Alpkit Fantom Down Jacket
Whether it's scaling alpine aretes, winter walking lunch stops, long belays in the shade, or just knocking about the tent after sundown, a toasty down jacket is your number one ally against the cold.
The Quattro Fusion is an unusual hybrid insulated jacket that combines a high quality down fill with fleecy Polartec Alpha Direct. With active use in mind, Montane have zoned the insulation in order to target the warmth and breathability where each is most needed. The result seems quite specialised - a jacket aimed primarily at alpine mountaineering. However, its performance in damp conditions suggests that this left field little number could find a place in the UK hills too.
At 487g (size L - weighed on my kitchen scales) I'd say this counts as mid-weight insulation, and this is reflected in its application. This is no winter belay jacket, but on the other hand it's something that you could more comfortably wear on the move in cold weather. If you're hanging around stationary - be that at a chilly camp or a breezy crag - then the Quattro Fusion feels like a three season jacket, and perhaps that's how it is best judged.
Fit is a personal thing, and always hard to objectively sum up in a review. But here goes: To me, it looks as if the Quattro Fusion has been modelled on someone with a relatively short but stocky trunk, large biceps but small-ish forearms. Unfortunately that doesn't describe your humble reviewer, so on me the shape of the Quattro Fusion is not a good match. Cut quite roomy in the body to accommodate a couple of under-layers, I nevertheless find it a little short in the hem. As a result it feels less snug and protective around the waist than it might have with another couple of centimetres in length. Although the lower part of the jacket has been designed to fit neatly beneath a harness - switching from down fill to the less bulky Polartec Alpha Direct - with its limited length I don't find that it stays put under the harness, but tends to slip out when I start climbing.
Montane have built some articulation into the sleeves to help prevent the hem lifting when you raise your arms. Some people will find this works, but I personally don't. While there's more space than I need in the upper arms, the room is more limited under the arms and at the forearms and elbows, and as a result I've found that hem lift is pretty much unavoidable. It's worth reiterating that this is a function of the tailoring, and since we are all different shapes, not every wearer is going to have the same problem with the cut that I do. Try before you buy.
On the plus side I really love the high collar. With the hood down and the zip right up, this covers the whole neck, holding its shape well (rather than sagging). The Polartec Alpha Direct with which it is lined feels really snug against your neck too - just what you want on a windy day.
The combination of down and fleece is unusual - I've not experienced it before - and in its quite specialised niche I think it is very effective, resulting in a jacket that's reasonably warm for its weight and yet not too sweaty (within reason) when you're on the move. What you're getting, in effect, is two different sorts of garment in one - an element of 'active' insulation mixed with some 'regular' insulation.
At 800+ fill power, the goose down that Montane have used here feels like high quality stuff, and with a water resistant treatment it's well suited to snowy mountaineering or, more to the point recently, getting out and about in the rainy autumn hills.
I tend to be a little sceptical of the fashion for very thin down baffles. Do they allow the down to loft as effectively as wider baffles? In this case yes I think so - the fill bounces back well, so while there isn't a huge amount of down in the Quattro Fusion it certainly seems to do its job. The down baffles are zoned across the front and sides of the body, the upper arms and parts of the hood. These panels have been positioned in accordance with thermal imaging data, say Montane, so that you get down insulation only where it's most needed to keep your core warm. Not having a lab at my disposal I'm taking their word for that. For maximum warmth I think you'd also have down around the lower back too, to protect the kidneys - but maximum warmth isn't the Quattro Fusion's remit. I've only one quibble about this zoning, and that is that the down fill goes right over the elbow. For less bulk and freer movement I'd have preferred fleece here.
Elsewhere the lining is 120 weight Polartec Alpha Direct, an industry-leading fleece fabric with a deep pile structure that makes it really warm for its modest weight. The open knit of Alpha Direct ensures that it is highly air permeable - it's so open, in fact, that you can see light through it - and as a result it is breathable enough to be worn on the move without feeling like you're boiling in a bag (external temperatures permitting, of course). I've tried Alpha Direct on a couple of different tops this year, and have got on really well with it. Quick drying, breathable, light and highly compressible - what's not to like?
Putting this fleece in places where you're going to sweat most - under the arms and on the back - makes sense for a jacket that's designed to be wearable on the move. If you're carrying a rucksack, you arguably need less insulation on the back in any case, since the pack will be helping to keep you warm. Alpha Direct is also used on the forearms, to minimise bulk for climbing, and over the shoulders, where a rucksack would compress down insulation.
Overall the zoning seems effective. When working hard you might feel the heat under the down panels, but the presence of all that breathable fleece does help you let off some steam. I have walked up Munros in chilly windy conditions wearing the Quattro Fusion, without feeling unbearably over dressed - something I'd struggle with in a 100% down-filled jacket.
The flipside to this is of course the fact that once you stop moving, the Quattro Fusion simply isn't as warm as a pure down jacket of similar weight. In the recent autumn conditions it's been enough for me, but for winter climbing or an alpine bivvy I'd bring something extra to wear on top when you stop. So long as you remember what the Quattro Fusion is, and what it isn't, then all's well.
Over the down areas you get lightweight, ripstop Pertex Quantum Pro. Designed to work in cold damp conditions, this helps protect insulation from light rain and snow to maximise its thermal efficiency.
"By combining a tightly woven face fabric with an ultra-thin windproof and water resistant coating, Quantum Pro delivers an exceptional level of weather protection without compromising on weight or breathability", Pertex told us.
"The increased water resistance and durable construction means Pertex® Quantum Pro is ideal for extended use in extreme environments where keeping warm and dry is crucial."
This sounds great, and in use I'd say this fabric certainly feels highly robust for its lightness, showing no signs yet of scuffing, and no danger of any of that down escaping. The weather proofing works well too, shrugging off a light shower with ease to help keep the fill dry and thus the wearer warm and comfortable. If it's more than a light shower, you will of course need to throw a shell over the top.
Outside the fleece, Montane have gone for Pertex's Quantum Air, a thin shower proof fabric with a good degree of wind resistance. The various insulation and outer fabrics all seem to perform well together, and it's clear that a lot of thought has gone into the choice of materials on the Quattro Fusion.
Arguably the most important feature of a mountain jacket is the hood, and this one has its pluses and minuses. Shaped to fit the head and back of the neck neatly, it moves with you as you look from side to side, and doesn't restrict peripheral vision too much. With drawcord adjustment both in the sides and at the rear, the fit can be pulled in even closer around the face to keep out the weather, while the excellent stiffened brim holds its shape in a high wind. When not needed the hood can be rolled down, though it does feel a bit bulky on the back of the neck. For walking the overall fit of this hood is great; however it's less suited to climbing, which seems odd given the jacket's remit. Though described as helmet compatible, I've found that the hood isn't in fact quite roomy enough to fit over a helmet. Being quite close fitting, however, it can be worn underneath instead, albeit a little restrictively.
The chunky YKK front zip feels suitably robust for a mountain jacket, with the added benefits of a lower zipper for easy harness access, a brushed chin guard for comfort and a very effective snag-free internal storm flap to keep the wind at bay. Two zipped A-line hand pockets are positioned high enough to be free of a harness or rucksack hipbelt, and though they are a little small for carrying a pair of bulky gloves, you do get a third concealed chest pocket big enough for a smartphone or a couple of cereal bars.
Twin hem drawcords with one-hand-operable toggles help keep the breeze out, while down at the cuffs the simple elastic keeps bulk to a minimum around the wrists.
Fundamentally this is a specialist jacket, which comes with pros and cons as a result. It's obvious that a separate fleece and down jacket would offer more flexibility, being cooler when you're working hard and warmer when you're stationary. However you'd have more to carry. Within its niche - I'm thinking of lightweight mountaineering, though it works for cold weather hillwalking too - this hybrid of fleece and down performs well, being a neat way to meet the two conflicting needs of warmth versus breathability when you're on the move. With hydrophobic down and shower proof fabrics, it's well suited to conditions in which moisture management is key, be that up a big snowy Alp or a small soggy Munro. As a well made jacket with high end materials, its price tag seems fair too. The cut won't suit everyone - I am a case in point - but the Quattro Fusion is a striking idea, and looks likely to gain fans.
One of our most technical and innovative products yet, developed using thermal imaging data produced during activities in cold, wet conditions, the Quattro Fusion Jacket sets the standard for critical attention to detail. With a full set of technical features aimed at alpinists and using a combination of the highest performing fabrics available (POLARTEC® Alpha Direct fleece, PERTEX® QUANTUM PRO with DIAMOND FUSE, PERTEX® QUANTUM AIR and 800+ fill power premium goose down), the Quattro Fusion Jacket offers insulation, wind protection and breathability in one unique package.
For more info see montane.co.uk
|£199.00. Buy now with Free UK Delivery!|
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