What? Don’t you get cold after a winter run? Oh, you’re one of those shorts-in-an-ice-storm kinda peeps..? Well, bully to you but there’s no numb-nuts hero bluster on this end: I’m pretty serious about being warm before and after my crisp season trail outings.
In fact, I revel in rugging up once my mud mauling is done. So when the Trail Run Mag crew headed for a multiday sojourn to the winter alps to run day in, day out, the trails of Buffalo, Buller, Baw Baw, Hotham and Falls, I packed the puffer.
This puffer is from Vigilante – not a brand usually associated with trail running (although I do note some very apt gear floating around on the brand’s website – leggings, fleeces, jackets and even a pair for trail shorts), but here’s something nice – an Australian brand. Yup, home grown.
They got wind of our alpine trail trip and thought, “geez it’d be nice for Trail Run Mag’s editor to be warm while testing trails in the High Country.” Either that or they wanted their gear tested and reviewed on this site. Either way, worked out well for us both: I stayed warm, the jacket got reviewed. (That’s disclosure out of the way, in case you didn’t recognise it).
But I tell you, I get grumpy when I’m cold, and the ‘free’ part of ‘kit’ will not dampen my spray if something doesn’t warm the cockles of more than my heart. Did it? Point blank, yes. It did. To a point. I was comfortable pre- and post runs, scurrying back off the snow each time to nuzzle back into the Racer.
The 80/20 down/feather filler isn’t – lets be honest – the top of range mature Hungarian goose down but anyone who knows their 400 from their 700 fill powers (that’s the international standard for rating down quality) would know that kind of quality will set you back more than just a few pineapple feathers (fifty dollar notes. too obtuse, yeah?).
The Racer is rated at a 500 fill power, which for Australian conditions is a fair and reasonable quality loft, although on the low side up against competition. To compare on a scale, Kathmandu down jackets claim 550-800 ($200-$350) depending on model; The North Face 700-800 ($320-$350; with one model actually using the sought after Hungarian!). The Vigilante is $249.95 – so there’s not much in the price factor between brands.
Still, it did the job of keeping cozy enough on an early winter stretch. For the trail runner, packability is another key concern – this one’s not one of those: it’s not a jacket you can actual run with stashed in your backpack, as can be required for many multiday runs. Which is a pity because while other jackets are much more compact and suited to multidays where you have the jacket on person (Patagonia‘s down sweater jacket, Kathmandu’s Utralight, The North Face Thunder Micro); it does have an external durability that the others lack. That is, most down jackets feel fragile – one catch on a tree, one step too close to the campfire…you look like Michelen man in them but you feel like Bubble Boy. Or more accurately that there should be a bubble around the jacket lest the wind blow the wrong way and it tear. The Vigilante felt durable. Rugged. Fling it around, drag it through the mud…it could touch the earth without disintegrating. Tick.
Another upside to the Racer is the features list. We’ll start with the pockets. Internal: one for goggles (it’s marketed at the après ski crowd), one for your iPod, one for your gloves, all iconically labelled lest you be illiterate (told you it was aimed at the ski crowd). External: zip hand pockets and a forearm pocket (curious no label – the (cough) stash pocket?).
A detachable hood is a nice option, too, as is velcro wrist adjustment to keep the breeze out.
Where this jacket shines is in pure wear comfort: it feels good on, helped by a felt trimmed neck. And it looks good – unlike many puffers, it has a slimline, fitted cut, with very svelte lines that fashion conscious skiers who trail run will appreciate.
So how does this particular jacket relate to us trailtes? Let’s not overthink it: this is a super comfy, warm-enough jacket that looks Hollywood sleek. It’s for your big kit bag, not your on-back run bag. It’s for Australian conditions, not Himalayan. But it’s rough and ready enough to put up with a belting around the Aussie bush and priced at a point that makes it a pretty good buy.
Another good option (untested by Trail Run Mag) would be the Hydrogen Lightweight Puff Vest, (right) a polyester fill number but could be a great option for actually running in on cold wind days.
Fill: 80% Down 20% Feather // 500 fill
Nylon outer and lining
Men’s Racer Puff Jacket RRP: $249.95
For more information on Vigilante or to locate your nearest stockist visit www.vigilante.com.au or call 1800 227 070.