ME's Fitzroy is designed as all-round UK mountain insulation for both climbers and walkers with a top-spec, hydrophobic Primaloft Gold fill on the inside and the brand's own 'highly water resistant' and windproof Drilite Loft fabric outside. The idea is that it's about as resistant to rain and damp as insulation gets, but still light enough that you can stash it away in your pack when you're on the move without needing to call in the yaks.
- £200 / 561g (medium)
- Primaloft Gold synthetic fill 100g body / 60g sleeves
- DriLite Loft water resistant shell fabric - 150mm hydrostatic head
- Fully-adjustable helmet hood with roll-down tab
- Shoulder Shield seamless shoulder construction with double insulation
- Two hand-warmer, one chest and one mesh inner pocket
- YKK Vislon zips with inner flap on main zip
- Adjustable cuffs and hem
- Mesh stuff-sac supplied
The Fitzroy's been in the Mountain Equipment range for several years now, but for winter 2014 it gets a slightly slimmer cut and seam-free, double-insulated shoulders along with revised cuffs for better glove sealing. Claimed weight is 640g odd for a larger, but our medium weighs in a genuine 561g making it eminently portable.
The idea of the jacket is that it's a belay or 'over-layering' piece, something walkers and climbers can throw on over other layers at a standstill, then pack away once you get moving again. As the 'belay jacket' term suggests, it's an idea first used by climbers, but it's equally applicable to walkers.
Not that the Fitzroy is a vast, oversized, voluminous sort of thing. In fact when we first tried it for size, we were a little concerned that the new, neater cut wouldn't fit over other layers. We were wrong though and it's a neat, but not restrictive fit over one of ME's own shells and a micro fleece top - there's plenty of room in the sleeves too, where there's lighter weight 60g Primaloft compared to 100g fill in the body.
The end result is that you get extra warmth without looking and feeling like the Michelin man. No offence to the French tyre icon intended, obviously.
How warm is it? We've used it a few times now in temperatures down to around freezing and we'd say it's just about right, quite warm, but not ridiculously so. Too warm for most active use we reckon, though it'd be mobile enough to climb in if it were really cold - there's a fully-adjustable helmet hood for technical use too.
It's significantly warmer than any of the ultralight synthetic insulation we've used recently and while a down jacket of the same weight would be outright warmer, it wouldn't have the same knock-about toughness and resistance to water in particular. So far ours has effortlessly shrugged off light to medium winter showers and we reckon it'll be equally happy with snow.
It's also, as car reviews sometimes say, 'a nice place to be. The hand warmer pockets have micro-velour linings for instant comfort and there's an internal mesh pocket where you could stash a pair of gloves, a hat or even a water bottle close to the body.
There are plenty of synthetic insulation jackets out there, but the Fitzroy looks like hitting a sweet spot between warmth, weather resistance and pack size and weight for UK use.
Add in a neat cut that's still capable of being layered over a technical shell and a bunch of well thought-out features plus the combination of top spec insulation and a nigh-on waterproof outer fabric and you have a top choice for hunkering down during stops or belays in British winter conditions.
If you're looking for downsides, the £200 price tag is at the top end and the slimmed-down cut might be too close for some, but if you're serious about your winter mountains, this is a jacket to match.
Full spec at www.mountain-equipment.co.uk.