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PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review

Featuring 900 fill-power down, baffled construction, high loft, and a nearly waterproof shell, the Yukon Pullover is a well-balanced four-season down parka. Is this the ultimate ultralight down garment for cold weather pursuits?

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

While the Yukon Pullover is an outstanding performer, it’s not as lightweight as it could be. PHD has compromised with a heavier shell fabric, added features, and heavier zippers. It’s not a minimalist standout like the three-season PHD Ultra Down Pullover. Yes it’s more durable and nearly waterproof, but it doesn’t attain the standout status required to merit our Highly Recommended rating.

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by Will Rietveld |


Introduction

PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review - 1
The PHD Yukon Down Pullover features 900 fill-power down and baffled construction.

PHD (Peter Hutchinson Designs) Mountain Software is a small company in Stalybridge, UK that manufactures sleeping bags and garments “from the lightest in the world to the ultimate in extreme expedition protection.” Many of their garments are offered in standard sizes, or custom sizing, added fill, or custom features at additional cost. All products are sewn in their small factory after the order is placed.

This review covers their baffled Yukon Down Pullover (also available as a jacket with a full-height front zipper), which is designed to provide maximum warmth with minimal weight. Is this the ultimate ultralight down garment for cold weather pursuits?

Description

The PHD Yukon Down Pullover features 900 fill-power down, which PHD tests on-site to be sure it meets or exceeds their specifications. One ounce of down of this quality expands to 900 cubic inches (14.7 liters), so a relatively small weight of down produces a very puffy jacket. The jacket has box wall baffled construction and 4-inch (10-cm) down chambers. PHD does not disclose the amount of down fill in the jacket. I measured the jacket’s average double layer loft at 3.75 inches (9.5 cm).

PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review - 2
Front and rear views of the PHD Yukon Down Pullover. The Yukon, designed as a lightweight cold weather garment, has a few features beyond the minimum: a detachable hood, fleece-lined collar, #5 front and pocket zippers, and a drawcord hem.

The outer shell is PHD’s Drishell fabric, which is 1.68 oz/yd2 (57 g/m2) ripstop nylon with DWR, claimed to provide “total wind resistance, high breathability, and effective water resistance”. Its functionality is similar to shell fabrics used in the Western Mountaineering Flash XR Jacket and the Montane Anti-Freeze Jacket. The lining is PHD’s MX Microfiber nylon ripstop which, at 0.88 oz/yd2 (30 g/m2), is one of the lightest downproof fabrics currently available. MX is calendared on both sides (more on the inside) to increase strength, wind resistance, and downproofness.

The Yukon Down Pullover is featured for lightweight four-season use, i.e., it adds some essentials for cold weather comfort and convenience. It has a detachable hood (1.8 oz/51 g) that attaches with five snaps. The front zipper is a 12-inch (30-cm) YKK #5CN coil zipper, rather than the #3 zipper found on the three-season PHD Ultra Down Pullover. The hood and cuffs have a simple elastic binding, but the hem has an elastic drawcord with two adjustors to seal out drafts. There is one large reach-through front pocket, with zippered openings, that provides loads of room inside to hold an assortment of items.

PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review - 3
The front reach-through pocket (left) is full width and high volume. There is a zippered security pocket (right) inside on the right side.

PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review - 4
The hood is attached with five snaps and is removable; it has a simple elastic binding on the front plus two under-chin snaps.

Performance

I tested the PHD Yukon Down Pullover on a number of fall backpacks in the southern Colorado Rockies, plus winter skiing and snowshoeing (even ice fishing) over a five-month period. Temperatures ranged from +30 to -15 F (-1 to -26 C). I typically wore the pullover in camp, in my sleeping bag on cold nights, and while hiking or skiing on frigid days.

I normally wear a men’s size Large and found the sizing of the Yukon Down Pullover to be perfect. It’s roomy enough inside to wear over a baselayer plus a thin insulating layer, and the sleeves are extra long. The fit around the face, at the neck, and at the wrists is snug but not tight; the hem is snugged with a drawcord. The dropped tail covers the butt somewhat (see photos above) but the garment is not extra long in the body. I personally like a pullover style, but I must admit it is not as convenient to put on as a jacket style. The Yukon Jacket version of this garment has a full-height front zipper and weighs 1.1 ounces (30 g) more, and many users will feel that it is worth the extra weight.

For cold weather camping, the PHD Yukon Down Pullover paired with the PHD Minimus Down Trouser (8 oz/227 g) is a warm and lightweight combination, weighing about 1.5 pounds (680 g), providing plenty of comfort in camp, and extending the warmth of an ultralight sleeping bag by 10-15 F (6 to 8 C). I have found that wearing an ultralight rain jacket and pants over my insulating layers noticeably increases their warmth in camp, and have been known to wear my raingear inside my sleeping bag on really cold nights to stay warm.

PHD claims a comfort temperature for the Yukon Pullover of +5 F (-15 C). I found that to be accurate when physically active, but, for inactive conditions, I needed a couple of layers under it and a shell over it to stay warm. For skiing or snowshoeing, the jacket is simply too warm to wear while climbing, but it's perfect to wear during breaks and downhill runs on frigid days.

In wind and snow, I found the Yukon provided superb protection from the elements. While skiing on frigid days with a biting wind, the Yukon kept me toasty warm. I deliberately wore it as an outer layer on snowy and rainy days to test its water resistance; it stayed completely dry inside, and the shell fabric did not wet out.

Unfortunately, PHD’s Drishell at 1.68 oz/yd2 (57 g/m2) is not very light. It weighs more than twice as much as the new Pertex Quantum GL (about 0.7 oz/y2/27 g/m2), which is considered to be the current state-of-the-art material for lightweight shell fabric (MontBell’s 7 denier Ballistic Airlight fabric is equal in light weight and quality). While Drishell is heavier, it is also clearly more durable and weather-resistant. The fabric itself contributes significantly to the garment’s warmth and dryness, which should not be discounted.

PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review - 5
I tested the jacket’s waterproofness by placing a puddle of water on the shell for an hour (left), then checking for leakage. No water soaked through the fabric or seam, verifying PHD’s claim of high water resistance. From my home and field tests, I conclude that PHD’s Drishell provides superb weather resistance and durability.

Comparisons

The following table compares specifications of jackets similar to the PHD Yukon Down Pullover. All jackets have lightweight shell fabric, premium down insulation, and baffled construction. Manufacturer data for size Medium are shown.

Jacket Shell Fabric Insulation Features Weight oz (g) size Medium Cost
PHD Yukon Down Pullover Drishell ripstop nylon with DWR 1.68 oz/yd2 (57 g/m2) 900 down Half-zip, reach-through front pocket, zippered security pocket, elastic cuffs and hem 15.0 (420) £245 (approx. US$334 without VAT)
PHD Yukon Down Jacket Drishell ripstop nylon with DWR 1.68 oz/yd2 (57 g/m2) 900 down Full-height front zipper, plus above features 15.9 (450) £255 (approx. US$348 without VAT)
Nunatak Skaha Plus Pullover with Front Pocket Pertex Quantum 0.9 oz/yd2 (30 g/m2) 800 down Half-zip, drawcord hood and hem, elastic cuffs 10.5 (298) US$412

For light weight, the hooded Nunatak Skaha Plus is hard to beat at 10.5 ounces (298 g), but the cost is about US$100 more. The Skaha Plus apparently attains its lighter weight by using lighter shell fabric, a lighter front zipper, and no pocket zippers. In defense of their using “only” 800 fill down, Nunatak stresses that down quality varies a lot by source, and they use the highest quality down available.

Other than the manufacturer data presented in the table, I have no additional information (such as fill weight and loft) to compare the garments. I have not personally tested any of the other garments in the table, so I can’t comment any further on how well they compare.

Assessment

Without data on fill weight and loft, it is difficult to compare the warmth of the PHD Yukon Down Pullover (or jacket) with the Nunatak Skaha Plus. There are a limited number of lightweight baffled down jackets on the market, and their weights vary over a fairly wide range. And the lightest jacket isn’t necessarily the warmest. Warmth ultimately depends on the amount and quality of down in the jacket; and light weight comes from high lofting down and minimalist fabrics and features. The Nunatak Skaha Plus seems to be the most minimalistic, but the down fill-power, by the numbers, does not compare well. PHD verifies the fill-power of their down, but they do not disclose the amount of down in the jacket. My double layer loft measurement of 3.75 inches (9.5 cm) is good, and my personal testing of the Yukon Pullover verifies that it is quite warm.

All of the jackets listed in the table are high-end baffled jackets with premium down and cost in the US$350-425 range. An alternative is to look at premium stitched-through jackets, such as the Rab Infinity Jacket and GoLite Bitteroot Jacket. Both have 850 fill down, a Pertex Quantun GL shell and lining, and attached hood. The Rab Infinity weighs 18 ounces (510 g), contains 7.4 ounces (210 g) of down, and sells for US$280 (that’s a great value); the GoLite Bitterroot (fall 2011) will weigh 13.1 ounces (371 g), contains 5.3 ounces (150 g) of down, and will sell for US$375. Another notable stitch-through jacket is the Western Mountaineering Meltdown (850+ down/17 oz/482 g/US$340), which has a microfiber shell. And of course there is the WM Flight Jacket (4.7 ounces/133g of 850+ down/10.5 oz/ 298g/US$250). Although these stitched-through jackets are not directly comparable to the jackets in the table, some of them are a lower cost alternative, and their warmth can be comparable to a baffled jacket if you wear a shell over them (for details read my article Lightweight 3-Season Down Jackets State of the Market Report). The referenced article also provides fill weight, loft, and other data for a large number of ultralight down jackets.

Overall, the PHD Yukon Down Pullover (and jacket) appears to be in the ball park for weight, warmth, and pricing for a baffled garment. It could be made a bit lighter by offering a lighter shell fabric, using a #3 zipper on the front, eliminating the pocket zippers, and lightening the hem drawcord. That would eliminate 2-3 ounces (57-85 g), but would make the jacket more fragile for four-season use. The Yukon is a balancing act of durability, functionality, warmth, fit, and weather resistance. From our perspective, it’s not as lightweight as it could be; but from a mountaineer’s perspective, it is spot on. Perhaps PHD should offer an ultralight version of this pullover, and perhaps they should consider using Pertex Quantum GL fabric. As it is, the Yukon does not stand out from a lightweight perspective.

Specifications and Features

Manufacturer PHD Mountain Software (http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/)
Year/Model 2010 Yukon Down Pullover
Style Half-zip Pullover
Fabrics Outer shell: 1.68 oz/yd2 (57 g/m2) Drishell with DWR finish
Lining: 0.88 oz/yd2 (30 g/m2) MX Microfiber mini-ripstop nylon, calendared both sides
Insulation 900 fill-power down
Loft Measured two-layer loft is 3.75 in (9.5 cm)
Features Box wall baffled construction with 4-inch (10-cm) horizontal chambers
Down filled stand up collar with fleece lining
Detachable hood (5 snaps) with elastic binding
12-inch (30-cm) front #5CN YKK coil zipper with one slider and storm flap under zipper
Reach-through front pocket with zippered openings and zippered security pocket inside
Elastic cuffs
Stretch drawcord hem with two adjustors
2.5-inch (6.4-cm) dropped tail
Stuff sack included
Weight Size Large tested
Measured Weight: 15.8 oz (448 g)
Manufacturer Specified Average Weight: 15.0 oz (420 g)
MSRP £245 (approx. US$393)
Price includes VAT; if the item is to be delivered outside the EU, VAT does not apply and 15% is deducted from the price

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/phd_yukon_down_pullover_review.html, 2011-03-15 00:00:00-06.

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PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review on 03/15/2011 14:01:20 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : PHD Yukon on 03/15/2011 14:15:24 MDT Print View

Just to add that VAT has increased from 15% to 20% in the UK recently, so US folk can deduct that from the price of UK gear.

Alan Seegert
(zemmo) - MLife

Locale: AK/NM
VAT on 03/16/2011 11:24:48 MDT Print View

I ordered one a week or two ago and had 17% deducted for the VAT.

Ruan Kendall
(Ruan) - MLife

Locale: UK
Re : PHD Yukon on 03/16/2011 16:43:55 MDT Print View

Strangely, they do occasionally do a variant of the Yukon in their sales with a lightweight M1 fabric shell instead of the drishell... but then also use a (presumably larger amount of) less lofty down for the fill so the final weight ends up being pretty much the same for the same effective insulation.

They are quite happy to do modifications to their garments, however... they'll make you a Yukon in an alternative material if you're willing to pay a bit more, but at that point it probably ceases being price competetive with the Nunatak.

Me, I like the safety factor and piece-of-mind that the drishell gives in this case. Its a good bit tougher than pertex quantum, and the down will stay dry much longer in the event of any incidents. I don't ever anticipate being a SUL-er, however ;-)

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review on 03/21/2011 02:49:01 MDT Print View

"One ounce of down of this quality expands to 900 square inches (0.58 m2)"

I think that the test is how many CUBIC inches an ounce of down expands to when a "piston-type apparatus weighing 68.4 grams is placed on top of the down". Given that, 900 cubic inches is 14.7 litres, not 0.58m2.

In practice, is the tube they measure it in that big, or do they just extrapolate?

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: VAT on 03/25/2011 17:56:34 MDT Print View

"Price includes VAT; if the item is to be delivered outside the EU, VAT does not apply and 15% is deducted from the price"

"I ordered one a week or two ago and had 17% deducted for the VAT."

They dropped VAT from 17.5% to 15% and then after the GFC hit they hiked it up to 20%. From the website of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs:

"The standard rate of VAT was temporarily reduced to 15 per cent on 1 December 2008 and returned to 17.5 per cent on 1 January 2010. On 4 January 2011 the standard rate increased to 20 per cent."

So, for quite a long time (at least a decade) it was 17.5%, it was then temporarily reduced to 15% for two years and then recently increased to 20%.

The rate that would be deducted depends on the age of the goods - some old stock still around was taxed at 17.5% so if you're getting that stock then the reduction is 17.5%, not 20%.

In any case you'd expect that 15% wouldn't come off, because that'd make the stock more than a year old.

Edited by Arapiles on 03/25/2011 18:06:55 MDT.

Oliver Nissen
(olivernissen) - MLife

Locale: Yorkshire Dales
Re: PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review on 04/15/2011 03:29:50 MDT Print View

To answer your question D W, I've visited PHD's factory and seen their Lorch machine, which measures fill power. It's pretty small, so those figures will be extrapolated.

J C
(Joomy) - M
Re: Re: PHD Mountain Software Yukon Down Pullover Review on 02/19/2012 21:31:22 MST Print View

I would like to add that down fill-power is different when measured using different tests. There's the US norm and EU norm, which utilise different conditioning processes and use different standard pressures. The EU method generates fill power ratings that are lower than the US method, so fill power ratings on European jackets will generally be equivalent to slightly higher US ratings. For example a jacket rated at 900 FP under the EU norm would test at something like 970 under the US norm.

Now, PHD are a European company and they use a Lorch machine, which is the standard apparatus for the EU norm. There's more to it than just the type of machine used, but assuming they comply to the EU standard PHD's 900 FP down is closer to 15% warmer for the weight than the 850 used by most high-end US manufacturers like WM or FF rather than merely 5-6%.

Edited by Joomy on 02/20/2012 20:32:23 MST.