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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mont Bell Mirage

The conversation started like this:

 And ended like this at 7am @ 10K feet on Rainier.  Jerry crashed out and sound asleep at Muir just after sunrise and a quick 2 hr ski to get there.  Some amazing corn skiing to follow getting back to the Nisqually Bridge.

I suspect I am not the only one to stand in the early morning cold, sweaty and chilled wishing I had the warmth of a nice thick down parka to swallow me up and comfort me while I brewed a warm drink or waited for the first rays of sunlight to heat up the surface of your skin if not the air.

I've used a down parka so seldom in my own climbing career that they are seemingly trivial.  Unless of course you really need/want one.  And you are cold.

Jerry's relative comfort just made me really jealous on that trip where I didn't think I would need a Mirage.  Dumb mistake on my part.  Something I won't easily repeat in the future.   15oz of warmth is just too easy to carry when it will pack this small.  900 fill down and a silk weight material on the jacket's body will allow that.

For those that follow such things Cold Thistle started with a search for the "best" cold weather parka  as it applied to my own us.  If I looked I suspect I could actually tell you how many of the "best" parks I have bought or been given over the past 3 years.  I still have 3 of them in my closet now.

The Mont Bell is one of them and the jacket I now use the most.

It is an easy decision when you take a close look at this jacket.    It is fully box baffled for one.

My size Large weights in at 14.7 oz or 420g on my postal scale.

3.5" of loft made up of  900 fill down loft at the shoulder.

When stuffed this jacket doesn't even fill my lower compartment of the 9oz CAMP Race pack.  The Mont Bell Mirage jacket off my back at sunrise and into the pack just before leaving Paradise on a cold Spring morning.

The 9oz. 20l ski pack?
The perfect pack for a quick ascent of Rainier on skis.   The Mont Bell Mirage is the perfect compliment at the less than a pound of "survival gear" in the pack's lower compartment.

Any time I am "alone" on Rainier I like having a little extra security.  The Mont Bell Mirage offers that for so little extra energy.   Bigger, colder mountains?  Even more so.

The Mirage's pockets are perfect for me.  Two hand warmers and two big internal chest pockets.  Just enough for my needs.  The hood is simply an awesome design.  It is big and puffy.  Makes a great high collar as well when a hood is too much.  Easy to adjust and a Velcro tab in back to make bigger or smaller depending on what you require at that moment.   Cuffs are closed via a Velcro tab.  Simple and effective.

There has to be a down side right?  Of course not that I care about any of them or totally agreed with the detractors.

Mont Bell sez:

  • 900 fill power goose down
  • 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon shell & lining
  • Standard DWR treatment
  • Box construction eliminates cold spots, while encouraging maximum down loft
  • 2-way adjustable fixed hood
  • 2 zippered hand warmer pockets
  • Draw cords for waist adjustment hidden in pockets
  • 2 internal drop-in pockets
  • Adjustable alpine cuff

  • [Center Back Length] 29.3 in. (Size M)
  • [Weight] 12.8 oz. (Size M)
  • [Fill Weight] 5.3 oz.
  • [Compressed] φ5.3’’ x 9.5’’ (stuff sack included)
  • Size: XS/ S/ M/ L/ XL/ XXL
  • Color: rust/black
(I'd love this one is a full on BRIGHT red!)

They also say the 7-denier cloth makes this insulation piece a "mid layer".... or as they say "An excellent piece when you’re in need of warmth from every gram of your mid-layer."

My buddy Jerry thinks using the Mirage as a mid layer is a good idea and didn't think the Mirage warm enough for a full on Bozeman winter.  And just think my plan was to take it to the Cassin!   The 7 denier shell cloth doesn't repel wind like a heavier cloth but for my own use it is durable enough as a outer layer.  And a good enough wind layer.   So I sized accordingly.
Jerry is also the guy pictured here, sound asleep in his Mirage on top of his skis at Muir on an early spring morning.  So go figure!  He surely isn't using the Mirage as a mid layer there.  And seems satisfied with the performance.

I didn't get to Alaska a this Spring.  And may not again.  But I do have some really nice down jackets in my closet right now.  None being used in the mountains but the Mont Bell Mirage.  Some even lighter or close enough to the Mirage but none warmer for the weight.  There have been a few stand out products for my own use in the last couple of years.  TLT5 and Rebel Utra for boots come to mind.  Fat, rockered ski and full on race tech bindings are good examples.  The Nomic ice tool, Neoshell and Polartec Power Shield Pro garments a few others.  The Mont Bell Mirage is one of those pieces.  Gear that has set a new standard in performance for my own use.  That kind of gear is hard to find and difficult to replace.  I'd love to see this jacket with a water proof, breathable outer shell with a little more wind resistance even if it added a few ounces to the over all package.  And if they are going to that effort I'd add another 3 oz of that amazing 900 fill down to a size large.  Make this one a 20 oz, over stuffed,  water proof jacket and you would better anything else on the market.  Till that happens I am all in (and very comfy) with the Mirage.  Not may "heavy" down jackets that you can add to a super lwt ski mountaineering rig and still think you are still "feather weight".  The Mont Bell Mirage fits that bill so easily it is almost a no brainier.  Rather amazing really.

If I make it back to Alaska this is the jacket I will be using for any quick ascent.  Till then it will keep going into my skimo race pack. And on when I  want a little early morning comfort and a hot drink.

More here from Cold Thistle on Mont Bell:

and a review here:



jim thomas said...

Great post on the Mirage. Seeing the Rainier pics got me to thinking. I am planning on going back to Rainier in 2014 after a twelve year absence. Will be guided, and I am 70. We plan to take it slow and spend 4-5 days on the mountain.

Gear has evolved a lot since I was there! I have accumulated the following on various trips. Obviously don't need it all, but would appreciate your suggestions on what to select.

Bottom: pata cap 3
Mammut soft shell
cheap hard shell
Top: R1 Hoody
Atom LT
Pata down hoody
Pata FitzRoy (baffled)
Pata Stretch Ascent hard

Dane said...

Hey Jim, Nice you are getting after it in 2014. 4 or 5 days on the mountain is a nice way to travel.

Problem with so much time is it really can stress your clothing choices. More time out, likely you run into differing weather conditions that will require more clothing choices.

Patagonia's new catalog is now promoting a 3 layer sytem. From what I saw their suggestions now are similar to what I wrote about several years ago. You have the basics, cap3/soft shell pants/R1 hoody/shell that I use on almost every trip with only slightly differing choices depending on conditions. On a 5 day trip a good insulated jacket is a must for me if for nothing else but to sleep in.

This might help with the decision.

But rememeber with all these speed ascents of Rainier I'm writing about..we are there and gone within hours. 5 days on Rainier living at altitude is a totally different game than 5 hours and requires additional resources and being more conservative in your choices of gear.

You want to enjoy your 5 days not just suffer through them. Pack light but take enough gear to stay warm and dry!

I'd take these or somehting like them:

pata cap 3
Mammut soft shell pant
Top: R1 Hoody

Good lwt boots like the new Scarpa Ultra and the perfect place for a MB Mirage and the Atom Lt. Add a Cap 3 zip t and I'd likely be done.

Have fun and really enjoy the effort!

jim thomas said...

Thanks Dane!
The boots I have are:
Scarpa Inverno & Trango S EVO GTX, which I guess are two extremes. Would I be ok in the Trangos for 4-5 days, since they have zero insulation?

Dane said...

In decent summer conditions the Trangos will be fine. Just be sure to take extra dry socks. No difference between them and the Ultra really for Rainier.

Stephen said...

Hi Dane,

I picked up one of these in Large and really like it, I just weighed it and it came in at 390g my buddy got a medium and his came in at 360g.

Thanks for a great recommendation.



Orphan26 said...

Hi Dane,

I'm hitting the West Buttress starting on May 18th without Mountaintrips. For a Expedition Parka they recommend the Fitz Roy (this with the assumption that we are wearing other insulated layers underneath. Based upon this post, I am substituting a Mirage in place of the Fitz Roy.

My layering scheme:

Merino Base
Patagonia Capilene 4
ArcT Atom Lt
ArcT Squamish

ArctT Nuclei (as a belay jacket - throw over everything when stopped)

MB Mirage (as my expedition jacket for summit day (with everything else underneath.

Thoughts? Should I go with something heavier than a mirage?

Dane said...

Good combo..IMO you'd have plenty of insulation for all but the nastiest summit day.

Only thing I'd add is a R1 or a Piton hoody instead of a Cap 4. Mirage will treat you well on the up and in nasty weather.