> I've tried the hoodless jacket setup with a beanie/balaclava
> and it never seals up as well as having a true parka.
The ZPacks down balaclava and collar on the Stoic Down Cardigan seals up perfectly. YMMV. I bet the Ex Light would as well.
> I don't understand how having a hood attached to your
> jacket in any way makes it less versatile.
When sleeping, it's not as bulletproof when trying to use your hood without wearing your jacket. I've tried a few different strategies, and the hood doesn't stay on very well - when sleeping, it falls off, twists on my face, etc. A royal pain, IMO.
> it's unlikely that you'll ever need a warm hood or hat
> without the jacket
If you use a quilt or a hoodless bag, this happens all the time.
Also, you can't match your head insulation to the temperatures at night. For example, if you have a 20 degree quilt, but are dealing with 40 degree temperatures, you can't just leave your down balaclava at home - it's attached to your jacket. And now you have to take a lighter fleece hat as well, because the down hood of your jacket is too warm, and no hat at all is too cold. Now you're paying, in weight, for two pieces of head insulation - the hood on your jacket AND a hat.
The downside to using a separate hood, is that it is one more piece to manage. However, I found I rarely need a down hood - it usually stays in the bottom of my ZPacks sleeping bag until I go to bed. If I do use one, it usually goes on once and stays on.
The real problem, I found, is that when it comes down to it, the hood on your jacket is the right amount of insulation for only a percentage of the trips you'll go on. It's not so much the weight saved, but getting the right amount of head insulation without being too warm on the torso.