Gear Guy

Alpine Light Down Jacket     Photo: courtesy, Montbell

Q:

Which non-fleece insulating piece will perform well in Alaska’s Brooks Range?

I'm heading to Alaska’s Brooks Range for a two-week backpacking trip in June. I'm trying to find, with no success so far, a Patagonia Micro Puff or Moonstone Lucid jacket. Any suggestions on a comparable jacket that may do similar (or better) service? Sue Atlanta, Georgia

A:There’s a good reason why you can’t find the Moonstone Lucid down jacket. Moonstone—well, Moonstone has folded its tent. Which is too bad. That was a fine brand that dated back many years. And their newer stuff was quite good.

The Patagonia Micro Puff is available, though, in the Pullover model ($148; patagonia.com). I think this is a great piece—very trim, layers well, and packs lots of warmth with its synthetic-fill insulation. During the winter months you can find the same thing in a zip jacket with a hood called the Micro Puff Hooded Jacket ($180). It’s not on the Patagonia web site right now; however, some online sleuthing might uncover one for you now, if you are interested in doing so.

There are several other excellent choices in a light non-fleece insulating piece. A new item in the Montbell women’s lineup, the Alpine Light Down Jacket ($150; montbell.com) weighs less than ten ounces and stuffs down to the size of a softball, yet packs lots of warmth due to its 800-fill down. This might be the piece you should get, as it’s going to be a little warmer than the Micro Puff, and slightly lighter. It won’t perform quite as well in wet weather due to its down fill, but to me that’s a secondary issue. Worn under a Gore-Tex or similar jacket it would be fine, even in cold rain.

Another choice is Mountain Hardwear’s Compressor PL Jacket ($165; mountainhardwear.com). It’s a full-zip, hoodless piece—available in women’s cut—that uses PrimaLoft One insulation. Like the Micro Puff or Alpine Light Down Jacket, it’s a great layering piece. It also works well as a standalone, as it has a nearly windproof nylon shell. I like PrimaLoft because it’s soft, warm, and works very well when wet.

Have a great trip!

The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.

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