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“Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the Forest that was left out by mistake.”
For the past few winters I’ve been bring my Mountain Hardware Down Sub-Zero jacket with me on backpacking trips were I expected cold nights. I love the Sub-Zero jacket, it is super warm and it is build tough. It can withstand quite a lot of abuse. It’s 650 fill down in a z-rip fabric that is wind resistant. Like every Mountain Hardware product I’ve tried, the quality is outstanding Link to Sub-Zero Jacket at Altrec.com . The down side (no pun intended) of the jacket is that it weighs 25 ounces. I’ve been looking for a ultra-light jacket that would be just as warm and weigh under a pound.
I almost bought a Montbell Permafrost Jacket Link to Permafrost Jacket on Campsaver.com but the $250 price tag caused be to procrastinate. The Permafrost is only 14 ounces with 800 fill down plus Gore Tex Windstopper. This is definitely the warmest ultralight jacket on the market. Plus it is cozy with a micro fleeced lined collar, zippered pockets with fleece lining and articulated elbows.
Just before almost deciding to buy the Montbell Permafrost I saw an ultralight jacket in the LL Bean catalog. It is the “Ultralight 850” Jacket. It was ‘only’ $149 so I thought I would give it a try. The medium jacket weighs just under 16 ounces. It has 850 fill down insulation and compresses down in your pack (stuffs into it’s own pocket) to very small. It is made of a water resistant ripstop nylon with a drawstring waistband and elastic cuff. So far I’ve found it to be extremely comfortable to wear. I’ve had it out in temperatures to the mid-teens and found it quite warm.
I thought I was set for a while, then I saw a blog post from the “Jolly Green Giant” (link to post) talking about the New Balance Fugu jacket. New Balance has stopped making the this jacket it it is hard to find, but can be found on some close-out sites. The Green Giant said there was some being sold a recreationoutlet.com so I surfed over there and purchased one for $119 (retail was $385). The Fugu (Japanese for Blowfish) jacket is nearly if not just as warm as the Montbell Permafrost. It is under 14 ounces (for a medium-tall). The 850 fill of this jacket is so warm I’ve had it out in 15 degree days with no laying under it and still felt comfortable. It has much more loft then the Bean Ultralight and has a radiant barrier liner laminated to the inside that adds 4 1/2 degrees of more warmth. It also has a super DWR exterior (that I have not yet tested in wet weather). So far I’m loving it.