Big Agnes Hole in the Wall Jacket
$220, 14 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
When I unzipped my sleeping bag after a night spent under the stars at nearly 11,000 feet by Columbine Lake in Sequoia National Park in August, I wasn’t thinking about what’s inside the new Hole in the Wall Jacket. Cocooned warmly inside my bag, I had been hammered by strong gusts all night; and with that cold wind still blowing when I woke up, I didn’t want to get out of it. But I pulled on this fat puffy and all but forgot about the wind—reminding me that sometimes the characteristics that make for a good puffy jacket are what you can’t see.
The Hole in the Wall also kept me warm in temps from the mid-teens to the 30s from Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument last March to Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness in July. So what makes it different from the scores of hoodless, three-season puffy jackets on the market? Big Agnes gave it a couple of technologies common in its high-end down sleeping bags: Insotect Flow vertical baffles, which distribute heat more efficiently than traditional, horizontal baffles (because, the company says, the body naturally distributes heat vertically rather than horizontally); and Flow Gates to eliminate down shifting, which can produce cold spots.
Ultimately, though, a puffy jacket’s warmth also comes down to the amount and quality of what’s stuffed inside it. The Hole in the Wall contains six ounces of 700-fill, water-resistant DownTek feathers. That fill rating means the down isn’t quite as compressible or as expensive as, say, 800-fill down. But I found the jacket lofts up almost instantly and was warm enough over only a midweight base layer when the mercury slipped below freezing; I added a fleece vest only when the temp dropped into the mid-20s. In a light rain in the backcountry of Capitol Reef, the water-resistant down showed no sign of losing loft or suffering compromised warmth from the dampness.
The vertical baffles help create a form-fitting cut that doesn’t rise up when you lift your arms. The lightweight microfiber shell is wind and water-resistant. The jacket sports nice details: the zipper never snags, and there are three roomy inside pockets and two warm, zippered, hand pockets, plus a soft lining inside the collar. Well constructed, with a good warmth-to-weight ratio, the Hole in the Wall Jacket is perfect for three-season trips where you might see temps below freezing. For people who prefer having a hood on a puffy jacket, Big Agnes offers the men’s and women’s Shovelhead Jacket, $250.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.