Kathmandu Epiq Men’s 600 Fill Down Vest review: a toasty duck down gilet from New Zealand’s finest

I zip up and get cozy in Kathmandu’s Epiq Men’s 600 Fill Down Vest, a premium duck down gilet that packs down small and has a few thoughtful features

thmandu Epiq Men’s 600 Fill Down Vest: woodland walk
(Image: © Alex Foxfield)

Advnture Verdict

A very good product from a brand who do things in the right way. Great warmth, superb packability and quality components mean that this is a gilet that won’t let you down. However, similarly performing vests by other reputable brands cost a little less, while I feel Kathmandu could have been a little braver with its color choices. Nevertheless, if you’re after a quality gilet made in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, it’s a good option.


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    Wonderfully warm

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    Packs down small into its own stuff sack

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    Thoughtfully designed internal mesh pocket

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    Responsible down standard certified

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    Hand warmer pockets


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    Expensive compared to other gilets

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    Not the brightest choice of colors (for men)

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    Face fabric not as soft as some

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New Zealand. Annoyingly good at rubgy. Landscapes that are so spectacular they were chosen for Tolkein’s Middle Earth. In Edmund Hillary, they even had one of the first two men to stand on Everest, along with the Tenzing Norgay. No matter how many times us Brits proclaim ‘yeah we climbed it first, it was a British expedition,’ the truth is that a sherpa from Nepal and a Kiwi were the ones to first scale the peak.

The South Island, in particular, is mountain country. So, you’d expect the nation’s leading outdoor brand to know a thing or two about crafting outdoor kit. The brand in question is Kathmandu. Named after the Nepalese capital at the foot of the Himalayas, it makes a range of hiking apparel, backpacks and accessories. The brand is also a certified B Corp, which means it adheres to high standards of social and environmental performance.

I was excited to get hold of the Epiq 600 Fill Down Vest (available direct from Kathmandu) and take it into cold climes to see how this premium gilet fared.

Meet the reviewer

how I fell in love with hiking: Alex in winter conditions
Alex Foxfield

Alex is a Mountain Leader and a lover of winter adventures. As a keen mountaineer and winter runner, he knows how important kit and clothing can be to enjoyment and safety during the most challenging time of the year.

First Impressions

Kathmandu Epiq Men’s 600 Fill Down Vest: Alex hiking

The gilet is a good option on crisp winter days where you don't need the full coverage of a down jacket (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

RRP: $169 (US) / £170 (UK)
Weight: 440g / 15.5 oz
Fill: 80% duck down, 20% duck feather, 600 fill power
Gender availability: Men’s / Women’s
Sizes: XS to XXL
Colors: Men’s: Black, Gum Tree/Black (UK only); Women’s: Black, Taupe (UK only), Frosted Mint, Black (UK only)

My test top was in the Gum Tree/Black colorway, which in relative terms is the most ostentatious on offer for men, as the other option is plain black. Don’t get me wrong, it looks the business, but I do like the option of a bit of color (ironically, as I’m slightly colorblind). Women are better served by the Taupe and Frosted Mint options. However, if you’re in the States, male or female, you’ve got one choice and one choice only: black. Well, at least it’ll go with everything. 

Price wise, this gilet is no joke, as you’d expect for a garment boasting 600 fill power duck down. With an RRP of $169 (£170 in the UK), it’s more expensive than the Rab Microlight DownVest, one of our top-rated gilets, though won’t set you back as much as something like the Fjällräven Greenland Down Vest. The Epiq is also available as a full down jacket (with arms and everything!) and as a hooded down jacket too.


Kathmandu Epiq Men’s 600 Fill Down Vest: down

You can even read a little about Kathmandu's down journey on the interior of the vest (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

Let’s start with the duck down in the jacket, which boasts fill power rating of 600, giving it a good warmth to weight ratio. Basically, the higher the fill power, the more a jacket will fluff back up after being compressed. The more it can fluff up, the more heat it can trap and the better it will insulate. In the case of the Epiq, 600 fill power is a moderate amount compared to some of the best down jackets around these days, but it’s still enough to be very warm and nicely compressible too.

Unsurprisingly, considering it’s a certified B Corp, Kathmandu’s down is independently certified to the Responsible Down Standard, which means the ducks involved will have been treated humanely.

Kathmandu Epiq Men’s 600 Fill Down Vest: internal pocket

The upper internal mesh pocket with its neat headphone slot (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

The outer material is made from a recycled Pertex Quantum Eco, a tightly woven fabric that’s designed to allow insulation to fully loft. It’s present in many insulated products, like the excellent Montane Anti-Freeze XT Hoodie and the Exped Waterbloc Pro -15o sleeping bag. As well as being lightweight and soft to the touch, it’s also windproof and water-resistant, once its DWR coating has been applied. This is what makes water bead on the surface initially but it doesn’t make it fully waterproof, so don’t expect it to keep you dry in a deluge.

On bitterly cold days, you can tighten up the elasticated drawstrings on the hem, while the front zip comes up high to a chin guard with a brushed lining for comfort around the neck and jaw.

There’s an internal zippered mesh pocket with a slot for headphones to escape – a nice touch. When the time comes to pack the Epiq away, it compresses down to a neat and tidy package inside a stuff sack, which is stored in an internal mesh pocket at the bottom of the vest. This makes the gilet perfect for packing away into a daypack on those in-between, shoulder season days.

On the trails

Kathmandu Epiq Men’s 600 Fill Down Vest: hiking

I wore the Epiq throughout late winter and early spring, both on the trail and around the city (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

I wore the Epiq throughout late winter and early spring, both on the trail and around the city. It’s a lovely item for local walks or jaunts to the park, while its packability and low weight make it a good ‘just in case’ item for mountain days. However, I’d personally opt for a full down jacket for this.

The Epiq is nice and warm, to the point where I’d really notice my arms getting colder beneath a fleece and base layer, while my body was growing toastier in its embrace. I guess this is a predicament all gilets face. As someone who runs hot, I find any kind of sustained exertion is too much in a down jacket or similar. I end up getting way too warm and sweating even on cold days. It was the same with the Epiq Vest.

Kathmandu Epiq Men’s 600 Fill Down Vest: gilet packed down

Being a down vest, the Epiq compresses down very small and it packs handily away into its own stuff sack (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

I liked the number of pockets available, especially the zippered hand warmer ones. I despair at winter tops and jackets that don’t include hand warmers. These ones have a plush, brushed finish, making them particularly cozy little nests for cold digits. The pockets and the front zip are easy to open up wearing hiking gloves, thanks to ample zip pulls. 

The internal zippered mesh pocket, with its little flap for headphones to be threaded through, is a smart touch. I utilized this on many leisurely winter walks, enjoying a podcast while I was at it. Having an internal space for a phone is also a wise design choice, as the best place for it during the colder months is close to the body. This is because freezing conditions can sap a phone’s battery very quickly indeed.

Kathmandu Epiq Men’s 600 Fill Down Vest: logo

Kathmandu's mountainous logo (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)

The only pocket large enough to take a topographical map is the open internal mesh pocket where the stuff sack lives. This is fine, though I’d ideally want somewhere more secure for such items. I can’t but feel like the Pertex face fabric isn’t quite as soft to the touch as on many other puffer jackets, but I’m nit-picking a little here.

I like the lovely, brushed fabric lining around the chin guard, which makes it comfortable despite coming up to my chin. When it’s freezing outside, the ability to zip it right up, giving full coverage to my neck, is a welcome one. However, in such conditions, I’d probably opt for a jacket with arms!

Alex Foxfield

Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He's the former President of the London Mountaineering Club, is training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and is always keen to head to the 4,000-meter peaks of the Alps. www.alexfoxfield.com