Well, we finally did it. We ran our favorite DriDown jacket into the ground. Its lightweight nylon shell wore through in a number of spots (especially near the draw cord waist). With feathers constantly escaping, it was time to look for a replacement. This time we went looking for a synthetic insulation and a harder wearing exterior in the sub-$100 range. What we found was the Marmot Caldera that we found at online retailer Sierra Trading Post.
The Marmot Caldera is a pretty straight ahead insulated jacket. It uses Marmot’s Thermal R insulation which is a blend of spun polyester. The loft and weight are right where you’d expect a jacket with synthetic insulation to be. My mens medium came in a just over one pound (17.375 ounces to be exact). It’s not quite as puffy or as lightweight and packable as down, but not too far behind. Don’t expect the Caldera to roll into one if its own pockets, in other words, although it will compress into a small football. No extra pack sack is provided.
Materials: Nylon, Dryclime collar
Insulation: Thermal R synthetic
Weight: 17.375 oz (mens medium)
Other features of the Marmot Caldera include your standard two exterior handwarmer pockets. Nice touch, Marmot lines these with a soft fleece. Two additional pockets are conveniently placed on the chest. Marmot puts the first on the left exterior (call it a napoleon). It’s closed by a YKK zipper (all the exterior zippers on the Caldera are large-tooth YKK) and is large enough to handle your mobile phone and other items. Inside is one more pocket, also zippered, and large enough for a pair of goggles.
The Driclime lined collar is another nice touch provided by Marmot. The thumb holes, however, are a complete joke, big enough for maybe a pinky finger and completely unusable.
The Marmot claims to build the Caldera with a regular fit. It hues a little closer to the body than expected, however, and felt a little more constricting than a similar Eddie Bauer Stormlight Jacket. Once you get used to that more tight-fitting style, no problem. Don’t expect to put too many other layers underneath though. Ultimately, we found no need to size up.
As you’d expect from Marmot, they did a fine job with the Caldera. It’s built well, with nice detailing, solid fabric and zipper choices, and fine tailoring. It’s not your state-of-the-art 800-fill-power down, but it does use a well-engineered synthetic insulation. The Caldera also doesn’t come with the price tag of those down jackets either. Since Marmot is closing these out, you can find them at places like Sierra Trading Post for about $75 or less. Quite the bargain.