Historic Range: $99.98-$119.98
Reviewers Paid: $118.00
Designed to be part of an insulation/shell combination system from EMS called "Ascent", the EMS Ascent Down Sweater holds its own in some very rare air - its only real competition being Patagonia's version of the same down-filled sweater.
Patagonia's down sweater is arguably the most popular down sweater on the market, if not simply the most expensive. For good reason - it's phenomenally light, simple, well-made, and was designed by someone very talented with a paper and pencil. It just looks great.
Making a product to compete with this market giant is a tough order. If nothing else, simply copying the Patagonia item at a lower price point would render the item a "cheap knock-off." What EMS came up with, however, is a challenger to the throne that threatens by hitting all the pressure points that technical packers care about - weight, features, and price - without giving up the street credibility.
First, weight - at 11.5 oz, the EMS Down Sweater cuts more than half an ounce from the already featherweight 12.1 oz Patagonia. How this is done is by judicial weight shaving that rivals even fanatical mountain bike "weight weenies" - instead of a 22 denier DWR shell, the EMS uses a 10 denier ripstop DWR shell. Instead of a chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, the EMS uses a simple unlined pocket (behind the baffle to keep it warm.)
Second, features - don't think that the spooky-sharp weight cutting has the jacket down on features that matter. Unlike the Patagonia's quilted design, the EMS has a baffled construction, which allows for more loft. The EMS also shares the Patagonia's 800-fill down, draft flap, longer hem, elastic cuffs and cinch waist cord. The EMS also has a wonderful fleece zipper guard (what I call a snot-guard) which makes it soft against the face when zipped. The EMS also features an extra down baffle over the zipper to provide additional warmth when your hands are in the pockets. The zipper pulls on this jacket, are some of the best I've ever seen anywhere - textured, grippy, and easy to find.
The EMS also features three small, nylon, snap-closure loops - one on each sleeve and a third behind the collar to snap into EMS's Ascent-branded Gore-Tex shells. A very unique feature that only adds to the jacket's value.
Third, price - this speaks for itself.
So, in review: Despite the Patagonia's slightly better shell durability and stuff-sack pocket, I ultimately prefer the EMS for its added features, lower weight, and lower price.
Fabric: Downproof 10-denier nylon ripstop shell fabric with DWR finish
Fill: 800-fill power goose down
Price Paid: $118