Gear Guy

What jacket will keep me warm through some shoulder season camping?

I looking for a parka for winter camping in New Hampshire. I have narrowed it down to the Feathered Friends Frontpoint and the Wild Things Belay Jacket. How does the warmth of the Belay compare to a high-quality down piece such as the Frontpoint? Which would you recommend for New Hampshire winters? S Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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The Feathered Friends Frontpoint ($310 to $385, depending on the shell; is a high-end down parka that’s just a few ounces of down short of being a full expedition parka. Overall, it’s an exceedingly useful piece, warm but not too warm, compressible enough, and packed with features such as a detachable hood, sealed neck baffle, and an inside pocket. It’s available with an Epic Nextec shell, nylon, or a Gore-Tex-like material. Feathered Friends’ parkas are considered by many to be the finest down garments on the planet.

The Wild Things Belay Jacket is a different creature ( It’s a Primaloft-filled jacket with an Epic shell. At $260, it’s less expensive than the Frontpoint but in my view expensive for a synthetic jacket, most of which go for under $200. Comparing jackets warmth-wise is a little tricky because nobody even pretends to rate them for temperature. But the Belay has six ounces of Primaloft, versus 13 ounces of down for the Frontpoint, making the Frontpoint much, much warmer.

What you buy largely depends on the application. If you want a jacket to throw on while active, then the Belay Jacket is the one. It’s also better for sleety, near-freezing conditions, as the Primaloft fill won’t wet out. On the other hand, for use below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or when sitting around camp, then the Frontpoint is the clear winner. I’d even break my usual rule about not adding Gore-Tex-type shells to products like this, and recommend what Feathered Friends calls the PTFE-Lite shell, chemically the same as Gore-Tex but in a slightly more breathable formulation. That would be one helluva jacket, I’d say.

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