Gear Review- Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

The Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka is a weather bomb-proof choice in the growing field of belay jackets.  I’ve been testing this jacket heavily since mid-last-winter and when there is any chance of freezing rain or -30 wind chills I’m likely selecting this piece out of my quiver of belay jackets for a warm piece of mind. Let’s take a look at what Outdoor Research put into this portable oven!

Outdoor Research Belay Parka Review
The author standing on avalanche debris from the 1/12/18 monster wet slab avalanche in Tuckerman Ravine, Mount Washington

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Insulation

Not all synthetic insulation is created equal. In the case of well known Primaloft did you know it comes in three different qualities? Black, Silver, and Gold? For this high-end piece Outdoor Research used the highest level of Primaloft Gold, which is the most thermally efficient and compressible insulation that Primaloft makes.

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review
Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review

Not only did Outdoor Research select arguably the best synthetic insulation available they distributed it intelligently through the parka but using 200 grams/m2 in the torso and 160 grams/m2 in the lower body and lower sleeves. This maximizes thermal efficiency without having a parka that won’t fit in your sleek ice climbing pack.


Shell Material

Following the trend of using the best possible synthetic insulation Outdoor Research went with the well known Pertex brand of shell fabric for the shell material. Like Primaloft there are options here and they selected the Pertex “Endurance” material which incorporates an ultra-thin air permeable coating that is both highly breathable, water and wind resistant. This layer protects the insulation material from the elements to maintain loft and retain warmth.

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review
Pertex Endurance Shell Fabric
  • Composition – 100% Polyamide (Nylon)
  • Weight – < 35g / m2
  • Air permeability – 1.0cc (max)
  • Optimum strength to weight ratio
  • Windproof
  • Downproof

    Weight/Pack-ability

At 30 ounces this jacket comes in a little heavier than my other synthetic belay jackets and obviously a down jacket would be an unfair side to side comparison in the weight department but what you gain with those extra 8-10 ounces is security in the harshest and sometimes wet environments. While I love down belay jackets for real cold & dry conditions the truth is, especially this winter, that we often see rain, freezing rain, mixed precipitation, followed by some insane cold snap. In these turbulent weather patterns a synthetic belay parka is a safer choice, and I don’t mind the extra weight. Surprisingly despite the “sleeping bag” feel of this parka it manages to pack down to a very reasonable size. One of my favorite features is it stuffs into a velcro compartment that is part of the jacket! No random included stuff sack that I am sure to mis-place!

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review
Internal velcro-storage option
Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review
Stuff size easily fits in in my small 2400 Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack (and is the perfect size for a pillow on overnights)

You will also notice in the upper photo that there are two large oversized internal mesh pockets that easily fit a water bottle or your bulkier climbing gloves while you are adjusting crampons or performing other dexterity requiring tasks (no need to leave those damp gloves on the freezing ground right?)


Minutia

Rounding out the feature set here is an properly sized hood that easily fits over my climbing helmet but also has chin draw-cords and a goggle draw-cord on the back to help the hood move with your head when looking around. Speaking of the hood there is a semi-stiff visor that has been very welcome when dealing with any type of heavy precipitation. It’s the first belay parka I’ve seen this feature on and it definitely makes a difference when climbing out of that dripping ice cave! Two hand-warmer pockets, a standard zippered chest pocket, and velcro cuff’s top off the small details.


Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka Review


Summary

If you have ever been cold while waiting for your partner to finish a lead, standing around top-roping at the local crag, transitioning to crampons and mountaineering axe at the base of the steeps, or just eating an apple during a quick snack break mid-trip, you should have a look at this belay jacket. This caliber of jacket is part of my “unexpected bivy” gear list, meaning I think about it as a sleeping bag for my torso. Combined with a bivy sack and proper insulated pants I’d be confident spending the night out in some pretty horrid conditions (though I’d prefer a warm bed).

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Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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8 thoughts on “Gear Review- Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

  1. […] Patagonia uses a really silky and thin Pertex Quantum® fabric with DWR (durable water repellent) finish to fend off moisture. This is a positive for making this puffy extremely light-weight, pack-able, and breath-able. However it also makes this piece most suitable for extreme cold conditions when liquid precipitation is pretty much out of the question. If the forecast calls for “mixed” or freezing rain I’d suggest reaching for a heavier less pack-able synthetic belay jacket (like the recently reviewed Outdoor Research Perch). […]

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  2. How is the sizing of the parka? Is it oversized to be worn over other layers? I’m in between two sizes according to the chart on the OR website so I’m wondering if I should go for the bigger one or smaller one

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    • I found it to be sized to be worn over other layers. I am 5’9″ 180 pounds 42 inch chest and the large was perfect for me. Hope that helps!

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      • Thank you! Also, one last question, how well does it hold it’s loft from compression? Can I expect it to last for a few seasons of ice climbing if I stuff it in a pack often?

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      • Zero noticed loss of loft after 3 years and I wouldn’t expect any noticeable loss in 7+ years if you hang it in between missions. Short term stuffing doesn’t hurt modern synthetics as much as we thought 10 years ago. Just hang it loosely between trips!

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  3. Hi. I am 5’11’ 220 LBS with broad shoulders. I usually have to size up to XXL in OR but ordered a Transcendent recently (last years version I think) and XXL was too big.
    Any advise on what size I would want in this jacket?

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