PH Designs Kappa Jacket | Review - Outdoors Magic

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PH Designs Kappa Jacket | Review

PHD's ultimate wet weather-friendly insulation mixes a waterproof shell and full-on PrimaLoft filling for no-nonsense cold and damp conditions performance.

‘PHD’s waterproof-shelled, PrimaLoft-filled Kappa jacket is all about keeping you warm and comfortable when the going gets cold and wet in a Scottish winter style and it does it brilliantly’

Outdoors Magic: Very warm, very water repellent, seriously tough, unapologetically functional, all-round adjustable, zip-off hood. Pack size is reasonable too.

Outdoors Tragic: A little heavy, hood a tad tight with helmet in place. Not cheap.

Outdoors Grabbit? The Kappa may not look modishly stylish, but if you’re after a super warm, seriously tough, highly water-resistant insulated jacket – think Scottish winter conditions – the combination of lashings of quality PrimaLoft fill and a fully waterproof, though not taped, outer is hard to beat. You also get twin hand-warmer pockets and a versatile zip-off helmet-compatible hood. Finally you can add in the satisfaction of buying from a UK specialist who still manufacture right here in sunny northern England. What more could you possibly ask for?


PHD Kappa Jacket Ratings

Outright Warmth 




Full Specification

Highly water-resistant, Primaloft-filled mountain jacket with detachable hood / Primaloft Gold® synthetic insulation (133gsm quality in body, 100gsm quality in sleeves) / waterproof untaped  HS2 outer fabric / chest pocket – zipped / 2 handwarmer pockets – zipped / 1 inside security pocket – zipped / Velcro-adjustable cuffs / zip-off insulated hood / microfleece-lined hand pockets / stuff-sac supplied

Full Review Below

The zip-off hood gives you options, works with a bare head and will also just about take a helmet in mountaineering mode - Photo by Lukasz Warzecha
Simple rear volume adjustment may not look swish, but make the fit flexible when you're not wearing a lid. There's also a front-opening cord to play with - Photo by Lukasz Warzecha

PH Designs Kappa Jacket – The Fill

PHD, founded by Pete Hutchinson is a bit of a legendary name in lightweight down clothing and equipment and still manufactures in the UK. The Kappa though is the brand’s answer to damp, cold, UK winter conditions and relies on synthetic PrimaLoft Gold fill instead of feathers.

‘It’s not the warmest synthetic you can buy, but it’s definitely warm for the weight.’

They big plus of PrimaLoft is that it’s hydrophobic – doesn’t absorb water – and still retains most of its insulating ability even when wet.

Where the Kappa stands out is in the sheer amount of the stuff/ The main body uses 133gsm PrimaLoft Gold in the body and 100gsm in the sleeves.

For comparative purposes, something like an ME Fitzroy uses 100gsm fill in the body and 60gsm for the arms with a comparable overall weight. It’s not the warmest synthetic you can buy, but it’s definitely warm for the weight.

The zoned fill for body and sleeves is to avoid the sort of terminal ‘Michelin Man’ syndrome that would leave the wearer struggling to bend his or her arms agains the sheer bulk of the fill. Particularly important for synthetic insulation as it tends to be less compressible than down.

If you don't want the hood just zip it to leave the soft, fleece-lined high collar in situ - Photo by Lukasz Warzecha
The Kappa is unashamedly functional and lacking in swanky zips for example, but it works just fine - Photo by Lukasz Warzecha
- Photo by Lukasz Warzecha

PH Designs Kappa Jacket – Performance

Down is lovely stuff when warmth to weight ratios are a priority and it doesn’t hurt that classic down construction looks effortlessly stylish and classically warm. But even with the development of water-resistant down, synthetic fills like PrimaLoft are still the best solution for cold, damp, UK-style conditions – think Scotland in winter.

Where the UK-made Kappa takes things a stage further is by using a fully waterproof lightweight shell fabric called HS2. Because the fabric’s not seam taped, the jacket’s not technically 100% waterproof, but it’ll take a fair bit of rain to get past it and even then, the PrimaLoft fill copes well.

The Heaviest Jacket You’d Want To Carry

It’s not a light jacket, but at 660g for a medium, it’s somewhere around the ‘heaviest insulation you’d want to carry point’ and the pack size isn’t too bad at all. And it’s warm too. Properly warm in a way that lighter synthetic jackets simply aren’t.

Pull it on and you get an instant turbo heat boost. The cut isn’t sophisticated in an Arc’teryx style, but still pretty good in a trim-fitting way. It could, we reckon, do with a drop-tail for added butt protection. And if you’re planning to use it as a belay jacket, you might consider going up a size depending on what you’re planning on layering it over.

Function Over Fashion

The zip-off hood’s similarly functional rather than svelte, but works pretty well in practice. Depending on your clothing choices, you an add or remove it easily according to preference. If it really buckets down, for example, you might prefer not to have an insulated hood under a waterproof shell. Your call.

It will take a helmet, but we found it slightly tight in that mode despite the simple volume-adjusting Velcro strap being at ‘peak open’, but it’s reassuringly warm and snug over a bare head.


Other stuff just works: simple Velcro cuffs, glove-friendly pulls, hand-warmer pockets with a micro-fleece liner – the actual insulation is the ‘wrong’ side of the hands though, and an adjustable hem-cord.

It has to be pretty cold for you to wear it on the move and it’s sweaty if you do, but for slinging on during stops and on belays regardless of what else you’re wearing, it’s spot on.

The twin hand-warmer pockets have an outer micro-velour fleece lining for a touch of added luxury though the insulation proper sits between hands and body – Photo by Lukasz Warzecha

PH Designs Kappa Jacket – Verdict

PHD makes some of the best down jackets out there, but for sustained use in typically damp and cold UK-style winter conditions, the PrimaLoft-filled Kappa with its waterproof outer fabric, arguably makes more sense.

It’s genuinely warm, shrugs off light to medium rain, snow, spindrift and any amount of snow-melt and if the fill does get damp, no problem, it just keeps on working. It’s also just about light enough to carry in your winter pack without undue suffering.

It’s not the most sophisticated jacket around. Or the most fashionable. But if you’re more interesting in function than aesthetics it does the job on anything from frozen winter belays through to chilly winter bunkhouses. And it’s made in Staybridge too.

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