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How warm a down jacket do I need?

How warm a down jacket do I need?


Postby TheFox » Sat Oct 15, 2016 3:01 pm

Bought a down jacket last year on sale, but it has turned out to be a) of a bad quality and b) simply too cold. So I am looking for a better model now.

I'm doing hill walking in the highlands, including peaks with crampons and ice axe in winter, and in the future may also be active in the alps (will sadly move away from Scotland next year). Would also like to have a try at ice climbing some time. The purpose of the jacket is to keep me warm on breaks on the peaks in winter, possibly while belaying, and in case the weather turns really, really bad (blizzard conditions). Usually I'm reasonably warm in a baselayer and fleece when on the move. So the jacket will spend a lot of time in the backpack.

I have made a list of models that I like visually (yeah, yeah, don't judge ...) and can afford, but I find it difficult to estimate how warm they are - I tried the last one I bought in store and thought it to be warm, just to find out later that really it isn't. That jacket was 600 CUIN fill power, weighted 390g in total, but the fill weight isn't shown. I'm even cold in that jacket in the city below 5°C, and on the mountain it's just about okay in good conditions with a fleece underneath.

Now I am looking, for example, at the much better quality Jöttnar Fenrir, which boasts 112g of down filling with 850 CUIN, and a total weight of 380g - better than my last jacket, but I have a feeling that that won't be enough.

So my questions are:

1. How warm a jacket do I need for my uses? Let's assume a common worst case scenario of -5°C on the Munro peaks with strong winds >50 mph. Jacket worn over base layer and micro fleece, and under a hardshell (to keep the down dry).

2. Can jackets of different fill weight and fill power be meaningfully compared? E.g. could one say that if Jacket 1 with 100g fill and 800 CUIN has a hypothetical 'warmth coefficient' of (100 x 800/1000 = 80, and Jacket 2 with 200g fill and 600 CUIN has one of (200 x 600)/1000 = 120, then Jacket 2 is 50% warmer than Jacket 1?

Then the list would be like this:

Jöttnar Fenrir (112g fill weight/850 CUIN): 95.2
Montbell Alpine Light (135g fill weight/800 CUIN): 108
Norrøna Lyngen (170g fill weight/750 CUIN): 127.5
Mountain Equipment Dewline (191g fill weight/700 CUIN): 133.7
Montbell Frost Line (200g fill weight/800 CUIN): 160
Mountain Equipment Lightline (296g fill weight/750 CUIN): 207.2

I quite like the ME Dewline (even though it has a pretty low fill power for the price) - do you think it would be warm enough for Scottish winter use?

I know I'm being a bit complicated here, but since it's difficult to find out how warm a jacket really is in store, and my last purchase was a flop, I'd like to get it right this time :D
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby Caberfeidh » Sat Oct 15, 2016 4:33 pm

TheFox wrote:Bought a down jacket last year on sale, but it has turned out to be a) of a bad quality and b) simply too cold. So I am looking for a better model now.
I'm doing hill walking in the highlands, including peaks with crampons and ice axe in winter, and in the future may also be active in the alps (will sadly move away from Scotland next year). Would also like to have a try at ice climbing some time. The purpose of the jacket is to keep me warm on breaks on the peaks in winter, possibly while belaying, and in case the weather turns really, really bad (blizzard conditions). Usually I'm reasonably warm in a baselayer and fleece when on the move. So the jacket will spend a lot of time in the backpack.
I have made a list of models that I like visually (yeah, yeah, don't judge ...) and can afford, but I find it difficult to estimate how warm they are - I tried the last one I bought in store and thought it to be warm, just to find out later that really it isn't. That jacket was 600 CUIN fill power, weighted 390g in total, but the fill weight isn't shown. I'm even cold in that jacket in the city below 5°C, and on the mountain it's just about okay in good conditions with a fleece underneath.
Now I am looking, for example, at the much better quality Jöttnar Fenrir, which boasts 112g of down filling with 850 CUIN, and a total weight of 380g - better than my last jacket, but I have a feeling that that won't be enough.
So my questions are:
1. How warm a jacket do I need for my uses? Let's assume a common worst case scenario of -5°C on the Munro peaks with strong winds >50 mph. Jacket worn over base layer and micro fleece, and under a hardshell (to keep the down dry).
2. Can jackets of different fill weight and fill power be meaningfully compared? E.g. could one say that if Jacket 1 with 100g fill and 800 CUIN has a hypothetical 'warmth coefficient' of (100 x 800/1000 = 80, and Jacket 2 with 200g fill and 600 CUIN has one of (200 x 600)/1000 = 120, then Jacket 2 is 50% warmer than Jacket 1?
Then the list would be like this: Jöttnar Fenrir (112g fill weight/850 CUIN): 95.2
Montbell Alpine Light (135g fill weight/800 CUIN): 108
Norrøna Lyngen (170g fill weight/750 CUIN): 127.5
Mountain Equipment Dewline (191g fill weight/700 CUIN): 133.7
Montbell Frost Line (200g fill weight/800 CUIN): 160
Mountain Equipment Lightline (296g fill weight/750 CUIN): 207.2
I quite like the ME Dewline (even though it has a pretty low fill power for the price) - do you think it would be warm enough for Scottish winter use?
I know I'm being a bit complicated here, but since it's difficult to find out how warm a jacket really is in store, and my last purchase was a flop, I'd like to get it right this time :D


I guess it depends on the individual using the jacket, what's good for you may not be good for another. I had an excellent Rab down jacket years ago, but then just used the fleece-and-goretex layering system for many years. I now have a light down jacket from http://www.decathlon.co.uk/C-858789-down-and-insulated-jackets which will fit under a goretex outer. They're sizing system is different from those normally used in the U.K., so you are better to try on before buying.

DSCF5148ar.jpg
Light Down Jacket from Decathlon, Glen Coe
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby TheFox » Sat Oct 15, 2016 7:26 pm

Caberfeidh wrote:I now have a light down jacket from http://www.decathlon.co.uk/C-858789-down-and-insulated-jackets which will fit under a goretex outer. They're sizing system is different from those normally used in the U.K., so you are better to try on before buying.


I've had a look at the Quechua range and none of their jackets fit my needs. The X-Light has pretty low quality down (75:25 down:feathers rather than the standard 90:10, only 540 CUIN ...), the Full Down weighs only 250g (640 CUIN) and will be colder than my current jacket. Plus they are extremely cheap and I don't expect a lot for that sort of price.
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby Marty_JG » Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:06 am

Given the issue is wind chill rather than absolute temperature how about a wind-resistant outer jacket?
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby TheFox » Sun Oct 16, 2016 10:45 pm

Marty_JG wrote:Given the issue is wind chill rather than absolute temperature how about a wind-resistant outer jacket?


I have a Gore-Tex hardshell that is bombproof, and that I can wear over my down jacket when the wind is getting too crazy :wink:
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby Michael Thomson » Mon Oct 17, 2016 2:30 pm

If you're looking for one jacket to cover all the uses you have planned, you'll struggle a bit. It's hard to do one jacket for everything. It's a big difference between bluebird munro bagging and hanging in an ice belay in a blizzard.

I find I prefer higher fill power to more fill. For walking and occasional standing about in winter, I tend to use a lightweight down jacket (Haglofs Essens) with a sturdy midlayer, but if I know I'm going ice climbing or winter camping then I'll go up to something more substantial in terms of down content and weather resistance, the Jottnar Fjorm is what goes into my bag at the moment in those circumstances, but that doesn't mean you'd be warm enough in the same jacket, everyone is different.

You might want to review what you wear with it too if you're feeling the cold, consider warmer baselayers or add a powerstretch midlayer.
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby doggy » Sat Oct 22, 2016 6:57 pm

I can't walk in a down jacket in any weather, I heat up too much. All i wear is a thin fleece and a hardshell in wind and rain, sleet and snow and I'm roasting.

I personally would only ever wear my down walking around the shops, I just get too hot in them. I have two down jackets, an old berghaus from 2000 and a Montane North star.

If i get cold on the way down a hill I put on another fleece under my wind proof.
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby Caberfeidh » Sat Oct 22, 2016 10:04 pm

doggy wrote:I can't walk in a down jacket in any weather, I heat up too much. All i wear is a thin fleece and a hardshell in wind and rain, sleet and snow and I'm roasting.

I personally would only ever wear my down walking around the shops, I just get too hot in them. I have two down jackets, an old berghaus from 2000 and a Montane North star.

If i get cold on the way down a hill I put on another fleece under my wind proof.


Yah, I prefer a Royal Navy service issue greatcoat, but the tail hem catches my crampons.... :shock:
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby Marty_JG » Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:51 pm

Watching a Youtube of some wizened old canoe camper and he reckons Navy Blue is an attractor of biting insects.
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby Mountainrunner1981 » Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:06 am

Down jacket for Scotland?

You don't need one at all.

Unless you want to look fashionable en route to your preferred watering hole.

Just go faster if out on the hills.

As a belay jacket, use a synthetic. And get one with a big hood, as it'll be going over your helmet (try it with a helmet on).

It'll also need to be packable to a small size so it can hang from your harness when you're seconding/leading through.

Better to take a few extra thin layers and try it before shelling out a ton of money on a jacket you'll probably use only a handful of times in any given season anyway.

That is, aside from taking the dog out on a crisp night & going to aforementioned watering hole.
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby TheFox » Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:53 am

Mountainrunner1981 wrote:Down jacket for Scotland?

You don't need one at all.


I already have one, which I use a fair bit when out hill walking. It's just not warm enough, so I need another one with a higher fill volume and power.
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby StevenF » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:45 pm

I think they aren't really necessary for walking but when camping they are very usefull.
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby Michael Thomson » Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:24 pm

I'd say extremely useful for winter camping if you like to camp high, unless you want to be stuck in your sleeping bag the whole time or doing star jumps all night. For winter summit camps I always carry a down jacket.
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby doggy » Wed Oct 26, 2016 10:29 am

TheFox wrote:
Mountainrunner1981 wrote:Down jacket for Scotland?

You don't need one at all.


I already have one, which I use a fair bit when out hill walking. It's just not warm enough, so I need another one with a higher fill volume and power.


You must feel the cold like me, i have raynauds syndrome so I'm always buying warm clothing. Any down jacket with a rrp of £200 will be good, it's not really possible to say which one is the warmest or better at insulating you. If you are adamant you want one buy the one with the best fit. I wear my two as long as it's not raining, they are great in the wind walking about low level stuff.

What hill do you walk were you wear a down jacket?
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Re: How warm a down jacket do I need?

Postby TheFox » Thu Nov 17, 2016 4:54 pm

I have now narrowed it down to the Mountain Equipment Dewline Hoody, and the Rab Electron. Both seem very warm (the Rab a bit more than the ME) and well made.

Does anyone have any experience of either and can share some opinions/experiences? :)

doggy wrote:You must feel the cold like me, i have raynauds syndrome so I'm always buying warm clothing. Any down jacket with a rrp of £200 will be good, it's not really possible to say which one is the warmest or better at insulating you. If you are adamant you want one buy the one with the best fit. I wear my two as long as it's not raining, they are great in the wind walking about low level stuff.

What hill do you walk were you wear a down jacket?


Sorry for the late reply, I missed it back then and just saw it right now.

I don't think I have such a great cold perception, definitely no medical issue here :wink: My problem is that I bought a cheap down jacket that seemed okay in store, but I quickly found out that it's not at all warm. It has a low fill power and volume, and spots where there are hardly any down (e.g. the shoulders). It serves me well walking around the city down to 5°C or so, but if I stand still for longer at that temperature I get fairly cold. And 5°C isn't really that low :D So I don't have a disproportionate cold perception, I just bought the wrong jacket.

As for the hills, all sorts. Done Mayar and Driesh last winter, the Buachaille in Glencoe, Ben Nevis etc. I never wear the down jacket on the ascent as I run way too hot that way, in fact I walked up the Buachaille in a t-shirt in deep snow on a sunny January day. I need the down jacket for rest stops (get cold quickly once I don't generate heat through movement any more), bad conditions (strong winds and thus wind chill, snowing etc.) and emergencies.
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