We put a R3,000 K-Way jacket to the test in a blast freezer that hit -30 Celsius – here’s how it fared

Business Insider SA

  • We tested K-Way's most sophisticated jacket in an industrial freezer.
  • The R2,999 jacket has 850 "fill power", which means it uses excellent quality down.
  • It impressed us in the extreme cold, which caused our coffee to freeze over.
  • Whether it's the best option for you will depend on your budget and the conditions you will face.
  • For more stories, go to

At a temperature of -28 degrees Celsius (°C) it takes roughly 30 minutes for frostbite to set in. Early signs included parts of your body starting to turn red and experiencing pins and needles.

It’s not the kind of sobering fact you want racing through your head when entering a blast freezer at the Table Bay Cold Storage & Logistics (TBCS) company, in Paarden Eiland Cape Town, where temperatures can hit -35°C. 

Usually used for freezing export produce in a matter of minutes, we thought the sophisticated fridge would be great for testing the new Expedition series Fresco Down jacket.

Exclusively available at Cape Union Mart, a pricey R2,999 buys you "850 fill power". Fill power measures the quality of the down used in the jacket. A higher fill power number shows that the down can trap more air, providing a better "warmth to weight ratio". Fill power usually starts at around 300, and anything above 800 is considered to be excellent.

It is also rated "90/10" - which means the jacket contains 90% down and 10% feathers. The higher the first percentage, the better the quality of the down jacket. 

Like most Cape Union Mart gear, the jacket was manufactured in Cape Town.  

Photo Kyle Goetsch.
Photo Kyle Goetsch.

When I first put on the jacket, it felt surprisingly thin. Weighing just 274 grams, I was skeptical that it could keep me warm.The jacket has two outer zip pockets and a single internal zip, which are very handy for keeping you phone dry.

Pockets and zips.
Pockets and zips.

There are also a multitude of internal pockets that have no zips, and I could not figure out why you would use them, until I tried to put a flask in them. Quite handy for keeping you and your coffee warm overnight when temperatures hit below freezing when out camping.

I wore it for a couple of days at home, in the office and even to a dinner date. It was very comfortable to wear until the outside temperature hits about 17°C, when I began to overheat and started sweating. 

Photos by Caryn Caboz and Kyle Goetsch.

Still, when it got too hot, I could squash it back into my bag. It didn't take up much space. That's especially handy when you are out hiking, and don't want to carry your jacket.  

Jay Caboz
(Left) My normal camera bag set-up. (Middle) With the K-Way jacket in. (Right) My normal winter jacket, does not fit in, I usually have to carry it, not ideal when hiking. Photos Jay Caboz

Then it was time for the real test: -28°C in a blast freezer at Table Bay Cold Storage & Logistics, to see how long the jacket and I could last:

Luckily for me, I had a flask of coffee to keep me entertained, as well as hundreds of frozen date cartons to talk to. 

K-Way jacket test
Photo Jay Caboz.

Four minutes in and things were starting to get uncomfortable. While under the jacket I was quite cosy, my hands were turning a nasty shade of red.

After 6 minutes my cell phone started glitching and froze over. Ice started forming on the outer layer of my jacket.

Then, things then went from freezing to frigid, after one the TBCS staff came to check up on me, and asked if they can put the cyclic cooler fans on.

When the fans kick in, they can blast enough cold air to freeze goods within minutes. In my case the temperature plummeted to -30 °C.

Still the jacket held out, even if my hands were numb. I was even starting to build up a decent collection of snot icicles.

K-Way jacket test
Photo Jay Caboz.

After 12 minutes and 14 seconds I called it quits. The coffee gave up long ago:  

K-Way jacket test
Photo Jay Caboz.

 No one should have to be forced to drink coffee when its freezing in front of your eyes. It was just too painful to watch.  

While my body was perfectly fine under the jacket, my fingers did not fare so well. The exposure to the cold left them sensitive for three days after. 

Verdict: The K-Way Expedition series Fresco Down jacket impressed, even in severe cold.

But whether it will be the best option for you, will depend on your budget and the conditions you are facing.

If you are planning on hiking in the Drakensberg mountains in the snow, you will want the extra fill-power. But for somewhat warmer conditions, the extra warmth may make you sweaty. 

The jacket is on the pricier side, which reflects its high fill power and light weight. Here's how it compares to other competitors: 

  • Expedition Fresco Down jacket, 850 fill power, 90/10 down, 274g, - R2,999
  • First Ascent Transit Down Hoodie Jacket, 650 fill-power, 90/10 down, weight not supplied – R2,199
  • First Ascent Extreme Glacier Down Jacket, 650 fill power, 90/10 down, 962g – R3,799
  • Capestorm Taurus Down Jacket, 650 fill power, RDS and weight not supplied – R1,699 (on promotion, originally R2,199)
  • The North Face Kabru Down Jacket, 550 fill power, RDS and weightnot supplied - R1,710.90 (on promotion,  originally R2975.76).

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