Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Parka
Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Parka

Which down jacket holds up to the demands of mountaineering?

I'm climbing in the Cordillera Real of Bolivia this May, and I know I need to have a down jacket. I hear it can get really cold there. What type of down jacket would you recommend? Xavier Charlotte, North Carolina

Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Parka

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Yes, it can get really cold and really wet. The Cordillera Real range is close to the Amazon lowlands, so a lot of moisture comes up from there. May is the bridge month from the wet months to the dry, so you could have great weather, or see lots of snow.

Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Parka

Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Parka Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Parka

And it’s high elevation, so it can get cold. I’m inclined to suggest a mid-weight down parka with a hood, not a more stripped-down one. Marmot makes a nice one called the Mountain Down Jacket ($275;, which has a shell of Marmot’s proprietary waterproof MemBrain material, plus decent 650-fill down. It has a zip-off hood and lots of pockets, and it weighs one pound, eleven ounces. I think it has a good feature-set for the trip you’re planning. Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to find right now, unless you’re a size small or extra-large.

I also like Mountain Hardwear’s Sub Zero SL Parka ($295; It’s a little heavier piece than the Mountain Down Jacket—at two pounds, five ounces—with a bit more 650-down insulation and a beefier shell. It also uses a proprietary waterproof shell, Mountain Hardwear’s Conduit material. It has a detachable hood, too. Nice jacket. Try for a good selection of sizes.

Budget got some room? If so, then take a look at the Feathered Friends’ Frontpoint Parka ( It uses really high-grade 850-fill down in a traditional parka cut (a little long) with a detachable hood. It comes in at just under two pounds. Get it with either an Epic Nextec shell ($395) or eVent ($429). I recommend the eVent; it’s a great waterproof-breathable material.

Looks like an awesome range. Send us some photos when you get back.

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