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Looking for a midweight down jacket for spotting/belaying and backpacking
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By scienceguy288
Sep 18, 2013

Hey folks,

My old down jacket is starting to fall apart. I'm a bit wiser now and better know what features I am looking for. I am requesting recommendations for a down jacket that I could use to warm up while belaying or spotting during the winter months, is small/light enough to throw in a pack on a hiking trip to keep me warm at the summit, and doesn't make me look like the State Puff marshmallow man while around the campsite. I am also looking for box baffles. As for down or synthetic, I would prefer down. I definitely want a hood. Of course the fill matters in terms of weight:warmth ratio, but I now know that it isn't an absolute measurement of warmth.

Additional info: I am doing my climbing in the Adirondacks, so temps get pretty cold; especially at night.

Finally, as I am a poor student, the cheaper the better. I like Arcteryx stuff, but it just isn't doable. My price range is 150 and I figure that with patience, I can get some used stuff on Ebay or Geartrade or during January clearances for that price.

Thusfar, I have been looking at the Montbell Frost Smoke, Montbell Alpine Light Parka, Patagonia Down hoody (below 200 on ebay), and Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (below 200 on ebay), so you have any opinions on those, that would be great.


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By Gunkiemike
Sep 18, 2013

None of those jackets you mention have baffles; they are sewn-through construction. If you want baffles, the jacket is going to be twice the price and bulk and you WILL look like a puffball around the campfire.


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By redlude97
Sep 18, 2013

EB FA downlight when it goes on sale can usually be had for <$150


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By bearbreeder
Sep 18, 2013

ask yourself what is the most common lowest temps you think youll be facing

once you figure that out we can guess at around how much 800+ fill down you need ..

then you find the jackets with said amount of down

insulation is insulation ... no amount of special "branding" will make a jacket "warmer" all other things being equal

so ask yourself what temps do you expect

;)


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By i.reynaud
From Long Beach, Ca
Sep 19, 2013
Claim Jumper

I have been climbing with a MH Ghost Whisper for about a year now. I also backpacked through Europe with it. It's pretty warm and very light.

The construction of the jacket is not very rugged. The baffles are made with a single line of stitching. If you pack the jacket into its stow pocket they get caught on the zipper and can tear the thread. Another thing I have noticed is that the down in the elbows shifts leaving very little insulation in those spots.

The material that the shell is composed of is scary thin. It could tear on the slightest snag of a branch/thorn and a stray amber from a campfire would put a hole right through it.

It is a good option if you just want a light jacket to keep warm at belay and not one that can handle a beating.


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By PatCleary
From Rohnert Park, CA
Sep 19, 2013

Are you looking to do any alpine climbing, skiing, mountaineering, ultra light backpacking, etc? All the jackets (I think) that you identified are big dollar, lightweight alpine climbing jackets.

I love my Patagonia down sweater and Marmot synthetic, even when out bouldering. But your money will (probably) go further with a <800 fill, bigger jacket. Also, for the application I'd go a little overkill and get the warmest jacket you can afford, even at a major hit on weight. Also, a synthetic jacket may be worth considering, again a little heavier for the equivalent warmth and not as packable, but you won't lose feathers, and I find them easier to take care of.

Pat


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By hikingdrew
From Los Angeles, CA
Sep 19, 2013
dorky helmet

I have the montbell thermawrap synthetic and alpine light down jackets and really like them both. They're sized so that the synthetic will layer with the down for when it's really cold. Caveats, the outer material is light but thin so they need care around rock and the sizing runs small and slim so try them on...


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By Ari Kantola
From Raleigh, NC
Sep 19, 2013

My vote goes for the Stoic Anorak. Hooded, 800 down, weighs 8oz. Very warm for its weight and packability.


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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Sep 19, 2013
tanuki

www.sierradesigns.com/p-208-gnar-hoody-jacket-mens-2012.aspx

I got this on sale last year. Has worked great for me so far. At $139 new, it is probably your cheapest option.


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By Dave Bn
From Fort Collins, CO
Sep 19, 2013
Dreamweaver

Baffles or not, the Mont Bell Alpine Down Parka is the shit.

Frost Smoke will be less warm but reinforced at high wear areas.

Opinions will always range, but mine is that Mont Bell makes the best down (especially for the $$$) on the market.


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By JP Rohde
From seattle, washington
Sep 19, 2013
uintas

I use the frost smoke and really enjoy it. Not the warmest down light weight coat but does the job. Wish it had a pocket to fold itself into, my next coat will... The extra layer of more durable fabric is a huge plus with the frost smoke coat.


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By Sthomps30
Sep 19, 2013

The Ghost Whisperer is an awesome, super pack able jacket. As mentioned above the am
He'll material is whispy but mine has held up great for the past 18+ months. I think it's warmer than my old "belay" weight jacket & it packs small enough to always have it with me. Held up flawlessly to mild bush whacking, a season of ice climbing, 14ers, and everything I between.


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By Steven Randolph
From Portland, OR
Sep 21, 2013
Leading Klahanie Crack, Shannon Falls, Squamish, BC

I've been a huge fan of my patagonia ultralight down. Mines not the hoody but it is crazy warm for how light it is. Has a pretty nice athletic kind of fit too.


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By CJC
Sep 21, 2013

State Puff??

That's not right.

Anyway you want the patagonia ultralight down hoody. Packable, light, slim fitting and warm. If you're willing to wear the uglier colors you can find them on sale on SAC et. al.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Sep 21, 2013
El Chorro

As most people have said, you're looking at stitch-through jackets, not boxed. Nothing wrong with that though, as you might not need a box constructed jacket and probably can't afford one anyway.

Stitch through jackets are great if you're trying to get a nice warm puffy w/o spending too much money. They can still be super warm, you'll just notice a few cold spots on those arctic nights, but unless you're actually dealing with arctic temps, it won't be a problem.

Also, like bearbreader said, the brand isn't a big deal. Sure we all like to support certain companies but beggars cant be choosers. And again, unless you're really pushing the jacket to it's limits, you probably won't notice.

If you are looking for something super light to carry in your pack on alpine trips, it won't be warm enough to sit around in at night. You'll need two different jackets for these two different activities. Light weight down layer = 100-130 grams of down, puffy warm jacket = 250-300 grams of down, super warm super puffy = 300+ grams of down.

The super light down layer is a specialised piece of kit that is worth dropping some serious cash on if you really need it, but it doesn't sound like you do. They are cool, but they aren't really designed to be worn around the campsite. They are emergency pieces, or super light belay pieces for ice/alpine climbers. Get a super warm puffy for camp and cragging/bouldering. If you really want a super-light, save up for it and get a good one. Until then, just deal with lugging around your puffy if you really want it on aline trips, or better yet, do without it and just layer smartly. You'd be surprised at how little you can wear on 20 degree days if you're moving fast (hiking, not climbing).

You need at least 700 quality fill if you're getting a nylon puffy, but would probably be OK with 575 if you're buying more of a parka. But you don't need a waterproof parka, so get a 700-800 puffy.

Also, you should be trying to get a jacket that is 90% down, 10% feather. There are companies out there who will say "700 fill" and write it all over the sleeve of the jacket, but they are still only using 70-80% down which means you get much less warmth per gram than you'd think.

What really matters the most is HOW MUCH down is in the jacket, and this number is rarely published. You can usually find it online for the popular jackets though. For a relatively warm stitch through jacket, you need like 260 grams of 700. That's your basic winter camping puffy, good for sitting around and cooking, drinking whiskey by the fire, putting on when spotting/belaying/resting. It might not be warm enough by itself in NY in winter if you don't have a fire going, but if that's the case you need to up your budget.

You can always buy some down on Amazon and add it to whatever you decide to buy. It's not too expensive (thread on here about it last winter) and it's not that hard to do to a stitch through jacket.

I'd offer to sell you one of my puffies, but I got them so cheap and they are so patched up and ugly that I don't think it would be worth shipping them to NY.


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By scienceguy288
Sep 22, 2013

@ State puff: Shit...I can't believe I've been hearing that line wrong my entire life...

@Box baffles: The main reason I was looking at box baffles was that the down in my current jacket regularly comes out at the seams. I am trying to buy a higher quality jacket to remedy this. Is there something I should be doing to the seams to prevent this, or is it a construction issue.

@Weight: Really, I am just looking for something that is light enough for some alpine stuff, but most of the time will use it during backpacking and winter camping. I do worry about the toughness of the materials of all of these light alpine jackets, which is what made the Frost Smoke appeal to me, as it added some toughness for not a huge increase in weight.

@Down fill: Is there a temperature formula based on fill weight and rating that I should know about? It seems, however, that I am looking for something with 700 or greater fill rating and 250 or more g of fill. Does that sound about right?

Thanks all!


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Sep 23, 2013
El Chorro

Stay Puft, not State Puff. He's not the mascot of a secret marshmallow communist society.

Personally, I've never owned a box baffled down jacket. Never needed one. I think you'll have less down coming out of the seams with this type of construction, but you'll still notice some coming out. This is not the reason people go for boxed construction. They do it to preent cold spots in the jacket. In either case, there is nothing you can do about down coming out, unless you want to put seam sealer all over your jacket. But I wouldn't worry - the amount of down per year that comes out of your jacket probably amounts to a few grams at most. Negligible.

Weight: Like I said above, if I were you, I'd get a cheap, used stitch through puffy for camping and cragging, and save up for a nice new light weight down that fits perfect, if that is what you want for alpine activities. I just don't know of anything that can really do both all that well. The super light stuff is nice for camping and cragging in the shoulder seasons, but not in winter. Sure you can get a nice puffy w/ hood on MP for under $200.

Regarding temp ratings: You can def go on the backpacker websites and get some gear addict to calculate temps for you, but ALL ratings are for the lab, and we do not camp, climb, hike or sleep in a lab. We use this stuff in the real world. In the real world, there are much more important factors than temp ratings. Your last meal, metabolism, how hydrated you are, how tired you are - these all have a huge affect on a persons ability to feel and deal with cold temps.


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By scienceguy288
Sep 24, 2013

Ryan Williams wrote:
Stay Puft, not State Puff. He's not the mascot of a secret marshmallow communist society. Personally, I've never owned a box baffled down jacket. Never needed one. I think you'll have less down coming out of the seams with this type of construction, but you'll still notice some coming out. This is not the reason people go for boxed construction. They do it to preent cold spots in the jacket. In either case, there is nothing you can do about down coming out, unless you want to put seam sealer all over your jacket. But I wouldn't worry - the amount of down per year that comes out of your jacket probably amounts to a few grams at most. Negligible. Weight: Like I said above, if I were you, I'd get a cheap, used stitch through puffy for camping and cragging, and save up for a nice new light weight down that fits perfect, if that is what you want for alpine activities. I just don't know of anything that can really do both all that well. The super light stuff is nice for camping and cragging in the shoulder seasons, but not in winter. Sure you can get a nice puffy w/ hood on MP for under $200. Regarding temp ratings: You can def go on the backpacker websites and get some gear addict to calculate temps for you, but ALL ratings are for the lab, and we do not camp, climb, hike or sleep in a lab. We use this stuff in the real world. In the real world, there are much more important factors than temp ratings. Your last meal, metabolism, how hydrated you are, how tired you are - these all have a huge affect on a persons ability to feel and deal with cold temps.


Okay, so I think I've narrowed it down between the Montbell Alpine Light down and Frost Smoke.

Alpine Light: 800 fill down, 30D ripstop, Fill weight 4.3 oz
Frost Smoke: 800 fill down, 15D ripstop with 40 D reinforcements, Fill weight 3.5 oz. Given my desired specs, what would you suggest? Is the 3.5 oz enough? If nothing else, I like the velcro on the sleeves of the frost smoke...


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By Top Rope Hero
From Was Estes Park, now homeless
Sep 24, 2013
WHAT THE HELL IS HE BELAYING WITH!?!

Hey, scienceguy288,

First off, a repeat of what everyoneís said: Youíre NOT gonna find box construction for the price point you specify. So lose that fantasy.

Now the good news: I've had a MB Frost Smoke for over a year now. COULD NOT BE HAPPIER WITH IT. (And I do a LOT of stupid, tedious research before I buy stuff.) Took it to the Red last year and wore it all through Nov and half of Dec. Wore it belaying, wore it 'round camp at night, at breaky, wore it sleeping, even wore it climbing a couple of times.

It is THE PERFECT balance between a mid-weight down coat and a down sweater. Plus, the extra tuff 'round the shoulders and arms really becomes noticeable when you're scratching the jacket through camp and over rocks 'n what. I settled on this particular jacket specifically for that feature alone. And the cuff closures...never buy a down jacket without cuff closures. Boom.

Some here have mentioned the lack of a fold-into-itself pocket. Meh. I've never noticed needing one. I DO appreciate that feature onna rain jack/windbreaker. You know, for those four pitch days you want one but donít wanna bring a small backpack. Something you can just clip on to yer harness. But Iíve never, never bemoaned the fact that I had to stuff the Frost Smoke into a sack before I put it into a backpack. Gives it that extra lilí protection against sharp Powerbars, anyways.

Now, donít get me wrong, the Alpine Light is also a killer jacket. I was down to choosing between it and the Frost Smoke myself, a year ago. I went with the FS, obviously, and Iím not sure I would ever have noticed the SLIGHTLY lighter fill weight. Theyíre both right there at the not-really-super-warm weight, ya know. And neither is MEANT to be the all out, everything parka. Did I get a lilí chilly in my Frost Smoke? You bet, but only when I wasnít layering under it while belaying. Otherwise I found it perfect for moderate movement in cool to cold (but not freezing) temps.

But the thing about the Frost Smoke, it being so thin Ďn light, for those really cold belays or those ice-yer-ass-off nights in the Creek, you can actually layer it UNDER another jacket. I bought a Mountain Hardwear Nilas, which is about as slim and light as you can get on a full-sized parka, even though it IS box baffled in the torso. And now I have three options: I can wear the Frost Smoke fall and spring (or warmish winter days in the Rockies ifín Iím moving fast Ďní light), the Nilas on cold winter days. Or when itís just stupid, butt-assed cold in the middle of January, no sun to be had for days, I can actually layer the Frost Smoke under the Nilas and boom, Iím a toasty mutha.

Anyways, donít fret TOO much over the decisions. Just buy one or the other and be done with the agonizing. As I say, I adore the Frost Smoke. Itís NOOOT the warmest down midóbut then itís not trying to be. Itís trying to be a balance, like I said, between mid-weight and sweater weight. And for the $$$ and for the cuffs and the protected arms, I think itís the best out there.

~TRH

OH! And don't forget that Mont Bell is Japanese, right? They tend to fit smaller 'n' slimmer than Yankee-made gear.


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By scienceguy288
Sep 24, 2013

Top Rope Hero wrote:
Hey, scienceguy288, First off, a repeat of what everyoneís said: Youíre NOT gonna find box construction for the price point you specify. So lose that fantasy. Now the good news: I've had a MB Frost Smoke for over a year now. COULD NOT BE HAPPIER WITH IT. (And I do a LOT of stupid, tedious research before I buy stuff.) Took it to the Red last year and wore it all through Nov and half of Dec. Wore it belaying, wore it 'round camp at night, at breaky, wore it sleeping, even wore it climbing a couple of times. It is THE PERFECT balance between a mid-weight down coat and a down sweater. Plus, the extra tuff 'round the shoulders and arms really becomes noticeable when you're scratching the jacket through camp and over rocks 'n what. I settled on this particular jacket specifically for that feature alone. And the cuff closures...never buy a down jacket without cuff closures. Boom. Some here have mentioned the lack of a fold-into-itself pocket. Meh. I've never noticed needing one. I DO appreciate that feature onna rain jack/windbreaker. You know, for those four pitch days you want one but donít wanna bring a small backpack. Something you can just clip on to yer harness. But Iíve never, never bemoaned the fact that I had to stuff the Frost Smoke into a sack before I put it into a backpack. Gives it that extra lilí protection against sharp Powerbars, anyways. Now, donít get me wrong, the Alpine Light is also a killer jacket. I was down to choosing between it and the Frost Smoke myself, a year ago. I went with the FS, obviously, and Iím not sure I would ever have noticed the SLIGHTLY lighter fill weight. Theyíre both right there at the not-really-super-warm weight, ya know. And neither is MEANT to be the all out, everything parka. Did I get a lilí chilly in my Frost Smoke? You bet, but only when I wasnít layering under it while belaying. Otherwise I found it perfect for moderate movement in cool to cold (but not freezing) temps. But the thing about the Frost Smoke, it being so thin Ďn light, for those really cold belays or those ice-yer-ass-off nights in the Creek, you can actually layer it UNDER another jacket. I bought a Mountain Hardwear Nilas, which is about as slim and light as you can get on a full-sized parka, even though it IS box baffled in the torso. And now I have three options: I can wear the Frost Smoke fall and spring (or warmish winter days in the Rockies ifín Iím moving fast Ďní light), the Nilas on cold winter days. Or when itís just stupid, butt-assed cold in the middle of January, no sun to be had for days, I can actually layer the Frost Smoke under the Nilas and boom, Iím a toasty mutha. Anyways, donít fret TOO much over the decisions. Just buy one or the other and be done with the agonizing. As I say, I adore the Frost Smoke. Itís NOOOT the warmest down midóbut then itís not trying to be. Itís trying to be a balance, like I said, between mid-weight and sweater weight. And for the $$$ and for the cuffs and the protected arms, I think itís the best out there. ~TRH OH! And don't forget that Mont Bell is Japanese, right? They tend to fit smaller 'n' slimmer than Yankee-made gear.


Thanks for the review! You pretty much made my decision for me!


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By Raul P
Sep 24, 2013
Stella!

If you go on www.theclymb.com right now, there are some badass deals on a bunch of different jackets/parkas. You can definitely get something in your price range that is way warmer than what'd you pay comparatively at retail.


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