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The first thing I noticed about the Marmot Ama Dablam was the vivid blue outer contrasting with the even brighter green inner and zips ... if the 80s are back in then the Ama Dablam is certainly on trend. The Ama Dablam does of course come in several other colour schemes, and is also available in the ever-ubiquitous black for the more discrete.
Fashion aside, down jackets are a staple of the mountaineers/climbers wardrobe, providing lightweight, luxurious and compressible warmth everywhere from icy mountaintop to chilly climbing walls and the frosty stroll to the pub. Although now a major manufacturer of everything from gloves to tents, Marmot started out as a few university friends making down clothing and sleeping bags – their 'big break' first order was for a hundred down jackets for the 1975 film The Eiger Sanction.
The Ama Dablam is a mid-weight (around 550g) down jacket, using 125g of high quality 800 fill power (a measure of how well the down traps air) goose down in a stitched-through construction all to Marmot's usual high build quality – no down leakage through the fabric or seams. Stitched-through means that the inner and outer are stitched together to form separate compartments that hold the down in place. Stitched-through construction is the standard method for making most down clothing unless it is designed for very cold (minus double digits) weather use.
The Ama Dablam has a mid-length cut (coming just below the hips) and the overall fit is good – room for layers underneath without being too baggy and good arm movement, and being relatively low bulk can also be worn under a shell without getting too much Michelin man effect. The down-filled adjustable hood is big enough to go over a helmet but works equally well (doesn't swallow you) without, and the around-the-face adjustment drawcords are designed so that their ends are tucked inside the jacket – no getting stung in the face by them in high winds. A cosy fleece patch at the chin prevents the dreaded 'stubble-rub'. The cuffs use a combination of elastic and a velcro tab – plenty of adjustment as needed.
The main zip is a quite chunky making it easy to seat while wearing gloves, and has a two-way zipper allowing the bottom to be opened up for access to for instance a harness belay loop. Completing the package are a pair of cosy fleece lined handwarmer pockets, and an outer and inner chest pocket. The handwarmer pockets contain the ends of the elasticated hem drawcord – a nice touch keeping the hem clutter free and enabling quick and easy tightening. The outer chest pocket sits behind the down so will help keep a mobile or camera warm. The inner chest pocket is large (approx. 24 by 28cm) – big enough for gloves and hat, ski goggles, guidebooks etc. and has a zip-pull on both the inside and outside. This allows the jacket to be stuffed (it easily fits) into the inner pocket making a neat portable package with a handy clip loop – much better than a separate stuffsac that inevitably gets quickly lost.
In terms of overall warmth, with only 125g of down filling the Ama Dablam is a pretty light jacket – probably best suited to use in single digit (degrees C) temperatures – bouldering/cragging, year round UK mountaineering, or just hanging around camp. This lighter weight allows it to be used a bit more actively than beefier down jackets (you don't melt after a couple of minutes activity), and also to layer it under a shell for say cold weather skiing, but if looking for a jacket for continuous below freezing use (icefall trips, winter alpine climbing, expedition), a beefier jacket (200-300g down fill) like the superb Marmot Greenland is probably more suitable.
A nice lightweight down jacket suitable for a wide range of general uses and light enough for layering that neatly packs away into it's inner pocket for carrying.
More information here on the Marmot Website
About Viv Scott
I've been climbing for a bit over ten years, and am currently based in Edinburgh having escaped from the southern flatlands. Climbing highs include Scottish winter climbing, a couple of trips to the Alaska Range, classic alpine routes, sunny ski touring, cragging in the UK and abroad, and beers and craic in the pub afterwards. Lows include Scottish winter climbing, alpine bivies, base camp blues, midges and the UK weather... I guess I'd like to be a jack of all trades and I'm definitely a master of none, but most enjoy the great variety of climbing and look forward to trips back to old favourites and hopefully many new and different places.
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