Ten year gear review: Montbell Superior Down (updated)

A three-season puffy is the equivalent of a wool sweater or a 200-weight fleece from years past in the backpacking world. It is the go-to garment for warmth when on breaks or in camp, but not when moving.

Unlike my old fleece, the modern puffies are lighter, warmer for the weight, and compact better in a pack. If these modern puffies are not as durable, quick-drying, or breathable as my old fleece, they are a trade-off that makes sense when using a puffy for stationary activities while backpacking.

My three-season down puffy of choice for the past decade? The Montbell Superior Down.

I have a long history of using Montbell products, going back to my 2006 CDT hike when I purchased a Thermawrap when I went into Boulder that September.

Friends hiked out with me to Diamond Lake in the Indian Peaks. I am pictured with my (at the time) brand-new Thermawrap.

I have always appreciated simple and functional designs, lightweight designs, and well-made craftsmanship. The clothing is not inexpensive but high-quality and not as expensive as items from Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, or similar companies.

Rocking the Sunbelesa headlamp. It’s a worthy NU-25 classic replacement.


Since receiving a Montbell Superior Down for volunteer work in 2014, I’ve used this jacket for three seasons for the many bag nights we get each year.

I’ve always used a hooded version as an adjunct to my quilt for backpacking. After my Great Divide Trail hike in 2018, Montbell sent me a new version to replace my worn but still serviceable jacket.

In the San Juans, I do not suggest taking your three-person car camping tent backpacking unless you realize your two-person backpacking tent did not get packed. PCO Joan.

And why do I keep using this puffy jacket for three-season conditions in the high mountains or the desert? Because it works—the main criteria for all my gear, whether a budget item, high-end, or somewhere in between.

The Superior Down is sufficiently warm for just under 3 oz/ 80g  of 800 FP down, and the baffle design (though sewn-through stitching)  appears to retain heat better than the 1 oz / 28g lighter but $150 more expensive Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. I’ll take a one-ounce penalty for something that works well rather than something that juices the stats for my online pack weight list.

As with all Montbell clothing, the Superior Down has enough functionality to be of use (inner pockets, adjustable hood) but not too many “doo-dads,” such as a cell phone pocket that is more for lifestyle wear and not of actual use in a backcountry setting. The fit is generous enough to layer with a 100 wt fleece, but not so generous a fit as to give a baggy and inefficient shape for keeping a backpacker warm.

Add in the 800 fill power down and the craftsmanship put into making this garment, and I have a workhorse puffy for my backpacking use in late spring through the fall. The material is thin, as with most modern puffies, so I advise some TLC, unlike my older beater puffy, which I use for a different role when car camping.

When my 2018 Superior Down finally became serviceable but worn in late 2023, I decided to replace it with another one that’s more or less the same as what I’ve been using for five years of many treks through the desert and mountains near our Moab home. A five-year run of much three-season use certainly makes a great endorsement!

If I were back in my native New England, I’d wear a synthetic jacket, and I currently use the UL Thermawrap when packrafting.

Still, the Superior Down has been my choice for use on the Colorado Plateau or the Rockies over the years, and I’m sure it will continue to serve me well in the months and years ahead.

With the new jacket. Another photo from my lovely wife.

Why not a higher-fill power-down jacket? In the years since I’ve used the Superior down, 1000-fill power jackets have become a standard, offering a very lightweight jacket in a more expensive package.

Montbell also makes the Plasma 1000, which is ~ three ounces / 80g lighter (if without a hood) and $100 more expensive than the Superior Down. In addition to the price savings, the lack of a hood did not appeal to me.

Many strongly argue that extremely high-fill power garments do not last as long, tolerate potential humidity, and perhaps do not work as well outside of lab conditions. 

Perhaps 1000FP would work well for a specific hike, such as the PCT in peak season.

What I do know is that the 800 FP Superior Down has proved to be an excellent all-around jacket for late spring through late fall use over the past decade in many different conditions and environments.

Overall view: The Superior Down continues Montbell’s long tradition of well-made clothing that lasts and works well. Under 9 oz  / 250g with a hood, the weight compares favorably with other jackets from the competition but with an arguably better and more efficient design. It provides a surprising amount of warmth in its light package.

At $250, the Superior Down is not inexpensive, but it is $100 less (or more) than jackets of similar quality from competitors.

On a budget? I realize not every person has $250+ to spend on a puffy. There are alternatives if you need something for the occasional backpacking trip, are low on cash, or are even looking for a mid-range option.

For a mid-range option, the Decathlon Forclaz MT 100 at $100 at ~10 oz / 285 g (Men’s EU Medium) has received generally good reviews.

For a more frugal option, the long-time Costco favorite of 32 Degrees makes some inexpensive puffies that are serviceable enough, priced at $30 (or less at the end of the season).

The trade-off for these budget options is aesthetics, weight, durability, quality, or function depending.

Disclosure: Montbell provided the first Superior Down for volunteer work I did then; the replacement was supplied at no cost. I purchased the 2023 version myself.

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JD Dallager
JD Dallager
5 years ago

Gotta agree on the quality/price/functionality value of Montbell clothing……really great! I have a 6 year old Superior Down hooded jacket and a 7 year old Frost Smoke down hooded jacket. Both terrific and going strong.

5 years ago

Ouch, Ghost Whisperer shaming! I’m duct taping over my logo…

5 years ago

I have a Montbell UL Down Parka that is no longer made. Did the Superior take the place of the UL or is it signficantly different from UL, especially regarding down content / weight?

Tim W
3 years ago

Even now in 2021, I’m in the market for a light down parka for an upcoming CT thru. It’s replacing a well used and abused EE Torrid that’s seen it all here in the Northeast. The Superior Down Parka is coming out on top of my research. If I had the coin.. I’d splurge for the rad Alpine 1000 Parka. Alas, $250 saved in my pocket buys me plenty of beans for the Colorado Trail.

Ken Erdedy
Ken Erdedy
2 years ago

Apologies for the post on an older article, but I’m choosing between the Superior Down Parka and EX Light Anorak. While the weight savings on the Anorak are attractive, I’m more interested in your experience with the warmth of the Superior Down. On Montbell’s Down Guide, they rank the Anorak a notch or two warmer than the Superior Down. But I assume from your fairly glowing review that you’ve never had an issue with the Superior Down not being warm enough for 3 season conditions? For reference I’m in New England. Notwithstanding your observation about a synthetic being your preferred… Read more »