Down Jacket / Puffy Pillow

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Today I got my first down jacket: the Tactical Distributors Down Range Jacket 2.1. The fact that I posted the news on this blog might prompt the more experienced hikers out there to wonder . . .

Why Bring a Down Jacket on the Camino?

Down “puffy” jackets are a very common layer for cold weather hiking. The Camino temps will likely never get into my comfort zone for hiking with this jacket, but they may at night (and some albergues are not heated).

As reported earlier, I am combining this jacket with a sleep liner in place of a sleeping bag or blanket as well as swapping it for my fleece. Doing this saved me over 2 pounds of carry weight and gained me a nice “pillow”! After returning items and getting it on the crazy sale you see above, this move (one of my better ones) cost me only $17.

Review of TD Down Range Jacket 2.1

One fear I had when ordering this jacket is the NO RETURN part. It’s right there in the item’s title, so you can’t miss it. Scary. I actually called TD to confirm that even if it did not fit, there was no way to return or even exchange it. Yup. Well, OK then!

They had a very precise sizing guide, but it appeared off to me. I am not slim, and I generally wear a large or extra large up top. TD’s measurements put me in the small-medium range. What??? (Maybe they’re just trying to make the men who shop with them feel better about their self image LOL). I trusted the science and ordered a medium.

Before I even got the jacket free from the packaging, I already liked the company. As I tore open the shipping bag, two little plastic army men fell out. COOL! I then proceeded to extract the insulated core garment (I assume this is how tactical guys would say it) and shook it out.

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It looked VERY small. But it was mine now, so . . . I tried it on.

It actually fit perfectly! Well, until I zipped it up. Yikes. So yeah, my fat is mostly in my gut apparently. It did zip up though, and I could even move around without fearing a seam bust. Now, if this was an outer coat, I definitely would have wanted a size up. However, this is technically a tertiary layer in winter weather because down jackets suck if they get wet, so they must be worn under a waterproof shell. That means you want them fairly snug.

So far, so good.

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The jacket appears to be well constructed. I don’t know a lot about jacket fabrication, but one of my favorite gear review guys who is not at all afraid to call out poorly made gear really likes this jacket. So I was pretty confident about the quality before I even saw it.

The reason down fill is so popular is that it is very light, warm, and compressible. The TD Down Range is all of those things. It’s warm (it was 68° when I tried it on and I was warm before I took it off a few seconds later). It’s lightweight (11 oz.). And it’s pretty compressible – besides the army men, it also came with a stuff sack that’s about 9″ tall and 15″ around without any added compression.

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Feature-wise, this jacket is great. The body baffles are an unusual pattern and their fill retention is excellent from what I have heard. (Escaping feathers is a common complaint about cheap down jackets.)

The two front pockets are zippered and roomy enough for hands but don’t take up too much space. There are two open pockets on the inside as well. Both are wide enough that it’s easy to just drop stuff in but deep enough that you don’t have to worry about them spilling easily.

There is another zippered hand-sized “map pocket” on the outer left chest. It has a wire routing system for running earphones up through the inside of the jacket to avoid exposing the device to weather or having wires flopping around outside.

The jacket is DWR treated, so it should repel water, but I wouldn’t trust it unless I had to. The only DOWN side (get it?) to down fill is that it absorbs water like a sponge and takes forever to dry out. So it’s never wise to push it.

What about the hood?

As indicated by the picture above, there is a hooded version of this jacket. There are two reasons I did not choose it. First,  it’s a funky design – one that many reviewers complained about. I’m not sure what TD was thinking when they made this – maybe a helmet cover? Anyway, second, since this jacket isn’t really waterproof, the hood is only good for cold – not snow or rain.  In those conditions, an outer shell would be necessary anyway, and they all have their own hoods. So I decided I’d rather carry a hat for  warmth and a rain hood for rain/snow.

Conclusion

Decent down jackets start around $80-$120. So for less than $60, this is a very good deal.  It’s not a heavyweight jacket – nothing I would take to Antarctica or anything. However, for running around the Sierras or sleeping on the Camino. I think it’s just right.

Now to work on that gut…

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