Ha, I get to do the fun stuff with this one. UNIQLO are running a competition here. Send them an online photie, not necessarily with their kit in it you’ll be pleased to hear, with a #ULD (Ultra Light Down) namecheck and win £300 to spend on their kit, which as well as the ULD stuff, has some lovely t shirts, jumpers and flannel shirts.
I’ve got all the outdoor gear I need, so sign me up for this.
I’d planned a shot of a wistful crag top gaze into the sunset while wearing my test jacket but after I trashed my rear wheel I actually had to use the jacket properly as I sat on the increasingly cold hillside in shorts trying to straighten my spokes and kinked brake disc.
So it’s all very well having a bit of promotional fun, but is UNIQLO’s down gear actually any good?
290g for a size large, they’re right, it is light. And looking at the photie below doesn’t show any great differences between the Parka and any other number of down jackets from your obvious technical brands. The devil will be in the detail. Or under my bed, but this isn’t the time or place for that.
The layout is plain and simple, but there’s been thought put into the design. The baffles are all narrow except for the hood where they’re a little wider and shaped to give the hood a proper shape without compressing the down when it’s worn. The side baffles are vertical which means the down has settled downhill a little leaving the underarm with very little insulation in it. Not a problem as down usually gets crushed here anyway and the arm insulation picks up the slack when your arms are down. There’s good articulation built into the shoulders too, a decent amount of armlift is possible without belly or kidney exposure.
The down in these baffles is 90/10 and I’ve been searching for those ten percent of feathers, they’re soft if you can find them and I’ve had no wee feather quills poking through the fabric or the seams. The fill power can be found in the small print on the hang tags, 640 or higher. Doesn’t seem a lot by today’s 900 standard, but I suppose you have to judge it on performance, not numbers.
The fabric shell is a very fine nylon, could be Toray or Pertex in a blind touch test, but I’ve no problem with own-brand fabric, it works just as well without the burden of branding. The shell is soft, compressible and to my surprise very water resistant. I tested the same-fabric stuff sack first and water ran straight off, even with the tap on for 30 seconds. Turns out the sleeve’s just the same. The stitching will suck some water in of course, but it’s good to know a shower won’t kill the jacket.
The main zip is one-way with a nice big pull tag and a fine toothed type so runs smooth but there’s no baffle behind it so there’s going to be a little heat loss here.
There’s two external zipped pockets with tiny wee zip pulls, big gloves will be a fumble, but they’re smooth and the pockets are big and deep, going behind the down baffles to warm my fingers when trying to fix my wheel. Inside the pocket bags are stitched up the right way to give you two big poachers pockets, good call.
The hood is a good size with a gently elasticated opening which matches it up to the hem and the cuffs. The hood has no adjustment, but a hat or a buff makes it stick to your head so you don’t have to look at the inside of the hood when you look left or right. My head’s huge, so this adjustment-free trend on down jacket hoods doesn’t affect me so much, I just fill the gaps naturally.
The chin’s interesting. It’s quite loose, obviously so casual wearers won’t feel locked-in, but mountain folk like to hide from the cold so my first thought was that it was a weak spot, but it means that the Parka layers well over other stuff and still zips right up. Nice.
So, I’m on the hill, my bike’s grinding and “pinking”, those who have stressed their spokes will know the sound and I’m trying straighten it all out so I can get back down. The Parka went on and I got on with it as it got dark and the temperature dropped. I sat cross legged on the grass until it was done as well as could be, the disc was still going to grind on the brake caliper, but I really needed dinner, time to go. I took off the Parka and did that Ooooh thing with the clenches fists, it was bloody freezing. I pulled on my shell and got on the move.
Not scientific in anyway, but I wasn’t working hard and pumping heat into the jacket, it is actually quite a warm jacket. It’ll have it’s limits but I’m going to test it along with new tech down gear into winter and see how I get on with it.
One important point is the fit, the Parka’s slightly oversized, I could have got away with a medium no problem. But I have slim fit down vest that fits under it, so I’m good to go on my favourite camp insulation combo.