For those looking for the ultimate lightweight, a high-functioning jacket that won’t break the bank, check out this Montbell Plasma 1000 down jacket. This jacket is made with a coating of water-resistant fabric and sports highly breathable air permeability to keep you dry and comfortable, whether in your favorite backcountry park or on your next trip to Iceland.
The Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket is the subject of this review. Montbell is a brand that primarily concentrates on camping and trekking gear, so you may be surprised to see us evaluating their stuff, given our urban emphasis. But we’ve been keeping an eye on them since they make some of the finest lightweight gear on the market, and a lot of it can be used for camping and city travel. (Except tents and sleeping bags, unless you’re into urban camping).
The Plasma 1000 is a “puffy” down jacket in the traditional sense. But, what’s not to like about something hot, light, compressible, and perfect for travel? While these coats have traditionally been linked with trekking and camping, they are becoming more popular in daily living and urban travel. We’d go so far as to claim they’ve become “fashionable.” Yes, we work in the fashion industry.
Anyway, that’s enough chit-chat for now. Let’s look at the Plasma 1000 to see whether it can hold its own against some of the other down and synthetic down jackets on the market today.
Aesthetics & Materials
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, one thing must be made apparent. THIS THING IS AMAZINGLY LIGHT! It’s almost as if it’s floating in mid-air. We have the medium size, which weighs just 4.8 ounces. That’s nearly half the weight of the Patagonia Micro Puff, which we considered to be the lightest jacket ever made. We were sorely mistaken.
To put it in perspective, it weighs less than the iPhone XR (6.84 ounces) and almost three times less than the MEC Uplink Jacket (12.3 ounces). As a result, this is one of the lightest down coats on the market, and the best thing is that we don’t think they’ve given up much warmth in the process.
The Montbell Plasma jacket is available in three colors at this review: primary blue, black, and garnet (red). We don’t know why the colors aren’t primary garnet, secondary blue, or tertiary black, but whatever. Just remember that blue is predominant. So it is, whatever that implies. There is just one Montbell emblem on the front of the jacket in terms of branding.
Overall, we enjoy the way this jacket looks. Usually, we’d choose a black jacket since we like black and it’s a little more muted for city travel, but we decided to take a risk here and go with a different color. And we have to confess that this blue has piqued our interest. It’s a refreshing change!
This one came in at a solid 50/50, which seems to be a regular pattern with our Instagram Aesthetic surveys. You’re either going to like this jacket, or you’re not going to like it, it seems reasonable to say. Isn’t it strange how it works?
Montbell’s “Ballistic Airlight Nylon” is a 7D nylon fabric. Their website employs a highly sophisticated manufacturing method to make ultrafine, ultrathin threads, which are then woven into lightweight gossamer textiles with ballistic nylon-like properties. The distinction is that this fabric is 1.5 times more abrasion resistant than other textiles of comparable weight, and it has three times the rip strength of nylons that are almost 20% heavier.
We haven’t verified or tested the tensile strength of this material in comparison to others—mainly because we don’t like tearing our gear apart—but it’s held up well in our two months of durability testing so far, with few visible dents or holes emerging throughout the jacket.
If you’re searching for a Reader’s Digest version, keep in mind that this material is exceedingly thin and light, but it’s still pretty sturdy and tear-resistant given its weight. And we believe this fabric is superior to most of the textiles we’ve seen on comparable down jackets.
Most jackets in this ultralight down category compromise durability for weight, so they employ fabrics that aren’t as robust to optimize the warmth-to-weight ratio. While this jacket has exceptional durability, it is absolutely not an exception. We normally believe this is a good trade-off since we prefer to travel as light as possible.
Goose down of 1,000 fill power is wrapped within the 7D nylon. The volume (in cubic inches) that one ounce of down will fill is referred to as “fill power.” Many top-shelf jackets utilize 800 to 900 fill power, which is plenty, but Montbell goes above and above with 1,000 fill power in this jacket, and the warmth to weight ratio shows. This stuff is surprisingly warm, given its durability and weight.
Just one more thing! Only down plumes and feathers “taken as a byproduct of waterfowl produced to suit the needs of the food business” are used by Montbell. So they don’t get their down from live-plucking operations, and they’re (more or less) making the most of a bad situation by repurposing all of the down that would otherwise be thrown out by the food sector. To cut a long tale short, they source their down in the most compassionate manner imaginable.
However, we recognize that some individuals still prefer not to wear goose feathers in their apparel, and we don’t blame them. If that’s the case, our evaluations of the Patagonia Micro Puff and Patagonia Nano Puff are a good place to start. Both jackets are light, compressible, and made of synthetic down, which is a very similar fabric in terms of warmth to weight ratio without the guilt.
This jacket has a general plastic bag vibe to it—not in the “this is a horrible plastic bag” sense, but rather in the “this thing is light as a feather and sort of crinkly” sense. It’s not the most favorable thing, but it comes with the territory when it comes to lightweight down coats.
DWR is applied to the outside, which adds to the weather resistance. However, if you intend on wearing this in severe weather or heavy rain, we strongly advise you to invest in a rain shell to put over it, since this item isn’t designed to be a rain jacket. Water will seep through if exposed to rain for an extended period of time, which will begin to harm the down. However, if you pair this with a waterproof rain shell, you’ll be well equipped for a wide variety of climates and weather situations.
The primary zipper is a YKK #3, which is strong and long-lasting. It’s a terrific pick from Montbell since it’s both lightweight and robust. Finally, there is a really distinctive stitching design on this jacket that we must discuss. Montbell has used the least amount of threading feasible to hold the down in place while being as light as possible. You may not think this makes a great difference, but when you consider the full outside of the jacket, it adds up to quite a deal of thread and stitching. This lowers weight and saves some resources in the long run, making this jacket a little more eco-friendly (although we feel like the whole down feather thing kind of negates that).
Usage & Features
This jacket’s superb warmth to weight ratio makes it ideal for lengthy one-bag travel. After extensive testing, we discovered that the best temperature range is between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
We’re convinced that this could be your lone jacket for lengthy one-bag travel with the correct layering strategy. With a few basic layers beneath, it can carry you through the worst conditions, and if you forego the layers, it can be worn as a simple jacket on a crisp autumn day without being too warm.
By layering correctly, we’ve been able to use this throughout the Detroit winter, which is pretty dang cold. The go-to technique for any rain or severe weather has been one Wool & Prince Merino Long Sleeve Crew Neck, then the Icebreaker Long Sleeve Shifter Hoodie, then the Montbell Plasma Jacket, then the Patagonia Storm Racer.
In terms of fit, we’ve observed that it’s a little tighter than others, but your mileage may vary. If you like baggy clothing, be sure to include that into your layering strategy—you may need to go up a size.
A tapered, elastic cuff at the sleeve’s end helps to seal in warmth and keep the sleeve in place. A piece of somewhat adjustable, paracord-like material is also included for hanging the jacket on a hook. Again, this is very regular fare.
The accompanying stuff bag may be used to compress the jacket, but it is not linked to it. This isn’t ideal since you may quickly lose it and add weight to your frame. Many jackets of this size and compressibility self-stuff into a pocket, so you’re undoubtedly asking why Montbell didn’t do the same.
WELL, we’ve got a treat in store for you. This jacket doesn’t have any pockets! There are none at all. We believe pockets on a coat are an outstanding feature, mainly if it’s your outer layer, but they’ve taken this choice to conserve weight and keep it as warm as possible. In addition to preserving weight, eliminating the pockets will make the jacket somewhat warmer since there will be no drafts or heat loss.
But don’t worry if there aren’t any pockets. What will you do with the stuff sack? We have no notion, said the answer. You’ll have to keep hold of the stuff bag someplace else, which we don’t believe is optimal. Sure, you could use it for anything else in the meanwhile, but we’d like it to be permanently linked to the bag. (In a pocket, perhaps?)
The absence of pockets isn’t a big concern if you’re wearing it as a mid-layer. But, yes, we enjoy bags, and we’re guessing that most others do as well. So this is what you get in exchange for Montbell’s aggressive weight loss goals.
Editor’s note: Since writing this review, we’ve learned that the Japanese version of the Plasma includes pockets AND has the same overall weight as the American version! This is fantastic for everyone in Japan, but we’re left wondering why didn’t they add pockets for everyone else? (Thanks to Daniel for passing along this exclusive information!)
Testing & Durability
We’ve been using the Montbell Plasma 1000 on and off for approximately two months at this review. The advantages of wearing a jacket like this are self-evident: it’s light, makes it simple to carry about, and keeps you toasty warm. In addition, it’s beneficial for packing light, and it’s even better if you have an outer rain shell to utilize.
We don’t have much to say about durability, and even with the lesser-weight fabric, this jacket has performed well throughout our tests. No holes are growing, no fraying and nothing has to be mended since it hasn’t been stuck on anything. So far, we’ve been pleased with the quality throughout our testing.
We should also mention that, although we haven’t yet washed the Plasma 1000, when we do, we’ll go to Montbell’s website for maintenance and care instructions. If you need to wash your down jacket, be highly cautious with the detergents and cleaning procedures you use—regular detergents and cleaning processes may significantly harm your coat.
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