Honest Puffery – Mountain Equipment Xero Down Jacket


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
Mountain Equipment Xero puff jacket in the Alps this past winter.

Yours truly, Mountain Equipment Xero puff jacket in the Alps this past winter.

I wonder how many down puff jackets I’ve owned. Probably thirty or forty. Those kinds of numbers might either jade you or make you as particular as a Vogue magazine art director. I’m somewhere in between. For most of my backcountry skiing I like a puff jacket that’s somewhat thick and warm (no Vogue skeletal fashion statements), isn’t too laden with features and weighs about a pound. Lots of choices out there, but few combine most of our favorite parameters.

Lately, you probably noticed we’ve been playing around with Mountain Equipment (ME) clothing. This company is now selling in the U.S., so we figured turning bit of attention their way was appropriate. They make nice stuff that’s worth looking at, including their Hooded Xero down filled jacket that I used for my last European backcountry skiing trip.

Mountain Equipment jacket for backcountry skiing.

I met this Fraulein at a European hut. She didn't give me her number, but later contacted me on Facebook because she recognized the Mountain Equipment jacket. The rest is history and yes I was soundly thrashed.

Pros:
Down filling in the Xero is plentiful, 230 grams of 850+ fill, meaning you get good loft for the fill weight. The 850 fill number according to IDFL Lorch Test using the IDFB standard. Last year’s Mountain Equipment sales materials stated their down was a _minimum_ 750 rated, new story will state it’s 850. If you’re confused about the down rating numbers, so am I. Short story is that there are a bunch of standards for down fill power, with the International Down and Feather Bureau standard being the one that’s becoming the defacto international standard and the one that Mountain Equipment uses. Another example of “standards” doing little more than confuse us? We shall see… Check comments below for much more about the issue of down fill ratings.

Just a few extra inches of waist length in a puffy can make it noticeably more comfortable and warm. Xero is perfect in this department; long enough to secure the small of your back from cryogenic events, but not so long it feels like a cowboy duster. Interior vest pocket is convenient. Hood fits over helmet; has one-handed tightening system that’s quite slick. (Any practical puff jacket for backcountry skiing should probably have a hood, keep that in mind while shopping and comparing). One of the weight saving tricks with these sorts of down insulated jackets is to use the lightest weight fabric possible. Xero exterior fabric is about as light as you can get and still be tear resistant, inside fabric is quite thin and soft. All results in overall weight of 16.9oz, 506 g (size L), thus placing this unit in the ballpark for my “one pound puff” lightweight packing requirement.

Mountain Equipment Xero jacket onehanded hood drawstring tighten.

Mountain Equipment Xero jacket one-handed hood drawstring tighten is this items standout feature for backcountry skiers.

Cons:
All technical jackets should have a two way zipper for use over a harness, Xero is single pull. Interior vest pocket could easily be made big enough to use for inside-out jacket storage. Instead, you have to carry a separate stuffsack. A pair of lightweight non-zippered pouches on the inside are a feature we love, and didn’t find here. The exterior side pockets are located partially under your pack waistbelt, they could be a few inches higher.

Interior vest pocket is too small to reverse and stuff the jacket in for storage.

Interior vest pocket is too small to reverse and stuff the jacket in for storage. Thus requiring you to carry a stuff sack. I tied the sack to the jacket so I wouldn't loose it, that's the tiny string you can see in the photo. Attaching stuff sacks to gear is a good trick that saves time and worry. Use small string and attach from the inside bottom of the sack so you can stuff without the string getting in the way. Works super for things you stuff often such as jackets and sleeping bags (with sleeping bags, attach the sack to the exterior foot and use to store things during sleeping, or attach it near the hood and fill for use as pillow.)

On the whole, Xero is a fine utilitarian garment that anyone shopping puff jackets should take a look at. Excellent weight considering the hood, waist length and fill quantity. Street prices seem reasonable for a well-made hooded puff.

Shop for the Mountain Equipment Xero

Comments

25 Responses to “Honest Puffery – Mountain Equipment Xero Down Jacket”

  1. Rod June 5th, 2012 9:33 am

    Thanks for the review. I prefer fully baffled down jackets. And I never find this among light jackets, only among warmer ones.
    I finally had a custom jacket, with baffles, made in nepal, and at 16ozs, it is warner than a 30 ozs jacket that is non baffled.

  2. Andy June 5th, 2012 9:57 am

    I agree about the baffles, Rod. They’re an important feature, warmth-wise. I have also been happy with my (really cheap) GoLite puffy. It might not be quite as durable as some of the others, but is tough to beat for the price. It’s also nice to support these locals.

    I have, however, gotten the question, “Oh GoLite, are you from Boulder?”

  3. Lou June 5th, 2012 9:57 am

    Rod, I totally agree. It’s tough to find thinner yet baffled down jackets, probably because they’re expensive and most shoppers really don’t need the added warmth/weight ratio for what it costs in coin. I’ve got one that’s from Feathered Friends I reviewed a few years ago. It’s nice for colder days but too heavy and warm for my average use. A one pounder, baffled with 800 fill down, lightweight fabric, interior pocket the jacket will stow in, hood, correctly located pockets, two way zipper, anyone know of one out there, perhaps from Western Mountaineering or Feathered Friends, or someone else?

    Everyone who has not heard the whispers should harken to the rumors of several types of “synthetic down” that’ll be coming out soon. I’ve heard tell these products may finally beat goose down at its own game. Even if they equaled goose down but were more water resistant, that would be super. We also have a jacket here made with water resistant down, but it seems kind of heavy so we never reviewed it.

  4. Lou June 5th, 2012 10:00 am

    I’d love to see a scientific comparo that showed how many more grams of down you need in a non-baffled jacket to make it as warm as a baffled. In a thinner version of such jackets.

  5. Sam June 5th, 2012 10:03 am

    Another great option for down coats is Feathered Friends. In addition to be first rate quality, customizable, and highly functional , they are made in the United States.

    http://www.featheredfriends.com/frontpage.html

  6. Lou June 5th, 2012 10:19 am

    I have to laugh. Feathered Friends reminds me of DPS. Every time I review skis or down jackets, one or the other ends up being touted in the comments. I don’t mind that as both companies make good stuff, but one has to admit this has become sort of a WildSnow.com amusement.

    And again, we have Feathered Friends jackets here and have done some reviews. See here.

  7. Gerry Haugen June 5th, 2012 11:22 am

    We too chuckle, out here in reader-land. It seems that your product review net has shrunk as your blog sponsorship has strengthened. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means we have to widen ours. Cheers

  8. Lou June 5th, 2012 11:38 am

    Gerry, so I add someone entirely new to the review mix and that means I’m shrinking it? And we do the biggest ski review we’ve ever done? Can’t win, I guess.

    And look at our Airbag and Beacon reviews, that’s shrinking the mix by casting a wider net than just about anyone? No way. We grew it, and it took a lot of work and even some behind the scenes personal issues to keep it going.

    And I’ll get all the advertising possible, otherwise Wildsnow.com goes away.

    Cheers.

    P.S., It bears repeating that while we enjoy doing product reviews and consider them an important part of WildSnow.com, we are not a product review website. It’s probably good to keep that in mind, so you don’t get false expectations about what we’re doing here. For much broader coverage of outdoor products out there, a bunch of website exist that a person can choose from. Broad net and all that. Lou

  9. Eric June 5th, 2012 11:50 am

    Looking at the thinner down jackets out there, especially the 800fill versions, the quilted sections are fairly small. Presumably this is necessary to keep the small amount of down distributed around the jacket. If all of those compartments were baffled, it would add a lot of fabric, and weight. I imagine that is why no one has bothered to make one commercially.

  10. Shoveler June 5th, 2012 11:58 am

    I sure don’t expect you to be a cheesy gear review website. Just keep doing what you are doing, review things you fancy and all is good. And for someone to say you have narrowed your reach for review product, that’s ridiculous. If anything you’ve expanded it. Sure, you review a lot of products from your advertisers, but you have a lot of advertisers and they obviously are the people that make stuff you like. I don’t have any problem with your mix. Keep doing it. And thanks to the advertisers for helping Lou and Lisa keep it going.

  11. Mark Sweatman June 5th, 2012 12:17 pm

    Also made in the UK (and by the original starter of Mountain Equipment) are PHD – Peter Hutchinson Designs. They do light weight baffled jackets – not cheap mind. They might have the comparison you’re after Lou.

  12. Lou June 5th, 2012 12:27 pm

    Mark, yeah, check this thing out!

    http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/product_info.php?cat=110&products_id=159

    1 lb, 450 g, baffled with hood, 900 fill down. Wow.

    Priced at 273 pounds, $420.00 ? wow wow

  13. Mark Sweatman June 5th, 2012 12:35 pm

    Actually my wife has that exact jacket – brought from the UK a while ago… :oops

  14. Lou June 5th, 2012 12:38 pm

    And how did it look on the credit card (grin)?

  15. Mark Sweatman June 5th, 2012 12:48 pm

    Well the English RRP of the Xero is 220GBP so it wasn’t that much more…

  16. Josh June 5th, 2012 3:23 pm

    Nunatak makes a 10oz (med), fully baffled, hooded, half-zip w/ kangaroo pocket, and 5oz of 875 fill down. You can get 950 fill if you want.

    $$$ Though.

  17. Steffie June 5th, 2012 5:29 pm

    Hey Lou! I was just wondering about the rating of the down. I work at a shop that carries the ME bags- as the fill is tested using the euro rating system instead of the US, a bag rated by ME at 700 would really be about the same as an 800 fill US bag. Is the 700 fill power what ME says, and how would you say it compares to a US rated 800 fill jacket?

  18. Lou June 5th, 2012 5:56 pm

    Wow, I might have screwed that up. Shew, this stuff never ends, does it? But I’ll check, and suspect this might be the case… if so, the U.S. etailers need to get on the case!

    Campsaver, for example, calls it 750 fill…

  19. Ed June 5th, 2012 7:37 pm

    So while we’re on the subject of feathery stuff – I got asked this question a while back (sleeping bag tear and the writer’s tent looked like a goose had died a very violent death inside by the time morning rolled around) – we couldn’t find an answer – so I asked somebody at a big clothing supplier and they frankly didn’t know either when it got down to it.
    Here goes – does anyone (suppliers jump right in here) know if the down and (!! feathers !!) we all have in our puffy stuff is screened or treated in some way to eliminate any animal pathogens? The question was asked of me when the Chinese were killing poultry because of viral outbreaks. There was a large amount of suspicion that some of the fowl’s “outer coats” may have ended up in clothing or bedding. We all kind of wondered about any kind of controls there might be on this kind of stuff. Anybody heard anything or have any comments?
    I know museums fumigate fabric collections using things like ethylene oxide but down? Unlikely . . . .
    Just wunderin?

  20. Richard Talbot June 6th, 2012 4:21 am

    Just wanted to clarify the rating of the down fill-power used in the Xero Hooded Jacket. Its not a complicated subject but people try to make it so but in short, our ratings are guaranteed absolute minimums. For comparison it is 850+, that is based on the IDFB Lorch Test that most companies, including those in the US now use.

    From AW12 all of our top-end clothing will have a ‘trace your down’ function where you can see its provenance (i.e. animal welfare, farm and slaughterhouse standards etc) PLUS all the actual tests relating to fill-power and cleanliness etc. This is already up and running for anyone buying one of our sleeping bags.

    Regarding some of the comments on down cleanliness, all pathogens (esp. Avian Flu which got some press a few years back) are killed during the drying and sterilisation process – which uses a high pressure and high temperature washing and drying process. In addition to this, two chemical agents are used in the cleaning process.

    In the USA all suppliers, us included have to obtain sterilisation permits – you’ll see this information on the federal law tags attached to any product.

    Richard Talbot – Product Manager – Mountain Equipment

  21. Lou June 6th, 2012 5:58 am

    Thanks Richard, Craig Dixon who imports ME clothing to the US also sent me an email about this. After researching the fill volume issue a bit more, I’ll try to clarify and reiterate this for the benefit of our readers:

    While at least 10 somewhat similar down fill standards exist, there is one internationally recognized standard for down fill power, the IDFB, and it is used by most companies. This standard is maintained and promulgated by the International Down and Feather Bureau, http://www.idfb.net

    Confusion arises in part because the TESTING outfit is the International Down and Feather Laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland, acronym IDFL, but they test according to a variety of standards, with the standard chosen by Mountain Equipment to be the IDFB, as mentioned above. Confusion also rises because, as shown on IDFL website, there are fully 10 different fill standards, one of which is the IDFB Standard.

    I’m not totally clear on who actually does the testing, but it appears that the testing is done by the IDF_L_ using a procedure called the Lorch Test. The Lorch Test involves placing the down in a cylinder, then placing a weight on top of the down and measuring how many cubic inches it fills per ounce when under compression from the weight.

    According to the IDFL Lorch Test, using IDFB Standard, the down used in the Xero jacket is 850 fill and in the future the Mountain Equipment marketing and sales materials will reflect this number. I’ll add some explication to the blog post above, since it’s going to be confusing for folks when they see two different numbers floating around (750 & 850).

    One of the better explanations for some of this can be found at the PHD website.

    Another thing: You’ll hear PR bragging about 900 fill down. As far as I can tell from my research, 850 fill and 900 fill are pretty much the same thing, as they’re at the upper limit of what down can do. Thus, when you see numbers such as 900 thrown around, but see a jacket with 850, either shopping choice will be excellent and are probably so similar as for the fill rating to be a non issue. More, when you see the number 900 shouted out, you’d better be seeing which standard it was tested under, and by which testing outfit. Otherwise you’re just getting snowed by marketing BS.

    Some of you guys reading here probably know way more about this issue then I do, so please fire away with clarification and corrections.

    Lou

  22. Christian October 1st, 2012 2:35 pm

    I have not heard the whispers about new “synthetic down”. Do you have anything more to share on that?

  23. Lou Dawson October 1st, 2012 5:29 pm

    I was sworn to secrecy for the most part… I do know that some of the water resistant treated natural down products are claiming to essentially be the same thing…

    What’s interesting to me is some of this is a little too late, as fabric and design technology have taken care of the down vs moisture problem to some extent. For example, from what I saw nearly everyone on Denali uses modern down bags, 35 years ago that would have been death for many…

  24. Adventuress September 9th, 2013 10:07 am

    Now that the water-resistant Dri-Down is out, I’ve done a quick search and still don’t see a review of either sleeping bags or jackets. Since it’s been a couple years they’ve been around now, I’d really love to know what you think!

  25. Lou Dawson September 10th, 2013 9:51 am

    The problem is it’s been somewhat of a yawner due to all the other technology that allows down to perform. Still, by all accounts the water resistant downs are an excellent enhancement. Thanks for the reminder to do more evaluation. Lou

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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