MONTBELL PLASMA 1000 JACKET
TEST SERIES BY MARK THOMPSON
February 04, 2014
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markthompson 242 at gmail dot com
Parker, Colorado, USA
6' 0" (2.10 m)
170 lb (77.10 kg)
Outdoor adventures started for me at an early age, my passions have grown to include backpacking, rock climbing, hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, cycling, skiing and snowshoeing. Most of my adventures presently take place in Colorado's amazing Rocky Mountains. For trail hikes, my pack typically weighs 15 lbs/7 kg (summer/fall), 25 lbs/11 kg (winter/spring) and trail speed ranges from 2.5 - 4 mph (4 - 6 km/h) depending on elevation gain. For backpack trips, my pack weighs 40 - 45 lbs (18 - 20 kg) and my trail speed drops to 1.5 - 3.0 mph (2 - 5 km/h).
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Montbell Co., Ltd
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montbell.us
MSRP: US $269.00
Listed Weight: 4.8 oz (136 g)
Measured Weight: 5.2 oz (147 g) measured without stuff sack
Size tested: X-Large
Color tested: Dark Mallard
Fill: 1000 fill power (FP) Down
Shell: 7-denier Ballistic Airlight Nylon
Photo courtesy of Montbell
Wow, what an incredibly light jacket! I almost believe that the manufacturer included the brochure just so the post office wouldn't think the box was empty, in fact, the brochure weighs more than the jacket!
Clearly, Montbell designed this jacket with the ultra-light enthusiast in mind. I had envisioned that this jacket would take the place of a down sweater that I have been using, but after a short day near Berthoud Pass this past Saturday, I found this would be a much better replacement for my fleece pullover. Like my fleece, this jacket is void of the weight adding features such as pockets and drawstrings, but it weighs in at less than half of my basic fleece.
The sleeve cuffs are quite basic (elastic cuff) no added weight here, but that is the point with this product.
The center closure and waist (elastic) are, again, functional with the focus on weight conservation.
Montbell's sizing chart seems to be in line with "the rest of the world" and enabled me to select a size that was right for me. With an active lifestyle and sporting interests which include mountaineering and ice climbing, I tend to need and want more than plenty of room for movement or an extra layer. These interests have developed a tendency to prefer a little more chest and shoulder room in upper body garments which generally drives me to X-Large shirts, jackets etc. This, coupled with the fact that I fell at the top of Montbell's Large range (in chest measure), I opted for the X-Large. Specifically (using data from Montbell's sizing chart):
The fit of the jacket is on the athletic side of the spectrum, but still accommodates those with a few extra pounds. The sleeve length was appropriate for me, even though the chart would seem to indicate that the sleeves would be 2" (5 cm) too long. I did enjoy the collar comfort and expect this to work well with my other cold weather garments including a balaclava.
The jacket is comprised of an inner and an outer layer of 7-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon. According to Montbell, this particular material is 1.5 times stronger than other products of the same weight. Sandwiched between these two layers, using sewn-through construction, is 1.6 oz (45 g) (size M) of 1000 FP Goose Down. Given the extraordinarily light and thin nature of the inner and outer layers of the jacket, the manufacturer does warn that special care may be required.
This jacket is the ultra-light enthusiasts dream! Clearly the focus on designing this item was on weight minimalization. With the design intent in mind, I have only compliments. In terms of strength and durability, time will tell, I will share my findings in a couple months!
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Since the Plasma 1000 Jacket gracefully floated across my threshold, I have had the opportunity to test this fine piece on three hikes and a week at our family cabin, high in the mountains. Regrettably, the arrival of this jacket coincided with the need to address some medical issues which has restricted my outdoor pursuits, so recovery hikes and snowshoes have been filling the schedule with backpacking on the docket during the next two months!
Snowshoe, December 2013
Rocky Mountain National Park, Fall River Road (closed to cars in the winter)
Distance traveled: 5 miles (8 km)
Temperature: 18 deg F (-8 deg C)
Total Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet (305 m)
Weather: Overcast with winds at 15 mph (24 kmph)
Skies were overcast and winds mild
The hike/snowshoe was an out and back, with a fair amount of elevation gain. The terrain was mild given the fact that we were on a dirt road, other than the sections where the road was washed out by the recent flooding.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Loch Valle Trail
Distance traveled: 2 miles (3.2 km)
Temperature: 14 deg F (-10 deg C)
The skies were clear to the east, and appeared clear all around from lower elevations. However, when I reached the trail head, conditions were much different. The wind was blowing at 20 mph (32 kmph) sustained with gusts to 35 mph (56 kmph). I ended up cutting this hike short due to the excessive winds and improper head and eye protection.
Roosevelt National Forest, Allenspark, CO
St Vrain Mountain Trail
Total Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
Total Elevation Gain: 600 feet (183 m)
Weather: Overcast with winds 25 to 40 mph (40 to 64 kmph)
Temperatures: 12 to 14 deg F (-11 to -10 deg C)
Skies were clear to the east, but the high winds caused a lot of snow to be picked up and present the illusion of an approaching storm.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
As mentioned, I have tested the Plasma 1000 on three hikes/snowshoe trips as well as throughout a full week in the mountains where the elevation was above 8,300 ft (2,530 m) with temperatures consistently below freezing. These experiences revealed:
- While actively hiking and/or snowshoeing, I consistently found, regardless of the weather, that I overheated and had to remove the jacket and replace with a garment that provided either less insulation or less wind protection. The picture below was taken relatively early into my trip on Fall River Road during which the ambient temperature was 18 deg F (-8 deg C). In this picture, I had already completely unzipped the jacket and shortly after this picture was taken, I did remove it and put on a soft-shell.
- After stopping for a rest or lunch, I did have trouble maintaining a comfortable temperature. Clearly, the ambient temperature and wind had a significant impact, but it seemed that the jacket is so light that it didn't provide a sufficient level of insulation for the winter mountain temperatures encountered during this phase of the test.
- While hanging around my family cabin with some physical exertion, I found the wind protection and amount of insulation to be very comfortable.
One of the characteristics of the Plasma 1000 that initially caused me some concern was the shell material and the perception that it would not provide a sufficient level of durability. I am pleased to state that I have found that my initial concerns were unfounded. I have been pleasantly surprised by the material's resistance to snagging from trees and other common hazards.
Despite having to remove the jacket due to overheating on my more strenuous activities, I have really enjoyed how compact the jacket becomes when having to stow it in my pack. My snowshoe trip on Fall River Road, was fairly soon after surgery and I was unable to carry a pack on my back so I opted for a waist (or fanny) pack. The Plasma 1000 easily fit inside the small pack!
The Plasma 1000 is a super light piece that has presented me with some challenges in terms of finding the "right" weather or season. My personal experiences so far have been limited to cold winter conditions where I found the jacket has been too hot for higher levels of exertion and too cool when I am sedentary. I did find it to be just right for mild levels of exertion.
- super light weight
- great wind resistance
- awesome packability
- nothing against the jacket, just need to find some milder weather for use after hiking or super cold weather for wearing while hiking
A special thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for putting together a test on such a fine piece of gear!
Your continued testing strategy for the Long-Term Report period.
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