Winter walking demands excellent insulation. The Snugpak SV9 reviewed here is the latest gilet from the excellent British gear manufacturer. When choosing a Winter gilet you need to see if it will keep you warm on the coldest of days and work with other layers, so we put it to the test on a couple of long winter sessions.
Snugpak is one of those intriguing small British companies that deliver specialist gear. Started more than 40 years ago, they became hugely popular in military circles for their Sleeka/Softie jackets and tiny sleeping bags; at the time there really wasn’t anything issued that was as comfortable, packable and as warm. Consequently the company sold a truckload of them.
But why buy a gilet?
To date I’ve owned, used and reviewed all manner of layers but this is my first look at a gilet. I have to admit I never saw the point! Gilets are intended to be activity jackets: not having sleeves gives you freedom of movement, it also saves on weight and size while still delivering you core warmth.Snugpak utilise the range of Paratex fabrics and Softie fills
Snugpak SV9 Gilet reviewed: the materials
Snugpak have long championed Paratex as an outer fabric. They’ve shod the SV9 here with Paratex Micro. If you’re new to the materia, it’s a hard wearing, water repellent and closely constructed fabric that remains soft to the touch (it was this distinct outer layer, and small pack sizes, that made the company’s sleeping bags so popular with the military).
Snugpak’s ‘Softie’ insulation claims to trap more warm air than other insulation thanks to using really fine fibres that are randomised in the construction. The filing in the Snugpak SV9 gilet is their latest ‘Premium line’. The claim is that this filing will keep warmth even when wet.
The SV9 is also lined with Paratex, this time it’s Paratex light, which helps wick moisture away from the body, but still has windproof qualities.
Snugpak SV9 Reviewed: first impressions
Of the shelf the finish is excellent and equal to products way more expensive. The full-length weather proofed zip is a smart move, although I would prefer a tighter fit of the main zippers. The outer Paratex material does have an unexpected shine; the jacket is neatly tailored and surprisingly long in the back.It’s a chunky piece of kit and more bulky than in the images here
However, the Snugpak SV9 reviewed here does feels bulky. Actually, ‘boxy’ would be a better description. It’s a big bit of gear and it’s not apparent just how this jacket would pack well into a smaller rucksack. Still, it feels light. Testament to good design and modern materials, Snugpak have a jacket that feels huge while weighing in at 490g (in large).
The material panels are well stitched together and the overall first impression is good. I also like the ‘V’ shaped panel construction on the rear which ads a welcome feature to the one colour finish.
Fit and sizing
Here’s where I think there’s real issues to be had, especially if you buy online and/or you’re new to gilets. These are jackets designed to fit close. Gilets like this one help trap as much heat as possible, but can’t have a draft running through them. I’d definitely get to a store before choosing a Winter gilet and buying one online. Too tight across the front and you’ll feel restricted when active, too loose and you’ll have drooping pits (never nice).Great panel details and long back on the SV9 but take care to get the right fit.
With some tinkering and toggling I got the fit right, but it’s a gamble not trying before you buy. I found the Snugpak SV9 reviewed here a touch tight across the chest but not restrictive, and importantly the jacket’s armpits drop deep enough so as to not restrict arm movement.
Minor fit issues aside I was keen to see just how well this jacket lived up to the brand’s envious reputation for specialist gear. For that I needed some winter weather and biting wind.
Wearing and using the Snugpak SV9
Not a great start, as I found it awkward to pack. I’m used to compressing gear, something which I find easy with my current down-filled mid-layer.
Perhaps Snugpak could consider providing a compression sack? I fashioned an advanced solution, using the latest in plastic bag and elastic band technology. So, for me the boxy shape hinders packing. Still, out on the ground I was really impressed with the Snugpak SV9 gilet reviewed here: the thermal qualities were excellent, helped by the high neck, long back and toggles all round to tighten up the fit.
Feels odd at first to carry a rucksack over a gilet
I used it as a stop jacket on a couple of bitterly cold winter days and it cut off wind and trapped heat super quickly. Shivering and stripped to just a thin base layer I threw it on, zipped it up tight and felt my temperature return to normal rapidly. The fierce wind forced me to top the jacket with a lightweight waterproof, but only to keep the wind chill off my arms – the SV9 was protecting my core very well on its own.
By combining a filing that holds warmth when wet and a having a water repellent layer over the top, Snugpak has made the SV9 much more than just an insulation layer: It’s a quality piece of outdoor equipment, ideal for testing conditions.
Snugpak SV9 reviewed with a rucksack
At first it feels awkward to carry a rucksack over the gilet, but only in the same way it’s odd to have a jacket with no arms…I’d also prefer to have a layer between the SV9 and my rucksack, especially with carrying heavier loads. Perhaps this is unnecessary and I’m being over protective of the fabric – and maybe this isn’t exactly what the jacket’s designed for. Still, when I’m outdoors I almost always have a rucksack with me so feel this is a relevant point, if like me you are new to gilets.
Walking uphill and walking hard, the SV9 does its job too well.Before you know it it’ll be back inside your rucksack, waiting to work its magic at your next rest stop.
This highlights the issue with the added warmth of the SV9: you need to match it to the environment and task at hand or it might leave you cooking.
- Technical build, materials and finish – I don’t think you can find better quality at this price.
- Long back and high neck – Insulated from your backside right up to your chin you feel totally protected.
- Paratex surface and Softie combination – The windproof outer and latest incarnation of the Softie insulation cut wind and trap heat so quickly.
We Didn’t Like
- The main zippers – they could secure better.
- Pocket linings – Paratex light is a functional fabric, but not so pleasant as a pocket lining.
- Bulk and pack — the SV9 feels awkward to pack down – a symptom of the panel design perhaps, and easily solved with a compression sack.
I like the SV9 more than I should… that’s because despite not really being a fan of gilets, there’s no denying how good this product is.
Having said that, I’m not yet convinced if I’d choose it over a down jacket. There’s no disputing how warm and well made it is – I’m just not sure how I’ll use it. My issue is if I really need a layer to keep warm after the event, I’ll probably look at having one with arms too.
I can see it being great if you’re working outdoors in very cold conditions, perhaps in forestry or security and need the freedom of movement, or even in a more casual setting if you like the style.
If you are choosing a Winter gilet, I’d strongly recommend you look at the SV9. Style and minor niggles aside, the only real downside to this gilet is that in some climates it could be too warm, especially if you are really active.
The SV9 Gilet (RRP £89.95) is available in five colours from Snugpak along with the slightly less toasty SV3 Gilet (RRP £84.95).