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Jack Geldard - wearing a belay jacket on the summit of Les Courtes in winter.
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor
© Adrian Jebb
I've had quite a few belay jackets over the years, which have ranged in quality from useless to life-saving, so I was interested to see how this one would perform. The Stratus is Mammut's synthetic belay jacket, designed for belaying and bivvying in extremely low temperatures. It is filled with man-made insulation to cope with getting wet. I've taken it out to the crag in the Peak and North Wales, up on to the Ben in damp, snowy conditions and down to the finger freezing temperature of -18 in the Alps over the winter. I'm impressed.
Stratus Hooded JacketUKC Gear, Dec 2007© Mammut
The outer material is polyester and is available in black and red (pictured), black and grey, or a 'pond' colour, which is sort of blue/green. The fill/insulation is 240g of synthetic high-performance MTI® (whatever that means) and was fairly thick and extremely warm. It felt a little too thick to climb technical routes in - but I did do a lot of down-climbing at night and ridge traversing in it. The jacket has three external pockets; two either side and one on the chest. The two side pockets are lined with a fleece material for extra comfort and warmth. The chest pocket is fairly small, but will hold a few mars-bars and other essentials. The jacket has two large inner pockets on either side of the zip. These are huge mesh pouches with elasticated tops, great for holding spare gloves, water bottles and other gettable items and invaluable when winter climbing. The zips are all top quality YKK and have usable toggles for gloved hands. The cuffs are elasticated and feature that 'thumb hole' that I never use, but I'm sure some people do. The waist is elasticated with a drawstring and there are adjustment toggles on this at both sides. Lastly the hood; according to the Mammut website it's a M.A.P. hood, which means nothing to me, all I can say is that as far as hoods go it's the best I've ever used. It fits over a helmet perfectly and the drawstring on the back sort of sucks the hood around your head - creating a snug fitting hat which is amazingly warm.
It's wet, it's cold and it's always windy. Scottish winter climbing demands a jacket that can cope with quite a lot of water. Down jackets can be rendered next to useless when they get soaked through in the wet snow and (unfortunately quite common) rain. I was strapped to a belay up on Smith's Route on quite a warm day. We must have been making slow progress because we were overtaken, not by a slick party of winter specialists, but by the freezing level as the temperature increased - which was quite disconcerting and made for a very damp experience! On removing an ice screw I got a spout of water on the chest. The jacket was soaked through but still kept me pretty warm on the next belay. It sheds water reasonably well, but has its limits. Warm when wet is the adage to use here. All in all a great jacket for Scottish climbing.
It's cold, it's bathed in beautiful sunlight and did I mention how cold it is? Here the jacket came in to its own. Weighing in at 830g it's not the lightest on the market, so if you're a light and fast climber then you might want to look elsewhere. For everyone who would rather be warm and carry an extra 200g this could be the perfect belay jacket. Warm enough for sitting around on glaciers waiting for the sun to come up and light enough to carry on routes. I wore this jacket on several evenings in the mountains and it performed excellently.
Overkill is a word I would use here. This is a serious jacket, with loads of great features, but perhaps a little over insulated for summer use. It could however be packed for a bivvy and be used instead of a sleeping bag. With jackets like the Mammut Vatta Jacket weighing in at 420g and the Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket weighing in at 510g, compared to the 830g of the Stratus, I'd be more tempted to go for a lightweight version for summer/general use.
An excellent cold weather belay jacket. All the right features, no bells and whistles. Well made and well cut, infinitely usable in cold weather. An excellent hood and a hefty fill mean warm belays in freezing conditions. Just a bit on the heavy side for summer Alpine/general use. Perfect for those Alpine north walls.
For More Details see the UKC Product News on this jacket.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor:
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