Welcome, to the part one of the ALPINE series of reviews. In this instalment, we’ll be taking a look at an insulating jacket, made by one of our favourite manufacturers, CARINTHIA. It’s the G-LOFT REVERSIBLE JACKET. The jacket itself was provided by SPEQ-SE, a veteran owned company from the republic of Ireland. They want to offer only the best to their customers, that is why they decided to stock CARINTHIA products as well.

In this authors opinion, every person has their own definition of comfort. So when thinking about a new insulating jacket, one must always know, what environment they’ll be in. For me, that usually means carrying an extra half of a kilogram. You know, just to be safe when temperatures drop.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When you get the jacket, it comes packed in its own hook and loop closure display bag. The first thing ta popped to mind was “wow, now this is how you display your product”. It’s perfect for physical stores and a nice addition, when purchasing the item online.

Upon trying out the jacket, i immediately put my hands in the pockets. In the right pocket, i felt a lump and quickly investigated what it was. I grab it and pull it out, only to find out that it was a compression/storage bag. I was not expecting this, as the product description online does not give out that information. A very, VERY nice feature and a welcome surprise. The jacket weighs 700 grams and can be packet tight with the rest of the gear.

Featuring two sets of zippered pockets, one pair on each side, this looks like to be a simple yet effective insulating garment.

Compared to some other jackets in the same size, first it felt a tad big. But after thinking about it’s usage, i quickly came to a conclusion that the sizing is perfect for layering, which is the actual meant application of this jacket. It’s cut is a bit longer, something like a parka length, which allows for some serious insulation. Sleeve length is perfect, as the cuffs stay secured around the wrist, regardless of the position you place your arms.

After a brief “getting to know it” phase, i was eager to take it out in some serious cold and see if the immediate warmth is also felt where it counts the most.

MATERIALS USED

Now let’s talk about what the jacket is really made of. The folks at CARINTHIA pride themselves with all European made products. That is why they manufacture all of their materials within Europe.

Their manufacturing facilities are located at their headquarters in Austria and in their factories in Slovakia and Moldova.

Only in this way it is possible to provide the highest manufacturing and quality standards and to ensure the according quality controlling mechanisms.

This is what brings me to the filling material. The jacket goes under the category SYNTHETIC. There are some major differences between down and synthetic filling which are all specified on many web sites, so we won’t go into the details. The thing that puts synthetic over down though (at least for me) is the difference of performance when wet/damp. CARINTHIA therefore only uses trusty Seeboden developed and produced synthetic fibre insulation G-LOFT®. Like it’s competitors, it is warm, light and breathable.

These are all facts that are quickly shown to be true. But the difference is supposed to be in the fact that you can do this to the product over and over and over again. The highly compressible Bi-component fibres quickly re-take their shape and volume, filling the “clusters” with air. It’s supposed to mimic high-end down materials, without the downsides after some moisture has been introduced.

Repeated compression over a longer period of time or prolonged compressed storage usually means a decline in the fillings performance. Not in this case (at least not yet), as the jacket performs as well as the first day, when it was going through it’s “getting to know it” phase. And it was used quite extensively in the mean time.

The filling used in this jacket is G-Loft ISO+ with the weight of 145g/m². Quite a hefty one, but the manufacturer states a -15°C comfort level. The actual feel only benefits that statement.

This being a reversible jacket, the inner and outer materials are the same. It’s 100% Polyamide, with a small rip-stop square weave. Like mentioned, it feels smooth and soft. A bit cold on the first touch, but it quickly warms up, when you wear the thing.

The jacket also features a double sided YKK zipper, which runs down the full length of the jacket. The small blank zipper pull is perfect for layering, as it stows away and is un-noticeable. If you find fiddling with it on a regular basis, just add some gutted paracord and make use with gloves easier.

Pocket closures feature a similar zipper with different pulls. 2cm long metal tab neatly hides away under the cover flap, but is right at hand when needed. Easy operation even with gloves or cold hands.

Last but not least, on the bottom and the top of the jacket, we have some polymer bits for ensuring a tight fit around all openings. The sleeve cuffs have elastic sewn in them, but the collar and the hem feature their own closure systems. 2mm thick shock cord is lined in the edges and regulated with some two-hole cord locks and small cord pulls. One set is located behind the users head and two on the bottom, one on each side. These bits are not marked but they seem nicely moulded and of high quality.

CRAFTMANSHIP

Even though this jacket features a simple design, it’s still built to the highest standards. Being reversible, all the construction stitching is hidden inside with the filling and is made as light as possible. Mostly all the stitches are perfect. However I did encounter a slight hick-up with the main zipper flap. Specifically, with one of its hook and loop closures.

The stitch of the loop part of the closure, managed to get undone by the hook part after extended and hard use. It started to separate from the jacket but did not tear off. This is nothing uncommon around these types of closures and does not present a catastrophic failure of the product. Also since this only happened on one strip, we can safely assume this is not a re-occurring problem. And to be completely honest, this was only noticed during the final examination of the product, not during use.

All of the other details regarding construction are neat and tidy. Thread reinforcements on the shock cord holes are a nice touch, since this part really gets exposed to some rubbing when using the jacket a lot. No fraying of the thread was visible when the testing period concluded. All other stress points are secured with at least a double stitch. The filling feels securely in place and does not give that “empty” feel. It lines the whole surface of the jacket, including the collar.

PRACTICAL USE

In actual life, none of the written information matters. Only thing that matters is the actual product quality. And i’m happy to say, this is what CARINTHIA is known for.

In our tests, we covered a lot of insulating jackets. But all of them had a filling density of up to 80 g/m². So like mentioned, i was itching to see how this one would perform. I decided to take it for a short trip into the mountains. With cold temperatures, wind and snow it was a perfect ambient.

We started at 600 m, climbed to 1550 m and stayed for the night. Next day we climbed for roughly 300 m and ended up on 1800 m above sea level. The jacket was used during these tryouts mostly as a top layer, except during the night. Under the jacket were just two layers of clothing, three during the night.

Every user has their own level physical fitness, warm/cold sensitivity and overall health, which all play an important role in what COLD really means. Hunger and dehydration also play a role in this as well as several other factors like activities, altitude, duration of stay, etc. So when a company specifies an exact “comfort temperature level” i look at it a bit sideways.

During our tests, the jacket performed exceptionally. At one point it was so comfy, i wanted to crawl behind a rock and have a nap, just because it felt so warm. Not stuffy, not too warm but that morning bed warmth when everything is perfect. It is wind resistant, but it also allows for perspiration to escape and does not absorb humidity.

Even during a tough ascend in deep snow, a 20 kg backpack, with only one pole left, i did not feel the need to take it off. Every time we headed up a very steep slope, i just unzipped the thing to some 3/4 and cooling was dealt with.

All the perspiration has been taken away from the body and released on the outer shell to dry out. As a matter of fact, the only place where some actual perspiration was visible, was where the backpack came in contact with the body.

The best thing about this jacket is that even if damp, it still retains its full insulating capabilities. What looked like a completely soaked back on the outside, actually felt like any other part of the jacket on the inside.

And we all know that feeling when cold winds blow over your back when you come to a stop and rest. No such troubles were noticed, since the filling does it’s job flawlessly and absorbs no moisture. The sweat dried on top of the mountain in about 45 minutes. During that time it did it’s job, just like if it was dry.

Immediately after putting on the jacket, you can feel that this is a quality product. Usually faults in workmanship expose themselves when handling the items with haste. Like you need to get the stuff on your body and out the door as son as possible – haste. In this jackets case, no faults were detected.

Quickly stuffing your arms through the sleeves usually exposes faults in the lining and sleeve cuffs. This is also where any loose stitching is exposed, as i have put my finger through a poorly assembled seam on a competitors product on the second fitting. The cuffs are lined with elastic and make a tight fit around the wrist. No wind can enter, but they still stretch to the sleeve size. This allows dressing and undressing of the jacket easier even with gloves. Users that wear big/fat watches will also appreciate this.

Operating the zippers is also a breeze, as you can open and close each of them in a swift single motion. 9/10 times the zipper did not catch any other material thanks to its orientation and the jackets protection flaps. Even if it does catch anything, the problem is solved in a second. Either by roughing it on and dealing with that later or just reversing the zipper for a few centimetres. The pulls and the business ends of the zippers can take quite a beating.

The cord lock closure systems are also made up to the highest standards. The lock features it’s own attachment point, through which it’s fixed to the jacket. This enables single hand use and adjustment. The plastic cord pull only makes this easier. The locks work like they should and did not seem to show any signs of cold defects like hampered operation or even breakage.

Only time when the jacket was used as an insulating layer was over-night. With temperatures of -around 15°C it was fine until bed time. Even the leisure-pace of preparing a shelter and food was enough for the jacket to do its thing.

The collar ends with a nice loop of the wind flap to hide and provide padding to the zipper when fully closed. After a couple of hours of sleep, it became quite nippy. I threw over a British military DPM gore-tex jacket, closed the Be-X poncho liner and all was good till 0600 next morning. A full bladder and approaching daylight did their thing too and soon it was time to pack.

While sleeping, i did not feel any pressure points from the stitches and zippers. Everything is tucked away neatly and never gets in the way. Even the sewing pattern is cut in such a manner, that all the seams are placed away from areas exposed to higher loads, like on top of the shoulders.

Two hang tabs can be found near the top of the jacket. One on each side. A single fold of the material and double stitch make this an indispensable addition. There are a number of serious garment manufacturers that leave out this detail. Folks at CARINTHIA know what the user needs.

To finish up this section, let’s also take a look at the compression bag. While it’s not mentioned anywhere, my best guess would be that these are a standard. Why else would you not mention such a great addition. With this bag, you can compress the jacket into a 12×18 cm big package.

The bag itself is made out of a tougher material than the jacket and is highly water resistant. Its shape resembles a sleeping bag case and features similar compression straps.

These straps surround the bag all the way around along the long side. This means that the compression system is a s tough as the webbing and its buckles. You can really tighten them hard, without fear of breaking anything.

The opening features a round piece of fabric, that serves as a cover when the bag is filled. A standard single hole cord lock and 60 cm of gutted paracord are lined along the edge for secure closure.

Just below this opening another piece of webbing is sewn to completely surround the bag along the short side. This one is not there for compression, but rather for the stability of the compression straps and overall strength. It also creates two clip-in points at the top, so you can attach the bag to other gear. Many manufacturers only provide a single attachment point and that on the bottom. With this bag, you can have it clipped in upright and use it for carrying other gear when the jacket is in use.

When it comes to products like these, it’s really hard to find faults in them. So to get really nit-picky, there’s only one thing, i’d like to mention. While the jacket is reversible, i honestly don’t see a point to that. As specified in the product description on the official web-site, the fabric colours are Olive and Sand. The first image shows the actual shade of “Olive”, as the last is what i was expecting, when i read “Olive”. My point is, there is little to no need to have a two tone reversible jacket, if the two colours are so similar. Since CARINTHIA products are used widely throughout the military, it might have something to do with uniform specifications though. In that case, i have no more arguments.

CONCLUSION

To conclude this article, i must say that i was very pleased with the overall performance of this garment. It’s noticeable that CARINTHIA specialises in cold weather garments and sleeping bags for professionals. The jacket delivers everything it promises and more. It’s filling is very compressible so the jacket can be packed to a very small size. Superb moisture management and noticeable warmth as a standard, this jacket is sure to replace at least three items that were previously on my pack list. I would strongly recommend this jacket to anyone who likes or has to spend time out in the cold. Thanks to it’s simple design it serves multiple roles and can be combined with any piece of clothing.

As stated, CARINTHIA is one of my favourite companies, when it comes to thermal regulation. After trying out this jacket, my affection for the company expanded even further. Be sure to check out the rest of their program, as they take care of everything that is cold weather related.

CARINTHIA web-site

You can order the gear directly or from authorised dealers like our friends at SPEQ-SE.

SPEQ-SE has been established to offer individual professionals a wide range of Tier 1 garments and equipment. We are very proud to represent some of the world’s top brands like Carinthia, Claw Gear, Glock, Lowa, Magnum, Magpul, Mechanix, NFM, Schmidt & Bender and new brands like Sprinter Custom Ghillie and HPRC”

Be sure to stop by their web-site, where they also offer wholesale and dealer discounts.

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