Alpkit Fantom Down Jacket
Whether it's scaling alpine aretes, winter walking lunch stops, long belays in the shade, or just knocking about the tent after sundown, a toasty down jacket is your number one ally against the cold.
I'm at Bramcrag Quarry in the Lakes, it's day one with my Outdoor Research belay jacket and I just love it straight off and know it's going to get used at lot, in fact this jacket hasn't really left my back since!
I got raised eyebrows from my nearest and dearest when I started calling it 'my best friend' but it has been with me throughout all seasons since. It's a tough, warm belay-type-jacket yet smart enough for dress down Fridays within my law firm in Manchester city. Plus it's water resistant which (with the UK weather) makes it more useful than my older Pertex shelled jacket.
The hood fits happily over a helmet and cinches in to maintain your view. The part elastic, part Velcro cuffs allow flexibility and held the sleeves up when climbing a last route at Bramcrag Quarry on that chilly afternoon in late October. The zips fasten easily and all the zip pulls work really smoothly – handy for the masses of pockets you have, in fact anyone with a pocket fetish will have hours of fun finding yet more pockets within the pockets!
There's 2 fleecy warm lower zipped outer pockets, 2 large mesh internal pockets (handy for all sorts and secure enough for me to use it for a bulky purse as much as for my favourite bob hat). 1 zipped internal pocket and the 1 zipped upper outside pocket has a further small mesh pocket inside it with an internal hole for a cable to go through, great for a head torch battery cable or a small mp3 player. Basically there is a pocket for every need I can think of and all of a good size. Within one of the fleecy lower pockets there is a handy clip for securing things keys or lift pass I guess, although I mainly just twiddle this absent-mindedly whilst keeping my hands warm.
The feel of the coat is what I love most; it fits well, it's soft and it's cosy. It comes in black, pinot (purple) and hydro/rio (two tone blue). The insulation is 70% DWR-treated down and 30% PrimaLoft with the shoulders, hood and waist having 100% PrimaLoft Gold insulation.
It's incredibly warm for its weight (452g), I've only reached for my thicker duvet jacket when it's gone down well below zero degrees and I know I won't be moving around as much, and on one occasion I put the down jacket back anyway because it isn't waterproof.
The Diode is perfect for proper winter outdoors stuff like on the Ben with a shell layer on top to cope with the worst of wet weather or it would be fine on it's own in dry weather ice climbing. I've tested it in the many torrential downpours this winter and the water resistance works better than it's description of weather resistant, basically it beads up until the rain turns torrential over a period or if you are using your arms a lot and brushing the surface more than just walking. I've stayed dry then even so. The fact it packs down small makes the jacket super flexible. For example when I was on my warm and sunny end of summer trip sport climbing at Gower, I'd still throw it in the rucksack each day in case it got cold in the shade.
Well I noticed that in a strong head wind I could just feel the cold of the breeze through the zip even though there is a zip baffle behind it.
From looking at the photos in this review you'll appreciate that from the first day of putting it on I've taken it virtually everywhere with me and it's had continual use, and I think that pretty much says it all.
It might look like a standard belay jacket but don't underestimate it, as it's got much more umph than the others I've had before and in my opinion, it's in a league of it's own.
What Outdoor Research Say:
The unique PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Down Blend of the Diode Hooded Jacket packs the best attributes of each material into one weather-resistant and highly compressible insulation. Perfect for preserving warmth in cold, damp environments where pure down could wet out, the body of the Diode is stuffed with a 70% DWR-treated down/30% PrimaLoft® blend of insulation that traps heat in the nastiest conditions. In areas most exposed to the weather – the shoulders, hood and waist – the Diode uses 100% PrimaLoft® Gold insulation, further protecting from the elements. More than a belay parka, the ingenious Diode Hooded Jacket provides functional, water-resistant warmth in variable conditions.
MORE INFO: Outdoor Research Website