New From Mountain Equipment This Winter
We popped over to see the guys at Mountain Equipment yesterday, partly because we like their tea, but most to have a quick preview of their new winter kit which is in the shops right now. Winter being winter, the brand's focussed on warm things, notably a whole raft of new and revamped insulated jackets using both down and synthetic fills, all with pros and cons.
Big thanks to ME's Rich Bailey who took time out of his busy schedule to tell us what's what and do some modelling. Your cheque is in the oven...
Lumin Jacket - £200 / 490g
Brand new this winter, the Lumin is designed to sit between micro-baffled down jackets like ME's own Arete - and bigger, full-on, but heavier ones like the 740g Lightline. A lot of slim-baffled jackets, says Bailey, just aren't that efficient, whereas the Lumin is intended to be genuinely warm for its weight and minimal pack size.
It's designed primarily as an alpine down jacket for cold and dry conditions, but would also, we reckon, work brilliantly for greater ranges trekking if you're carrying your own kit and weight and bulk are a consideration. It's also the warmest of ME's down range to use water-resistant down, in this case 675 Fill Power Water Resistant Duck Down.
The idea isn't so much that it's suitable for sustained wet weather use, more that you have a bit of an insurance policy if something does go wrong and you get the jacket wet. Construction is stitch through and the outer fabric is down and windproof lightweight HE30.
ME's done a lot of work on its hoods recently and the Lumin's is designed to go over a climbing helmet but still work on a bare or hatted head. It also features a stiffened peak. It looks very neat too as you can see from the main image and actually, at a claimed 490g is only 50g weightier than the micro-baffled Arete Hooded Jacket, but should be a fair bit warmer.
Also available in a women's version - same features, claimed weight: 430g.
Cold, dry, technical use in alpine or similar conditions but with a water-resistant down safety net.
Mazeno Jacket - £225 / 430g
The Mazeno's an interesting one. It's a hybrid jacket which uses the same 675 Fill Power Water Resistant Duck Down in the main body of the jacket, but has synthetic PrimaLoft Gold insulation in the arms and hood - the non-quilted bits of the image on the right.
The idea is that the sleeves and hood which are most likely to get wet use the more water-resistant synthetic fill, but you get the benefits of lighter down elsewhere along with the insurance of water-resistant down. The fabric's the same HE30 as well.
It's not as outright warm as the Lumin and the hood, though it is helmet compatible, is a little less comprehensive. The pay-off is that added water-resistance, which should make it a good call for situations where you want to go lightweight but need to cope with potential damp conditions.
Again there's a women's version with a quoted weight of 405g.
Potentially damp conditions, but with reduced weight and bulk compared to a pure synthetic jacket.
Fitzroy Jacket - £200 / 645g
The Fitzroy is a synthetic-filled jacket of the type that used to be commonly known as a 'belay jacket' but is maybe better understood as an 'over-layering' piece simple because the concept is brilliant not just for climbers, but walkers, climbers scramblers and even runners.
The idea is that it's slightly oversized so it can be thrown on over your other layers at a standstill, then removed once you're on the move. It's brilliantly simple and effective and a lot hassle than trying to add extra insulation under a shell jacket in the form, say, of a spare fleece. It'll swallow a helmet too if necessary with a wired peak hood.
And because the Fitzroy uses PrimaLoft Gold synthetic stuffing - 60g weight in the sleeves and hood, 100g in the body - it's ideal for cold, wet, UK winter use. The outer fabric is ME's own DriLite Loft water-resistant outer fabric which has a 1500mm Hydrostatic Head adding even more water resistance.
The Fitzroy's been around for ages, but it's been improved for this winter. The jacket's still cut with over layering in mind, but now has a slightly neater cut to give a better fit over technical shell clothing. The cuffs have been tweaked so the elastic fits more easily over winter gloves and Shoulder Shield construction means the shoulders are both seam free for better water resistance and have a double layer of insulation for added protection.
Bailey reckons that at around 640g it's the ideal weight for UK mountain use. Warm andy protective enough to worth carrying in the first place, but not prohibitively heavy and bulky. No women's version available.
UK winter over layering for both walkers and climbers and trim enough to be worn in the move in really foul conditions.
Citadel Jacket - £250 / 890g
You can think of the Citadel as being like the Fitzroy but on steroids. At 890g it's significantly weightier thanks to the use of heavier PrimaLoft Gold filling - 200 and 170g in body and sleeves respectively - though it has the same Drilite Loft outer as the Fitzroy.
The pay-off for the added weight and bulk is significantly greater warmth making it ideal for hanging about on for hours on belay in really foul winter conditions, but overkill for more mobile use we reckon. Like the Fitzroy it has tweaked cut, revamped cuffs, Shoulder Shield construction and a redesigned helmet hood, which also incorporates ME's EXL elasticated baffle system in the hood and rear of the jacket. The zip gets and insulated baffle too.
Hanging about and staying comfortable in really nasty winter conditions whether on belay or perhaps as part of a not very mobile hobby or job.
Rampart Jacket - £100 / 420g
The Rampart's a simpler bit of kit that's actually designed to work as a cold conditions mid-layer or warm outer layer for walkers and mountaineers. It uses synthetic 80g Polarloft insulation with a windproof Helium 50 outer and polyester inner fabrics and should be resistant to being squished down repeatedly in the pack and used.
Because it's synthetic, it's arguably more suited to UK use than equivalent lightweight down and is more affordable too at £100. There's ask a 365g women's version.
Walkers and mountaineers wanting a warm mid-layer in UK-type winter conditions as an alternative to lightweight down.
Switch Jacket - £150 / 350g
This is bit different. It's a hybrid jacket using the very breathable Polartec Alpha insulation in the main body with gridded Pontetorto fleece in the sleeves and shoulders. The Alpha is very breathable and also adds wind proofing of the core thanks to a Helium 30 outer fabric.
The stretch Pontetorto fleece is a heavier version of the stuff used in the excellent Eclipse Hoody - 260g v 190g - and is warm, stretchy and fast-drying. The seams are flat locked for comfort as well. What's it for? Wear it as an outer for moving fast or as a close-fititng mid layer under a shell we reckon.
We don't see why it wouldn't also work as a very cold weather top for winter running and biking either. Kind of like a super capable fleece.
Fast-moving cold weather use but can also double as a mid-layer top if necessary.
Bastion Jacket - £200 / 545g
The Bastion has a Windstopper outer and 80g Polarloft Duo synthetic fill along with a helmet-compatible mountain hood and an alpine fit. It's basically designed to be used on the move in very cold alpine conditions. The fill is chosen because it moves moisture fast and the outer is completely windproof.
It's not a new jacket, but the warmth levels have been upped slightly by adding a gridded micro fleece backer to the stretch Windstopper side panels without increasing bulk under the arms over much. It also has an improved hood and cuffs and that Shoulder Shield technology makes another appearance.
No women's version available.
Active use on the move in cold, alpine conditions.
Triton Jacket - £285 / 700g
A down jacket with a taped, waterproof Drilite outer, the Triton has 154g of 90/10 675 fill power duck down housed in stitched-through mini-baffles, the idea being that it works better than a micro-baffled down jacket worn under a waterproof shell jacket.
Normally we'd say if it's cold enough to wear down, you probably won't need a waterproof shell, but if you want to use down, but expect to get wet in the process, this is the baby for you. Apparently it's the hot choice for hanging about in Glen Nevis scoping out bouldering problems if you're Dave MacLeod… For most of us though, a synthetic jacket is probably going to be more all-round useful.
Folk who want down insulation in conditions where they're likely to get wet. Scandinavia in winter maybe.
All the jackets featured are out now, full details of the current range at www.mountain-equipment.co.uk
For us, the two jackets that really stand out here depending on your needs at the synthetic Fitzroy, which should be an ideal all-round UK over layering jacket with enough warmth to keep you comfortable even in cold conditions, but not a ridiculous amount of weight.
Or, if you're off somewhere cold and dry, climbing or trekking and want to keep weight as low as possible, the Lumin Jacket - main picture - looks great and should be a kicking balance of decent warmth and light weight and low bulk.
And a special mention for the hybrid Switch jacket with its combination of Polartec Alpha and gridded fleece. Both are great on their own, but the combination could be better again thanks to the increased wind protection to the core plus you can always wear it as an alternative to a mid-layer fleece. Neat.