30g you can opt for the Cerium LT Hoodie and some extra noggin coddling.

Pros

Light, mall-packing, surprisingly warm, beautifully made with a fantastic, close, athletic fit.

Cons

Premium kit at a premium price, happiest indoors, in tents or on dry days.

Value: 4
Performance: 5
X-Factor: 5

Brand website: http://arcteryx.com/Cerium-LT-Jacket.

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Arc’teryx Women’s Atom AR Jacket: £200 / 390g (small)

Review

A cracking all-round, outdoors-friendly, ‘warm jacket’. It’s beautifully cut with a close but not restrictive fit, partly thanks to the use of lighter fill in strategic areas like the sleeves, has a high neckline that keeps you warm even with the hood down and is more snuggly still with the hood up – it’ll fit over a helmet if needed as well.

Not as outright warm as a similar weight down jacket, it makes up for that with reduced bulk, good if you’re layering it under a shell, and by added wet conditions friendliness if things do get damp and dank. As ever with Arc’teryx, it also has a certain wow factor up close and personal. It packs down neatly as well.

Great outdoors, but smart enough to do double-duty on the high street and occasionally, the sofa…

Pros

Beautifully cut and designed, warm enough and small enough, wet weather friendly fill and fabric.

Cons

Not the toughest feeling fabric.

Value: 4.5
Performance: 5
X-Factor: 5

Brand website: www.arcteryx.com/Atom-AR-Hoody-W.

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Berghaus Basteir Jacket: £140 / 510g (medium)

Review

We’re big fans of the work of the elite Berghaus Mtn.Haus design team and the Basteir is a good example of it featuring in an all-round mountain jacket, in this case the body-mapped insulation distribution. First surprise is just how trim the fit is – it won’t suit everyone and you may even need to go up a size.

It’s a cracking cold weather jacket worn alone over a baselayer and surprising breathable for a synthetic. The rugged feeling outer fabric does a good job of keeping out wind and rain and if it does get wet, the Hydroloft Elite Pro stays warm and dries quickly, You can also, if necessary, layer it under a shell jacket.

The hood will just about cope with a low-profile helmet but is much happier in bare head and that, together with the trim cut means we wouldn’t really consider it as a belay jacket, similarly the trim cuffs have  trouble fitting over bulkier winter gauntlets.

As a active cold weather stand-alone come layering piece though, it seems very promising and we’re looking forward to getting some miles on it this winter.

Pros

Nice balance of warmth, weather protection and breathability, athletic, fitted cut, smooth-sliding, glove-friendly zips and fasteners, hood good on a bare head and can be ‘oned and offed’ without undoing the high, close-fitting collar.

Cons

That close fit won’t suit everyone, helmet compatibility would add versatility.

Value: 4
Performance: 4
X-Factor: 4

Brand website: www.berghaus.com/mens-basteir.

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Berghaus Ulvetanna Hybrid Jacket: £250 / 410g (medium)

Review

Developed by the Mtn.Haus guys for use by Leo Houlding and team in the Antarctic, the Ulvetanna Hybrid does interesting body-mapped stuff with down and synthetic areas based on thermal-imaging research. It’s cut very trim for use with a climbing harness and so it can be layered under a shell when the weather craps out. A reasonable, helmet hood, as you’d expect with enough stretch  to clear a helmet without unzipping. Okay over a beanie too, though we found the hood adjuster a little fiddly with gloved hands.

It has to be pretty cold before we can use this for anything fast paced, but the synthetic areas do seem to breathe noticeably better than the down, which extends its range somewhat. Fine for lower tempo stuff at low temperatures though and also useable for stops in milder weather, though it’s not designed or cut for overlayering – we find it snug over just a fleece.

And while it was designed for cold, dry, alpine-type conditions, we’ve soaked enough Berghaus Hydrodown now not to worry too much about getting it a little damp and we reckon the jacket could also cope on cold, fine Scottish winter days.

In other words, specialised intent, but with some versatility, but not a big, puffy, standing at the bar jacket.

Pros

Great in very cold dry conditions, better breathability than a 100% down equivalent, warmer than a pure synthetic like the Basteir, nice, close technical cut and features and warmer than you expect it to be. Pretty in retro colours.

Cons

Uncompromising fit again, warm for higher tempo use.

Value: 4
Performance: 4.5
X-Factor: 5

Brand website: www.berghaus.com.

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Fjällräven Keb Padded Jacket: £195 / 390g (medium)

Review

Compared to some of the shoutier technical jackets here, the Keb Padded is quite low key, but it carries a surprisingly big technical stick. For starters the fill is a new synthetic down-alike called G-Loft Supreme, which feels impressively soft and down-like, and gives excellent warmth for the weight too – like mid-range down says Fjällräven. And then there’s the face fabric, which is a very, soft-feeling polyester.

The result is that the Keb is decently warm for its sub-400g weight and impressively small bulk. It’s not a proper deep winter, lounging about a glacier campsite sort of thing, more of an active, on-the-go jacket for steadier use in low temperatures when its combination of warmth and wind proofing works well, you can also layer it under a shell if necessary. And so far it’s coped capably with damp conditions too.

Finally, it has a characteristic Fjällräven retro vibe to it with the leather fox logo badge and zip-pulls, the external zip-flap and reassuring G-1000 fabric hem cord tunnel. It means you can wear it around town without looking like a refugee from Everest Base Camp just as comfortably as in a Lake District pub. And we quite like that.

Yes, it is relatively expensive, but you’re getting more real world performance than you might initially think.

Pros

Understated design, light and packable soft, warm down-like synthetic fill, regular fit, cool retro vibe.

Cons

Above average price tag, no hood, though a hooded version is also available for £15 more.

Value: 4
Performance: 4
X-Factor: 5

Brand website: www.fjallraven.co.uk/keb-padded-jacket.

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Haglöfs Essens Mimic Jacket: £160 / 360g (medium)

Review

We genuinely thought the Essens Mimic was down filled when it first arrived, partly because of the characteristic skinny baffled design, partly because, well, it felt like down. Turns our the QuadFusion™ Mimic with a claimed 700 fill power equivalent loft value is the equivalent of top-end down.

That said, rather like a real down jacket, those narrow down channels with all the stitch lines isn’t super warm, though layering a shell over the top seems to add more warmth as air is trapped between the down channels.. So why would you choose Mimic over down?

Water resistance would be the obvious answer, but we found our sample jacket actually soaked up water and held on to it taking longer to dry out than either PrimaLoft Down Blend or the 3M Cirrus fill used by Rab. Apparently the fill has changed slightly for production, so we’re waiting for a new test jacket to see how it manages the wet stuff.

In the dry we’d say it’s comparable to a similar down-filled jacket, but the narrow down channels do limit its effectiveness. We’re not sure if the fill itself necessitates the use of narrow baffled quilting.

Pros

Down-like dry weather performance, decently light, nicely put together.

Cons

Early test jacket didn’t cope well with a soaking, though it recovered well when it did actually dry out.

Value: 3.5
Performance: 3.5
X-Factor: 4

Brand website: www.haglofs.com/gb/en/Jackets/ESSENS-MIMIC-JACKET-MEN.

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Jöttnar Fenrir Women’s Jacket: £200 / 380 (medium)

Review

It’s early days yet, but out tester is already impressed: it’s very pretty and it’s warm. That’s down to a combination of lightweight fabrics, medium rather than super skinny baffles and high-lofting 850 fill power down that’s been treated with an advance Down Tek hydrophobic process. It’ll stay dry, says Jöttnar, ten times as long as untreated down.

The jacket also gets synthetic-filled areas in more damp-prone zones like cuffs, hem and collar and is touted for use – and we quote – ‘in cold and damp conditions’. Our gut instinct is still to carry a few extra grammes and synthetic when the world gets proper nasty wet, but we’ll see what happens this winter.

The cut’s trim without being tight, there are warm hand-warmer pockets and a handy inside phone stash one and the hood, though non-adjustable, fits nicely over a beanie, but will also just about stretch to a climbing helmet. Like Rab’s Continuum and ME’s Dewline, midi rather than skinny baffles maximise the warmth from what’s a decently light jacket.

It’s a really nice jacket and if it turns out to be as water-resistant as claimed, that’ll be a proper bonus. As will the svelte good looks that mean it should be as at home at a freezing Christmas market as under a frozen waterfall.

Pros

Light, decently warm, water-resistant promise, modest pack size, beautifully made with high quality fabrics and down.

Cons

So pretty it seems a shame to trash it, hood slightly tight on some helmets.

Value: 4.5
Performance:4.5
X-Factor: 5

Brand website: www.jottnar.com/uk/womens/down-insulation/fenrir/.

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Jöttnar Fjorm Down Jacket: £295 / 610 (medium)

Review

We’ve had a first generation Fjörm – what’s with all those Umlauts, Jöttnar? – since last February and, to be honest, it’s so warm that legitimate opportunities to wear it have been few and far between. The top notch down and box-wall body baffles plus excellent, warm, all-engulfing helmet hood give it a proper, under the winter duvet feel.

The nice bit is that it’s also reasonably light for it’s insulation levels, partly because the sleeves use lighter, more basic stitch-through construction and the fabrics are carefully chosen to be light. A couple of things we were unsure of on the first gen Fjörm have been fixed for this winter too: the synthetic areas at potential ‘wet-out zones’ like collars, hem and mouth now use new 130g/m² synthetic fill, rather than last year’s thinner stuff and the cuffs get a beefier Hypalon adjustment cuff tab.

Did we mention the soft, fleece, cuff lining by the way. Mmmm… Anyway, for UK use it’s mostly, in our experience, overkill, though if you run cold or sit around for hours on Cairngorm belay ledges in a hoolie, it wouldn’t be unwelcome, but it would really come into its own in colder foreign scenarios. It’s also really nicely cut and the less bulky arms translate into decent mobility too.

The interesting bit is that despite being so warm, it’s also reasonably light, as in light enough to consider carrying and about the same weight as something like the synthetic ME Fitzroy. We’re not suggesting, by the way, that it’s an alternative to an all-weather synthetic like that, but it puts its weight into perspective.

For more of us though, for UK use at least, the lightweight Fenrir, tested on the previous page, makes more real word sense. If you’re heading off somewhere cold and want a killer mix of warmth and weight, the Fjörm should be on your list.

Pros

Seriously warm, reasonably light, impressively water-repellant, great cut with excellent helmet good and nicely made too.

Cons

Arguably overkill for most UK conditions and too many Umlauts already…

Value: 4.5
Performance:4.5
X-Factor: 5

Brand website: www.jottnar.com/uk/mens/down-insulation/fjorm/.

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Keela Ladie’s Belay Pro Jacket: £80 / 470g (medium)

Review

‘A feminine cut allowing a full range of movement whilst still maintaining that chic look,’ says Keela. Our tester however thought the cut was basic and a little unflattering with the arms – the whole jacket uses a uniform 133gsm grade of PrimaLoft, a little tight and restrictive. She didn’t like the colour either.

That doesn’t stop the Belay Pro being decently warm and very weather resistant and it’s maybe a little harsh to compare it to the two other women’s jackets, Arc’teryx Atom AR and Jöttnar Women’s Fenrir, which both cost twice as much.

The big plus point is the excellent PrimaLoft fill, which we’ve found to be one of the best water-resistant synthetics out there, it still works impressively well even when damp, doesn’t soak up excess fluid like a sponge and dries fast after a soaking. Great value at this price.

Less impressive are the non-insulated hand-pockets – the sit in front of the insulation, and the lack of a hood, which would be a proper issue in a genuine technical belay jacket. Our tester summed it up: ‘If I had a limited budget, it would be a good buy, but if I could afford it, I’d buy something better’.

Pros

Brilliant value, excellent all-round, damp-friendly, synthetic fill, reasonable weight. Did we mention the brilliant value for money?

Cons

Basic cut, lacks a hood, non-insulated hand-warmer pockets, tight sleeves.

Value: 5
Performance:3.5
X-Factor: 3

Brand website: www.keela.co.uk/catalog/product/view/id/2377/s/ladies-belay-pro/.

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Montane Verso Fireball Pull-On: £100 / 245g (medium)

Review

The FireBall Verso Pull-On is lighter than anything else in this review for a reason, it’s a lightweight, active top aimed at trail and mountain runners. The genius of it is that like the Berghaus Hypertherm, it’s reversible: one side is completely windproof for maximum insulation from the new PrimaLoft Active insulation, the other is air-permeable, so worn this side out – the blue in the pic – trapped warmth tends to wash away in the air, making it cooler, so the top feels much closer to a standard windproof than an insulated one.

That gives you loads of options: wear it permeable side out on the move, then, if you have to stop or you’re getting cold, turn it round. Alternatively, if the windproof side is outwards and you’re getting too warm, reverse it to shed some heat. There’s also a handy deep-venting neck zip to lose more heat still and the sleeves roll around half-way up the editorial forearms.

There are also thumb-loops if you’re that way inclined and a single zipped chest pocket on the permeable side of the top. So far we’re really liking the two-on-one capabilities of the top, though if you run hot like we do, it’ll work best when temperatures drop further. A hooded option might be nice for stops, though potentially irritating on the move. Pack size is around pint-glass dimensions, so reasonably totable.

So far we’re liking it a lot, watch out for a User Review Crew lightweight insulation special coming soon.

Value: 5
Performance: 4.5
X-Factor:  4.5

Brand website: www.montane.co.uk.

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Mountain Fitzroy Jacket: £200 / 560g (medium)

Review

Brilliant bundle of water-resistant, UK-friendly warmth. The zoned PrimaLoft fill – 100g in the body, 60g elsewhere – is pretty hydrophobic in itself, but it’s encased in a coated, highly water-resistant Pertex DriLite fabric that shrugs off pretty much anything short of deluge conditions and was refined last year with seamless, double-insulated Shoulder Shield, erm, shoulders.

The cut is super neat, but fits nicely over a Mountain Equipment alpine-cut shell when needed and has a proper, adjustable helmet hood with a wired peak for good measure. Throw it in your pack for winter lunch-stops or as a proper mountaineering belay jacket without worrying too much about the 560g weight while you’re on the move, don’t fret about getting it wet or dragging it over damp rock, hide inside while the wind howls.

A lot of people who buy down jackets for UK use would honestly be better of with one of these around 90% of the time. You can get warmer PrimaLoft jackets –  ME’s own Citadel for example – but for most of us, the Fitzroy is a nigh-on perfect blend of weight, bulk, warmth and weather protection.

Value: 5
Performance: 5
X-Factor:  4

Brand website: www.mountain-equipment.co.uk/fitzroy-jacket.

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Mountain Dewline Hooded Jacket: £180 / 410g (medium)

Review

The idea of the new Dewline Hooded Jacket is that it weighs around the same as skinny micro-baffled lightweight equivalent, but the fatter down channels give significantly more warmth per gramme and the good news is that it works: the Dewline gives that familiar instant hot-soup warmth injection that you expect from traditional down jackets, but without the weight and bulk.

It’s cut uncompromisingly particularly around the waist and torso, so if you’re carrying extra bulk, you may have to look elsewhere, but the pay off is efficiency and lower weight too. And despite being quite minimal, it still boasts hand-warmer pockets, an adjustable hem and a helmet-friendly hood that also keeps a bare or beanied noggin snugly coddled.

Last but not least, that down is ME’s water-resistant stuff with a Teflon-based coating that we’ve found excellent in damp conditions, but we’d treat that as an insurance policy rather than a performance aid, so while it’s nice to know that a bit of incidental rain won’t squidge your insulation, we’d still go with a synthetic like a Fitzroy – previous test – for damper days. On cold, dry ones though, or for alpine climbs of high altitude trekking, the Dewline is a cracker and at a decent price too.

Value: 5
Performance: 5
X-Factor:  4.5

Brand website: www.mountain-equipment.co.uk/dewline-hooded-jacket.

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Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Jacket: £230 / 203g (medium)

Review

Developed with Swiss Machine speed climber Ueli Steck and using a super-lightweight fabric made in only one factory in the world, the Ghost Whisperer is stupidly light in the way of something that’s been constructed with the aim of being, well, as light as possible.

It also asks the question of when saving weight becomes counter-productive – it’s more an alternative to a mid-layer fleece than a conventional, ‘warm’ jacket, though the wind proofing qualities of the fabric mean you could also argue that it’s a lightweight, insulated windproof.

In either case, you could argue that an extra 36 grammes would give you an Arc’teryx Cerium LT and appreciably more warmth for just a little extra weight and bulk. Of course that depends on your priorities and if what you want is one of the lightest down tops in the world, here it is. Or have a look at PH Designs who use even higher lofting down and larger baffles to create tops that are as light or lighter, but warmer.

One bonus of the Ghost Whisperer though, is that Q SHIELD down which works impressively well if it does get damp.

Value: 4
Performance: 4
X-Factor:  5

Brand website: www.mountainhardwear.eu.

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Patagonia Nano Air Hoodie: £200 / 380g

Review

We think of the NanoAir Hoody as the one that got away. On paper it sounds brilliant and it’s amazingly stretchy, soft, comfortable and very, very breathable. The downside to that, is that it has the wind resistance of a net shopping bag and despite the DWR, water soaks into it fast and takes a while to dry.

The cut, despite the stretch and claimed ‘close athletic fit’ is disappointingly anything but, and the soft face fabric feels disconcertingly like a house coat and more delicate than we’d like for hard mountain use. It makes a warm, breathable mid-layer, but then so does traditional fleece, which costs a lot less.

With a closer cut and tougher, more wind and water resistant fabrics with some strategic reinforcement, it could be a brilliant fast-moving mountain piece, but as it stands, it’s best left for fast movers on relatively still, cold, dry mountain days and we don’t get a lot of those in the UK.

Value: 3
Performance: 3
X-Factor: 4

Brand website: www.patagonia.com.

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Rab Nebula  Jacket: £160 / 570g

Review

For years you could choose between down and synthetic, both had pros and cons. Now, insulation like the new 3M Cirrus means you can have synthetic jackets that look like down and, in this case perform around the same level as middle-grade 600 fill power down, but have the sort of water resistance you’d associate with good synthetics.

And it really does work. The Nebula performs much like a comparable down jacket, but we absolutely soaked ours and jt not only kept us reasonably warm even when it was wet, it dried very fast – an hour or so from saturated – and once dry, it regained pretty much all its previous loft.

That’s pretty impressive. Add in the water-resistance of the coated Endurance fabric and you’re looking at a jacket which should be ideal for damp UK winter conditions. And with Rab’s experience of making down jackets over the years, all the details works just as they should too: smooth-running Vislon zip, a fat, good-fitting adjustable helmet hood,  insulated hand-warmer pockets and so on.

How does it compare to a conventional synthetic belay jacket? We reckon it’s slightly warm outright than, say, the excellent Mountain Equipment Fitzroy, with its PrimaLoft fill, but on paper loses a little wind proofing and outright water-resistance thanks to the stitch-through construction.

We say on paper because most of the time, the Nebula will do the job just fine and for a lot of buyers it’ll come down to aesthetics. But if you’re looking for a ‘down-look jacket’ that can take a beating from the UK weather without worry, the Nebula’s a pretty good bet.

Value: 5
Performance: 4.5
X-Factor: 4.5

Brand website: rab.equipment/uk/shop/nebula-jacket-20590.

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Rab Continuum Jacket: £250 / 310g

Review

At a genuine 310 grammes for a medium, the Continuum is the lightest down jacket Rab has ever made, but what’s really impressive about it, is that it’s not an exercise in weight-saving along, it genuinely is properly warm thanks to the combination of high-lofting Nikwax-treated down and super lightweight, semi-translucent Pertex Quantum GL fabric.

It packs down small enough to sit inside most rucksack lid pockets, but unlike some very light down tops, it’s actually worth carrying. The design’s good too, everything does what you’d expect and works, though in an ideal world, it’d have a YKK Vislon main-zip.

The hood’s good too and works well either with a helmet or in next-to-noggin mode where it provides a reassuring haven from the chill. Great for chilly UK campsite and hut evenings, in the Alps or as a lightweight bundle of trekking warmth.

Finally, it looks great and comes complete with an integral wow factor that compensates a little for the high-ish price tag.

Value: 4
Performance: 5
X-Factor: 5

Brand website: rab.equipment/uk/shop/continuum-hoodie-5915.

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Sherpa Adventure Gear Nangpala Jacket: £250 / 410g

Review

We were really impressed with the wet conditions performance of the Primaloft Gold Down Blend, it still felt warm even when damp and dried rapidly even when completely soaked. It’s 70% PFC-free water-repellant goose down with 30% Primaloft synthetic fibres and is claimed to retain 95% of its warmth even when wet and dry four times faster than normal down.

That’s just as well as even in its dry state, the Nangpala simply doesn’t feel particularly warm. Those ultra-narrow baffles mean that jackets like the Jöttnar Fenrir, the ME Dewline and the 100g lighter, Rab Continuum are all much warmer on a gramme to toastiness basis.

We also found that while the – noticeably thinly insulated – hood fitted well over a climbing helmet, it was less snug and effective on a bare head and the extended adjustment cords could easily hang loose and potentially lash your face. A really impressive fill, but let down somewhat by the design of the jacket. A shame as we love Sherpa as a brand and the little details like the zip-pulls and endless knot on the zip wind-flap are lovely.

Value: 3
Performance: 3
X-Factor: 4

Brand website: www.sherpaadventuregear.co.uk.

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Snugpak ML3 Softee Smock: £160 / 540g

Review

The ML3 is a bit of a blunt weapon and aimed at a very specific sort of outdoor user, folk like instructors who spend a fair bit of time standing about, erm, instructing. The soft insulation seems decent and very warm and the outer fabric is windproof and water resistant. You get a big chest pocket along with an enormous front kangaroo pocket which could accommodate, well, a kangaroo at a stretch.

There are also quirky oddities, a whole bunch of soft hook and loop ‘APAL’ patches you can attach matching LED lights to, a hollow collar in lieu of a hood, which you can use to stow stuff – ‘such as a neck scarf, Buff®, fleece liner gloves or skull cap’. You’ll either get that or not, we don’t and we’d rather have had an insulated hood please.

We like the insulation and the fact that Snugpack still manufacture in the UK, but we don’t really get the SL3, it has a whiff of organised outdoor education instruction about it, which you’ll either relate to or not. If you do, here it is. If you don’t may we suggest some of the more conventional jackets from the Snugpak range as an alternative.

Value: 3
Performance: 3.5
X-Factor: 3

Brand website: www.snugpak.com/outdoor/ml3-softie-smock.

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The North Face Thermoball Jacket: £150 / 320g

Review

Since ThermoBall appeared a few years back, it’s spread across the TNF range in various guises, but the original ThermoBall Hoodie and jacket are still out there, albeit in new colours and with a more fitted cut and do a good job for a lightweight synthetic.

The insulation, produced in collaboration with Primaloft, is basically tiny balls of synthetic fibre and equivalent to 600 fill power down. Unfortunately, the quilting needed to stop the balls rolling around means there are lots of heat-losing stitch lines, so outright warmth is limited, more of a fleece substitute than anything else, though very wind resistant and also effective and quick-drying if it does get wet.

It looks quite sleek though and its compact pack size means it’s easy to throw in your pack just in case.

Value: 3.5
Performance: 3.5
X-Factor: 4

Brand website: www.thenorthface.co.uk/tnf-uk-en/p115588.html.

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Yeti Purity Jacket: £380 / 245g

Danish brand Yeti is a long-standing down specialist and the Purity, while it might be expensive, is also seriously warm given its light weigh – just 40g or so more than the MHW Ghost Whisperer thanks to the use of high quality down and very light fabrics.

It’s pretty too, though the fabric is slightly crackly compared to most lightweight down-proof materials. At full whack it’s expensive, but if you find Yeti kit at a reduced price it’s definitely worth a look. The principles are the same as those underpinning any top notch down, which is why the likes of PHD and Western Mountaineering can produce lightweight down clothing that punches well above its weight.

Value: 3
Performance: 5
X-Factor: 4

Brand website: www.thenorthface.co.uk/tnf-uk-en/p115588.html.

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