Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:40

Eight of the best lightweight insulated jackets Group Test

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There were several noticeable things at the Festival of Ice at the Ice Factor, Kinlochleven, on Saturday. First, the turnout of climbers was fantastic. Almost 60 people across a wide age range and many more women climbers than I’ve seen at a dry tooling event before.

Second, the amount of ice axe faffing is remarkable. I am not a climber so I reserve my sporting and technical faffing for triathlon. This includes lightweight bikes, go faster wetsuits and speedy running shoes. Dry tooling appears to require all kinds of sharpening, taping and protecting of ice axes. I watched in wonder as the climbers fiddled and faffed with their ice axes for at least an hour before the event started.

And, third, I was impressed by the number and range of lightweight insulated jackets in one room. (Now, I have finally got to the point of this blog!).

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Where insulated and down jackets used to be Michelin Man styley, the newest trend is for very lightweight and slimline. Many of these jackets still claim a fill of 600 to 800+ and having tried a wardrobe full of them recently I can report that they do keep me lovely and warm, even when it’s very cold.

In addition, some insulated jackets are made from man-made insulation that works better at keeping you warm in the wet or else they are made with water-repellent down or water-resistant outers.

In my opinion, these lightweight, insulted and down jackets are ideal for an autumn and not-to-chilly winter’s day as an outer layer. When the rain comes or the mercury drops, you simply add a waterproof jacket or another insulted layer over the top. Because the lightweight jackets are so slimline, they do not have bulk and so it’s easy to wear another layer over the top.

Another very useful advantage of these jackets is for times when you’re out on the hills, or climbing, or cycling, or whatever and you stop for a breather or a bite to eat. For climbers, you might use the jackets when you are belaying and not climbing. The jackets can be stuffed into a very small place in a pocket or a rucksack and then pulled out for use when you need some extra warmth. I have used these jackets – especially the PrimaLoft versions – to great use when cycling, walking or running longer distances. Every time I stop I pop the jacket on and find myself toasty warm in minutes, rather than shivering from the entire stoppage.





8 great insulated jackets

Here are some of the lightweight insulated jackets I've reviewed and tested.


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Berghaus Furnace III

The Berghaus Furnace III Jacket – different fits for men and women – boasts a new HydroDown Technology. Berghaus tell me that the down is treated with a water repellent before being sewn into the jacket. So, even when the jacket is damp (from sweat, air moisture or rain) it will still offer good levels of insulation. The result is a neat-fitting and toasty warm jacket that is great for both dry and wet weather.

Wha I like: The fit and the look. The long arms and longer body are good for my length and height. I took the jacket out in the rain to see what happened when it got wet and I found that it still kept me warm. I didn’t stay out for hours, however, and it wasn’t s really cold day so I can’t tell you if the jacket would be good for a day of non-stop rain and cold but I expect most people would be sensible enough to put a waterproof jacket on top.

What I don’t like: It should have a hood.

Price £170 See Berghaus






Rab Aw13 Womens Xenon X Hoodie

Rab Xenon Hoodie

Lightweight PrimaLoft® insulation is a big feature of these jackets this season. It is said to be the perfect solution for damp wear. Because the man-made product stays warm even when it gets wet. In addition, the Rab Xenon boasts PrimaLoft and a Pertex Quantum outer layer that is strong and windproof. This jacket also comes with a hood.

What I like: The fit on the women’s jacket is slightly shorter in the torso, although the arms are still long. This makes it a good choice for wearing under a longer waterproof jacket. The hood is great fitting and very cosy. I like the zipped chest pocket, which doubles as a stuffing pouch. I also find the PrimaLoft to do exactly what it says it will: It keeps me warm, even when it’s wet.

What I don’t like: Not much really, except perhaps that the jacket could be a little shapelier fitting for women.

Price around £125 Xenon X hoodie for women.







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Mammut Miva Light jacket

The Mammut Miva Light is for women, while the Mammut Broad Peak Light is for men. These are two of the new down jackets that come with a water-resistant outer. Be warned though that this water-resistance doesn’t work in anything other than light rain. If the rain turns heavy, add a waterproof jacket over the top. The down is featherlight and boasts 800-fill warmth in a stunning design and range of colours. These jackets stuff into a zipped pocket.

What I like: The look, colours and warmth.

What I don’t like: I was a bit disappointed that the jacket didn’t offer more water repellency.

Price: Around £150 to £200.




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Montane Flux Primaloft jacket

The new Montane Flux jacket for men and women  features layered 100g and 60g PRIMALOFT® ECO “combined to maximise insulation without compromising comfort”. It has also been extensively tested on the big walls of Patagonia’s Fitzroy in some of the most changeable weather conditions on earth so whatever walk or hike you’re doing you can be sure of a jacket that keeps you warm. The outer fabric is PERTEX® Microlight Rip-stop so it will cope with being worn for climbing and being stuffed inside your rucksack, etc. There’s a useful inside pocket.

What I like: The design, colour range and the lovely fleecy insides of the zipped pockets. I love this attention to comfort detail! The hood is a great addition. The jacket also does as it says, keeping me nice and warm whatever the weather.

What I don’t like: It would be good to see a bit more female shape to this jacket.

 RRP £140. Montane Flux jacket



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Jack Wolfskin Altostratus jacket

This comes in a a women’s and male fit. Rather than stripes of insulated pockets, this jacket has a checked pattern. The fill is manmade while the outer fabric is a windproof material that also boasts a silicone coating to rain water just rolls off. There is a useful integrated hood.

What I like: The fresh design and look. Jack Wolfskin pay a great deal of attention to design. It's also a warm jacket.

What I don’t like: The flair of the hips of this jacket is a bit wide for me but that could be because I don’t have wide hips.





Helly Hansen Verglas jacket

Images 11From the “olden” days of navy blue with white stripe baselayers to 21st century fabbie designs and bright colours, Helly Hansen rarely fail to impress me. Their gorgeous range of Verglas jackets for women also hit the spot. This is a down jacket that has been treated with DWR for water repellency.


What I like: Long arms and torso, deep, fleecy pockets and a decent hood with a one-handed adjustor.

What I don’t like: I can’t find anything not to like.

Price £230. Helly Hansen





Helly Hansen H2 Flow jacket

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This is a bit different, and you can see the difference when you look inside. A see-through mesh inner layer covers a layer of insulation that appears to have circular holes cut out of it. This is Helly Hansen’s H2 Flow system, which combines insulation and ventilation for conditions when you’ll become hot and sweaty and then chilly. There is also an outer shell that locks in heat through its air pockets. The outer is made of Polartec 200g brushed fleece for ventilation and warmth as well. In addition, there are two long ventilation zips down the front.

What I like: This is a useful jacket for times when you will get hot and sweaty and then suddenly hit a cold spell. For example while ski mountaineering or walking up hills and then down. The breathability is extremely good for an insulated jacket.

What I don’t like: The shape is a bit square and I wonder how many times I might usefully wear this jacket.

£130 at Helly Hansen



Columbia  Powerfly Down Hoodie

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If you have ever been wrapped in a space blanket after a race you’ll know just how toasty warm it is. Outdoors brand Columbia have taken the space blanket technology and inserted it into their clothing range. A layer of Omni-Heat Reflective fabric inside jackets, socks, gloves and shoes acts to boost body heat without need for bulky insulation. For example, the new Columbia Powerfly Down Hoodie for women offers maximum warmth thanks to is Omni-Heat Reflective and 800-fill down insulation.In addition, the lightweight jacket has “Omni-Shield” advanced repellency to keep light rain out.

What I like: It’s different and it’s certainly very warm. The colour range is also great.

What I don’t like: The fit is a little roomy for me but I am tall and slim so I expect it would be better suited to other women.

£144 at

Tell me about your experiences with the new range of lightweight insulated jackets.

Note: This article was restored from the archives. It's published creation date is inaccurate.