I have been on the hunt for a synthetic vest for some time, the problem being I wanted one with a hood that would fit over a helmet. Enter Peter Hutchinson Designs (PHD), who agreed to incorporate the hood from their Sigma Jacket into their Sigma Vest.
Being a lightweight freak I wanted to use the vest as a synthetic insulation layer whilst Scottish winter climbing. The vest was going to replace my ‘heavy’ 550g synthetic jacket, the idea being it would just be enough to keep the cold at bay whilst hanging around on swift belays. I have always felt that just being warm enough whilst keeping weight to a minimum is a good compromise for a super light pack. The jacket packs down to the size of a grapefruit and comes with its own stuffsack.
Whilst climbing in Scotland this February we got a month of superb weather with the occasional traditional Scottish weather day which was great for putting the vest through its paces. PHD use some tried and tested materials, the Sigma being no different with a Thinsulate lining and their tightly woven M1 Microfibre outer fabric the vest is certainly upto the job. The hood was just about big enough to accommodate a large Petzl helmet although I found the zip was quite tight when synched right upto the chin. The vest worked well at locking in the valuable heat and cutting out the icey wind, I was also able to just brush the snow off the fabric with no worries about the insulation soaking up the moisture. With a total weight of 350g, don’t expect the M1 fabric to fend off too many fights with rough Cairngorm Granite. Even though there is no sign of wear yet, I suspect if not treated with care it won’t be long before a scuff or hole appears.
In Scotland it did everything I asked of it. The vest is, however, probably more suited as a warm midlayer for most climbers. If you are looking for a super lightweight belay vest though look no further but bare in mind the vest will suffer over successive Scottish seasons. If you’re looking for a bombproof jacket for 3 hours of belaying then a good compromise between weight and having a full belay jacket would be the Patagonia Micro Puff or Mountain Equipment Fitzroy.
Item: PHD Sigma Vest with Hood
Outer: M1 Microfibre
Size: Small (I am 5”7 and around 67kg)