MontBell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket Review
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Nov 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm #1309522Stephanie JordanSpectator
@maiaLocale: Rocky Mountains
Companion forum thread to:Nov 6, 2013 at 4:37 am #2041715DARCY OLSENBPL Member
I have the Selkirk UL jacket in a large , 6.8 oz. on my scale .Nov 6, 2013 at 4:59 am #2041718John HillyerBPL Member
Too bad the issue of 1000FP down having less fill power when damp was not addressed. Also no word on how 1000FP was achieved. I am still wondering how this jacket performs in the field over multiple days in colder temps. :-(
Edited for spellingNov 7, 2013 at 8:11 am #2042147Richard NisleyBPL Member
@richard295Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
It was a pleasure to read your review. I have missed your excellent contributions to BPL.Nov 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm #2042242Confused NewbieSpectator
@confusedLocale: Northern CO
I'm still learning about UL backpacking, and am curious about how down jackets (and bags) perform if you are out for several days in cold rainy weather. When I read gear lists, it seems like down is the key to significant lightening of weight, but I'm a bit scared of going to a solely down+shell system.Nov 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm #2042249Ben CBPL Member
Bobb, with a little experience, I think you can keep your down dry. You do need to make sure you are doing what you need to to keep it dry, but it is a very good option. I backpack mostly in the wet southern Appalachians with down. I have never had a problem.Nov 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm #2042250Justin BakerBPL Member
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
If you don't ever expose your bag or jacket to rain, then it won't get wet with rain.
It's mostly an issue with cold and humid weather. When it's cold and humid(or very misty/foggy), everything takes forever to dry out.
For sleeping bags – normally when the air is dry and it's above freezing, your body heat evaporates the moisture from your perspiration and you stay dry. When it's humid, your perspiration accumulates faster than it can evaporate. Also, the colder it is the slower it evaporates and more lofty down bags can have moisture accumulate in the outermost layers because the outermost layers are far enough from that body that they still at freezing temperatures. Over several days it will build up.
People usually don't wear their down jackets while hiking unless it's an emergency. Down jackets are for when you get into camp and set up a shelter.Nov 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm #2042252Bob GrossBPL Member
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
If you are inexperienced and not paying attention to your down insulation, it can be the source of problems. However, when you first acquire a down sleeping bag, get a bit of paranoia about keeping it totally dry. Then very soon, that will become your natural instinct to keep it dry. It is one thing with a sleeping bag since you are asleep for most of the time that it is used. A down parka is easier, because during the middle of a day, you are fully awake and you ought to be conscious of what is happening to it. If you are sweating it too seriously from the inside, then why not remove a layer? Let ventilation be your friend.
I don't see anything at all wrong with a down+shell arrangement.
–B.G.–Nov 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm #2042261Ben CBPL Member
I will say I think its easier to keep down dry in the western US(most of it anyway) than in the east. I don't know where you live. But if you live in the relatively dry west, the wet weather tends to come and go much more quickly, giving you a better opportunity to dry out. Of course I speak in generalities only.Nov 7, 2013 at 12:57 pm #2042266Bob GrossBPL Member
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"I will say I think its easier to keep down dry in the western US(most of it anyway) than in the east."
By reputation, the weather in the Pacific Northwest tends to be wetter and cooler, and it stays that way for longer periods of time.
In the summer along California's John Muir Trail (somewhat high elevation), it can still get wet, but it tends to be much more sporadic, as Ben suggested. It can be cool, as well, but that varies tremendously with elevation. When a down sleeping bag or down jacket is used for some time, it can be dried on a sunny rock, and then packed for reuse later. At high elevation, there are few trees, so there is less shade to allow cold/wet spots to last.
–B.G.–Nov 7, 2013 at 1:01 pm #2042270Billy RaySpectator
@rosyfinchLocale: the mountains
If you are going to do a trip where it might cold and rain every day, all day and you don't have experience with down in that kind of weather, I suggest you take at lest some fleece and/or synthetic stuff as safety items. Personally, I would go with synthetic bag, fleece camp pants, and fleece jacket in that kind of weather. Even with the most experienced and competent backpackers shit can happen.
Bill D.Nov 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm #2042293IanBPL Member
Great review. I was really on the fence as to whether or not I was going to buy the EX light or Plasma this winter. After reading this review, I think the EX light is a better purchase for my money.Nov 7, 2013 at 9:40 pm #2042435James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Good review, and Thanks, Will!Nov 7, 2013 at 10:59 pm #2042464James holdenBPL Member
I'm still learning about UL backpacking, and am curious about how down jackets (and bags) perform if you are out for several days in cold rainy weather. When I read gear lists, it seems like down is the key to significant lightening of weight, but I'm a bit scared of going to a solely down+shell system.
i own and use a MB EXL
and i will say that when its raining hard at ~40F temps the entire day … the EXL does not feel any warmer than a good fleece
never mind getting down wet … just the 100% humidity degrades the loft
now if its cool and dry out, thats a different story
;)Nov 8, 2013 at 12:24 am #2042471Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Why bother with a down jacket that won't keep you warm in sub-freezing weather? That is where down is at its best, when the precip is in the form of snow and humidity drops.
As with the light synthetic jackets, you basically have two very light windshirts with a wisp of insulation. If you re going to use it in cold conditions, why not throw a few more ounces of down in those light shells and get something that provides some real warmth?
There is a similar trend in synthetic fill jackets coming out with 40g fill. I thought 60g was weak! I think it is marketing oneupmanship to say "we have the lightest jacket" and sidestep the utility and practicality of the garment.
I also think that informal fashion trends spawn such things. They are great for running errands or a walk across campus, but they have limited use for hiking. They are indeed light weight, but so what!Nov 8, 2013 at 4:35 am #2042483
Great article Will.
My recommendation would be to double the amount of down in the Plasma Jacket, which would differentiate it from the Ex Light (and others) and substantially raise the warmth to weight ratio in a sub-7 oz (198 g) jacket.
I came to the same conclusion with this jacket.
I think it could be hard for them to stuff another 45 grams of down into the jacket, but they could easily, one would tend to think in looking and wearing this jacket, have gotten another 25-30 grams of down shoved into it.
I would have liked it to be longer.
It really is easy to understand why so many are choosing the Ex Light over this Plasma 1000.Nov 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm #2042661Steve GenestSpectator
Thank you for the review. I've been mulling over the many choices for down jackets and I like Montbell products in general. I'm returning to backpacking after many years and it's been expensive gearing up. In fact, I picked up a down sweater at Costco recently…packable down for $44. My trips will be at lower elevations here in SoCal so I'm hoping I can get by with this for awhile as part of a layering system. For the money, it won't be a big waste if it doesn't work, but one chilly outing could easily change that!Nov 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm #2042701Jeffrey WongBPL Member
@kayak4waterLocale: Pacific NW
…for this informative review. I've had my finger on the trigger on the MB ExLight forever. Seeing how puffy it is and reading the squiggly black lines and dots gave me license to click buy/checkout.Nov 9, 2013 at 10:57 am #2042815Anthony HuhnBPL Member
@anthonyjhuhnLocale: Mid West
Didn't the patagonia 1000 fill parka come out first?Nov 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm #2042829Adam KlagsBPL Member
@klagsLocale: Northeast USA
yeah Patagonia brought that out first, but its a COMPLETELY different jacket. I own one. And I have worn the montbell before, the ex lite. They are for entirely different purposes. I have no doubt that my Patagonia encapsil belay parka would keep me warm to about 0 degrees with a layer of long underwear under it. It is too hot for anything but the coldest of weather. It makes most sense to use as a parka for when you're hiking or climbing in winter and you stop to rest or for a break, or while in camp. You would not wear that jacket while hiking or mountaineering unless you were climbing a world-class mountain like Raineer or Everest. You would sweat yourself into dehydration in no time. The montbell in this review is a "down sweater" style meaning that while it is warm, it is a thinner garment not designed to stand alone in the deep cold that the patagonia encapsil does. This is patagonia's competitor to the montbell, and it isn't 1000 fill:
these are the kinds of jackets you CAN wear while hiking, but I highly suggest a synthetic layer instead of a down layer for this purpose. I own one of these for that and recommend it VERY HIGHLY. Probably has become my favorite piece of clothing I own for hiking, seriously. It is heavier than the down by at least 5 oz but as something worn during the cool weather months, that extra weight means nothing if it is on your back instead of in your pack:Nov 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm #2042833Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
I think the 1000 fill thing is more oneupmanship and on the edge of practicality. It has been noted that less lofty fills that have some feathers in the mix may hold their loft better than the uber puffy stuff. Some mentioned wearing a shell over the jacket reviewed and my first thought was how the loft would hold up. The insulation layer is already so thin that any compression is significant. I think you need some "reserve" loft to get any real efficiency if used with a rain shell. IMHO, you need 2" or so loft to get a garment with enough warmth to be practical.
At 2+" loft the weight difference between an 800 fill jacket and a 1000 fill version are really quite small. I assume an 800 fill jacket would cost less and would have a longer service life and work better in a layered system. Even a 700 fill jacket wouldn't be that much heavier: the fabric used in the shells as well as the cut and feature set have as much influence in weight and loft.
The other thing to consider with thin "belay" insulation is that is is only good for a narrow band of temperatures. Will noted that the jacket is weak for belay use below freezing. A fleece with base layers and wind shell would be effective above freezing. I reach for puffy layers when it is colder ( and drier) and then I want something with some real loft.Nov 10, 2013 at 4:51 pm #2043127Adam KilpatrickBPL Member
@oystersLocale: South Australia
At the risk of starting a flame war, I very much agree with Dale on this.
Especially if you are anything above average in metabolism when awake, there's not much point in having a double windshirt with a smidge of fragile down in between. In fact, its more like two windshirts perforated with a lot of stitching, leaking heat.
I guess it really depends on what conditions you are in, but unless its a really dry trip, I'd struggle to choose this myself. Certainly, the Plasma with extra stitching and arguably more fragile down is less of a good choice. Spring/Autumn in arid conditions would be great, if your camp behavior means you are up and out of your sleeping bag still after dark (more likely if you aren't solo). Otherwise you'd be much better off just carrying a single windshirt, and putting the weight saved into extra down in your quilt or sleeping bag.
Also, the Ex Light might also be slightly warmer as it might have less stitching overall. At the temperature ranges these jackets are useful, the two layers of 7 denier might provide just about as much warmth as the 40g of down if they weren't perforated.Nov 10, 2013 at 7:45 pm #2043190Anthony HuhnBPL Member
@anthonyjhuhnLocale: Mid West
I was just nitpicking the statement that the montbell is the first jacket to use 1000 fill power, I know, I'm a jerk for even mentioning it. But I think the whole pataguchi secret process that turns 800 fill into 1000 fill water-resistant down is cool. Any one want to let me cut open their $700 jacket to see if I can figure out how they do it?
AnthonyNov 12, 2013 at 10:50 am #2043730Confused NewbieSpectator
@confusedLocale: Northern CO
Thanks all for the advice on the down. If I am not digressing too much from the topic of the discussion…what do you all prefer to store your down in for sleeping? For cold wet weather, say 35F and rainy, do you bring a fleece with for hiking? I can't help but recall the "cotton kills" statements I heard about insulating properties of wet cotton while younger; seems like down is similar, but the advantages of dry down are too good to pass up.Nov 12, 2013 at 11:07 am #2043735Stephen MBPL Member
@stephen-mLocale: Way up North
Any clothing items I am not using while sleeping go in to a dry bag (the same one they are stored in during the day).
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