TED-FR MontBell Frost Line
- Howdy Mike,
When you get a chance, here's the FR. Hope you have a happy New Year!
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
This has been one of the mildest late autumns we have had in recent years, both in terms of temperature and snowfall. Today the daytime temperatures are well above freezing, unusual for early January. Other than a very destructive and freakish early snow, lower elevations in the Catskills have mostly seen nothing more than hard frosts. At elevation, there light snow cover, but the lowest temperature I have encountered was on a recent overnight backpack; when I went to bed it was about 15 F (-9 C), and it warmed up overnight. Another trip was warmer still. These are hardly tough winter conditions for this region.
All mountain use has been among the Catskill and Shawangunk Mountains of New York, to elevations of about 4000 ft (1220 m). I've also worn the jacket (generally without the hood) for commuting (it can get chilly waiting for a bus at 6 AM) and for puttering around the garden or going into the village on colder days.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I have found the Frost Line an excellent jacket to keep handy in my pack for stops on both dayhikes and backpacks, for lunches, taking in a view and the like. It's pretty much windproof, and very cozy. Though not as compressible as my jackets without baffles, it's not at all bad in terms of bulk, and fits well enough at the top of a pack for these occasions. Given the uncertain weather, it's reassuring to have an insulation piece accessible that will handle unexpected cold. I have noted that it sheds light misty rain very well, presumably thanks to the Polkatex waterproofing, though I would never deliberately subject it to more rain than this.
It's a good choice during camp setup and cooking, usually the time that (if I don't watch it) I easily get chilled. In fact, despite wearing a comparatvely light summer weight boot in snow, on a recent trip where I was setting up at 15 F (9 C) I was really toasty. Even my feet remained comfortable while I pitched my tent and cooked and ate dinner, a sign that my body was not losing too much heat. My companions, whose jackets were perhaps a little less robust, both mentioned mildly cold feet while cooking and eating dinner. A few chills, especially to the extremities are pretty typical for winter camping, and I'm sure that having a robust jacket helped, though comparatively mild conditions played their part. Customarily I'd expect temperatures of 0 F (-18 C) at night on a late December mountain excursion in this area, and the lack of snow and mild temps were why I was wearing lighter boots to begin with. I was pleased to note that the the two interior pockets are both big enough to handle a 2L Platypus (old-style) so I can stash up to four liters of water against my body when wearing the jacket, a great asset for winter camping.
In an alpine style bag (a fairly roomy Valandre Shocking Blue), the Frostline helped make sliding into bed a cozy experience, with no warm-up period. Indeed, I felt so snug I left the jacket on for several hours after zipping in, but eventually found myself getting excessively hot. I took it off, but draped it over my bag in the early dawn hours when there was a faint hint of chill. It's definitely a terrific layering piece, although this tactic would be conterproductive in a tighter bag, where either the down of the bag or of the jacket would be compressed and would lose insulating ability. The Valandre bag is rated 11 F (-12 C), so I am sure I would have been comfy enough even without the jacket (I was in a small tent, which also helped), but a warm transition to slumber never hurts. More to the point, the fact that the jacket fits well in the bag is an added level of protection against an unexpected downturn in temperature when I'm in the hills, and (while I hope not to put it to the test) I'd suspect that with some added warm clothing on my legs I could comfortably take the bag significantly lower than its rating wearing this jacket, if I had to in a pinch.
I have experienced no durability issues with the jacket, beyond the fact that I find the occasional plumule adhering to my clothes. I find this a bit mysterious, as I have yet to see any protruding feather shaft. Otherwise, I'd say that the jacket is downproof. It does seem to me (but this is subjective) that the down chambers could perhaps handle rather more down than they contain, but what there is (and there's a lot) shows no sign of shifting, and is plenty warm. The shell is fairly sturdy, but I take great care in camp against protruding sticks and the like, none the less. The hood is well shaped and easy to conform to the head, but (so far) I have mostly had it detached, and have carried it with me as a little extra insurance. I have used it enough to say I find it helpful in high winds, and I like the option to use the jacket with or without hood as conditions dictate.
In terms of fit, it is sized amply, but not to excess. I have worn several layers underneath without feeling constricted, and I'd describe the fit as "comfortable," even on my somewhat less-than-trim body. It is not so bulky, though, that a shell will fit over the parka, although in cold temperatures I usually wear my shell beneath my insulation layer.
I'm absolutely delighted with the quality and warmth of the jacket. It's already proved very useful piece for winter backpacking and hiking, and a dandy addition to my sleep system.
My thanks go to MontBell and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test the MontBell Frost Line Parka. This report was partly created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.