Montbell Alpine Light Down Jacket
Alpine Light Down Jacket
Gear Guy

Which non-fleece insulating piece will perform well in Alaska’s Brooks Range?

I'm heading to Alaska’s Brooks Range for a two-week backpacking trip in June. I'm trying to find, with no success so far, a Patagonia Micro Puff or Moonstone Lucid jacket. Any suggestions on a comparable jacket that may do similar (or better) service? Sue Atlanta, Georgia

Montbell Alpine Light Down Jacket

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There’s a good reason why you can’t find the Moonstone Lucid down jacket. Moonstone—well, Moonstone has folded its tent. Which is too bad. That was a fine brand that dated back many years. And their newer stuff was quite good.

Montbell Alpine Light Down Jacket

Montbell Alpine Light Down Jacket Alpine Light Down Jacket

The Patagonia Micro Puff is available, though, in the Pullover model ($148; I think this is a great piece—very trim, layers well, and packs lots of warmth with its synthetic-fill insulation. During the winter months you can find the same thing in a zip jacket with a hood called the Micro Puff Hooded Jacket ($180). It’s not on the Patagonia web site right now; however, some online sleuthing might uncover one for you now, if you are interested in doing so.

There are several other excellent choices in a light non-fleece insulating piece. A new item in the Montbell women’s lineup, the Alpine Light Down Jacket ($150; weighs less than ten ounces and stuffs down to the size of a softball, yet packs lots of warmth due to its 800-fill down. This might be the piece you should get, as it’s going to be a little warmer than the Micro Puff, and slightly lighter. It won’t perform quite as well in wet weather due to its down fill, but to me that’s a secondary issue. Worn under a Gore-Tex or similar jacket it would be fine, even in cold rain.

Another choice is Mountain Hardwear’s Compressor PL Jacket ($165; It’s a full-zip, hoodless piece—available in women’s cut—that uses PrimaLoft One insulation. Like the Micro Puff or Alpine Light Down Jacket, it’s a great layering piece. It also works well as a standalone, as it has a nearly windproof nylon shell. I like PrimaLoft because it’s soft, warm, and works very well when wet.

Have a great trip!

The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.

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