Montbell Permafrost: Best Jacket Ever?

Well, I can’t really say yet because, to date, I have only used it while lounging on my bed.  But, I have my suspicions, and I believe it just may be a quite-excellent jacket.

It’s a compressible down jacket.  These are great for travel because they are really, really light and do not take up much space.  They are easy to bring along for trips where some cold weather is possible, but not enough to justify the hassle of lugging a big, heavy coat around for the entire trip.  (This would have been great in India when camping out with the camels in the cold cold desert or in Machu Picchu when it got so cold at night at the higher altitudes).

I have wanted one of these for three years.  In fact, this is the third fall season in a row that I have purchased one.  But I’ve never been happy with the selections before.  The first jacket I tried was the Montbell UltraLight.  I like the Montbell brand.  Their products are well-constructed and the jackets are super light and warm.  Badger has the Montbell Alpine Light and has loved it forever.   But I didn’t like the UltraLight’s women’s fit (skimpy) and the men’s was awkward and schlumpy on me.  The next year, I tried the Outdoor Research Ergo Down Sweater, which I expected to love and almost did.  But it wasn’t exactly the thing. It was also a bit skimpy and wasn’t quite long enough.   I wanted something (1) lightweight and compressible but also (2) roomy and long.  I can’t emphasize how important the “long”  was to me.   A jacket that ends at the waist or mid hip is just too short for me.

This year, I tried: Marmot Venus, Isis Lucky Stripe Down Sweater (almost loved it), and Patagonia Down Sweater. But none of them were really what I was looking for.  In desperation, I decided to give Montbell another shot.   I figured if I was going to buy a jacket I didn’t love, I might as well get a high-performing one.  And then, I saw it:

Montbell Permafrost Light Women's Down Jacket in Gun Metal.

Love at First Sight: the Montbell Women's Permafrost Light Down

I don’t know why, but I immediately thought it was The One.  I loved the idea of the wind-proofing.  The “generous cut” for layering.  And it seemed long.  And it is!  It covers my ass easily (insert blush).  For a jacket that weighs less than 12oz and compresses to 5″X7″, it’s bulky and substantial. The only thing I would change is that the fabric is a bit crinkly–sort of like a crisp garbage bag–and it rustles a bit when I move, i.e. shift positions in my bed.  (It’s too bad: the tiger will hear my approach from a mile away.)

The cost of the jacket bothered me a lot.  When I began my compressible down quest three years ago, I would NEVER have even considered spending $250 on this jacket.  NEVER.  In fact, the first jacket I got was a last-ditch clearance item, and it cost $107 or less.  But, in the last three years I have experienced a horrifying price-creep tolerance.  I am willing to pay SO MUCH MORE for EVERYTHING.  Because, I think, I am so LAZY.  When I saw how hardy the jacket was, though, I realized that it solved a couple of other jacket-related problems, which probably justifies its price.  First, the zipper on my real (long-to-the-knees and impenetrable) down jacket broke at the end of the season last year.  I’m not sure this jacket can replace that one for the worst of the winter weather, but I’m willing to try.  Second, and more importantly, the  weight of this jacket means that I can wear it for the commute in the morning, but stow it for the walk home in the evenings.  Last March, I started walking from the job to Penn Station in the evenings. It’s a nice 40-minute walk, and I really enjoy it.  But I didn’t know how the walking was going to work out during the winter months.  During the cold-but-not-freezing March weather last year, I was having trouble because the big down coat was too warm after walking a few minutes, but was too heavy and awkward to carry.  This jacket, I think, perfectly solves that problem. Guilt alleviated.  (Or am I making excuses?  I think only Caroline can help me answer that one.  She is a smart, frugal shopper.)

The only thing I might have done differently with this purchase is to have gathered up the courage to go for silver:

On the screen, I love this color.

On the screen, I love this color. Next to my face, not so much.

I love the way this looks.  And I have so many black winter clothes, a lighter color might have been really nice.  But, I can’t really wear gray near my face. The color makes me look ghastly/sickly.   I worried that in person the silver would be more gray rather than the lovely silvery blue color it appears to be on the internet.  Sigh.

I am looking forward to trying this jacket out in harsher conditions than my bedroom (but consider: the windows were open, and it’s nippy these days!).

And don’t fret, I have more terribly expensive gear reviews to come.



Filed under Gear Review, Hiking, Travel

3 responses to “Montbell Permafrost: Best Jacket Ever?

  1. Badger

    I am overwhelmed. My dream of you has come true. I am now completely and utterly envious.


    Were you laughing with the prior email?

    Welcome to Montbell greatness.

  2. Badger

    And dude, you continue to be a gazelle. It takes me forever to even draft 1 blog piece and you banged out 2 in a single night?

  3. Maggie

    Ha! I was snickering at your earlier email and trying to deflect as a stall tactic. Did you love Permafrost at first sight too? I think Alpine is a bit softer and cuddlier, which is nice.

    It took me like 5 hours to do both. I am not such a gazelle. I don’t know how people have time to continuously update blogs. Even basic kind of writing is so time-consuming.

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