MontBell Alpine Light Down Parka - Women's Review
Cons: Angled baffles limit ease of movement and compress down
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Alpine Light Parka is inexpensive, lightweight, and stylish. It is equally at home on a cold weather hike, camping in the cooler months, or cleaning snow off your car on a winter morning, but it was not the most mobile when compared to others in this review. The hooded version of this jacket was our favorite, as it provides just a bit of extra warmth and makes it a more versatile warm layer.
The Alpine Light is warm and protective for its relatively light 11.8 ounces. It boasts 800 fill down, which is among the warmest for its weight. The square baffling, while still a sewn-through design, mimics a baffle box design, which according to our reviewers did reduce cold spots often experienced with parallel baffles; however, this came at a cost to mobility.
Our reviewers liked this hooded version better, as it helps to retain heat in bad weather. If you don't want a hood on your jacket because you prefer to wear it as a mid-layer, there is also a hoodless model of this piece.
The MontBell Alpine Light Parka was of average weight among those we reviewed. However, it is one of the most affordable options we reviewed, and at 11.8 ounces with high quality 800 fill down, that is a real bargain.
The 800 fill down of this jacket is highly compressible. The fleece lining, however, makes the jacket just a little more bulky.
The nylon fabric of this jacket is low-absorbency, but it does not have significant water repellant features. Of our fleet of jackets, it was on the slower side to dry when really drenched.
Style and Fit
Overall, our reviewers were drawn to the style of the jacket. The angled boxes are a nice visual change to the standard parallel tubes. However, these boxes ended up in awkward places on the arm, for example, which bunched up and compressed the down more than with the more mobile parallel baffling of the Ghost Whisperer in particular (which had the best mobility of all the jackets we reviewed), as well as the Rab Microlight, and Arc'teryx models. The angled stitching also made the front of the jacket bunch up awkwardly when zipped closed. Ultimately we prefer the Montbell Frost Smoke Parka- Women's to this one because it is sleeker and more mobile, and it costs the same.
The jacket's arms felt short in comparison to the other jackets we tested. Both Montbell models, in fact, had shorter arms.
The primary fabric is a 20 denier ballistic nylon taffeta which is a good middle-of-the-road choice, balancing light weight, durability, and weather resistance. This fabric is heavier and more durable than the materials used on the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, but lighter and a little less durable than the fabric used in the Rab Microlight Alpine jacket.
The fleece collar and hand warmer pockets were a big hit on this jacket. The hood adjusts nicely with a draw cord and velcro patch on the back of the head. We also appreciate the drop-in internal pockets, great for drying out gloves or keeping a water bottle warm.
The low price of this jacket makes it a lower-stress layer that you won't worry so much about abusing as you might with the more pricey Ghost Whisperer. The Alpine Light jacket is great to cram into a climbing pack and pull out for those cold and windy belays. It is also a decent option for a backpacking trip because it stuffs down but is very warm for its size.
At $199, this jacket is a great deal. It is warm, compressible, relatively durable, and overall very functional. It is not the Cadillac of down jackets, but for infrequent use, it is great bang for your buck.
The Alpine Light Down Parka is a great option if you're looking to invest in your first down jacket, but you're unsure how often you'll use it. Also consider the slightly higher performance Montbell Frost Smoke, our Best Buy winner, for the same price.
— Lyra Pierotti