Big Agnes Jacket

Review: Big Agnes Women’s Shovelhead Hooded Jacket

An exceptionally good value, super technical mid-weight down jacket that is bursting with great design features and cosy warmth.

Finally, a highly technical and warm down jacket that you don’t need to invest your life savings into! The Big Agnes Shovelhead Hooded Jacket offers excellent value to those looking to stay active and warm in a mid-weight jacket right through the winter. Compressible, wind resistant, warm, stylish, and filled with water resistant and responsibly sourced down.

Big Agnes Shovelhead Hooded Jacket: The stats

Weight:439g / 15.5oz
Fill weight:159g / 5.6oz
Fill power:700 fill power
Down type:Water repellent DownTek
Outer:Wind and water resistant ripstop nylon
Ethical down:RDS certified

Design features of the Big Agnes Shovelhead Hooded Jacket

Chest pocket

Chest pocketThe internal zippered chest pocket features a small port for your headphones. The whole pocket also doubles as a stuff sack for the jacket to be stored inside.

Stash pockets

Stash pocketThere are two large mesh pockets on the inside of the jacket. These have lightly elasticated tops and are ideal for stuffing gloves, snacks, maps or a buff in. Easy access items that are too big to go in the external zippered hand pockets.

Thumb loops

Thumb loopThe cuffs are elasticated for a comfortable fit around the wrists, and the thumb loop is integrated into the whole cuff for a really cosy insulated layer that goes right over your hand. Superb for those with cold hand issues!

Hood

Hood of jacketThe hood is super cosy! Insulated right the way through and contoured to the shape of your head (or helmet). It features a small peak, and the drawcord ends sit nicely out of the way and inside the collar – no flapping around in the wind!

Packability

Packed jacketThe whole jacket packs inside the internal chest pocket to a decently small package that is around 27 x 12 x 10cm. There is also a handy little loop on the outside of the stuff sack to clip onto gear etc, but this is also good to help stuff the jacket in the bag (which takes a bit of work!).

Outer shell

Beading on jacketMade from lightweight ripstop nylon, the outer is both wind a water resistant. You won’t want to hang around for long in even a light shower, but it does a good job at beading initial rainfall.

Hem drawcord

Hem drawcordThere is a drawcord at the hem which is super easy to cinch in with one hand. It releases easily too when you put a little tension on the opposite side. As the jacket design is a little on the short side, this is an essential feature to keep the draft out when moving around.

Baffles

BafflesThe vertical Insotect Flow construction of the Shovelhead baffles are designed to contour the body so that more insulation sits closer to the user. The clumping of down at the bottom of the vertical baffles is prevented by FlowGate technology which keeps the down where it should be within the baffles. No cold spots!


Big Agnes Shovelhead review

Fit

The Shovelhead is a really nice slim fit and runs true to size. This is down to the contoured cut between the armpits and the waist. That said, it’s not so form fitting that it restricts what you wear underneath it. I wear a size small and am still able to fit a hooded sweater and base layer underneath it on the really cold days.

It also looks super smart and is a really great everyday jacket when the temperature drops, especially as there’s enough room to wear what you like under it.

The length is a little on the short side for me, and the sleeves are a little on the long side! (But that may just be my odd bod!)
Woman wearing down jacket in snow

Insulation

The Shovelhead is filled with 700 fill power DownTek – this is mid-weight down that is also water repellent! But what does that actually mean? Well, when untreated down gets wet it loses its ability to trap air and provide insulation. However, treated down uses nanotechnology that repels the moisture away from the down, preventing it from becoming saturated and thus maintaining air pockets for insulation.

Although this may seem like a miracle invention, it’s important to note that water repellent down will still lose some of its insulating properties. But it will stay warmer when wet than untreated down.

Warmth

The Shovelhead down has a fill power of 700 which means that the quality of the down (i.e. how lofty it is) is in the mid range. However, the fill weight of the down is 159g / 5.6oz, which makes up for the medium quality of the down. For more information on fill power and fill weight take a read of our guide to buying a down jacket.

Despite the Shovelhead having medium quality down, the relatively large amount of down inside the jacket (i.e. the high fill weight), means that it provides very respectable levels of warmth for a mid-weight jacket. If you are comparing the Shovelhead with other 700 fill power jackets be sure to look at the fill weight. This will determine which is warmer.

As a mid-weight jacket, the Shovelhead really excels at keeping you toastie and warm when doing low level activity in cold weather. It is ideal for winter hiking and ski touring with just a base layer underneath. Add a few more layers underneath and it’s even more versatile in more static scenarios.

On cool spring and autumn nights it is the perfect weight and warmth for sitting around camp after dark. But on the cold winter nights or at altitude you’ll need to couple it with some good layers, although not an outer layer (unless it’s raining!), as the ripstop nylon wind resistant outer does a superb job at blocking out the wind.

I recently spent the evening sitting by the campfire wearing the Shovelhead. It was 3ºC and very still. I also had on a merino base layer and a thick wool jumper, and it just about kept me comfortably warm. Any colder and I would have needed another couple of layers to keep me comfortable. Pretty impressive!

Packability

At 439g / 15.5oz, the Shovelhead isn’t the lightest mid-weight jacket around, and the relatively high fill weight means that it doesn’t pack down especially small. But it’s most certainly light enough and small enough to make it into my daypack as a backup layer and is very welcome protection against icy winds during lunch stops.

It’s also a great option as an evening jacket on multi-day backpacking trips, and so worth carrying along. However, there are smaller and lighter options available (that provide equally good levels of warmth). You’ll just have to pay an extra couple of hundred bucks to have and eat that kind of cake!

Back of down jacket

What I love the most about the Big Agnes Shovelhead

The value. Sure, there are lighter, more compressible and warmer down jackets available. But most of them cost a small fortune! The Shovelhead, on the other hand, comes with superb design features, some super techy specs, oodles of comfort, and decent packability at a price that is exceptionally competitive. Way to make technical outdoor clothing more accessible!

I also love that the down is RDS (Responsible Down Standard) certified. This means that the down is sourced from ducks and geese that are treated well.

What I don’t love so much about the Big Agnes Shovelhead

The length. It would be great if it were just one inch longer in the trunk. This is no problem when walking, but as soon as I bend down to open up the tent, or tend to the campfire etc, I get a draft through my midriff. Cinching the hem drawcord in helps with this when it comes to being more active when standing up (raising arms up etc), but it doesn’t quite do enough when bending.

I’m also not a huge fan of how shiny it is! Not a big thing, but I prefer matt finishes.


Verdict

The Big Agnes Shovelhead Hooded Jacket is one exceptionally good value mid-weight down jacket that doesn’t compromise on quality or good design. It is ideal for keeping you toastie and warm whilst being active through the winter months. But it is also a very decent insulator on cool nights around the campfire, as a backup jacket on hiking trips, or as a great looking and super stylish jacket for everyday use.

Find the latest price at:
Big Agnes | Amazon

Disclaimer: Cool of the Wild received this product free in return for an honest review. We only recommend gear that we love from companies we trust and we are under no obligation to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer and we are in no way influenced by the brand or company.

About Joey

Woman wearing wooly hat

Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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