(Last Updated On: December 22, 2016)
I love down jackets. Heck, I live in the mountains, so I even wear down coats year round, sometimes as soon as the sun goes down on a warm summer day. I’ve had synthetic jackets, but I’ve never considered them to be half as warm or packable as good old goose feathers. That said, I’ve never had “the perfect” down coat for skiing. I love my expedition down for cold ice climbing belays and walking down Elk Avenue on a cold winter night. But it’s just too big and bulky to stuff into my backpack on a backcountry ski. In the past, I’ve compromised with a down vest that added some warmth without much weight or space in the pack. Without a hood or arms, however, it really didn’t add much in term of warmth.
I’ve been lucky enough to use the Big Agnes Shovelhead jacket this season, and it’s safe to say that I now have that “perfect” down coat to take backcountry skiing.
2015-16 has been a relatively cold winter here in Colorado, so I’ve had ample opportunity to use the jacket. I forgot what a luxury it is to throw on a warm jacket while changing over on a below zero day. It’s probably been my favorite piece of clothing this winter. The other great thing about bringing a down coat is the emergency factor. If I, or someone in my group, is injured and needs to wait for help, warm layers are an important piece of rescue gear.
At a bit over a pound, it’s easy to take the Big Agnes Shovelhead jacket along. At this point, I can’t believe I went this long without a layer like this. This jacket is pretty feature-packed as well- it’s not just any down coat. The down itself is 700 fill DownTek, which is water repellent down. That’s always been the big knock on down- once it’s wet, it’s worthless. Despite last nights precipitation that looked suspiciously like rain (at 9,000 feet in February in Colorado), I haven’t had many opportunities to try the water repellent feature down out in the wild.
It’s the construction that really has me excited about this jacket. Big Agnes is more well known for their tents and sleeping bags than outerware. And you can really see that with the shovelhead, and the similarities with down sleeping bags. For one thing, you have vertical baffles, which are said to be the best at keeping the core warm. but it’s the hood that really sets it apart. It’s perfect, just like a good sleeping bag. Without the hood, the jacket is somewhat warm. Put the hood on, and it feels like the temperature gauge just went to “high”.
The Big Agnes Shovelhead jacket is available in both men’s and women’s versions, and is on sale right now at Backcountry.com. Trust me, if you don’t have a layer like this in your closet right now, you’re going to love this.