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MontBell Superior Down Vest

rated 4 of 5 stars
photo: MontBell Superior Down Vest down insulated vest
Version reviewed: UL Down Vest

Great for layering!

Montbell’s UL Down Vest is a great addition to a layering system that will help keep you warm while weighing about the same as your average t-shirt. It is not the top of the class, but for the price, weight savings, and effectiveness, I say it is a good choice.


  • Light
  • Large zipper pockets
  • Packable
  • Great for layering


  • Sizes are a bit big
  • No elastic on waist
  • Little to no wind protection

I have had my vest for over 2 years now. It went with me on the first 1,000 miles of the AT and on several overnight and weekend trips locally. If I am not wearing it I have it rolled up and in the stuff sack that was included with it. I do my best to take care of all my gear and may go a bit OCD with it sometimes. This tends to lead to my gear lasting a very long time.

This vest is available for men and women in a variety of colors and sizes. It has a ripstop ballistic nylon shell and 800 fill power goose down. It has 2 zippered hand warmer pockets and comes with a stuff sack.

I have the Medium size, in the color black, and it weighs 5.6 ounces with the stuff sack. I am a skinny guy at 5’11’’ and 160 lbs. and the medium is a bit loose fitting for me. I don’t have a wide waist or shoulders and not a lot of “padding”.

For me the fit was not a deal breaker. Under a fleece or jacket the bottom of the vest can bulge and make you look like a pot-belly. If the fleece or jacket is short the vest can sometimes be seen slightly hanging out the bottom. I feel they made them loose to allow for layering.

I wore the vest over my thin poly long sleeve and a dri-fit short sleeve t-shirt. Over it I would wear a MH fleece and if needed, my Arc'teryx Beta AR as my outer shell. With this setup I am comfortable with temps in the teens and single digit range. At camp, if this is not enough then I just hit the sleeping bag. While hiking, I rarely wear all of that.

I usually wake up cold when hiking in fall/winter. I am the type that does not mind putting on all my clothes before I start hiking and then taking everything off 10 minutes into the hike when I get hot. I would rather stop and take everything off then hike 10 minutes cold. I never cared to do this. I like to be comfortable and hate to be cold!

This vest has been taken off, put on, rolled, folded, shoved and stuffed countless times. I do not have any thread coming loose, no holes or tears, all the zippers work and the down is still spread evenly without clumps. It has held up over the years and with good care will hold up for several more.

The outer shell is made of 15 denier ballistic airlight nylon. It is coated with a DWR which helps protect from moisture and maintain warmth, but I avoid moisture at all costs with all my down. The smoothness of the shell allow other items to be put on over the vest with ease and with less risks of snags. It is not “puffy” which also is great when layering.

The 2 zippered pockets are huge. I can easily put my entire hand and part of my arm in the pocket with a thin glove on. In the photos I used a 32 ounce Nalgene just to show the size. I usually keep my stuff sack in the pocket when not in use. I have left the stuff sack at home and just stored it in any spare space in my pack which works well. If needed you could fit it in a pants or shorts pocket too. 

After 2 years I have not seen the first down feather come out of it. Montbell explains on their website how the fabrics are run through heated rollers to flatten them and create a “shingle” effect that increases strength. I don’t have any holes or abrasions. But I am careful with it too. The material does feel thin and would probably not respond well to getting snagged on a branch.

As a part of a layering system this thing is great but I find myself rarely using it without something over top. It offers little to no wind protection and with the loose fitting waist the wind blows right up your back if not wearing a pack. The elastic around the arms did not rub or irritate me and the collar did not choke me. The zipper is not large and I hardly noticed it when zipped all the way up. On its own it is breathable and can be unzipped for more air flow.

If you use a semi-puffy down jacket with sleeves and possibly a hood for lounging around base camp then I do not think you would want to trade out for this vest. At times I feel sleeves and a hood would be a better choice for lounging. I think it is best used during hikes for people like me who use lots of layers and are constantly adjusting them to try and stay comfortable. Would I recommend this to another hiker/backpacker? Depends on the person.

I love my vest. Even with the faults that it has. It has proven to be tough, warm, and I think it looks good too. So, if you want a wicked warm and light mid-layer that is inexpensive yet very useful, try this vest. I don’t think that you will be disappointed!













Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $60 after coupons

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The MontBell Superior Down Vest was previously known as the MontBell UL Down Vest.


Price MSRP: $120.00
Historic Range: $89.21-$119.00
Reviewers Paid: $60.00
Weight 5.1 oz (medium)
Fill Weight 1.5 oz
Insulation 800 fill power goose down
Fabric 15-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon shell, 100-wash rated POLKATEX DWR treatment
Center Back Length 27.6 in (medium)
Price MSRP: $120.00
Historic Range: $79.98-$124.95
Weight 4.8 oz (Size M)
Fill Weight 1.4 oz
Center Back Length 24.0 in (Size M)
Fabric 15-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon shell, 100-wash rated POLKATEX DWR treatment
Insulation 800 fill power goose down
Product Details from MontBell »

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