October 23rd, 2009 by Carl
I thought I’d write a quick post about insulation for hiking. This year, I made the switch from a pile fleece jacket to a synthetic fill jacket. The jacket that I virtually lived in all backpacking season long, (on plenty of day hikes as well, including this walk up to Powerline Pass near Anchorage with Keba and Musa) was the Montbell Thermawrap. At under 9oz, it’s hard to beat for weight savings. It’s certainly MUCH lighter than any of my fleece jackets, and far more stuffable. Packed into its little stuff sack, it takes up no space in the backpack at all. And it’s insanely warm for something so tiny. It definitely is warmer than either my 200 weight or 300 weight polartec fleece jackets, and is also extremely windproof. Being it’s insulating material is Exceloft synthetic fill, rather than a down fill, it’s a good choice for summer or 3 season backpacking. It dries fast, and the shell even repels a light drizzle (which we get plenty of here in Alaska). I highly recommend it.
That said, the Montbell isn’t the only choice, and if you can find a good deal on another similar jacket, I’d say go for it. I’ve still got my fleece gear, and they’re great, but the Montbell will be in my backpack until it wears out. So far, that doesn’t look to be on the horizon. It’s worn well, and is in great shape. I can’t think of a single reason to bring a fleece jacket over something like this little gem.
I wouldn’t recommend you go out and buy a jacket like this just for a trip to Alaska if you already have a fleece jacket that works for you, but if you’re in the market for some new gear to keep you warm, definitely check it out. I wore it down to around 32?F this sumer and fall, and it kept me toasty. For the winter, I’m looking at a down jacket, a bit heavier and a good bit warmer .. there’s a big gulf between 32? and -40?.
Oh, and one small note: if you do go for the Montbell, look at trying it a size larger than you normally wear – they tend to be smaller sized than most brands we’re used to seeing here.