The original Icarus was launched back in 2017, hitting a keen price point and swiftly becoming UKC head honcho Alan James' jacket of choice (and believe me, he's got a LOT of jackets to choose from). That said, it wasn't all a fairy tale story: the cut needed a bit of refinement and the weight wasn't quite what we had hoped it might be. With this in mind we were interested to see what the latest guise - the Icarus Flight - brought to the table.
Whilst there are parallels to be drawn between the Icarus and the Icarus Flight they are, in many ways, poles apart. The Icarus was best described as an outer layer/mid-weight belay jacket, designed for use whilst stationary. The Icarus Flight is a much more active piece, far more at home on the move, be that on an alpine ascent, a Scottish winter approach, a trad climb during the spring/autumn, or even a boulder problem on a cool and crisp day. If that isn't versatile I don't know what is…
Having used both versions (the old and the new), the Flight is the one I've reached for the most frequently, because it is the more wearable of the two. The stretch panels, which consist of 'Thermo Stretch Pro' fleece fabric provide two main benefits: the first being (as the name suggests) stretch and the second being breathability. The addition of fleece paneling has made what previously felt like quite a rigidly cut jacket into a much more more dynamic piece, with superb freedom of movement and minimal lift whilst raising your arms. The matter of breathability is an interesting one, as the Icarus was a warm jacket, but one that could feel a bit sweaty at times. The Flight has much better temperature regulation, making it much more suitable for use on the move, but equally - and understandably - a bit colder on belays.
In the modern day and age I'd like to think most readers are aware of the benefits and drawbacks of down vs. synthetic, but perhaps a quick word needs to be directed towards the fill - Primaloft ThermoPlume. ThermoPlume shares the 'warm when wet' benefits of other synthetic insulation, but has greater 'down-like' warmth, which you certainly noticed with the original Icarus, which was equivalent to 550+ fill power. It is also 'blown' as opposed to lined, giving it a very similar appearance to a microbaffle down jacket, only without the clumping when wet. This evenly distributes the fill, minimising cold spots. However, there are some drawbacks and the first of these is compressibility, as it doens't go down anyway near as small as an equivalent down jacket. This was more of an issue with the original Icarus, as that was something that was likely to be stored, but (as explained earlier in the review) this is less applicable with the Icarus Flight, which is designed to be worn.
The second issue is weight, as ThermoPlume - and synthetics as a whole - still come in heavier on the scales than their down equivalent. In short, the down vs. synthetic debate continues with each having their strengths and weaknesses, but overall I certainly see the continued use of synthetics as a positive thing in the British climate, mostly because of the prevailing warm and wet conditions.
When it comes to the Icarus vs. Icarus Flight there's not a great deal of difference between them weight-wise, with the original coming in at 547g and the Flight coming in at 536g (size Medium). That modest saving is further improved when you put it into the context of a jacket you're more likely to wear than you are to carry. As such, it's weight that's on you, as opposed to on your back.
When it comes to fit Montane puts it in their 'Active Mountain' category, which roughly translates to 'fitted'. Size-wise it comes across pretty accurately, with Medium feeling about right for a jacket that you'd expect to wear in much the same was as a fleece (or over a fleece). That said, it is quite slim across the body, so if you're at the broad end of the spectrum it could be worth trying one out for size before committing. Besides the chest the jacket broadens out a little across the shoulders and with a long set of arms, with the cuffs neatly recessed. The hood, whilst not having any volume adjustment, is snug and designed to be worn under - as opposed to over - a helmet. It's also worth mentioning that a women's version - the Phoenix - offers the same set of specs, but a different cut that's slimmer across the body and narrower across the shoulders.
Anyhow, enough of the positives: what are the drawbacks? The immediate and most noticeable are the pockets, which - due to the jacket's panelling - are incredibly small. Over the past few months this has led to a fair few things (mostly my phone) falling out, but I can't see (given the jacket's design) how they'd have done anything differently - there is no more space. Whilst it is a piece for whilst you're 'on the move', and thus you're less likely to have your hands in your pockets, it is nice to have somewhere to put them - or your gloves - when you get cold. Aside from these there is a single internal chest pocket, which is actually a far more usable space due to its square size, but it's obviously a lot less convenient!
Despite obvious parallels to its predecessor the Icarus Flight bears little or no resemblance in terms of functionality, being more of an active piece as opposed to a jacket to be put on whilst stationary. Maybe it's the fact that it's well cut, maybe it's the fact that it's breathable, or maybe it's the fact that it provides a good balance between insulation and airflow, but there's just something about the Icarus Flight that works. Granted it's not the lightest out there, but it is one of the most usable and we like it a lot.
Combining innovative PrimaLoft® ThermoPlume synthetic insulation with THERMO STRETCH PRO fleece panels for enhanced thermal performance and articulation in alpine conditions. The Icarus Flight can be used either as a mid-layer in cold conditions or as a stand-alone outer.
- Sizes: S-XXL (men) - women's version is Phoenix
- Weight: 536g (medium)
- FEATHERLITE™ Mini Rip-stop 20D outer with DWR
- 135g (M) PrimaLoft® ThermoPlume insulation
- THERMO STRETCH PRO grid backed fleece
- Micro baffle construction
- Insulated under-helmet hood
- Full length YKK VISLON ® front zip with internal storm flap
- Articulated arms with engineered tailoring
- Zipped internal chest pocket
- Two zipped hand pockets
- Pre-elasticated cuffs
- Adjustable hem with cinchable drawcord
For more info see montane.co.uk