Gear Preview: Synthetic Belay Jackets

This winter I’ve acquired a number of high end synthetic insulated belay jackets to review. Getting field time to fully test all five of these models will take a little time so I decided to post a first look comparison of these industry leading models so those shopping for a new belay jacket for this season will have some info to look at before the ice climbing season really gets underway. Below I will share some technical comparisons within the various models and some impressions of each. Full reviews of each model will be posting throughout the season and I will back-link here as they publish.

First let’s define the category here. The common definition of “belay jacket” should look something like:

belay jack·et

bee-lay ˈjakət/

noun

  1. 1.

    an outer garment extending to the hips with sleeves and a fastening down the front. An insulated hood and dimensions to fit over all other layers make a belay jacket stand apart from regular jackets. Also known as a “Puffy”.

I am going to limit this comparison to synthetic insulated options… apples to apples so to speak.

We will compare insulation, shell material, weight, fit, and features of each piece specifically trying to pull out how they differ from each other. Keep in mind this is not intended to be a full review of any of these jackets as that will need to wait until each has been sufficiently field tested. Here we go!

LaSportiva Latok 2.0 Jacket

La Sportiva Latok 2.0 Primaloft Belay Jacket
La Sportiva Latok 2.0 Primaloft Belay Jacket

Insulation

The LaSportiva Latok 2.0 uses Primaloft ECO Silver insulation. LaSportiva states they use “Body-mapped construction of 3 different weights of Primaloft used for thermal regulation”. I reached out to LaSportiva for more details and discovered they use 200 grams in the body, upper sleeves and shoulders have 133 grams, and lower sleeves have 80 grams.

Shell

10-Denier Ripstop (100% Nylon); Repeloff Nano Super DWR; Upper Body, Shoulders, and Sleeves: X2Weave-BR (85% Nylon, 15% Spandex); Repeloff Nano Super DWR

Weight/Compressability

29.3 oz. / 831 grams. This is the 2nd to heaviest model in the line up. It doesn’t feel very “crushable” for packing, and I’m assuming that may be due to the more cost effective Primaloft ECO insulation and regular (heavier) YKK zippers used throughout.

Fit

This model has the most snug fit of all the models I am testing. It’s a bit tight in the shoulders and the hood is just big enough to fit comfortably over my helmet.

Features

The jacket is black, not my first choice in belay jacket color. Bright colors have a physcological effect when waiting out a storm or your partner takes a decade to lead the next pitch while you slowly turn into a popsicle. It also has a microfleece lined adjustable hood that fits over my helmet, albeit a bit snug. Rounding out the feature list: 2 Front Hand Warmer Pockets with Invisible Zippers, 2 Napolean Chest Pockets with YKK Zippers, 1 Inner Binded Phone Pocket with Headphone Access Port (fits iPhone 6 but not 6 Plus), 2 Large Inner Mesh Pockets, Adjustable drawcord at hem

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket
Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

 Insulation

The Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket uses 120g of Pinneco Core™ fill in the body and 80g in the sleeves. This “feels” warmer and puffier than the Primaloft ECO insulation used in the previous jacket and is 5 ounces lighter.

Shell

Big Agnes does not list much detail in relation to the shell fabric, just: “100% recycled polyester shell is wind-proof and water resistant”. I have reached out to Big Agnes for more info and will update this as soon as I hear back!

Weight/Compressability

24.5 oz. / 695 grams. The lightest option in our line up this piece easily stuffs into an included high quality 10 x 7 stuff-sack. Oddly the manufacturer’s website description references and interior chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack but I believe this must be a web error as there is no interior chest pockets and the exterior chest pocket is far to small to function as a reversible stuff sack.

Fit

This model fits well over my typical load out. The adjustable hood is the perfect size for my helmeted head.

Features

  • Center front zipper includes interior no-draft flap and a zipper garage at chin
  • Features YKK Reverse coil zippers
  • Textured zipper pulls are easy to use with gloves
  • Adjustable drawcord at hem seals out wind
  • Two zippered hand-warmer pockets with zipper garages
  • Large interior mesh pockets for extra stash space
  • Exterior check pocket
  • Separate stuff sack included
  • 120g Pinneco Core™ synthetic insulation in body, 80g in the sleeves
  • Insotect Tubic™ construction provides supreme loft and thermal efficiency
  • 100% recycled polyester shell is wind-proof and water resistant
  • Jacket weight, size Medium – 24.5oz/ 695g

Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka

black-diamond-stance
Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka

Insulation

The Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka uses two layers of 80 gsm PrimaLoft® Silver Hi-Loft Insulation insulation (basically 160 gsm), a continuous filament insulation made with fibers of differing thicknesses. Primaloft calls this their loftiest insulation and it definitely feels up there with the best synthetic insulation currently available.

Shell

This piece uses Pertex® Classic 40d plain-weave with a DWR finish (65 gsm, 100% nylon). I’ve always found Pertex® to be a solid performer in the breathable water resistent category so I’m happy to see Black Diamond went with this for the shell material. Interestingly the liner also has a DWR finish to it which I suppose is one extra layer of protection, Pertex Microlight 20 d ripstop with DWR finish (40 gsm, 100% nylon)

Weight/Compressability

26 oz. / 730 grams. This is the 2nd lightest model in the line up and packs up to a similar size as the rest.

Fit

This model fits great over my typical load out and the hood is especially comfortable over my climbing helmet. It also feels an inch or two longer than the above models which feels like it will provide a little more heat retention.

Features

  • Adjustable, climbing-helmet-compatible hood
  • Lightweight stretch cuffs
  • Two-way front zipper
  • Insulated wind flap
  • Drawcord hem
  • Two zip hand pockets, zip chest pockets, two internal drop pockets and internal stretch media pocket (no internal port though and really small size)

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

outdoor-research-perch
Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

Insulation

The Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka uses industry leading PrimaLoft® Gold 100% polyester insulation 200 g/m2 body, 160 g/m2 lower body and lower sleeves. This is the best performing synthetic insulation in the line up and Outdoor Research definitely stuffed this jacket with more of it than any of the other models being tested.

Shell

This piece uses Pertex® Endurance 2L, 100% nylon 20D melange body and Pertex® Microlight, 100% nylon 22D ripstop lining. This is the highest performing shell material in this line up (also used in next jacket).

Weight/Compressability

30.4 oz. / 860 grams. This is the heaviest model in the line up but is also most likely the warmest of the bunch. It also has a somewhat innovative internal stuff sack design I’ve never seen before. Basically a Velcro “hidden pocket” in the lower back inverts into a stuff sack. Final stuffed size is probably 20-30% larger than others in this line-up with the obvious trade off being more warmth.

Fit

This model fits great over my typical load out and the hood is especially comfortable over my climbing helmet. It also feels an inch or two longer than the first two models which feels like it will provide a little more heat retention.

Features

  • Staggered Insulation to Prevent Cold Spots
  • Helmet Compatible Wire-Brimmed Hood
  • Draft Tube Around Face
  • Two Internal Shove- It™ Pockets
  • Zip Chest Pockets, Zip Hand Pockets
  • Internal Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack
  • Two Carabiner Loops Inside Stuff Sack
  • Internal Front Stormflap
  • Integrated Hood Cordlocks
  • Brushed Tricot-Lined Collar
  • Brushed Tricot Back of Hand Inside Pockets
  • Key Clip

Patagonia DAS Parka

Patagonia DAS Parka
Patagonia DAS Parka

*Disclaimer, when I asked Patagonia for a belay jacket for review they sent me the amazing down insulated Fitz Roy. Comparing down to synthetic belay jackets is like comparing apples to oranges when it comes to cost, weight, and compressability, so I am including the specs on the DAS even though I do not have one to fully review (yet)… the DAS should certainly be represented in this line up!

Insulation

The Patagonia DAS Parka uses 120-g PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Hi-Loft and then adds a layer of 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Eco in the chest, abdomen and back to offer maximum thermal efficiency and water repellency.

Shell

Like the Outdoor Research Perch Belay Jacket this one uses the lightweight, nylon ripstop Pertex® Endurance shell with PU coating. It is durable, water-resistant, windproof and treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.

Weight/Compressability

23.6 oz. / 669 grams. This is the lightest model in the line up and hardest for me to fairly compare since I have not sourced one yet. Based on what I have researched I’ll say for the weight this one might be the warmest non-down belay jacket out there. However it saves weight by using a little less insulation. When compared side by side with the Outdoor Research Perch Belay jacket the numbers look like this:

Patagonia DAS vs Outdoor Research Perch

180gr/120gr vs 200gr/160gr

Mix of Primaloft Gold & Silver vs 100% Primaloft Gold

Fit

This model fits great over my typical load out and the hood is especially comfortable over my climbing helmet. It also feels an inch or two longer than the first two models which feels like it will provide a little more heat retention.

Features

    • Helmet-compatible hood with visor and single-pull drawcord to adjust overall volume and peripheral vision
    • Full-length 2-way zipper with internal, insulated wind flap and fold-over zipper garage for next-to-skin comfort
    • Pockets: two zippered, insulated handwarmers; two large interior mesh drop-ins; one exterior zippered chest
    • Elasticized cuffs and discreet drawcord at drop hem seal in warmth
    • Stuffsack included

Summary

These are all really nice offerings in the ever growing field of belay jackets. I look forward to getting some field time in each of them to pull out the minutia that sometimes helps one product edge out another. If you’d like to look for other consumer opinions on them or try one out yourself you can purchase directly off Amazon at these links, and doing so helps support this blog:

LaSportiva Latok 2.0 Jacket

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

Patagonia DAS Parka

If you’d like to see some side by side stats:

comparison
Head to head

I hope this info helps you select the right belay jacket for the upcoming winter! If I missed your favorite model or you have any questions or comments please let me know below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Disclaimer: All of the products listed above were provided at no cost for purposes of review. All opinions stated are my own. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

7 thoughts on “Gear Preview: Synthetic Belay Jackets

  1. […] For the last couple months I’ve been testing the Black Diamond First Light Hoody. From early season recon missions into Tuckerman Ravine searching for climbable November ice to blustery cliff top rigging work while creating an instructional video with Northeast Mountaineering I’ve cultivated some appreciation for the versatility of this “light puffy”. Lightly insulated hooded jackets like this are a great addition to almost any climber or skier’s kit. If you are looking for a full on winter belay jacket you can check out some other models I am reviewing here. […]

  2. Thanks for doing this review, I’m very interested in the jackets and can’t find somewhere local to try them all on next to each other. Can you show pictures of each stuffed into its respective pocket/sack side by side? Particularly interested in the Perch and I can’t find any images of that on the web. Also on the Perch, are the internal glove/water pockets really asymmetric?
    Look forward to more info on these, thanks!

    • Thanks for the comment Dan! I’m really liking the Perch but need more field time before posting my full review. First impressions though this is a contender for Editor’s Choice in the synthetic belay category. It just feels like I could bivy in there with a half-bag in relative comfort. As for the internal pockets there are large and stretchy but I don’t see how they are “asymmetric”. They look standard to me, and work great.

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