Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE REVIEW

Lightweight, extremely versatile hooded down jacket that can be worn as an outer layer or midlayer.

Hightly Recommended

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka (or hoodless Alpine Light Down Jacket) is a perfect balance of light weight, warmth, wind/water resistance, durability, and versatility. It's just the right thickness to warm a mountain hiker on a chilly summer morning, extend the warmth of a lightweight sleeping bag, and serve as a layering piece for cold weather travel and winter camping.

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by Will Rietveld |

Overview

The Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka is a hooded version of their Alpine Light Down Jacket, and a lighter version of their Alpine Down Jacket. It has a sewn-through construction using 800 fill power down and Montbell's 30 denier Ballistic Airlight shell fabric.

Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE Review - 1
The Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka is insulated with 800 fill power down and weighs just 14.2 ounces (men's medium).

At 14.2 ounces for size medium, the Alpine Light is one of the lightest down parkas available. The Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket, at 10.5 ounces, holds the honor of lightest down jacket, but it does not have a hood, its shell fabric is very fragile, and it costs $75 more. Thus, the Alpine Light is definitely a strong contender for a lightweight, durable, reasonably priced down parka or jacket.

Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE Review - 2
The backside of the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka, showing its insulated hood and puffy down chambers.

I am impressed with Montbell's Ballistic Airlight nylon fabric. It's calendared on one side to give it more strength (at a cost of some breathability), and it has a superb DWR treatment. On several occasions I traveled in rain or snow wearing the jacket and found it to be very wind- and water-resistant, eventually wetting through mainly at the seams. The fabric is also quite durable, surviving several unintentional brushes with tree branches while skiing and snowshoeing.

Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE Review - 3
The Alpine Light Down Parka's hood (left) is well insulated and has two drawcord adjustors in front and a Velcro adjustment on the back. Two inside drop pockets (right) add very little weight to the garment and are extremely useful for holding, drying, and warming gear. Left photo by Bill Webbe.

While many hikers would consider this lightweight down parka only for three-season use, I found it to be much more versatile than that. I am a devout believer in a layering system, so, rather than carry a heavy parka on a winter camping trip, I prefer to take two lightweight insulating jackets in order to wear them separately or together. On a February 2008 eleven-day winter camping trip in Yellowstone National Park, I stayed toasty warm at -16 °F wearing a heavy wool baselayer, lightweight synthetic insulated jacket (Integral Designs Rundle Jacket), and the Montbell Alpine Light Down Jacket over that. As needed, I wore a shell jacket over one or more of the underlayers.

Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE Review - 4
The layering system I used on a February igloo camping trip in Yellowstone National Park, where temperatures dropped to as low as -16 °F. The Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka was my outer layer, except for when I wore a shell jacket over it.

For "normal" summer backpacking, especially in the mountains where nighttime temperatures can get down to freezing, the Alpine Light Down Parka is an excellent choice. A down-insulated garment gives the most warmth for its weight, and the Alpine Light Parka or Jacket provides warmth for chilly mornings, as well as extending the warmth of a 30 °F sleeping bag in below freezing temperatures. The parka version is also a very good companion to a sleeping quilt or hoodless sleeping bag.

Overall, I found the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka to be very warm, durable, wind/water resistant, and versatile. It's not the absolute lightest down jacket to be found, but it has the right amount of warmth to be useful the year around as an outer layer or midlayer, and it's a good value.

Specifications and Features

  • Manufacturer: Montbell (http://www.montbell.com/)
  • Year/Model: 2008 Alpine Light Down Parka
  • Materials:: Outer shell is 30 d Ballistic Airlight, lining is 30 d nylon taffeta
  • Insulation: 800 fill power down
  • Features: Microfleece lined collar, full front zipper, elastic cuffs and hem, two inside drop pockets, two zippered fleece lined hand pockets, attached insulated hood with three adjustors, stuff sack
  • Weight: measured weight men's XL 16.5 oz (468 g), manufacturer specification 14.2 oz (403 g) men's M
  • MSRP: $165 US


Citation

"Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/montbell_alpine_light_spotlite.html, 2008-07-29 00:00:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE REVIEW


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE REVIEW on 07/29/2008 19:13:43 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE REVIEW

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE REVIEW on 07/29/2008 19:24:22 MDT Print View

Will, can you let us know the size of the parka you are wearing in the photos? It would also be very handy to know your height and weight so we can get an idea of how the sizing runs. Thanks!

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE REVIEW on 07/29/2008 19:43:36 MDT Print View

Since this in in approximately the same weight class as the synthetic Patagonia MicroPuff hooded jacket, I was wondering if anyone could subjectively compare the warmth of the two garments.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE REVIEW on 07/29/2008 20:49:24 MDT Print View

Michael,

The Patagonia Micropuff hooded jacket provides ~71% of the Mont bell Alpine Light Down Parka's clo value.

An average 30 year old male; sitting around camp chatting for up to 6 hours; wearing a .6 clo base layer under the parkas; would be comfortable to a low of ~35F in the Patagonia Micropuff and ~17F in the Mont bell Alpine Light Down Parka.

Although you didn't ask for a comparison with the Patagonia Down Sweater Pullover Hoody, it better highlights the Mont bell Alpine Light Down Parka value proposition. The Mont bell weight/$ is 14.2 oz/$165. The Patagonia weight/$ is 14.5 oz/$250. The Patagonia Down Sweater Pullover Hoody only provides 75% of the Mont bell Alpine Light Down Parka's clo value. The Patagonia Down Sweater Pullover Hoody temp rating for the previously defined test scenario is ~29F.

Edited by richard295 on 07/29/2008 23:21:15 MDT.

John Smith
(jcar3305) - F

Locale: East of Cascades
Calendared??? on 07/30/2008 04:56:14 MDT Print View

What does "calendared" mena as used in the following:

"It's calendared on one side to give it more strength (at a cost of some breathability)"

I have never heard that term used previously to describe garment construction.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Calendared??? on 07/30/2008 06:35:50 MDT Print View

Calendaring is when one or both sides of a fabric is heated and put under pressure to slightly melt and fuse the fibers. It generally improves water resistance and can increase fabric strength but at the cost of breathability. The more it is calendered the less breathable.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka SPOTLITE REVIEW on 07/30/2008 10:53:37 MDT Print View

Richard,

Thanks very much for that well informed comparison!

I have the micropuff and I am generally happy with it. Its advantage, to me, over down is its ability to handle some wetness while doing camp chores, as it is synthetic. Also, in the event of catastrophic wetout of my down sleeping bag, it is my back-up. IMO the chance of this is small since I use POE's kayak style dry bags.

However, the micropuff's disadvantage is its bulk when packed compared to a down jacket. Now that I know the Montbell is somewhat warmer with excellent DWR .... temptation strikes!

Edited by mad777 on 07/30/2008 10:55:20 MDT.

Aaron Goldzimer
(goldzim) - F
COCOON PRO 60 Parka? on 07/30/2008 14:17:09 MDT Print View

How would you compare this to the COCOON PRO 60 Parka?

Thanks.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: COCOON PRO 60 Parka? on 07/30/2008 16:29:46 MDT Print View

Aaron,

It appears to me that the Cocoon Pro 60 Parka is designed for safety in much wetter environments than the MB Alpine Light Down Parka. I view it as the equivalent of both a parka and a separate shell at about the same weight as just the MB Alpine Light Down Parka.

The Cocoon Pro 60 is also much lighter with better water resistance than the Patagonia Micropuff Hoody. Both synthetic parkas provide about the same warmth. My algorithms yield a comparative extended sitting temperature rating of ~37F for the Cocoon Pro 60.

Edited by richard295 on 07/30/2008 16:30:45 MDT.

Adrian B
(adrianb) - MLife

Locale: Auckland, New Zealand
Re: COCOON PRO 60 Parka? on 07/31/2008 04:30:34 MDT Print View

I have the non-pro cocoon: although it's very light for a synthetic, the MB Alpine Light is much loftier + warmer. Can't comment on the pro shell, but the 30D shell of the MB is a bit sturdier than the quantum shell on the Cocoon.

Aaron Goldzimer
(goldzim) - F
Re: Re: COCOON PRO 60 Parka? on 07/31/2008 11:02:56 MDT Print View

Thank you. How would the Cocoon PRO 60 Parka and the Montbell Alpine compare with the Cocoon UL 60 Hoody and Pullover, then?

Edited by goldzim on 07/31/2008 11:05:38 MDT.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: COCOON PRO 60 Parka? on 07/31/2008 13:01:45 MDT Print View

Aaron,

The Cocoon UL 60 Hoody will provide the same temperature rating as the Cocoon PRO 60. The difference is a significant reduction in the ability to keep external moisture out of the insulation with the Cocoon UL 60 Hoody.

The Cocoon pullover provides 7% less body surface area coverage than the Parka. Non hypothermic environments would result in this garment providing a 10% commensurate reduction in warmth. In hypothermic environments this garment would provide 55% less warmth than a hoody.

The body’s primary defense against the cold and hypothermia is vasoconstriction of the peripheral circulation from the normal ~ 4 quarts/min. to .02 quarts/min (99% reduction). This shunts blood to the core and reduces circulation to the skin. The blood flow to the brain does not change as the demand for oxygen is constant. If you continue to loose heat and begin to shiver, you are doing a special case of exercising. The shivering muscles increase metabolic demand and cardiac demand so you increase your cardiac output and the % of blood heat loss through your head to about 55%.

In summary:
- When not shivering, the heat loss from the head’s 7% body surface area is ~10% of the body’s total heat output
- Shivering increases heat output ~ 5x
- Shivering increases head and neck heat loss (10 X 5 = 50) to ~55% of your body’s total

Edited by richard295 on 07/31/2008 13:08:10 MDT.

Chris Joseph
(chriscaja) - M
Where to Purchase This?? on 08/03/2008 08:49:02 MDT Print View

It drives me crazy when I read a great review of a product like this...and then I search out where to purchase it, and it's virtually out of stock everywhere (except for men's small sizes). Anyone know when this product might be back on the market?

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Where to Purchase This?? on 08/03/2008 09:59:30 MDT Print View

Chris,

http://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?p_id=2301315

Chris Joseph
(chriscaja) - M
Montbell purchase on 08/03/2008 16:51:30 MDT Print View

no, all they have is the small size, as well. All other sizes are shown as sold out.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Montbell purchase on 08/03/2008 19:49:00 MDT Print View

.

Edited by annapurna on 05/02/2010 08:31:25 MDT.

Chris Joseph
(chriscaja) - M
More on Monbell on 08/03/2008 23:51:03 MDT Print View

tried them too...they show availability on their website, but after I placed an online order they said they are out of stock at least until the end of September.

Adrian B
(adrianb) - MLife

Locale: Auckland, New Zealand
Re: More on Monbell on 08/03/2008 23:59:02 MDT Print View

Prolite has a medium of the unhooded version.

Jonathan Duckett
(Thunderhead) - F

Locale: Great Smoky Mountains
Re: More on Montbell on 08/04/2008 07:25:10 MDT Print View

What size are you looking for? I've got a large in black without the hood. I was looking at getting the parka in the fall. If you need it now, I may be tempted to part with mine if the price is right.

Chris Joseph
(chriscaja) - M
more on Monbell on 08/05/2008 07:23:42 MDT Print View

looking for medium in hooded version, but thanks.