I was pretty excited when the Brooks-Range Mountaineering Cirro Hoody Jacket (MSRP $189) showed up on my doorstep, just in time for a spring trip to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Filled with PrimaLoft One, which Brooks-Range touts as the “warmest, fluffiest synthetic insulation on the planet,” the jacket is soft, packs down small, and features a full-length zip and drawstring hood that can be tucked away into the collar. (They also offer the Cirro in non-hood full zip version as well as a pullover either with or without the hood.) Being a big fan of down and always fearful of being cold, I was eager yet just a bit skeptical about the ability of this jacket to keep me toasty and happy in the backcountry during what turned out to be a typically fickle spring excursion.
A sudden snowstorm at home just before my trip allowed me to wear the jacket out on quick dog-walking jaunt. With only a shirt and fleece pullover under the jacket, I gamely set out into the wind and swirling white stuff. Result? I was very warm indeed, and the light snow collected on the jacket but didn't soak through.
The hand pockets are roomy, and there's an inner pocket on the right-hand side. An outer pocket on the left side, just below shoulder level, features a dual zipper so the jacket can be stuffed into a pocket. However, when I tried to do so, it barely fit into the space and I couldn't close the zipper. Yet since the Cirro packs so small -- it packs down to about 10 inches long, 8 inches high, and only 3.5 inches wide -- I found this tiny flaw irrelevant since I'll mostly just be stuffing it as is into a pack.
On the canyon trip, which sported some rain but mostly sun and plenty of wind, the Cirro got a lot of use. Kept me warm around the campfire during the chilly evenings and over early morning coffee; blocked the wild, cold winds that threatened to dump us off the sandstone pinnacles we scrambled over; held in my body heat when we stopped moving to eat lunch.
The remarkably small size it packs down to made it easy to squash it into my daypack. The drawstring hood, which cinches down tightly, kept my hat on in those crazy winds and also blocked my face and neck from the worst of the gusts. A nice bonus is that even if you tuck the hood away into the collar, it will cover the back of your neck and keep it warm.
My main fear of being cold was unrealized. This jacket kept me warm without complaint, which was huge for me since I easily get chilled. Being a lifelong fan of down, this was a pleasant journey into the world of synthetic warmth. I'm a believer in PrimaLoft now.
As for the water-resistant claim, the Pertex material -- a lightweight water resistant rip-stop nylon -- did a pretty good job from what I could tell from the limited field testing I did. Many more days out are needed to see how long the fabric will actually shun water. If there had been serious rain or snow, of course, an outer dry layer is recommended, since the rip-stop nylon is only water-resistant.
Then again, I've never found any product to be 100 percent water-resistant or waterproof, aside from unbreathable solid rubber raincoats. And while it seems dubious that the very shiny ripstop material could actually be that resistant to rips and tears, so far so good.
I only found two downsides. First, all sizes are unisex, which made sizing a bit mysterious. I normally wear a women's medium in jackets. For the Cirro, I wondered, should I go for the small? If it's unisex, it has to fit men, too, right? But if the small was too small, would the medium be too big?
The company website has a sizing chart, which didn't do a whole lot for me even when I measured myself. I'm sure if I called I could have gotten better help, but I ended up simply choosing the medium under the accurate guess that at least that way, I could layer underneath. The medium is indeed roomy on me, but with the drawstring cinching around the waist as well as the hood, I made it work.
The far more annoying issue arose with the main zipper. Right out of the packaging it stuck. On the windy, sand-blowing trip, it downright wouldn't zip much of the time, even when others attempted it. I mean a serious, I cannot make these teeth meet up, it just will not zip kind of sticking. After returning home, I washed the jacket according to instructions to get all those fragrant backcountry scents out of it, and after that it began to zip better again. However, it still sticks now and then. Is this specific to this individual jacket, or a problem across the entire line? More field testing should help answer that question.
Overall, I have to give props to the Cirro Hoody Jacket. It's already the jacket I grab when I head out under a threatening sky or on a cool evening.