Happy New Year! Here's my Field Report; full HTML version is in the Tests folder at http://tinyurl.com/6q7v6ok
Keep safe in Afghanistan,
FIELD REPORT - December 31, 2011
Winter's refusal to visit North Texas and a limited travel schedule have kept me from exposing the Frost Line to seriously cold weather. In less demanding conditions though the Parka has performed admirably.
The weather did accommodate this test as best it could on a two-night, three-day backpack in the Texas Hill Country, as nighttime temperatures fell to 25 F (-4 C), the only days this fall and winter the mercury dipped below freezing. I wore the Frost Line in camp and added it atop my customary merino base layer and sweater in my sleep system. I'm trying out a quilt for winter use, so at this temperature some additional covering is required for my head and torso. Camp wear of the Frost Line was usually under a rain shell, as all three days had frequent showers and squalls.
I also took the Frost Line on an overnighter in a state park near Forth Worth, Texas, in similar though slightly warmer conditions. Again the Parka warmed me in camp and in my quilt. The rain stopped late at night, so the rain shell wasn't needed at breakfast.
I have frequently worn the Frost Line at home on daily early morning and pre-bedtime walks with my dog. Whenever the temperature was below 40 F (4 C) I would don the Parka instead of a lighter jacket, over everyday street clothes. I packed the Parka on my Christmastime trip to visit my sister and her family in Wilmington, Delaware, but the weather didn't oblige the only cold day (about 35 F/2 C) featured driving rain.
Size. I'm normally right on the diving line between XL and XXL when purchasing upper body clothing. XXL gives adequate body and sleeve length but can be a bit baggy across the chest, XL a more athletic fit but possible exposure at the extremities. With the Frost Line I opted for the larger size because I plan to use the it as a winter outer layer, to ensure that it would fit comfortably over several layers and that it wouldn't ride up in the back. I'm glad I did so, even though the Parka's more generous cut makes it drape somewhat loosely in the torso when worn only over a couple of cotton shirts (on the dog walks) or even a couple of merino layers (on the backpacks). I can cinch the waist, cuffs, and hood to keep the wind out, and the extra sleeve length is much appreciated. I should point out to any of you considering a purchase that the Parka's sizing differs from what I've encountered with other MontBell products. Base layers and midlayers, though in my opinion true to size, have a trim fit. The Frost Line is roomier, as I think a top layer should be. I like the cocoon effect.
When moving my ski gear from the attic to the house I took a minute to try the tunnel hood's fit over my helmet. As with the body, the fit is a bit loose (despite my size XL helmet). Use in windy conditions confirmed this, as I've often had to cinch the hood when walking into the wind if I'm to keep the hood atop my head.
Insulation. This is a warm jacket. Its best test has been in my sleep system, where I've stayed toasty warm with a quilt rated at 15 F (-10 C). With a quilt the upper body insulation is on its own on my torso and head, and I didn't notice any difference where the quilt stopped and the Frost Line took over. [Often I do I am a very cold sleeper who usually packs a bag rated 10-15 F degrees (6-9 C degrees) colder than the expected temperature.]
The Parka's box baffling has been noticeable in windy conditions, particularly on dog walks. I have not felt a draft at the seams, as I certainly have when wearing a sewn-through down sweater (also from MontBell).
Durability. The Frost Line looks as good as new after its limited duty in the past two months. More importantly, not a single feather has escaped. I've had no need to clean the Parka. As noted above, when there was real rain I added a rain shell, but on several dog walks I wore the Parka on the outside through ground fog, mist, and drizzle, and any drops beaded right up without visible effect on the down.
WHAT I LIKE
WHAT I DON'T
The Frost Line is somewhat bulky when compressed in its stuff sack. I've had better results with a compression sack, so I wish that one had been supplied with the Parka.
My Field Report ends here, at the end of this tumultuous year. My travel plans for January include Montana, Utah, and Switzerland, so my Long Term Report, due at the end of February, ought to include considerable snow exposure. Please check back then for results. A big "thank you" to MontBell and BackpackGearTest for this testing opportunity.