Editors' Choice 2011: MontBell Alpine Light Down Parka

Low weight, high warmth, and modest price make this jacket a perfect fit.

Unless you go backpacking only in midsummer, and only at low elevations, you’ll want to add this hooded, 800-fill-down toaster to your layering system.

“It’s warm down to the teens, it weighs less than a pound and packs down to grapefruit size, and it costs considerably less than other lightweight down jackets that perform comparably,” says one editor. The 30-denier ballistic nylon shell defies wind, and it’s more durable than its wispy weight suggests. Ballistic nylon fibers are heated and stretched (much like tensile steel), so the molecules align in a way that increases durability without adding weight. “I didn’t have to baby this jacket at all while scrambling through rough sandstone slots,” says one tester.

It’s not super fat for truly Arctic conditions, but it shines as a three-plus-season layering piece, because it slides nicely under a shell and the insulation doesn’t get crushed. Fit is thermally efficient, but roomy enough for comfortable reaching. $185; 12.4 oz. (w’s M); m’s S-XXL, w’s S-XL; montbell.com