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Matthew Naylor
(mrnlegato)

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
MB Alpine Light Parka - overkill warmth or OK? on 10/03/2012 09:14:33 MDT Print View

Hey folks. I know this is an oft discussed subject, but I thought I would throw it out there anyway since it's specific. I purchased two Montbell Alpine Light Down Parkas a few months ago, one for my wife, and one for myself.

We're hoping for a PCT thru next year, and I'm pretty confident the jacket is the right choice for her since she chills easily. I tend to warm easily, and so I'm worried the jacket might be overkill to the point of discomfort. I have not been able to test it in the wild yet.

I don't mind the fact that it might be a few extra oz of weight, or larger (I would rather save the money than have perfect optimization right now)... I just don't want to regret not having brought something cooler. I will have a windshirt layer for transitional warmth needs.

Thanks!

800-fill down
4.3 oz fill weight
16oz total (large)
link

Edited by mrnlegato on 10/03/2012 10:14:31 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
MB Alpine Light Jkt on 10/03/2012 16:35:06 MDT Print View

I can't imagine hiking in the Alpine Light in any sort of normal conditions....it would need to be serious winter conditions to warrant hiking in the alpine light. However, it is a great jacket to toss on at stops in the spring/fall, so it depends on your expected use. I can't speak to specifically the PCT conditions.

Jeff Jeff
(TwoFortyJeff) - F
Re: MB Alpine Light Parka - overkill warmth or OK? on 10/03/2012 18:12:00 MDT Print View

I assume you aren't talking about hiking in it? I never needed more than a baselayer and a windshirt while hiking, and that was going up Whitney at 4am.

I took one for the first 300 miles and the JMT section. Ideally I would have had something lighter (in terms of weight), but it worked fine. I only used it when at camp, which was about an hour in the evening and maybe 20 minutes in the morning.

In other words, I was nice and toasty, but I never *needed* to be that toasty. I was never too hot.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: MB Alpine Light Parka - overkill warmth or OK? on 10/03/2012 18:39:41 MDT Print View

If you are too warm in camp, she could wear both :)

It would be great if retailers like REI had a walk-in deep freeze to try out your intended purchase. It's pretty hard to gauge things standing in an air conditioned store in August and wondering how it will feel after hiking 15 miles, the sun just went down, the temperature drops, and a stiff wind picks up. Nnnnnnnice jjjjjacket, huh?

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Great for camp on 10/03/2012 19:49:05 MDT Print View

I get awfully chilly in the evenings, making dinner, after hiking all day, and first thing in the morning before I have my coffee. So for me it's weight I need to carry in all but the warmest conditions. If you're warm enough with a base and a windshirt in the mountains then I'm envious...

I also can't speak specifically to the PCT, but overall it's a nice piece for camp or for beefing up my sleep system, NOT to hike in.

Chad Poindexter
(Stick) - F

Locale: Wet & Humid Southeast....
Re: MB Alpine Light Parka - overkill warmth or OK? on 10/03/2012 20:16:54 MDT Print View

I can't say for on the PCT, but here in the SouthEast...no way is it coming with me on a hike...it is just way too much.

I use a wide variety of top layers to stay warm while on the trail. My coldest set-up has kept me comfy to to 10 F while at camp...it looks like this:

Patagonia Capilene 2 Long sleve crew shirt (baselayer)
Patagonia R1 Flash Pullover (midlayer)
Montbell UL Down Inner Parka (puffy/insulation layer)
TNF Verto Wind Shirt
Hard/Rain shell

In the coldest of temps so far, I hike in the Cap 2 with the R1 layered over it. If it gets cool, I pull on the wind shirt. If it rains, I pull on the hard shell. I never wear the puffy while hiking.

At camp, I will usually pull the wind shirt on over the R1 and then put the Parka over it. If I still get cold I can layer my hard shell over it all and this will keep me warm down to 10 F.

As far as the Alpine Light, I can wear it around town with nothing but a tshirt underneath it and be comfy out and about in temps around the low 20's. If I wear a long sleeve under it, easily into the teens...

Based on this, the layering system outlined above is more versatile and lighter so I won't be using the Alpine Light on the trail...at least here...

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Overkill on 10/03/2012 23:30:07 MDT Print View

I own a MB Alpine Light parka. I bought it for the first part of an AT thru in 2010 since I was starting on the early side (late Feb), and it worked great there, especially to augment my 20F sleeping bag when the temps got into the teens a few nights. Once I hit Virginia, it was definitely overkill. And as others have said, even on the coldest mornings --- no way would I walk on trail with it on.

For thru-hiking the PCT, I just used a thermawrap jacket, and that was plenty (again, just for in-camp or eating lunch, not to hike in). I added a sized-up thermawrap vest to layer just for the Sierras, but scarcely needed it, despite having a more normal snow year (than this year was). So if you plan a fairly typical PCT NOBO, I think that the Alpine Light parka is way overkill.

For actually walking, just a windshirt was pretty much all I ever needed. At most perhaps layer a vest with it (something that's not down and with a lot less clo than the Alpine Light) or a light synthetic hoody or the like.

Of course YMMV on a lot of factors, I don't mean to suggest that my personal approach is some sort of universal truth (!), but still. Just get into your sleeping bag when it's cold in camp. In the Sierras, climb one pass a day and sleep at relatively lower elevations.

Last year and for all my hiking this year I've used a MB Ex Light down jacket, and I love that --- quite light for the warmth. In areas where I might want a little warmth during the day I also carry my MB thermawrap vest. I'm afraid I haven't used the Alpine Light parka much. Hopefully it will find a use in the next few months for winter camping trips.

Serge G.
(sgiachetti) - M

Locale: Boulder, CO
its fine on 10/04/2012 00:13:41 MDT Print View

If you're obsessed with shedding weight, then I'm sure you can get away with a lot less than the alpine light, however I doubt you'll feel uncomfortably hot in it if its cold enough to put on in camp. Like others have said, a windshirt and base should be find for hiking. If you can justify the $, something like a stoic hadron would probably suit you well, but again the MB would be fine if you are not oz counting.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Locale: www.hikelighter.com
Re: MB Alpine Light Parka - overkill warmth or OK? on 10/04/2012 02:12:41 MDT Print View

Hey Matthew,

Many others have already stated above that the MBALP is likely going to be too hot for you and your wife to be using *while hiking* and I would concur that for the PCT that is pretty spot-on in most locations.

There will be a few mornings when a warm jacket will be nice. At the Kick Off it tends to get rather cold because it is next to a lake and down in a valley. There will also be times when you will find it could be valuable in the SoCal mountains. North of KM you will also find some use for it.

I would refer you to this chart of what the weather was like a couple years ago (on an average year, not the 2011 year which was viciously cold). Paul compiling this data was an amazing act on his part and it is something every PCT through hiker should study in great detail.

Something you did not mention was what sleeping bags and what temp ratings they are. A good down jacket can be a very useful and worthy item to carry around if your sleeping bags are not in the 15/20 degree range. Each year for the last few years there have been polls on the pct-l (if you have not joined that, you really really should) asking what sleeping bags are being used. The vast majority (85%+ last year) stated that they used 15 degree bags (mostly the Helium) along with a silk bag liner. With this knowledge, if your sleeping bags are 30 degree bags, and you do not feel like spending another $1000 bucks to buy two new sleeping bags, than use the MBALP's to help off-set your sleeping bags down to a bit lower temperature.

Another option is to throw the jackets into a bounce box. Keep them until Cajon Pass (or thereabout - getting you through the SoCal mountains) than bounce them up to KM to help you through the Sierras. Than around Seiad Valley / Etna (if 2013 will be gracious to us and not have snow in the Marbles) bounce them again. And so on and so forth.

-Abela

Matthew Naylor
(mrnlegato)

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
very helpful on 10/04/2012 07:52:49 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone; this is extraordinarily helpful. I also have the Helium 15, so... I'll try to fit a lighter jacket into the budget if it works out. Thankfully (?) Farmer's Almanac has dire snow predictions for the east coast this year, so maybe it'll be useful this winter!

Cheers

Chad Poindexter
(Stick) - F

Locale: Wet & Humid Southeast....
Re: very helpful on 10/04/2012 10:19:32 MDT Print View

They usually have some older versions for sale on the MB site. I would check there to see if they have something else too...

Jason G
(JasonG) - F

Locale: iceberg lake
inner on 10/04/2012 14:09:13 MDT Print View

I'd say just go with the MB inner, exlite or WM flash. anything over 10oz is overkill especially with a 15*bag

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
My experience: Alpine Light Down Jacket on 10/04/2012 14:15:54 MDT Print View

I carried the Alpine Light Down Jacket on the CDT, PCT and the Desert Trail. It is one of the very best pieces of gear I own.

On the CDT I carried a 20 degree bag, and on the PCT and Desert Trail a 30 degree bag. My jacket is part of my sleep system. Usually of course it's too hot to wear while hiking, but I've worn mine while hiking on all three of those trails many times. I've worn it inside my bag even more times. Sitting around camp morning and evenings when it's cold it's nice to have and it's not hard to cool off by unzipping it or taking it off. Personally, I'd carry it again on any of those trails. I'd bought a Mont-Bell U.L.Down Inner Parka for use on the Desert Trail but didn't use it. I would have frozen some nights with my sleep system with that jacket, and there would have been several times during the day I would have gotten cold too.

A whole lot depends on the person and their sleep system. Like most gear, it's subjective.