Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review

If you’re looking for a good, lightweight, multi-purpose, fully-featured and warm down jacket at a reasonable cost, this one deserves your consideration.

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

I found the Ascent Sector to be a sleeper in our lightweight down jacket roundup. Basically EMS gets it right; this jacket is lightweight, yet it’s full-featured, puffy and warm, sized and fits well, and it’s a good value. It weighs an ounce more than similar jackets, but the Ascent Sector gets a higher rating because it achieves a better balance of all the previously mentioned factors.

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by Will Rietveld |

Introduction

Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review - 1
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.

Description

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.

Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review - 2
Front and rear views of the EMS Ascent Sector Down Sweater.

Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review - 3
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.

Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review - 4
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.

Performance

Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review - 5
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.

Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review - 6
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.

Comparisons

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.

Assessment

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

ManufacturerEastern Mountain Sports (http://ems.com/)
Year/Model2010 Ascent Sector Down Sweater
StyleHoodless insulated jacket with full height front zipper
FabricsShell and lining are 10d 0.77 oz/yd2 (26 g/m2) micro-ripstop nylon with DWR
Insulation800 fill power down, 4.5 oz (128 g)
ConstructionSewn-through with 1.75 in (4.5 cm) and 3.25 in (8.3 cm) horizontal quilting, raglan sleeves
LoftMeasured double-layer loft is 2.4 in (6.1 cm), single-layer loft is 1.2 in (3.1 cm)
FeaturesDown-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
WeightSize Large tested, measured weight 12.7 oz (360 g), manufacturer specified average weight 14 oz (397 g)
MSRPUS$169
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/ems_ascent_sector_down_sweater_review.html, 2010-08-17 00:00:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review on 08/17/2010 15:56:11 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review

James Patsalides
(james@patsalides.com) - MLife

Locale: New England
EMS Ascent Down Sweater Review on 08/17/2010 19:46:31 MDT Print View

Excellent review, as usual! ;-)

I own this sweater and I love it. In fact it was an even better deal than listed, since I picked up the last one on the sidewalk rack, an XL, at my local EMS store in April at the very end of their winter sale - for $99 - an unbelievable deal. At the time I was thinking it was a bit big but I figured at the price I'd get it anyway. Turns out it is really nice to have it a little bigger, since I can throw it over anything I'm wearing.

Anyway, a great jacket and an even sweeter deal.

Paul Siegel
(PaulSiegel)

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Eastern Mountain Sports Ascent Sector Down Sweater Review on 08/18/2010 10:51:10 MDT Print View

I just bought one of these, based on this review. They are currently on sale for $109 at EMS.

Matthew DePan
(jethro277) - F - M

Locale: Upstate NY
EMS Ascent Sector Down Sweater on 08/19/2010 21:12:48 MDT Print View

Excellent review of an excellent jacket! One of my favorites! As an EMS employee it's good to see folks recognizing our products! EMS definitely has much to offer the lightweight hiker, especially for clothing.

Ben R
(snowfiend131) - MLife

Locale: Western PA
Link to Jacket? on 08/24/2010 20:13:03 MDT Print View

I just went to the EMS website to check out this jacket...and its not there. In fact, I don't see any down jackets at all on their site.

Paul Siegel
(PaulSiegel)

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Link to Jacket? on 08/24/2010 20:29:17 MDT Print View

Strange.

I can't find it either, and I bought one just a few days ago.

What's up with that?

Dan Montgomery
(theDanarchist) - F

Locale: Hampton Roads, VA
Re: Re: Link to Jacket? on 08/25/2010 06:12:20 MDT Print View

I think the unavailability of this item is just bad luck and bad timing. I think EMS had the clearing out these sweaters (for $99!) even before the BPL review was posted. The EMS employees I talked to said they assume the stores will get a new batch of Ascent Sector sweaters.

I got lucky. Lightweight insulation was a weak spot in my kit, so I read the review, searched EMS, saw the sale and tried to order a Large, but I got a message saying that size was "temporarily unavailable." That, of course, made me REALLY want one. I e-mailed EMS to ask if "temporarily unavailable" meant "sold out" or "try again in a few minutes." I got a prompt response the message means "sold out" and suggesting I call their customer service number to see if any of the brick and mortar stores still had my size. Which I did. A nice young lady thought she found one, but when she called the store -- no luck. Oh well. Five minutes later, she called back. A store employee had found the sweater in the back room.
Buying from a store, I didn't get the web site's free-shipping deal, but hey, it's lightweight and pretty cheap to ship!
It arrived yesterday. Seems to fit well (I'm just under 6'3"). Like I said. I feel like I got lucky.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Great little sweater on 11/19/2010 12:55:35 MST Print View

Sometimes EMS has been known to outdo itself. In the case of this sweater, that is certainly the case. Come Febuary 2010, I could not get a second one in my size (medium.) It is way under rated. And an excelent deal for the origonal price, in my book. Warmer and much more water resistant than I expected. The kittys backside for sleeping in or extending a lighter bag. If you can find one, get it.