Q:

What's a decent down parka that won't break the bank?

I'm in the market for a decent down jacket but don't want to fork over the money for a Feathered Friends Rock & Ice Parka, as good as it is. What do you know about the Frobisher 700 Parka from Mountain Equipment Co-Op (a Canadian company)? It's stuffed with about 16.5 ounces of 700-fill down, has a Dryloft shell, and sells for about $285. It seems like deal to me! But I'm curious how it stacks up against Mountain Hardwear's Sub Zero SL Parka. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Michael Gebhardt Chattanooga, Tennessee

Sep 18, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: Down parkas can indeed get expensive. I happen to have a Rick & Ice, which I got for a climb of Denali several years back, and while it's a gorgeous piece of outdoor wear, at about $600 (depending on size and outer fabric) it's not cheap. Plus, the dang thing is so warm I haven't used it since I was at 17,000 feet.

Compared to it, the Frobisher is a bargain. It has, as you note, about 16 ounces of down, versus 21 for the Rock & Ice, and doesn't have some of the bells and whistles such as the powder skirt. But it has a Dryloft shell, a long, roomy cut, and good-quality 700-fill down. And it's only $286 U.S., which means it's very difficult to go far wrong. As far as a "decent down jacket" goes, it's a winner- the Rock & Ice is simply overkill.

Mountain Hardwear's Sub Zero SL Parka ($295) is similar to the Frobisher, but uses 650-fill down (slight difference) and Mountain Hardwear's proprietary Conduit outer fabric, which is more waterproof than Dryloft.

So that's a tough choice between the Frobisher and the Sub Zero. Ideally you'd find a store that sells both to look at them side by side to get a sense of their respective construction quality, but that could be tough.

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