A really warm down jacket
I wanted a jacket to keep me warm while camping in the winter. It didn’t need to be light or packable. Just warm.
My sleeping bag is warm, so a down jacket, that’s like a wearable sleeping bag, would be ideal.
I could then wear my sleeping bag to the pub. More about that later.
Enter the Rab Kinder smock. It seemed like an ideal choice. Five years on, I can say it was an excellent choice. It has ticked many other boxes beyond lounging around the campsite. I live in it in the winter.
I love the whole smock thing based on many years of experience with simple canvas ones. For some reason, a smock is always warmer than a similar jacket. Plus, you get that kangaroo pouch pocket.
Who is the Rab Kinder smock for
Do you want a warmer down jacket than those skimpy ones everyone else is wearing? Then this could be for you. It’s bigger and heavier, but it’s much warmer. That’s the point. You won’t look as cool as the guys wearing the latest technical kit. But you will be toasty warm.
If you want ultralight and tiny, this won’t be for you. However, if you want a warm campsite jacket that you can wear to the pub, it’s a winner.
It also works well for winter day hikes and cold winter wild camping.
When do I wear the Kinder smock?
If I am carrying overnight gear for a wild camp in my 50l rucksack, space gets tight. But the smock still goes in for a zero degree night on Kinder Scout.
I reduce weight and bulk by suffering a freeze-dried meal to make room for it. Its contribution to the total experience makes it worth the culinary sacrifice. It is also a security measure if it gets colder than expected. I can comfortably wear it inside my Mountain Equipment Helium 400 sleeping bag. If I didn’t take the down jacket, I would use a warmer sleeping bag. This offsets the extra weight and bulk of the jacket. It’s part of my sleep system that I get to wear.
If I am going on a day walk in the winter, it goes in a dry bag which fits easily in my 22 litre Osprey rucksack. The brew kit and other luxuries still fit as well.
If it is going to be cold, and I’ll be idle, I pack it. When I stop for lunch, and before the brew goes on, the Kinder Smock goes on. Lunch is then more relaxing. I’m not willing the water to boil so I can stay warm.
A multi-day walk may see it abandoned as being too bulky and heavy. But it is surprising how small it packs. If it’s going to be very cold, I’ll try and cram it in.
Its real value is on winter day hikes, where weight is not an issue.
It’s great for civvy street if you get the hang of not spilling too many pints when you’re putting it on in the pub.
I get out of the car in the winter and it goes on. Sometimes before. It stays on until I go to bed or go indoors.
Features & design
The main zip is half length, which contributes to the toasty factor.
It also has a zip down one side that goes from armpit to waist. This opens the whole side of the jacket for ventilation. It also needs unzipping to put the smock on easily.
- There is 1 baffle generously filled with down. This means you can evenly distribute the down so there are no cold spots. The lining is very soft and comfortable on the neck.
- It fits loosely and copes well with a couple of collared fleeces. It doesn’t feel restricted. You get to tailor the layers and choose how warm you want to be. I generally wear a Buff with it.
- The zip is backed up with poppers which make it windproof and snug. If you leave the poppers undone, it is considerably cooler, so I always do them up for maximum warmth.
A small zipped pocket inside the neck is useful for keeping small items safe. There are no zips on the kangaroo pocket, and it’s easy to lose stuff when not wearing the jacket. When it’s on, it’s fine and nothing has ever fallen out.
It has an elasticated waistband with an elastic draw string. There is also a metal popper that securely holds the side together. Regardless of how tight you pull the string.
There are elasticated wrists with adjustable velcro flaps.
The Rab Kinder Smock sports the old fashioned Rab logo as a nod to the smocks predecessor from the eighties.
It weighs around 700 grammes.
It’s all about the down
The Kinder smock packs in a whopping 270 grammes of 650 fill power down. To put that in to perspective, my 3 season sleeping bag contains 400 grammes – and that has a hood and neck baffle.
270 grammes in a hoodless jacket is crazy. But a good kind of crazy if you like to stay warm. The Kinder smock is the warmest coat I have ever owned. And for this reason, it is my favourite piece of clothing – ever.
It weighs about 700 grammes in a large but that is a small price to pay for being this warm.
Down in the wet
The smock’s been in showers a few times, which wasn’t an issue. It was water repellent when new and water beaded and ran off excellently. Not anymore. That could be improved with washing in Nik down wash.
I wouldn’t want to get caught in more than a shower, though. Down and water aren’t a good mix. This is not a waterproof jacket.
It’s great value and has lasted 5 years of heavy duty use. I see no reason it won’t last another five years.
It’s comfortable, warm and packs up reasonably small. But, it’s no lightweight super-packable wonder. If you are a gramme counter, it may well not be for you.
It doesn’t leak down. I reckon I’ve plucked half a dozen feathers that poked through in as many years. The tough Pertex does the job. This is a bonus of a heavier weight fabric.
The smock is wind resistant by design and fabric. Not having a full length zip makes a difference.
The pocket is an extra layer of down which makes it extra toasty in the midriff area.
It’s not too breathable. It’s not designed for active use and getting a sweat on. A bit of a one-trick pony. But that’s fine. It does a superb job of what it’s meant to do. Keeping the heat in when sitting around, or doing stuff that is not too strenuous.
After 5 years of solid use, my smock is now looking a little grubby. This is a disadvantage of down clothing. It doesn’t take too well to regular washing. My smock is the rusty brown colour and I probably should have chosen the dark blue one as it wouldn’t show the dirt so much.
A friend has just washed his 8-year-old jacket with outstanding results, so I aim to give mine a wash too. I’m sure it will be fine.
Getting the smock on and off
My biggest concern with buying a smock, as opposed to a jacket, was getting it on and off. Was it going to be difficult getting into it in a confined space?
I was right to be concerned. It’s a nightmare in the pub – all flailing arms and spilt pints. Well, not quite that bad, but you get the idea. It is a bit like that when putting it on and it’s best to seek a reasonably sized space for the operation and flip it on. The key is to have the cuffs loosened, the side zip undone, and the neck fully open.
Taking it off is easier. It’s not much different to a jumper, and over the years, I’ve got the hang of it.
Does this stop me from wearing it to the pub? No. It’s wonderful standing outside saying goodbyes to people shivering in lesser garments. I feel like I am already in my sleeping bag and my new friends are commenting on how warm and puffy my jacket looks. The fact that I spilt their pint while putting it on is now forgotten.
Donning and removing in the outdoors with plenty of space is easy.
It works fine in my one-man tent, but takes a while. I sit up and drop the sleeping bag to my waist and then work my way in to the smock. The best plan would be to put it on outside the tent. I rarely do though.
None of this is an issue, and I don’t regret indulging my smock fetish. In the winter, it is my first choice of jacket, on the hill and down the pub.
Alternative down jackets
I thought of getting a lighter, more packable down jacket or a synthetic one. I looked at the Rab and Alpkit range. But, they just didn’t have the insulation and warmth factor I was looking for for at a reasonable price. For a multi-day hike in warmer months, these would be fine and a better choice from a weight and bulk perspective. I also wanted the smock thing. That’s a personal choice and has its disadvantages.
The Rab Kinder Smock is a winner for me
What can I say about this smock? I love it to bits and wear it all the time. It’s getting grubby now, which is testament to how much I’ve worn it over the last 5 years.
I originally bought it for winter use on the campsite. The idea was to keep me camping in comfort all year round without having to get in my sleeping bag at 6PM.
How does it do the job? Brilliantly is the answer. It truly extended my camping season to all year round. It’s like a wearable sleeping bag for your top half.
I never expected to use the smock outside of a campsite, but boy was I wrong there. It has seen more service than that. Way more.
My smock looks like it’s been round the block a few times, but there’s no sign of wear, it just looks lived in. And there’s a good reason for that… I live in it in the winter months. Cooler evenings and mornings all year round, too. It’s a true 3 season piece of clothing.