Jack Wolfskin Zenon XT hybrid down
Insulating Walking Jacket for Men
Product Review / Walking Gear Test

Jack Wolfskin Zenon XT hybrid down Insulating Walking Jacket for Men Jack Wolfskin Zenon XT hybrid down Insulating Walking Jacket for Men
Zenon XT hybrid down Insulating Walking Jacket for Men

Vital Statistics:

Colours: Chili (Orange/Navy), Wild Lime (Light Green/Grey), Burnt Olive (Green/Grey)

Weight: 425 g (size L)

SRP: £140.00

Jack Wolfskin says:"Lightweight jacket with good insulation - perfect for hiking: The ZENON reduces your load and increases your warmth. This hybrid down jacket is predominantly filled with high-loft duck down. But in areas where pack straps exert pressure, e.g. sleeves and shoulders, we have used our robust FIBERCLOUD synthetic fibre fill. The windproof outer fabric enhances the insulation performance. The jacket's lightweight fill materials and thin fabrics mean it packs down small and takes up very little space in your backpack. When not needed, simply stash it in the stuff sack, ready for action."

Features to Note:

In-use Test:

As a 5ft 11, 14st man the Jack Wolfskin Zenon XT Insulating Jacket XL size fits me well while allowing generous freedom of movement. When wearing the jacket I can lift my arms above my head without stretching the fabric or exposing my wrists. The sleeves are a good length and have non-adjustable, elasticated cuffs that are not too snug.

The front zip 'zips' from the bottom up only and has a small insulated baffle behind it to stop the zip area becoming a cold spot and this worked well.

The hood is snug and fits well round my head and face but there is no room for a bike, ski or climbing helmet.

There are two zipped hand warming pockets on the outside but sadly these are positioned so that they are covered by a rucksack/backpack belt making access very awkward. Neither pocket can be used as a stuff sack since they are not big enough. However a separate stuff sack is supplied but this just adds to the weight.

While the jacket felt snug around my waist there is no means of adjusting the bottom hem.

The insulation used for the body of the Jack Wolfskin Zenon XT Insulating Jacket comprises 90% white duck down with 10% feather and has a fill power of 700 (this is printed on the inside of the jacket). A down content of 90/10 is obviously better than 80/20 but not quite as warm as 100% down fill. The fill power of 700 is an indicator of two important features: warmth-to-weight ratio and compressibility. 700 Fill Power means that 1 ounce (28.3g) of down fills a volume of 700 cubic inches (11.47 litres). The duck down used in the Zenon is not water resistant so if it gets wet it stays wet for a long time and will lose many of its insulating properties.

However, the insulation used for the sleeves, hood and shoulders is Jack Wolfskin's own Fibrecloud, a synthetic loose fibrefill insulation. Fibrecloud performs just as well as dry down as an insulator and much better than down when wet. However, it is heavier and does not compact down so well (which is probably why you cannot use one of the hand-warming pockets as a stuff sack).

As a result of this fill combination, the Jack Wolfskin Zenon XT Insulating Jacket weighs 425g for the large size - heavier than pure down filled insulating jackets - but not very heavy in the grand scheme of things.

To hold the insulation in place, The Jack Wolfskin Zenon XT Insulating Jacket adopts the common stitch-through construction technique. This method traps the insulation in a series of rows so it doesn't all fall to the bottom. The front has a lining as well trapping a layer of air between it and the insulation for added warmth. Overall I was unaware of any cold spots developing.

To test the warmth properties of The Jack Wolfskin Zenon XT Insulating Jacket I tried it in a number of different configurations on a cold February day (0C - 2C) in The Snowdonian Mountains.

Wearing the jacket over a single, wicking base layer, I started up the lower slopes of Aran Benllyn. As I climbed I soon overheated and had to take the jacket off.

Stopping for lunch on the summit I put the jacket back on over the top of my shell. It performed quite well at keeping me warm but I never really felt that comfortable. It was pretty cold though with a biting wind.

I then wore the Zenon XT as a mid-layer between my base layer and outer shell for walk along the ridge. This configuration seemed to me to offer the most comfort with the outer shell keeping me dry from the now falling snow and keeping me warm and comfortable without being too hot.

The outer fabric is made from Stormlock - a light, windproof, breathable and water resistant fabric developed by Jack Wolfskin. But it is only water resistant. Under prolonged rain, the jacket 'wetted out' and water soaked through to the down which then lost most of its insulating properties. And once wet, duck down does not perform anything like it does when it is dry. Furthermore, it took an absolute age to dry out so a separate weatherproof outer shell jacket is essential if any rain is forecast.

Buying Advice:

Overall, I like the Jack Wolfskin Zenon XT Insulating Jacket. When worn as part of a comprehensive layering system it is plenty warm enough for all but the harshest UK conditions. It may not be quite as warm as some of its compeititors - but at 140 it is not as expensive either - and it is certainly light enough to carry in the bottom of your rucksack for when the temperature suddenly plummets. Recomended.


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