Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket 2020 Review
Finally, a synthetic jacket that’s warm enough, light enough & compact enough!
As you know we are huge down fans here at Adventure Alan. But we’re pleased to say that we’ve found a light synthetic puff jacket, the Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket, that comes close to down for warmth & compressibility but adds a margin of wet weather protection not offered by down. It will be going on a lot more future trips with us.
The Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket is an ultralight, synthetic insulated jacket from Minnesota-based company Enlightened Equipment. While it’s true that we normally love down insulation, in this case, the Torrid APEX is absolutely comparable, and this lofty synthetic insulation has some serious benefits over down. On top of the lightweight warmth, this jacket is also very reasonably priced, coming in at $170, which is less than or equal to most comparable down jackets on the market. And in our opinion besting the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody Insulated Jacket for weight, cost, and edging it out on warmth.
A Warm, Light Do It All Jacket
We recently field-tested Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket for two weeks of guiding in the canyons of Utah. We had conditions ranging from a balmy 60 degrees to below freezing and with some wind and light rain. The warmth and flexibility of the jacket handled all conditions including allowing us to leave our mid-layer at home — using the Torrid Jacket for both functions — something most jackets can’t do! Read on for our full review of the Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket.
Full Video Review of Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket
If a picture is worth a 1,000 words what is a comprehensive video of the jacket review worth? There’s stuff in here that we can’t begin to cover in worlds.
Torrid APEX Pants too!
When the temps get really cold, and you are standing around camp on a long, dark winter night nothing beats a pair of warm pants. The Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Pants are only 5.5 ounces but oh so warm! Pair them with the Torrid Jacket and the combo weighs only 14 oz about the same as fleece shirt, or most folks rain jackets BUT the combo blows away the fleece for warmth.
Key Specs* | Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket
Design: Hooded, synthetic insulated jacket with a full zipper and zippered hand pockets
Features: Hood with drawcord, elastic cuffs and hem, water-resistant face fabric, slightly larger size to accommodate layers
Weight: 8.4 ounces | 238 grams
Face Fabric: Ultralight nylon
Insulation: CLIMASHIELD™ APEX synthetic insulation,
Treatment: DWR treatment on face fabric
Key Features | Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex Jacket
Synthetic CLIMASHIELD™ APEX insulation: One of the key benefits of synthetic insulation is that it maintains insulating properties even when wet. However, one of the main drawbacks of synthetic insulation over down is that the synthetic is typically much bulkier. But this model is ultralight and warm. With the Torrid APEX, you get the benefits of lightweight and loft without the fear of saturating the jacket and losing all of the insinuating properties.
Elastic cuffs and hem: The elastic cuffs and hem help keep the cold and wind out, and the hem can be cinched shut to keep out any blowing snow. Mittens or gloves fit nicely over the cuffs, but be aware they can feel a bit tight sometimes.
Zippered hand pockets: Sometimes ultralight gear loses some of the “extra” features, but the Torrid Apex manages to keep the zippered hand pockets and the full-length zipper on the jacket. The zipper pulls are tiny and the zipper itself is minuscule, but we haven’t noticed any snagging or failure in the zipper or the pulls.
Deep hood: For ultralight hikers who use a quilt, having a hood on your insulated jacket is pretty important since you don’t have the hood on a mummy bag for extra heat retention. This jacket is a great example of a well-designed piece of ultralight gear that keeps the most important features while not having extra weight to carry.
About Enlightened Equipment
Enlightened Equipment came onto the backpacking scene in 2007, and grew in popularity as one of the original makers of backpacking quilts, an alternative to the traditional mummy bags. The Enlightened Equipment Revelation and the Enigma are two of the most popular backpacking quilts on the market. We are huge fans of their two person Accomplice Quilt, which we’ve reviewed here.
Enlightened Equipment Clothing
Enlightened Equipment is known for its customization options, quality construction, and ultralight ethos. All of their gear is made at their location in Minnesota. A few years ago, Enlightened Equipment began designing and offering a few ultralight apparel layers to accompany their quilt and sleeping bag offerings. And we previously loved their new 2020 Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket with Pit Zips. At 5.4 oz, the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket is one of the very lightest WP/B rain jackets on the market. It features a super breathable 3-layer custom Toyota fabric (75,000 g/m2/24h) — the highest spec’ we’ve seen in a rain jacket.
Overview of the 2020 Torrid APEX
The Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX is the only insulated jacket offering from Enlightened Equipment. It stands out in the crowd for being a warm, lightweight jacket packed with a lofty CLIMASHIELD™ APEX synthetic insulation housed by a lightweight DWR-treated nylon face fabric. This jacket is ideal for ultralight backpackers, and can be used as an active mid-layer as well, thanks to the breathable fabric and synthetic insulation that doesn’t lose insulating properties if you sweat in it. Having a light, warm, reliable layer is imperative for cold nights at camp, guiding, or anything where you’re going to be stationary.
We save weight by using this as a mid-layer as well, and it’s ideal for excursions where the weather might be damp or rainy. This is a very slimmed down model. It doesn’t have anything you don’t need, and it’s very compact for a synthetic jacket—the synthetic insulation compresses so much it’s almost comparable to down as far as size goes, and definitely comparable as far as weight goes.
What’s Great About This Jacket
Below we list the best features that make the Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket standout.
Ultralight but very warm
One of the biggest downsides to traditional synthetically insulated garments and gear is how bulky and heavy they are compared to down. This jacket really does feel like the best of both worlds, with lofty, warm insulation that you don’t have to panic about keeping dry.
Water resistant face fabric and durable insulation
We love not having to worry about keeping the insulation super protected, and the fact that the face fabric is DWR-treated means an extra layer of protection over the insulation. And of course, the Climashield APEX synthetic insulation adds a greater margin of precipitation resistance vs. down. In this case enough that we left our midlayer at home.
Can be used as a midlayer & warm/puffy layer
We have had good luck with leaving the mid-layer at home and just wearing this jacket on the move and at camp. While we typically don’t like to hike in a down jacket, synthetic can be a wicking layer and will maintain insulating properties even when it gets wet.
We love the warm, full-sized hood
For us, the hood pretty much makes the jacket. It adds significant warmth and wind resistance for exposed campsites and windy ridges. And because we sleep mostly in quilts which lack hood, the hood on our puffy jacket does double duty as a hood for a quilt when things get cold at night.
Sized for layering
If you’re out in the shoulder season or winter, you’re going to need layers. This jacket falls somewhat in the middle of fit. It’s sized up a bit for layering underneath, but it doesn’t feel ridiculous to put a shell or rain jacket over it for extra wind and rain protection. It’s an excellent layering piece, and comfortable to wear on the move.
Zippered hand warmer pockets
Many jackets at this weight forgo handwarmer pockets to save weight and garment complexity. But our chronically cold hands love these toasty pockets. They’re also great to store camp essentials — and the zippers make sure important stuff doesn’t randomly fall out.
Can be customized or stock
If you don’t mind a lead time, you can pick your custom colors for both the outside and the lining fabric, with dozens of combinations in earth tones or bright jewel tones. There are also stock models available if you’d rather get your jacket faster.
Recommendations for Improvement
Below are some suggestions of what would make the Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX even better
The cuffs are a little tight
One thing we’ve noticed with a few different examples of the jacket is the tight cuffs. The stitching and elastic can feel overly snug, even for small wrists. And it’s hard to don and doff the jacket over a large watch like a Sports GPS Watch pictured left. Although it will fit easily over a more modest field watch that we prefer most of the time.
No baffles in the design
This isn’t necessarily a technical issue, but some people like the look of baffles, and how they end up creating more of a form-fitting look for the jacket. That said, this isn’t a jacket built for looking nice for a night on the town. It’s a functional, ultralight, warm layer, and if the look is “boxy” without baffles, so be it. Alto, the lining can sneak out a bit under the sleeve when you pull the jacket on — but it can also be easily tucked back in.
Compared to the Competition
As we said earlier we think the main competition to The Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket are down jackets in the same weight range. So take a look at our Guide to Lightweight Down Jackets and Pants for Backpacking for a complete overview of the best down jackets on the market including the competition for the the Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket.
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody Insulated Jacket is the most well known and obvious competition. But we feel that the Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket definitely beats it for weight, and cost and in our opinion has an edge on warmth. On the other hand, some folks may prefer the baffling and styling of the Patagonia Micro Puff.
The Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX Jacket (and Torrid APEX Pants) is an excellent choice for a light, warm, and weather resistant insulating jacket. It It works well down to at least freezing, and in many cases can do double duty as both a mid-layer and a in-camp or rest stop insulating jacket. Finally at this weight, compressibility, warmth & cost it makes a compelling argument that is the equal or better to mid-temperature rated (around freezing) down jackets. It will definitely be part of our go-to kit for the future.
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