I took The North Face’s Red Blaze gilet on a month-long trip to America this summer and found it light, easy to pack and great to throw on for a bit of warmth in cooler conditions or to wear as an extra mid layer when it got really cold.
It’s a synthetic jacket that uses 100g PrimaLoft Eco insulation for its warmth. PrimaLoft Eco is, as the name implies, environmentally friendly and uses approximately six recycled bottles per garment. The idea is that the fine fibres form tiny air pockets that trap body heat and keep the cold out, for warmth without the bulk. It’s certainly not bulky, and it weighs just 307g in a size 12. Another bonus of PrimaLoft Eco is that it’s water resistant, so you don’t need to panic if you get caught in a rain shower – which I did in Alaska regularly – and the jacket is treated with a Durable Water Repellent which adds to this.
The gilet has three pockets – two handwarmers with tags on the zips to make them easy to operate when you’re wearing gloves, and one external chest pocket for valuables. The chest pocket is very discreet, which is good for security when travelling as well as the jacket’s looks. The gilet stashes into its left-hand pocket but this means the pocket has a large lining inside it, making it difficult to keep stuff in there – over the month I wore the gilet, I only stowed it into its own pocket once, but I was regularly annoyed by the pocket’s lining. It packs down nice and small though, and once packed away there’s a tag so you can clip it to a rucksack or similar.
The gilet fit me nicely – it’s sleek while allowing a good range of movement for anything from kayaking to pitching a tent – and there’s easily enough room for a couple of layers under it too. It has toggles at the hem so you can adjust it there if necessary, and there’s an insulated collar for warmth at the neck. If you own a lot of The North Face clothing, it can be zipped into a number of the company’s outer layers. It only comes in black but that’s just fine for me; I really like how the jacket looks.
This isn’t a gilet for the coldest conditions, but it’s a light, packable and comfortable jacket that can be worn as a mid-layer or an outer layer.
In a line: Lightweight, not too bulky and a great looking gilet.