Warmest Non-Expedition Down Jacket

9:39 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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I need a super warm insulation layer and I think it needs to be down.  I have a Patagonia down sweater.  I love it but when it's super cold, it's not enough.  I have a RAB synthetic insulation jacket as well as a Patagonia Micro puff which are also both great but when it's really cold, I get cold.

I have read about the meltdown series of Western Mountaineering jackets as well as the Hyperion from Feather Friends and those seem to be as warm as you get before you get to expediition weight.

Any recommendations out there?

10:48 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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If you could provide a little more detail we might be able to help you a bit better. For example, where are you going, what temps do you expect etc.

I prefer and find a layering approach works best compared to just 1 thick down jacket etc.

down to -30f I am fine with head: smart wool beanie, balaclava, hood from an old synthetic hunting jacket. torso: capaliene 3 l/s, underarmor 1/4 zip shirt, Columbia l/s hiking shirt, sas wool sweater or a fleece pull over, pantagonia nano puff, ECWCS goretex parka shell. On some trips I will leave the parka and nano and bring a llbean waxed cotton down jacket.

hands: smatwool glove liners, OR flurry gloves, ems fleece convertible mittens, OR endeavor mitts, and rag wool fingerless gloves legs: capaliene 2 long johns, cabelas down pants, winter weight bdu pants, ecwcs goretex shell pants feet: wool socks thin, wool socks thick, insulated boots or down booties, or croc gaiters.

That is my layering system, something's I change out occasionally for testing etc but normally it looks close to this. As you can see I don't use a big thick down jacket.

1:35 a.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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Consider adding a second down sweater to the layers, one size larger than the one you currently have to fit over it without compressing the layers underneath.  Make sure your outer shell doesn't compress your insulating layer also.

Ed

1:38 a.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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In really cold weather (which for me is anything 20F or below), I don't own or want to carry  multiple layers. When I stop and I start to get cold, I go straight to my parka, a TNF Baltoro (older version of their Himalayan) which you would call an expedition parka. I have a pair of GoLite insulated pants to go with it and gloves, insulated mitts and fleece balaclava.

Before I put on the parka, I am already wearing a midweight Capilene top and bottom and a midweight/lightweight fleece jacket with a pair of windpants - Marmot Precips. I also have an expedition weight Capilene top I recently bought that I will take on my next trip. I like snow camping, but hate being cold, ironic, no? Anyway, that's why I have the parka and pants.

 

7:12 a.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks for the great insight!

I like to hunt and camp in the winter and I live in VA so temps at altitude (at least for here so that's 3-5000 feet) can get down to zero but cold is probably 10-30 degrees.  I generally wear a smart wool midweight base or a patagonia capilien 4, one of the insulation layers I have (some sort of down or synthetic "puff") and a shell like a Marmot Precip or an Arcteryx Beta AR.

Sounds like a good recommendation would be to add a layer but I guess I was hoping for a 1 piece "silver bullet" insulation layer like Tom D's TNF Baltoro.

11:39 a.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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I have been wearing my Valandre' Immelman all last week (in our zero to sub-zero temps) in toasty comfort.  It is well insulated but not bulky like the large expedition parkas.

Pricey but worth it if you are out in zero temps.

12:30 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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I'm mid-atlantic too (DC area, but we get out to the Shenandoah area when we can) but also do some winter hiking in the Northeast. 

1.  You may not necessarily need to go 'all in' with the expense of something like the western mountaineering or feathered friends jackets.  they make very nice jackets, of course, if you have the money.  these are premium brands that only occasionally offer clearance merchandise,  though, and if you run through the list i include below, you will find some pretty great deals. 

2.  consider a jacket with an insulated hood.  it makes a big difference in warmth.

3.  sizing is an issue.  some of the mid-weight jackets are cut pretty narrow to save weight.  a number of these jackets run small/athletic.  consider seriously buying a size larger than you normally would, particularly if you plan to throw this on over other layers. 

4.  examples of jackets in the 'intermediate' category, as i just researched this.  i'm sure there are other choices out there too.  they all have 800 fill power down and are all substantially warmer than a down sweater.  all more or less get very good reviews.  the first three are slightly lighter, the last two a couple of ounces heavier.  i don't think you could go wrong with any of these. 

-mountain hardwear phantom or hooded phantom.  streamlined, relatively simple features to save weight.

-marmot ama dablam - only available with a hood, i think.  very 'clean' simple design, not a lot of features.

-rab neutrino - great UK-based company.  some rab products run small; this one is actually sized to fit over other layers. 

-first ascent (eddie bauer) mountain guide jacket - discontinued but available on ebay here and there. 

-Patagonia fitzroy hoody - on the heavier side.  very warm.   

6:51 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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FYI, I got my parka on eBay a few years ago at about half retail. It does have a big insulated hood. There are other  brands, of course, but few make expedition style parkas because the market for them is not that big. Not everyone wants or needs a $600 parka designed for arctic conditions.

I also have a TNF Nuptse, which only has a fabric hood-no insulation in it. Nice jacket, but nowhere near as warm as the Baltoro, which is about twice as big, or so it seems.

10:09 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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I suggest the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka. It is very warm, very lightweight, and not too expensive.

http://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?p_id=2301361

12:12 a.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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I have no idea how much down is in my parka. The TNF website doesn't say. However, it weighs 3 times as much as the Montbell and the new model costs 3 times as much. It would be nice if jackets were tested to an EIN standard the same way bags are.

2:57 a.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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Your parka is three times the weight of the Montbell, Tom, because, as you note, its an expedition-weight parka. The OP is asking for a beefy insulation layer...

The OP should be looking at, in order of least to most fill:

Go-lite Bitterroot

Montbell Frostline

The hooded Skaha, from Nunatak, with an extra ounce or two of down.

Rab Infinity

Montbell Permafrost

...and at the very warmest end of the uber-heavy down sweater (read: midlayer) spectrum:

Rab Neutrino

Valandre Immelman

I have the Infinity: hooded, over 7 ounces of down, under a pound of weight. It is the warmth-to-weight leader on the market today, for a jacket of this type. The Bitterroot is the value leader...well over 5 ounces of down, trim fit, $150 or less...

The Patagonia sweater has 4.5 ounces of down in it, if I remember correctly...so I'd be looking for something with at least a full ounce more of down, and a hood. And again, as Ed notes above, many of these jackets listed will likely be tight when layering under your normal shell--just on account of their ample loft--so you may need to "size up" your shell accordingly...

6:39 a.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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THANK YOU EVERYONE!  This is all outstanding information.  I have some work to do but this makes it exponentially easier.

Thanks!

6:40 a.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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I would also consider the Outdoor Research Incadescent Hoody. It is 17 oz and is 800 fill down. It is featured in Outside Magazine's Winter Buyer's Guide for this season. I haven't personally tried one, but from what I have read, it should definitely be mentioned in this discussion.

http://www.outdoorresearch.com/en/mens-incandescent-hoody.html

11:01 a.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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the exact ounces of down fill in a jacket depends on size - most manufacturers that provide info about the ounces of fill will say that they are using a medium or large size as their baseline.  a medium Patagonia down sweater has 3 ounces of down, 800 fill power; add about an ounce and a half for the hooded version. 

one other thought: you can sometimes save significant money by looking at jackets with lower fill power, 650 or 700 rather than 800.  you'll end up with a few extra ounces and slightly less ability to stuff the jacket into a tiny space, but you might also pay half as much.  example: i have a well-used mountain hardwear sub-zero parka, was my go-to winter parka for the Northeast.  picked it up for less than $200 on sale.  it's good to 20-30 below zero.  15 ounces of 650 fill, weighs 42 ounces, so it's a beast compared to many of the jackets noted above.  it stuffs into a surprisingly small sack.   

1:58 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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Pillowthread-I used my parka as a comparision because it is "super warm" as the OP says he is looking for, but I think you are right, he is really looking for something different than mine.

Jackets are like bags-warm, light, cheap - pick any two.

5:31 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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And for more opinion and insight into jackets, I like to read this blog.  I find it very helpful.  He talks a lot about jackets, too.

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/

11:41 a.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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There are many great solutions to your challenges available now.  Layering allows you to have the right amount of clothing for the level of exertion.  I used to carry a down parka with a hood, but it was really only good for sitting around camp.  To sweat is to have problems in winter.  Always be willing to go to the trouble of peeling and adding layers to stay warm enough without sweating.  It is one of the most important arts of cold weather travel.

I could probably find clothes in a good thrift store for temperatures down to about -20. 

10:52 a.m. on January 19, 2013 (EST)
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I've had a TNF McMurdo Parka for 7-8 years now and it's my favorite when it gets down to single digits here in Chicago.

It's a bit heavy and only 550 Fill Down but it seems to do the job with the addition of some light layering in sub zero temperatures. Lots of pockets for storage, and a really great detachable hood with a removable faux fur brim.  

Plus it's only $250-$340 depending where you look.

8:41 a.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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I'm leaning towards the RAB Infinity at this point after doing a lot of extra research.  The "quality to price index" seems really high and I really love the RAB Generator jacket I already have. I've seen the Infinity for $225-260 which seems very reasonable for 7 oz of 850 fill down.

 

Thanks to all for all the feedback!

3:11 p.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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For me, the Infinity is good in camp to about 10F with an appropriate baselayer and windshell, beanie, and insulated pants. There's some numbers posted over at BPL by a very good scientist regarding CLO values, and their derivatives, for myriad down jackets/parkas/sleeping bags as well as general "thermo-neutral" temperature guidelines for these items as they apply to varying activity levels (or "output"...).

There are hours upon hours of information to pour though over there. Perhaps the OGBO could weigh in with his understanding of the methodology of those studies (if you're keen to 'em, Bill...), and their relevance to our discussion here...

...but basically, the studies to which I refer call the Infinity "thermo-neutral"--meaning comfortable--for in-camp-type duties down to 13F if I remember correctly? I'll dig up a link here...

(Mr. Nisley really is pretty awesome: He also helped "debunk" a lot of the hype regarding "loft" as a marketing term for the measurement of warmth, and basically found (and I'm sure I'm gonna mess this up here...apologies where warranted, Mr. Nisley...) that perhaps the most important factor at one's disposal, when trying to discern the warmth of a given garment or fart-sack, is the total weight of down being used; he found that down could be compressed quite a lot while in use before one experiences even a linear loss in warmth. They took a fixed set of dimensions--in the form of a standard, baffled-chamber sleeping bag--and filled it with varying amounts of down, finding that adding a given amount of down, while maintaining the same loft, equated to an almost linear increase in warmth (CLO) up to somewhere inbetween 2-3 times what is recognized as "optimal loft density". In other words, a sleeping bag with 4" of single-layer loft can be compressed to half of it's thickness, and it will lose far less than half of it's warmth...just food for thought...)

12:01 p.m. on January 24, 2013 (EST)
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I have a FF hooded hyperion and I love it for base camp on my winter treks in the sierras but I could not do any kind of activity in it with out over heating.  I have worn in below 0F a couple times with just capalene 2 under(It doesnt really get that cold comparitively speaking) and still would find it hard to do to much with out over heating.   Hopefully this helps some.

2:08 p.m. on January 24, 2013 (EST)
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ppine said:

I could probably find clothes in a good thrift store for temperatures down to about -20. 

 

Good idea...

Last week I found an Italian merino wool charcoal sweater in excellent condition for 2 bucks. I have a treasured LL Bean wool field shirt I found in brand new condition at the thrift shop for 12 bucks.

As you say, there are plenty of jackets there that will stand up in below zero conditions with some layering. I go to the Humane Society thrift shop so my dollars also help that charity. No tax is another savings at a charity thrift shop.

3:44 p.m. on January 24, 2013 (EST)
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ghostdog said:

ppine said:

I could probably find clothes in a good thrift store for temperatures down to about -20. 

 

Good idea...

Last week I found an Italian merino wool charcoal sweater in excellent condition for 2 bucks. I have a treasured LL Bean wool field shirt I found in brand new condition at the thrift shop for 12 bucks.

As you say, there are plenty of jackets there that will stand up in below zero conditions with some layering. I go to the Humane Society thrift shop so my dollars also help that charity. No tax is another savings at a charity thrift shop.

 ...starting another thread entitled "Best 2nd-Hand Sweater" right now...

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