Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $599
Pros: Extremely warm, very protective hood, long cut, dual front zipper.
Cons: Not suitable for most people (narrow application).
Best Uses: Extreme cold, high altitude mountaineering, arctic,
The Feathered Friends Icefall Parka is the biggest, burliest, and warmest down parka we tested. You can only order online directly from the small manufacturer in Seattle and shipping times vary from 1 day to 4 weeks. If you are looking for an immediately available burly jacket, see our Top Pick Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket. It's just a little less warm and a bit heavier, but it also costs $185-275 less.
The Icefall comes to a total weight of 33 oz. and has 13.8 oz. of 850+ fill down inside, a huge amount, and offers a large array of maximum-warmth oriented features. Among these are an overlapping double- zippered front, an extremely warm and protective detachable hood, waterproof-breathable out fabrics, down-filled hand pockets, and a long cut – which can be cinched down at both the waist and the bottom hem to maintain warmth and seal out wind. This is a parka made for the worst of conditions. If you need warmth in the highest degree, this is perhaps what you're looking for.
The Icefall will be overkill for most people. For a more versatile yet still warm down parka, consider the Feathered Friends Volant, which is much more suited to most peoples needs. If you're looking for a lighter option, take a look at the Outdoor Research Incandescent, the Rab Infinity, the Brooks Range Mojave, or the climbing specific Feathered Friends Hooded Helios. All of those parkas weigh roughly half of the Ice Fall, and are geared to those looking for a very packable, and light, down parka.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Warmth is the name of the game here. There are many ways in which the Ice Fall keeps you warm so let's start with the basics This parka has more down than any other we tested – 13.8 oz. in the size medium. That down is also very high lofting 850+ fill power For comparison, that is about twice the amount of down as contained in the Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Hoody and significantly more down than all of the other parkas we tested. Essentially, Icefall Parka is extremely lofty. The Icefall is also fully box-baffled. Box-baffling allows the down to more loft more completely, and eliminates the pinching of down that occurs along the edges of sewn-through style baffles found on lighter parkas. This technique of construction is commonly found on quality sleeping bags and is a crucial feature to look for if you're searching for a super-warm down parka. Among the parkas in this review, the Feathered Friends Volant, the Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket, the Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Hoody, and the Brooks Range Mojave all utilize some degree of box-baffle construction, though none of those jackets are as warm as the Feathered Friends Icefall.
The secondary ways in which the Feathered Friends Icefall keeps you supremely warm lay with the features. First off, the cut of the Icefall is quite long, coming down all of the way over the butt in the back and down across the upper thigh in the front. The amount of area that this parka covers on your body is larger than the other parkas we tested, and it indeed makes for a warmer piece. What is really helpful here to keep in the warmth you generate while wearing the Icefall is the waist design. Two separate cinch cord systems allow you to cinch the parka tight at your natural waist, and then again if desired at the bottom hem of the parka, which is about eight inches further down, and over your butt. This effectively creates two barriers against drafts of wind trying to get in and heat looking to escape.
Similar draft protection is designed into the front. The Icefall (unlike all the other parkas we looked at) has two separate zippers on the front. The inner zipper is shorter, running from the waist to the bottom of the neck, and is offset from center by about an inch and a half. It is also a smaller and lighter-weight. Upon putting the parka on and zipping the inner zipper, a down filled draft tube is pulled across the front. The larger outer zipper then zips the outer fabric together and closes the parka from the true bottom hem all the way up the neck. This layering of zippers seals the front of the Icefall against heat loss and wind. It might seem a bit "over-the-top," but the Ice Fall is indeed designed for the worst of cold weather.
The Hood on Feathered Friends Icefall is detachable. We'll discuss the hood in more detail under "Features," but of note here is that it is extremely warm. Stuffed with down, it also incorporates down filled flaps that Velcro across the face, covering the nose, and offering excellent protection and warmth.
Weight and Compactness
Judging on total weight alone, the Icefall (at 33 oz.), is not particularly light, nor is it compact. However, excellent warmth is the goal here, and weight is second to that, but not forgotten. In fact, if you consider that the Icefall has almost 14 oz. of down in the medium, has a total of six pockets, a long cut, two front zippers and fabric reinforcements on the elbows, the total weight of 33 oz. is rather impressively light, or at least lighter than one might expect. The Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Jacket, for example, is heavier (at 37 oz.) and while it is indeed a very warm parka, it is much shorter, and less warm overall than the Icefall.
Due largely to the fabrics used and the highly compressible 850+ fill power down, the Icefall is more compact than you might think. Feathered Friends Provides a stuff sack into which the Icefall easily fits.
This Icefall has the features you need to keep you as warm as possible. Many of these we mentioned previously – box-baffling, a dual front zipper setup with a draft tube, and importantly, a long cut with two separate cinching systems. The cinch cords that tighten the waist are accessed via the inside of the jacket on either side, while the bottom hem features only a single cinch and is located along the bottom right. The hood on the Icefall is designed for full protection and when shut across the face covers up over the nose. The hood can also be cinched further if need be and features a stiffened visor across the top to keep snow off your face and to offer better visibility. It is detachable and is secured with a series of snap buttons.
There are six pockets on this parka. On the front there are two zippered hand-warming pockets that are accessed via the side and which are down filled for comfort and warmth. Layered on top of those pockets are two top-access Velcro-closure cargo pockets. On the inside there are two additional Velcro-closure cargo pockets on each side of the chest. These interior pockets are the perfect size for a Nalgene water bottle. The wrist cuffs are partly elasticized and have a Velcro adjust.
Feathered Friends uses a very weather resistant Pertex Sheild XT waterproof breathable fabric for the main body. This Pertex brand fabric stands up to wind and water much more robustly compared to the Pertex Quantum fabrics found on some of the lighter parkas we've reviewed. Beyond the fabric choice is the fact the hood design and long cut of the Ice Fall combine to fully protect you from the elements.
The Icefall is a very high-quality, made in the USA parka. For added durability Feathered Friends has used a very heavy fabric to reinforce the arms of the Icefall from the elbows down all the way to the wrist on the outer arm.
The Icefall is designed for extreme cold. This is a parka meant to be used in Artic (or Antarctic) conditions and will likely be overkill for most people looking for a more "normal" winter parka. We recommend the Icefall for expedition use in super cold climates, and for people working outside in extreme cold.
This is an expensive parka, retailing for $600. It is not a good value for most people only in that its intended application is a bit narrow. If you do, however, need an extremely warm winter parka, the Feathered Friends Icefall is extremely well designed, made in the USA with high quality materials, and will likely last you forever.
Where to Buy
Feathered Friends products can be purchased on their website here: FeatheredFriends, or in their downtown Seattle, WA retail store.
— Chris Simrell
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Most recent review: January 17, 2014
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