Sunday, 12 September 2010

Katabatic Windom down hood

Down filled trousers seem to be getting pretty popular and rightly so. Responses to a first wear on a cold wild camp are often couched in phrases akin to Paul chatting to his mates after his stroll along the road to Damascus. While I like my down trousers, the real eye opener for me was my down hood. The warmth compared to any hat I had worn previously was startling. I pinched that hood from a chav’s jacket, took off the poppers, sealed up the holes with seam sealer and Robert was my sister’s brother. Ultimately, however, that hood was a little bit uncomfortable- the Velcro at the front was a bit scratchy and the volume was to big for my head, even with the front cord tightened. I began to look for another.
A few companies make them- Jack’s R better and Feathered friends for example but Katabatic made the lightest. It also appealed because it was a true balaclava with a whole face sized opening. The hood itself weighs 41grams. That includes shock-cord arm loops to stop it twisting around when you’re in your sleeping bag. Construction is top notch and loft is a more puffy than I was expecting. Photos can only ever give you a vague idea- this is the chin area. The hood actually fits my head (which might make it a little small for some people) but it is loose enough to feel comfortable. The opening isn’t tight to my face. It uses a lycra binding rather than a cord, and I was thinking I might need to tighten it a little to stop draughts, but the hood lofts up enough to fill the gap. It’s probably more comfortable loose. The lycra does catch my stubble a little and I may stitch a little pertex over the chin area. The bottom opening is easily wide enough to fit over the collar of a down jacket without compressing it. The shock cords pull it down onto your shoulders to seal out draughts. I was going to take the cords off (they’re removable) as it works well without them and I didn’t like the idea of them cutting up into my armpits but they definitely stop the hood twisting in a sleeping bag. I have taken the cordlocks off as I don’t need to tighten them any more than the maximum length.When I combine it with my down vest, trousers, jacket and socks, plus my minim ultra sleeping bag I’ve got a system that weighs somewhere in the region of 1kg, comparable to many winter sleeping bags. Of course this system gives me a lot more flexibility- most people would take a warm jacket as well as a winter bag anyway. I used a similar system in temperatures down to around -5 and I have a few tricks to help me if the temperature goes lower. Taking these photos, I became unbearably hot- it was about 18 degrees- there’s not much of me that is exposed and able to get rid of the excess heat.

So why are people not singing the praises of down hoods? Look at the photos-it’s impossible to wear one without looking like a complete idiot. Still, when you’re sat on the top of a mountain next to someone freezing in their warmest hat, you understand the difference between looking like an idiot and actually being one…..


Mark Roberts said...

Cheers - I've been wanting to read a review of that hood. I don't care if I look stupid; chances are nobody will see me anyway!

What down pants are they?

minimalgear said...

They're the montbell down inner pants, MB down inner jacket,phd minimultra vest and goosefeet socks.