Review: Tactical Distributors Inc TD Down Range Jacket
There was a time I slogged miles through snow, uphill both ways, to get to school. On those cold New England days I wished my family could afford a down jacket. Typically, we were dressed in a polyester onesie that would make Randy from A Christmas Story whine with envy. Down jackets were for rich kids, we got extra newspaper stuffed in our boots.
Even 35 years later, I carry that “down jackets are for rich kids” chip on my shoulder. That’s why I was pretty excited when back in September, Tactical Distributors sent me their 2016 TD Down Range Jacket. With the constant specter of “Winter is Coming” haunting my dreams, I knew that having a down midlayer would keep me comfy during the eight-month winter here in Maine.
My day-to-day midlayer zipup is an Arc’Teryx Atom LT Hoody LEAF, and rarely am I seen without it. There are times, though, when I don’t need a hood, and the Down Range seemed like it would fill in nicely.
As far as down jackets go, the Down Range is 600 fill down and it lands squarely in the middle as acceptable for all-purpose outdoor activity clothing. Fill power is typically measured in the range of 300-900 in increments of 50, and the numbers correspond to the number of cubic inches occupied by one ounce of down. The higher the number, the better quality the down and the warmer the jacket will be. Higher numbers also indicate that less down is needed for the same level of warmth and therefore will be more compressible.
The entire jacket Down Range jacket compresses into an included stuff sack measuring a scant 6” x 4”, and it is advised to store the jacket in the sack to maintain the loft of the down. The jacket was improved for 2016 according to the TDI website: “Our newest version of the down jacket offers updated pockets, additional breast pocket, new zipper pulls and a roomier fit.” I’m a size Large and the the fit was true.
With any down jacket, there is the possibility that some of the fill will leak out through the stitching or seams over time. That’s expected. However, upon receiving the brand new jacket, it seemed to be shedding an extraordinary amount through the stitching both on the interior and exterior of the jacket. Unfortunately, the fill wasn’t just escaping through the stitching, it was poking through the nylon shell as well. In fact, just putting the jacket on released a small snow squall of down feathers. Trying to brush the jacket clean only seemed to exacerbate the problem, so we stopped trying. When I removed the jacket, my shirt was covered in down.
The construction of the Down Range appears to be sewn through, as opposed to the more costly box baffle construction of garments like Arc’Teryx. Sewn through baffles are extremely common, but it should be noted that due to the way the baffles are built, there is some heat loss at the stitching. That said, this method is extremely cost efficient and is reflected in the $89.95 MSRP from TDI.
Setting out to see if I could “fix” the jacket, an old trick to puff up the loft of the down and minimize loss is to toss the jacket into the dryer for a few minutes. I tried this method and the problem remained. We spoke to TDI to explain the issue and they acknowledged that there will be some leaking through the seam, but my bigger issue was the down coming through the fabric itself. I can’t say for sure if this will happen with every jacket, or if it was a QC issue, but I’d like to see TDI get this right.
As for the performance, the jacket is warm and is very effective at stopping a breeze. I wore the Down Range underneath an Arc’Teryx Alpha LT LEAF hardshell while snowboarding and remained toasty.
Alongside the exterior chest pocket and two zipping hand pockets there are two large hidden internal pockets, so there’s ample room to stash your gear. The chest pocket also contains a small audio port to run your earbuds inside the jacket.
The styling is simple and classic and I really want to love this jacket, especially at the price point. At $55, this fills the “I forgot my softshell and need to mack on these campfire honeys” gap, but I would not wear this for a well dressed evening on the town due to the leakage. It’s a perfect compressible midlayer to keep in the truck or the gobag just in case you might encounter colder weather, however.
If you’re not worried about getting feathers everywhere and want an affordable, warm, multi-season midlayer, you can’t go wrong with this. But if you’re the type who believes appearance is everything, I’d hold out on buying this until they solve, or at least minimize, the shedding.
[You can visit Tactical Distributors online here]
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About the Author: When Matt Stagliano is not busy scoring with legions of Japanese girls who think he’s Chris Costa or character acting a bit part in cheap Westerns (he usually plays a syphilis-ridden cowpuncher or similar saddletramp) he can be found shooting some of the best photos and video in the tactical/firearms industry. A former Fortune 50 consultant who is (no shit) a former DJ with a degree in Physics he never uses, Matt is not only brilliant behind the lens but also a helluva nice guy with great taste in booze. Oh, and his dog has a fierce, unnatural love for porcupines. Learn more about Firelance online or follow them on Instagram (@firelancemedia). On Facebook here.