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.

At 350g the vest packs down super small

At 350g the vest packs down super small

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.

Just enough warmth for a cold belay - Ménage a Troix, Glencoe

Just enough warmth for a cold belay – Ménage a Troix, Glencoe

The vest easily fending off snow and wind - Glencoe

The vest easily fending off snow and wind – Glencoe

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

Weight: 350g

Insulation: Thinsulate

Outer: M1 Microfibre

Size: Small (I am 5”7 and around 67kg)

3 Responses to “PHD Sigma Vest”

  1. Gear Check : Steve Holmes | Blog | Breo.com

    […] Once established underneath a route I know the movement will be allot slower and hence will need more layers. First on is my Patagonia Capilene 4 Expedition Hoody which allows me to ditch my hat in exchange for a hood that sits nicely under my helmet. It also has handy thumb loops to make sure the sleeves don’t ride up your wrists. Ontop of that goes my Patagonia Nano Puff Hybrid Jacket which is a blend of R2 fleece and PrimaLoft synthetic insulation. The fleece is located in high output areas where you tend to sweat more and the synthetic insulation runs down the arms and chest. This top is one of the best bits of kit I have used but it isn’t the warmest – good motivation to move a little quicker! My shell layer which acts as the final piece of armour is my Patagonia Knifeblade Pullover. I think allot of this top which you can read about in my review HERE. I like to think of these layers as my action suit that’s just about warm enough for climbing in the lead. When I am hanging around on belays I throw my PHD Sigma Vest over the top, again I have reviewed the item HERE. […]


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