I wonder how many down puff jackets I’ve owned. Probably thirty or forty. Those kinds of numbers might either jade you or make you as particular as a Vogue magazine art director. I’m somewhere in between. For most of my backcountry skiing I like a puff jacket that’s somewhat thick and warm (no Vogue skeletal fashion statements), isn’t too laden with features and weighs about a pound. Lots of choices out there, but few combine most of our favorite parameters.
Lately, you probably noticed we’ve been playing around with Mountain Equipment (ME) clothing. This company is now selling in the U.S., so we figured turning bit of attention their way was appropriate. They make nice stuff that’s worth looking at, including their Hooded Xero down filled jacket that I used for my last European backcountry skiing trip.
Down filling in the Xero is plentiful, 230 grams of 850+ fill, meaning you get good loft for the fill weight. The 850 fill number according to IDFL Lorch Test using the IDFB standard. Last year’s Mountain Equipment sales materials stated their down was a _minimum_ 750 rated, new story will state it’s 850. If you’re confused about the down rating numbers, so am I. Short story is that there are a bunch of standards for down fill power, with the International Down and Feather Bureau standard being the one that’s becoming the defacto international standard and the one that Mountain Equipment uses. Another example of “standards” doing little more than confuse us? We shall see… Check comments below for much more about the issue of down fill ratings.
Just a few extra inches of waist length in a puffy can make it noticeably more comfortable and warm. Xero is perfect in this department; long enough to secure the small of your back from cryogenic events, but not so long it feels like a cowboy duster. Interior vest pocket is convenient. Hood fits over helmet; has one-handed tightening system that’s quite slick. (Any practical puff jacket for backcountry skiing should probably have a hood, keep that in mind while shopping and comparing). One of the weight saving tricks with these sorts of down insulated jackets is to use the lightest weight fabric possible. Xero exterior fabric is about as light as you can get and still be tear resistant, inside fabric is quite thin and soft. All results in overall weight of 16.9oz, 506 g (size L), thus placing this unit in the ballpark for my “one pound puff” lightweight packing requirement.
All technical jackets should have a two way zipper for use over a harness, Xero is single pull. Interior vest pocket could easily be made big enough to use for inside-out jacket storage. Instead, you have to carry a separate stuffsack. A pair of lightweight non-zippered pouches on the inside are a feature we love, and didn’t find here. The exterior side pockets are located partially under your pack waistbelt, they could be a few inches higher.
On the whole, Xero is a fine utilitarian garment that anyone shopping puff jackets should take a look at. Excellent weight considering the hood, waist length and fill quantity. Street prices seem reasonable for a well-made hooded puff.
Shop for the Mountain Equipment Xero
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.