The EMS Ascent Sector Down Sweater (women’s is the Ascent Meridian). Considering its features, the weight is surprisingly low at 12.7 ounces (360 g, men’s size Large), and it’s a great value at $169.
This separate review provides additional descriptive and performance information on the Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater. Read our article Ultralight Three-Season Down Jackets State of the Market Report 2010 for a state of the market analysis and comparative specifications and performance for a range of ultralight down jackets.
The EMS Ascent Sector Down Sweater did not stand out when I discovered it on their website. The photo of the jacket is unflattering, and the listed weight is 13.96 ounces (397 g) for size Medium, which barely squeaks under our weight limit. I opted to include it in our down jacket roundup because it meets our criteria. The jacket was a pleasant surprise when it arrived. It’s attractive, full-featured, puffy and warm, a great value, and significantly lighter than specified.
For starters, the Ascent Sector Sweater has one of the lightest shell fabrics in our down jacket roundup: 10 denier 0.77 oz/yd2 (26 g/m2) ripstop nylon with DWR. The only lighter shell fabric currently used is on the MontBell Ex Light Jacket (7 denier 0.74 oz/yd2 (25 g/m2) Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon with DWR). The EMS fabric is highly calendered and quite shiny. I notice that some buyers of this jacket have posted they do not like the shiny appearance, but I personally like it. See for yourself in the photos below.
The jacket is insulated with 4.5 ounces (128 g) of 800 fill power down, giving it a measured single-layer loft of 1.2 inches (3.1 cm), which is quite good. The jacket has a half ounce more insulation than similar jackets and is distinctly puffy.
Front and rear views of the EMS Ascent Sector Down Sweater.
The Ascent Sector Sweater is feature-rich. There are a total of four zippered pockets: two hand pockets (left), a chest pocket (center), and an inside pocket (right). All are a generous size.
The jacket has three attachments (two at the cuffs and one on the back of the collar) that allow it to be snapped into an EMS SYNC shell, which creates an insulated waterproof/breathable shelled jacket.
I wore the EMS Ascent Sector Down Sweater while igloo camping, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing.
A size Large jacket fits me (6 ft/1.83 m tall, 167 lb/76 kg, 39 in/99 cm chest) quite well, and I found the Ascent Sector’s fit to be roomy. There is enough room inside to layer over an insulated vest, sweater, or thin jacket. The sleeves are plenty long, and the jacket’s back length is 28.5 inches (72 cm), so it covers the butt well.
In my field testing I found the Ascent Sector Sweater to be quite warm. Morning temperatures in an igloo are in the mid-20’s F/-4 C, and I found the jacket to be comfortable. On several nights I wore it in a 30 F/-1 C rated sleeping bag and stayed warm down into the upper teens F (-9 to -6 C).
The jacket seals up fairly well, but is not totally snug. The collar is snug if I wear it over my chin, the cuffs are slightly loose, and the hem draws up with a drawcord.
On snowy days, the jacket’s shell fabric easily shed snow and water while staying dry inside. The shell is also wind-resistant and quite durable with reasonable care. I swiped some dead tree branches while backcountry skiing with no damage.
I wore the jacket in a spring shower (left) and found its shell to be water-resistant. I followed up my field observations with a one-hour indoor “puddle test” (right). No water soaked through either the fabric or the seams.
Our article Ultralight Three-Season Down Jackets State of the Market Report 2010 provides complete specifications and ratings for the EMS Ascent Sector Down Sweater in comparison to a range of other lightweight down jackets. The jackets most similar to the EMS Ascent Sector Down Sweater are the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Downlight Sweater, Marmot Venus/Zeus Jacket, Salomon Minim Jacket, Sherpa Pangboche Sweater, and The North Face Thunder Jacket.
In my opinion, the EMS Ascent Sector Down Sweater is a sleeper in a very competitive field of three-season down jackets. Its 4.5 ounces (128 g) of down insulation is above average, and its shell fabric is one of the lightest to be found; it's sized well for layering, fits well, is puffy and warm, is fully featured, and is a good value. Overall it achieves a good balance of all these factors, more so than many similar jackets. The measured weight of 12.7 ounces (360 g) is very reasonable considering the jacket’s features.
Granted, there are multi-purpose down jackets available that are an ounce or two lighter, but considering what you get, the EMS Ascent Sector is hard to beat. My only suggestion is to use #3 zippers rather than #5 to shave a little weight.
Specifications and Features
|Manufacturer||Eastern Mountain Sports (http://ems.com/)|
|Year/Model||2010 Ascent Sector Down Sweater|
|Style||Hoodless insulated jacket with full height front zipper|
|Fabrics||Shell and lining are 10d 0.77 oz/yd2 (26 g/m2) micro-ripstop nylon with DWR|
|Insulation||800 fill power down, 4.5 oz (128 g)|
|Construction||Sewn-through with 1.75 in (4.5 cm) and 3.25 in (8.3 cm) horizontal quilting, raglan sleeves|
|Loft||Measured double-layer loft is 2.4 in (6.1 cm), single-layer loft is 1.2 in (3.1 cm)|
|Features||Down-filled stand up collar, full height reversed #5C YKK zipper with one slider and storm flap under zipper, two zippered side pockets (not fleece lined), one zippered chest pocket, one zippered inside pocket, elastic cuffs, micro-chamois chin guard, drawcord hem with two adjusters, dropped tail, snaps into an EMS SYNC shell|
|Weight||Size Large tested, measured weight 12.7 oz (360 g), manufacturer specified average weight 14 oz (397 g)|