Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $309
Pros: Fantastic warmth-to-weight ratio, box baffles for added warmth, very cozy.
Cons: Not as durable as similarly warm jackets.
Best Uses: Non-technical mountaineering , backpacking, winter camping
The phenomenal warmth and tremendous loft of the Mont Bell Mirage Parka make it an outstanding choice for those looking to be warm in the mountains. For those who want to go light you'll be impressed by the fact that all that warmth is created by only 12.8 ounces of jacket. With 900 fill down and ultra light 7 denier fabric the Mirage Parka feels like air when you're wearing it.
Lightweight but heavy on features the Mirage parka does just about everything you could want a jacket to. Not to be mistaken for a full weight expedition parka, the Mirage Parka won't keep you as warm as a full parka will. However, it is the warmest jacket we tested in this review.
We recommend the Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer (7.5oz), which is not as warm and more trim fitting if you want the lightest featured down layer.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Mirage Park is close to the maximum warmth to weight ratio of a jacket. Instead of the standard sewn through design that creates thin places in the insulation of a jacket, the Mirage Parka is made with a box baffle design the overlaps the edges of the baffles eliminating areas where there is no down insulation. When compared side-by-side with the Western Mountaineering Flight jacket a similarly light jacket made with high quality down the warmth to weight ratio of the Mirage Parka is even more impressive. Though the Flight jacket is only 11 ounces it owes most of its lightness to a detrimental lack of features and poor design that actually make it less warm. The Flight has no hood, no zips on the pockets and no internal pockets, while the Mirage Parka has all of the above and weighs less than 2 ounces more.
The only thing we felt held the Mirage Parka back in terms of its warmth and weather protection was the actual fit of the jacket which was generally too high volume and consequently didn't trap heat as efficiently.
The Mirage Parka is solidly in the middle of the pack among the jackets we tested in terms of weight. Not stunningly light, but certainly light for the warmth of the jacket the Mirage Parka won't weigh you down in the mountains. With 40% of the jackets weight derived from the down insulation the rest is a little plastic and the 7 denier nylon ripstop outer shell. In spite of this it doesn't lack any features that detract from its functionality.
The 900 fill down is like a sponge for air. Once you tame the beast and get it stuffed away into the included stuff sack the jacket is impressively small. The down returns to normal loft quickly and hasn't shown any loss of warmth yet. After compression the jacket tended to have feathers protruding the fabric so our testers were less inclined to stuff the jacket away, definitely not ideal.
The outer shell fabric is DWR treated but shed only the lightest rain. The 7 denier fabric was not adequately heavy to prevent from water seeping through and the loft of the jacket meant there is a lot of surface area exposed to getting damp. The 900 fill down bounced right back in a tumble dryer but showed no signs of drying after being hung out to dry for a day.
While the Mirage Parka puts the puff in puffy jacket it's no slouch in the looks department. With a two tone outer fabric that makes the jacket look like it has a much more technical fit than it does the Mirage Parka flatters more than the average parka. Wide sleeves and a sloppy hood detract a little from the cool factor of the Mirage but not so much that you wouldn't wear it to town.
Durability was our primary concern with this jacket when we started testing it and we soon had those concerns validated. The Mirage Parka is very light, with most of its weight coming from the down insulation. With zippers, plastic and drawcords accounting for a few ounces as well this leaves very little weight for the fabric, which would be great if the 7 denier ripstop was strong enough. Unfortunately it isn't and soon after we started testing the Mirage parka we had some decent tears in it. The combination of high volume, loft and light fabric is a snag waiting to happen and it did on several occasions. While this jacket is amazingly warm and light too much durability was sacrificed for the weight.
The Mirage Parka has all the features you want, some excellent and some not so excellent. If cinched too tightly the drawcord in the hood will lash the wearers face in a wind. The drawcord at the waist bunches up in an annoying loop that snags every available object. Additionally, the velcro on the cuffs pops off when under pressure, all small details only made annoying by there concurrence. what the Mirage Parka does right are large interior drop pockets, high and zippered hand warmer pockets and a box baffle construction the significantly increases the warmth of the jacket. Overall the Mirage Parka is a well featured and highly functional jacket.
This jacket belongs in your big mountain layering system. It is as close to the most warmth you'll get out of a jacket for under a pound. As long as you avoid snags on pickets, ice axes and ice screws you'll adore the Mirage parka. This jacket is a little too puffy and delicate for multi pitch climbing on ice or rock, but for the high cold and less sharp world of slog-aineering it's close to perfect.
While not a budget jacket you'll get a lot of warmth for 309 dollars. The only downside to this jacket is that you're unlikely to wear it all the time. It's not a super stylish city jacket, nor is it appropriate for rock or ice climbing. It is fairly function specific and won't be your quiver-of-one down jacket.
Check out the Best Buy Award winning Mont Bell Frost Smoke Parka for a durable all around great jacket.
— Thomas Greene
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Most recent review: November 26, 2014
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