The Permafrost Light Down Jacket from Montbell is a lightweight down parka with an integrated Gore-Tex waterproof, windproof me brane for substantial weather resistance for the worst winter conditions. This is my review.
The Permafrost Parka Light Down Jacket is constructed from 13 denier, Ballistic Airtight rip-stop nylon, layered with a dedicated waterproof, windproof membrane (GORE-TEX Infinium Windstopper) and is filled with 4.3 ounces of high quality 800 power fill EX down. The fabric exterior is coated with a layer of DWR to help shed precipitation. The jacket features an integrated 2-way adjustable hood, wide range adjustable cuffs, water resistant zippers, two hand pockets, two internal pockets, and a pack weight of 12.5 ounces. It retails for $329 and is available now.
What I liked
The Permafrost Light is an immensely protective jacket. Even when tested in a 7 degrees F snow storm, the jacket provided me excellent warmth and protection from harsh, damaging winds and snow with only a synthetic t-shirt and polyester thermal layer underneath. The thick, lofty baffles are stuffed with 4.3 ounces of extremely high loft down, which may not sound like much, but is indeed a large volume of insulation due to the exceptionally light weight composition. When paired with the Infinium wind stop layer, it forms a near impenetrable warmth buffer between the environment and the user. This combination of insulation and barrier completely prevented any cold air from pushing through jacket, keeping me exceptionally warm and comfortable. There were no cold spots around the baffling, which helps to prevent that creeping cold sensation that plagues many jackets. Even after an hour of direct exposure, I found myself completely obliviously to the rather deadly environment around me as I happily explored the blistering woods. Even when completely immobile with no wind break, it held its own, providing consistent, reliable warmth.
Precipitation in general hasn’t been an issue at all with this jacket. Neither rain nor snow has been able to penetrate the GORE-TEX Infinium layer as it is a dedicated and durable membrane that doesn’t rely on coatings for protection. The jacket isn’t seam taped, so water could potentially get in the stitching, but this hasn’t been an issue for me as I’ve tested it mostly in the snow, which is what it is designed for. The jacket has an additional DWR coating applied to the outer layer of fabric, which helps rain bead up and roll off the. This also seems rather durable, but will degrade over time. Thankfully, the membrane does all the heavy lifting but it is important to keep the DWR in good clean condition to prevent the outer surface from wetting out. The DWR can also be cleaned and re-applied if need be.
Fit and comfort are both quite good. The jacket is slightly fitted, but has enough room for thin layers to be worn underneath (think a t-shirt, thermal and a thin fleece or long-sleeved synthetic). Shoulder and chest space is generous, while the jacket narrows a bit at the hip for a snug, heat trapping seal. It runs shorter than many parkas I’ve tested, but at 5’8″ and 170 lbs. it wasn’t a problem. 5’10” users and taller should consider going a size up. Otherwise, sizing seems appropriate. I found myself with mostly unimpeded movement, although the jacket does have a slight stiff feeling to it due to the internal membrane. The fabrics, however, feel great to the touch with smooth, low friction interiors, soft fleecy lined pockets, and soft cuffs and a padded chin protector that works quite well.
The wrist cuffs are large but adjust down for a snug fit. This allows for a wide range of extra thick and thin gloves alike to be worn comfortably, without a draft slipping by. The hood adjusts in two directions to allow for a secure, sealed fit, that won’t blow off in the wind. Alternatively, it can be loosened up for a more relaxed wear style and better ventilation. The hips also adjust down snug, which helps to prevent air or snow flurries from sneaking in.
Pack weight and size are both good, but not excellent. Having the extra protection of a full-membrane adds a little bit of weight and pack size, but still remails quite sufficient at around 12 ounces. It packs down to the size of a small melon, or smaller with a bit of effort and a stuff sack.
Durability is another strong point here. It has a thin but fairly rugged exterior that has so far held up to gentle scuffs and dirt without issue. Shoving it into packs and bags hasn’t shown any signs of wear, and the stitching is sturdy, consistent and shines of quality. The outer fabric is a bit more robust feeling to the touch than the interior, which is ideal. Sharp objects will surely pose a greater threat, but treat it well and I suspect this jacket to last many seasons.
What I didn’t like
Being a water tight jacket, it can trap some perspiration inside when it starts to build up. The Infinium membrane is breathable, but if sweat starts to build up it will take a bit to escape and dry out. This is something to keep in mind when putting together a layering kit. Having a more breathable, fast drying option for high exertion tasks might be a good idea if using this for multiple days at a time with rigorous activity, such as climbing mountains and backpacking. It will also get extremely stuffy in warmer weather, so having options is key here. The down fill does a good job of providing warmth when it starts to get damp. As far as I can tell this isn’t water resistant treated down but that hasn’t been an issue for me as water simply cannot get through the membrane. The jacket does dry out quickly once laid out or vented thankfully.
The front zipper is small and a little tricky to get started, especially with gloves on. Operating it with mitts is nearly impossible at times. The zipper put itself is on the left, which some users may find atypical, depending on their locality. Vitally, the zippers haven’t ceased or got hung up on me though, and they do seem water tight.
The Permafrost Light Down Jacket is an excellent jacket, especially for those seasons where you could be exposed to rain, sleet and snow all in a single day. In this scenario, the jacket absolutely excels as it provides excellent, reliable protection against the worst conditions. It’s also extremely warm. In fact it is actually one of the warmer jackets I’ve tested, despite a feathery weight of just 12.5 ounces on my scale. It’s also comfortable, durable, and looks quite nice as well. If cold, unpredictable weather is a concern, this is a fantastic option.
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