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Backpacker Magazine – Fall Gear Guide 2013

Gear Review: Montbell Plasma Puffy

A lightweight jacket designed to keep you warm - in the loftiest way possible.

by: Kristin Hostetter

Montbell Plasma (Andrew Bydlon)
Montbell Plasma (Andrew Bydlon)

Ultralight Down

Killer warmth in a baseball-size package? We didn’t think it was possible until we tried the Plasma, the first 1,000-fill power* down puffy we’ve seen. “It’s downright miraculous how much warmth this jacket provides,” says our tester, who wore it for more than 40 days of snowshoeing, winter camping, bike- and kayak-commuting, and dayhiking last winter and spring. “All in a package that’s about the size and weight of an apple.” The secret is the exceptionally lofty, light, and warm 1,000-fill goose down. These finest, fluffiest of feathers have more plumules than lesser quality ones, which translates to more tiny, heat-trapping air pockets and unprecedented warmth in such a light package.

To keep the jacket as light as possible, MontBell used a translucently thin, 7-denier Ballistics Airlight Nylon shell (fibers are heated and stretched, which boosts tensile strength and overall durability), stitched-through construction, and kept the jacket virtually featureless. There are no pockets, no hood, and no Velcro closures or drawcords. “But I stayed warm with just a baselayer underneath in gusty weather down to 20°F,” our tester said after practically living in the jacket for a six-day backcountry ski trip in Montana. “And because of the streamlined fit, I could easily layer it under a shell to take it into colder temps.” Despite the wispy fabric, the jacket shows no signs of wear or loss of loft after a hard season of use. “My only gripe is that I had to keep a very close eye on it when I took it off,” he says. “It sailed away in the slightest breeze!” $269; 4.9 oz. (M); m’s S-XXL;

*Fill power refers to the loft (and thus warmth) of down. One ounce of 1,000-fill down consumes 1,000 cubic inches of space; lower numbers reflect lesser-quality feathers.

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