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Gear Guy

What parka's warm enough for Everest's Khumbu Icefall?

My sweetie and I are going to Everest's Khumbu Icefall this December, where it's likely to be numbingly cold. I'd like to buy her a toasty parka for this trip and have homed in on Feathered Friends' Icefall and MEC's Frobisher. But will those jackets be significantly warmer than our current 550-fill REI parkas? Should I pay for the 800-fill down or Nextec Epic (apparently the best thing since somebody figured out how to shear a sheep) if I go with Feathered Friends? Or should I be looking at other parkas? Robert Fairview, Oregon

A: It'll be coldBbut that cold? Certainly, the Feathered Friends' Icefall ($400 and up, depending on configuration) is one helluva parka. It's what I wore up Denali several years back: incredibly warm and well made, with details such as internal water-bottle pockets, a snow skirt, a deep hood, and impeccable construction. No worries that it will keep your sweetie warm. The question is, would she ever wear it again? In the Feathered Friends line, I'd suggest you look at the Frontpoint ($385 with PTFE Lite shell;, which is a little shorter than the Icefall but still plenty warm. Really, it's a more versatile piece.

As for Nextec Epic, a silicon-impregnated fabric—well, I flat don't like it. The pieces I've worn simply didn't breathe very well. Better to go with the PTFE Lite shell, which is similar to Gore's DryLoft material.

MEC's Frobisher is also a fine parka, and at a current price of $336 U.S., it's also a bargain ( It's a long-cut parka, like the Icefall, with marginally lesser down-fill (700, versus 750 for Feathered Friends) and features similar to the Icefall. Plus, it has a DryLoft shell, which isn't waterproof but is good at keeping the down dry when things like snowmelt are an issue. Strictly on price, the Frobisher is the way to go. Otherwise, my belief is that the Icefall or Frontpoint are slightly better made garments.

Have a great trip!

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