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.
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.