Lovewool

Lovewool

Joseph's Passions

Hiking & Camping
Climbing
Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on February 10, 2014

3 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
Fit: True to size

I wear a medium in almost everything including Marmot clothing. This jacket is great, except that my arms felt like they were being compressed. It was far more than the typical loftiness I get from most down jackets. When I was bending my elbows, I literally could feel a sense of compression that I don't get with any other down jackets or belay coats. Unless you're built like a skinny stick (my arms are NOT big), avoid this one. My other complaint is that there is no volume adjuster on the hood. One velcro placement in the back would add a lot of functionality. However, the tiny arms are a critical flaw.

I have no idea how Down Defender performance since I didn't own the jacket long enough to put it through its paces, but it is an otherwise great value jacket with a durable feeling nylon shell and plenty of warmth.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on February 5, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times
Fit: True to size

I had a chance to buy this for a steal of a price when I was in the UK, so I went for it. I put it through its paces almost daily for several weeks including some gnarly Eastern US Polar Vortex weather. :D This is truly about as good as it gets in warmth to weight ratios for light expedition jackets. 750FP European 93/7 Hungarian goose down is probably equivalent to almost 850FP US down. The stitching, cut, sleeves, and everything about this jacket scream quality. It feels every bit as puffy (and probably puffier) than a Marmot Greenland jacket but for some reason, it actually visually doesn't look as puffy. I'm not sure whether mine is a newer or older version, but my Gasherbrum has a thin fleece lining on the back of the neck which wraps around to the chin.

My biggest complaint is the EX-L hood with stretch baffles. There is plenty of room to accomodate a large helmet. However, the stretch baffle stitching pulls the hood back and leaves my cheeks exposed to wind rather than enveloping my entire face from the wind. The plus side is the best peripheral vision I've encountered in a puffy hood. However, when you're fighting subzero temperatures with wind gusts, you'd prefer that your cheeks stay warm. It might be a minor quibble, but a hood can make or break a technical jacket. I'd prefer a standard hood over the EXL hood. This is an otherwise AMAZING jacket.

I'm 5'8 with a 40 inch chest, and the Medium leaves me room to layer underneath.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote an answer about on February 1, 2014

Higher fill power is not always better. First, you can always compensate or slightly lower fill power by using more ounces of the lower fill power down. Fill power does not equate to warmth. Secondly, higher fill power (the really light and lofty stuff) also loses loft very quickly when it is exposed to humidity (like your body's sweat loss), and a 900 FP down jacket will look anemic when exposed to sweat and humidity or dirt and oils when compared to a 700 FP down jacket of the equivalent warmth. Lower fill power down is more resilient to those short-term loft losses.

Unless you care about the ultimate light weight compressibility, the fill power argument is really overblown. Also, there is no such thing as 900 fill power unless you're talking about the Patagonia Encapsil stuff which has been treated. Fill power ratings are so overblown and overestimated that people who claim 900 FP are almost always exaggerating. The highest quality down in a Valandre garment or a Western Mountaineering sleeping bag won't be claimed to be 900 FP even though I know it is as good or better than anyone else's down that is claimed to be 900 FP. Some manufacturers don't exaggerate their down quality while others do. If I am getting 93/7 or 95/5 down from mature European geese, I won't be asking for the fill power rating because I know I'm getting some of the best.

Thirdly, you need to assess the cost-benefit analysis for the manufacturer. You could use the highest quality down possible and add another huge cost to the selling price. Now that the wholesale cost of down has more than doubled in the past 1 1/2 years (this is written in January 2014) you would be looking at nosebleed prices if everyone were to look for 850+ fill goose down in everything. There's a reason why manufacturers have shifted to high quality duck down as an economic alternative.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on January 7, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it
Fit: True to size

I will give this 5 stars even though my 2013 version deserves 3 stars for the failed pocket size. This has been corrected by Patagonia on the newest colors.

I owned a prior version of the Houdini, so when it came to replacing it, I naturally went for another Houdini. This is a time-tested classic. I will merely echo the sentiment of other reviewers. The stuff pocket on the 2013 Viking Blue color version is TOO SMALL!!!! This is almost never an issue for my puffy clothes since I prefer to use a stuff sack. However, I use my Houdini stuff pocket regularly. I read the other reviews regarding the pocket, and decided to give it a try anyway. On the medium, it would take me two hands and an extra two minutes of gentle effort to jam the jacket into the pocket so that I could zip it closed. Not worth it! This was with a medium. I'm not sure if the pocket size is identical across sizes. If you wear a small or XS, you might have an easier time.

I compared the stuff pocket size to my old Houdini. The pocket on my older version is about 60% larger.

If you plan on using that stuff pocket, I suggest you purchase a 2014 version. I already noticed that the pocket size on the jackets with the newest colors is larger based on the photographs on the Patagonia website.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on January 6, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

What's not to like about this bag? Light, versatile, warm, and packs small! The Pertex Quantum fabric used as the face fabric allows the reduction of weight and packed volume in this 2 pound dreambag. The zipper never snags on me!

I actually wish Western Mountaineering would make the same spec'ed bag in Microfiber fabric. It would probably only weigh one or two ounces more, but the amazing water resistant properties of the MF fabric are worth the upgrade over Pertex Quantum. You won't regret this purchase if you're looking for a lifetime investment in a light 3-season bag.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on December 18, 2013

Fabulous!
5 5

I was a little hesitant to get the bag because I hadn't seen a neck collar on the Ultralamina 0 photos, but my version has a draft collar for the neck.

The Thermal.Q synthetic material with the relatively lightweight shell stuffs down smaller than other synthetics at this temperature rating. Because Thermal.Q is a short-staple fiber synthetic, I suspect it will lose loft over the years. However, the gold standard for durable synthetic warmth, Climashield Apex, doesn't stuff down as small as this does. Climashield also feels stiffer and less flexible in my experience.

As far as the zipper, I've avoided snags. The nylon zipper cord as it comes from the factory goes through BOTH holes of the zipper, and this is a real problem when you are trying to OPEN the zipper. The thickness of the cord sits against the zipper pull and the zipper itself. This obtuse angle makes opening difficult. Rethreading the pull cord through a single hole as pictured which allows the zipper handle to pull straight down and makes opening easier. Because of the stiffness that the thicker synthetic loft gives, the zipper gets stuck far less than my Ultralamina 32.

My girlfriend uses this as her '15-degree' bag. Backcountry doesn't carry the MHW women's Ultralamina 15 which has an EN T-comfort rating of 15F and T-limit of 8F at a higher weight. Ironically, I believe that this men's 0-degree is not as warm as the women's Ultralamina 15, but MHW's 0-degree bags are not EN rated since EN ratings tend not to be as reliable at colder temperatures.

My only quibble is that I wish the zipper were full length. I'd be willing to pay an extra ounce or two penalty for the utility of a full-length zipper. The prior version had a 3/4 zip on one side and a 1/4 zip on the other. This allowed use of the arms while mummified. This feature will be missed. :(

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on November 18, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: Runs small

Just an amazing amazing jacket for the price that will keep you warm. Fits true to size. I'm 5'8, 160 pounds with a 40 inch chest and medium fits just right without layers. Any layering and I would have to size up. The Pertex Endurance will shed light precipitation. It is not as breathable as high quality shells, but this is not a jacket designed for high aerobic activity. Rab's helmet-compatible hoods are right up there among the best.

I'd been onsidering the Rab Infinity Endurance, but I couldn't justify going for the less durable and less warm jacket for only 2 ounces.

My one complaint is that the down migrates on the volar surface of my forearms and biceps after repeatedly flexing my biceps leaving no insulation on my biceps. This is a problem on many down jackets, and it can only be fixed through creating more baffles at the mid-arm or by placing synthetic insulation at the mid-arm. I also have a HUGE head, so the down collar is really snug on my jaw/chin on a medium jacket.

I also own the Mountain Equipment Vega which is a very comparable jacket. I prefer the Vega because of the cool hood and easier zipper, but you can't go wrong with either.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on November 3, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I returned this product before using it
Fit: True to size

The one flaw that I couldn't get over when I tried on this jacket is the wrist cuff. I'm 5'8, 155 lb with a 40 inch chest. I do have short arms with thin wrists. My sleeve size is about 32 inches on a dress shirt. The medium fit great. Unfortunately, wrist cuff is very loose with no significant elastic in it. The sleeve kept falling over my hands. Otherwise, it would have been a keeper! It's quite puffy for its weight.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on October 28, 2013

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size

My initial impression of Thermoball was that it really does feel like down! It is warm, highly compressible, and much easier to stuff than standard synthetic jackets. This jacket isn't old enough to comment on durability. If Thermoball maintains its loft and compression over years, there is no reason why I wouldn't totally convert from down.

However, I suspect that Thermoball will be subject to the same Achilles heel as all synthetic fibers. I suspect that the insulation will lose loft over time after many stuffings and unstuffings. As much as we can try to replicate the behavior of down, I have yet to see a synthetic jacket maintain its original warmth after a few years of regular use with repeat compressions. After seeing a video of the short staple Thermoball fibers, I suspect this will be the case.

This jacket replaced a well used nanopuff. I hope it lasts as long, but I'll remain skeptical. Kudos to Primaloft and The North Face for trying to innovate.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote an answer about on October 27, 2013

I'm going to guess that the weight savings this year has to do with the change in fit. I had plenty of room in last year's SMALL to wears layers underneath, but this year's MEDIUM measures almost exactly the same as last year's small. The older DAS compresses smaller, but the newer DAS is likely to last longer. The Primaloft Synergy insulation is a CONTINUOUS FILAMENT insulation which is far less resistant to migration and loft loss after repeated compressions. It also is 'loftier' than Primaloft One and takes up more volume for the same warmth. That's why this year's DAS feels puffier. The big downside to this year's DAS is that it takes up more volume in your stuffsack. It won't compress as small. The upside is that the continuous filament Synergy won't lose loft with repeated compressions. Here, Primaloft is trying to go after Climashield. It shouldn't be long before you see Primaloft competing in the sleeping bag market where Climashield dominates. Even though it doesn't compress as small, continuous fiber is what is needed to avoid loss of loft and warmth over hundreds and hundreds of stuffing compressions.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on October 13, 2013

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

What really sets this stuff sack apart from other waterproof burly durable stuff sacks (OR Durable, Podsacs Deluxe) is that the inside is WHITE! This is sooo helpful when you're looking for a small item. The dark gray color linings of other sacks makes hunting for items a chore. Otherwise, it works as advertised, but so do my other quality stuff sacks! It doesn't have the external daisy chain of the OR Durable sack, but how often do you need that feature?

My one complaint is that the XS sacks are long and narrow , and this can make it difficult to remove small items or stuff small down jackets. Podsac Deluxe is my go-to small stuff sack due to its shorter and wider shape.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote an answer about on May 14, 2013

Answer is late, but I spent a lot of time in large car-camping tents. The best winter-performer I've found is called the Alaskan Guide tent made by another outfitter, and there is an 8-man version even though 8 men would be a tight fit. It's bomber, and it's geodesic. It's no Mountain Hardwear Stronghold, but it's easier on the wallet.

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Lovewool

Lovewool wrote a review of on October 27, 2012

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This jacket is right up there with the best when it comes to weight to insulation ratio. It's probably up there in dollar to value ratio as well. It contains a fully baffled 250g of high quality 800+FP down with added Primaloft in the shoulders and forearms to resist compression. The only area where there is sewn through stitching rather than full baffling is at the side seams (armpit to hip). This is still a HEATER. It has more down than the MHW Nilas jacket and far far more down than the Patagonia Fitz Roy at a comparable price. The fit is a little snug despite the claim of a relaxed fit. I'm a size 40 chest and wear medium in everything. I found the medium to be very restricting when considering use as a belay jacket so I got a large. Montane makes some of the best mountaineering gear in the business. The functional helmet compatible hoods on almost all Montane jackets are truly the best. The stiff wired brim might be a slight annoyance when you're packing it into a stuff sack, but it makes up for the nuisance during actual use. The zipper on this jacket doesn't have issues starting like the zipper on the Montane North Star that I returned long ago. It's got UK zippers, so don't complain about the zippers being on the wrong side. Americans are backwards in a lot of things. What other civilized country doesn't live in the metric S.I. system?

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