The MontBell Superior Down has all the features you'd find in a premium brand name jacket but is offered at a seriously reduced price point. This jacket comes complete with two zippered handwarmer pockets, two internal drop pockets, an adjustable hemline and hood, and a Velcro strap to keep goggles on your head. Stuffed with 800-fill down, this coat has an above-average weight to warmth ratio but is still a lightweight choice. If you're looking for a lightweight, affordable insulation layer, this puffy is for you.Editor's Note: We re-tested this product and updated the review on August 21, 2022.
MontBell Superior Down Review
Cons: Moderate warmth, noisy material, no internal zip pockets
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MontBell Superior Down
|Price||$209 List||Check Price at REI|
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|Pros||Inexpensive, fully featured adjustability||Stylish, comfortable, long torso provides good coverage||Water resistant hydrophobic down, great DWR coating, well thought-out features||Weather and tear resistant shoulders and hood, warm, easy to layer under, fleece lined hand pockets||Lightweight, inexpensive, excellent for layering|
|Cons||Moderate warmth, noisy material, no internal zip pockets||Heavy, minimal pockets, down is not hydrophobic||700 fill power down is good but not as light or lofty as others||Heavy, bulkier fit||No hood cinch, no hem cinch, loses feathers|
|Bottom Line||This down offers the warmth and quality of more premium choices at an approachable price point||A classic model that does just about everything and does it all well||Excellent for wet weather because it has all the features to ensure the down stays dry||This weather and tear-resistant down makes a great winter belay coat for inclement conditions and rough terrain||A good basic and affordable lightweight down jacket for moderately cold temperatures|
|Rating Categories||MontBell Superior Down||Patagonia Down Swea...||Rab Microlight Alpine||Outdoor Research He...||REI Co-op 650 Down...|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||MontBell Superior Down||Patagonia Down Swea...||Rab Microlight Alpine||Outdoor Research He...||REI Co-op 650 Down...|
|Down Fill||800-fill goose down||800-fill goose down||700-fill goose down||800+ fill goose down||650-fill goose down|
|Total Weight||8.7 oz||14.9 oz||15.4 oz||15.5 oz||10.4 oz|
|Baffle Construction||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles|
|Main Fabric||10D nylon||100% ripstop polyester||30D ripstop nylon||15D & 30D ripstop nylon||100% nylon|
|Compression Method||Stuff sack||Zips into pocket||Stuff sack||Zips into pocket||Zips into pocket|
|Pockets||2 zippered hands, 1 internal||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest||2 zippered hands, 1 internal|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The MontBell Superior Down is an excellent model that also boasts a reasonable price tag. While there are less expensive options on the market, they won't typically offer the same level of quality. It's not the warmest coat, but it is incredibly lightweight and has no trouble standing up to more expensive jackets in a similar weight class. This down is the perfect companion for multi-pitch climbing, ski touring, and backpacking in all but the coldest weather.
This Superior falls into the category of lightweight insulation, making it an ideal layer for high output pursuits in cold weather or as an easily packable extra layer for spring climbing or backpacking. If you're looking for a heavy-duty belay parka or a layer to keep you warm when the temps really start dropping, this likely isn't going to be warm enough. If you want a lightweight piece though, the Superior Down provides great warmth.
An important element of insulating layers is their ability to trap warm air. A key component of this is to have minimal opportunities for warm air to escape and for cold air to come in. The most common culprits for this air exchange are the openings at the waist, collar, and wrists. You'll find a cinchable hood and waist, as well as elastic around the cuffs. While this is standard in heavier jackets, it's nice to see these features offered in such a lightweight design. These features helped significantly with cutting out biting air while hiking through the Sierra and in the Rockies.
The primary reason this jacket has such a good weight-to-warmth ratio is that it is stuffed with 800-fill down. This is more or less the industry standard with high-end jackets but is much less common in jackets at this price point. The high quality of the down helps to cut weight while keeping the jacket warm.
We tested a size medium, which weighed 8.7 ounces; it's one of the lightest models in the fleet. This low weight was achieved by utilizing high-quality down and simple sewn-through construction. Sewn-through construction means that the stitching used to create the pockets of down goes through the outer shell, directly through to the inner lining. This reduces weight and cost but does come with the loss of some warmth.
The fill-power of a down garment refers to how many ounces of down will be required to fill a specific volume of space or how fluffy the down is for its weight. The higher (800) fill-power found in this jacket means less down is required to fill the same amount of volume than if they were to have used 600 fill, for instance.
The 10 denier ballistic nylon ripstop used on the shell has an effective DWR (durable-water-resistance) treatment that repels a light precip, but the vulnerable sewn-thru baffles and standard, non-hydrophobic down keeps us keenly aware that we should always have a rain shell on hand if wet weather may be in the cards.
While it's true, that this jacket is left somewhat vulnerable to moisture penetrating its seams; it's also important to note that a light precip won't hurt, and even standard down is naturally hydrophobic to a degree. Being aware of how much precipitation is in the forecast will help with deciding whether to bring a shell or not.
With high quality down, this jacket felt fairly comfortable to out testers. This coat has a classic, if not a little boxy fit. The shoulders are slightly narrow, and the torso tapers ever so slightly through the waist. We found the torso was on the shorter side and would ride up and expose our midriff when performing an overhead movement. The arms, however, are an ideal length, offering enough room to move, but are not obnoxiously long. The boxy torso makes it easy to layer underneath but is still tailored enough to wear under a shell without feeling fully restrained.
The fit wasn't our favorite for climbing on account of the short torso and narrow shoulders. It made moving around on the wall a bit difficult, but the jacket was plenty comfortable for most other activities and more than adequate for hiking and evening strolls through town.
With its thin 10 denier nylon ripstop, basic sewn-through baffle construction, and 800 fill-power down, the Superior compresses quite small and does so easily.
It packs down and stashes out of the way until the sun sets and the wind picks up. While many options in our fleet stuff into one of their zippered pockets, the Superior, unfortunately, does not; it does, however, come with an included stuff sack.
This jacket has one of the best feature sets in our entire review, which is especially commendable considering its price tag.
One of our favorite features is the dual adjustments on the hood, which allow you to custom-tailor the fit, depending on your head size and choice of headwear. The Velcro tabs on the back of the head are intended to pull volume out of the hood, so the built-in visor doesn't cover your eyes. While we didn't love the use of Velcro for this application, it does perform its job effectively. The elastic pulls for the perimeter cinch are found on the inside near the chin and stay inside the jacket tucked away.
Inside the jacket, there are two substantial drop-in stash pockets, which are great for holding your fleece gloves when not in use, or warming up your climbing shoes while your friend takes a burn on her project. While it might add a little extra weight, we would have liked to see the inclusion of an internal zippered chest pocket.
Should You Buy the MontBell Superior Down?
The Superior boasts an incredibly high value and an excellent price tag. It has features galore, a super low weight, and excellent compressibility. When compared to other higher-end jackets, we were left wondering, why spend the extra money when we can have similar performance and features for such a great price. If you need something that has a good weight-to-warmth ratio, a slew of features, and excellent compressibility, look no further.
What Other Down Jackets Should You Consider?
The Montbell Superior has shown itself to be a serious contender in the down jacket market. Our testers had a hard time seeing the justification for the price gap between this jacket and some of the other higher-end options. If you want a fully-featured jacket but don't want to spend an arm and a leg, the Superior is a no-brainer. However, if you have more money to spend, the classic Patagonia Down Sweater offers higher performance.
— James Lucas & Buck Yedor
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