Im climbing Aconcagua this December and need a warm parka. It seems I have a prejudice against down, because Im drawn to synthetics such as the Mountain Hardwear Voodoo Belay and the Patagonia DAS parkas. Do you have a preference? I keep coming back to you because no one has reached your level of gear consciousness. Stan El Dorado Hills, California
Stan, my son, I am so pleased that you have reached that higher level of wisdom that comes from acknowledging the greatness that is the Gear Guy.
Feathered Friends Volant parka
But let me overcome your prejudice to down. Down is light, warm, compressible, comfortable, and durable. All fine attributes. Down also has its faultssuch as an annoying tendency to absorb waterbut it takes a surprising amount of H20 to really soak it. Plus todays excellent water-resistant fabrics keep down garments dry even in pretty wet conditions.
For instance, Feathered Friends Volant ($325; featheredfriends.com) down parka is a wonderful piece: super-light at only 22 ounces and remarkably warm. Its also available with eVent fabric, making it reasonably waterproof (the seams can still leak). The Volant is perfect for any cold-weather climb that stops a little short of Denali or Everest expedition-style conditions.
Still, the synthetic-fill pieces out there also are extremely good. Patagonias DAS Parka ($265; patagonia.com) uses proven Polarguard 3D fill with a water-repelling shell and has features such as a full hood and insulated hand-warming pockets. It also has reinforcing patches at high-wear points. Its a little heavier than the Volant at 29 ounces, but the Volant doesnt have a hood (though you can order one for extra).
Mountain Hardwears Voodoo Belay parka ($195; www.mountainhardwear.com) is a little lighter and more trimly cut, so not quite as warm or as layer-able as the DAS. But I like its PrimaLoft One insulation, which is a little softer than Polarguard and really repels water. The Voodoo Belay also has Mountain Hardwears proprietary Conduit membrane fabric, so its waterproof except for the seams.
So my first choice is the Volant, and for second place Id flip a coin. See if you can find a store that has the DAS and Voodoo so you can try them on side by side. I think both would work well.
Have a great climb!
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