L.L. Bean PrimaLoft Packaway Hooded Review
Cons: Thin and not super warm, fit is not very athletic
Manufacturer: L.L. Bean
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The PrimaLoft Packaway Hooded Jacket is most notable for its great price, lower than any other in our review. Although we had it rated near the bottom of our overall ratings, we don't think this does the jacket justice, as only minor differences separate it from some of our highest rated jackets. If the price intrigues you, don't be afraid to check it out, as there is a lot to like.
We tested the hooded jacket, but you can also buy one without a hood for some decent savings. A nice choice that's offered is between regular and tall. While we can't comment on the fit of the tall, as we tested a regular, this is the only jacket in our review that has such a size selection, so those dudes well over six feet may find a better fit here. If you like the design and the company, but like soft and stretchy face fabrics, it also comes in a "stretch" version, which will tack on a bit of cost. For the super budget-conscious, we noticed closeout colors were discounted over the "current" colors, so shop around for some deals!
This jacket uses 60 g/m PrimaLoft Gold combined with Cross Core technology to provide its interior insulation. Cross Core technology apparently adds some form of NASA designed aerogel to improve the warmth of the fibers while not adding much in weight. We'll discuss the weight in a moment, but we can't help but notice how incredibly thin the jacket is. With such a thin design, there isn't a whole lot of loft, meaning there isn't a lot of dead air space within the jacket to effectively trap the heat in and keep the cold out. Combine the very thin insulation with sewn-through baffling, which compresses the insulating fibers where the stitching pulls the inside and outside fabrics together, and you simply aren't left with a very bulky jacket.
Some people are not looking for a bulky jacket, though, and we admit that this jacket's low profile endeared it to our testers for chilly spring and summer evenings living in the mountains of Colorado. It was also effective on summer backpacking trips to throw on over our other layers and ward off the chill, without adding much bulk to our pack, but we have to caution potential buyers who think they may be getting a layer warm enough to stand alone in winter — this is not that layer!
Weight and Compressibility
Our size large jacket weighed in on our independent scale at 14.0 ounces, which is fairly light compared to many of the competing jackets we've tested. That said, it is nowhere near the lightest, and considering that it is one of the thinnest, we have to dispute LL Bean's claim that with this jacket, you get the most warmth for very little weight. For such a thin jacket, we expected it to weigh a bit less.
We like how easy it is to stuff into its own interior zippered chest pocket. Many of the insulated jackets we've tested are not capable of stuffing into a pocket at all, and some others are so difficult to fit into such a tiny pocket that they are impossible to zip, and the feature is sort of worthless. This one easily stuffs in a matter of seconds, and while the end package isn't ridiculously small, it is very easy to zip closed.
This jacket is reasonably comfortable to wear around, and the more we wore it, the less complaints we had. However, we have to be nitpicky for this review, and when it comes to the fit, we were unimpressed. The sleeves are far too short, in our opinion, with the cuffs riding a good distance up the forearms no matter how you move your arms, and the elbows feeling constrictive at times. The hem is a bit high, and the fit in the torso is bulky and baggy and not very athletically shaped. The hood fits well although it's not adjustable, and the collar sits a bit low under the chin. To top it off, we have to admit we've grown very fond of the feel of the stretch/active fabrics against our skin, and by comparison, the slippery and clammy feel of polyester face fabrics, especially in an active layer, are just not quite as pleasant. We understand that you may disagree with us entirely, but for active use, most of the other jackets we've tested have a far better fit for moving your body around.
While we aren't that impressed with how warm this jacket is, we will admit to being very impressed with how weather resistant it is. To be clear, no synthetic insulated layer is meant to protect you from the elements as well as a shell jacket, especially in the rain, but synthetics do have the main advantage of retaining their loft and heat-trapping abilities even when wet, something that cannot be said about traditional down.
We found this jacket to be quite water-resistant, with the DWR coating effectively causing our hose dousing to bead up and run off, with minimal water absorption into the polyester face fabrics. What was absorbed quickly dried out in the sun and wind.
It is also highly wind-resistant, with the slippery face fabrics in combination with the thin but dense insulation on the inside effective protecting us from even strong winds. The hood and cuffs have elastic edges that seal off the openings effectively enough, while the hem has double drawstrings for tightening up the opening at the bottom. All of the pockets are zippered, a nice feature both for protecting valuables, as well as preventing wind infiltration.
Compared to most polyester insulated jackets, we found this one to be relatively breathable. We think a large part of this is because it's so thin, however, so we didn't immediately work up a considerable sweat when running up steep hills in the sun. It makes a decent choice for hiking in due to this fact, although if that is the type of layer we were looking for, we may choose to go with a stretchy, more highly breathable active insulated layer instead.
The style police weren't super won over by this jacket. There are many different sewing patterns which give it some visual interest, including diamond shapes on the torso, complemented by straight horizontal baffles on the arms. That said, the issue we had with the fit, namely the short sleeves, high hem, and baggy torso, didn't do any favors when grading it out based on fashion.
As we mentioned before, this is one very affordable hooded jacket, and even more so if you manage to find one of the closeout colors, which offer pretty significant savings. You can get it for even less if you skip the hood. While it wasn't our favorite jacket, it's still a compelling choice, if for no other reason than the price tag. With quality construction, quality materials, and a reputable company backing it up, we think it offers a pretty banging value.
The LL Bean PrimaLoft Packaway Hooded Jacket is a very affordable active layer that is a good choice as a spring, summer, or fall jacket and makes a pretty decent choice for backpacking in the warmer months. It's most notable attribute is the price and the quality of materials used, including all recycled fabrics, meaning your conscience can rest easy with this purchase.
— Andy Wellman