The Kappa Hoody is described by Arcteryx as “ideal for active pursuits in freezing weather.” So, naturally, I first used the Kappa while somewhat “active” in “freezing weather,” aka walking our dog around the neighbourhood. I also used the jacket around town when heading to the bank, walking downtown or just going to the store. It was -30 for a week or so, and I figured this was sufficiently cold to properly test out the warmth capabilities. Given that I was nursing a shoulder and ankle injury, and as a result staying out of proper mountain environments, I didn’t have a chance to test it “out in the wild,” as it were.
To my surprise, and disappointment, I found a slew of issues that caused me to seriously consider selling the Kappa (I even posted an ad, thought somewhat half-heartedly.) The jacket felt much too roomy through the chest and lower hem, creating drafts of cold air; the chin guard rubbed my face constantly; and the jacket didn’t feel anywhere close to how warm I felt it should be. Not cool.
Then, on a whim, I decided to take it out climbing and discovered that the Kappa Hoody is an awesome belay parka. Turns out this jacket is “ideal for inactive pursuits, aka belaying, in freezing weather.” Since that first day, I’ve taken it out on every trip, from a casual snowshoe to long days climbing.
Generous hood, a high, protective collar and reinforced high-use areas (darker patches). And no, I haven’t gained weight – there are multiple pairs of gloves in the giant mesh inside pockets!
All the features that nagged me in town disappeared once on the ice: the jacket is roomy enough so it fits over all my active layers; the wide hem easily fits, zips up and cinches tight over a harness packed with ice screws and other gear, keeping my ass warm and the drafts out; the roomy inside mesh pockets swallow gloves and water bottles, and the roomy cut still allows me to perform belay duties without constricting in the shoulders; the giant hood fits over my helmet and the two (or three) other hoods I typically have on; the stiff chin guard, with a soft fleece lining, lets me hide my nose out of the cold; the double zipper and hem snap reveal my belay device and the tough outer feels like it will withstand many a cold belay snuggled up against sharp Rockies limestone. Add in the fact that my Blaze Orange model must be visible from space, and I am now one very happy climber.
Long back and wide hem easily cover my ass and a harness with all the usual ice climbing paraphernalia attached (screws, draws, belay device, etc.) Elastic in the hem seals out drafts.
So, on to the details. The Kappa is insulated with 140g/m Coreloft, which is a proprietary Arcteryx synthetic insulation that is ridiculously warm for it’s weight, very breathable and extremely compressible. The outer shell has Windstopper laminate to keep out the wind and features reinforced arms, shoulders and hood, conveniently the areas most subject to tearing when leaning against a rock face. The inside is a light nylon liner that has, so far, resisted jabs from sharp ice screws and pointy tools. The hood is insulated, adjustable and absolutely massive – it easily slides over my Meteor III as well as three or four other hoods – while at the same time can tighten down snugly over a bare helmet.
Dual zipper and snap hem keep the jacket low to keep in warmth, while revealing your belay device – handy for those cold belays!
There are two fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, which I’ve never actually used in a jacket of this type, a Napoleon-style pocket useful for warming up snacks or keeping the camera dry, and the aforementioned inside mesh pockets, each big enough to fit a pair of mitts.
My size Medium weighs in at 761 grams (vs the Arcteryx claimed 759 grams – I’ll take that as within tolerances), which is quite respectable for a jacket of this type.
As long as I’m using the Kappa in the mountains I can’t find much to fault this jacket with. The two hand pockets could be eliminated. The chin guard could be a little higher, the better to hide my nose behind. Due to the tough outer fabric it’s not the most compressible, or lightest, jacket out there but will stand up to abuse better.
Giant inside pockets swallow multiple pairs of gloves, water bottles, snacks or anything else you might want to stash. The generous cut means that even fully stuffed, the jacket is not restrictive of movement.
I’d love to see a version with lighter face fabric, a la the Atom LT / SV series, or better yet, a dedicated belay style parka using two layers of Coreloft, a la the Dually. But until either of these two show up, I’ll be bringing the Kappa along on mountain adventures.
Pros: warm, roomy, snap-hem, dual-zipper, generous & insulated hood
Cons: not as light as it could be, superfluous pockets
Overall: Great! I love this thing and bring it with me everywhere. Though it could be lighter…
Long Term Update
I’ve now been using the Kappa for almost a year and despite scratching against rocks, being tossed around during belays, and even stepped on with crampons, there isn’t a scratch on it. The DWR is still in great shape: water beads up on it as if it were a hardshell. The CoreLoft insulation doesn’t appear to have lost any of its warmth, even after being crammed and compressed into tiny spaces. In short, after months of hard use, I’ve yet to find any issues with this jacket. It hasn’t even gotten that dirty!
All images courtesy of Mark Cosslett.