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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Mountain Hardwear Downhill Parka > Owner Review by Roger Ault

Mountain Hardwear Men's Downhill Parka
April 19, 2009


NAME: Roger Ault
AGE: 45
LOCATION: Spencer, Indiana USA
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 276 lb (125.00 kg)

I have been camping for several years. I had limited chances as a child but have been camping a lot the past 20 years. I love backpacking and consider myself moderately equipped although I can never have enough gear. I want to spend more time winter camping. I typically carry 25 - 45 pounds (~11 - 20 kg). I generally use a tent for shelter. I generally hike in the woods and rolling hills of Indiana.


Downhill Parka

Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website:
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 2 lb 10 oz (1.19 kg)
Other details: 650 fill down insulation with a waterproof laminated shell. With several pockets that are nice to have. There are 2 lined hand pockets, 1 Napoleon pocket, 1 arm zip pocket, 1 MP3 player pocket (which I use for cell phone), 1 mesh pocket with zipper and 1 mesh pocket without closure (open corner).
All exterior pockets have welded waterproof zipper closures. The zippered arm pocket is located on the top of the left forearm. It is sized 5.5 x 3.75 in (14 x 10 cm) and is useful for smaller items. The Napoleon chest pocket is located on the upper left chest area. It measures 6.5 x 8 in (17 x 20 cm) narrowing to 4.5 in (11 cm) at the top. There is a lot of room in this pocket for larger items. Safety would caution not to place any sharp objects in this pocket in case of falling on them. The two handwarmer pockets are fleece-lined and located lower on the jacket but the top is somewhat obstructed when I wear my pack. The right pocket has a small plastic snap tethered inside that works well for attaching a key to prevent accidental loss. All exterior pockets have zippers with pulls attached, making it easier to operate zippers with gloved hands.

MP3 and Large open pockets

There is a large inner mesh pocket located a little lower than the Napoleon pocket. It measures 6 x 8 in (15 x 20 cm) and has one corner open to allow access with no closure for it. This pocket can hold gloves or a water bottle easily. There is another inner mesh pocket located on the right side. This one measures 4 x 8 in (10 x 20 cm) and has a zipper. The MP3 pocket is also mesh and located high on the inner left side. Measurements are 3 x 5 in (8 x 13 cm) and it has a zipper as well as a small opening in one corner for the wire to exit. The inner zippers do not have pulls and are rather small to grasp with gloves on.

The sleeves have hook-and-loop closures that are easy to adjust and work very well. The cuffs are large enough to easily go over gloves. The collar has a Yeti fleece lining that is quite comfortable. There is a drop-down pass holder on the lower right hem that folds up inside to fasten to hook-and-loop when not needed. There is a D-ring located on the left hem but I haven't found a use for it. The parka came with a zip-in powder skirt but I removed it and have never worn the parka with powder skirt attached.

Without Hood

There are several draw cords on this parka. One at the hem and another 10 in (25 cm) farther up (also where the zipper for the powder skirt is located). They have adjustments at both ends. There is another located at the collar that adjusts from the back outside. One more is on the removable hood. It adjusts from the rear also and goes around my head at about the same level a hat would.

The hood is also down-filled and zips on with a snap located at each end. The hood has a nice brim that sheds water away from my face well. The fit around my head is comfortable when the draw cord is adjusted tight enough to hold in place. The hood articulates well and my vision is not impaired when I turn my head form side to side. It is also very warm and I tend to overheat when hiking and often have to open the hood to vent.

There are pit vents with welded waterproof zippers to provide core venting. There are 2 zippers with pulls on each to facilitate different levels of venting. These are very handy when my activity level is high and I am producing heat. When my activity level drops I simply close them to remain warm. They also work well to extend the temperature range that this parka can be worn.

The parka is windproof as well. With the outer shell and the down I cannot feel any wind through it. However whenever I lean on something cold the transfer of heat from my body is felt immediately. I try not to lean on anything when it is very cold to ensure that warmth is at its fullest potential. This does not apply to wearing my pack. This is due to the pack having insulating ability also.

The shell has a durable water repellent (DWR) coating and is laminated with Mountain Hardwear's trademarked Conduit waterproof breathable membrane which makes it very waterproof while still allowing moisture to escape.

All seams are welded rather than taped. The manufacturer provides a lifetime warranty.


I have taken this parka on two overnight trips. One was a last minute decision and consisted of only approximately 5 m (8 km) in very humid conditions with the day temp around 48 F (9 C) and night temperature dropping to 35 F (2 C). I started out with the parka in my pack and only put it on once I started to set up camp. By this time there was a light wind and I was in a river bottom area. The combination of the wind, falling temps and my decreased activity level created a need for the additional warmth. After setting up camp and having a meal I also started a campfire. I wore the parka for gathering wood and preparing to start the fire. Once I was ready to light the fire I removed the parka a safe distance and warmed myself by the fire. When I retired for the night I put the parka in my gear loft and went to sleep. I did wake up in the middle of the night chilled and I put the parka on. I was quite comfortable with the parka on and also very warm.

My second overnight trip was in similar weather with the exception of being much drier. This time I covered about 12 m (19 km). Once again I had no need to wear the parka during hiking and high activity levels during the day. I did wear it after stopping to set up camp. I did not have a fire on this trip so I wore it the whole time around camp. I did not need it during the night, even though the temp was nearly the same as the previous trip. I believe the lack of moisture made it more comfortable sleeping and did not have a need for the added warmth. I put it back on first thing and wore it while breaking camp. Once on the trail (actually in the woods off trail) I had no need for it.

I have worn on a few day hikes with temperatures varying from 5 F (-15 C) to 35 F (2 C) and mostly either snowing or snow at least on the ground. I find this parka to be quite warm during periods of moderate to heavy activity. I need no additional mid-layer during these types of activity. Once I stop for an extended period I prefer an additional layer below 20F (-7 C). When hiking above 30F (-1 C) I usually open the pit vents to prevent sweating.

I recently wore it during a thunderstorm to test the waterproofing and was very pleased. It was approximately 45 F (7 C) and raining very hard. I wore only a T-shirt underneath and was out in a hard rain for about an hour. I got a little moisture under the cuffs ( I was not wearing gloves) but otherwise I stayed very dry. I did get quite warm and eventually opened the pit vents when the rain slacked off. I was not really able to vent the hood with it raining and I did feel a little too warm.

I wear it regularly during winter here in Indiana. I chose this parka because the weather here changes so often. I have worn my jacket more on a daily basis than I have while backpacking. Approximately 85% of the time spent wearing this jacket has been on daily commutes. I walk and ride a bus to and from work so I get a lot of miles of use this way. I have worn it on a few day hikes and a couple of overnight trips. I may leave home in the morning with very low temperatures and return in the rain. My rain jacket is not insulated and I needed a warm waterproof alternative. With the 650 fill down and the breathable laminate with durable water repellent finish this was a perfect choice for me.

I have worn during temps as low as -10 F (-23 C) and I have been comfortable as long as I had a good base layer and a warm mid layer. When walking I stay much warmer than standing and the venting is very handy to prevent sweating. I cannot seem to be comfortable above 40 F (4 C) while wearing the parka. It is 100% waterproof and has done well in that regard. When walking into a blowing snow I tend to get snow inside the hood and down my neck if not careful. This is mostly around the collar that is quite large and has a funnel effect. Cinching all of the drawcords tight and keeping my head tilted slightly down can minimize this. In this position the brim also helps to deflect the snow.

I wear this to work in the winter daily because I have a 2.5 m (4 km) walk morning and evening. Most days I carry a pack and it seems fine. I have also taken this on a few hikes with good results. I have remained warm both in camp and on trail. If using a campfire I keep this jacket away from flame. There is a warning sewn in that reads "CAUTION Fabrics are not fire resistant and will melt or burn if exposed to extreme heat. Avoid exposing this garment to high heat, flame or sparks" I have no desire to test this so I will take the word of the manufacturer and try to stay clear of high heat.

I am fairly large (as seen in profile) and I ordered a XXL and it is more than adequate. If I had realized it would be such a full cut I may have ordered the XL. I ordered XXL because I wanted to be sure of loose fit for layering underneath. I believe I could have been happy with a XL.

The shell seems to hold up well for hiking in wooded areas with lots of limbs and even briers. To date I have no tears and I have many miles on this parka.

It can be packed down fairly well since it is down and very light and compressible. I take it when I start out on a warm day and expect colder weather at night and in camp. I have found that with the pockets empty it can be a very comfortable addition when the temp falls below the rating of the sleeping bag. I have taken it when temperature was slightly below the rating of my The North Face - Chockstone bag. This bag is a rectangular bag with synthetic insulation rated at 40 F (4 C) and I have had this parka with me when the temperature fell to about 38 F (3 C). When I went to sleep I placed the parka in the gear loft and went to sleep when it was about 48 F (9 C). I woke up and the temperature had fallen below 40 F (4 C) and I was getting chilled. I pulled the parka from the loft and put it on. After the initial chill of putting on a chilled garment I warmed quickly to a comfortable level. The rest of the night I was quite warm and bordering on hot. Since I rarely sleep in one position for very long the loft seemed to have suffered very little and quickly recovered when I got up. I am sure that I could be comfortable with this combination at lower temps but I do not know just how far.


I would probably order a size smaller if I were doing it over. This parka is both waterproof and warm, which is exactly what I was looking for. The articulated hood makes it easy to wear without having to work extra hard to see when turning my head. The vents work well when I work hard and allow me to get rid of excess heat to prevent sweating. I have never had a reason to try the powder skirt so I cannot say how it works, but it appears well made and adequate.

I am always careful not to let the down get wet. The ability of wet down to insulate is greatly diminished and is to be avoided. I generally wear it during weather that is more likely to snow than rain. Even so some snow can be very wet and cause problems if allowed to. On days when it is warm enough to rain the pit vents come in very handy. I can open the vents to allow heat to escape without having to unzip the main zipper and expose the down to rain or snow.


1) Waterproof and down in one garment
2) Warm
3) Windproof
4) Lots of pockets
5) Removable hood


1) Hand pockets are partially obstructed when wearing my pack.
2) Inner zippers are small and difficult to grasp.


Roger D. Ault

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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