Okay, we're saying 'just in' , but we've actually had some interesting new Jack Wolfskin kit which is new for this winter for a few months now, it's just that until now, it's not really been cold enough to either use or even preview, but with Mordor-like cold and glooom descending, here's a quick look at four new jackets from the German outdoors brand.
They range from an interesting hybrid lightweight insulation jacket mixing duck down with a synthetic fill in zoned areas right through to an alpine-friendly waterproof soft shell.
More details at www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk.
Men's Xenon Jacket - £140 / 380g
The Xenon is Jack Wolfskin's intriguing lightweight winter insulation top. What makes it a little bit different is that while the main body of the jacket uses 700 fill power duck down - probably to keep the price down over goose - the sleeves, hood and shoulders, where the filll is more likely to get wet or compressed uses Wolfskin's own Fibercloud fill.
At 380g for a medium its not super light, but it's still more than adequately portable. The windproof and permananetly water resistant Nylon fabric feels reassuringly tough and fit is about right for wearing over a microfleece or similar lightweight mid-layer insulation - it's very definitely not cut as a belay jacket.
Hem and cuffs are Lycra bound to save weight. One thing we noticed on our test jacket is that the sleeves were quite tight, but as it's a sample, production jackets may be roomier.
The hood's well shaped and though it's not adjustable, envelops your head securely. All in all it feels pleasantly warm and snug untll you go looking for a handwarmer pocket and realise there's just a small chest pocket specced.
Seems like a good value, halfway house between down and synthetic that might work well in UK winter conditions. Check sleeve tightness though and make sure you're happy to live without handwarmer pockets.
One other thing, the jacket has a distinctive 'downy' smell, probably because duck down is oilier than goose down and has a reputation for smelling more strongly.
Jack Wolfskin Compound Jacket - £160 / 600g
The compound is Wolfskin's unusual mix of synthetically filled front back and sleeves with a heavy duty, fleece-line soft shell at the sides of the trunk. The idea of the soft shell panels is to provide stretch and comfort, but to be honest, it's probably easiest to think of it as a synthetic-filled, 'warm' jacket... or it a very warm soft shell? We're not quite sure.
As with the Xenon, there's no adjustment on the cuffs - Lycra-type inner ones - or hem or hood. And because the fit is quite boxy and roomy, we'd have liked at least a hem aduster for snugness around the hips. Good points include pleasant, fleece-lined, hand-warmer pockets, smart aesthetics.
Overall we're just not sure whether the extra weight is worthwhile over a conventional synthetic jacket. The softshell fabric definitely does feel tough and stretchy, but we figure the jacket's going to be too warm for most active use outside very cold conditions thanks to the insualted core area. We'll see.
Jack Wolfskin Supercharge Jacket - £320 / 850g
The Supercharge jacket is, says Wolfskin a waterproof softshell although you could argue that it's simply a very heavy, stretch waterproof shell jacket with all the trimmings. The fabric is a taped, stretch, heavy-feeling TEXAPORE O2 SOFTSHELL TASLITE, which has a 50/50 Nyon/Polyester face.
It has a nice-feeling smooth lining and a bit of stretch to it and the whole raft of technical features including pit-zips, a zip-out snow-skirt, two hand-warmers, a fleece-lined neck, twin hand-warmer pockets and adjustable hem and cuffs. The hood is a big, helmet-compatible fella, but with no stiffening to the peak which makes it of questionable value in UK conditions.
Cut is generous to allow for proper warm mid-layers. To be honest, the high weight would put us off. It's not a jacket you'll want to have to carry, which means it's best on days when you're going to wear it all the time, but for over £320, our money would go on a conventional waterproof jacket, maybe a stretch one, instead.
Jack Wolfskin Composite Action Jacket: £100 / 400g
The final bit of Wolfskin kit we have in is the Composite Action Jacket, a stretchy fleece with a windproof front, which Wolfskin says has been developed for alpine sports. The obvious front panel is not only windproof but also backed by a layer of synthetic fill for some extra warmth.
It's an idea that's been used by other brands before, notably Marmot, but not a bad call. The fleece is light and very stretchy which makes the slightly generous cut a little disappointing, it could be sleeker for better efficiency. Nice touches include thumb-loops and snug, zipped, fleece-lined hand-warmer pockets behind the windproof panel. The main-zip has a storm-flap too.
The idea is that you get a little extra wind protection from the front panel, but without sacrficing much breathability. Our experience with similar garments is that they work well in some conditions, but they can work out to be less versatile than using separate garments like a close-fitting Powerstretch top and a wind-proof gilet.
That said, if you find a lightweight fleece alone just not quite warm enough, particularly in the breeze, the Composite Action may be a good call. We'll see.