The extremely warm yet lightweight Feathered Friends Khumbu Parka is a fantastic winter jacket for mountaineering expeditions and users in frigid climates. Most people will find this coat far too warm for everyday use in the winter and may prefer a different style of jacket. If you don't live in Fairbanks or Fargo, check out the the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka for a more reasonable winter jacket. But if you're packing for Denali, don't leave the lower 48 without this jacket, our Top Pick for Expeditions.Editor's Note: The Feathered Friends Khumbu Down Parka review was updated on February 23, 2022, with additional information on what we would buy and more details on product comparisons.
Feathered Friends Khumbu Down Parka Review
Cons: Bulky, too warm for most uses, not completely waterproof
Manufacturer: Feathered Friends
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Feathered Friends Khumbu Down Parka
$679.00 at Feathered Friends
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|Pros||Extremely warm, lightweight, technical features||Durable, clean looking, warm, weather resistant||Warm, long hem, comfortable hood, great features||Warm, lightweight, comfortable||Warm, weather resistant, durable|
|Cons||Bulky, too warm for most uses, not completely waterproof||“Crinkly” shell fabric||Bulky, faux fur hood is polarizing||Not that durable, minimal features||Not very breathable, limited color options|
|Bottom Line||The best technical climbing and expedition parka in our review||This stylish jacket is the closest thing to perfection we have tested||A warm, stylish, and budget-conscious jacket for those in the coldest regions||A warm, comfortable, and lightweight down parka that is ideal for winter hiking and outdoor activities||A versatile and high-performance winter jacket with plenty of warmth and weather protection, at a great price|
|Rating Categories||Feathered Friends K...||Arc'teryx Camosun P...||The North Face McMu...||Rab Neutrino Pro||REI Co-op Stormheng...|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Specs||Feathered Friends K...||Arc'teryx Camosun P...||The North Face McMu...||Rab Neutrino Pro||REI Co-op Stormheng...|
|Down Fill Power||900+||750||550||800||850|
|Total Weight||2.11 lbs.||2.14 lbs.||3.55 lbs.||1.38 lbs.||1.94 lbs.|
|Pockets||5 (2 zip hand, 2 internal mesh, 1 chest)||2 zippered hand, 1 internal security||2 chest height, zippered handwarmers, 2 exterior top-entry Velcro flap pockets, 1 sleeve, 1 interior media pocket, and 2 side-entry waist handwarmers||2 zippered hand, 1 internal chest||5 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 2 internal)|
|Hood||Yes||Yes (removable)||Yes (removable)||Yes||Yes|
|Hood Adjustments||3 adjustable drawcords||3 adjustable drawcords||Rear drawcord||2 side drawcords, rear velcro||3-way adjustable|
|Baffle Type||Tuck-stitched baffle||Sewn-through under an outer shell fabric||Sewn-through under an outer shell fabric||Twisted arm baffle||Sewn-through under an outer shell fabric|
|Main Fabric||Pertex Shield fabric||N150p-x Gore-Tex 2L||DryVent 2L 100% nylon||Pertex Quantum||HydroWall 2L|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Immediately after donning this jacket for the first time, our testers noticed how light yet incredibly warm this piece was. So warm, in fact, that they couldn't wear it for more than a minute or two unless temperatures were well below freezing. High-quality 900-fill power down and full baffling throughout the entire body of the jacket combine to create one of the warmest winter jackets we've ever worn. This jacket is made for those venturing to the coldest and highest mountains on earth, like the Alaska Range, Antarctica, and the Himalayas, and it performs wonderfully for those applications. Add some highly technical features and a relatively affordable price point, and you get our Top Pick for Expeditions.
Like many specialty jackets, the Khumbu Parka scored poorly in many categories that are outside of its specialty. This jacket is not built for style, nor is it built to last forever, nor to be the most comfortable winter jacket in the world. It is made to be warm in all conditions and allow expeditions to succeed in otherwise unreasonable environments.
The Feathered Friends Khumbu Parka is one of the warmest jackets we tested, and it is one of the few jackets that earned such a high score in this metric. The Seattle-based company packs tons of ultra high-quality 900-fill power down into this jacket's torso, hood, and arms. A strip of synthetic insulation is used around the neck, an area especially vulnerable to moisture from sweat and blowing snow. This jacket ensures that body heat is kept in and cold mountain air is kept out using tuck-stitch baffling and an interior secondary front zipper. Wearing this jacket is like wearing a sleeping bag on your upper body.
This jacket is packed full of heat-saving features like insulated handwarmer pockets and 3-way adjustable drawcords that keep the hood sealed tight over a hat or helmet. The long hem is also fully insulated and features two drawcords to prevent heat loss. Reinforced velcro cuff closures fasten tightly over gloves or under mittens.
Our only caveat is that this jacket is too warm for most winter use. It is seriously too warm to wear in temperatures above 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit. Most users will find this parka overkill except for the occasional polar vortex and should be steered towards a more reasonable jacket like the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka. That said, on mountains like Denali, where daily high temperatures hover around -20 degrees, this jacket is one of the only choices that will provide comfort in camp and could make or break the expedition on summit day.
The Khumbu Parka sacrifices some weather resistance in its pursuit of extreme warmth, but it still managed to earn an above-average score for durability. Other winter jackets use a thick and tough waterproof shell, and this jacket features Pertex Shield fabric on the exterior, which is a fabric used in lightweight rain jackets. This fabric does a great job protecting the down insulation from becoming wet, which could be devastating to the coat's warmth. Furthermore, this fabric is an appropriate shell for a jacket that is not likely to be worn in temperatures anywhere close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, condensation on the inside walls of the kitchen tent or dripping water from waterfall ice are possibilities in temperatures below freezing.
This jacket is insulated chiefly with down filling but features a small patch of synthetic insulation in the neck. This area is the most likely to come into contact with water from perspiration, condensed breath, or outside liquid. It is a nice touch that, in addition to the Pertex Shield outer shell, displays a lot of foresight from the Feathered Friends engineers. Everyone who has been on a winter expedition knows that no matter how cold it gets, getting wet is inevitable, and gear has to be somewhat waterproof to be useful at all.
If the forecast calls for milder weather with liquid water or wet snow, reach for a jacket with more synthetic insulation like the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka, which features a Gore-Tex shell that will perform even better than Pertex Shield in the presence of rain or sleet.
The hood is well designed to provide full coverage for the head, even while wearing a climbing helmet. A sealed front zipper and interior second front zipper keep out any wind and cold from the chest and torso, and velcro cuff closures seal the jacket around the wrists.
One of the first things you notice when donning this jacket is its bulk. When fully lofted, the down baffles are very thick and limit the user's mobility. The Khumbu is not a jacket you want to wear for chores around the yard or highly mobile activities. Even on expeditions, this jacket is usually worn when belaying, sitting around camp, and cooking, rather than while climbing. It is too thick of a jacket to provide much ergonomic comfort.
That said, the thin interior lining fabric is soft and comfortable, and the baffles lay softly against your body. One tester described wearing the jacket as wrapping oneself in a down comforter. Some minor complaints included abrasive fabric from the reinforced velcro cuff closures irritating the skin around the wrist and the lack of any chin protection from the zipper when fully zipped up. This jacket isn't designed for comfort, yet it is comfortable enough to wear for extended periods in icy weather. Despite being a much thicker jacket, the Khumbu Parka was only slightly less comfortable than the Editors' Choice Award-Winning Arc'teryx Camosun Parka.
Feathered Friends pared down the features on the Khumbu Parka to include everything necessary on an expedition and nothing that isn't. This jacket's rating in the "Features" category reflects the successful location of that sweet spot.
The handwarmer pockets are large and can accommodate gloved hands. The interior stash pockets are large and deep, perfect for storing and warming extra gloves, a thermos, or any other equipment that needs to be easily accessible. There is one exterior chest pocket, but in the cold conditions that this jacket was designed for, it is unlikely that a cell phone battery would last very long, so close to the external environment if stored in this pocket. All exterior zippers are sealed.
One interesting feature of the jacket is a dual front zipper system. The external front zipper is joined by a second internal zipper, which is offset by about 5cm to the side of the outer zipper. The layering creates an overlap of down in the front zipper region where there might typically be no insulation or where other companies use two vertical tubes of down to insulate this weak spot in the armor. This feature preserves warmth while saving weight. Our testers noticed that the external front zipper took some practice to get the zipper to engage properly. This jacket's chief competition, the Canada Goose Expedition Parka, has more oversized zippers that are much easier to operate.
Our testers all commented on the quality of the hood, and in particular, its comfortable and snug fit. Three elastic pull cords help tailor the fit and eliminate any unoccupied space. The hood wraps around the sides of the face and accommodates a climbing helmet easily. It contains plenty of down insulation to keep your head warm and comfortable in Alaskan storms.
Style is not this jacket's forte, and it earned one of the lowest scores of the group. Designed for the Kahiltna Glacier, not the fashion runway, the Khumbu makes the wearer look like the Michelin Man. Whether this jacket is worn in the high mountains or the streets of the coldest cities on the planet, fashion takes a backseat to staying warm and alive.
Those seeking a jacket for expeditions to the coldest places on earth will not be deterred by this jacket's simple, technical style. The North Face McMurdo Parka III scores better in the style category, at least making an effort to look good and fashionable while staying warm. The Khumbu Parka makes no such efforts, but we suspect its users won't care.
Down is more durable than synthetic insulation, as long as it is appropriately stored and allowed to loft while not in use. We noticed some down feathers escaping through the hood drawcord holes throughout our testing, and although not that much down escaped, it wasn't very reassuring to see. The jacket features Taslite fabric reinforcements around the outer forearm and elbow, all the way down to the wrist cuffs, adding durability to the most commonly worn-out areas.
The shell fabric of the Khumbu is less burly and more fragile than most other jackets in this review and will likely wear out or rip before other jackets, so this jacket earned an average score. We especially about its lifespan after a few arctic expeditions, or if users aren't careful with their skis, ice axes, and crampons. The cuff closures use velcro, which wears out over time and must be replaced, compared to the sleek and comfortable stretch-knit cuffs of the Arc'teryx Camosun Parka.
Should You Buy the Feathered Friends Khumbu Down Parka?
Considering the purpose for which this extra-warm jacket is built, it comes at a great price. Other expedition parkas on the market are hundreds of dollars more expensive. This jacket won't last forever due to its lightweight construction. Still, Feathered Friends guarantees all of their products for life against workmanship and material failures, and they will also repair their jackets should they become damaged. And if you are venturing off on the kind of adventure this jacket is designed for, this jacket is a relatively cheap insurance policy against extreme cold.
What Other Winter Jackets Should You Consider?
Excellent warmth and a thoughtful design make this a no-brainer for our Top Pick for Expeditions. Add this jacket to your collection, and it will keep you warm when all others fail. It makes some comfort, weather resistance, and style sacrifices, but its warmth and features make it a perfect choice for long and cold expeditions. If you are looking for something with more durability, the Canada Goose Expedition Parka is also a good option for extreme conditions. However, not everyone is out to scale the Himalayas. If you are a less intense outdoorsman, we recommend looking at the Rab Neutrino Pro, which has a similar style, but scores higher overall and has a more appropriate warmth rating for everyday use.
— Jeff Dobronyi
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