The Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka is a hooded version of their Alpine Light Down Jacket, and a lighter version of their Alpine Down Jacket. It has a sewn-through construction using 800 fill power down and Montbell’s 30 denier Ballistic Airlight shell fabric.
The Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka is insulated with 800 fill power down and weighs just 14.2 ounces (men’s medium).
At 14.2 ounces for size medium, the Alpine Light is one of the lightest down parkas available. The Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket, at 10.5 ounces, holds the honor of lightest down jacket, but it does not have a hood, its shell fabric is very fragile, and it costs $75 more. Thus, the Alpine Light is definitely a strong contender for a lightweight, durable, reasonably priced down parka or jacket.
The backside of the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka, showing its insulated hood and puffy down chambers.
I am impressed with Montbell’s Ballistic Airlight nylon fabric. It’s calendared on one side to give it more strength (at a cost of some breathability), and it has a superb DWR treatment. On several occasions I traveled in rain or snow wearing the jacket and found it to be very wind- and water-resistant, eventually wetting through mainly at the seams. The fabric is also quite durable, surviving several unintentional brushes with tree branches while skiing and snowshoeing.
The Alpine Light Down Parka’s hood (left) is well insulated and has two drawcord adjustors in front and a Velcro adjustment on the back. Two inside drop pockets (right) add very little weight to the garment and are extremely useful for holding, drying, and warming gear. Left photo by Bill Webbe.
While many hikers would consider this lightweight down parka only for three-season use, I found it to be much more versatile than that. I am a devout believer in a layering system, so, rather than carry a heavy parka on a winter camping trip, I prefer to take two lightweight insulating jackets in order to wear them separately or together. On a February 2008 eleven-day winter camping trip in Yellowstone National Park, I stayed toasty warm at -16 °F wearing a heavy wool baselayer, lightweight synthetic insulated jacket (Integral Designs Rundle Jacket), and the Montbell Alpine Light Down Jacket over that. As needed, I wore a shell jacket over one or more of the underlayers.
The layering system I used on a February igloo camping trip in Yellowstone National Park, where temperatures dropped to as low as -16 °F. The Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka was my outer layer, except for when I wore a shell jacket over it.
For “normal” summer backpacking, especially in the mountains where nighttime temperatures can get down to freezing, the Alpine Light Down Parka is an excellent choice. A down-insulated garment gives the most warmth for its weight, and the Alpine Light Parka or Jacket provides warmth for chilly mornings, as well as extending the warmth of a 30 °F sleeping bag in below freezing temperatures. The parka version is also a very good companion to a sleeping quilt or hoodless sleeping bag.
Overall, I found the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka to be very warm, durable, wind/water resistant, and versatile. It’s not the absolute lightest down jacket to be found, but it has the right amount of warmth to be useful the year around as an outer layer or midlayer, and it’s a good value.
Specifications and Features
- Manufacturer: Montbell (http://www.montbell.com/)
- Year/Model: 2008 Alpine Light Down Parka
- Materials:: Outer shell is 30 d Ballistic Airlight, lining is 30 d nylon taffeta
- Insulation: 800 fill power down
- Features: Microfleece lined collar, full front zipper, elastic cuffs and hem, two inside drop pockets, two zippered fleece lined hand pockets, attached insulated hood with three adjustors, stuff sack
- Weight: measured weight men’s XL 16.5 oz (468 g), manufacturer specification 14.2 oz (403 g) men’s M
- MSRP: $165 US