When Nothing Else Matters
The development of the Citadel, Alpamayo and Fitzroy.
Ringing the Changes
Until 2021 the Citadel and Fitzroy Jackets had been in our range, relatively unchanged, for almost a decade: when you’ve got a formula which works, it’s hard to change it. But things move on.
When redeveloping staple products it’s easy to worry about what you might get wrong. We’ve had so much positive feedback about both the Fitzroy and Citadel that it’s easy to rerelease the product but change very little – maybe change the zip, the colour, change the lining fabric. But we wanted to completely revolutionise the world of full-on synthetic jackets. That meant there had to be new materials, there had to be new designs, and there had to be a women’s model whether it sold 30 units or 300.
We started work on the project back in 2018, making a prototype Citadel. We had a brand-new construction method, new materials, and we had a jacket out testing in Scotland for the whole winter season. The feedback was excellent: it was warm, comfortable, weatherproof, and lighter than the existing Citadel jacket. But then we were forced to change a fabric, we had to tweak the features, and suddenly we had a jacket that was heavier than our current one and that felt like you were wearing chainmail. Bombproof, just uncomfortable. Try again.
We continually ask our suppliers for stuff that they can’t provide us with. For two years we asked whether they could make us some vertically-lapped insulation, and every time the answer was ‘no’. We knew what was possible with this sort of material, but the market wasn’t yet ready for it. Then halfway through a meeting with PrimaLoft® they waved a sample under our nose, and we bit their arm off. We stuck some of the insulation in a test garment, sent it off to Scotland, and after three months of testing we knew we had the right stuff.
At the heart of the Citadel, Fitzroy and Alpamayo is a new Hi-Loft Ultra version of PrimaLoft® Gold. Hi-Loft Ultra is the vertically-lapped insulation we’d be looking for: the fibres are mostly orientated upwards in a unique accordion-like construction which allows it to trap more air for a given weight of fill and offer better recovery and mobility. The insulation has the perfect mix of durability, warmth, softness, and drape, making it easy to move in. As with any PrimaLoft® Gold, its use of silicone treated filaments ensures exceptional water resistance, while its aerogel-based Cross Core™ technology increases warmth.
Warm when wet is a misnomer, as nothing that’s soaking wet feels warm. Wouldn’t you rather just be dry? Water resistant fabrics are essential for big synthetic jackets, not just on the outside of your jacket but on exposed areas inside too. A GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ 30 denier outer shell fabric offers more durably weather-resistant protection than pretty much any equivalent fabric. It will happily fend off spindrift and melting snow whilst being completely windproof. As well as covering the outside of the jackets, it lines the hem and hood of the jackets, and the cuffs of the Citadel, to keep the insulation as dry as possible.
The F Word
As we always state, good materials are useless without good fit. You wear clothes, not insulation, and your clothing has to fit you, for what you want to use it for. The Fitzroy and women’s Alpamayo are sized to allow users to wear it year-round as their spare layer and so it fits well whether you wear it over just a t-shirt, or over all your winter layers. The hem doesn’t ride up with your arms overhead and the hood works with a helmet or without it. Cuffs fit over gloves but don’t billow over bare wrists.
With the Citadel, this is a full-blooded belay jacket. The fit is deliberately oversized to fit over all your other layers, and over a harness and rack, and it is longer to protect more of the body. The hood is as big as any hood we make, keeping the worst weather out. Despite its size it’s designed to offer full freedom of movement so when you’re seconding you can climb unencumbered.
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Layering for Scottish Winter
Layering clothing for Scottish winter climbing is really difficult. Very changeable weather and stop/start activities like climbing and belaying mean that clothing has a really hard job to keep you warm and comfortable. Also, the worst weather is often found a long way from the safety and respite of the car or civilisation: this isn’t the Alps where a hut or lift might be just round the corner!
The damp weather of Scotland is worth particular consideration, and so down jackets are generally not recommended as belay jackets, and you are usually better off with a synthetic jacket.