Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The New Wild Things Belay Jacket vs Some Others (How's that for specifics?)

Ever since I was 16 and I laid my hands on a Wild Things backpack for the first time, I have been a huge fan.  I bought a few pieces of Wild Things clothing as well and they have been with me just about everywhere.  I was just about to buy a Wild Things belay jacket when they stopped making climbing gear and started only making tactical clothing and packs for the military.

A few years later and Wild Things climbing clothing and packs are back!  I wasn't sure what kind of quality and design to expect from them considering their hiatus and change in ownership (their founder is still on their board and still designs much of their stuff), but so far everything is looking like the old gear that I was in love with.

One jacket in particular that has my eye is the Wild Things Belay Jacket.  Here are some specs:
  • 100% 70 denier nylon, Epic by Nextec shell
  • 6 oz. PrimaLoft® Sport synthetic insulation
  • Erictex, 100 poly, 30d lining
  • Adjustable, helmet compatible hood
  • Two-way center front zipper
  • Interior mesh drying pocket
  • Interior zippered pocket
  • Single-pull adjustable hem
  • Weight: 2 lbs 4 oz
  • Made in U.S.A.

One internal mesh pocket

One internal zippered pocket

EPIC by Nextec® Shell. From Wild Things:  No laminates. No coatings. The protection is inside the 100% nylon 70 denier face fabric, encapsulating the actual fibers for weatherproof, breathable performance. The result? A highly water/wind resistant, abrasion resistant shell that breaths

 Helmet compatible hood. From Wild Things:  The adjustable hood fits tightly over a climbing helmet and offers great visibility and mobility. Elastic along the back of the hood keeps the fit snug while you move your head, so the hood stays put.
These photos are from www.wildthingsgear.com

Everything looks great to me except for the weight.  I imagine that weight is for a medium.  A little heavy.  In comparison to some other well-known belay jackets, this is about 12oz heavier than the Arc'teryx Dually Belay (according to their factory listed weights, which may vary significantly), 10oz heavier than the Patagonia Das and the Mec Tango, and 7oz heavier than the Rab Photon Belay Jacket.

As far as warmth, I would guess that they are all fairly comparable in warmth considering the type of insulation used and how much of it is in the jacket.  The Das is the only jacket mentioned that is sewn all the way through.  For that reason I would guess that the Das is slightly less warm and less water resistant.  I know that a lot of people love the Das.  Please don't send hate mail.  The Wild Things belay uses Primaloft Sport instead of Primaloft One, which is not quite as efficient though a little more durable over time.  The Rab uses Primaloft Eco, which is a step down in function as well.

The Dually is most likely the most weather resistant and potentially the warmest of all these mentioned because Arc'teryx's Dually insulation, Thermatek (essentially DWR-treated Primaloft), will not soak up water and it is laminated to the shell fabric, not stitched, which means less compression where the insulation would normally be stitched.  More loft = More Warmth.

The Wild Things uses Epic Shell fabric, which is more weather resistant than the shells of the other jackets (from my experience).  Therefore, I would guess that the Wild Things Belay Jacket would be the 2nd most weather-resistant of the group.

At $250, it looks to be an absolute steal for what the jacket offers (compared to the $500 price tag of the Dually).  As far as its heavy weight is concerned, my bet is that it's not much heavier than the other jackets considered.  Dane at Cold Thistle compared weights of many of these jackets (and a bunch of others) with his own scale and found them all to be quite a bit heavier than their posted weights.  To be fair, he was measuring, in most cases, XLs and most companies advertise the weights of Mediums.  Comparing materials, features, etc, the Wild Thing jacket should come in pretty close to the others.  If it is slightly heavier, that means you are getting a little more weather protection and abrasion resistance from the shell.

As far as their other products are concerned, everything at Wild Things is starting to look about like it did before they left, which is a great thing!

For more information on Wild Things Gear, check out http://www.wildthingsgear.com/

For a good, side-by-side comparison of some popular Belay Jackets, check out Cold Thistle here:


  1. Is this a "review" without seeing one in person? Not sure that's a good habit to start. (you can delete this comment if you wish)

  2. Thanks for reading. I do appreciate it. You're right. Writing reviews without using the product isn't a good habit. This wasn't supposed to be a review. Sorry if that came across that way. I meant to simply make people aware of a new jacket that I am excited about and compare some of the specs with other similar jackets. Any observations I made were based on experience I have had with similar jackets or similar materials. For example, my experience is that sewn-through jackets (like the Das) aren't usually as warm as jackets that aren't sewn through (like the Dually) that also have similar fill weights. I have had jackets made of Epic and have found Epic to be very weather resistant, more so than other nylon shells that don't have a membrane of some sort. Not a review, just preliminary observations. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

  3. I was also on the verge of buying a Wildthings coat at the time the refocused on military gear. Since it wasn't really announced that they were suspending their alpine gear lines I would check back every few weeks until the link I had saved for the jacket I was eying just went dead. I did manage to pick up a pair of their puffy pants on ebay (also epic/primaloft) and they're pretty awesome.

    My coat closet is overstuffed with coats, at the moment, otherwise the cost v features of the Wildthings belay jacket would be sorely tempting. Of course, NWA may eventually come out with their belay jacket,announced september, but still not really listed on their website other than a 'preview'. It would be nice to do a -features- side by side with the two American made jackets, although intended use would appear to be somewhat different as the NWA offering is only 4oz primaloft.

    Interestingly, I talked briefly with someone from NWA and it would seem they're also looking to expand beyond the alpine/athletic market, hopefully this won't lead to the long blackout that the wildthings change of focus did. It's nice to see companies still manufacturing in the US, even on such a small scale, and WT and NWA both do so with an impressive cost/features ratio! If making combat gear needs to be part of that equation for these companies to thrive, then I guess I'm OK with that.

  4. Also very interesting; Wildthings insulight and hooded insulight, the features looking very similar to the ArcTeryx's atom lt. If they got the fit right on that for good shoulder articulation it would be hard to choose between the two. The insulight is also Epic, but a few ounces heavier that the atom. Maybe the epic is where the extra weight is?

    1. The extra weight is in the Wind Pro panels under the arms. So far we're getting good marks on fit, though a bit snug for some at the upper ranges of each size. I'm at the top end of M's Medium, and I could wear the Large, but it's a bit roomier.

  5. Indeed. I too am excited for the NWA belay jacket. I thought the insulight jacket looks great, though it is significantly heavier than the atom lt, like you mentioned. I imagine it is a little warmer as well because they use hardface windpro under the arms instead of powerstretch, like the atom lt. I would guess that the insulight may be a better outer layer in bad weather and the atom would be the better midlayer, because its shell and underarms are more breathable but less water resistant than the epic and windpro that WT uses.

  6. Howdy Gear:30! I love the post here. It puts our Wild Things Belay Jacket in perspective with some of the others out there quite nicely, and I appreciate your comments surrounding our military business. I can tell you that our hiatus from making alpine gear wasn't planned, and therefore not announced. In retrospect, we could have managed that a little better.

    As a small company, military contracts tend to consume resources quickly, and introducing a new line of modern alpine clothing, including a new women's fit, took a bit longer than expected. The result it pretty cool though.

    Wild Things has managed to smooth out some processes which will allow it to continue to serve the military while getting you and I the alpine products we need, and just as importantly, when we need them. That means we'll see fall 2012 alpine products in August and our warmest pieces in October when we're looking to buy them. I am excited about that.

    We're aware that a number of our pieces aren't the lightest around, but we've found that trading a few ounces for features and durability makes for a more protective, longer lasting, versatile item. The Insulight Jacket is a good example of the weight/feature trade-off. It's precisely the choice to use Wind Pro under the arms that adds the weight, but in product testing we learned that Power Stretch was much too drafty on descents, unless you were willing to through a shell over it. WindPro solved that issue while offer about the same breathability as the Power Stretch for the ascents. Of course, we're still looking to make everything lighter as we go.

    Like you probably, I'm finding I've got a closet full of jackets that are great for specific conditions, but I really love more versatile pieces that are helping me reduce this quiver. The Insulight Jacket is one of those pieces; a great mid layer but also a decent outer layer for the right conditions. I wear mine spring skiing and am super dry and regulated, when the rest of my buds are either sweating or freezing.

    At any rate, stay tuned to Wild Things for more gear. We're taking a look at reintroducing our pack line next. You can sign up for email updates here: Wild Things email updates

    Stay Wild.


    1. Thanks for the info, Mike. I'm extremely excited about the product line. Everything is looking great! I too love versatile gear. Though I have a lot of very specific gear, I tend to use the same three or four pieces for 80% of what I do. It's nice to have those very specialized pieces for the other 20%, but it's a lot easier for me (and my wife) to spend money on gear I know I'll use often. The Atom LT Hoody is one of the most versatile pieces I have, but there have been times when I wish it didn't let quite so much air in. I'm definitely excited to see how they work next to each other.

      Anyway, everything is looking great to me! Thanks again for the info.

  7. Wildthings' spring sale is ending today, April 17th. 25% off the belay coat and other wind and insulation pieces. Great time to check the new line out!