Alpkit Katabatic Jacket | Review
Alpkit's new PrimaLoft Active filled jacket is designed to be more useable on the move, but works well as an all-round warmer as well.
'Alpkit's new PrimaLoft Active jacket takes the traditional virtues of synthetic insulation and adds more comfort on the move in a neatly styled, nicely thought-out package.'
Outdoors Magic: Great non-shiny, soft, stretchy feel, a neat cut, more breathable on the move than conventional alternatives, reasonably light and packable, retains loft when damp. Fleece chin-guard adds a touch of understated luxury.
Outdoors Tragic: Works best in very cold conditions on the move, hood has no adjustment and can droop over eyes.
Outdoors Grabbit? It's a little user and conditions specific, but for us the Katabatic is a very nice light-ish synthetic that's also useable on the move up to a point. Go too hot and hard and you'll tend to boil out and take an age to cool down again, but for steady use in very cold conditions, it's definitely better than a more conventional synthetic jacket. General cut, feel and look are great, but we reckon the hood could be improved with a simple adjuster to allow it to move with with your head and keep it from drooping over your eyes.
Katabatic Jacket Ratings
Outright Warmth [rating score="3"]
Packability [rating score="2.5"]
Damp-proofing [rating score="3"]
Overall: [rating score="3.5"]
Active use, cold conditions jacket / 60 gsm Primaloft Gold Active insulation / stretch Nylon inner and outer fabrics / C6 DWR finish / lycra bound hood and cuffs with adjustable hem drawcord / articulated sleeves / microfleece chin-guard / twin zipped hand-warmer pockets / single zipped chest-pocket / jacket stuffs into hand-warmer pocket for storage
Full Review Below
Alpkit Katabatic Jacket - The Fill
New this winter, the Katabatic is Alpkit's answer to jackets like the Black Diamond First Light and Marmot Astrum which are designed to be more comfortable on the move than more traditional synthetic-filled jackets.
'The idea is that the complete garment becomes more comfortable on the move by allowing moisture vapour and sweat to evaporate through the fabrics and insulation'
It uses a fill of stretchy PrimaLoft Gold Active, which differs from normal PrimaLoft in two main ways. One is that it doesn't need to be stitched in place, so there are reduced, heat-leaking stitch-lines.
The other is that it's non migratory. That means it doesn't have Houdini-like escapologist tendencies, so can be housed in fabrics that are less wind and down proof and more breathable or vapour permeable.
The idea is that the complete garment becomes more comfortable on the move by allowing moisture vapour and sweat to evaporate through the fabrics and insulation.
At the same time, the Active variant still has PrimaLoft's proven ability to retain loft when damp and recover well from being wet. So kind of PrimaLoft as we know it, but with added on the move functionality. It's still better than traditional synthetic-filled insulated jackets though and it also means it works better layered under a waterproof shell.
Alpkit Katabatic Jacket - Performance
The first thing you notice about the new Katabatic is that the non-shiny, stretchy fabric choice means it feels subjectively 'nicer' than traditional, shiny-fabric insulated jackets. Throw in a neat-fitting, athletically trim cut and a muted, contemporary colour choice along with some careful detailing and it has that X-factor thing going on.
It's also decently warm for a 405g synthetic jacket and packs down into a reasonably compact bundle, though it's a tight fit in its own pocket so we tended to leave the zip undone rather than force the issue.
The Katabatic's special power though, is its claim to be wearable 'whilst working hard without getting the dreaded ‘boil in the bag’ feeling' - Alpkit's words.
The idea, is that more permeable fabrics let the fug out more readily than with traditional, closely woven, shiny windproof ones. So does it work? Our experience is yes, up to a point. For steady use in cold conditions, walking on the flat for example, it's quite comfortable.
'We suspect that the insulation simply doesn't actively move vapour or moisture across it as well as stuff like Polartec Alpha'
It will also tolerate short bursts of hard effort. But when we deliberately smashed ourselves into the red, we overwhelmed it pretty fast getting hot, sweaty and uncomfortable in the process.
What happened then was that the jacket took more than 30 minutes to dry out a damp baselayer on flatter terrain and we felt damp and clammy as a result.
We suspect that the insulation simply doesn't actively move vapour or moisture across it as well as stuff like Polartec Alpha, so once your baselayer gets damp, for example, there's no active mechanism to move that moisture outwards.
The only other issue we had with the jacket, was the hood. It's a neat, closely-fitting, insulated thing, but because there's no adjustment, it has a tendency to allow your head to move within it - bad for crossing roads - and occasionally to flop forward over your eye-line.
When you're stopped that's not really an issue and it's also fine under a climbing helmet, but for general walking about use, it's a little distracting. A simple top adjuster cord would fix both issues at the same time. Our other tweak would be to the hand-pockets which sit under some pack-belts, again fine for static use, less good if you're moving.
Otherwise, everything's present and correct. We liked the soft, microfleece pocket linings, the hand hem-cord adjusters are really neat, flat, easy-to-use design and we had no zip-snagging issues. And while it's a small thing, it's good to have a phone-friendly chest pocket
Alpkit Katabatic Jacket - Verdict
Think of the Katabatic as being able to do much the same job as a conventional synthetic jacket, but with some additional functionality on the move and you won't go far wrong. The added permeability of the fabric does means you can use it for steady effort stuff in cold conditions as well as for conventional static use, but we found if you really push on, it gets hot and sweaty and takes a while to clear the clamminess.
The colder the conditions and the cooler you run, the less that happens, but we reckon the lack of active wicking and air movement within the insulation is a limitation. You could improve things with an even more permeable outer fabric, but then you lose wind protection - something the original Patagonia Nano Air suffered from in our experience.
The other slight limitation is the non-adjustable hood. Other than that, it's a really nice, pleasant-feeling synthetic jacket, that still works for less intense active stuff too and has the bonus of looking great.
Thanks to the guys at Outside in Hathersage for allowing us to photograph on location in their iconic cafe. Totally recommended for coffee, cake and all sorts.