La Sportiva Azaira Review
Cons: Really heavy, not as warm for the weight
Manufacturer: La Sportiva
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The La Sportiva Azaira is a well-featured down jacket with lots of pockets; we love that. It's heavier than most for the warmth it provides, so be sure warmth-to-weight is not your top priority if you're thinking about purchasing this jacket.
The Azaira feels like a solid warm layer when you pick it up, and it has some heft to it — despite its svelte profile. This does not, however, translate to more warmth than a jacket of similar thickness. This is because La Sportiva chose to use 700 fill power goose down, which is not the warmest for the weight. They do make the jacket feel cozy with ample fleece in the collar and hood, and a stretchy neoprene visor that helps to seal you in against the elements.
Sportiva advertises this as a midweight insulation layer, and we agree on one count; it's moderately heavy. This jacket is disappointing for how bulky and heavy it feels for the level of warmth it provides, and we would not choose this as a layering piece. That is to say, this jacket is best as a standalone insulating layer — not as one you want to wear underneath a shell jacket for your particularly cold weather aerobic activities.
Related to the warmth metric above, the weight of this jacket is disappointing for a down jacket. This is due certainly in part to its "feature-rich" design, as described on the website. This seems like smoke-and-mirrors, used to distract consumers from the fact that Sportiva also uses heavier 700 fill down, and that adds to the overall heavy weight of the jacket as well.
The Azaira again gets knocked down in compressibility for the use of bulkier 700 fill down, which is below average quality compared to other jackets in this review. However, the jacket makes some gains in this metric for having a very handy and easy to use stow pocket. Rather than having a fiddley zipper, you just turn the jacket inside-out while stuffing it into an internal bucket-style pocket (also great for keeping gloves warm between dexterity-demanding tasks in cold weather), clip it to the back of your harness, and climb on!
This metric is where the Azaira starts to shine. The jacket is advertised as "feature-rich" and certainly checks a lot of the possible-feature-boxes. We LOVE all the pockets! So many women's jackets ditch our favorite pockets, like chest pockets. When we ask companies and product designers why this is so, we typically hear from product designers that they like pockets, while some marketers say that women don't buy jackets with pockets.
All women we know echo our sentiments around pockets; WE LOVE POCKETS! On a related side-note, as reviewers, we are skeptical and cynical by nature. We've noticed that there are a few outdoor companies leading the charge on revamping and redesigning women's outdoor wear by having women design the garments from the very beginning. Wow, revolutionary! It is difficult for us to hear this expressed as a progressive novelty for which companies deserve a gold star, but maybe this is where things are in the outdoor clothing industry.
Back to the features we love in this jacket. There are two hand pockets as well as a fleeced internal chest pocket (complete with a small headphone cord hole). There are also two internal bucket-style pockets which we love for quickly stashing our damp or cold gloves when we take them off to secure a tent guyline or tie in for our next climb.
We like the fleece-lined collar and hood, the stretchy cuff seals, and the neoprene visor. What this jacket lacks in warmth due to the lower quality 700 fill down, it gains back to some extent with the solid seal of the cuffs, hood, and hem — both of which cinch tighter with single elastic drawcord adjustment points. Plus, all of these details make the jacket feel downright cozy when you're belaying your climbing partner on their project, and they're keeping plenty warm — and taking plenty long.
Sportiva doesn't advertise the denier rating of this jacket, but based on our familiarity with technical fabrics and our field tests, it's made of a durable fabric that will hold up well to your rock climbing habit. Sportiva does not skimp on fabric durability and manufacturing quality, making this a jacket to withstand many days of adventures.
A down jacket is not designed to be waterproof, but since down does not retain its insulating properties when it gets wet, we consider moderate water resistance to be a crucial part of any good down jacket. The Azaira has a PFC-free DWR (durable water repellent) coating, which is the standard approach down jacket manufacturers take to keep water off the feathers. This coating worked well in our tests.
The Azaira has a relatively high price. From the durability and features standpoint, we think it's a good value. If you're looking for something light, warm, and compressible for your backpacking, mountaineering, or multi-pitch rock and ice climbing needs, we don't think this is the best value. It's a little heavier than we would want from a jacket that's just not quite as warm and compressible as it could be.
The Azaira is not an incredibly versatile jacket, but it's well made and durable. If you like features, and you don't mind a little added weight because you're planning on wearing it around town, on short hikes, or to the crag for afternoon climbing sessions, this is one to consider. Keep in mind that it's not as warm as it seems from the heft of it. It's also made of lower quality 700 fill down which will not be as durable (over the long term) as a higher quality 800+ fill down would be.
— Lyra Pierotti