The North Face Nuptse Jacket
Nuptse Jacket

Is a down jacket a must-have for a Mount Washington ascent?

I’m climbing Mount Washington for the first time this winter. I have The North Face’s Mountain Light Jacket and Denali Jacket. Do I need a down jacket too? Dan Wilmington, Vermont

The North Face Nuptse Jacket

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The North Face’s Denali ($165; is one of the more formidable fleece jackets out there. It’s made with heavy 300-weight Polartec, has reinforced shoulders, and comes with elastic cuffs and a drawstring waist to help keep warmth in. And The North Face’s Mountain Light ($299) is a classic heavy-duty hardshell, made with Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric. Throw in some wool underwear (Icebreaker midweight Original Zip, $90; and you have a pretty formidable cold-weather combination. You’ll want a similar layering system for your legs.

The North Face Nuptse Jacket

The North Face Nuptse Jacket Nuptse Jacket

But, as you well know, Mount Washington has some of the worst weather on the planet. You can expect wind chill well below zero, and the chance of extreme winds. So, yeah, I think you need a down parka. A pretty heavy one. Check out Marmot’s Parbat MemBrain Jacket ($325;, which has down insulation and Marmot’s temperature-sensitive shell material that allows more breathability when you’re working hard. You seem to like North Face stuff, so the Nuptse from that company ($199) would work as well. For a premium piece, get the Feathered Friends’ Frontpoint with eVent shell material ($424; That will offer unmatched warmth, breathability, and weather protection.

I’d size it to go over the Denali, certainly. That should mean it’s also big enough to be used as an over-layer in case you need to layer up in a hurry and don’t want to take the time to strip off the Mountain Light. Lots of hikers/climbers take that route.

Good luck! Check the weather forecast carefully before you go.

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