Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine down parka - $379
Montbell really pulled out the stops on this one. They created a fully featured 1000 fill down jacket that weighs only 8.4 oz. We have been testing their EX Light Down Anorak (6.2 oz), which is an essential summer piece, but it’s warmth is limited and we really missed having pockets. Enter the 1000 Alpine Parka. With the greater fill power, this is a piece that can extend further into winter. Obviously with the higher fill power, it doesn’t pack down as small as the Anorak, but with the added features and warmth its well worth the slightly larger package. The only negative is that the shell fabric is a bit delicate, but that comes with the territory on these UL layers.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket - $350
“The world’s lightest full-featured hooded down jacket. ” I can’t argue with that. This is a great piece. It’s very warm for the weight. It’s extremely comfortable. I’ve heard reviews that fault the durability of the shell fabric, but when you’re making a sub-10 oz. puffer, you can’t use the stoutest shell fabric. If you haven’t experienced Mountain Hardwear’s Q-shield down, it’s a revelation. We have their Phantom 32 bag and it’s been very condensation resistant while using a bivy. As you know, wet down is fairly useless, so MH has gone and treated the down so it’s moisture resistant. Our only beef with this piece is the wrist cuffs are a bit odd. Still, this a great piece of packable warmth.
Mountain Hardwear StretchDown RS Hooded Down Jacket - $320
I know you’re asking yourself what is STRETCH down and does it really work? Obviously we’re talking about giving the shell and interior part of the jacket some stretch for added mobility. I’d say the stretch element is subtle, but it does make the jacket very comfortable and enhance movement. The warmth is a notch up from a Ghost Whisperer and the addition of a fleecy fabric in the interior of the jacket adds to the comfort. At 15 oz, the jacket is not UL but puts it in the more “basecamp” category of comfort and warmth over absolute lightness or packability. We really like the thinking on this jacket. The pillowy warmth makes for a jacket you won’t want to take off.