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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Montbell UL Down Inner Parka > Test Report by Jason Boyle

MontBell Ultra Light (UL) Down Inner Parka

Test Series

Initial Report - November 23, 2007
Field Report - January 30, 2008
Long Term Report - April 7, 2008

Tester Information:
Name: Jason Boyle
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 6"/ 1.68 m
Weight: 180 lb/ 82 kg
Chest: 42"/ 107 cm
Neck: 16"/ 41 cm
Sleeve: 28"/ 71 cm (from the middle of my chest to my wrist)
Email address: c4jc "at" hotmail "dot" com
City, State, Country: Snoqualmie, Washington, U. S.

Backpacking Background:
I have been camping and backpacking for about 19 years. My introduction to the outdoors started with the Boy Scouts of America and has continued as an adult. I have hiked mostly in the Southeastern and Northeastern United States. I am generally a lightweight hiker, but will carry extras to keep me comfortable. I currently reside in the Pacific Northwest and spend most of my time hiking and backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but I can be found exploring the other wild areas of Washington!

Product Information:
Manufacturer: MontBell
Model: U. L. Down Inner Parka
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Listed weight: 7.4 oz (210 g) for a medium
Measured weight: Parka 8.35 oz (237 g) for a large
Stuff sack ) 0.3 oz (8.5 g
Fill Weight: 2.1 oz (60 g)
Sizes: S-XL available
Color: Olive Green
Fabric content: Shell/Lining: 15 denier Ballistic Airlight
Insulation: 800 fill power goose down
MSRP: $ 155 US
Country of Manufacture: China

Product Description:
The MontBell UL Down Inner Parka is an ultra light insulating parka designed to replace fleece or other heavier/bulkier insulation layers. The Ballistic Airlight fabric is very soft to the touch and feels very thin, though from experience it is tougher than it feels. The hood and the cuffs have elastic sewn around the edge to provide protection against drafts. The parka has “sewn through” construction where the down is contained in a bunch of squares sewn together. There are two deep handwarmer pockets and no internal pockets. The zipper is a full length, YKK zipper with a nice long pull that should be easy to find with gloves on. I like the plain style of the jacket. It has only one small logo – a small MontBell embroidered in grey thread at the bottom of the left arm.

Drinking Coffee at Melakwa Lake

Initial Report – November 23, 2007

Initial Impressions:
Even though I have experience with MontBell products, I am still impressed with how lightweight their products are, this parka is no exception. They also claim that the jacket compresses to the size of the Nalgene Bottle, and they are spot on as the picture to the right shows, but still fluffs up nicely when removed from the stuff sack.

The parka has an athletic cut, but fits comfortably over a baselayer, and nicely under a shell jacket. The hood is large and easily fits over a ball cap or beanie. I have not tried to put it over a climbing helmet yet, but hope to do so in the next several months. The included stuff sack is a nice touch, it is the same color as the shell fabric and has a small flap sewn into the bottom to make removing the jacket easier.

The cleaning instructions are interesting, they say dry clean only. However checking the MontBell website under the maintenance and care link, it says “Please Note: If your care label indicates Dry Clean Only it may be incorrect. Please follow the online care instructions or contact customer service for more information.” I have emailed MontBell Customer Service for clarification and will post their response in my Field Report.

Parka in stuff sack

Field Report – January 30, 2008

Wanna bite?

Lightweight, compressible, and warm – easily the best adjectives to describe this jacket. It lofts up nicely, has shed light precipitation and kept me warm into the teens. However a lack of a hem or hood closure has allowed wind to enter the jacket and rob me of heat in windy conditions.

Field Conditions:
I have used the parka on the following trips: two overnight backpacking trips, a car camping trip, two snowshoeing trips, and one alpine ski trip. Temperatures ranged from 40 F to 19 F (4 C to -7 C) and elevation ranged from sea level to 5089’ (1550 m). I experienced light snow, and very windy conditions; 30 mph plus (48 kmph). All of my trips took place in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness or in the Mt Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, except for my ski trip which was at the Mt. Baker Ski resort in the North Cascades.

I am pleased with the performance of the jacket thus far. I found that the fit of this jacket to be a bit more generous than I had previously thought in my initial report. I am able to easily layer an expedition weight base layer underneath the jacket without feeling like I am compressing the down from the inside. I have worn a shell over the Parka when I encountered rain and snow and the slimmer cut of my shells didn’t seem to compress the jacket too much and didn’t cause me to have any cold spots while wearing the combination around camp. The sleeves are a little long on me, but the elastic cuff has done a good job of keeping the end of the sleeve from sliding over my hand. The elastic cuff is trim enough that it fit inside the gauntlet of my OR gloves with ease, but stretchy enough that I could easily slide them over my base layer gloves. The hood is quite roomy. I wore a beanie and ski goggles while alpine skiing on Mt. Baker and could pull the hood over my head gear for the long ride up the lift with ease. The cavernous hood has one drawback – a lack of peripheral vision. The hood extends an inch (cm) or two past my face and made me feel uncomfortable enough that I had to push it back while skiing in blowing snow where I wanted to keep it on for some snow protection.

The durability of the jacket has been good thus far as well. I have not noticed any wear on the elastic cuffs, zippers, or fabric. The down is secure in the sewn through squares on the jacket and I have not experienced any down loss through the seams.

The most critical aspect to me is whether or not the jacket keeps me warm and it has performed well in this area. Though it is too hot for me to backpack in, it works really well for rest breaks, even short ones. I found myself packing the jacket in an outside pocket or other easily accessible place on my pack so I could quickly slip the jacket on at all my rest stops. A lot of times, I would just put it on over my shell or windshirt and then get to eating my snack or adjusting my gear, whatever the rest stop was for. I would immediately warm up with the jacket on and it only took a second to stuff it back into the stuff sack when I was ready to continue my hike. Around camp the parka also performed well. It would be the first thing I put on upon arriving at camp or my lunch spot then I would start setting up camp or enjoying my snack/lunch or just the view. I did find that a stiff wind could enter the jacket through the hood or under the hem of the jacket and rob me of heat. I also found that sitting on a cold lift leaning against the back of the ski seat compressed the down and caused my back to get a little cold. I have only experienced this while skiing but I would guess that it happens because the down cannot loft up like it does when I am walking around or skiing thus reducing its insulative properties. Overall I think it does a good job keeping me warm while wearing a dry base layer in temperatures ranging the mid to high teens F (- 5 C to -10 C).

Back of Jacket

Long Term Report – April 7, 2008

The jacket has continued to perform well over the past two months. I had an unfortunate accident with the jacket where I ripped a large hole through the back of the jacket and lost some down. Even with the loss of some down and my shoddy patch job, I was able to stay warm on my trips. The only changes I would make would be to add a hem closure and a little more articulated hood.

Field Conditions:
I have used the jacket on 4 more trips since the field report for a total of 10 more days. The trips included a 4 day snowshoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota, a 3 day snowshoe trip in the North Cascades, an overnight snowshoe trip near Snoqualmie Pass, both in Washington, and an alpine ski trip at Snowbasin ski resort in Utah. Temperatures ranged from 0 F to 32 F (-18 C to 0 C), and elevations varied from sea level to 4000’ (1219 m) in Washington to 7800’ (2377 m) in Utah. I experienced significant snow fall while on my trips in Washington and Minnesota.

I am very happy with this jacket even with my bad luck. While wearing the jacket around town, I hurried through a door and caught the door latch on the back of the jacket and ripped a gash that went all the way through the back of the jacket. I lost some down before I was able to patch the hole, but don’t think I lost too much. So the lesson learned is the jacket doesn’t mix well with sharp things! Other than that incident the durability of the jacket has been great. I didn’t have any other issues with the zippers, cuffs or stitching.

I have also been pleased with the warmth provided by the jacket. Even with the damage the jacket sustained it did a good job keeping me warm during rest breaks and while around camp. I did have a cold spot on my back where I lost some down, but it was only a minor annoyance. I was also surprised by how much warmth the hood provided. I found myself getting chilly sitting around camp in Minnesota and I would pull the hood up over my head and almost instantly I would be warm. The hood is a great feature!

The fit of has continued to be good. I have had no problem wearing any baselayer underneath of the parka. However, I do feel like my shell compressed the jacket a little bit and was especially noticeable once I damaged the jacket.

Overall this is a great jacket and even with the damage has earned a spot in my pack when I need an insulating jacket with a hood. Thanks to and Montbell for allowing me to participate in this test.
Read more gear reviews by Jason Boyle

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Montbell UL Down Inner Parka > Test Report by Jason Boyle

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