The EMS® Men’s Feather Pack Hooded Jacket was my most anticipated item in last years Fall/Winter line at Eastern Mountain Sports and it returns this year! I was amped to pick it up just in time for a quick alpine climb on Cannon Cliff.
Built on the success of last year’s Icarus jackets (you remember, the ones that after the first production run EMS had low inventory right off the bat because employees snagged them all up?) this jacket falls in to the “light belay jacket” category. A few things set this jacket apart from your more casual winter coat and for me justified the purchase, even when my gear closet has no shortage of technical jackets!
The manufacturer states the average weight of a medium size is 15.5 ounces. My own scale measures my size large at 17.5 ounces. The closest insulated hooded jacket I have is my Wild Things Belay Jacket which weighs in at 24 ounces!
This jacket when stuffed into its internal pocket only takes up about 240 cubic inches of space, less than a football (pre-Deflategate of course). Dimensions when stuffed are about 8 x 6 x 5 inches with some room to squish smaller.
This ultralight weight and extreme packability is achieved by using 800 fill DownTek. If you want to increase your knowledge of “fill power” in down products you can geek out on Wikipedia here. We’ve known for years that high quality down is the warmest insulation in outerwear, with one big disadvantage. Traditionally, when down gets wet, it looses 100% of its insulating capabilities and takes a decade or two to dry. Then came DownTek. Simply put it is water-resistant environmentally friendly ethically sourced down. You can dig into it deeper if you’re curious at DownTek’s Website. I just like watching videos:
Back to the jacket… and one other important piece of the “insulation equation”. Knowing that a jacket uses 800 fill power down is only useful if you know how much of that awesome fluffy stuff is shoved into your jacket. I had guessed it was 4-6 ounces but I wanted to know for sure and since this important tech spec was not listed on EMS.com I tracked down the Product Manager. The final answer? 5 ounces of 800 fill DownTek. That’s pretty darn good for a jacket in this price range!
EMS is using a 100% high denier ripstop nylon treated with a DWR (Durable Water Resistent) treatment:
“Woven with reinforcing threads in a crosshatch pattern, Ripstop Nylon prevents ripping and tearing. It’s one of the strongest forms of nylon around – they make parachutes out of this stuff.”– EMS.com
In hand it is very soft and light to the touch.
Color: As best as I confirm this will only be available in two colors this season. “Jet Black”, which is actually two toned (still boring), and “Warm Olive” which looks like no olive I have ever seen, whether warm or cold. Where do they come up with these color names?
UPDATE 9/18/16: The new colors are out for this Fall! You can see them here!
Pretty much every technical jacket I own has a hood. Even some of my long underwear has a hood. A hood makes a jacket so much more valuable in the mountains. This hood fits over my climbing helmet perfectly. There is an adjustment in the back to pull the sides back a bit so you don’t loose your peripheral vision and get ambushed by a moose.
There’s four. Two hand pockets, not set high since this jacket would go over your harness and not be tucked in (like your awesome soft-shell jacket would be). One external chest pocket (it’s where I keep my phone warm). One internal chest pocket that has a “flipp-able” zipper for when you stuff the jacket into this pocket. One easy design fix here is to add a small zipper pull on the inside pull of this zipper. I like things that are glove friendly. That being said, I would probably only have this jacket stored in the internal pocket for two situations;
- Pre-packing for the day to maximize space. Once the jacket gets deployed it’s probably going to be going on and off through-out the climb (that’s why they call it a belay jacket, you wear it while belaying, not climbing, unless it is really cold… but it doesn’t get really cold in NH does it?) Taking the time to stuff it back into its pocket would be silly, just shove it in the top of your pack and get climbing!
- Single pitch ice/alpine climbing, to clip to the back of my harness if I’m leaving my climbing pack at the base. There is a small sewn loop here for this reason, but I would be concerned about that loop being the sole attachment between me and my warmth at the top of an ice climb so my solution was to make the added zipper pull a little bigger so it could be clipped with the loop.
Ah, EMS Sizing. So reliable. So time tested. So never-the-same-two-years-in-a-row.
Here’s the size chart from the website (note it is “universal” and the disclaimer on the bottom):
Humans are hard creatures to fit. So this is what I’ll do. I’ll give you my measurements, and hopefully you’ll have a good guess at what size you need (since you’ve already decided to buy the jacket if you have read this far).
I’m 5’9″, 180lbs, 42 inch chest, 34 inch waist, broad shouldered, average ape index (nice way of saying normal length arms). I tried the medium on first at the store (over a t-shirt and sweatshirt I was wearing. If felt pretty good, a more athletic fit. A bit too tight in the shoulders when I stretched forward (remember, broad shoulders). When I would lift my arms up (ice climber pose) it got a bit too snug to have full range of motion. I tried the large. The large may be a smidge roomy for me, but it definitely didn’t feel like a boxy house. Plenty of room inside for my skin/mid-layers/softshell (or hardshell).
This is an excellent cold weather jacket at a great price suitable for winter backpacking, hiking, ice climbing, or waiting for the bus. You can purchase this jacket in both men’s and women’s, hooded and not hooded, right here.
See you in the mountains,
Disclaimer: The author purchased this jacket with his own money. This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog.