Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka Review

Last Updated on July 15, 2020

Price: $439 MSRP – Check Price on Montbell
Keri’s Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars  4.6 of 5 stars
Pros: Extremely warm and lightweight, very comfortable, fll set of features
Cons: Not very water-resistant, slightly delicate, expensive
Weight: 8.4 oz
Women’s Model: Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka
Lighter Option: Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Jacket: 4.8 oz
Budget Option: Superior Down Parka: $209 MSRP

Overview: Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka

Exploring glaciers in Torres del Paine National Park

 

Over my years of backpacking, I’ve turned into a hopeless ultralight gear junkie. Before making a purchase, I spend hours poring over specs, reading reviews, and comparing countless products before finally pulling the trigger. I can’t help myself.

This agonizing process is how I arrived at Montbell’s Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka. After exhaustive research, I decided to give it a shot at becoming part of my beloved ultralight backpacking gear list.

And I can confidently say that, after over 100 miles of backpacking and extensive everyday use, Montbell’s Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka has exceeded my lofty expectations.

This jacket is packed with useful features, made from high-quality materials, and stuffed with ultra-efficient 1000-fill down. It’s exceptionally warm, lightweight, and packable and has earned a permanent spot in my backpack.

Though it’s nearly perfect, The Plasma 1000 is a bit delicate and doesn’t repel moisture at a high level. But for my minimalist style of ultralight backpacking, these characteristics aren’t issues for me, but rather prerequisites. I’ll dive into them more later.

Thinking about buying a Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka to add to your arsenal? Stay tuned for my complete and unbiased review of Montbell’s most impressive down jacket. 

Features

1000-fill down: an ultralight backpacker’s dream

 

For only 8.4 ounces, it’s remarkable how many features Montbell squeezed into the Plasma 1000. This full-featured jacket is minimalist at heart yet leaves very little to be desired. Here are a few of its best features.

Ethically Sourced 1000-Fill Down: In the world of backpacking, it doesn’t get more efficient than 1000-fill down insulation, which gives the Plasma 1000 an elite warmth-to-weight ratio that’s unrivaled in the industry.

2-Way Adjustable Hood: The hood and its two-part drawcord and velcro system are simple to adjust and fit comfortably without catching drafts of wind or blocking your vision.

Zippered Hand Pockets: The Plasma 1000’s two zippered hand pockets are great for stashing gear and warming up hands. They’re spacious, warm, and one of this jacket’s best features.

Hidden Drawcords for Waist Adjustment: Within the hand pockets are inconspicuous drawcords that make cinching the waist a breeze. This traps heat and adds to the jacket’s top-notch efficiency.

Features Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

Comfort

Guiding a 10-day hike of the ‘O’ Circuit with my not-so-ultralight backpack

 

Thanks to the Plasma 1000’s high-quality materials and thoughtfully engineered set of features, Montbell has blessed the ultralight backpacking world with an extremely comfortable down jacket.

The Plasma 1000 boasts a generous 3.4 oz of 1000-fill down, which packs the jacket evenly and comfortably. When I put the Plasma 1000 on, the ultra-lofty insulation lightly squeezes my arms as I slide the sleeves on. Montbell isn’t stingy with its down fill, like many other ultralight down jackets in its weight range.

But what makes the feel of this jacket so comfortable isn’t only the lofty 1000-fill down. It’s the 7-denier Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon fabric, which is very soft and silky against my skin. It’s also quite breathable.

The Plasma 1000 has a longer and looser fit than my last down jacket, the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody, and this is a good thing. My old Cerium LT had too much of a snug fit and tended to ride up my hips if the waistband was cinched.

Because the Plasma 1000 is a touch longer than the Cerium LT, the waist of the jacket sits comfortably on my hips when cinched, even when I’m stretching or extending my arms. The jacket also has a bit more wiggle room than its counterpart, which gives me a wider range of motion and allows me to layer up comfortably below.

Comfort Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

Durability

The 7-denier nylon fabric on the Plasma 1000 is ultra-thin

 

Ultralight jackets aren’t usually known for their durability and the Plasma 1000 is no exception. The jacket’s 7-denier Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon fabric weighs in at a ridiculously light 21 grams per square meter and is extremely thin.

Yes, the material is touted as ‘ripstop’, but that doesn’t mean it’s impervious to tearing. It means that its nylon fabric is woven in a crosshatch pattern that makes the material resistant (but not immune) to ripping, tearing, and spreading.

That said, I’ve been cautious while wearing the Plasma 1000 and have yet to rip or tear it. I actively avoid low hanging tree branches, campfires, and other dicey situations that could damage its delicate fabric. I baby this jacket and recommend that you do the same.

In the unfortunate event that I do damage the fabric, I carry black Tenacious Tape to patch up any potential tears, rips, or burns.

If you’re looking for a more durable jacket, I recommend the Ignis Down Parka, which uses a thicker 13-denier Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon fabric on the exterior, but has less down fill, and weighs a couple more ounces.

Durability Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 3.5 out of 5 stars

Warmth

For its weight, the Plasma 1000 is as warm as it gets

 

Though it weighs less than most ultralight hooded jackets on the market, the Plasma 1000 has kept me warm and toasty into temperatures well below freezing. The jacket traps my body heat extremely well and, when cinched properly, doesn’t allow any of the warmth to escape.

How can it insulate so well while weighing so little?

More than 40% of the jacket’s weight comes from its 3.4 ounces of uber lofty 1000-fill goose down. Montbell completely minimized the weight of the Plasma 1000’s materials and jammed in as much high-quality down as possible. Its lightweight ripstop nylon fabric is great at blocking cold gusts of wind as well.

This jacket is brilliantly engineered and, as a result, is about as warm and efficient as you could ask for in cold weather.

The Plasma 1000 is so warm, in fact, that I rarely hike or exercise in it when temperatures are 40 degrees or above. Strenuous physical activity in these temperatures traps too much of my body heat and gets me pouring sweat within a few minutes. This jacket is best for keeping warm during periods of rest and light physical activity in chilly temperatures.

Warmth Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

Weight/Packability

Jacket: 8.4 oz | Stuff Sack: .4 oz

 

Weighing in at 8.4 oz and compressing down to the size of a Nalgene bottle, the Plasma 1000 is second-to-none in terms of weight and packability in the ultralight down jacket universe. We can once again thank Montbell’s use of 1000-fill down for its packable lightweight superiority.

Other popular jackets across the ultralight industry, such as the Feathered Friends Eos (13 oz), the Arc’teryx Cerium LT (12 oz), and The North Face Summit L3 (13.8 oz) are significantly heavier and bulkier than the Plasma 1000.

Why? Because these brands use lower fill down (usually between 700 and 900) and heavier fabrics than Montbell. As a result, these jackets are slightly more affordable than the Plasma 1000 but far less packable, efficient, and lightweight.

For the ultralight backpacking gear junkies, it doesn’t get much lighter and more packable than the Plasma 1000.

Weight/Packability Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

Weather Resistance

Collecting some precipitation at the base of the towers in Torres del Paine National Park

 

The Plasma 1000 doesn’t claim to be a four-season weather stopping down jacket, yet it holds up reasonably well when faced with wind and rain.

Though the jacket’s 7-denier Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon fabric is quite thin, it does a wonderful job of keeping the wind from penetrating into the insulation. While I was testing out the Plasma 1000 on the blustery ‘O’ Circuit in Patagonia, I experienced plenty of forceful gusts, and not once did I feel the wind hit my skin underneath.

In terms of water resistance, the Plasma 1000 is decent but should be paired with a rain jacket when exposed to substantial precipitation. The jacket’s thin nylon fabric is treated with a standard DWR water repellant but will only keep water out for so long before it starts seeping into the down insulation.

Montbell had to sacrifice a bit of water resistance to keep the jacket so lightweight, but that shouldn’t matter so long as you bring a solid rain jacket to pair with it when the precipitation starts to accumulate.

If you’re looking for a jacket with better water resistance, check out the Permafrost Light Down Parka, which uses a heavier GORE-TEX fabric to repel moisture exceptionally well.

Weather Resistance Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Value

I get it, $430 is a lot of money to spend on a single piece of backpacking gear.

But if you’re looking for an elite ultralight down jacket that’s superior to its competitors, you likely know that it’s not going to come cheap. With that in mind, if you’re ready to take your ultralight backpacking setup to the next level, the Plasma 1000 is worth every penny.

And if you can’t get past the price tag, check out Montbell’s Alpine Light Down Parka instead. It weighs about six more ounces than the Plasma 1000 because it uses a heavier nylon and less efficient 800-fill down. That said, it’ll keep you just as warm the Plasma 1000 and is significantly more durable. The best part? It comes in at half the price.

Value Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Final Word: Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka

The Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka is at the top of its class

 

My obsession with seeking out the best ultralight backpacking gear has paid off yet again. After all the research, Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka lived up to the giant expectations I placed upon it. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

In terms of hooded ultralight down jackets, the Plasma 1000 checks off all the boxes. It’s full-featured, comfortable, warm, lightweight, and ultra-packable. Montbell put their best foot forward when engineering this jacket, and it was apparent from the moment I first tried it on.

Though the Plasma 1000 doesn’t boast great durability or its water resistance, it does everything I need it to. This jacket is supposed to be a bit delicate and is meant to pair up with rain jackets to fight moisture. By designing the jacket this way, Montbell has created the most efficient ultralight down jacket on the market.

So, is Montbell’s Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka worth its lofty price tag? Absolutely. It earned its way onto my ultralight backpacking gear list and won’t be leaving anytime soon.

View Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka


Do you have any questions about the Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka that weren’t answered in my review? 

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