Over the last few years I have purchased a few items from Ben Smith at GooseFeet Gear, namely my down socks, my pillow set-up, and my (custom-sized) down pants. When first unboxing these items, I immediately loved them, but where they really earned their keep was on the trail. When the temperatures drop, nothing is better than being wrapped up in a cluster of downy goodness, and that is exactly what the GooseFeet Gear items did for me. On those cold nights, they made me feel like I was wrapped up in a warm, fluffy cloud!
GooseFeet Gear is a small business that specializes in down clothing, and Ultralight backpacking accessories. For me, what really stands out about GooseFeet Gear is the fact that the items are hand-made, right here in the USA, and that items such as the pants and jackets are tailored to your own specific body measurements. Assuming measurements are taken correctly, this guarantees a fit that is spot on. No more guessing: “Should I go with the medium or the large??” No more going with one size larger just to make sure the sleeve length is right, but end up with an oversized torso. When ordering an item such as pants or a jacket from GooseFeet Gear, you provide your very own specific measurements, and then that item is made to those specs!
On top of getting an item in your actual size, Ben will also include all the features you want, and none that you don’t want! Pockets or no pockets? Zipper or no zipper? Baffled or sewn-through? You can even specify how much down you want to use, what fill power down to use, and even specify any certain way you want it distributed? The great thing about ordering items from GooseFeet Gear is that you can get an exact item made specifically for you. No more going with “X” item because it has “most” of the features, or sizing that you need, Ben makes it all just the way you want it!
On top of all of this, I have met Ben on a few different occasions. We have hiked together, camped together, attended weddings together, and had meals together. I can say with absolute confidence, Ben is a good guy, and he has a deep passion for creating awesome UL gear for his customers. As I said, I own a few different items from GooseFeet Gear, and I have been very happy with all of them. So, with all things above considered, I easily find myself recommending Ben’s products to those looking for items in which he makes.
Saying all of that…
Before my last hike a bunch of guys met up with Jeremy Puskas (from BoneFire Gear) at Black Balsam Knob for a mens Bible study campout. Ben was there, and as we usually do, we talked a lot about gear! In that discussion jackets came up and I expressed to him my love for my Montbell Ex Light Anorak (which I was wearing), but that there were some things I wish were different about it. Ben offered to make me an anorak similar to my mine, but he said he could make the changes I wanted, so, I took him up on it. Then today, just before another weekend hike, it arrived on my doorstep!
To provide some back-story, I picked up my Montbell Ex Light Anorak almost as soon as it became available to the public. Before it, I had used the Montbell UL Down Inner jacket and then the parka, then a regular Ex Light, and now the Ex Light Anorak. To be fair, I did not wear these other jackets out, but kept swapping them out in favor of other features that I realized I wanted after owning one. The UL Down Inner Jacket was great, but I realized I wanted a hood, so I got the parka. The parka was great and I used it for a while actually, however, the materials on the UL Down Inner pieces leaked down more than I liked. After a while I dropped a good deal of (body) weight and found the size XL was too big, so I opted to go with the hoodless Ex Light (in a L) in favor of lighter weight. I found the material on the Ex Light to be much more down proof and really enjoyed the Ex Light… but then the Ex Light Anorak came out… I liked that it was a half zip with a kangaroo pocket (instead of a full zip and 2 hand warmer pockets) and that it added the hood back in, so I jumped on it! But, it still wasn’t “perfect”… which brings me to the GooseFeet Gear Anorak I now have today!
My only 2 complaints with the Montbell Ex Light Anorak was that the hood was not adjustable, and that the inside of the kangaroo pocket was not insulated. When talking with Ben, he said he could easily make an anorak and fix these 2 short-comings for me. And since he specializes in custom gear, I decided to add a bit more down fill than the Montbell offered (4 oz vs 2.2 oz), which would give me an even warmer jacket at a similar weight. I also ended up with a piece that fit me better in the torso area, but also got just a little extra length in the sleeves and the overall length of the anorak!
So, how about a few basic spec comparisons of the 2 Anoraks’:
Montbell Ex Light Anorak
- $220 plus shipping (from ProLite Gear at the time of purchase)
- 6.6 oz (size large – anorak only)
- 7D Ballistic Airlight Rip-Stop nylon (inside & out) w/DWR
- 2.2 oz 900 down fill (1,980 cu in total)
- ~33% of total weight is from insulation
- Features include: hood (non-adjustable), half zip w/ zipper garage, waist cinch, elastic wrist cuffs, tunneled kangaroo pocket (only insulated on front side) & sewn-through square baffle design.
GooseFeet Gear Custom Anorak
- $310 (this price reflects the options chosen for this particular piece)
- 7.7 oz (made custom to measurements I provided – would be about a size large)
- 10D Nylon Taffeta w/DWR (inside & out)
- 4 oz of 950 DownTek treated down fill (3,800 cu in total)
- ~ 52% of total weight is from insulation
- Features include: tailored fit, adjustable hood, half zip, waist cinch, elastic wrist cuffs, tunneled kangaroo pocket (insulated front & back) & sewn-through horizontal baffle design.
Worth noting is that this particular configuration of the GooseFeet Gear Anorak is $90 more expensive than the Montbell Anorak, but I feel that this is for a few good reasons:
- Tailor-made to my body’s measurements;
- Includes 4 oz of down fill (vs 2.2 oz in the Montbell Ex Light Anorak);
- Uses 950 DownTek treated down fill (vs 900 untreated down fill);
- Has all the features I want, and none I don’t want!
And yes, the GooseFeet Gear Anorak is (slightly) heavier than the Montbell Anorak, this is due to the fact that I opted to go with 4 oz of down fill rather than just 2.2 oz. If I subtracted that extra 1.8 oz of down fill, the GooseFeet Gear Anorak would actually be 5.9 oz, so actually lighter than the Montbell Anorak by 0.7 oz, but still a better option considering it features a higher 950 treated down fill, the fact that it fits me better, and that it has the features I wanted (which the Montbell Anorak fell short on). And speaking of weight, I would also like to again point out the fact that the insulation to weight ratio of the GooseFeet Gear Anorak is an impressive 52%, vs the Montbell’s 33%.
Besides the fact that Ben recreated the Montbell Anorak specifically for me, but added adjustability to the hood, and also insulated the inner portion of the kangaroo pocket, one of the most notable differences is the amount of warmth that the GooseFeet Gear Anorak should provide when compared to the Montbell Anorak. These 2 pieces are very close in size (the GooseFeet Gear is actually about 1.5″ longer in length and even about 1.5″ longer in the sleeves, but is a bit slimmer in the torso area), but a bit different in thickness/loft. The Montbell’s total down fill comes to 1,980 cu in, and the GooseFeet Gear’s total down fill comes to 3,800 cu in!!! In very basic terms, that means there is 1,820 cu in more volume in the GooseFeet Gear Anorak, almost twice the amount that is in the Montbell Ex Light Anorak. That is pretty amazing…
Now to be fair, in terms of thermal efficiencies, there are other things to consider besides just the amount of fill. Both of these Anoraks’ feature a sewn-through design, and the baffle designs’ are a bit different (square baffles on the Montbell and horizontal baffles on the GooseFeet Gear). These things do make a difference, and I am sure that there are other things worth considering too. For me though, when laying hands on both pieces, the GooseFeet Gear Anorak just blows the Montbell Anorak away in my perception of which one will be warmer. Of course the true test will come when I get it out and use it… which will be this weekend! So, more on that later.
Another difference in features to consider is that the Montbell Anorak uses a wispy thin 7D material (inside and out) which I have actually been quite happy with. I have found it to be very down proof, and I have been quite happy with the DWR that Montbell applies to this material. And while I can’t offer much more info about this material from Montbell, I must say that I really have enjoyed this material for this particular piece.
As for the GooseFeet Gear Anorak I opted for Ben’s (0.65 oz/sqyd) 10D Nylon Taffeta (inside and out), which does feature a DWR and is stated to be down proof. This is the first time I have ever put my hands on this specific material, and I must say, it is SOFT! Also worth noting about this material is that it is a taffeta as opposed to a rip stop material. When talking with Ben about the difference’s he told me that taffeta’s lack the occasional heavier thread which can easily be seen in ripstop materials. He also mentioned that taffeta’s are generally softer, which is appreciated when used as linings next to skin! I can say that this material is softer, almost silky feeling next to skin, which is much nicer than the Montbell material, which actually feels like a wispy-thin piece of plastic. Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking the material on the Montbell, just saying that the material on the GooseFeet Gear Anorak does indeed feel times more cozy!
Of course the fit is spot on (which was to be expected considering I supplied my personal measurements)! For the GooseFeet Gear Anorak I opted to go with a slightly closer fit in the torso than my large Montbell Anorak, however, I added a little extra length to it and even a little extra length in the sleeves. (That’s the nice thing too… since it’s custom-made, I can choose to add or take away length to my personal measurements so that I get exactly what I want!) The little extra length in the anorak keeps it from rising over my pants waist line when I lift my arms up above my head. As well, the extra length in the sleeves means the wrist cuffs won’t ride up when I stretch my arms out, or up, even while wearing a pack! Both of these things can be seen in the picture below.
So at this point, yes, this is me just pulling this item out of a box. It’s a “first-look” review and I have not used it in the field, although, I will be doing so this very weekend! However, at this point I gotta say that I am very impressed with this anorak. The quality of the materials is top-notch – heck, it’s 950 treated down, sandwiched in some very super soft, light weight material! (These are premium options that many companies charge a lot of money for!) The fit is just as I wanted: I didn’t have to settle for a boxier torso area to get the right size sleeve length. And based on my experiences with my lesser filled/lofted Montbell Ex Light Anorak and the other layers I will be using with the GooseFeet Gear Anorak, I feel it’s pretty safe to say that it will indeed be warmer.
I cannot find any flaws with the jacket so far, however, there are some things that I will be watching for. Namely, how down proof this material is, and how durable it turns out to be (although, I am not very hard on these items as it is – only once have I hiked in my down, and then it was cold enough that I also had my rain shell over it). But if this material proves to be as down proof as my Montbell Anorak is, this will truly be a perfect down jacket for my needs in the conditions and the area’s that I hike in. Only time will tell though…
Saying all of this, I can’t say that the GooseFeet Gear Anorak is “perfect” (but is there anything that is really “perfect”?) There is one area that I personally would like to see a tiny bit different… While cuddling with the anorak last night I thought that I had lost one end of the hood cinch cord. I could feel the cord inside the channel and thought maybe the cord lock had fallen off one end and the cord simply got pulled into the channel. Upon closer inspection I found that both the cord and the cord lock actually got pulled into the channel! I was able to retrieve it pretty easily, but I think that I may put slightly larger cord locks on it to keep it from happening again. As it is, there is a tiny portion of the channel simply left open which the cord exits through, but I feel like a tiny grommet for the cord to exit through would be a better option as it wouldn’t allow the grommet to get pulled through.
As well, he used a tiny piece of 1mm polyester cord (like ZPacks uses) in the hood cinch. I have never been a big fan of using non-stretchy cords in the hoods around my face (that was actually one of my complaints with my Montbell Down Hugger #3 sleeping bag). Personally, I have found that I find stretchy cord a bit more comfortable when cinched around my face, so I will likely pick up some of the 1/16″ shock cord and simply replace the cord with it. This will be quite easy to do though, so it’s not really that big of an issue for me as it will be easy to replace.
I don’t really find these as true faults since they can easily be changed on my end, but I felt that they were worth noting. As well, I have spoken with Ben about both of these things and he said that this was an area that they had been thinking about for a while too. So hopefully my input will help to improve upon an already very awesome product!
So that’s about it for now. I am looking forward to taking this anorak with me on my hike this weekend, and many other future cold-weather hikes! Now I just hope the temps drop enough this weekend for me to get a good idea of just how warm it will keep me! I am quite sure I will comment on it some in the trip report videos, and very likely after the hike I will post an update on this piece! So, until then, Happy Thanksgiving, & happy hiking!
Disclaimer: I received this anorak free of charge from Ben at GooseFeet Gear. I agreed to share my personal thoughts on the anorak with Ben, and at some point share my thoughts about it here on my blog. When I received it today I was so excited I decided to go ahead and share it now! The thoughts above represent the first thoughts that popped into my head when I actually put my hands, and my body in and on this anorak. They are mine, and I am sharing them with you. These thoughts will evolve with actual real world use of the anorak, and I will be happy to continue to update my blog with these thoughts as they happen (most likely in post hike gear talk’s, and again as a longer term use report later down the trail…)
Note: Starting today (11/24/2016) GooseFeet Gear is having their own Black Friday – Cyber Monday sales! They are offering 10% off all products by using the code “LETITSNOW” and 20% off the original price of his current inventory. If you have been wanting a pair of warm down socks, or some custom pants or a jacket of your own, now is the time to place your order! (And no, I am not getting anything from any sales… I am just passing along what I feel like is a sweet offer on some really great gear!)