Hands-on Gear Review

REI Co-op Magma 850 - Women's Review

Best Buy Award
Price:  $190 List | $131.93 at REI
Pros:  Inexpensive, lightweight, warm for weight, stylish
Cons:  No hood, small size limits versatility
Bottom line:  An incredibly lightweight jacket for technical climbing adventures where weight matters, but is not warm enough as a stand alone jacket in cold temperatures.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Down Fill:  850 fill power goose down, Responsible Down Standard certified
Main Fabric:  Pertex ripstop nylon shell
Measured Weight (oz):  6
Manufacturer:   REI

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Magma 850 is exceptionally lightweight and very comfortable for climbing and hiking. It offers an excellent range of motion and is breathable enough to be used as an insulating layer in frigid climates. It fits easily under a hard shell jacket or can be used for very mild summer trips when temperatures are much warmer. We also liked the style of the baffles and found it suitable for around town use. We would have appreciated the option to have a hood on this jacket, as that would boost its warmth.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Women's Down Jackets of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Lyra Pierotti

Last Updated:
Tuesday
January 23, 2018

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The REI Co-op Magma 850 took us by storm. We have come to expect relatively high quality and decent prices from the REI brand, but this one took things up to another level. On first glance, this looks and feels like a jacket twice its price—and performs to that level.

Performance Comparison


Flip flops and a down jacket? Why not? The Magma is stylish enough to wear out on casual outings after backpacking and is dressy enough to look good on a night out on the town with the girls.
Flip flops and a down jacket? Why not? The Magma is stylish enough to wear out on casual outings after backpacking and is dressy enough to look good on a night out on the town with the girls.

Warmth


The Magma is a lightweight jacket, and as such didn't get the highest marks in this review for warmth. However, it still earned an above average score of 6 out of 10, because it is made of such high quality 850 fill down. This jacket is very light and compressible—and very warm for the weight. One feature that would have improved its overall score in the warmth metric is a hood, but this jacket doesn't come with that option. The Magma is most similar to the Ghost Whisperer for warmth but overall is a little less warm due to the lack of a hood.


Weight


The Magma was beat only by our other award winner, the Ghost Whisperer jacket in this category. At 6 ounces, this jacket is remarkably lightweight. As such, it earned an impressive 8 out of 10 in this metric. The Ghost Whisperer is very similar in many ways, but it weighs 1.5 ounces less and includes a hood, which is a stunning feat of design.


This jacket is designed for ultralight backpackers in mild climates, and we wholeheartedly agree. It is small and light enough to clip to the back of your harness in case the wind picks up at your belay stances several hundred feet up a rock face. It is also an excellent midlayer for much colder outings. The lack of a hood, in this case, does make it much more comfortable for layering.

Shoveling was a good application for this jacket  as it's an excellent cold weather aerobic insulating jacket.
Shoveling was a good application for this jacket, as it's an excellent cold weather aerobic insulating jacket.

Compressibility


The Magma's 850 fill goose down, certified to the Responsible Down Standard, is some of the highest quality down you can find.


Its high loft is extremely warm for the weight, and it also compresses into a tiny package roughly the size of a liter of water—but much, much lighter. You can stow it in the jacket's left-hand pocket and clip it to the back of your harness, and you'll likely forget it's even there. This was an impressively compressible jacket, made of very high quality down. It is close to the size of our award winning Ghost Whisperer, but as it is lacking a hood, overall is slightly less compressible.

The Magma  second most compressible after the Ghost Whisperer.
The Magma, second most compressible after the Ghost Whisperer.

Features


The Magma is missing one of our two favorite down jacket features: a hood.


However, the collar is snug and high enough that it does a decent job of keeping cold air from seeping in—but a hood is always better for warmth and protection from the elements.

Loved the chest pocket and the fun varied baffles.
Loved the chest pocket and the fun varied baffles.

Fortunately, this jacket has many other features that we appreciate. Our other favorite features, for example, is the internal chest pocket. This insulated pocket is great for small electronics and easy access—ideal for smartphones with cameras, mapping apps, and route photos for navigation, but also great for stashing small snacks for when you're moving fast or busy belaying. We prefer to have the zipper access external, so you don't have to unzip the main zipper to get to the second one, but we're mostly just psyched the jacket has a chest pocket at all.

The pockets were legitimately higher than our harness. Awesome for access while climbing.
The pockets were legitimately higher than our harness. Awesome for access while climbing.

Perhaps our favorite feature on this jacket is the hand pockets: REI raised them up enough to make access easier from a harness. This is noticeably higher than the Ghost Whisperer, and we loved it. This size and type of jacket is one we often found ourselves wearing for cold weather multi-pitch climbs, so this was a brilliant detail.

The Magma's pockets are higher than the Ghost Whisperer's.
The Magma's pockets are higher than the Ghost Whisperer's.

The variable sizes of the baffles improve range of motion and ease of movement in this jacket. The smaller baffles under the arms give the Magma more mobility where it counts. The larger baffles around the core then help to improve body heat retention, which is an excellent and thoughtful design. They also look very stylish. The wrist cuffs are snug with a nice elastic closure, and the bottom hem also has an easy-to-adjust drawcord to help seal in the heat, keeping cold gusts of wind from blowing in.

Durability


This jacket uses fabric very similar to the Rab Microlight, but it feels lighter and much more supple.


As such, the material was a little more "catchy" and prone to snagging, but in all of our tests, we did not manage to find any durability issues. This jacket feels most similar to the Ghost Whisperer, but with a slightly more durable shell. This would have placed the Magma one point ahead of the Ghost, and one behind the Microlight, however, we knocked it down one more point, giving it a more average score of 5 out of 10.

Stylish and creative design.
Stylish and creative design.

The reason we knocked one more point off the Magma's durability score is one minor issue: the smaller baffles. In general, these smaller baffles will compress the down more and can potentially reduce the life of the jacket's loft. This is not a major fault, by any means, but something to consider. We were highly critical in this review, but this jacket still earned an award despite an average score for durability.

Water Resistance


REI does offer a down jacket with a waterproof shell, but the Magma is not that jacket. Instead, the Magma is a lighter weight jacket that fits very easily underneath a hard shell, so there is no need to add the bulk and weight of a durable waterproof outer shell. The Pertex ripstop nylon repels water well enough to get you through sudden snowy cyclones and a little Pacific Northwest mist. However, the lack of a hood also reduces its wet weather performance.


The other way a down jacket can get wet is if you sweat enough. Since this layer is more of an insulating midlayer, this is probably the way this jacket would get wet. REI thought of this, too, when they decided to use DWR coated down. Excellent choice. This coating will help ensure that your moisture passes through the jacket and hopefully escapes—but ultimately, you'll need to stop and shed a layer to be sure you keep it dry. Water resistance is not the focus of a down jacket; however, it can be a helpful attribute for those who live and work in rainy climates. For a surprisingly water-resistant down jacket, check out The North Face Aconcagua.

Shoveling is hard work in a cold place: a great task for the lightweight Magma.
Shoveling is hard work in a cold place: a great task for the lightweight Magma.

Style


We dug the style of the Magma. It has an outdoorsy look to it, but if that's your style, you'll like this jacket. The smaller side baffles look particularly sharp, and the lack of a hood does make it easier to dress this jacket up for an evening out on the town.


Best Applications


The Magma is an excellent insulating midlayer jacket. We loved it for frigid weather aerobic pursuits because it breathes well enough and slides easily under hard shell jackets. This was a great choice for extra insulation while ice climbing, but not warm enough to be your only down jacket in the winter. It's a great layer for summer backpacking trips as it is incredibly lightweight. Without a hood, it is less mountain-ready, because it is harder to seal yourself against harsher weather—but as one jacket in a quiver of 2 or 3, you'll find yourself bringing this one along all year round.

Value


The Magma is the obvious choice for our Best Buy. Any down jacket under $200 is a candidate for this award, in our view, but with the high-quality materials, durable and thoughtful construction, and stylish design, this is also a highly versatile jacket, so you'll surely get your money's worth.

Conclusion


The REI Magma is a lightweight down jacket suited to aerobic activities in cold climates, and is great for layering under hard shells or for extra insulation in cold weather.

CIty savvy and light and fast for mountain sports. The Magma is a success.
CIty savvy and light and fast for mountain sports. The Magma is a success.

Lyra Pierotti

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Most recent review: January 23, 2018
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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