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Lightweight Winter Down Parka Reviews and State of the Market Report


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Lightweight Winter Down Parka Reviews and State of the Market Report

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  • #3567662
    Max Neale
    BPL Member

    @maximumdragonfly

    Locale: Anchorage, AK

    Companion forum thread to: Lightweight Winter Down Parka Reviews and State of the Market Report

    This article features lightweight down parkas (usually, full-zip jackets with hoods, a longer hem, and box-baffled construction) appropriate for winter backpacking, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, mountaineering, and other cold-temperature activities.

    #3567691
    Edward John M
    BPL Member

    @moondog55

    I am wondering why the Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero wasn’t tested?

    Comparing the Patagonia Grade 7 and the MH and given my proposed use in an Alaskan winter I thought the MH parka was far warmer and of a more generous cut. I found the Patagonia very tight fitting even in its largest size with no room in it for more than a base layer and a windshirt [ I didn’t try a Nano-air with it as the store had none in stock] the tight fit surprised me very much.

    #3567697
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    There’s really no comparison between the Grade VII and the MH Absolute Zero. The MH parka is waterproof so it’s more in line with the Khumbu. The MH is a whoppin’ 45 oz as well. At some point, you have to draw the line, I reckon!

    #3567723
    Edward John M
    BPL Member

    @moondog55

    OK I take the point about weight being important but nothing else on the market fitted me, which is weird because in other Patagonia clothing I am an XL with room to spare. Sometimes fit is everything.

    #3567724
    AlpineIce
    BPL Member

    @alpineice

    I agree with Ryan.  A majority of what Max does in the mountains is human-powered; either on skis or tied into a rope where every once counts and an expedition, 8000M parka is just not practical, nor really feasible.

    I get that every belay jacket out there can’t always be tested, but I wonder why the Montane Deep Heat wasn’t taken into consideration?  Montane uses 300 grams of 800-Fill, hydrophobic goose down with box-wall construction and a Pertex Quantum Pro exterior.  At 27.23 ounces (772 grams,) it’s definitely right in the middle of the road in terms of test pieces.

    For years, I’ve been advocating for gear manufacturers to construct a down belay jacket with a vapor barrier internal fabric to protect fragile down from perspiration, accumulated snow, etc.  I’m thrilled to see a professional like Max agrees!

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by matthew k.
    #3567741
    Edward John M
    BPL Member

    @moondog55

    I agree and I also agree that the A0 isn’t a lightweight but there seem to be few makers who actually make parkas to fit my wide shoulders. I’ve a build a bit like Ed Hillary and Jim Whittaker Much bigger in the shoulders than our chest measurements would suggest and I’m a 47 inch chest since coming into my full growth.

    I really did want something other than what I bought, lighter and more versatile.

    Patagonia Australia also told me that there was not going to be an XXL in the Grade 7 or I may have waited Although the XL was really tight as noted above

    A larger and longer cut Fitzroy would have been my choice, sort of a down insulated DAS, and yes VB fabric on both sides with venting so it could be stuffed

    #3567783
    Jean D
    BPL Member

    @jdejace

    Max,

    In the specs you’re comparing different sizes for a few of them – ME and Rab spec a Large whereas most use a Medium. So unless they fit a size smaller that may not be a fair comparison.

    Patagonia told me in an email a couple of weeks ago that the Grade VII had 299g of fill, others have been told 331g. They need to get it straight and put it on their website like almost every other serious manufacturer. Kinda shady.

    The VBL inner shell would mean you can’t dry out your layers/gloves/socks, I guess everyone can decide how important that is to them if such a parka ever becomes available.

    #3567785
    Anne Flueckiger
    BPL Member

    @annefluke

    Locale: Northern Minnesota

    Thanks for the review! I always enjoy the photos and tech info even if I’m not in the market for the gear being discussed. After 15+ years of using a bulky, heavy, men’s-sized down parka (bought on sale), several years ago I bought a Mammut Eigerjoch Pro. I chose it b/c I read a review that said “you only need this kind of warmth if you winter camp in Minnesota” (which I occasionally do), it comes in women’s sizes, and I found it on sale for $400 (retails for $600). Mine weighs ~28 oz, so it’s not as light as the reviewed jackets. I probably won’t ever carry it in a backpack, b/c I pull a sled on my winter overnights (or drive right up to the campsite, as in this photo taken a few weeks ago). But it is packable (includes stuff sack). I guide “adventure travel” trips and have worn the jacket in Nepal, on Kilimanjaro, and dogsledding in MN. So far have been pleased with warmth, fit, function. I haven’t tested the lowest temps I can comfortably just sit around in this jacket (assuming well-fed & hydrated, several layers). I would guess maybe minus 20F? It definitely gets colder than that here, but in that case I would be moving, in my sleeping bag, cold but not hypothermic, or at home by the fire 🙂

    #3567841
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Anne, the Eigerjoch Pro is a nice-looking jacket. Looking at its specs, it only has 130 g of down fill in it – which for 850 fill equates to about 3,900 cubic inches of down (I think the Eigherjoch Pro also contains a couple of ounces of Primaloft). The jacket’s weight is around 2 lb.

    I have to believe that based on the jackets presented in this review, almost everything in this State of the Market Report is going to have a higher level of warmth, and a higher warmth:weight ratio than the Eigherjoch Pro. For example, the Patagonia Fitz Roy weighs more than 1/2 lb less and has a 2,500 more cubic inches of down in it.

    #3567846
    Chad Lorenz
    BPL Member

    @chadl

    Locale: Teton Valley, Wydaho

    Very thorough and well researched, thanks Max! I lead 10-14 night ski trips in Wyoming during the winters, and rely on in-camp time to dry out damp gloves (drop pockets)and rotate through socks (shoulders, over a baselayer). In dry cold it’s not uncommon to see the frosty outline of my drying socks on the outside shell fabric of my down jacket. I’m resistant to the idea of a VBL inner for this reason primarily.

    I agree on weather resistant shell fabrics, and have only been on two courses where we sustained enough of a warm/wet cycle to desire that level of protection. During one warm, rainy spell we ended up setting up Mega Light’s over top of our snow shelters to keep them from deteriorating further…

    #3567854
    pgreenx
    BPL Member

    @pgreenx

    Nice review.  I have a Montane Deep Cold Parka for a few yrs which meet all of your criteria.  Love it and would buy it again.  Would have been nice to see how it faired vanthe others

    #3567859
    Walter Isenberg
    BPL Member

    @wisenber

    While this is “Backpackinglight” and not “Backpackingwarmth”, I was surprised to see the weight (no pun intended) of “warmth” to be half of that of “weight”. If it isn’t warm enough, the lack of weight is of no benefit. Sliding the bar from 25/50 to 30/45 would make for quite different overall rankings.

    #3567869
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Well researched review, [email protected] near exhaustive in terms of testing in the “wild”.

    As for baffled shoulders, YES! I once returned The North Face’s first effort at a down parks B/C all the down fell away from the shoulders during a -5 F. backpacking trip. NOT good!

    Personally I like the Feathered Friends Khumbu but for the money I like the unmentioned baffled “LL Bean Ultralight 850 Big Baffle” at $309. for a Large Tall. Bean uses Down Tech DWR. Bean’s customer service looked up the down fill and they say for a Large, Tall size it has about 13.8 oz. of 850 down fill. So not as much as the average parka reviewed here.

    And yes, I am a “believer” in down DWR B/c at least for a few washings (say 3 years) it does work. Better than no DWR at all.

     

     

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by matthew k.
    #3567890
    Anne Flueckiger
    BPL Member

    @annefluke

    Locale: Northern Minnesota

    Thanks for checking into the specs, Ryan!

    #3567940
    Ken Larson
    BPL Member

    @kenlarson

    Locale: Western Michigan

    Excellent Review and I also felt the Montane Deep Heat should have been included or mentioned in the review.

    If you compare Patagonia Grade VII to that of the Feathered Friends Khumbu, BUT change weight values given in the  Performance Comparison Table to Warmth (50%) & Weight (20%) and left the other two variable unchanged…. both of these parkas would be equally scored @ 81.

     

    #3570823
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    You got me with this article. I realized I needed a severe cold parka that would serve me in nasty winter weather at high altitudes.

    So today (12/30/’18) I ordered that LL Bean “Ultralight 850 Baffle” down parka I mentioned above. It was on a double sale so my size cost me $209. W/free shipping. That’s a 32% off the original $309. price for a Tall size. The most similarly designed parka I see in this review is the Montbell Frost Line parka but the Bean parka has a better fill number, a longer butt-covering tail and appears to have larger volume, maybe in the 7,000 cu.in. range.

    Normally I wear size Large Regular in upper body clothing (I’m 5′ 10″) but this time I ordered a Large Tall having had my own opinion reinforced in this review that covering your butt better and having longer sleeves is a plus. My old GTX mountain parka is sized the same way.

    I’m fairly confident that this parka will be of the same high quality as the LL Bean -20 F. sleeping bag I got (also on a double sale) two years ago. I hope the hood fits over my ski helmet. :0)

    Supposedly this parka has a shell of a special “Pertex Y-shaped yarns” for more wind and water resistance, is more down proof and more durability. That’s a lot of promises. Here’s hoping the durability is enhanced with that special yarn.

    But now I’ll have a baffled down parka that will keep me warm all day in sub-zero temperatures. It’s a kind of “insurance” IMO.

     

    #3570861
    Ken Larson
    BPL Member

    @kenlarson

    Locale: Western Michigan

    Eric……Was interested in the LL Bean “Ultralight 850 Baffle Hooded down parka you just purchased and contacted L.L.Bean Chat concerning two question I had.  Connected with Ann who is in the PSS Soft Goods Department who sent me the answers to the two question below::

    How many ounces of 800fp down are in the the LL Bean “Ultralight 850 Baffle Hooded down parkas?

    >>>” down weights in ounces per size: S- 5.00 M- 5.30 L- 5.60 XL- 5.92 XXL- 6.24”

    I the parka sewn through OR baffled construction?

    >>”sewn through”

    Do not think this is what you wanted in the parka you purchased. :(

     

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by matthew k.
    #3570871
    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member

    @tipiwalter

    I was perplexed when Feathered Friends stopped making their Icefall parka in eVent as they highly touted the fabric—but then switched to Pertex.  And then wouldn’t you know it but they dumped the Icefall parka and replaced it with the Khumba—while my Icefall’s fill weight was 15.3 ozs of down and the Khumba has 13.3 ozs.

    (For serious cold types—check out the Rock and Ice parka with 20.5 ozs of 900 down and 2 lbs 14 ozs total weight).

    My Icefall is part of my standard load and goes out with me on every winter trip—along with some WM down pants.  Of course it is never worn when hiking and is only a survival item for in-camp comfort during long days at 0F or below.  I think I have a pic of it somewhere.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by matthew k.
    #3570886
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Ken,

    Ann at LL Bean is wrong. This is the baffled parka and its “official” name is the “Ultralight 850 Down Big Baffle Hooded Puffer Jacket” (Whew!) item number TA505278.

    But thanks for checking on this. I’ll call Bean and see what the numbers are for this parka. It should arrive around Jan. 8 so I’ll post info and photos on it soon.

    UPDATE: Called Bean’s and talked to a “product specialist”. He could not find either the ounces of down or garment weight. I told him that Bean’s needs to start publishing these numbers for consumer info. But another product specialist at Bean’s told me that for the Large Tall the arms are more than 1″ longer and the tall is 1 1/2″ longer than a Large Regular. Nice to know.

    Also discovered that the hood is sewn-through. From the photos of it I can see I’ll be adding a detachable coyote or fox fur ruff. Soft loop “female” Velcro sewn the hood and the barbed “male” Velcro on the ruff. The ruff will flip forward to form a “breathing tunnel” in severe weather.

    Finally, the LL Bean parka I ordered, like most of the parkas reviewed here, do Not have a baffle covering the outside of the main zipper. What gives?? I’m sure a thermal image of a person wearing such a “naked zipper” parka would show significant heat loss at the zipper. Enough of “Zipper as a Design Element”. It sucks but I’ll have to learn to “EMBRACE THE SUCK”.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by matthew k.
    #3570891
    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member

    @tipiwalter

    I’m exasperated too by the tendency for companies to NOT reveal how much down in ounces they put in their jackets.  This is especially true with puffy type jackets.  I guess the numbers are so low they are embarrassed and ashamed.  But then, when you buy something that weighs 7 ozs or 10 ozs how much actual goose down do you think you’re getting??  Minimal.

    #3571556
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    OK, the LL Bean 850 fill baffled parka just arrived.

    Forget what I said before. Upon a closer look this parka is NOT baffled at all. – sewn-thru entirely.

    In a conversation with a Bean’s customer service person he had no clue as to what a baffle WAS! Fortunately their “Product Specialist” did and he agreed that the ad copy using the term “baffle” was probably meant to have said “channels”. i.e. should have been “Big Channels”, NOT “Big Baffles”.

    I’m sending it back now.  Aaaarrggghh!

    —————————————————————————————————————————————-

    P.S. After searching the internet again I think I like the Eddie Bauer “First Ascent Peak XV Down Jacket”. This parka IS baffled from two reviews, one video and one print. It’s also heavy and has WPB shell but I’ll put up with that for $299. from Bauer or Amazon . I’m on a fixed retirement budget and price is very important.  That heavier weight 3 oz. 40 Denier, WPB shell also means I can leave a heavy GTX mountain parka shell at home. Kinda reminds me of the FF Khumbu in design. The extra weight does not bother me B/C I’m not climbing and won’t backcountry ski above 11,000 ft. I’ll just diet a bit. ;o)

    The Peak XV is decently long but no tall sizes are offered. But it does have a nice down face “ruff” lined with light fleece. I’m still putting on that detachable coyote fur ruff. (“fashion first”)

    P.P.S. So today I ordered the Eddie Bauer Peak XV parka. We’ll see…

    Eddie Bauer PEAK XV parka-> The EB parka arrived today and it is very nicely designed and appears to be high quality construction.

    PROS:

    1. Fully baffled – torso, arms and hood. Baffles appear to be 1/2″ wide.
    2. good assortment of interior (3) and exterior (3) pockets
    3. Parka hood is helmet compatable
    4. Hem drawstrings accessible from hand warmer pockets (must be relaxed from outside)
    5. Hood face drawstrings accessible from inside, back hood ‘string is for horizontal adjustment
    6. Light Cordura brand shell for durability

    CONS:

    1. Not enough fill in upper arms (easily remedied)
    2. no insulation on internal zipper baffle (can easily be filled W/ down)
    3. one-way front zipper

    So overall, for $299. and free shipping, it is a very good buy for an extreme weather parka.  FINALLY a good down parka that is as advertised, maybe better.,

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by matthew k.
    #3577500
    Winston W
    BPL Member

    @winstwi-2

    Hey what about the new Rab Positron Pro. 27oz, 10.6oz of 800 FP, $425 msrp.

    Also it’s fully baffled except for inner arms and side ribs area. I check out the Patagonia Fitz Roy in the store and arms look entirely stitched through.

    #3611508
    Tjaard Breeuwer
    BPL Member

    @tjaard

    Locale: Minnesota, USA

    Are the fill powers listed for RAB correct? Not euro method?

     

    #3639381
    Andrew S
    Spectator

    @ondra

    For the RAB Positron Pro, that’s 800 US.

    (Does that mean it’s correct?  (I believe 800 US = around 740 EU.))

    Re. the Montbell frost line, I was surprised to read that it is so short.  The Montbell website says the back length is 77 cm, and I understand the Fitz Roy’s back length for a medium is just 2.4 cm more.  I think I also read a review praising it for being longer than other jackets.  Though it does look short in the picture above with the blue jacket.  Has Montbell changed it since this article was written?  Probably not – the above picture of the black jacket is the same one Montbell uses on their site.  Perhaps they quote length for size L?

    #3639385
    Andrew S
    Spectator

    @ondra

    So the Patagonia Grade VII has 3.7 oz more fill than the Fitz Roy, more pockets, more baffles, it’s longer, it’s wider.  And it only weighs 2.5 oz more!  How do they do that?

    They do save a bit of weight with the interior fabric (0.15 oz/m2).  But they add even more with the exterior fabric (0.2 oz/m2).  With pockets, there might be a bit more interior fabric, but just a bit.

    Then I saw Jean D’s post above.  Does the Grade VII have 299g of fill, or 331g (which equals the 11.6 mentioned in the article)?  If 299, then it has 2.5 oz more than the Fitz Roy … .

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