Down jackets are a cold weather staple; they dominate the wardrobes of experienced adventurers and they’re making their way onto the streets too. Despite the stereotypes, it does get cold in Australia, just last week the temperature in Western New South Wales hit -10°C!
Duck and Goose down is a no-brainer, its warmth to weight ratio and compressibility crushes anything scientists can come up with, but it does have a weakness.
Despite your feelings about the word, it’s an inevitability outdoors, and it happens to be down’s worst enemy. When down clusters get wet they clump up, can’t insulate you effectively and take ages to dry.
Recently manufacturers have started treating their down with DWR (Durable Water Repellent) chemicals, which kind of works, but you’re still going to feel wet wearing a somewhat soggy sack of feathers.
This brings us to the, deep breath, Kathmandu XT driFILL Men’s Goose Down Waterproof Jacket. I’m not even joking, I copy-pasted the name from the website. Verbosity aside, let me zero in on a word that threatens everything I’ve written above: “Waterproof”.
The XT driFILL (that’s what I’m calling it) basically has a rain jacket as its shell (outermost) layer. This might sound obvious, but it’s only possible with recent technology. A traditional down jacket has baffles that hold the down in, with stitching in between. But stitching means thousands of tiny holes that let in wind and water. No Bueno.
The solution is to bond the waterproof layer directly to the fabric containing the down and use seam tape throughout. Kathmandu has used their own NGX® 2 shell fabric that utilises Pertex® Shield tech to keep out rain and wind while allowing the wearer to breathe. NGX® 2 is a 2 layer waterproof technology – although most high-end rain shells use a tri-layer fabric, there’s no reason to in a jacket with bulk down behind the shell.
If all this talk of layers doesn’t make any sense, this explanation should help.
Ever layered a rain jacket over a bulky down jacket? You’ll know that it’s uncomfortable as dinner with your racist grandpa. That or you’ll have had to buy a shell jacket that’s far too big for use on its own.
I wore the XT driFILL belaying on unpredictable, rain-splattered cliffs, relaxing at camp in the moisture-laden Blue Mountains air and in heavy rain on the South Coast whilst setting up my tent. Honestly, not having to stress about the down getting wet was surprisingly refreshing.
The thick nylon shell is also far tougher than your average down jacket; it’s resisted run-ins with branches that would have normally seen me spilling feathers. To date the shell has also resisted staining from charcoal, tomato sauce, blood, red wine and dirt. Just give it a wet wipe as soon as it happens (or don’t be such a grub, your call).
What About The Down?
Oh yeah, the XT driFILL is filled with heaps of down. In a medium like the one I tested there’s 244 grams of RDS approved, 750 loft Goose Down, at least 90% of that is actual down and not small feathers, that’s good. The down is also treated with driFILL, a DWR technology that helps the down resist water and moisture from your sweat. Which is a very real possibility given that this jacket will help you become the toasty orange marshmallow you’ve always dreamed of.
In 9 degree weather I was sitting around camp all night with just a t-shirt underneath without a problem. In 2 degrees up in the mountains I paired it with a 200 weight merino thermal, chucked the hood up and literally fell asleep outside. It’s a bloody warm jacket.
I also took it grocery shopping and despite the generally comfortable indoor temperature, I didn’t feel like I was overheating or getting sweaty. I was concerned about this given the waterproof layer so it was nice to see the breathability working its magic.
That being said, you’d only be able to properly exert yourself in incredibly cold conditions wearing the XT driFILL. I’d recommend choosing one that’s on the larger side, so you can layer up underneath if it’s really cold, or just wear a t-shirt and let the air circulate if it’s a bit warmer.
The XT driFILL also comes with an optimistic stuff-sack but, thanks to the 90/10 down ratio, it actually fits inside. It’s about the size of a soccer ball but there’s room for more compression if you’re tight for space.
Features and Details
These can make or break a jacket, and they’re not easy to compare without spending a few days out bush. As with any high-tech jacket there are quite a few, so we’re gettin’ listy:
- 2 external chest pockets with water resistant zips, angled out towards the shoulders so stuff doesn’t fall out.
- 2 harness compatible hand warmer pockets. These have flaps covering the zips and are fleece lined on the side facing your knuckles. The other side is thin nylon, presumably to let your body heat warm your hands, but I think I’d rather it all be fleece.
- 1 internal chest pocket – it has a key hook inside but I’d rather not put my keys near its soft mesh.
- 1 internal bottle pocket. This one doesn’t have a zip, but it’s great for warming up water bottles or stashing beanies and goggles.
The front zipper is water resistant and has a storm flap and down-filled tube behind it. It’s also 2-way (it can open up from the bottom) which is awesome for throwing on over a harness.
Hood and Neck Baffle
The hood doesn’t skimp on the down filling, it’s super warm, has a stiff-enough brim and it’s helmet compatible. I also appreciated the independent neck baffle, it’s fleece lined and fits snuggly around my neck even when the hood is down. Mmmm.
Some manufacturers get stingy on the lining, maybe they think that no one’s going to wear their jacket bare-chested. Fools. Anyway Kathmandu gave the XT driFill a comfy lining, so nice that I wrapped it inside-out around my inflatable pillow. Musky, but effective.
Made for Properly Brutal Weather
Make no mistake, this jacket is designed for really tough conditions. It’s not light at 937g, but you’ll need every gram if you’re using it as it’s intended. However that doesn’t preclude it from more casual use. It’s comfy, breathes well and despite the safety first bright orange colouring, pretty good looking.
The XT driFILL been around for a few years now and it’s seen a bunch of updates from Kathmandu’s Best-In-Field gear testers. This has left a jacket more than deserving of the “elite” XT namesake reserved for their top of the line products. You’ll pay a premium for this kind of jacket, but currently they’re sitting at 500 bucks, pretty reasonable really.
There is one major drawback though, you’ll have a hard time hanging onto it. At the time of writing the test jacket is in Tasmania. My best mate’s taken it snow-tramping in Cradle Mountain National Park. The bastard.
We Are Explorers were given the XT driFILL for the review but were free to review it as they saw fit.
Adventures To Pair With This Jacket
Gear is only as good as its journey. Here are some perfect expeditions for a waterproof down jacket:
Tackling the Tasmanian South Coast Track