Gear Guy

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

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.