Katabatic is a backpacking gear company based out of Colorado that makes sleeping quilts, bivvies, hoods and jackets. The Katabatic Tarn is a lightweight down jacket that is designed to keep you warm while also being super packable.
I had the pleasure — or maybe misfortune — of receiving this jacket right before a major cold snap in Wisconsin, with temps dropping down to -10°F and wind chills being -15°F and lower. The Katabatic Tarn is not intended for these temperatures — the jacket is meant to be a three-season puffy that you can toss in your pack and leave there.
But, being a tough Wisconsin boy who loves the cold, I obviously decided to push this jacket to its absolute limit. Also, I gotta say … it's not the cold that will get you, it is the wind!
I have worn this jacket daily through winter, along with bringing it on a winter bikepacking trip as a midlayer. Here are my impressions.
Pros of the Katabatic Tarn Down Jacket
This jacket is premium! From the elastic wrist cuffs to the hood, everything is extremely well made. The zippers flow and you can tell that Katabatic put in a lot of love into this jacket. The baffles in the down are visibly full and hold their down fill well even after being compressed. I saw no evidence of down feathers creeping out of the fabric! The cuffs on this jacket are amazing as well and hold warmth inside the jacket really well! The Tarn held up to all the abuse I put it through.
This jacket is incredibly light! I’ve handed it over to a few of my friends, and every single one comments on how light this jacket is. Katabatic lists a weight of 9.3 oz for a size medium. I had 9.31 oz on my scale, which is dead on.
This jacket is compressible and packs down small! I can easily get it into a 7” x 4” dry bag, which is not a compression sack. Conceivably, the Tarn could pack down even smaller, if needed.
This jacket is amazing for bikepacking! For the size and price, the Tarn has no right to keep me this warm! During my winter bikepacking mission on the Ice Age Trail, I slept comfortably throughout the night in the Tarn layered with a warm flannel and base layer. I also ended up buying the Katabatic Crestone Down Hood to complete my winter sleep system. While in camp, I wore both the Tarn Jacket and the Crestone Hood the entire time. The only downside to the hood is that it can be harder to hear and eat. And while the shoulder straps on the Crestone Hood are well meaning, I found no use for them.
Cons of the Katabatic Tarn Down Jacket
The pockets are my one main concern as they are a little small. I like to be able to put a stocking cap on one side and gloves on the other side, even if I don’t need them, just to have them. Unfortunately, the pockets on the Tarn aren't able to hold these items.
It would be really nice to have a zippered chest pocket hidden within the jacket. This would help keep my phone warmer and not let the battery on my phone die.
Good to Know
- The jacket fits a little tight, and is slimming to say the least, so I would consider sizing up if you are in between sizes.
- The jacket does a very good job of keeping you warm to about maybe 20°F without any base layers or such. If you want something a little more heavy duty, Katabatic makes a warmer version called the Tincup Jacket. I would consider looking at that for deep winter backcountry adventures or higher-elevation excursions during shoulder seasons.
- The Tarn Jacket works OK for town use. Every time I put it on, I can barely tell I’m wearing the jacket, it is just so light and comfortable. That said, its slim fit and shallow pockets limit its serviceability as a daily driver.
Something to note about the mechanics of the human body is that you will be inherently warmer when you are moving than when you are not. Because of this, the Tarn is a perfect layer to wear while winter hiking — but be sure to NOT let it get saturated with sweat, as that will cause the down inside the jacket to lose its insulating properties.
The Katabatic Tarn Jacket has become a staple in my backcountry kit. This jacket keeps me warm and it is so compackable. The Tarn is an extremely light, durable layer that will more than serve the purpose for most thru-hikes and three-season adventures.
My name is Ryan Steger and I’ve worked in the bike industry for 8ish years, and I’ve rode pretty much every type of bike out there. I graduated with my degree in Kinesiology from UW Madison in 2020 and I’m looking forward to sharing my love of bikes and all things outdoors! I’m pursuing a nursing degree, which is my journey currently.
Based on the fill rating and the total weight of the jacket and my disbelief in magic I am quite certain that almost no one will agree with you about this jacket keeping you warm at 20F. That is not a criticism of the jacket. It is not intended to do that.