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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Frost Line Parka > Test Report by Gail Staisil

MontBell
Frost Line Parka
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan

Page Contents:

Initial Report:author
October 14, 2011

Tester Information

Name: Gail Staisil
Age: 59
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 152 lb (69 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT com

For the last 20 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.

Product Information

Manufacturer
MontBell Co., Ltd.
Website http://www.montbell.us
Model Frost Line Parka
Color 
Burnt Umber (Also available in Pure Indigo, Terracotta and Black)
Size
Unisex Large (Available in Unisex XS-XXL)
Manufacturer  Weight  24.3 oz (689 g) for Size M
Tested Weight  27.6 oz (782 g) with stuff sack, 26.4 oz (759 g) without sack for Size L
Model Year 2011
MSRP $235 US

Initial Impressions and Product Description 

MontBell Frost Line Jacket
The MontBell Frost Line Parka arrived with perfect workmanship. I received the parka in the color of Burnt Umber. A stuff sack was included.

The MontBell Frost Line Parka is a full coverage insulated down parka that is only available in Unisex sizing. According to the manufacturer it is slightly oversized with a longer torso so that layering is possible.

I normally consider the word "parka" to denote a serious expedition-type garment whose function is warmth and coverage rather than being sleek, form fitting or fashionable. With that said, the Frost Line Parka is a great looking parka as well as being functional. I ordered a size Large which is compatible with how I plan to wear the parka (most times with multiple layers). My needs are specifically for winter camping but I 'm sure there will be ample opportunity for other wear.

The overall length and width are great as it allows for layering. Although my measurements are more in tune with a size smaller, I prefer to be able to wear a down sweater or fleece as well as underlayers underneath it at camp. I couldn't be pleased more with the fit in this regard.


The parka is longer t
han many jackets. The bottom edge falls below my back end and doesn't ride up when bending over or sitting. This is a definite perk to likely limit the amount of cold air exposure. The sleeve length (35 in/89 cm) is to my fingertips but considering that it has unisex sizing, I expected them to be long. This is not an issue as there are hook and loop closures on the bottom edge of each sleeve, allowing me to adjust the openings to cinch around my wrists. 

 

Design and Technical Features

The Frost Line Parka has a plethora of features to make it a real workhorse in a cold environment. The goose down used for insulation is 800 fill. The down fill is placed between a 30-denier Ballistic rip-stop nylon shell and a 30-denier Ballistic nylon taffeta lining. Both materials are extremely light weight, soft and non-noisy. The down fill is quite lofty, warm and cozy and I look forward to wearing it often.

According to the manufacturer Ballistic is 1.5 times more abrasion resistant than similar weight fabrics. Reportedly it also has 3 times the tear strength of nylon that is 20 percent heavier.
What is unique about this parka is that it features box construction which is ordinarily used in sleeping bags. This type of construction reportedly minimizes heat loss from seam lines.

The parka also features 100-wash rated Polkatex DWR water repellent treatment on the Ballistic fabric. It is treated with a fluorine rinse that adheres to the fibers of the fabric reportedly providing excellent water resistance.
Closure on back of hood
The parka features a 3-way adjustable tunnel hood. The adjustments are made by a toggle located at the back center of the hood. Above it there is hook and loop feature which will make the hood shorter. The hood can also be adjusted with toggles on both lower sides of the front of the hood. The hood is removable by means of a zipper and opening two snaps, one on each end.

The Frost Line Parka has a very tall (approximately 4 in/10 cm) collar lined in microfleece. I absolutely love this as it is so comfortable and useful. It can serve as a built-in warm and cozy neck gaiter!
One of the large internal pockets holding water bottle
There are tons of pockets. The outside of the parka features two large handwarmer pockets that are closed by means of zippers with ergonomic nonslip zipper pulls. The inside of the pockets feature microfleece material that is very soft to my hands. Located in the bottom of the pockets are the drawcords that are for the waist adjustment. The actual toggles for the adjustment are on each side of the zipper in the inside of the parka.

Inside the parka there are two large drop-in pockets that have hook and loop top closures, one on each inner side of the parka. Overlying one of these pockets is an additional but smaller pocket which is made of mesh and features a
zipper. The former pockets are fabricated with the lining material of the jacket and are about a sq ft (30.48 sq cm) each in size. There is plenty of room to stow a water bottle (picture on the right shows a water bottle not fully inside the pocket for picture purposes but the pocket can easily close with such a bottle in place), hat, gloves and more. The mesh pocket would be handy for high security items such as keys, PLB (personal locater beacon) or similar.

  Stuff sack with parka inside
Hood and collar detailAs stated earlier, there are wrist closures at the sleeve edges. Half of each sleeve edge is elasticized (casing) and the other half has a hook and loop closure.

The parka comes with a  nylon stuff sack. The parka can be easily stuffed into the sack which likely will be a bonus when my hands are freezing.

There is an embroidered MontBell logo on the left front of the parka and a "800 FP symbol with a decorative embroidered feature on the right sleeve.



Care

The care instructions are found on a tag that is inserted into an internal side seam. The parka should be hand washed using a down specific detergent and cold water. It can be hung to dry or if desired it can be tumble dried on low heat. The parka should not be dry cleaned, bleached, ironed or wrung. The most interesting instruction was this, "Washing at the end of season should be enough. Do not wash frequently. It may cause fabric damage." I think I like that!

The MontBell Frost Line Parka has really got my attention. I look forward to wearing it during many of my winter trips in the upcoming months.

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Field Report:
January 3, 2012

USA Locations and Conditions

During the field test period I have worn the MontBell Frost Line Parka at least two dozen times. Location of the trips ranged from lakeshore to hilly deciduous forest to open non-deciduous communities. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to almost 2000 ft (610 m).

 

November Backpacking Trip

Location: Beaver Basin Wilderness and the Fox River Pathway
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 28 mi (45 km)
Length of Trip: 3 days/2 nights
Pack Weight: Approx. 30 lb (13.6 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Sun, cloudy, rain, and snow 
Precipitation: 1.34 in (3.40 cm) rain/snow
Temperature Range: 27 F to 55 F (-3 C to 13 C) 


Late December- Early January Rustic Cabin Trip

Location: Hiawatha National Forest
Type of Trip: Trail and bushwhack including some lake travel
Distance: 17 mi (27 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/3 nights
Pack Weight: Sledge approx. 60 lb (27 kg) including fresh consumables
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly cloudy with snow
Precipitation: At least 14 in (36 cm) of new snow
Temperature Range: 17 F to 37 F (-8 C to 3 C)


Performance in the Field

During the field test period the MontBell Frost Line Parka became my parka of choice for anytime I needed warmth. On the November backpacking trip the mornings and evenings were suitably cold with a low of 27 F (-3 C). The parka was layered over a light wool top. This was plenty of insulation to keep me warm at camp. I found the outside pockets handy to place my hands in between chores. Once I snuggled into my sleeping bag I used the parka as a nice pillow.

I appreciate the long length of the parka as I don't have to keep reaching around to pull it down after changing positions (bending over and the like). I also like the long length of the arms as I can draw the bottom of the sleeves down over most of my hands.

During the last month I have cross country skied about 16 times. I usually wear a light soft shell while skiing but immediately remove it when I am done skiing and throw on a warm parka. The Frost Line kept me happy on my ride home so that I didn't become chilled. These short rides are normally about 20 min or so each way but I often stop to do errands while I'm still wearing the parka.
Author bundled up at camp
I recently snowshoed in to a rustic cabin where I spent four days. The Frost Line Parka was the only insulative layer I took on the trip. I knew the log cabin would drop to at least freezing (32 F/0 C) every night and subsequent mornings. I didn't feed the wood stove except for the main daytime hours. It was the first thing that I would throw on the morning plus anytime I went outside to visit the outhouse or bring in wood. I also wore it for short walks down to the lake.

The weather during this trip produced the biggest winter storm so far this year producing about 14 in (36 cm) of additional snow during less than 24 hours. The winds were wild and I was glad to wear the parka to keep me toasty in those surroundings with high wind chills.

I also packed it in its stuff sack inside my emergency day pack for daily treks either while snowshoeing or xc skiing during this trip. Although I didn't have to wear it on the trail, it was nice knowing that I had a warm parka with me if I needed it.

The Frost Line has been exposed to rain, sleet and snow for short periods of time. So far the water resistant fabric has just shed the precipitation. The parka seems to be consistently warm throughout with no cold spots experienced which sometimes happens when a garment is filled with down. The box construction really helps!

I like the simplicity of the jacket. It really is very plain but functional. Layering is so easy and there are no areas of constriction when I wear several layers underneath the jacket. The hood can be removed but I have not felt the need to take it off. I like the extra warmth provided by it over a wool hat. The collar is tall and lined with micro-fleece which adds great warmth and comfort as it totally blocks any air from entering the top of the parka.

One of my favorite features is the zippered mesh pocket on the interior of the jacket. I can easily see what is in it and it keeps those items secure. Usually my car keys and phone are stashed in this part. Although I wish this particular pocket was a bit bigger it seems to be adequate for most items. The larger inside pockets easily hold a ton of stuff. I have stashed an extra hat but look forward to further winter camping where I likely will store more items in the pockets as they are just right for water bottles.

It will only get colder in the next few months. I am excited to try wearing it on a long backcountry trip where the temps could get as low as -20 F (-29 C).
  
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Long Term Report:
February 14, 2012

USA Locations and Conditions

During the long term test period I have worn the MontBell Frost Line Parka for a winter sledge trip of three days and a rustic cabin trip of four days. It was also worn several times per week for warm up purposes on day outings. Location of the trips ranged from hilly deciduous forest to open non-deciduous communities. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to almost 2000 ft (610 m).

 

January Sledge Trip

Location: Lake Superior State Forest, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Bushwhack
Distance: Approx 17 mi (27 km)
Length of Trip: 3 days/2 nights
Sledge Weight: Approx. 45 lb (20.4 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly cloudy with peeks of sun
Precipitation: Trace of snow
Temperature Range: -6 F to 27 F (-21 C to -3 C)


February Rustic Cabin Trip

Location: Hiawatha National Forest, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail and bushwhack including some lake travel
Distance: Approx. 14 mi (22.5 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/3 nights
Sledge Weight: Sledge approx. 60 lb (27 kg) including fresh consumables
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly sunny and cloudy
Precipitation: Trace of snow
Temperature Range: 10 F to 39 F (-12 C to 4 C)


Performance in the Field
Tester wearing Frost Line Parka at camp
During the long term period, the MontBell Frost Line Parka was first put to the test during a three-day backcountry sledge trip. Temps were as low as -6 F (-21 C) during this trip. The parka became my immediate friend for all breaks and at camp. As soon as I stopped moving and placed my sledge waist harness on the ground, I pulled the parka out of my sledge (kept just under the cover) and enveloped myself in warmth.

I like the practicality of the Frost Line Parka as it layers nicely over whatever I wear underneath it with no constriction. For example, during breaks in action (snack or lunch breaks) I just layered the parka over my wool underwear and Wintergreen anorak. I really dislike removing any layer before putting on a parka during breaks, as it is time consuming not to mention getting cold from doing so. The Frost Line didn't require me to as it is very roomy.

Once I arrived at each evening's camp location, I did remove the anorak that I wore during the day and then added a light down sweater layer before putting on the parka. I kept toasty throughout the evening hours before removing it before I went to sleep. The parka then became my pillow for the night securing a place of honor inside of the hood area of my bivy and underneath my sleeping bag. In the morning it was already warm, so as soon as I unzipped the top of my sleeping bag I put the parka on before removing my legs from my sleeping bag. It's all about heat conservation on cold mornings!

I found the inside pockets to be handy during this trip as it was a great place to stow my trail mittens that I had used during the day. Adding a bottle of hot water resulted in them almost drying between my body heat and the warmth of the hot bottle.

During my second trip which was a rustic cabin trip I sledged my gear to and from the cabin area. Day trips of snowshoeing were par for the course. I wore the parka for any breaks in the action as well as fetching firewood, securing water and outhouse visits. I kept the parka close by inside the cabin for all trips outdoors and for warmth inside the cabin during the early morning hours while stoking the wood fire.

As stated in my field report, I continue to love the length of the parka as it does not ride up. This was especially important during my three-day sledge trip as all hours of the day and night were spent outside. I was thankful to not have to pull down the parka to eliminate possible drafts. The long sleeves are also a treat as I can pull my hands up into the sleeves for a few moments to warm up if I happen to be doing a chore gloveless. The microfleece-lined pockets have also been an option between chores.

I have continued to wear the parka locally before and after cross country ski outings to prevent being chilled before I arrive back at home. I have skied almost daily since the field test except for the two trips above that I did on snowshoes and a few other snowshoe outings.

The shell of the jacket has deflected most precipitation. I have noticed that I do get some wet spots beneath the chin area on the front of the jacket. Between the wet snow or condensation from my breath it probably melts this area and makes the fabric wet. It however has not been an issue as it doesn't appear to soak through or hinder the insulating effect. I have felt no drafts or thin spots while wearing the parka. The warmth to weight ratio is impressive. I am truly pleased as it replaces the need to wear more layers underneath. I oftentimes wear it with just one light wool layer.

I haven't had any problems with durability during the test period. I have not felt the need to wash the parka as it has remained very clean. I am taking the advice of the manufacturer which suggests only washing it at the end of the season. Winter is far from over yet!

Although the MontBell Frost Line Parka is perhaps not the most stylish parka I have ever owned I fully appreciate its comfort and functionality more than most. It will continue to be a part of my winter backpacking favorites for a long time!


 
Pros 
  • Warm
  • Long length covers back end nicely
  • Lots of pockets
  • Quality product
  • Micro-fleece on collar and inside handwarmer pockets is a definite plus for warmth

Cons 
  •  None

Tester Remarks 

Thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for this opportunity to test the Frost Line Parka. This concludes the test series.
 

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