The EP Jacket at sunset at 12,000 feet on a windy, cool evening.
The Wild Things EP Jacket fits in well with the lightweight philosophy – use the layering system to maintain comfort, and wear everything you have when it’s cold! Rather than taking a heavy cold weather belay parka, and exchanging it for another garment when the temperature or your exertion level changes, the EP jacket plus one or two mid-weight insulation pieces creates a versatile and lightweight system to stay warm and comfortable under most cool and cold weather conditions. By itself, the EP is a lightweight cool weather belay jacket with a marvelous Epic shell and water resistant zippers for wind and storm resistance. Worn over other lightweight insulation, the jacket is the centerpiece of a versatile cold weather clothing system.
- Versatile, lightweight belay jacket, remarkably warm by itself
- Epic shell and water repellent zippers are highly wind and shower resistant
- Draw cords at hood and hem, plus elastic wrist bindings provide a snug seal
- Two zippered side pockets, plus inside zippered pocket provide good storage
- Good storm protection in a variety of conditions
- Remarkably breathable at low to moderate exertion levels in cool, windy conditions
• Garment Style
|Full zip, high-loft, synthetic hooded jacket|
• Fabric Description
|Shell is water-resistant/breathable Epic by Nextec, mini-ripstop polyester, 2.6-3.1 oz/yd2 (89-105 g/m2), 50d/72d x 50d/72d. The lining fabric is a lightweight downproof nylon ripstop.|
• Insulation Description
|Primaloft 1 (PL1) 1.8 oz/yd2 (61 g/m2)|
• Other Features
|Attached adjustable hood, zippered side pockets, inside zippered pocket, elastic cuffs, draw cord hem|
|20.5 oz (581 g) as measured, men’s L; 18 oz (510 g) manufacturer specification men’s L|
|0.3 in (8 mm) single layer loft as measured, manufacturer specification 0.3 in (8 mm)|
• Model Year
|Fall 2003 (2005 model adds Velcro cuffs, three-way hood adjustment, and raises the pockets)|
|$185 Manufacturer’s suggested retail price|
The EP jacket is insulated with 1.8 oz/yd2 PrimaLoft One which has a single-layer thickness of 0.3 inch and a warmth to weight ratio of 0.84 clo/oz (see Commentary on Sleeping Bag Rating Specifications (2004) (M) for more on the clo unit of measure). PL1 is not as lofty or as durable as Polarguard 3D or Delta but is better in damp/wet situations due to its low water absorbency (confirmed in previous Backpacking Light experiments (M). The insulation is quilted to the jacket’s lining in a parallel wavy pattern spaced about 2 inches apart. Both the shell and lining have a soft hand.
Worn over a base layer, the jacket is warm down to about freezing (stationary in calm air). However, by adding insulation layers under it, the EP Jacket can be the centerpiece of a versatile system to maintain warmth down to much colder levels. The EP has an Epic outer shell that is very good at deflecting wind and sealing in heat, contributing a lot to maintaining warmth. For hiking in cool weather, layers can easily be adjusted to maintain comfort. The front zipper is one-way, so can only be opened from the top for ventilation. The EP worked well over damp clothing in cool/windy conditions to keep me from chilling, but is not lofty enough for really cold weather.
Ways to increase the jacket’s warmth are: 1) wear another insulating layer under it, 2) close the 28.5-inch full front zipper to its fleece chin guard, 3) raise the hood and snug it with two draw cord adjustors on the front, and 4) snug the waist draw cord with two adjustors inside the jacket. To increase ventilation, do the opposite. The cuffs have a simple elastic binding that makes a comfortable seal at the wrists, but does not provide any means to adjust ventilation. Two 6.5-inch zippered side hand warmer pockets are not fleece-lined. The back of the jacket is dropped two inches to increase coverage of the butt area. There are no pit zips or mesh vents.
The jacket’s hood provides excellent head insulation while wearing it in a sleeping bag.
I tested the EP Jacket on five backpacking trips in the Colorado Rockies. On the first day of summer I hiked a 12,600-foot ridge in 45 °F temperatures and 40 mph winds with intermittent snow and rain. On a 6-day 76-mile backpack on Colorado’s Continental Divide Trail, the EP Jacket provided daily shelter from wind, cold, and bugs.
The beauty of the EP jacket is its wind and storm resistant insulation, thanks to its Epic shell and water-resistant zippers. It had no trouble shedding wind-driven snow and graupel, or a brief shower. Extended rain eventually soaks through, especially at the seams. With a backpack on, the hipbelt seals the bottom of the jacket nicely. Without a pack, the jacket seals up snugly with all the zippers and draw cords pulled. The hood provided good face protection from cold and wind, and worked best with a billed hat or helmet since it has no bill of its own.
I don’t expect an insulated jacket to be as breathable as a windshirt, but I did find the EP jacket to be remarkably comfortable for hiking in cool/windy conditions. While hiking slowly up a 12,700-foot ridge carrying a 25-pound pack in overcast/windy 50 °F conditions, I stayed comfortable by adjusting the hood and front zipper openings. However, when the sun came out and the wind subsided, I quickly overheated and replaced the EP Jacket with a windshirt. On several occasions I put the jacket on over a damp hiking shirt and windshirt during breaks. It kept me from chilling in a stiff breeze, and my damp underclothing dried out quickly.
A handy zippered inside pocket is big enough for a wallet or a 1-liter water flask.
The smooth lining allows the EP to slide on easily over other clothing, including fleece. The side pockets are roomy and handy for storing an assortment of frequently used items. However, the pocket openings are a little too small. They are large enough to enter with light or medium weight gloves on, but not heavy gloves, and they are too tight to insert an 8-ounce fuel canister to warm it up in the morning. Draw cord adjustors on the hood and at the waist can be operated with medium weight gloves on, but are harder to manage with heavy gloves. The inside zippered pocket is useful for secure storage, and is sized to carry a 1-liter water flask.
The sculptured hood works well over a helmet or billed hat, with excellent head turning mobility and vision to the sides. The hood is also comfortable under a climbing helmet. There is no adjustment on the back of the hood, so without a hat or helmet on, it fits loose and significantly blocks vision to the front and sides. [Editor’s note: the 2005 version of the EP has a three-way hood adjustment to address this issue.] One clever feature: the hood has a simple hook and loop tab and loop that allow you to secure the hood down when it’s not in use, so it doesn’t flop over your head when you bend over. According to product information, the jacket packs into its own pocket, but I found all of the pocket openings too small for the task. It is much easier to roll the jacket up into its hood.
The EP Jacket has an excellent fit and good articulation. Torso and sleeve length are ample and the attached hood is helmet compatible.
This jacket is designed for layering. By itself it provides a lot of warmth without bulk in cool and breezy conditions. It is sized to layer over a base layer and one or more mid-weight insulation layers, giving it lots of versatility. The jacket length in back is 28 inches, sufficient to cover the butt and lower torso area.
The EP Jacket has set-in sleeves. Sleeve length was not quite long enough to withdraw my hands. Although the sleeves are an ample length (34.5 inches) in an arms-down position, sleeve articulation in an arms-up position is only fair. When I lifted my arms above my head or crossed my arms, the sleeves withdrew to about 1 inch above my wrists. Torso articulation is good: when I lifted my arms above my head, the jacket’s lower hem was still about two inches below my waist. Wearing the jacket over a 200-weight fleece jacket, my shoulders bound only slightly when crossing my arms.
The EP Jacket is well made, fits well, and is very storm worthy and versatile. At $185, it is a fair value compared to other belay jackets we reviewed.
Recommendations for Improvement
I would like to see larger pocket openings to accommodate gloved hands and larger items. Also, it would be nice to have a large mesh pocket on the inside in addition to the zippered pocket. To reduce weight, I suggest using a thinner Epic fabric for the shell. Some durability would be lost, but lightweight backpackers are prepared to provide the TLC if manufacturers are prepared to provide lighter gear.