… and here is my final part to my 3 part series of my GSMNP Post Hike Gear talk. As I mentioned in Part 1 & Part 2, rather than do one big post to discuss many pieces of my gear that I used on my recent GSMNP hike, I instead decided to post 3 separate post so that I could highlight 3 different items that don’t get much discussion. Each of these items are items that don’t get much use because they are only used for colder weather hikes, which I don’t get to do many of. So, for my 3rd and final post, I want to discuss my new custom GooseFeet Gear down anorak.
I actually received the GooseFeet Gear down anorak right before we left for our Thanksgiving weekend hike in the Smokies. I was so excited about this piece though that I managed to squeeze in a first impressions post before leaving for the hike, so be sure to read through it for a more detailed look than this post will offer. In this post I want to talk about how it performed for me on the couple of days and nights that I got to use it.
Me, staying warm in my GFG anorak & taking in the views on top of Charlie’s Bunion!
We began hiking on the Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving, and finished up Sunday afternoon. We had great weather conditions, no rain or snow, however, the skies were generally either cloudy in spots or as a whole, and/or filled with smoke (the Chimney Top fires were going when we were there, but it was just before they got out of control). When we began our hike Friday afternoon, it was a bit windy, but not too bad. As night came along the winds picked up a little more and they seemed to be the strongest Saturday morning. As Saturday morning grew into the afternoon, the winds began settling down, and Sunday night was almost completely still. By the time we finished the hike on Sunday afternoon the wind began picking back up again. The daily temps were around 40F and on Friday night the temperature dropped to 31 F inside the shelter, then on Saturday night the measured low for Mt LeConte was 23 F according to the High on LeConte blog post.
Our miles were low, so we didn’t spend all day on the trail. Instead, we found ourselves going slow along the trail, enjoying our time out and stopping to enjoy the views. And of course we also spent a considerable amount of time at, or around, the shelters. Due to the high temperatures during the day, there was no need for wearing a down jacket while hiking, but I did pull my anorak on while standing around the shelters. As well, when we hiked to Charlie’s Bunion (from Icewater Springs Shelter) and to Cliff Tops (from the Mt LeConte Shelter) I did wear the GooseFeet Gear down anorak, although, I did not carry a backpack for these side trips.
I did not wear the GFG down anorak to sleep in. As a side note, I have gotten away from actually wearing a down top to sleep in. I have favored wearing my wind jacket over my other layers, then if I needed more warmth I would stuff my down jacket/anorak inside the sleeping bag with me. This seems to provide me with at least the same amount of warmth as actually wearing the down top, but I feel it is also easier on the jacket/anorak in the long run.
As I have tried to make clear in a number of other posts, I see everything that I put in my backpack, or on my body, when going out for a hike as part of a system. Sure things must hold their own, but they must also work within a system to be deemed worthy. In the case of the GooseFeet Gear down anorak, it needed to be able to layer appropriately with my other pieces. It also needed to be able to move with me, and of course keep me warm. On top of all that, it needed to be lightweight and able to stand up to my specific needs, which are mainly around camp use, to supplement to my sleep system when needed, and on very rare cases I would actually wear it under a backpack. (Notice how integrated this one piece can be in so many different situations?) Now, there are certain features that I personally prefer to have on this piece to make all of this to happen, and since the GooseFeet Gear down anorak is custom-made, it was simple to get exactly that.
Staying warm in my GFG down anorak while heading down the AT to Charlie’s Bunion!
So, how did it do?
Well, in a nutshell, it did awesome!
As noted in my previous post, the fit is spot on. While on my colder weather hikes I wear a (2009) Patagonia Capilene 2 long sleeve crew shirt as a base layer and a (2014) Patagonia Capilene 4 (now called “Thermal Weight”) Hoody over that. With these 2 layers I can easily hike into the 20’s before needing anything else. If it is windy, I simply throw on my wind jacket, which is all I ever need about 95% of the time (I don’t generally get to hike in temps in the low teens or below… ) The GooseFeet Gear down anorak layers excellent over these 2 shirts. No bunching, not tight spots under the arms or across the chest, and the sleeves also play very well together! And my Luke’s Ultralight Silnylon rain jacket or my Montane Minimus Smock both layer comfortably over the anorak. (The Montane is a slimmer fit piece, however, I have lost weight since I initially bought it, so it fits fine over the puffier GooseFeet Gear down anorak.)
And let me just say, this thing is WARM! For the weight (7.7 oz) this thing is a beast… ok, I may be exaggerating a little… Don’t get me wrong, it is no mountaineering parka, but for a “UL” piece, it is the warmest of the down jackets I have tried in its weight range. And I dare say, with 4 oz of 900 down fill, it is likely THE warmest in this weight range. Seriously, when I put this thing on, it truly is a puffy… I have often seen the Montbell pieces, the Ghost Whisperer, the Patagonia down pieces, among others, described as “down sweaters” and that is a good description. When I slid on the Montbell pieces I owned, or others I’ve simply tried on, I found that that really is what they are, a down filled sweater. Not very thick, but still a good insulating piece. However, my new GooseFeet Gear down anorak simply puts those pieces to shame. This GooseFeet Gear piece is actually a “jacket” in that it is quite a bit thicker, or puffier. Its obvious just looking at it, but it really stands out when actually using it!
With the 2 Patagonia shirts I mentioned above, and based on my use with the GooseFeet Gear down anorak so far, I would say that I could easily stand around (not exerting effort) into the mid 20’s with these 3 pieces before needing to add my wind jacket and/or my rain shell for additional warmth. Of course, this is in good conditions… if the wind were howling or rain/ice/snow were falling I would naturally have my wind jacket, rain jacket or both on. But in comparison, with the same 2 shirts and my Montbell pieces, in good conditions in the mid to low 30’s I would already be a little cool. I would say that the GooseFeet Gear down anorak easily adds 10F warmth over my Montbell pieces… maybe a little more… I’ll have to see in time!
As I mentioned above, this anorak is only 7.7 oz, so not heavy by any means. Let me just say though, there are lighter jackets out there, heck, I own one, but weight is not the entire picture. As I mentioned, the GooseFeet Gear anorak is warmer, and it has all the features I prefer, and none that I don’t… not to mention, it was tailor-made to fit me. When all things are weighed, the GooseFeet Gear down anorak comes in the winner for me.
But why is weight important? First off, I prefer a light pack weight.. my hike is more enjoyable both on the trail, and at camp with a lighter pack, but when the right things are packed. Considering that I really only need to use this anorak while at camp, I don’t require a burly, heavy-duty, super durable jacket. Since the majority of its use will be at camp and not on the trail, I can afford to opt for lighter weight materials and higher down fills to create an overall “UL” piece and still not have to worry about its durability. It is true that on occasion it may get some trail time, under the straps of a backpack, but based on my backpacking habits, that will be few and far between. And when that time comes, it will be covered with my rain shell, so it is still quite protected from injury… Essentially, this anorak could be considered a niche piece, which means it is a well thought out and very specific piece of gear. That is why this piece is smart for me.
As for the details, the GooseFeet Gear down anorak has few (as requested), but the ones it does have work quite well. The hood is awesome, especially since I can adjust it (something I couldn’t do with my Montbell Ex Light Anorak). I generally wear a ball cap to hike in, so the bill makes sure it stays out of my eyes, and that it turns with my head. (I say this because some inquired about the hood being able to adjust front to back. My particular hood doesn’t do this, however, I am sure that Ben could include this if requested. I just don’t require it based on my own backpacking habits.) As I mentioned in the initial impression post though, I will be swapping out the cord in the hood for some shock cord and larger cord locks.
The tunnel pocket is most awesome! I love being able to entwine my fingers together inside my pocket, it just seems to be warmer this way, and this pocket allows me to do this. As well, the pocket is not too large, or too small. It’s just big enough for me to put my hands in and for the wrist cuffs to form a seal at the openings. But where it really shines for me is that both the front and back side of the pocket is insulated! My Montbell Ex Light Anorak was only insulated outside, which allowed warm air to easily escape and cold air to easily enter.
Something I haven’t mentioned yet is the wrist cuffs. They are the best cuffs I have had on any of my other down tops. It appears that it is simply a hemmed cuff with a piece of shock cord inside, but it is sized perfect. (I can’t remember if I gave him my wrist measurements or not…) It is not so tight that it cuts into my wrist, whether I am wearing gloves or not, but, it is tight enough to form a proper seal. This in combination with the slightly extra bit of length added into the sleeves makes the fit at my wrist more comfortable than any of my other down tops.
Warm & toasty in my GFG down anorak, watching the sunset @ Cliff Tops (Mt LeConte).
As you can tell, I really do love this anorak! But, does this mean it’s perfect…?
Well, it’s closer than any other down “jacket” I’ve owned has ever been!
If there is one thing about my particular GooseFeet Gear down anorak that would keep it from being “perfect” it is that the outer material has leaked a little down. As I mentioned in my initial impressions posts, I don’t like seeing my down floating in front of my eyes, I like it trapped between the layers of material! However, what I find interesting with my GooseFeet Gear down anorak is that it is just the outside material that I have found leaking down… both the inside and the outside materials are the same 10D, but since they are different colors, they are from different rolls.
When discussing the down leakage with Ben he informed me that this material should not be leaking down and that this is not normal. Being that the forest green 10D is holding down fine and the black 10D is letting a little slip, I agree, neither should leak since they are the same material. This sounds like he may have received a bad roll, or at least a partial roll of less than perfect material. Saying that, I don’t believe that Ben has a way to test each roll of material, so unfortunately, this is something many small companies could deal with from time to time.
I can say that the anorak does not appear to be leaking as much down as some of my previous down pieces has. Yes, I would prefer that absolutely none of my down leaked, however, the small amount I have seen so far does not give me any reason to worry. But, based on both, the quality of the materials and the construction, I feel like the GooseFeet Gear down anorak will provide me with years of service, so by the time it may leak enough to actually worry about, it is more likely that the jacket itself would be on its way out anyway. (Keep in mind, this is a “UL” piece of gear, and these kinds of pieces generally have a lesser life span than heavier, burlier overbuilt pieces do.)
As for the material itself, I still stand by my initial impression that it is the softest, most cuddliest material I have been able to handle. This stuff is so nice, and all that downy goodness stuffed inside it just enhances how comfortable it is! It is amazing. It really makes me want to order another pair of his socks with this material inside…
My daughter and I on top of Charlie’s Bunion!
So, I have got to say that just like with everything else I have from GooseFeet Gear, so far I am very happy with the anorak. As I mentioned before, I do know Ben personally and can attest to the fact that he is a good guy and cares deeply about providing his customers with a great piece of gear that will last them possibly a lifetime. There are lots of down jackets on the market, but 9 times out of 10, I believe that Ben offers the best out there. (That other time is for folks who are on a very tight budget, or a time constraint, although I do believe that buying a quality piece the first time is less costly in the long run.) What makes this so great though is that you can get his stuff tailor-made, and with your choice of materials, and the features you want. My only suggestion is to first put in some time figuring out what exactly you want!
Thanks again to Ben at GooseFeet Gear for making this down anorak for me, and to everyone visiting this page!
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. The statements above are my own.
Big thanks to Benny Braden (@plugitinontheat) for providing the photo above of me on the trail to Charlie’s Bunion!