Written by Luke Care
I've been living in the down jacket stone ages for far too long, so when Allsports, the NZ Marmot agents, mentioned the possibility of me testing their insulation system, I couldn't say 'yes' quick enough!
I've been using an old 850-gram Kathmandu; it's been everywhere from the Glaisnock to the Godley and it's done me well enough but modern fabrics and down have come a long way. The Marmot Quasar down jacket is made of high-quality 850-fill down and DWR-treated Pertex Quantum shell fabric, bringing my XL in at an outstandingly low weight of 330 grams. For comparison, my Ridgeline microfleece weighs 350 grams and wouldn't keep me a quarter as warm. DWR stands for Durable Water Repellant, a hydrophobic coating that wears off over time.
You feel the lack of weight when you pick up the Marmot jacket and for mee that immediately translated into a sense of fragility but I hammered it all through Fiordland's jungle and Otago's speargrass and it didn't lose a feather. It has a reversible pocket for storage but I stuffed it all inside a 35-gram, 1-litre dry bag to ensure it stayed safe and dry. This allowed me to compact it right down to a palm-sized bundle. This meant portability was excellent, and on one particularly cold day I even clipped it on my hunting belt while we stalked a bull.
Despite its thin profile, I could feel the warmth of the high quality down as soon as I put it on - just like jumping into my sleeping bag! As a stand-alone item, I would perhaps call it a three-plus season jacket. Completely windproof and warm, I'd use it for everything except the bone-chilling mid-winter trips where you haemorrhage body heat while you're sitting in the snow, glassing for tahr. The fit was excellent, slim enough to comfortably wear under a coat but with a full range of motion through the shoulders. The sleeves didn't pull when I was glassing and the cuffs were a nice elastic. It had two zippered hand pockets and a good-sized zip chest pocket, which I used regularly. The drawcord hem was handy as I could tighten the bottom when I sat down to glass, which ensured that the heat remained trapped.
All around, I found the Marmot Quasar was an excellent expedition garment, and it's now one of my favourite pieces of gear. It gave me room for an extra half-kilo of chocolate in my pack and it was far more portable for day trips than my old coat as it compressed down to about a third of the size.