Without a doubt a good quality down jacket is best option in the weight:warmth ratio race compared to one made of synthetic materials. However, down loses its insulating properties when it gets wet. Synthetic jackets have a lot to offer to hikers in damp and wet conditions as we often experience in the UK.
I’ve had a Montane Prism for a couple of years and it has been a good, reliable jacket with plenty of life left in it. It has a very capable DWR outer and the Primaloft filling really is warm. The build quality is faultless, the pockets are “high cut” to allow use while wearing a rucksack while the hood is well designed and allows adjustments to get the perfect fit. As a bonus, the Prism can be packed into its own pocket to make a small pillow. The XL size weighs 444g and will usually cost somewhere around £80-100. I find it an almost faultless jacket (I dislike the reflective markers on it) and can recommend it to any backpacker, walker or climber.
However, as well has hiking I am an avid motorhomer. I wanted something similar to the Prism to keep in my motorhome for day walk use. I was intrigued by the Craghopper Compresslite jacket currently on offer at GoOutdoors for £35. What follows are my first impressions of the jacket.
The designers of the Compresslite might have looked at the Prism for inspiration because they are quite similar. Both have a hood and two side pockets, the outer has a DWR coating and use synthetic insulation. It is marginally longer than the Prism. The main differences are the Compresslite has lower pockets and a non-adjustable hood. The hood does fit snugly but it doesn’t really turn with the head. I had a wander outside in the rain and the DWR seems to as effective as the Prism’s but time will tell about its long-term performance. The Compresslite felt very warm and comfortable to wear. The build quality is excellent.
The surprises came with measuring the weight and packability. The XL Compresslite is 494g (including a 10g stuffsack) which is a mere 50g compared to the Prism, or 40g if you don’t use the stuffsack. When packed both jackets appear to be same volume with the Compresslite being a cylinder the same length as the Prism, twice the height but half the width.
To summarise, the Prism is well proven, capable insulating jacket while the Compresslite is the new kid on the block weighing 40-50g more. Both are pretty much even in pack size and warmth. If you can live with the extra weight and a nonadjustable hood the Compresslite is well worth considering. Factor in the price difference and it is a worthy contender.