Wild Things Belay Jacket REVIEW

Product performance review of the Wild Things Belay Jacket, a synthetic insulated backpacking jacket with Epic shell.

Print

by Jay Ham | 2005-02-07 03:00:00-07

Overview

Wild Things Belay Jacket - 1
The author on a snowshoeing trip during a sleet/snowstorm in The Peaks Wilderness of northern Arizona.

The Wild Things Belay Jacket combines an Epic shell with over an inch of Primaloft One insulation. The Epic by Nextec shell is highly water-resistant and windproof. After several hours of hiking in sleeting rain and snow, moisture managed to soak through only at the shoulder straps and hip belt of my pack with no noticeable loss of loft or warmth. The two hand warmer pockets and full-length main zipper use water-resistant zippers. Along with a zippered inside security pocket, Wild Things added a 1-liter water bottle pocket to the inside, which keeps drinking water from freezing when the mercury drops. At 1 pound 14.0 ounces (850 g, men's medium), the Wild Things Belay Jacket may not appear lightweight, but it easily replaces several thinner layers making it the lighter choice in the right conditions. Improving arm articulation (which currently causes the hem to rise 7 inches with arms raised above your head) would bring this jacket to perfection.

In Brief

  • Highly breathable Epic shell sheds light rain, sleet, and snow, though it is not waterproof
  • Over 1 inch of Primaloft One loft keeps the cold out, resists loss of loft when wet, and dries quickly
  • Full weather-resistant two-way main zipper for ventilation
  • Generous hood adjusts easily while wearing heavy gloves
  • Inside water bottle pocket, large enough to hold a 1-liter bottle, keeps drinking water from freezing
  • Two zippered hand warmer pockets and one zippered security pocket help with organization

Specifications

• Garment Style

Full zip, high-loft, synthetic hooded jacket.

• Fabric Description

Epic by Nextec shell with a microfiber liner

• Insulation Description

6.0 oz/yd2 (200 g/m2) Primaloft One throughout

• Other Features

Two zippered, unlined, and insulated hand-warmer pockets. One zippered inside security pocket. One inside water bottle pocket. Also features an insulated hood.

• Weight

1 lb 14.0 oz (850 g) as measured, size men's M; 1 lb 12.0 oz (794 g) manufacturer specification

• Loft

1.1 in (2.8 cm) single layer loft

• Model Year

2004 (2005 model includes Velcro cuffs and a three-way hood adjustment)

• MSRP

$285.00 Manufacturer's suggested retail price

Warmth

The Wild Things Belay Jacket is a suitable choice for extreme conditions. The 6.0 oz/yd2 Primaloft One insulation provides just over an inch of single layer loft through the torso, arms, and hood. I tested the jacket during a sleeting rain and snow storm, while snowshoeing hard (to test breathability), and combined with a half-bag as part of a sleeping system.

Harsh conditions outside go nearly unnoticed while wearing this jacket. While at rest, the Primaloft One insulation takes me well into the lower 20's wearing only a base layer underneath. If greater "at rest" warmth is needed, the fit is roomy enough to allow for a thin synthetic fill or thick fleece jacket in addition to a base layer. I quickly overheated in the Belay Jacket at temperatures just below freezing when active. This jacket is definitely more at home in sub-freezing temperatures.

Storm resistance

The Wild Things Belay Jacket is constructed of Epic microfiber fabric to shed bad weather while maintaining a high degree of breathability. While not waterproof, Epic by Nextec is extremely wind proof and water resistant, and lighter and more breathable than PTFE-laminated waterproof breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex. The individual nylon fibers in Epic fabric are silicone encapsulated to create permanent waterproofing of each fiber. This is unlike DWR coatings that wash out with time. Tiny spaces between the fibers provide breathability, and the tight weave and waterproof fibers resist water penetration. This fabric has a nicer feel than most coated, laminated, or impregnated fabrics, more closely resembling an uncoated microfiber.

In use, the Epic shell proved an excellent compromise between breathability and water resistance. Light rain, sleet, and snow shed easily. However, with a water resistance of only 4 lb/in2, water penetration occurred wherever my pack's harness made contact; soaking completely through at the shoulder straps, hip belt, and upper part of the backpanel. Thankfully, Primaloft One retains most of its loft when wet and little loss of warmth was noticed.

Usability

The size medium layers easily over a thick fleece or lightweight insulated jacket on my 5'7", 155-pound frame. The sleeves are long enough to maintain coverage to the wrist. Torso articulation, while tolerable, is an area in need of improvement. While the hem rises very little (less than 1 inch) with the arms held straight out, nearly 7 inches of rise occurs when raising the arms above the head.

I appreciate the ease with which I can adjust this jacket while wearing gloves. All zippers have extended zipper pulls. The shock cords adjusting the hem and hood are one-hand adjustable with glove friendly hardware. Although the cuffs are non-adjustable elastic, alpine gauntlet style gloves are the logical choice with this jacket and seal the cuffs sufficiently. The full-length water-resistant main zipper provides ventilation by adjusting from both top and bottom.

The two hand warmer pockets are lightly insulated but unlined, and close with YKK water-resistant zippers. The pocket insulation is too thin to keep hands warm in the conditions this jacket was designed for, although they were useful as a brief refuge while I had my gloves off. There are two inside pockets; a small, zippered valuables pocket on the left and an inside "water bottle" pocket on the right (large enough to fit a 1-liter bottle). The water bottle pocket kept my water well above freezing in sub-freezing conditions. I really enjoyed the warmth of a hot water bottle in this pocket. A 1-liter bottle adds more bulk than I like, so I opted for a smaller bottle.

Value

At $285.00, the Wild Things Belay Jacket is at the upper end of the cost spectrum for lightweight high-loft synthetic jackets. However, those of lower cost either have less insulation or lack the Epic shell fabric (or both). The quality construction and features are added consolation.

Recommendations for Improvement

While perhaps too heavy for the ultralight or lightweight backpacker, the lightweight mountaineer will be right at home in the Wild Things Belay Jacket. A few changes could reduce the weight of this jacket, but doing so would reduce features and weather resistance. I would like to see the torso articulation improved by modifying the sleeve construction. Gusseted arms tend to provide greater arm movement without affecting hem rise.


Citation

"Wild Things Belay Jacket REVIEW," by Jay Ham. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/wild_things_belay_jacket_review.html, 2005-02-07 03:00:00-07.

Print