6 January 2012

Feathers versus Polyfluff

I was born a down lover. The ruling wisdom was down was better than synthetic insulation. Nobody was arguing really, it just cost more. I remember my first down sleeping bag. 600 grammes of Rab's finest joy,  back when they made them in Sheffield. I wore it to dust, and it kept me warm and happy. I even lapped the world in it. On the strength of that when I could afford a down jacket I bought a Mountain Equipment Annapurna. I remember the salesman, more a spotty boy really saying. "What will you mainly be using it for?"

I answered honestly. "Sitting around in cafes drinking tea and eating chips."

Indeed I did. For years that was all I did with it, and a dam fine job it did too. Like being in bed but upright. I have used it for bouldering recently. Its been used for keeping warm between winter problems and it does fine, but it gets grubby and it gets damp. Mrs Time Ticks now doesn't want to be seen in posh cafes with me when I am wearing it. Reader we have a problem here, there is more to life than cafes but not much more.

Worse if you get caught in a shower it wets through and becomes like a big, wet, cold dog. I wanted to wash it, but thats the beginning of a slow death for down products. That first Rab sleeping bag died or at least stopped being toasty after its second wash.

I tried some spray on gunk from Grangers that reckoned to clean the outer fabric without wetting the down, but I think it was snake oil really. It took some grime out, the hood alas was still pretty grim.

So a few days ago I treated myself to a new Rab Photon hooded jacket. Cotswold were knocking them out for £70. Down from a quoted £120. I had heard good things about Primaloft the insulation it contains. I had also been convincing myself I needed a "belay jacket" for six months or so. In theory it could be worn in the rain and then stay dry in all but a deluge. Even better it would be warm if it did get drenched. I could carry it on my annual wild camping trip and if I ever did get to that long mountaineering day I keep plotting. It would be good there too.

So here are my thoughts. Well its pretty warm for the weight at not much over 500g, actually its light. With the hood up and a wool base layer on its warm. I haven't been out in proper winter awfulness yet, but I cycled to the supermarket in a hailstorm the other day and it was surprisingly windproof and I was not cold. It was on me at Shipley Glen, yesterday between problems and it performed really well. The Pertex outer beads nicely and although it hasn't had chance to wet though yet, it will and we will see what happens then. I like the hood which snugs up nicely and would go over a helmet.  There is a pocket inside into which it will all pack away or you could put a map in it.

To be honest unless you do lots of Alpine winter mountaineering. A full on down jacket is over the top. This I think will do me nicely and when its been trod on, and thrown on the deck at the bottom of one too many problems, I will wash it. So on the whole I'm mildly excited and my inner gear Junkie has had its fix for a while. I can wash the down jacket now and wear it for posing down the shops as I always intended. It won't be that warm but it will look cool.

I never  thought I would say this but looks like for me now, like synthetic has finally won over the feathers of a duck.
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