Heavyweight Belay Jackets from Mountain Equipment and BD Head To Head

© Alan James

Whether you're winter climbing, hillwalking in the snow, camping up high, or enduring a chilly bouldering session, a chunky belay jacket is worth its weight in fluff. While down fills are often a good option, synthetic alternatives give better performance in the damp, and generally seem less delicate. But stand around in colder conditions and you'll soon conclude that most synthetic insulated jackets are not really that warm. For maximum winter comfort you need to go large. In this review two of the beefiest and warmest synthetic jackets on the market - Black Diamond's Belay Parka and the Mountain Equipment Citadel - slug it out.

Which will be crowned the heavyweight champion?

We've assessed them both on all the usual measures: weight, fit, fabric, insulation, features, and - a big one - value for money.

In terms of sheer warmth I don't think there's much between them, though the Citadel edges it thanks to its greater weather resistance and fancier fill. But though there's obvious overlap, and they'd each work on any occasion you might find yourself wanting something this chunky, the differences in design, materials, and of course cost, open up a clear space between them. So which is right for you?

Head to Head Summary

Make and model

Mountain Equipment


Price: £375

Weight: 820g size L

Best for: Committed winter climbers and mountaineers looking for the current cutting edge in cold, foul weather performance, and not afraid to splosh the dosh 

Black Diamond

Belay Parka

Price: £220

Weight: 920g size L

Best for: Winter bouldering, continental ice climbing, cold camping, or anyone willing to compromise on weight and features for a more affordable super-snug jacket   

Mountain Equipment Citadel £375

The bigger, bulkier sibling of ME's popular Fitzroy jacket, the Citadel turns up the temperature dial to 11. While slightly lighter than its predecessor, the new Citadel makes no compromises on warmth. On a long frigid belay in Scottish spindrift, or a cold, dark bivvy, the sheer level of protection on offer here would be very welcome - but less so the weight and bulk when you're carrying it. Emphatically not a fast-n-light packable option, it's designed to keep you warm when pretty much all else might fail. With a cutting edge fabric and fill, this is an unashamedly high-end offering, as reflected in the price. But if you need the best, and if the budget will stretch, then it's an investment you'll thank yourself for.

The warmest synthetic insulated jacket money can buy? Probably  © Dan Bailey
The warmest synthetic insulated jacket money can buy? Probably
© Dan Bailey

Are you looking for serious mountaineering performance? The Citadel is probably the leading extra-warm synthetic jacket on the market. But it'll cost you

Pros: High performance fabric and fill; decent active cut; mountain-oriented features; amazingly warm for its weight

Cons: High-octane price; no female-fit version

If the all-out bulk of a Citadel is more than you need, but you still want a climbing-friendly cut and weatherproof fabric, then look at the Fitzroy (or Alpamayo for women), which we reviewed last year:


Mountain Equipment's Rich Bailey explains the differences and similarities between the two jackets here:

How warm is it?

In a word, scorchio! Thanks to the combination of weather-resistant fabric and high performance innards, the Citadel has to be one of the warmest synthetic jackets ever made. Having used one on a variety of winter days over two seasons, I've yet to feel the chill when stationary, and invariably get too toasty as soon as I'm on the move. For active use in all but the coldest conditions the Citadel is probably over-spec; this is pretty much the epitome of a crap-hits-the-fan winter refuge for long miserable belays in the foulest conditions.

It's heavy and bulky - probably not a jacket to hang off your harness (620ml flask for scale)  © Dan Bailey
It's heavy and bulky - probably not a jacket to hang off your harness (620ml flask for scale)
© Dan Bailey


It may be lighter than its predecessor, but at 820g (size L) the new Citadel is no shrinking violet. While it packs down relatively well all things considered (stuff sack provided - 13g) it's an undeniably bulky thing to cram into a smaller pack or try to hang from your harness. But - and it's a big but - the warmth you get for that weight is pretty amazing. Lighter belay jackets can sometimes seem like a false economy. For every day when it ends up being excess weight in your bag or overkill on the belay, there'll be other times you will gladly welcome the Citadel's outright performance.


It's rather disappointing in 2023 that Mountain Equipment haven't felt there's enough of a demand to offer this jacket in a female-fit version.

Sized generously to fit easily over several other layers, the Citadel is very much cut as a belay jacket. Long in the hem, it offers plenty of weather protection well below the waist, and pretty much full bum coverage. Twin hem drawcords - usable one-handed, and of the non-snag type - give you a nice snug fit that should keep the wind at bay.

Belay jackets don't always seem to be tailored that well for moving in, but the active cut on the Citadel is an exception. Movement is unrestricted, and with almost no hem lift I can raise my arms to climb without exposing my midriff or pulling the jacket up out of a harness (assuming I'd ever want to tuck it in under one). Given its warmth I can't see myself climbing in this jacket very often, but it's good to know that I could.

The sleeves are quite long - almost too much on me - while the generous cuffs slide easily over the bulkiest gloves. You don't get a fine-tuned fit at the wrist, but the relaxed elastication is sufficient since you would almost certainly be wearing thick gloves whenever using this jacket in anger.


An enormous hood ought to be a given on a belay jacket, and ME run with the theme here. This one is easily roomy enough to don over several other layers (my head would melt!) and has no trouble accommodating a helmet without remotely restricting head movement.

The massive hood works brilliantly with a helmet  © Dan Bailey
The massive hood works brilliantly with a helmet
© Dan Bailey

While no-one wears a helmet all the time, designers of climbing jackets often seem to forget the walk-in, and indeed the many occasions when you might not be defying death up a winter cliff at all, but still wanting the all-round performance of a technical jacket. If you cannot wear a hood helmet-free without it flopping annoyingly over your eyes then it only does half a job. Happily in this case the hood works really well on a bare head, with three points of adjustment to get a good close fit, and a little wire peak that helps hold its shape in the wind even without the support of a helmet. There's a bit less insulation in the hood, which is good for movement.

The snug high collar keeps the weather off your neck  © Dan Bailey
The snug high collar keeps the weather off your neck
© Dan Bailey

Hood also works well if you're not wearing a helmet  © Dan Bailey
Hood also works well if you're not wearing a helmet
© Dan Bailey

With or without employing the hood, the collar rides nice and high, covering the neck (and chin if you hunker in) to keep the wind out and the warmth in. Overall the top end of the Citadel is a winner (I'm pretty keen on the rest too).


The Citadel does not come cheap (understatement alert), and one of the reasons for that is its high-end outer fabric, Gore-Tex Infinium. This is also used on the Fitzroy, so I've worn it a lot in the last year or so, and if you wanted to make a belay jacket that's highly weather-resistant - not quite waterproof, but as near as dammit - then this is the stuff you'd probably choose.

Gore-Tex Infinium is highly weather resistant  © Dan Bailey
Gore-Tex Infinium is highly weather resistant
© Dan Bailey

As I wrote in my Fitzroy review, the fabric stands up well to both light rain and snow, which helps make the Citadel the sort of jacket you might happily pull over a shell in iffy conditions. If you can bear to climb or stomp uphill in it for any length of time (and I think we've established it'd have to be baltic) then rest assured the microporous membrane seems really quite breathable, insofar as it's possible to judge this when you're hot in a blizzard. At the same time I've also found it very windproof. Wild weather is what it does best.

While it's fairly thin, the 30D ripstop fabric has quite a durable feel. What you want in winter is a jacket that can take a bit of abuse and doesn't need to be handled with particular care, and that's just what you get with both the Fitzroy and the Citadel.


It's premium inside too, with tongue-twisting (and body-warming) PrimaLoft Gold High Loft Ultra insulation with "Cross Core aerogel technology". You probably don't need to know exactly what this is, but what it does is very noticeable, delivering better loft and insulating more effectively than the stuff used in the previous Citadel. This means you need less of it, allowing the current jacket to be slightly lighter, slimmer, softer and more comfortable on the move than its bulky predecessor.

While the old Citadel had 200g of insulation in the body and sleeves, the upgrade has a more manageable 160g, without sacrificing any performance; in the hood it's 80g, and there's a strategic warmth-boosting 80g overlay in the shoulders. Really toasty for its weight, barely troubled by damp conditions, and - I understand - durable too, this has to be the current high point in synthetic insulation.

Cuffs are sized to fit over insulated gloves  © Dan Bailey
Cuffs are sized to fit over insulated gloves
© Dan Bailey

Spacious map-sized pockets are a plus  © Dan Bailey
Spacious map-sized pockets are a plus
© Dan Bailey


On a mountain jacket, pockets really ought to work well with a harness or a rucksack belt - and these do. Positioned sensibly high, the two chest pockets are roomy enough for maps or big gloves. This is a real bonus when wearing an insulated jacket over your shell out in the winter hills, and something that the BD Belay Parka does not score well on by comparison. You also get a second set of deep handwarmer pockets for all those times when you're not actually climbing or belaying in your belay jacket. The inner mesh pockets are a good place to stash gloves at the belay, and would work for rock shoes too if you're out bouldering in the cold. On a lighter jacket I might want an inside security pocket for a phone, but the Citadel's lack in that regard isn't an issue since you'll always be wearing several layers beneath, each with their own pockets.

Chunky and reliable YKK Vislon zips are used throughout, and on the main zip there's a big anti-snag strip, a double zipper, and a bottom popper so you can belay without having to open the jacket right up. Overall, the features feel completely spot-on for a jacket of this sort.

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Black Diamond Belay Parka £220

A bit of a no-frills option compared to the fancier Citadel, the Belay Parka lacks the refinement of fit, design and materials offered by its more expensive competitor, but scores well on the warmth-to-cost metric, so it's a big tick on value. If price were no object and you were planning some serious winter mountain use in foul conditions - be that a Scottish suffer fest or an alpine north face - then you definitely would not pick this jacket over Mountain Equipment's more technical alternative. However for more valley-based ice climbing trips, cold weather bouldering, or camping in the snow, the Belay Parka is pretty much the epitome of the beefy winter refuge. Why pay more than you have to? For a lot of users this will be all the heavyweight synthetic jacket they need.

It's a lot to carry, but ideal for a cold winter summit  © Dan Bailey
It's a lot to carry, but ideal for a cold winter summit
© Dan Bailey

On a budget, but still need something mega-warm? Sounds like you want a Belay Parka. It does the job, and it'll save you a fair few bob

Pros: Affordable price for a jacket this warm; women's fit available

Cons: Cut, weight and features not best suited to mountaineering

How warm is it?

Given its weight and thickness it should come as no surprise that the Belay Parka is really, really snug. It may lack the refinement and a bit of the weatherproofness of the Citadel, but on a long winter belay or a freezing summit this jacket will keep you comfortable way below zero. Try walking energetically in it and you will soon be opening the zip. In terms of outright insulating power I don't think it's far off its more expensive competitor, and I should think this must also make it one of the warmest synthetic jackets you can buy - more notable still for its relatively affordable price.

Perhaps you're planning a continental style ice climbing trip, where walk-ins are short and temperatures low? In that case you could have a very decent jacket here for 'only' £220.


There's a catch. Weighing a hefty 920g in size L, the Belay Parka is the heaviest synthetic jacket I've used - a full 100g heavier than the Citadel. This is definitely a consideration for mountaineers, and I've heard Scottish winter climbers say they don't pack theirs because it's just too much hard work. Frankly I have avoided carrying it myself on winter climbing days when already well burdened - and I'm reviewing it. But that is going to be less a concern if you're wearing it rather than carting it about up mountains all day; I can't imagine it mattering much for bouldering or cold weather cragging for instance. Despite its greater weight the Belay Parka packs down almost as readily as its more expensive rival (which is to say that it's very bulky); no stuff sack is provided, but I'd tend to use a drybag anyway.


The Belay Parka comes in both men's and women's versions, which is a notable advance on Mountain Equipment's men's-sizing-only offering.

As you'd expect, the fit is on the roomy side, making it easy to slip the jacket over multiple other layers. On me it's similarly long in the body as the Citadel, offering plenty of protection below the waist and giving good bum coverage. Overall the cut is looser for the stated size, which isn't unusual for North American brands. The sleeves are long too, but unlike the Citadel they're quite tapered towards the wrist, which makes it a bit more of a stretch to fit them over bulky gauntlets (though it's possible).

Tailoring can be an expensive refinement, and as expected the cut on the budget Belay Parka is not tweaked for climbing in the way that the pricier Citadel's is. With my arms raised hem lift is quite a thing, despite BD's promise of underarm gussets. This one's better for belaying than moving. A single hem drawcord keeps the wind out of your innards, but if you pull it tight you get a long closed loop of elastic that would be easy to snag on a carabiner - another little detail betraying a lack of design refinement.


For belaying duties the roomy hood is ideal, with plenty of space for a helmet and no limit on head movement. On a bare head the fit can be pulled in reasonably snugly via the single rear point of adjustment, but with no helmet underneath to give it structure I find the hood does tend to flop over my eyes. Since there's no side adjustment, and no stiffened brim, it can catch the wind and flap about. That's less than ideal on a breezy summit, and while the problem is mitigated when you've got a helmet filling the volume and holding it all up, the fact that the hood isn't fully stand-alone minus a helmet is a weakness in the design for non-climbing days. With a thinner insulated jacket you might be able to stick a shell on top and so benefit from a more structured hood that way; but in the bulky Belay Parka that's not a realistic option.

Filled with 200gsm of insulation, the hood is really warm, perhaps almost too much if you're a hothead like me. With or without the hood raised the collar rides nice and high to offer loads of neck coverage. My one criticism of the collar is that it does have a tendency to feel a bit tight over the throat - not so that you're literally throttled, but not always hugely comfy.

High collar  © Dan Bailey
High collar
© Dan Bailey

Rear adjustment  © Dan Bailey
Rear adjustment
© Dan Bailey

Roomy hood  © Dan Bailey
Roomy hood
© Dan Bailey


A longstanding model in BD's lineup, and their warmest synthetic jacket, the Belay Parka was redesigned in 2019 and now features a more durable shell fabric than the previous version. This 50D micro-ripstop polyester feels suitably tough for belay jacket duty, and has a softer and less crinkly feel than the Citadel's snazzier Gore-Tex Infinium. With a PFC-free DWR finish it happily resists dry snow and a bit of light moisture, but it's definitely not as weather-resistant as Gore Infinium, so while it feels pretty windproof it does wet out more readily. On a spindrift-raked belay or in a highland squall I know which jacket I'd rather be wearing, and it's not the Belay Parka. But don't get me wrong - it does still do the job in the winter hills.

The DWR finish is quite effective even in rain (though not fully waterproof, as you can see)  © Dan Bailey
The DWR finish is quite effective even in rain (though not fully waterproof, as you can see)
© Dan Bailey


Inside is a polyester insulation called ThermoLite HL Eco-Made. Clearly more affordable than the Citadel's Primaloft Gold, it doesn't have quite the compressibility or loft; but a mega thick double layer gives you a hefty 200gsm of fill throughout the whole jacket, which still makes the Belay Parka really blooming warm. Since the weight of fill isn't zoned, the jacket does feel a bit bulky and restrictive if you're trying to move a lot - but if moving far you will probably soon want to take it off anyway. I don't think it's as breathable as the Citadel, but when you're overheating due to the sheer insulating oomph it is rather hard to tell that for sure.

There's a single phone-sized chest pocket  © Dan Bailey
There's a single phone-sized chest pocket
© Dan Bailey

Tight-ish cuffs don't easily fit over bulkier gloves  © Dan Bailey
Tight-ish cuffs don't easily fit over bulkier gloves
© Dan Bailey


As with other aspects of the jacket, the features are not as well-thought-out as the Citadel's for mountaineering use. Here you get three external pockets. The two handwarmer pockets are too low to be much use with a rucksack hip belt or harness (assuming you tried to tuck the jacket under one), too small to properly fit insulated gloves, and no good at all for an OS-sized map; they really are just for your hands. A single chest pocket is also provided, which is fine for a phone (and, usefully, semi-insulated to help keep the battery going). Inside are two dump pockets for gloves; these will do for rock shoes too if you're of a bouldering bent, but they do drop right down to the hem, where it's annoying to have a bulk.

For the main zip it's a chunky YKK Vislon as per the Citadel, with a bottom popper (so you can keep the hem closed when accessing a belay loop), and a rather smaller internal flap. The other zips though are lighter gauge, which probably doesn't much matter but just seems a bit less "performance".

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23 Mar, 2023

Excellent review. I’d be interested in the comparison between the Citadel and Rab’s Generator Alpine. I appreciate that the Rab is possibly less robust and weatherproof but it is much lighter. Is it significantly less warm than the Citadel?

Yes, it's more akin to the Fitzroy so not comparable to the two in this review (I did consider including it)

23 Mar, 2023

What about the Fjern Husly super insulated jacket ? You could buy four of them for the price of the ME citadel. It seems to have very similar features and hence warmth to the citadel, while being only 100 grams heavier. The citadel looks great, but the cost is extortionate!

23 Mar, 2023

I think you need to be a sponsor to get in the review? It would seem more akin to the BD than the ME though?

1.6? RRP £225 vs £375?

The Citadel is indeed expensive, but is probably the "best cut" belay jacket out there, it uses the "best" materials (at a cost premium) and is made under Fair Wear conditions. I would imagine it will be a fair bit warmer and a lot better fitting than the Fjern.

The decision is whether that is all worth the extra money to you.

23 Mar, 2023

How would you say the DAS Parka compares to the Citadel/Fitzroy?

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