It’s taken me a while but see how I’ve got on with my first insulated top – the Montane Icarus jacket.
I have put off having an insulated jacket in my outdoors wardrobe for some time. Perhaps I’ve struggled to see the point in a jacket which loses its effectiveness when wet; hardly something you can avoid in the UK. Perhaps it’s down to a bad experience with a puffer gilet in my youth, which, although warm, always made me look like I wanted to be in a boy band. Perhaps I thought I’d just be too warm; the tried-and-tested combination of base layer, fleece and waterproof has always served me well…
On a recent trip to the Lake District, I realised I’ve completely missed the point of down jackets. It was a cold, crisp day with a biting wind. Today there was no rush and I wanted to take it easy. Problem was it was so bloomin’ cold I had to keep moving and bypass the epic Autumnal views. That’s when it hit me. I needed a down jacket in my life to allow me to slow the pace and linger a while in the hills.
Cue the Montane Icarus jacket (or the women’s version called the Phoenix). I’d heard great things about this jacket and Montane is fast becoming one of my favourite brands. The Icarus is different from your traditional down jacket, in that it isn’t stuffed with real ducks. Montane instead uses an innovative synthetic fill known as PrimaLoft ThermoPlume. This promises to mimic the properties of natural down but can still perform when in the UK (i.e. wet and damp conditions).
First impressions were good. The Icarus has a quality feel to it and there was no denying its thermal properties. It felt instantly snug and was almost too much to bear in the heated shop. The material is soft, so you could easily wear this over just a base layer.
The suggested measurements given by Montane for their sizing feel about right and the jacket fits me perfectly. Despite the ‘athletic mountain’ fit, I’ve been able to squeeze a base layer and a fleece under it without feeling restricted. You could always go up a size if you like clothing a little more baggy.
I took it for a test drive in the Scottish Borders. Ideal territory for the Icarus as it tends to be damp but bitterly cold in this part of the country. I felt toasty wearing the jacket over a couple of light base layers and the wind didn’t cut through the Pertex outer at all. Although the weather was kind, I certainly felt it could handle a light shower while you dug out your waterproof. I didn’t have that precious feeling of needing to treat it delicately like I would a non-synthetic down product.
Where the jacket really shone was in its ability to keep me warm when I was stationary. In my old setup, I’d have needed to keep moving to stay warm. The Icarus allowed me to stand around and take in the sea air without feeling the need to do star jumps. When I did increase the pace, it felt breathable with no apparent stuffiness to report.
The jacket has a decent hood which you can deploy when the wind really picks up and you need to hunker down. Although there’s no adjustment, it fits well and it didn’t bother me, as some hoods do. Equally, there’s no adjustment at the cuffs or the waist but the tailored fit means it grips well and doesn’t allow any wind to get in. The zip goes high up your chin and there’s a comfortable microfleece lining so you can really get your snuggle on.
I’m really impressed with the Montane Icarus jacket. It’s quickly becoming one of my favourite pieces of outdoor kit. It strikes the right balance of weight, packability and instant warmth. It’s also smart enough to wear when off the hills on those really cold walks to the office, particularly in black (perhaps not the bright orange)! If I’m being really picky, it could be a little longer on the body but don’t let that put you off what is really a wonderful piece of kit.