3.08.2009

Mont-bell Down Inner Modification

Of all my insulating jackets the Mont-bell down inner is my favourite. I love this piece of kit. At a shade over 200g it provides warmth way out of proportion to its weight. The numbers are crazy: just 55g of 800 fill down in a superlight, 150g , DWR treated nylon shell with high collar and full zip. Surprisingly for a Japanese garment the cut is also good. Although I need an XL (I'm usualy an L), the sleeves are super long. It's about the only piece of kit I've got that's long in the arms and that's very welcome. In combination with a 200g marino base layer, micro fleece and shell I'm comfortable sitting around camp down to 1 or 2 degrees. It also gives my sleeping system a welcome boost when bivvying high. Thats not to say it doesn't have its limitations, it does: as with all down clothing measures need to be taken to keep it dry, when the temperature dips down to freezing it puts me on the edge of my comfort zone and the zip is small, fidley and is left to right which makes zipping up with cold fingers tricky. However, of all its faults the worst is that it has no drawstring in the waste. Consequently, it hangs open at the bottom and any movement pushes hard-won warm air out at the waist. By my reconning this drasticaly reduces the efficiency of what is otherwise an impressively put together piece of clothing.


Late winter can be a grind in Holland. Grey, dismal, wet weather generally keeps me indoors since going outside in it doesn't pay back. Such weather wouldn't have the same effect on me in the right setting, the highlands for instance, since the pull of the landscape is sufficient to get me over the threshold. Such weather does however often encourage me to play with my kit. Sitting around at home on just such a dismal grey day I decided something had to be done about the shortcomings of my down inner. Taking a sharp knife I attacked the hem to make entry and exit holes (three in total: two adjacent to the zips and one at the vertical seam on the edge of the right hand side front pannel), then stitched around the incisions to prevent them becoming a god-awful unraveled mess in the near future. Then using an upholstery needle I threaded two lengths of fine elastic, one runing from the right hand zip to the exit hole at the seam and a longer one in the other direction from the left hand zip to the same exit hole. A few stitches where added to hold the elastic in place at the zipper ends and the two lengths of elastic were passed through a micro toggle and knotted together at the exit hole. Hey presto, a down inner with elasticated waist, and whats more, my kitchen scales don't register a weight change. I've not used it in anger yet but just noodling around in the garden suggests its quite an improvement.

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