Montbell Frost Smoke Parka (Women’s) ReviewNovember 22, 2013
- Outstanding warmth
- Fleece-lined hand pockets
- External fabric provides some wind protection
- Durable fabric added to high wear and tear areas like shoulders and elbows
- Velcro wrist closures
- No interior pockets
- Short sleeves for folks with long arms
- Bulkier than other jackets underneath a storm shell
The Montbell Frost Smoke Parka feels like a mountaineering jacket in a small, light package and could save your ass in extreme alpine conditions. So if you are looking for a warm down jacket with a unisex cut (read: not fitted) with some wind protection and extra durability in high-wear areas, meet your new parka.
A winter weight 800-fill hooded down jacket made for alpine conditions with a combo of wind-shedding nylon and more durable nylon in high-wear areas.
The Montbell Frost Smoke Parka is the warmest jacket of the test, followed by the Patagonia Hi-loft Down Sweater. Montbell considers it to be a full-featured alpine sweater for highly active users and I’d whole-heartedly agree with that description. It does seem to have the loftiest down of the group (meaning the most puffy). The baffling is vertical and the sewing construction plays a part in warmth. Also, the Frost Smoke has wind-shedding Ballistic nylon, which helped during testing since there were light wind gusts, which is typically the case in our high-alpine Colorado environment.
This jacket is the least fitted of any of the women’s down jacket. It has a unisex cut and drops straight down from the top of the shoulders instead of tapering in. Compared to the other jackets, it is shorter in the arms, tighter around hips, wider in the shoulders and roomier in the chest. Since all women have different bodies, this is not a negative and I know plenty of women who do not appreciate the fitted silhouette.
When I put the hood over my helmet, it pulled the jacket up higher on my waist and felt tight around my neck. It’s not as helmet-compatible for me as some of the other jackets.
The Montbell Frost Smoke parka is puffy, but light. It fits into a slightly bigger sack than the Marmot Jena.
It weighed in at 11.3 oz. (very close to what Montbell lists, at 11.5 oz.). It’s in the middle of the pack as compared to the super light 7 oz. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer and the 15 oz. Sierra Designs feature-heavy Super Stratus.
My favorite feature of the Frost Smoke Parka is the fleece-lined hand pocket since I have long, bony fingers that are always cold. The velcro wrist closures are also a boon and keep my wrists warm. I like how the hood can work as a visor or offer more coverage thanks to a piece of velcro in the back. This jacket is the only one of the test to feature a more durable fabric (40-denier nylon taffeta) for reinforcement around the shoulders (for carrying skis, packs or your boots after skiing) and the elbows and forearms (which always rest on tables). The exterior fabric also has a water-resistant DWR treatment.
At $189, the Frost Smoke Parka is a bargain if you are looking for a warm down jacket with wind-shedding DWR-treated fabric for use during alpine activities. A few features add warmth and comfort. It doesn’t have a typical women-specific fit, but that’s a boon to some. This is a great deal for under $200.