If you prefer to not immediately retreat to your sleeping bag at the end of the day, there's a good chance you have considered investing in a feather-filled jacket (more commonly known as a down jacket or puffy).
After starting and finishing the Continental Divide Trail with an intact Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka, I can say that this jacket is worth the (substantial) investment and can certainly hold up to the rigors of the trail.
- Weight 8.4 oz. (237 g)
- Fill weight 3.4 oz. (96 g)
- Insulation: 1000 Fill Power EX Down
- Fabric: 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon
- DWR: Standard DWR treatment
- Pockets: Two hand warmer
- Hooded: Yes
- Compressed size: φ5.3 x 7.6 in. (φ14 x 19 cm)
- Center back length: 28 in.
- Other: Front zipper: Left-hand insert (Right side slider)
- Available colors: Red, Green, Black
- Available sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
- MSRP: $439
- Sewn thru construction
- Two-way adjustable fixed hood
- Drawcords for hem adjustment hidden in pockets
- Elastic cuffs to seal out drafts
- Two zippered handwarmer pockets
WHAT WE LIKE
THE WARMTH | Down jackets are for keeping you warm, and this jacket does just that. It's filled with 3.4 oz / 96 g of 1000 fill power down – nearly 40% of the jacket's weight (that's a good thing). Sure, some jackets (like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer) weigh slightly less, but they also have a lower fill weight which translates to less insulation. This jacket has kept me warm in temperatures down to 20°F/-6°C (wearing only a light wool hoodie underneath).
THE LOFT | I think the technical term is poofiness, and this jacket is probably the poofiest I've ever worn. I've literally had multiple people comment on how poofy this jacket is. Unfortunately, after using it for the entirety of my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike, it lacked some of its original poofiness. However, after washing it (don't worry, I used down detergent), it's nearly returned to its pre-CDT level of poof.
THE WEIGHT | This jacket weighs 8.4 oz / 237 g, and for the weight is one of the warmest you can buy. Yes, there are other, lighter, down jackets on the market, but they aren't nearly as warm as the Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka. Montbell also makes the Plasma 1000 Down Jacket and it weighs only 4.8 oz / 135 g – over 40% lighter than the Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka. Despite the Plasma 1000 Down Jacket appearing to be a hoodless version of the Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka, it's not (it has less than half as much down and has no pockets).
THE POCKETS | Some down jackets don't have pockets to save on weight, but the Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka has two zippered handwarmer pockets. And they're for more than just warming hands. The pockets each measure 8 in / 20 cm wide by 12 in / 30 cm tall and can accommodate a lot (including my oversize camera with a lens). The drawcords for hem adjustment are also in the pockets.
WHAT'S JUST OKAY
THE DOWN LOSS | Unfortunately, the materials used in the construction of most lightweight down jackets are not capable of stopping your precious feathers from escaping from their baffles. The Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka is no exception. It also seems that whenever this jacket has a feather trying to escape, it always appears along a seam and it is impossible for me to pull the feather back in. It hasn't lost a ton of down, but it will certainly become an issue one day.
THE WARRANTY | Montbell stands behind their products and covers “all defects in materials and workmanship to the original owner for the lifetime of the product.” They do not cover “damage(s) caused by accident, improper care, negligence, alterations, or normal wear and tear.” But if your jacket suffers from something not covered under warranty, Montbell will repair your gear at what they call “a reasonable rate” (with a 3-5 week turnaround). What is a reasonable rate remains to be seen, but I like that they're open to taking care of their gear.
WHAT WE NO LIKE
THE NAME | Seriously? The Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka? Couldn't they have thought of a better name for this jacket? Whenever people ask me which jacket I have I need to just tell them “the Montbell 1000-fill hooded one”. Honestly, that might be a better name than the current one. It's just so long. Even to type, the Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka. See? That took like ten seconds. Also, I guess technically speaking this is a parka (“a large windproof jacket with a hood, designed to be worn in cold weather”), but who says parka? Just call it a jacket.
THE PRICE | Yes, this jacket costs $439. No, it isn't easy to find this jacket discounted since Montbell's distribution outside their own website and stores is very limited. I've searched for comparable down jackets (hooded and lightweight, sub-10 oz / 285 g) and I'm fairly certain that this is the most expensive jacket in the category. That being said, it is a very nice jacket, but nearly $450 (and probably closer to $500 depending on tax in your state) for a lightweight down jacket is asking a lot.
Despite its obnoxiously long name, the Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka is an excellent down jacket (or I guess parka if we're being technical about it), and for the weight, you would be hard-pressed to find anything warmer (or poofier).
However, if cost is a concern (because I know $439 is asking a lot) and you're only going to be using this jacket around camp or during the occasional cold snap, then you could certainly get away with something less expensive.
Check out Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka here!