A little tweaking and this jacket will be one of the…
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample provided by Big Agnes for testing and review)
A little tweaking and this jacket will be one of the greats.
- Water resistant down
- Active cut
- Nice, long sleeves
- Works in a wide temperature range
- It's shiny
- Kinda makes me look like Batman
- I wish it had a hood
- Cold spots
- Chest pocket located inconveniently
The Hole in the Wall Jacket is the Big Agnes entry into the water resistant down jacket market. Their jacket incorporates flow gates that are designed to keep insulation from migrating while allowing heat to move within the jacket. I have worn this jacket in temperatures down to the low single digits and up to the thirties.
I am excited about down that stands up to a little water. The only issue I had with my evaluation is that it hasn’t rained here in a couple months (cold/dry winter) so I have not yet had a good chance to give this jacket a decent drenching. When I do I will update the review.
I got the large, I have a 45 in chest and and an XL would also have probably fit fine if you want a looser fit.
This is the biggest issue I have with this jacket. It was eleven degrees (Fahrenheit) while I first wore the Big Agnes Hole in the Wall Jacket and noticed a distinct cold spot in the area under the armpits as I walked. It might be a feature rather than a flaw; designed to let heat escape from this area during exercise. In fact the top of these three particular baffles where the cold spots are have zero down in their top two to three inches.
If this is a feature its not one I particularly agree with, if it's not then it is an indicator that the Flow Gates intended to hold the down in the vertical Insotect baffles might need refining. The feel is like having permanently open pit-zips. While walking this is nice, but stand still in eleven degrees and it's really uncomfortable.
Much the way that most wooden boats leak so do most down garments. Saying that, the Hole in the Wall only allowed the occasional stray fiber to escape, well within my down-leakage tolerance.
I give it an A+ here.
Vertical baffles would be death for most down jackets, but only cause minor issues with the BA. I recommend against taking your jacket off on a six degree (F) day.
Besides the aforementioned cold spots this jacket is every bit as warm as anything you’d expect in this weight of jacket. While walking in temps in the single digits it wasn’t the areas covered by the jacket that were my biggest worry, it was everyplace else especially my exposed face. What I would have given for a hood!
When you stuff a lot of jackets into their own pocket there is a loop so you can hang the stuffed jacket on a harness or something, I wish this jacket had this. Also the chest pocket is under/behind the main zipper, making you unzip the whole jacket to fetch your lip balm or whatever is inside, I’d prefer it to be accessible from the outside.
The big inside dump-pockets hold hat and mitts or a water bottle just like you'd expect. The thumb-holes in the cuffs are handy if you forgot gloves and the soft lining on the neck is nice when you wear it all zipped up tight.
Have to unzip to access this pocket.
I kinda like the look of all the baffles going in unconventional directions, my wife feels very strongly in the opposite. She also dislikes the extra shiny finish, saying the jacket looks wet. I don’t mind the unconventional appearance myself but I REALLY like the blue lining color even though it would show dirt faster.
This isn’t the puffy you wear over all your other layers when you summit. It's an insulating layer you can wear on the move and it shows in the cut; more form-fitting (active cut) with extra-long sleeves so the jacket stays put when you lift your arms.
I had just enough room to comfortably fit a base layer and a wind shirt underneath and still be able to move comfortably. The neck fits nice and close when zipped up without choking me which happens sometimes with other items. The issue I have with my previous puffy is that it is cut too bulky and makes the BA the winner between the two.
Butte, Mont., is ALWAYS colder than it looks. This day had a high temp of about nine degrees. The sun helped a lot though.
If the idea of freezing to death in a wet down jacket keeps you from owning one the new-generation of water resistant downs might be just what you need. I think this jacket really excelled while I was doing light to moderate activity (hiking, easy skiing) in the teens where I start and stop a lot or for doing camp chores like cooking. The cold pits make me want to rename it the hole-in-the-pits jacket but I got used to them and learned to hold my arms to keep the thin spots covered.
Even when I was working really hard and sweating a lot the jacket breathed well, never lost any warmth and dried out fast. The styling makes a bold statement that could be slightly over the top for some but when you’re in the back country function wins. This has become my go-to insulation layer this winter.
Wearing my prosthetic beard while skiing at Mission Ridge near Wenatchee, Wash. At the top of Chair #2 (5,600 ft or so, 15 degrees w/o windchill) wind was 30 or so mph. Didn't phase the jacket. Neither did my nice crash. No rips!
Near Butte, Mont. More snow at 6.5k feet but also warmer. In the high teens I actually sweat a little under this jacket when I hiked. Just gotta unzip, go slower or get into better shape! That's frost in my hair, not gray, I am NOT going Gray! I wish.
Recommendations to BA: Add a hood, a loop on the stuff pocket, fix the cold spots, and make the chest pocket accessible from the outside.
Update 02/2015: In the teens on this morning: