Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Outdoor Retailer Winter 2016: INSULATED CLOTHING

By Will Rietveld

Puffy clothing is a favorite category for me and many readers, I suppose because they are cuddly and warm. In this part I cover everything insulated that I found to be of interest from a lightweight or versatility standpoint

Please note that this article simply highlights new lightweight gear of interest, and by no means is it comprehensive of the category or constitute a review of the item.  I do not include anything on downhill skis and bindings, which are not my forte’. It’s simply a collection of new interesting gear for lightweight backcountry travel.

Items featured will be available in spring 2016 unless stated otherwise. Weights are for men’s size Medium apparel.

Berghaus Ramche 2.0 Down Parka. The Ramche 2.0 is as high-tech as a down jacket gets. The insulation is body-mapped to add more down where warmth is  needed most in the torso, and less down in the sleeves. The jacket is insulated with 850 fill-power 16-hour Hydrodown (Nikwax treatment), with sewn-through construction in the sleeves and baffled construction in the torso. The shell is a 70x70 denier fine nylon with DWR. Weight is 16 ounces and MSRP is $450.

CAMP G Comp Wind and G Comp Warm Gloves. The G Comp Wind Glove (right) is a fast-drying synthetic glove for chilly and windy conditions. The orange Windmit’N in the photo normally resides in a pocket on the wrist and can be pulled out to cover the topside of the glove when more wind protection is needed. Weight is 3.5 oz/pr and MSRP is $100. Sizes from S to XXXL. The G Comp Warm Glove (left) is a similar glove but its pull out Warmit’N is insulated with 40 gram Primaloft Gold. The weight is 4.1 oz/pair and MSRP is $120.

CAMP Hotmit’N. This super warm mitt has a windproof membrane and is insulated with 50 grams of premium down. Their specs do not indicate it is waterproof (I suspect it isn’t), or the fill-power of the down. Weight is 6.1 oz/pr and MSRP is $140. Available now.

CAMP Summit’N. The durable Summit’N is insulated with 350 gram Primaloft Gold and has a Hipora 3-layer waterproof-breathable membrane. Weight is 7.8 oz/pr and MSRP is $160. Available now.

Heat Factory Heated Fold-Back Mitten. These mittens are made of a soft fleece-like fabric and are insulated with a bit of Thinsulate according to the label. The unique feature is that it’s both a glove and a mitten; when you put it on, your fingers slip into the fingers of a glove, and then there is a mitten flap that covers the fingers. A chemical hand warmer (included) can be placed in the palm or finger area (or both) for extra warmth. The packaging doesn’t say anything about waterproofness, so these mittens would work best with a shell over them to keep them dry and seal in the heat. Weight for size XL is 4.6 oz/pr; MSRP is $25. Available now.

Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka. This jacket is an addition to Montbell’s Plasma 1000 line featuring 1000 fill-power down and 7 denier shell fabric. This jacket is a dream come true; it contains 3.4 ounces of fill and the jacket weight is just 8.4 ounces, which is amazing considering the jacket’s features. Sewn-through construction. Features include a full height front zipper, attached 2-way adjustable hood, hem drawcord, two zippered hand pockets, and elastic cuffs. That’s a lot of warmth and features for the weight. MSRP is $379; available in mid August 2016.

Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Vest. Another addition to the Plasma 1000 line is this 3.1 ounce down vest insulated with 1000 fill-power down. The shell is 7 denier Ballistic Airlight ripstop nylon with sewn-through construction. The only feature is a full-height front zipper; no pockets. MSRP is $199; available mid August 2016.

Montbell UL Thermawrap Jacket. This jacket is updated with a new 12 denier shell fabric with DWR and a new Stretch Exceloft synthetic insulation to give the jacket more stretch and breathability. The weight is 8.5 ounces and MSRP is $139; available mid August 2016. An updated Thermawrap Pant will also be available with the same materials; 7.7 ounces and $135.

Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Jacket. The stretch comes from a new stretch-welded construction (rather than sewn-through seams), combined with a light knit fabric and lining that moves with you. It’s insulated with 750 fill-power Q.Shield water-resistant down. Features include two zippered hand warmer pockets, one zippered chest pocket, two interior drop pockets, 2-way adjustable hem, and elastic cuffs. Available with or without an attached hood. Weight is 17 ounces and MSRP is $250.

Montane Featherlite Down Pro Pullon. This pullover down jacket features a Pertex Quantum CS10 shell, 800 fill-power Eco HyperDry down insulation, 2-way front zipper, zippered front pouch with reach-through pockets over it, inside mesh water flask pocket, and attached hood with stiffened brim and 3-way adjustment. Loads of features and versatility for 16 ounces and $214.

Rab Zero G Jacket. Another standout puffy is the new Rab Zero G featuring 1000 fill-power down (4.5 ounces of fill), Pertex Quantum face and liner fabric, two zippered hand warmer pockets, elastic hem, and an attached hood with one adjustment on the back. Weight is 11 ounces and MSRP is $550.
Seirus Solarsphere Ace Mitt and Gloves and Aura Mitt and Gloves. The new Solarsphere insulation amplifies the temperature inside a glove or mitt up to 10 degrees. The Solarsphere process starts with sunlight being absorbed into the glove or mitt and converted to heat via the Solarsphere insulation. It is made with lightweight, durable, and compressible hollow filament spheres that retain form unlike other insulations. The shell is water-repellent. The Ace mitt and gloves have 3-gram Solarsphere + 60-gram HeatLock insulation with a lightweight shell fabric and an elastic cuff; MSRP is $35. The Aura mitt and gloves have 7-gram Solarsphere + 160-gram HeatLock insulation with a more durable shell and gauntlet cuff; MSRP is $40.


  1. Those are some beautiful and light jackets, unfortunately no one is talking about their temperature ratings.
    Light is good. Light and cold is not.

  2. Manufacturers generally don't give a temperature rating for a jacket, like they do for a sleeping bag. Knowing the fill weight helps a lot to estimate a jacket's warmth. But only a few mfrs give that information.