Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Keela Belay Jacket Review

 
Introduction
 
Keela  have now split the Belay Jacket into two variants, an Advance Jacket which is back to basics. And an all singing and dancing version, the Pro Jacket. The older version I am reviewing here, a pre 2013 single variant, was purchased in September 2011 and has had extensive use. I've used it for work nearly every day, especially in the winter. Or around camp when I am off in the Lake District, Dales, or where ever.
 
 
A doorman discovered in the Peak District

First Impressions
 
The jacket is a mid-weight thermal insulation layer. There is a thin nylon outer layer, a soft inner lining with insulation in-between. I bought a size extra large, which for me, with something around a 48 inch chest, it fits nicely. There is room for a light to mid weight base layer underneath without issue. The styling of the jacket isn't there, it is purely functional. I bought a black jacket and I have to say it makes me look like a doorman.
 
 
 

Features
 
The outer material of the jacket is Keela's Flylite Rip-stop material. It encases Primaloft One synthetic insulation. There is a good sized collar that extends well up your neck. The cuffs are adjustable with Velcro tabs which I find I have never had to re-adjust. The hem of the jacket uses elastic, with no adjustment.
 
There are two good sized zipped side pockets with a fleecy liner and a single, small pocket on the inside left of the jacket. There is a full length front zipper that is one way only.
 


The cut of the jacket is what I would call generous, no active cut here. I'm 5' 10" and the length is good with the rear of the jacket covering around two thirds of my posterior.
 
Weight wise, it certainly has some. It's not ridiculous at just above half a kilo, but it is roughly a third heavier than my RAB Generator. So for the gram counters it may be an issue. The Keela site states 0.574kg, but doesn't say for which size this refers. A large RAB Generator is 402 grams.
 
In Use
 
The jacket is warm, not quite there with a RAB Generator jacket, especially considering the Generators lower weight. But it's not far off. But unlike the Generator, the Keela Belay is pretty tough. I've used the jacket primarily for travel to work, around camp and on occasional walks.
 
Around camp, it is warm enough for cool nights and has coped well with camp chores. I like to use camp sites where fire pits are used, or fires are permitted. This creates sparks, fire and embers, all things a nylon jacket hates. I have only sustained two small holes on the jacket up to now. I'm not sure this is down to the ability of the jacket to shrug off every ember. But since my skills are about average I think this would be the same for most people.
 
Out walking, I find the jacket a little less useful. Although the pockets are quite high, I still find they get in the way of my rucksacks waist belt. The jacket is hard wearing enough to take heavy packs though. I tend to use it for winter walks around forested areas so I don't have to worry about tearing my lighter more fragile jackets. I've been out in some pretty heavy rain for extended periods and I have stayed warm and dry. It's not ideal to use the jacket in this way all the time as it gets heavy when soaked, and won't keep you dry forever. But it is nice to know that if it has to, it will hold up to some fairly harsh conditions.
 
I have only one major issue with the Keela Belay jacket, the pockets. The zips constantly snag on the material. So I have to always take great care when opening or closing the zips. It's not a deal breaker when considering the price, but it can get quite annoying at times.

Conclusion
 
Back in 2011 I paid around £42 for my belay jacket from a well known Internet retailer. The current variants range around the £70 mark, with prices as low as £55. So shopping around is advised. It isn't the best belay jacket you can buy, but at the price, it is good value. It's my most used jacket, and I would buy another if it ever wears out.