Sub Zero’s down jacket is the Swiss army knife of thermals. It’s versatile, packs up small, is lightweight, packed with pockets and features and perfect for what we need. It’s the only thermal we carry and the only one we need.
Sub Zero Thermal Jacket Review
- Price: £169.99
- Time tested: 8 months at time of writing
- Testing conditions: From the Kazbegi Glaciers of Georgia to freezing mountain passes in Tajikistan. Worldwide, camping, motorcycling, trekking and hiking.
- Durability: 5⁄5
- Fit and comfort: 5⁄5
- Looks: 4⁄5
- Value for money: 4⁄5
- Where to buy: amazon.co.uk/subzero
About the gear and how we use it
Sub Zero is a British firm who specialise in thermal gear from lightweight base-layer thermals to mid and outer layer clothing. The jacket we’ve been testing is their insulated down jacket, which can be used as a mid or outer layer. We chose this jacket as it’s perfect for our needs.
We wear it under our motorbike jackets when the temperature plummets (double it with a heated jacket and you’re unstoppable!) and we also wear it as an outer jacket when hiking up mountains. And it can be packed up into a small stuff sack and chucked in our pannier bag when not in use.
Sub Zero say the jacket is made using ‘polyamide mini ripstop shell fabric that is extremely breathable, windproof and water repellent’ and filled with ‘the finest grade of ethically sourced European hydrophobic goose down and feathers to a composition of 90/10’. They also say the jackets have a total down content of 132g making them one of the warmest in their class.
The jacket comes with an inside pocket, a chest pocket and two hand pockets, all are zipped and there’s an additional non-zipped elasticated interior pocket too. The main zip runs all the way up to the chin (which has a soft material protector at the top for the chin) and the zip run has a wind protector flap running behind it. The cuffs are elasticated and the waist uses a drawstring to tighten it up to your body making for a snug fit. It also has a slightly longer lower back drop, which stops the cold from biting your lower back when sitting down or riding.
We needed a single, versatile jacket that we could use in a variety of situations on this trip. After much consideration we went for the Sub Zero down jacket and we’re so glad we did. Here’s why.
We needed a thermal that could be used under a motorcycle jacket, and used as an outer jacket when hiking, pack away small when not in use, be waterproof, windproof and breathable and light – all at the same time. And the Sub Zero met the challenge.
We use the jacket as a mid-layer under our bike jacket. It’s soft, lightweight, not bulky, compresses exceptionally well and keeps the warmth in. When the weather dropped to -15C we just zipped on our Sub Zero, instead of having to put half a dozen thin layers on and feel restricted in our bike gear. The extended lower back meant that it could also be tucked into our trousers and protect our lower backs as we were riding. The high neck and chin guard is also much appreciated on cold days and the elasticated cuffs mean the sleeves don’t ride up our arms when putting big motorbike jackets over it.
But as well as riding, we also needed a jacket that would act as our outer layer on a daily basis when hiking and trekking. And the Sub Zero has been perfect for that. When hiking to the Kazbegi mountains in the north of Georgia we wore the Sub as our outer layer, where it battled strong winds and rain. The material is waterproof but the stitchings aren’t, it is a thermal first and foremost so for full-on rainy days you’ll need a proper rain jacket as well. But for the odd shower it holds up well and dries fast. If the temperature really drops then you can easily wear base or mid-layer thermals underneath too, as the fit allows for extra garments.
Packing up small
As we’re motorcycling round-the-world, the temperature changes drastically and we can go weeks without any cold weather. So, the final necessary criteria was that the jacket packs up small and can be put away when not in use. The Sub comes with a drawstring stuff sack, and when packed up is light and easy to store in our bags. We started the trip with a big bundle of thermals which took up too much space. Now we only have this.
We tried dozens of jackets before settling on the Sub Zero. Alissa in particular noticed that many of the other jackets were far more flattering and fashionable with more of a waistline. But we decided to opt for function and practicality over that (thankfully). But style may be more important to some people and so it’s worth noting.
The only other thing is the hefty price tag, you’re paying a premium but getting a quality product in return. In eight months of near continuous use, ours show no signs of wear and tear, no damage to the stitching, all zips work perfectly with no snags and the jackets look like the day we got them. And that’s after wearing them through snow covered forests, on the motorbikes, to walk around town, hike mountains and clamber through ravines. They’ve had a hard life so far and haven’t failed to impress.
However, the stuff sack drawstring did break on both our jackets and we had to tie them back up.
Sub Zero’s down jacket is the Swiss army knife of thermals. It’s versatile, packs up small, lightweight, packed with pockets and features and perfect for what we need. We wear it under our motorbike jackets, where it compresses and allows us to move around freely.
It packs up small when not in use and saves so much space. It works brilliantly as an outer jacket for cold mountain hikes. And we wear it as our everyday jacket when walking around town. It’s the only thermal we carry and the only one we need.
UPDATE: We’ve now had these jackets for a year and a half and couldn’t be happier with them. They’ve proved to be extremely durable, easy to clean, super lightweight and we’ve had no problems with them. We highly recommend these SubZero thermal jackets.
Sub Zero Thermal Jacket Review: Total score: 18⁄20
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10 thoughts on “Sub Zero Lightweight Down Jacket Review”
This was exactly what I was looking for. Today I found a 450$ Mountain Hardwear jacket (parka) for 100$, which I spontaneously bought for this exact use and because of the price. Im from Norway, and ride 10 out of 12 months a year. Its their warmest jacket, and its slightly puffier than the one you review here. People use it at expeditions when its way below freezing, so it might be too hot. Thats exactly my question, when packing a jacket like this, to use at those cold nights at camp or as a thermal and windproof liner, can there be such a thing as «too hot». I ask because I have no experience with this, and can return my item within 30 days.
What do you think? Thanks!
Hi Johannes, thanks for your comment.
Good question, it depends on the jacket itself. Is this Mountain Hardwear jacket compressible? If it’s their warmest jacket and a parka then I imagine it to be quite big and bulky?
With this Subzero jacket, and others like it, if you put the material between your finger and thumb you can almost touch them together. So, you can imagine how well it can compress against your body.
I say this because the aim of the game with retaining heat while motorcycling is layering. If your jacket is too big and bulky then it’s going to be way too difficult to get a base and another mid-layer under your new jacket and then your bike jacket over the top, so it won’t be suitable for riding and would be too big to just have in your bag for camping.
Also, if it is a parka then perhaps it’s not as breathable, what is the outer shell like? If it isn’t a mid-layer and is actually more of an outer layer then you’ll very quickly start to sweat.
In both of the above cases, yes it would be too hot.
If, however, it is very compressible and does pack up very small, and doesn’t have a laminate outer material, then I’d say go for it.
I hope this helps! Cheers,
Hey Andy, thanks so much for the thorough answer!
The jacket does pack up really small, almost like a tennis ball. I’m going to return it, because its a bit too bulky under my riding jacket, but just slightly. It wouldve been an awesome jacket to put on at camp on colder nights, but if it cant work as a thermal liner too, I’d been carrying two down jackets, which kinda defeats the purpose.
I’m glad I asked the question, it made me realise what I needed. Your reply and good post were a lot of help!
No problem and I’m glad I could help!
If you have any more questions about anything like this in future, please feel free to ask away or shoot me an email.
Cheers and all the best,
I wondered how the sizing works for you. E.g. Are you usually a medium and a medium is right for you?
Thanks very much,
Hi Henry, yes that’s right. I’m usually a medium and went for a medium. Because it’s a mid-layer it’s not like a normal jacket where you want a bit of room in there to fit jumpers etc underneath. You want it relatively close to your body with enough space to get a couple of light thin base and mid layers in if needed. But most importantly is comfort, if it’s in anyway tight (especially around the elbow and chest) then you’ll need to go up a size, and that won’t be a problem either because it’s compressible, your outer bike jacket will push it closer to you anyway.
Hope that makes sense and helps!
Sub Zero have these on sale, £50.99 each, or if you sign up for the news letter 10% off so only £45.90 ?
Ordered mine ?
Hey Tony, thanks for the heads up on the sale! That’s a pretty good deal. Cheers.
That’s why I asked about the sizing (in an earlier thread). It’s a great deal but I am a Large and they only have X-Large left! Frustrating…
They had 2xl when I posted about them being on sale, though not in every colour, think it was only in blue.
It’s snug, but I am carrying some extra lockdown padding, lol