Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka

MontBell Alpine Light Down Parka
MontBell Alpine Light Down Parka

Just before the 2012/2013 winter season I placed an order for the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka, one of the best ranked parka’s from gear reviewers that I have encountered in a very long time. It has been rated the #1 or #2 parka for a few years by just about everybody. For the last few years I have been using the Montbell U.L. Down Parka, and it is a great inner parka, but it started loosing its loft and I was looking for something a bit warmer, and the Alpine Light Down Parka really seemed to be the next best option out there.

A fellow hiker, gear reviewer, and friend, Stick, had one that he sent out to me with some other gear that I was wanting to trying (and at the same time, I had sent him a whole bunch of gear he wanted to test that I had) so I had a chance to put it on, give it a try, determine size and fit, and so forth. Here in the Redwoods of Northern California we only have one decent outdoor store and they are not able to do specialty gear such as what Montbell offers, so any chance I can get to try Montbell gear I take, and huge thanks to Stick for letting me try this/his jacket.


I ordered my Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka from Moontrail.Com in size Large.

It is 470 grams (16.57 ounces / 1.036 pounds) total.

The parka itself is 453 grams (15.97 ounces / 0.998 pounds), and the stuff sack is 17 grams.

It uses 30-denier Ballistic nylon material on both the inside and the outside.

It has a wonderful micro-fleece lined collar – a feature I have read other hikers did not like, but I really found this to be nice.

It has the standard hem draw cords for adjustment, which are hidden in the pockets. You can really tighten up this jacket to keep 99.9% of the wind from getting in.

The medium size has 4.3 oz (121 g) of down fill, so I am going to guess that the large that I bought has around 4.5 ounces of down – I just do not know, as Monbell does not seem to include this information anywhere I have looked.

Real Life Use:

In the end, as we all know, specs are nice but if a product does not do the job it was designed to do, it can have the most awesome specs in the world, and still be totally worthless.

I have used this parka throughout the 2012/2013 winter season (October through March, which is not yet over) and it has performed perfectly and actually well beyond expectations.

I had always found the Montbell U.L. Down Parka to be under-rated (as I also do with the Montbell UL SuperSpiral Down Hugger sleeping bags) so in usual tradition I just figured this Alpine Parka would be under-rated as well. Thankfully I was wrong, because this year proved to be a rather cold year here in the Redwoods.

Here has been my core body layering system for this winters seasons (from next-to-skin, out): Icebreaker Tech T Lite Superfine Ultralite Tee, Icebreaker Men’s Long Sleeve Chase Zip Multisport 200, Black Rock Gear Down Vest, MontBell Alpine Light Down Parka, and when needed the ZPacks WPBCF Rain Jacket.

I have used this parka in the majestic Trinity Alps of Northern California, the Klamath Mountains, throughout large parts of the Redwood National and State Parks, within the Henry W. Coe State Park in Central California, and in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. All of which I experienced sub-freezing temperatures.

Every single time I felt I was getting cold enough to warrant putting on a parka, I was so very glad that I had brought this Alpine Light parka with me, rather than the UL Down parka. It could just be I am getting older and thus cold is affecting me worse. Every single time I was sitting in my house wondering which I should take, the 9.97 ounce UL Down Parka, or the 15.97 ounce Alpine Parka, it was always the Alpine Parka that won and ended up going with me.

Granted, this has been for winter season hikes and it will likely be a whole different story for the rest of the years hiking season.

But, to be honest, I am just not sure. There are times when an additional six ounces of warm clothing can make a huge difference. Given the nature of some of the remote places I hike into, given the fact that I can hike for weeks and not see another person, given the volatileness of weather within the regions of Northern California that I will be hiking at this season – on average three or four hikers/hunters die each year within this region – there could be some real wisdom in having those additional six ounces of warmth.

As we get closer to this seasons primary hiking season, and if it looks like it might be a cold year, I will have zero hesitation to be putting the  Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka into my backpack. It really has impressed me.

+John Abela

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that the products mentioned within the content of this article were not supplied to me free of charge, or in exchange for services. All products mentioned within the content of this review, with the exception of Black Rock Gear products, are free of endorsements between myself and the manufacturers and meets all FTC 16 CFR.255 compliance requirements.

18 thoughts on “Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka

  1. That is a great jacket. Have you checked out the Montbell Mirage? Its a bit pricey, but it is the warmest, lightest jacket I got. Perfect for ice-cold New England winters! I love how it has deep inner pockets, perfect for keeping water from freezing. With the box construction and 900 down, can’t say enough good about it!

    1. Hey Ray,

      I have not had a chance to check out the Mirage.

      I have the Mirage Parka in my “gear to consider buying” bookmarks folder though.

      Evan, the owner of Black Rock Gear, has been trying really hard to get me to buy one and test it out.

      So much of my gear is 7D that it would not at all be hard for me to uses a full-on parka that is 7D.

      I would really love to get one of them, but as you said, the price tag is in the “ouch” category.

      I really should just buy one and give it a go this hiking season. From a weight perspective it would shave off half of the weight between my UL Down Inner Parka and this Alpine Parka.

      Thanks for mentioning the Mirage Ray. It truly does appear to be “the” parka out there right now from Montbell. I was just not able to buy it when I bought my Alpine.

  2. Do you not worry about sweating out all that down while moving? I only wear down when stopped or moving very slowly. Otherwise I seem to quickly overheat. Twice this year my fleece was not enough and those two times when I put on my down vest to hike, it felt damp by the end of the day. I bought a synthetic puffy to wear while on the move and save the down for rest stops.

    1. Hey Spelt, I do not remember a single time all winter season when I was hiking with all five layers on. Been a number of times when I was in camp that they were all being used.

      I too have problems with my down vest having issues with the down getting damp if I am wearing it while hiking – even if I only have a tshirt and the vest on. The 7D material is just not thick enough to keep out even the slightest amount of condensation – and just further emphasizes the claim that 900 down wets out much to easily.

  3. I have the Mont Bell Alpine Light Jacket instead of the parka but I love mine just the same! This winter I am in the San Bernadino mountains and I wouldn’t have any other puffy with me. Now that I might have a chance to go to Alaska, I’m definitely looking at one of Mont Bell’s sub zero parkas to add to this most awesome sub freezing parka!

  4. John
    I have a feathered friends Hyperion down coat with an epic shell. It weighs 12oz with 5 oz of 850 down as I remember. I love it. I also have their Humingbird sleeping bag which is 26 oz and has 900 fill. All my friends have feathered friends bags. They make quality gear.

    1. Hey John,

      I own, use, and highly cherish my Feathered Friends Down Botties! They are, I believe, the best down booties on the market. I have never owned anything else from them.


  5. Hi John and others, just a quick question, if one gets caught in rain with this parka, will it give any water protection? Will the rain ruin the down? Thank you.

    1. The 30-denier fabric has DWR on it, so it could handle a brief moment of light rain while you put on your rain gear, but that would be the extent of what you would want to subject it to rain/snow.

      1. Thank you. I appreciate your comment. Your blog is great man, keep it going please. :)

        P.S. I just ordered the Klymit Pad over the NeoAir. :)

  6. I like my Alpine Light Jacket (not Parka) but it’s too warm most of the time. I decided to try the Ex Light Anorak this season. Now if it would just cool off here in Arizoba so I can wear it…

    I Don’t think the Aloine Light becomes relevant until the temps are below freezing.

    1. I have to say, it depends on what part of Az and how cold you are naturally, because I have used my Alpine Light Jacket in Prescott for the last 3 winters and not been too hot at all. Then again it gets down to 10 degrees in the early morning up here.

  7. Trying to decide whether to hang onto mine, or try a ex light anorak. Besides the extra 1.5 oz of down, what do you think is contributing to the extra 5 oz of weight? Is worth the extra warmth, rather than just adding another base layer to the winter gear list?

    1. The EX Light has WAY too many sew lines in it for my likes. Think of all those cold spots. I totally do not understand all these jackets with the tiny little squares… and especially when they are sew-through and not box baffles. The Patagonia Ultralight and in a way the Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer all fall into this same negative design. The Montbell “Thermawrap Sport Parka” get’s my vote these days.

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