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Gear Review: EMS Down Jacket Review

Gear Review: EMS Down Jacket Review by Ben Pope @benpope – worthlessbeta.blogspot.com

Let me ask a question…which of these people would you rather be, right or left?

That’s right – big, warm, fluffy, and even more fun to hug!

Last November, at the Fourth Annual JTree Tweetup, EMS was kind enough to circulate some clothing for review. I ended up with a new men’s large Ice Down Jacket . So far, it’s been an admirable replacement for my older belay jacket (also EMS brand). Both stash into their own pocket (though packing a bit smaller would be even better) and having a hood is perfect for cold weather belay duty. Both were polyester shell and lining and down insulation (at least 80% goose, the rest presumably being duck). The fit is roomy with plenty of space for layering underneath. Good for belay duty, but far too warm for strenuous activity. One thing to watch out for: it does leak feathers, but that may be because I received a pre-production model (the lining is polyester, not nylon as advertised in EMS’ materials).

With all that said, the model I have has apparently been discontinued. On the plus side, this year’s versions look like an upgrade: heavier duty nylon and hydrophobic down. I can’t say I’ve done an exhaustive survey (for that, head to Outdoor Gear Lab). For me, EMS jackets have been reliable gear for a reasonable price.

If you are buying a down jacket this year, there are lots of options, and buying a down jacket has probably never been more complicated. Two things to consider are the source of the down, and the treatment applied to it.

Down is an animal product. Therefore, there are ethical and not-so-ethical sources. For those wanting to know more about the source of down in their jackets, Patagonia [link: http://www.patagonia.com/us/patagonia.go?assetid=37607],The North Face [link: http://www.neverstopexploring.com/blog/2012/02/goose-down-update.html], and Arcteryx [link: http://arcteryx.com/Article.aspx?language=EN&article=Down-Statement] have been exploring those questions, to name a few.

The second area of research is the down’s treatment. There are a number of new, hydrophobic downs that are attempting to protect down’s Achilles heel such as Patagonia’s Encapsil, Rab, DriDown, and DownTek (2013 EMS jackets use DownTek).

For more information on down in general you can read EMS’s lowdown on down here. Stay warm!