Arc’teryx Cerium SL hoody | £270
BEST FOR: All-mountain adventures in spring and summer.
Available in hoody and hoodless versions, the Cerium SL is Arc’teryx’ Super Light insulating jacket. Filled with premium 850 fill power goose down, the warmth to weight ratio is nothing short of outstanding. In areas of high moisture, down gets swapped out for Coreloft synthetic insulation. This not only dries faster than down but also avoids adverse effects from moisture, making this jacket an excellent option for spring and summer overnight adventures.
Face fabric on the LT is a wafer thin 7d Arato which has a DWR coating to repel moisture and is wind resistant, giving it the versatility to be worn as a wind breaking outer. If you’re regularly trekking through dense undergrowth we’d recommend going for something with a thicker, twig repelling face fabric but for general mountain use, save for the odd escaping feather, we haven’t had any problems so far.
The cut is close but not figure hugging, making this a comfortable jacket to slip on as well as allowing for a couple of layers to be worn underneath in colder weather.
The LT gets the same great packability as the other jackets in the Cerium range, with an integrated stuff sack in one of the two hand pockets taking care of compression and minimizing pack size down to something akin to a 750ml water bottle.
We love the Cerium range of jackets at Active Traveller - a good investment if you’re serious about the outdoors.
Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoody | £160
BEST FOR: Versatile use as both a mid and outer layer.
The original R1 fleece has become something of a classic outdoor piece but with the addition of the R1 TechFace Hoody, Patagonia have raised the game and created a more technical layer that will appeal to hikers, climbers, alpinists, runners, skiers and bikers alike.
A multi-purpose mid/outer layer, the R1 TechFace Hoody functions much like a durable, weather resistant fleece, making it an ideal cold weather mid-layer and/or outer layer on warm days in the mountains.
We tested the R1 TechFace on a range of vertical missions including a chilly early spring hillwalk, a ski touring adventure and an afternoon’s interseason cragging and found it performed perfectly across the board.
The articulated cut offers unrestricted movement and comes with the added benefit of a warm derriere which is always a plus! If things get chilly, you can get a snug fit by adjusting the hem and hood or hiding from the wind in the high collar.
We got caught in a couple of showers but didn’t have to stop to put on a waterproof jacket thanks to the DWR which did a great job of shedding precipitation.
A technical layering piece that works all year round and across a variety of outdoor activities.
Montane Icarus mid layer jacket | £140
BEST FOR: As a versatile layer of warmth for almost any activity.
Despite the arctic weather defence looks, the Icarus jacket is intended as a jacket for use on the move and resting.
It uses Primaloft's clever new Thermoplume insulation which mimics natural down to achieve greater warmth than other synthetic insulation, but unlike down it also benefits from retaining most of its insulating properties when wet.
Having said that, synthetic insulation still can't provide the warmth pound for pound of down and this shows in the weight of the Icarus at a shade under 600g, which doesn't compare favourably to the 280g Arc'teryx Cerium LT down jacket for instance, although this is half the price.
The Pertex Quantum Eco outer fabric is light and supple but hard wearing, it also has a DWR finish to fend off light rain and has good wind resistance.
The pockets are neatly placed for hand access and hold a decent amount, there's also a chest pocket for extra storage, all the zips and pullers and general detailing is of a good quality. In fact, the general build quality of the Icarus is excellent considering the mid-range price tag, it looks like it'll be a regular hiking and camping companion for many years to come.
A great mid layer jacket which fuses warmth, breathability, quality and value.
Columbia Jackson Creek II | £60
BEST FOR: Anything from chinwags at the pub to a multi-day hike.
Despite the movement towards synthetic and down insulated jackets, fleece is still high on our list of travel and outdoor gear requirements for its next to skin comfort and decent warmth to weight it provides, not to mention the conventional good looks.
The Jackson Creek II fleece is an excellent example from Columbia. It feels like a 200 weight fleece which is mid-warmth. This makes it versatile, as you can use it as a layering piece for hiking but it’s also ideal for travel, and the good looks and variety of colour options lend themselves well to everyday wear.
The cut is casual rather than athletic which adds to the comfort, it’s not so baggy that it doesn’t work as a technical layering piece though. The two hand warmer pockets have zips, as does the chest pocket which is backed by a subtle detailing panel.
The jacket doesn’t pack especially small nor is it particularly light, but it does the job it intends to do well and looks good while doing it. Although not as fashionable amongst the outdoor community as down we still love a good old fleece, and this effort from Columbia is definitely worth the £60 asking price.
The jacket doesn’t pack especially small, but it does the job it intends to do well and looks good while doing it.