I had seen Mont Bell garments around for a few years. I liked many of the designs but until recently the sizing was off for me. I dropped weight and Mont Bell made an effort to re size. Now Mont Bell fits true to size for the North American market.
My first real exposure was actually "forced" upon me. I had agreed to do a synthetic jacket review for CC.com. They had wanted me to include two Mont Bell jackets. Fair enough and glad we did include them. I learned something from it.
The Mont Bell synthetic versions really impressed me. I see a lot of gear, as in, a LOT of gear. And I used the Mont Bell Synthetics last spring and through the summer. I kept one (Thermawrap Pro) and continue to use it now in winter. It is a great mid weight by any comparison. And like all the Mont Bell garments I have seen recently an exceptional pattern and fit for me personally.
More on the original synthetic review here:
It was well over 3 years ago now that the idea of a "gear test" and the resulting, Cold Thistle blog, came from my search for a very warm, down "climbing" jacket.
"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, [Emphasis added.]
—Justice Potter Stewart,
I've been around long enough to "know it when I see it" when it comes to a down jacket appropriate for climbing.
I've since looked at a lot of jackets. Some I tossed aside unworthy, early on and didn't add to this list. Many (5 and counting) of these jackets have been changed a lot since I did my first reviews. So make sure you know what you are looking at. The most recent update (data is from the earlier reviews though) below of the jackets I have thought met that criteria of "climbing jacket":
L or XL weight insulation @ the shoulder box wall or sewn through
xEddie Bauer Peak XV 1091g/ 38.5 5" box
xNarrona Trollveggan 1063g/ 37.5 3" box
xRab Neutrino Plus 794g/ 28 5" box
xArcteryx Duelly 794g/28 2.5" non laminated syn
xNarrona Lyngen 737g/ 26 3" sewn + layer
Mont Bell Permafrost 694g/24.5 4.5" box
xRab Neutrino Endurance 650g/22.9 3" sewn
xMtn H Nilas 652g/ 23 3.5" box/sewn thru arms
xEB BC Micro Therm 590g/ 21 2.5" sewn + layer
Mont Bell Mirage 420g/ 14.7 3.5" box
xRab Infinity 402g/ 14 3" sewn
There is a sweet spot between design, use and weight. Hard to define what will work best for you. But for my own use generally the warmth to weight ration will cut through all the fog. What works best for me has little to do with the quality of these jackets. All are high quality, state of the art, down jackets. Any one of them will keep you warm on most occasions. Each has a forte' and specific use worth searching for if you want to spend your money wisely. Without having all these jackets at hand in front of me there is no way I could have made a educated decision on what was best for my own use. And I continue to be surprised almost every time I start making these kinds of comparisons.
Between the fully baffled Eddie Bauer Peak XV and the light weight, sew through Rab Infinity there is a lot of leeway, weight and warmth.
If you are looking the ultimate example of warmth and light weight construction in a down jacket is boxed wall construction. There has never been any doubt about that. The best down jackets made 40 years ago were box baffled construction and the best now are as well. It isn't a cheap way to make a jacket. It is however the best way to use down as insulation.
On the list above only these are full box baffled construction.
Eddie Bauer Peak XV* #
Narrona Trollveggan (the new one might make 4+")
Rab Neutrino Plus * #
Mont Bell Permafrost* #
Mont Bell Mirage (just under 4", more details in another review)
And of those only three jackets* break the legitimate 4" of loft at the shoulder #. These are all really warm jackets but going past 4" of loft is the exception here not the rule. Of those three the Permafrost is the lightest and the least amount of loft..@ 4.5" of 800 fill down. There is 9oz of the 800 down in a medium.
The Mont Bell's are the only large size jackets in these comparisons. The weights aren't going to be far off for comparisons if you wondered. But a large Mont Bell now fits me like a XL RAB (MB lg is a bit bigger) or XL Mountain Hardware Nilas (MB Lg is a bit smaller). "Like" but the Mount Bell jackets actually fit better with my intended layering system than either RAB or Mtn H.
Unzip the hood from the Permafrost and you drop 100g or 3.5oz.
4.5" of loft and now the Permafrost is 594g, or 21oz. Your decision on what is required of an insulated hood. But the huge stand up collar and detachable hood gives you some options that don't often see in these jackets. And something I don't generally like in my own jackets. This one may be a rare exception. I still have to wonder though what the weight would have been if they had ditched the stand up collar for a attached hood. The detachable hood will easily take a climbing helmet with room to spare inside. The zipper, baffle and detailing on the hood attachment is exceptionable.
The more I play with this jacket the more the Permafrost impresses me for warmth, detailing and value. It fills a niche market no one else even playing in yet. Something I am just beginning to realise Mont Bell does a lot.
More comparisons here:
The Permafrost's excellent stand up collar and detachable hood
The RAB Neutrino Plus also has a stand up collar that includes the hood with a Velcro "latch". The "latch" allows one to climb in the jacket with the hood buried and free of snow when it is not up.
The Neutrino Plus also has a 30" back measurement in a XL. The Permafrost is 29". A little weight savings there.
The best pocket combo I have seen in a jacket of this style. Big gloves or 2 liters per side, easy, plus a sun glass pocket. Hand warmer pockets with a micro fleece as well on the outside.
Fair size sun glass pocket and the detailing of a Velcro closure on the big pockets.
The Permafrost has Velcro and elastic wrist closures which work extremely well.
The neck and collar are both lined with a super fast drying, soft micro fleece material.
The entire shell has a DWR coating and is made of Gore's Windstopper fabric. Winstopper laminated fabrics have proven to "offer total wind proofness and maximum breathability".
All in all you have a very sophisticated jacket from Mont Bell.here. Retail is $369.
I think it is well worth searching out the brand in your area and checking them out.
Backcountry.com carries them for mail order and Pro Mountain Sports in Seattle does locally as well.