For all you ultralight hiking or fast and light alpine enthusiasts, the latest craze in down jackets is 1000-fill power, providing you the best warmth to weight ratio on the market. Both Patagonia and Montbell have created such jackets, with the former not only going maximum fill power, but adding Encapsil water-repellent technology on top.
The Patagonia Encapsil Down Belay Parka ($699) is independently baffled and differentially cut without any sewn through seams that might leave cold spots. Weighing 18 ounces (510 grams) and insulated with Patagonia’s plasma-treated, water-repellent Encapsil 1000-fill-power down, this belay parka is extremely warm and packable, built to withstand even the toughest alpine conditions.
Although water-repellent or water-resistant down garments are currently available from several outdoor brands, Patagonia has taken a different approach that supposedly allows them to deliver the technology on 1000-fill power down, while using a safe silicone-based chemistry that is free of fluorocarbons in the process.
The down is sent through a proprietary machine and agitated with low-level radio frequency waves until the surface of the down’s molecular structure begins to shift. A tiny amount of siloxane is then deposited onto each plumule of down, adhering to its changed molecular structure in a virtually permanent way. The result is down that is hydrophobic, stronger, and loftier by 25%.
The Encapsil Down Belay Parka features an ultralight 10-denier Pertex Endurance nylon ripstop shell fabric with a polyurethane dry coat for added water repellency. The hood is baffled and helmet-compatible, with a single drawcord that provides a small draft collar of down around the face to protect from frostbite.
Exterior hand pockets are independently insulated to retain warmth even when open, while the high positioning keeps them out of the way of your harness. A mini-snowskirt keeps out wind and snow from below without compressing the down in the lowest chamber.
For those who may want to test out 1000-fill power but are not so keen on the hefty water-repellent down price, there is the Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket. Priced at only $269, the Plasma weighs in at a scant 5.2 ounces with paired down features that include a simple full front zip and 7-denier ballistic nylon shell fabric.
The Patagonia Encapsil Down Belay Parka is available now in special edition quantities with numbered labels inside each parka. The Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket will be released in September 2013.