Gear Review: Montbell Frostline Parka

For winter backpacking, a down puffy is critical.

Not the three-season puffies that are popular for many backpackers and Starbuck fans in Boulder. But a winter puffy has ounces of down fill, large baffles, and preferably a hood, too

For many seasons, I used a GoLite Bitterroot. Excellent for ski tours during the day, deep fall, and early winter. But I had to augment it for colder weather beyond, say, 10F or so, when out and about in camp.

In Spring 2016, I broke down and bought a more traditional winter puffy. Something along the lines of my trusty and warm beater down coat. But much lighter and more packable: The Montbell Frostline Parka.

Montbell Twinsies! Rachel and I sporting our Frostlines during a cold snap when I was visiting in Boulder. PCO Rachel B.

Not exactly inexpensive at just under-$300, but it has many similar features as more expensive parkas. Meaning? Over 7oz of down fill, baffle box (sleeping bag) style stitching versus the less thermally efficient sewn through style, insulated draft zipper tube, fleece lining where appropriate, a hood that cinches, etc.

I found the Frostline to be a warm jacket for below zero temps in camp when coupled with my other layers be it backpacking or winter camping.

At 19oz, it is not quite as light as similar offerings from other companies. The ~2oz weight penalty versus similar parkas comes from the 800 fill down (versus 850 or 900 FP down), the cut of the parka for layering, and the slightly thicker fabric versus similar parkas as well. However, I find the somewhat thicker material to be an advantage when handling sharped edged skis, camp chores, and other myriad activities when winter camping or backpacking. If not quite as rugged as my old EMS Glacier down puffy, it is more robust than the Golite Bitterroot.  In other words, I find the slightly heavier parka to be better for my needs versus these marginally lighter if more delicate offerings from other companies.  The larger cut for layering is of course key for any deep winter coat.

The Frostline is made with the usual high quality and attention to detail that is a hallmark of Montbell clothing and gear. I know when I am buying a piece of clothing from Montbell, it is going to be well made and is not just for sipping a latte on Pearl St. in Boulder.

But goes surprisingly well with a Santa hat. PCO Mark T

Is this parka warm? Well, it did serve me well in the Badlands in December!  The Frostline supplements my sleeping layers rather well when winter backpacking. And it is always getting stolen on me during hut trips as people use it to go to the outhouse. 🙂

And I wore it when fetching snow for our water. 🙂 PCO Joe W.

In summary:  The Montbell Frostline Parka combines weight, features, warmth, packability, and durability in an excellent, well-rounded, package.  And at sub-$300, the price is very competitive with similar offerings from other companies. The Frostline is an excellent all-purpose winter puffy be it for backpacking, climbing, skiing, camping, or letting your friends borrow it for sub-zero bathroom runs at night. 🙂   The Frostline has become one of my favorite gear purchases. And something I have no doubt will serve me well for many years to come.

Disclosure: I purchased the Montbell Frostlne Parka with my funds. Though I did get a free Montbell t-shirt upon telling the Montbell rep that their coat was always stolen on every hut trip I take! 🙂 

Note: Montbell replaced this parka with the very similar Alpine Down Park in 2020.

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6 years ago

Thanks for the write up. Just placed an order for one in prep for some snowshoe hiking and camping in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Should work great along with the dirtbagger pulk I just finished (which your write up inspired as well).