An extremely lofty and warm box-baffle jacket, the Valandre Split S will keep you toasty warm. If it weren't for the lack of hood and short sleeves, this may have been one of our favorites.
The Valandre Split S uses box-baffle construction which allows the 850 fill down to reach its full loft rather than pinching it in sewn-in pockets. This makes the jacket warmer overall, with less thin spot for cold to get through.
The Valandre Split S is by far the warmest out of our selection of jackets. Using exceptionally high quality down it can stay lightweight while providing high loft and warmth. The warmth is improved by the box-baffle construction which prevents cold spots near the stitching. One detail that is lacking is that the wind-flap on the zipper is not insulated, and leaves a cold spot down the front.
The downside to this ultra-warm piece? This jacket does not come with a hood. For a jacket this warm, the lack of a hood seems like a serious oversight. Most of our testers reported that having a hood is a mandatory feature when buying a down jacket. Since this piece is designed to be worn while moving in an alpine environment, where the wearer is likely to be wearing a helmet, perhaps not having a hood would lighten the jacket and make it easier to use and pack along.
Weighing 12.67 ounces this jacket is remarkably light for a jacket of this thickness and warmth. Overall it is middle of the pack in terms of weight.
It compresses small and is easy to pack for such a thick jacket. It does not have a stow pocket.
With a low-absorbency nylon shell material, the Split S can resist a slight amount of water before the down becomes damp. Another clever construction detail helps prevent the wearer from getting wet and cold: the seam along the shoulders where water most often leaks into a jacket has been eliminated by a single piece of fabric reaching from back to front. This gives the down along the torso an extra barrier to keep it dry as long as possible. It also is more comfortable while wearing a pack.
Style & Fit
This is the only jacket in this review that is made with box-baffles instead of the sewn-through method of construction. This prevents peaks and valleys in the loft, where there is no loft right next to the stitch. Instead, the loft is more even thoughout the jacket and can reach its full fill power.
Another noteworthy detail in the construction of this jacket is the sleeves. They are articulated for bent elbows in order to prevent crushing of the down when you move your arms. Instead, they are designed so that the sleeves stay lofty and warm while your arms move in their natural position. This is a clever design and does work to keep the arms warm, but it falls short of greatness because the sleeves are too short, even for short women.
Though it is well built, this is not a very stylish jacket. Appearing broad and extra puffy in the wrong places, it is not very flattering or feminine. However, this garment is targeted at a technical audience, and is overly designed for wearing to the bars at night.
The material is fairly durable and abrasion resistant and all the features are well put together. It willwithstand more heavy use than the Down Sweater.
The Split S lacks some of the comfort features afforded by other jackets such as a soft lining around the chin and inside the pockets. However the loftiness and warmth of the jacket makes up for it by providing an all-over cozy feeling. The coziness would be greatly improved by the addition of a hood, but without one, the collar is very comfortable. The zi[pper comes up slightly short, preventing any chafing on the chin. The rest of the collar rides a little higher and snugly encases the neck, keeping any warm air from escaping the top of the jacket.
This is not your stylish around-town jacket, but rather a technical layer for mountaineering pursuits.
The Valandre Split S is far and away the most expensive jacket in this review. At $470, this is not a impulse purchase, but requires some deliberation beforehand. We like this jacket, but is it worth that much? If you have the money to try new things, then you can be assured that this is a well-crafted garment. If you are on a budget and trying to piece together a kit for an expedition or mountaineering trip, we think your money would be better spent on a slightly less expensive insulated jacket and the rest could go towards a shell.