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Criterion Activity Ultralight Down Jacket | Review

New lightweight 850+ goose down jacket mixes decent warmth with light weight and impressive packability.

‘Soft, light, lofty and decently warm for its weight, the Activity Jacket is a souped-up, old school down lightweight that’s at its best in cold dry conditions’

Outdoors Magic: Light, small-packing, top-notch fabrics, high fill-power Polish goose down, good warmth to weight ratio, packs into inside pocket, helmet compatible, adjustable hood.

Outdoors Tragic: Cut a little short and tight on the waist, tended to ride up in active use, no zip-tabs.

Outdoors Grabbit? Theres no doubting the quality of the Pertex lightweight fabrics and 850+ fill power Polish goose down and we can’t fault packability or warmth to weight ratio. The jacket has a silky light and warm feel to it. Lack of water-resistant down means it’s best in dry, cold conditions. The hood’s decent, takes a helmet, but adjusts down to move with a bare head. It’s cut slightly shorter than most though and that, combined with a snug waist fit meant for us it tended to ride up and stay up in active use. A great option for more static stuff like hut and tent use when you’re hauling your own gear and the grammes count.

 

Criterion Activity Jacket Ratings

Outright Warmth 

Packability 

Damp-proofing 


Overall:

Full Specification

Ultra-lightweight down jacket / Diamond grade 850+ white polish goose down / Pertex Quantum shell fabric with DWR / stitch-through baffled construction / two zipped hand-warmer pockets  / YKK zip with self-locking sliders / helmet-compatible hood with adjustment / elasticated cuffs and hem / high collar / packs into internal chest pocket

Full Review Below

The insulated hood is large enough to accommodate a helmet which means you could use the jacket as a lightweight belay one, though you'd maybe need to size up to make that a realistic option - image: Richard Seipp
The down compartment size is more 'midi' than 'micro-baffled' which we've found tends to give better outright warmth for the weight thanks to the reduction in the number of stitch-line cold spots and better lofting potential - image: Richard Seipp

Criterion Activity Ultralight Down Jacket – The Fill

Criterion may be a new name on the outdoors scene, but the brand was previously Cumulus and has been in the UK market for around ten years. The new Activity Jacket uses super high lofting 850 fill power Polish goose down for good warmth to weight ratio.

It’s housed in lightweight Pertex Quantum down and wind-proof fabric, which allows decent loft and contributes to packability. The baffles are ‘midi’ rather than the fashionable ‘micro’ or ‘skinny’ variety. The advantage is larger down compartments allowing more loft, plus a reduced number of seam lines, which in turn reduces heat-losing cold-spots.

Twin hand-warmer pockets basically do what the name suggests – image: Richard Seipp

 

Criterion Activity Ultralight Down Jacket – Performance

The new Activity jacket is a properly light and packable, old school, lightweight down jacket. The basics are mostly right: the 850 fill power goose down gives a properly lofty feel and great warmth to weight ratio. And the Pertex fabrics are some of the best out there.

Stuffed into its inside chest pocket, it’s neat and small enough to stick in a day pack without fretting over weight or volume. For reference, it’s around 2/3s the size of a comparable synthetic-filled jacket and, we reckon, appreciably warmer.

Just Down

One thing to be aware of is that the down isn’t water resistant. That doesn’t mean that light rain will be a problem, untreated down will still cope with around 20 minutes of wetness before things go wrong, but it does mean you need to be more careful and that the jacket is best suited to indoor use or cold, dry conditions outside. The Pertex Quantum outer does have a DWR by the way, so the odd splash isn’t a problem.

We found it great for cold weather tent and hut use, but less useful for anything active. The jacket is cut relatively short and while it has ample chest and shoulder room, it’s quite snug on the waist and we found it tended to ride up and stay up. The elasticated hem doesn’t help here.

Hoods Up

On the plus side, the hood is big enough to take a helmet if you wish, but adjustable down to normal head size using a top draw-cord, plus the collar is high enough to nestle comfortably over your chin. You could, conceivably use it as a very light belay jacket in cold, dry conditions, but you might need to go up a size plus the light, silky Quantum fabric isn’t the most rugged out there based on our past experience.

Finally, and this a minor thing, the zip pulls have no tags or cord making them slippy with gloved fingers. We added some thin cord temporarily, but it would have been nice if zip-pulls had been supplied.

Classic down jacket territory. Swigging coffee in the Outside cafe, Hathersage - image: Richard Seipp

Criterion Activity Ultralight Down Jacket – Verdict

We can’t fault the quality of the component parts and the effective midi-baffled design all of which result in an impressively small-packing and lightweight jacket that’s decently warm.

It’s an ideal choice for cold, dry, alpine-style conditions where you’re counting the grammes. That said, the lack of water-resistant down treatment made us a little wary of damper UK days and we also had some minor fit issues with the shorter-than-average hem tending to ride up in active use.

Other than that though, it works very well when the conditions suit and has a pleasant, soft, silky, lofty feel.

More Information

See criterion-sleepingbags.co.uk

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.

 

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