Gear Review- Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka

I’ve had three full winter seasons testing the lofty Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka and it has been a consistent performer in the category of down belay jackets. Let’s take an in-depth look at the good and the bad and determine if this is the right choice for you!

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
The author on the summit of Mt. Rainier- Photo by @cfphotography

Buy at Backcountry


Insulation/Warmth

It is important when comparing down jackets that you consider both the fill power of the down (generally 700+ is used in higher end pieces), and the actual amount of down used (generally varies from 2-8 ounces). The Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka is stuffed with 6.4 ounces of ethically sourced 800 fill goose down. This is a very generous amount of the heat-retaining-super-lightweight-and-compressible natural insulator! Similar priced models from other manufacturers often have 4-5 ounces of down (if you can even find out from them).

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
Lounging out at 9,000 feet on Mt. Rainier- photo by Alexandra Roberts

What this means is this “puffy” really is “puffy”. It feels like a big down sleeping bag that fits over all of my other layers (including soft-shell or hard-shell jackets). Baffled construction on the core and quilted construction on the arms keep this quality down where it is needed and eliminates “cold spots”.


But is it warm?

I’ve worn this now in ambient air temps down to -16°F (-26°C) with wind-chills between -30°F to -40°F below zero (-34°C to -40°C)! When worn over my typical winter mountaineering layers I’ve stayed toasty teaching avalanche courses, camping at 11,000 feet in the Cascades, and belaying partners on long pitches of technical ice climbing. It is without a doubt a toasty pound and a half part of my clothing system!

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
The author spends a lot of time standing in the snow teaching avalanche courses! Photo by Matt Baldelli

Weight/Compress-ability

At only one pound six ounces (about 620 grams) this is the lightest full winter belay jacket I’ve tested! It also packs down into a very small stuff sack to maximize the available space in your smaller ice & alpine climbing packs. I lost the original stuff sack that came with the jacket but upgraded (and downsized from the original) to this amazing Hyperlight Mountain Gear waterproof stuff sack!

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
Hyperlight Mountain Gear MEDIUM DCF8 STUFF SACK – 9” X 12”

Shell Fabric/Performance

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).

Basically don’t expect this shell material to resist much liquid water. I managed to soak mine in a dripping ice cave while ice climbing on an unseasonably warm day and it was clear this piece is better designed for arctic cold dry days and not warm/damp days. It did however regain full loft when dried that evening!

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
Another cold day on Mount Washington with the Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka keeping me happy & warm!

Fit/Comfort/Features

I went with a size large for my 180 pounds, 5′ 9″, 42 inch chest, 34 inch waist build and it fits great over my typical winter ice climbing/mountaineering/back-country ski clothing kits. The hood is the perfect size for fitting over my climbing/mountaineering helmet and a drawcord on the back pulls the sides back so you don’t feel like you are wearing horse blinders.

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review
Making breakfast high on Rainier as the sun rises- photo by Alexandra Roberts

The elastic wrists have the right amount of tension, hand-warming pockets are properly sized and positioned a little higher to be harness friendly. A bottom hem draw-cord helps keep heat from escaping out below and the front zipper runs high enough into the collar/hood area that I can go into “full turtle mode” when it is really too cold to be outside.

Rounding out the features a small chest pocket keeps my phone & lip balm handy and a large stretchy internal pocket on the right side will keep your gloves or mittens warm and dry (and prevent them from blowing away) while you attend to what ever fine dexterity task crops up.


Summary

This is one of the best down belay jackets out there at a fair price, especially when considering the amount and quality of the down Patagonia used. While there are some durability concerns with a piece made with such silky then fabrics (especially considering all the sharp stuff ice climbers carry) my parka only has two pea sized holes in it after 2 seasons which were easily patched with my favorite field repair stuff, Tenacious Tape. If you are in the market for a lofty warm down belay jacket this one should be on your radar!


Shopping

You can also save some money buying one of these now as most retailers have them on sale as we quickly approach Spring however inventory is really low! Check out the lowest prices at the links below! I will re-post this next Fall when the new colors & inventory hits the market!

New colors and inventory have arrived!

Buy at Backcountry

Patagonia Fitz Roy Parka Review

The author reaching the summit of Rainier (14,410 elevation)- photo by Cait Bougault

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

 

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

Buy on Backcountry

Buy on Moosejaw

Buy from Mountain Gear


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).

Buy on Backcountry

Buy on Moosejaw

Buy from Mountain Gear

Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

All links are affiliate links that support the content created here at no cost to you! Thank you!

Gear Review- Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket

The Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket is the lightest synthetic belay jacket I have tested this season that also competes well in the heat retention department. I previewed this jacket back in November and now that I have tested it above treeline on Mount Washington and while hanging at icy cold belays while ice climbing throughout the White Mountains I am ready to share some more first hand opinions on this piece.

Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review
Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review- Photo by Brent Doscher Photography

Let’s start with the most important feature:

Warmth

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 other jackets I am testing and has decent compress-ability. I wore this over my typical soft-shell and Merino wool layers on Mount Washington in 60+mph winds with wind chills hovering around -40 degrees and was very pleased with the protection it offered. Yesterday after topping out a remote back-country Grade 5 route off the Kancamagus Highway I was grateful for the full enclosure insulated hood while I was stationary and exposed belaying both a photographer and my partner for the better part of a windy hour. Here’s some video from that climb:



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! That said I found it fully windproof. It is likely there is a DWR treatment on the fabric as climbing under a drippy chandelier of ice a week ago the jacket did not take on any moisture.

Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review
Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review- photo from http://www.bigagnes.com

Weight/Compress-ability

24.5 oz. / 695 grams. The lightest option in this seasons line up of synthetic belay jackets this piece easily stuffs into an included high quality 10 x 7 stuff-sack. Oddly the manufacturer’s website description references an 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

I went with a size large for my 42 inch chest and it fits great over my typical load out. The adjustable hood is the perfect size for my helmeted head. Arm length is slightly shorter than similar models and the back length feels slightly shorter, which works well over my climbing harness. If in doubt consult the manufacturer’s size chart!

Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review


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

Summary

The Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket is a solid choice for a synthetic belay jacket, a must have item in every ice climber/mountaineer’s kit. I like the high visibility yellow but it also comes in a visible bright blue if yellow isn’t your thing. It comes in black too but I would not recommend that color for a belay jacket (bright colors are happy colors when you are freezing your tuchus off). If you’re in the market for a solid performer in the belay jacket you can pick this one up here at a great price.

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Big Agnes provided Northeast Alpine Start a sample for this review and the product has been returned to the manufacturer. All opinions stated above are my own. Affiliate links above support this blog.

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

img_2731

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.