Just in time for your next trip to Mount Rainier, Denali or Logan, or another place that’s still really cold this time of year, we present a review of a new, really, really warm expedition jacket courtesy of our art director Chris Rowat.
Last May I was given a prototype of Feathered Friends’ new Khumbu expedition down parka. I was off to climb Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada at almost 6000 metres (19,685’). I already owned the company’s slightly lighter Frontpoint jacket, so I was happy to take this new one and give it a try. Compared to southern British Columbia where I live, I knew it could be very cold on Mount Logan, so this was a perfect testing environment. Based in Seattle, Feathered Friends has been making durable, high-quality down gear since the mid 1970s. The jacket is made in Seattle with traceable, ethically-sourced goose down.
Snapshot: Khumbu Expedition Down Parka
- Pros: Lightweight and really, really warm
- Cons: As with any down garment, moisture can reduce the effectiveness of the insulation
- Price: $770 Cdn
- Who Should Buy: Those who are going somewhere that can get really cold
- Who Shouldn’t Buy: Day trippers. This jacket is too warm and bulky for a ski-touring or hiking day pack
- Helpful Hack: It doubles as a dreamy pillow
- Author’s overall rating: 9.5/10
All I needed was a storm or two to really put this jacket through its paces, and Mount Logan delivered. On day three we were hit by a ferocious 24-hour storm that nearly flattened our tents. We spent a few hours outside in the maelstrom working to reinforce our tents and expand our snow walls. At times the gusts were so strong that we had to stop digging and just kneel down on all fours. I remember even losing sight of the tent at one point event though it was only 10 feet in front of me. The wind-chill probably meant the temps were about -45° C (-49° F). Thankfully, the 900+ goose down inside the Khumbu expedition down parka kept me warm, and it all stayed dry thanks to its waterproof/breathable Pertex outer fabric. Make no mistake about it, this jacket is big. It will put a grin on your face the moment you try it on. You feel invincible. One of the nicest new features of this jacket is a dual zipper system and insulated draft tube. My older Frontpoint has a single zipper up the front, which is a weak spot when dealing with very cold wind. The Khumbu’s dual zipper eliminates this potential cold spot.
A double layer of Primaloft Gold in the collar of the Khumbu expedition down parka helps the high-moisture area around the neck stay warm. The hood is integral to the jacket, and not detachable like it is on my Frontpoint. I preferred this feature, as I really had no need to remove the hood on this trip. No chance of losing it or forgetting it! The collar is nice and high, and the hood is deep enough to cover most of your face when facing strong side-winds. I wore it to the summit of Logan and it kept me warm. No cold spots.
Before descending the mountain, there’s one more pass to ascend and as our tired group shuffled slowly towards it, clouds moved in and soon we found ourselves in a blinding windstorm at 18,000’ (5,500m). With all our warmest clothes on, we fought our way to the pass. Hands quickly froze as we adjusted our boots for the descent. My Khumbu expedition down parka was on for most of that crossing. It was basically survival gear. The jacket was bombproof. In strong winds and -40° C (-40° F) temperatures, there was no question that this jacket was perfectly suited to these conditions.
The jacket has two large interior mesh pockets for spare gloves, and velcro wrist straps for an adjustable, snug fit around your wrists to keep wind and snow out. The zippered hand-warming pockets and chest pocket are also well positioned. My older Frontpoint jacket had elasticized hand-warmer pockets, but I prefer the zipper to keep driving snow out and gear in.
The Khumbu expedition down parka is a very well made, well thought out jacket that is perfect for big, cold mountains. I wish I didn’t have to give it back!
- Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero Gloves – The Deets
- Made in Seattle, USA of imported materials
- 900+ Fill Goose Down
- Made with traceable, ethically sourced goose down
- Taslite reinforced elbow, lower sleeve and cuff
- Double layer of Primaloft Gold, 200g/6 oz synthetic fill around the collar maintains insulating properties in high-condensation areas
- High collar protects the face, even when the hood is down
- Tuck-stitched/baffled construction
- Dual zipper system with insulated draft tube
- 2-way wind/water resistant zipper
- Fixed hood with 2-way drawcord adjustment
- Side zip hand-warmer pockets
- External chest pocket
- Two 10” x 12” interior mesh pockets
- Articulated sleeves
- Drawcord hem adjustment