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Mountain Equipment Alpamayo and Fitzroy Jackets Review

© Dan Bailey

Long popular with winter and alpine climbers, the Fitzroy (men's) synthetic insulated jacket has received a revamp for winter 2021; and joining it this season is a new Alpamayo (women's) jacket, a model that last saw active service some years ago. Neither jacket is the very warmest available - in Mountain Equipment's range that accolade goes to the Citadel - but these midweights are more versatile than a full-on heavyweight winter belay refuge. Ideal for all sorts of mountain duties, from snowy hillwalking to technical climbing, they offer sufficient warmth to work as a belay jacket in less extreme cold, while still being light enough to wear on the go, and not too bulky in the pack. The revised designs are both lighter and warmer than their predecessors (a tough circle to square), and come with a more weather-beating fabric.

Besides gender-specific details of the cut, and a slightly different weight of fill in the arms, the new Alpamayo and redesigned Fitzroy are in essence the same jacket, built for the same job. We've had a pre-production sample of both on review since last winter, so our verdict is based on several months of use.

Highly weather resistant, they can often be used without recourse to a shell  © Dan Bailey
Highly weather resistant, they can often be used without recourse to a shell
© Dan Bailey

Overall Summary

Make and model

Mountain Equipment

Fitzroy Jacket

Price: £330

Sizes: S-XXL (men)

Weight: 650g

PrimaLoft® Gold High Loft Ultra insulation with Cross Core™ aerogel technology [120g body, 80g sleeves and hood]

GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ 30D shell is durably weather resistant

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Mountain Equipment

Alpamayo Jacket

Price: £330

Sizes: 8-16 (women)

Weight: 580g

PrimaLoft® Gold High Loft Ultra insulation with Cross Core™ aerogel technology [120g body and sleeves, 80g hood]

GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ 30D shell is durably weather resistant

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Mountain Equipment Fitzroy Jacket £330

Reviewed by Dan Bailey UKH

Highly Recommended

From winter climbing to snowy hill walks and cold weather camps, an old Fitzroy was my synthetic jacket of choice for several years. I've always liked its cut, its hood, and the features on offer, and I found the balance of weight and warmth suited my needs well. Thanks mainly to its high tech fabric and fill, I think the new version is better still. At this price, it'd have to be!

Weather's hostile, but I'm happy in my Fitzroy  © Dan Bailey
Weather's hostile, but I'm happy in my Fitzroy
© Dan Bailey

Fit

You're most likely to be wearing the Fitzroy as your outer layer, be that on top of your shell for belay duty, or instead of a shell when climbing or walking in colder conditions. I'm 1.83m and medium/heavy build, and in my usual size Large the Fitzroy is cut roomy enough to fit over several other layers. At the same time, it's not one of those enormous synthetic belay refuges that you'd struggle to squeeze under a shell when the need arises, and in really foul conditions I can wear a waterproof over the top without feeling excessively bulky or restricted. For an all-round winter-weight insulated jacket I find the sizing and cut about right.

On me, length in the body is sufficient to sit comfortably below the waist at the front, dropping at the rear to give a good level of bum coverage. It's snug and keeps the draughts out of the midriff, though ideally I would have preferred a couple of centimetres more.

The new Fitzroy is ideal for both winter walking and climbing   © Dan Bailey
The new Fitzroy is ideal for both winter walking and climbing
© Dan Bailey

Long enough in the hem to give at least partial bum coverage  © Dan Bailey
Long enough in the hem to give at least partial bum coverage
© Dan Bailey

There's plenty of length in the arms to keep the wrists well covered when reaching up. The part-elastic cuffs fit easily over big gloves, and to seal weather and spindrift out, the fit at the wrist is easily taken in using the simple hook-and-loop tab. I do find the fit a bit close on a bent elbow, something I'd also say about the previous Fitzroy, and on my sample jacket the armpit hole is a fraction tight; I understand the latter has been rectified in the production version. Crucially, the articulated sleeves allow free arm rotation, and you can reach up without suffering much of the dreaded hem lift that compromises so many jackets. Tuck the Fitzroy under a harness and it should mostly stay put when climbing - though I'll just reiterate that, for me, a couple more centimetres in the hem would have made this even better.

The cut of the new Fitzroy is essentially similar to previous versions, like my trusty old one here on Ben Ledi  © Dan Bailey
The cut of the new Fitzroy is essentially similar to previous versions, like my trusty old one here on Ben Ledi
© Dan Bailey

Hood

Since it's such an integral feature on any technical jacket, the hood merits its own section. Mountain Equipment consistently manage some of the best hood design in the business, and the Fitzroy's Mountain HC Insulated Hood doesn't let them down. There's enough volume here to fit easily over a bulky foam helmet. Head movement is free, and the hood moves with you as you look side to side. Craning the neck back works OK, though with the front zip fully fastened I do find my chin pops out of the collar when I look directly upwards. I'm told this area has been made a bit roomier in the final version of the jacket.

Without a helmet on, the hood can effectively be tightened for a snug fit to the head, with three points of adjustment. For neatness and ease of use wearing gloves, the front adjusters are built into the hem (which should come as standard in all high-end jackets, but doesn't), while the elastic tails exit the hood at a low enough point to spare you being whipped in the eye. A small wired peak gives the hood enough beef to resist flapping around in the wind.

The hood works well with a helmet  © Dan Bailey
The hood works well with a helmet
© Dan Bailey

And it's equally good without one  © Dan Bailey
And it's equally good without one
© Dan Bailey

Insulation

My old Fitzroy, now about nine years in service, was made with a weatherproof DriLite Loft II fabric, and had a PrimaLoft One fill. Things have come on a lot since then, and the new version boasts top-of-the-range PrimaLoft Gold High Loft Ultra insulation, with something funky called 'Cross Core aerogel technology'. This sounds cutting edge; in fact I've heard it said to be the warmest synthetic insulation currently available. Incorporated into the fibres of the insulation, aerogel is an ultralight synthetic material with extremely low density and low thermal conductivity; the 'cross core' bit, meanwhile, refers to an accordion-like structure. The end result is, we're told, an insulation that traps more air and is thus warmer for a given weight than standard PrimaLoft Gold (a high performing fill in itself). While it always pays to treat marketing claims with a pinch of salt, I do think the loft feels particularly good for a synthetic fill.

You get 120g/sq m of insulation in the body, and a thinner 80g in sleeves and hood, areas that need to be less bulky if you want to optimise freedom of movement. The addition of a second layer of 60g over the shoulders is a good touch, since it boosts warmth in a place you really require it, without, I've found, compromising overall mobility. In use I think the new Fitzroy feels notably warm for its weight, and with its siliconised, water-resistant fibres it will go on keeping you toasty even if the outer gets damp. My experience so far suggests this version of PrimaLoft is hot stuff.

Ideal for a chilly summit break  © Dan Bailey
Ideal for a chilly summit break
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

The Fitzroy was always intended to be weatherproof, and the latest version very much takes up that baton. While it's not fully waterproof, its Gore-Tex Infinium fabric is the next best thing to it, standing up well to both light rain and snow. I've happily worn it in iffy on-off conditions, only needing to add a shell when things turn determinedly wet. For comfort on the go the microporous membrane is breathable, while at the same time I've found it highly windproof. Stick a Fitzroy over your shell and you should feel well protected even if it's stormy, or the mountain is chucking buckets of spindrift at you.

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 here.

It feels breathable enough for wearing on the move, at least in colder/windier conditions  © Dan Bailey
It feels breathable enough for wearing on the move, at least in colder/windier conditions
© Dan Bailey

Weight and packability

Mountain Equipment quote 650g, while my size Large sample weighs 610g. Either way, for the warmth and weather protection on offer here I think the Fitzroy fully justifies every gram of its weight. As with any winter-oriented belay-worthy mountain jacket, you're not getting the most compact thing in your pack. The slightly oversized stuff sack that came with my pre-production review sample is about the size of a football, and though it can be squashed down a bit more than this, it's never going to be something you'd hang off your harness.

So how warm is it?

For really prolonged use on winter belays - the sort of waits that seem to be routine on harder mixed climbs, for instance, you're clearly going to be more comfortable in something like a new Citadel (ME's weight: 820g) than a Fitzroy (ME say 650g). However despite having been slimmed down a bit in its latest iteration, the former is still going to be too hot, heavy and just plain bulky for regularly climbing in - or for most active uses at all really - while the Fitzroy can be comfortably worn when moving as well as stationary. Whether this is the only synthetic winter jacket you'll ever need will of course depend on a number of variables such as the intended use, the weather, your choice of other layers, and your general cold tolerance. For snowy summit stops, icy winter bothies and camps, and most of the belays I can remember doing in my old one, I've usually found it warm enough. With its improved fill, the new version promises to be warmer still.

750ml flask for scale  © Dan Bailey
750ml flask for scale
© Dan Bailey

Features

Attention to detail is obvious on the Fitzroy, where every feature seems to have been considered with the needs of winter mountaineers in mind. The pockets are a good example. Outside you get three, one on the chest and a pair at hand level - the latter positioned high enough to remain usable when wearing a harness or a rucksack hip belt. Sufficiently spacious for bulky gloves, all three will also hold an OS-sized map. On an insulated jacket you'll often find none of the pockets roomy enough for a map - and if you're wearing it on top of your shell when fighting your way home in a hoolie, then this will quickly become a bugbear. The Fitzroy's big pockets are great.

For cold weather bouldering, the single inside drop pocket is big enough for a pair of rock shoes  © Dan Bailey
For cold weather bouldering, the single inside drop pocket is big enough for a pair of rock shoes
© Dan Bailey

All three outside pockets are big enough for a map  © Dan Bailey
All three outside pockets are big enough for a map
© Dan Bailey

Inside there are more. Intended for keeping your climbing gloves warm when stood on the belay, or your water bottle unfrozen, the single stretchy drop pocket can also manage a pair of rock shoes if you're out bouldering in cold weather. On the other side is a smaller zipped pocket; since this is under the insulation, it's the obvious place to carry your phone in winter, when the cold might otherwise hammer the battery.

As you'd expect of a tough winter jacket, reliably burly YKK Vislon zips are used throughout. The main zip has a double zipper for easy access to the belay loop if you're wearing it over your harness, and it's backed with a suitably wide draught-excluding baffle. Down at the hem, the adjusters are usable wearing gloves, while the drawcords are Mountain Equipment's usual 'dual tether' type that won't accidentally snag on gear.

Summary

While you're paying a premium for the Fitzroy, I think the quality of the jacket and the performance of the insulation and fabric justify its cost. Of course the longest, coldest belays will be more comfortable in a heavyweight alternative such as the Citadel, but the Fitzroy strikes a more versatile balance of warmth, weight and bulk for most other winter uses. As well as providing a lot of warmth for its weight, this is a synthetic insulated jacket that's made to move in. Highly wind and weather resistant, and designed with pretty much all the features a Scottish winter climber or hillwalker might conceivably want, the new Fitzroy is a superb re-working of an established classic. Top marks, Mountain Equipment.

View website

Mountain Equipment Alpamayo Jacket £330

Reviewed by Emma Warren

Highly Recommended

Britain's mountain weather can really pack a wet and windy punch. This means our outdoor clothing gets a hammering and needs to stand up to the harsh conditions. I started using a pre-production sample of Mountain Equipment's new Alpamayo women's jacket during "lockdown two" in January 2021. It was a godsend as all my insulated jackets had seen better days and I really feel the cold.

Loving the snug hood  © Emma Warren
Loving the snug hood
© Emma Warren

We were also in the grip of a rare cold spell in Wales, bringing really decent snow and Ice. The Welsh government's Covid rules meant we could only exercise from home and with people from our household. Luckily for me my husband Matt Stygall and I live in Llanberis, at the foot of Wales's highest mountain Yr Wyddfa/Snowdon.

Longer walk-ins allowed us to have some great adventures from our doorstep, from climbing on the famous Trinity face on Snowdon, or exploring some lesser climbed ice falls in old copper mines, to climbing mixed winter routes on Crib Goch. It was a winter to remember and I feel very fortunate to have been able to get out and to have climbed so many Welsh classics. Taking the Alpamayo definitely enhanced my experience.

Emma  Warren climbing out of an old copper mine on Yr Wyddfa  © Matt Stygall
Emma Warren climbing out of an old copper mine on Yr Wyddfa
© Matt Stygall

Fit

I was sent the Alpamayo in a size 12, which turned out to be a perfect fit. I tend to wear waterproof and insulated jackets in a bigger size so that I can fit multiple layers underneath - I normally wear a size 8/10 in summer clothing.

It has a lovely long, articulated and pre-shaped sleeve which means I don't get cold wrists when reaching overhead. I was once described as having gibbon arms as I have a positive ape index, so often struggle with sleeve length. Those with shorter arms might want to try the Alpamayo on before committing. On my sample the cuffs are a snug fit, which meant I didn't get spindrift up my arms back in the winter, but perhaps too snug in the sense that it can be a battle to get them over bulky gloves. Good news is that on the final production version, the cuffs have been made slightly wider.

Enjoying the active cut on Fallen Block Climb, Crib Goch  © Matt Stygall
Enjoying the active cut on Fallen Block Climb, Crib Goch
© Matt Stygall

Insulation

Putting it on feels like someone giving you a big warm hug. It really cuts the mustard in freezing conditions. It feels cosy and thick, thanks to the PrimaLoft Gold High Loft Ultra insulation, and because women tend to run a bit colder than men, the Alpamayo has 120g/m2 of fill in both the body and the sleeves, while the Fitzroy has it only in the body. In addition, we also get that extra layer over the shoulders. The hood, meanwhile, has the same 80g fill as the Fitzroy. Basically, it's super warm but amazingly light. It's not too bulky and packs down well into your rucksack or a stuff sack.

Cosy on the summit of Elidir Fawr  © Emma Warren
Cosy on the summit of Elidir Fawr
© Emma Warren

Fabric

The Gore-Tex Infinium 30D shell is a great addition to a belay jacket. None of my previous Mountain Equipment belay jackets have had this fabric, and I think it's a huge step up in terms of weather protection and water resistance - incredibly useful for the British hills. I spend a lot of my time working in the mountains, so having this extra layer of durability and protection is very important and definitely keeps me warmer for longer.

Escaping the cold northerly winds in Pembroke, Emma in Alpamayo, Matt in the Citadel  © Matt Stygall
Escaping the cold northerly winds in Pembroke, Emma in Alpamayo, Matt in the Citadel
© Matt Stygall

Features

The hood is amazing! It fits really well over my helmet allowing enough room in front of my face when I have a build-up of other clothing layers. I feel cocooned and safe from the hail and spindrift that normally pummels my face. It's fully adjustable and doesn't get blown off by the wind.

The jacket has a handy mix of outer and inner pockets which are great for storing everything from your mobile phone and snacks, to maps and gloves. The inner mesh pocket is a great addition and especially useful, I've found, for keeping spare gloves handy and warm. The longer tags on the pockets allow easy opening with your gloves on too.

Emma enjoys a Cadbury's Cream Egg after climbing on Clogwyn Du’r Arddu   © Matt Stygall
Emma enjoys a Cadbury's Cream Egg after climbing on Clogwyn Du’r Arddu
© Matt Stygall

Colour

The Alpamayo jacket comes in two choices of colour, Magma (bright orange) or Medieval Blue (rich navy) with a contrasting orange zip on its chest pocket. Depending whether you want to stand out in nice bright colours for photographs, or prefer something a little more subtle, there's a colour choice for you.

Ethical credentials

Mountain Equipment were first awarded 'Leader Status' by Fair Wear Foundation in 2016 and have been awarded their highest accolade for performance every year since. Fair Wear work to ensure living wages, reasonable working hours, safe and healthy working conditions, and the prevention of child labour.

ME also provide a repair service for broken kit, and encourage a seven-step approach to caring for your kit which is brilliant and hopefully gets people using their gear for as long as possible for a variety of different uses: 

1. Revitalise it, 2. Repair it, 3. Relegate it, 4. Reappropriate it, 5. Reassign it, 6. Reuse it, 7. Recycle it .

Summary

The Alpamayo jacket is a brilliant piece of kit from the blowy, damp days of autumn through to the cold, snowy days of winter. A high end synthetic jacket that provides warmth and protection even in the harshest conditions, this is a must have for your winter mountain and climbing adventures.



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26 Nov, 2021

This looks like one of those flagship products some leading outdoor gear companies come up with from time to time, not the every winter weekend workhorse the older models were. It's probably a fantastic product and some people will be able to justify the cost to themselves, but maybe a lot of others won't.

26 Nov, 2021

I'll stick my neck out and say the pricetag is just too much. The old version I have is fantastic but there's no way I'd pay that kind of money for a jacket. I'd be interested to see some data on the profit made on a product like this taking into consideration the R&D and all the testing, I'm aware this isn't a huge volume product.

26 Nov, 2021

The DAS Parka is £420 new, £90 more.

The Nuclei SV is £400, £70 more.

Both of those use proprietary in house materials that make it cheaper to manufacture than the Fitzroy (eg no gore infinitum outer, or the nuclei doesn't even have gold cross core).

It's a lot of money, but it's brand new and once it has good distribution retailers will offer it for less than RRP.

29 Nov, 2021

Curious to know where you got that price from - it's full RRP is £350 - so that's a £20 difference.https://arcteryx.com/gb/en/shop/mens/nuclei-sv-parka

29 Nov, 2021

When I google the Nuclei SV the first link to the Arcteryx website gives the price as 400 euros, so I expect that'll be it.

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