Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gear Review: Feathered Friends Daybreak Jacket (hooded)

This is a review of an item I plan on taking on my upcoming year of through-hiking to raise money for the Arizona Trail Association,Continental Divide Coalition and Te Araroa Trust.  Please consider donating and sharing it on Facebook!

Feathered friends is mostly known as a small Seattle based sleeping bag maker, but they also make lesser known line of goose down insulated clothing.   I took advantage of a recent sale and picked up their Daybreak hooded jacket.  Their Daybreak series are lightweight, and meant for 3 season use.  I saw a lot of similar Patagonia and Montbell down “sweaters” on the Pacific Crest Trail last year but most lacked much loft for any real warmth unlike the daybreak which has about an 3/4 of an inch of single layer loft mid-baffle.  On the PCTI carried a 20 ounce down parka from Marmot, the Ama Dablam jacket for use with my feathered friends Vireo sleeping bag instead of a much thinner down sweater.  The bag is 25 degrees on your legs and 45 on your chest and is meant for use with a down jacket. Look for a full review soon.

The Feathered Friends Vireo

I liked having the heavy Marmot jacket as piece of mind, even though it was overkill most of the time and relying on it as my only insulation caused some problems.  I didn't carry any other insulation layer other than a sleeping shirt, so when I encountered days of cold rain in Washington State I had to keep hiking to stay warm!  My breaks were limited to about ten minutes before I got cold and could only be taken at the base or partway up a climb.  I didn’t want to get either my long johns or the jacket wet since both were essential for my sleep system, which left me with only a long sleeve hiking shirt and wind jacket for continued wet, cold conditions.   

For my upcoming hikes I want something lighter with more flexibility.  Rather than a single heavy down jacket, I picked the day break and a half-zip 100 weight fleece pullover.  The daybreak weighs just over 7 ounces on my scale and the fleece pullover is 10 ounces on the nose so the total is only only a few ounces lighter than the Marmot jacket.  However, the fleece has the benefit of staying warm when wet, absorbing minimal water and drying quickly.  I can use it as a layer for hiking and since it dries fast and won’t hold much water it can still be used as sleepwear when wet, since my sleeping shirt, daybreak jacket and bag will be dry in my pack.  I recently used this combination on a Presidential Traverse attempt, including hanging out on the summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in 35 degree temperatures with winds blowing over 50 miles per hour.  Based on my experience so far, I think this combination is at least as warm as, maybe slightly warmer than my Marmot jacket and a much more versatile system.  

The daybreak in action over a fleece - far left.
The Daybreak jackets construction is top notch and I have noticed no down leakage.  The hood is fitted tightly and would not work over a helmet, which is perfect for me.  Instead of a clunky drawstring, it uses elastic around your face which works great and sheds the extra grams to boot.  The bottom of the hood stops at the base of my chin, which helps retain warmth around the neck.  The sleeves have similar elastic cuffs that are tight enough to keep warm air in but not constricting – the same as the adjustment I would have made on a heavier drawstring closure and never touched again.  The bottom of the jacket does have a drawstring, which might be useful occasionally.  The fit of a medium jacket on my averagish 5 foot 8 inch frame is almost perfect.  I have short legs – my pants inseam measures 30-inches – and the jacket is long enough to cover most of the way down my hip bone, which is great and the sleeve length is great for me.  The jacket also packs into a provided stuff sack, though I rarely use stuff sacks since I prefer to use insulation layers to take up dead space in my pack.  This strategy keeps things from rattling around back there, is better for the down loft over time and takes less time to pack and unpack.

A quick note - the fit of this jacket is everything I want for the outdoors but the elastic cuffs mean it looks a fit funny on the street.  I honestly think this is a plus since a lot of outdoors clothing is being fashion-a-fied into looking better but compromising function.  At a typical gear store it can now be hard to tell what's really meant to be used in bad weather versus what's meant to be worn on the street.  I think part of the steadily rising down price trend is due to this as well, since you see 800+ fill down sweaters everywhere on people who's wallets would be better served by synthetic insulation.

The hood looks a bit funny but is much warmer than an open design.

Anyhow, the pockets on the Daybreak jacket are plenty large enough for my hands but not fleece lined, which is not a problem for me.  All the zippers feel very solid and latch easily.  The baffles seem to work well and the shell material on my 2013 jacket is made from Pertex Endurance, a water resistant breathable fabric and filled with regular 900+ fill down.  Feathered friends hasn't bought into hydrophobic coated down like most other cottage retailers and even has a post about it.  It should be noted that my sale jacket must have been the last of these since the feathered friends is now using Schoeller Nanosphere® - a new fabric that is hydrophobic!  From the manufacturers website it sounds like water and dirt should bead right off.  Sounds cool, but I think I’ll live with the older fabric and extra $100 in my pocket. 

In summary I would definitely recommend this jacket if you’re in the market for a top notch, light  weight down jacket.  They work great for camp and can extend the range of a sleep system.   If money were no object I would have probably splurged for the Helios jacket – only 3 or 4 ounces heavier but significantly warmer.  However, this jacket was on sale and will get the job done for me just fine.  


  1. Layering with fleece is a much better way to go. Is your pee bottle easily identified in the dark?

  2. I have the same jacket! Nice! It really is amazing, isn't it?

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.