Gear Review: Anti Freeze Down Jacket on the Yukon Arctic Ultra

The remote Yukon province of Canada, home to temperatures as low as -40 degrees, is the ultimate testing ground for our warmest winter gear. With the Yukon Arctic Ultra back for another year of brutal adventure in the wilderness, we asked the organisers of the race to put our Anti Freeze Down Jackets to the test…

Photos: Mark Kelly

Described as the ‘world’s coldest ultra’, the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra is a true test of winter survival in one of the world’s most remote and challenging environments. For those unfamiliar, take a look at our day on the trail guide to get a feel for the kind of conditions that participants face. 

Eager to find out how the action unfolded this year, we caught up with race founder and director Robert Pollhammer. Keep reading to discover this year’s race highlights and to hear his thoughts on our Anti Freeze Down Jackets, used by the Yukon Ultra organisers and volunteers.

2024 Race Review

It has been a challenging year because the first real cold spell came very late this winter. It meant that the rivers froze later than normal and there were areas of open water, where there normally is ice. Then, just a couple of days before the start of the race, it rained heavily, turning our start area into an ice rink. 

Luckily, right after the rain, temperatures dropped again, in some areas down to – 40° Celsius. This made the Yukon trail icy and rock hard,  great for our fat bikers, but not so much for the athletes on foot, who suffered running and hiking on what felt like asphalt. However, the worst hit was our three xc-skiers. They were super slow and they had to work hard for every km of progress. In the end, all of them give up in these conditions!

In the marathon race Canadian Adam Luciano only took 3 hours and 14 minutes to reach Muktuk Adventures. 11 out of the 15 athletes in our 100-mile race also reached the finish line. Not surprisingly the two fat bikers ranked 1st and 2nd overall, well done to Canadian Scott Herron, followed by Ric Horobin. It took Scott 21 hours and 40 minutes and Ric 29 hours and 40 minutes. 3rd place overall went to Elise Zender from Germany who reached Braeburn after 30 hours and 38 minutes.

By this point, 4 participants in the 100-mile race and quite a few more in the 300-mile race had dropped out. The reasons for this were frostbite, as well as issues with hip, back and knees. Way ahead of everyone was Serbian athlete Jovica Spajic. Jovica was back to finally show the world what he is capable of, after two failed attempts at the 300 miles previously. 

Jovica had learned some valuable lessons in his previous attempts at the Yukon Ultra, this time made no mistakes. Unfortunately, due to open river water just before our McCabe Creek checkpoint, we had to skip a section. It means that Jovica’s time can’t be compared to any previous record times. But he won the race and was able to close this chapter. Behind him came Daniel Benhammou and John Nakel, both from the USA and both MYAU veterans. The last athlete to reach our Pelly Crossing finish line was Alan Purdue from Scotland. 

Gear Reviews: Anti Freeze Down Jacket 

"This year, the crew of the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2024 was provided with the Montane Anti-Freeze Hooded Down Jacket. Before anything else, Citrus Spring and Saffron Red are really cool colours! We all loved the look of these. One of the key features of the Anti-Freeze is that this is a very lightweight down jacket, which conveniently packs down to an incredibly small size. This is an important feature for both crew and athletes because the crew wants to travel light and the athletes need to carry a light sled with limited space. At the same time, we also need reliable warm layers.

Montane anti freeze down jackets on the Yukon Arctic Ultra

At 140g down fill weight, the Anti-Freeze Down Jacket can’t keep us warm when we are standing still outside for long periods of time in the Yukon's extreme temperatures. , when temperatures drop to such extreme lows here. However, this lightweight down jacket works great for the typical crew work, which involves jumping in and out of buildings and checkpoints. It also does a great job as a layering system for some extra essential warmth.

We also tested the Anti Freeze on a 45 km hike from McCabe Creek to Pelly Crossing. On this journey, temperatures reached lows of about – 20° Celsius. Combined with a base layer and mid layer, it was all we needed to stay comfortable – both when moving and having a break. The key here is for your layering system to be able to manage the moisture generated when you move. The Anti-Freeze Down Jacket worked wll whilst hiking – its stitch through construction means that some excess heat can escape and if that’s not enough, you can simply open the front zipper. 

Personally I have not used down a lot while on the move in the extreme cold. I have always been too afraid of getting the down wet. I usually wear a heavier, synthetic layer for extra insulation. However, after having tested the Anti-Freeze Down Jacket, I may reconsider next time. It’s so nice to have this extremely light down layer on the outside. You can hardly feel it. Also, the down is water resistant and thus takes more time to “store” moisture.

There are a couple of tings to keep in mind, that not everybody may like! This includes the small zips for the hand warmer pockets and a non-adjustable hood. Both are made this way in order to save weight, but small zips are less easy to handle with gloves on and the hood won’t move with your head if you look left or right." Robert Pollhammer, Founder and Director of the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra

Montane anti freeze down jackets on the Yukon Arctic Ultra

“The Anti-Freeze down jacket made for a warm companion in the Yukon.  It has a really well-designed fit that moved with me no matter what I was doing - hiking, chopping firewood, setting camp, or simply waiting for athletes to arrive at a checkpoint.  When temperatures plummeted, it worked well as a warm mid layer, comfortably nestled in between a fleece and a larger expedition jacket, and when on the move, I didn’t need anything else.  The Anti-Freeze managed moisture well, kept me warm, and held my essentials close.  

The internal chest pocket was a comforting way to make sure that my phone/head torch stayed warm, close to my body underneath the down, and that they kept working throughout the day/night without having to store them elsewhere.  The Citrus Spring option is a beautiful pop of colour in a world of dark outdoor jackets, and was essential for being able to be seen when outside! It was easy to spot a crew member - you just looked out for the colour! It would be great to have a two-way zipper at the bottom when layered up, but otherwise, I can’t see any need for changes/improvement.  It’s a great staple for any outdoor enthusiast to have, either in their wardrobe, or packed down in their pack ready to warm up at the top of a hill." Callum Jolliffe, Volunteer on the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra

"This was an extremely warm and versatile down jacket that acted as a great midlayer and lighter weight outer-layer on the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra. In the -35 degrees of the first few days of the race and when riding the snowmobile through the -25 degrees of the Yukon I used the jacket as a midlayer. With it being lightweight and breathable down the jacket provided an extremely warm extra layer underneath my heavier down jacket. When being used for more active pursuits in subzero temperature and as an outer layer the temperatures got warmer this jacket really came into its own. It’s lightweight warm and comfortable. 

The jacket packs down to a decent size into its own stuff sack which is extremely useful when limited on space. It served me very well in the extreme cold, but I can see also it being very useful as a lightweight jacket when bike packing in the future." James Olejnik, Volunteer on the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra

Montane Anti Freeze Down Jacket

Feeling inspired?

Robert reviews the Anti Freeze Down Jacket available for men and women. For more lightweight down jacket options see our full range to find your ultimate winter jacket. Alternatively, take a look at our buyer's guide to down jackets to find the right down jacket to suit your adventure needs.