Sure, they’re easier to slip on than their overstuffed cousins. And, sure, they look a little more “normal” when worn around town with a pair of jeans. But, for me, the trade-offs just aren’t worth it
For starters, most down jackets are “overfilled,” or at least sufficiently filled, for a reason. Down isn’t exactly warm by design. Its warmth comes from the loft, of dead space within the jacket, that it creates; space that traps heat and keeps you warm. Underfilled down jackets don’t do this. They’re essentially little more than a slightly puffy (and often slightly overpriced) nylon windbreaker. Enough to fend off the elements on a brisk fall afternoon, but no match for serious winter use.
And that’s why I was so impressed by the BR Sweater from Brooks-Range Mountaineering. At first glance, it looks like your average underfilled down jacket. But on further inspection you notice the details. The 800-plus fill power European goose down (just like the heavy duty down that travels to the world’s coldest places), the ultralight Pertex Quantum ripstop shell (treated for water resistance), and the slim fit cut that fits nicely under an outer shell or waterproof layer. Even the insulated collar and fleece lined pockets are nice touches, both cut close to the body to cut down on bulk.
All in all, the BR Sweater clocks in at a barely there 12 ounces, and that’s including the three ounces of down fill. It even packs down into its own internal pocket, taking up little more space than a baseball. For those looking for a little more coverage, the same jacket is available in a hoody for $40 more.
It’s a lot of warmth without a lot of weight, and it performs as well in the backcountry as it does around town. I’ve taken it down to near zero degree temperatures with little problem (I certainly never felt like I was wearing “less” down jacket than I normally would be, even when it was under my shell), and I’ve even commuted to work in it. Whatever I’ve thrown at it, the BR Sweater always seems to be warm enough for what I need without, and here’s the real kicker, being too bulky or getting in the way.
All in all, it’s a great jacket that, at $200 from Brooks-Range.com, is worth far and away more than the underfilled jackets that many of the many brands are cranking out. Seriously, $200 for this kind of high-end performance? This is an ultralight insulating layer that delivers on its promise: it insulates.
For more information on the Brooks-Range Mountaineering BR Sweater, visit http://brooks-range.com/br-sweater.html.