Chris Townsend finds a useful down jacket for backpacking
Whilst the name Criterion might not be familiar it’s not a new company but rather the new name for Cumulus, noted for its down sleeping bags. To go with this change the company launched its first down jacket last autumn. As the name suggests it’s very light, the Large size weighing 350g. The Activity jacket is filled with 850 fill power Polish goose down and has a Pertex Quantum shell.
The design is fairly conventional with a two-way front zip with an inner flap, two handwarmer pockets, a zipped inner pocket, extended back, and a helmet compatible hood with rear volume adjuster. The latter isn’t as roomy as some such hoods and didn’t feel too big worn over my bare head. The rim of the hood, the cuffs and the hem are all elasticated. There are long pullers on all the zips.
The seams are sewn-through as is usual in lightweight down garments. The baffles are wider than the very narrow ones found on many light jackets but not as wide as those on traditional down garments. Unusually there are vertical baffles down each side, creating a more 3-D shape that gives the down more room to loft.
Out in the field
The jacket is lovely to wear, being very soft and flexible. It’s very warm for the weight too. I’ve worn it standing around on windy days with sub-zero temperatures and stayed comfortable. The down isn’t proofed so care is needed in the wet. The shell has a Durable Water Repellent but I wouldn’t expect this to resist rain for very long. That said, I wore the jacket for several hours in driving spindrift that melted on contact and the material only got very slightly damp and the loft didn’t suffer. I also wore the jacket in an igloo on an overnight trip and it repelled drips and clouds of steam from cooking – at one point we couldn’t see each other! In rain I’d want a waterproof over this jacket (which would be a very hot combination).
The Activity jacket comes with a small stuffsack and can also be packed, with a little difficulty, into the inner pocket. Packed size is tiny so it doesn’t take up much room in the pack – far less than a fleece or synthetic insulated jacket of similar warmth.
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Sizing is on the small side. I’m usually a Medium but that size proved a little too tight even when worn over only a base layer. The Large I can wear over a light fleece. If I wanted to wear it over a shell jacket or thick insulation I’d need an XL. The sizes available are S-XXL.
Overall I found the Activity Jacket excellent. I think it would be an especially good choice for backpacking due to the low weight and packed bulk. I’d use it as an autumn to spring jacket but those who run cold might like it for cool evenings in summer too.