A synthetic belay jacket is a crucial piece of kit for winter mountain pursuits in the UK. James Parkinson gives us the lowdown on the Barrier II Pro Belay Jacket from Haglöfs…
Let’s face it; belaying isn’t the most fun aspect of climbing. Standing at the base of the crag while your mate dangles interminably from the same bolt on a sport route (“I’ll just try this move again!”) or embracing the suffering on some freezing cold, spindrift-blasted ledge in Scotland isn’t most right thinking people’s idea of a good time. Belay duty can be made much more pleasant (or at least less unpleasant) with the addition of a decent insulated jacket. In the UK, the climate is more often than not on the damp side and so down isn’t the best option. Better to go for a jacket with synthetic insulation, such as the Haglöfs Barrier Pro II Belay Jacket.
The Barrier Pro II Belay Jacket uses QuadFusion+ insulation, a synthetic polyester fibre which comes from 100% recycled materials and weighs 100g per square metre. I found this plenty warm enough for everything I needed and I wore the jacket belaying on grit trad, between attempts on boulder problems as well as belaying on continental ice falls in the middle of a snowstorm. It even coped with the winter commute!
The outer shell of the jacket is made of DWR treated Pertex Quantum which feels pretty light and silky to the touch but seems fairly tough in use. No holes in it yet! The shoulders and sleeves are reinforced with a slightly thicker version of the fabric (30D as opposed to 20D in the body) and this works well. In light rain, I found that water beaded up on the surface of the jacket and on many occasions, I chose to wear it instead of a full on shell jacket. Of course, in heavy rain you will get wet but you’ll stay warm.
For a jacket designed to go over all your clothes (throw it over your shell layer on the stance), I found the sizing to be slightly on the small size so I’d recommend trying before you buy. That said, the hood is massive and fits very easily over a helmet. The three way adjustable bungee cords work well, although the one on the back of the hood is exposed so may catch on things.
The full length zip can be opened from the bottom for ease of access to your harness – somewhat standard issue nowadays but by no means universal. There are two large chest pockets that easily fit a guidebook as well as two hand warmer pockets. The cuffs are elasticated which makes a nice seal from the elements but can make getting the jacket on and off slightly difficult when wearing bulky gloves. I would have preferred a Velcro adjuster but others might not.
The hem draw cord keeps everything neat and can be adjusted at both sides of the hips with one hand. A stuff sack (non-integrated) is supplied but unfortunately this doesn’t have a clip loop, so I had to use another to clip the jacket to my harness while climbing. A small thing, but could have easily been sorted.
The Barrier Pro II Belay Jacket is available in Noble Blue/Firefly (kind of purple and lime) or a more subtle Magnetite. Either way, it is a very good (barring a couple of niggles) synthetic jacket that I’ll be pulling on when the spindrift starts firing!