The Montbell Mirage Parka is an ultralight 900 fill power hooded down jacket, perfect for winter hiking or backpacking trips when you want to get warm fast and stay warm. Weighing just 14.4 oz in a size men’s XL, this jacket is loaded with features from box baffles to a complete hood sizing and adjustment system. If you’re looking to shave some serious gear weight from your winter hiking gear list, the Mirage is the perfect down parka to don at the top of your next summit or back at basecamp.
Specs at a Glance
- Insulation: 900 fill power down
- Weight: 12.8 oz (medium); 14.4 oz (xl, tested)
- Down fill weight: 5.3 oz
- Construction: Box baffles
- Helmet compatible: Yes
- Shell fabric: 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon shell & lining
- Pockets: 4 (two outer, two inner)
- Zipper: YKK, one-way
Parkas or Jackets?
The Montbell Mirage is a down parka, which means it’s meant to be worn as your outmost layer, not as a mid-layer like many lightweight down or synthetic insulated jackets. A parka weighs more and usually has much more insulation because you’re usually not active when you wear it, but standing around, sitting, or sleeping. For example, I usually pull out a parka when I stop for a break on a winter hike when we summit a mountain peak and want to relish the view when I’m in camp melting snow or to augment the insulation in a hoodless quilt when I go to sleep.
Parkas always have hoods and they’re usually loaded with heat-saving features like wrist cuffs and hem drawstrings. In the past, parkas were usually longer than jackets and therefore warmer because they covered more of your body. But these days the line between parkas and jackets has been blurred and the term parka is inconsistently used. The only good way to tell them apart is to look at the amount of insulation a jacket has, but many manufacturers still don’t publish down fill weights, even though it would benefit consumers.
Fully Adjustable Hood
The first thing I look for in any down jacket is to see whether it has an adjustable hood. A non-adjustable hood is basically worthless because you can’t block out heat robbing wind or reduce the air space that your body has to heat up. The perfect hood should have a volume adjuster so you can fit it to your head size and neck toggles so you can shrink the face opening. Your neck and lower face should be covered to keep them warm and block the wind. A zipper garage, like the one below, is especially nice if you have a mustache or beard, because it keeps them from getting caught in the teeth. The Mirage doesn’t have any face lining, but the jacket’s shell fabric is very soft, so it’s not a problem.
The Mirage’s hood volume shrinks enough for my small head, even though it is ice climbing helmet-compatible, which should give you some sense of how good the hood controls are. Helmet compatibility is usually an indication that a hood will be too large a hiker’s head, but the Mirage hood can be reduced enough in size to encase your head comfortably without extra volume. It’s also amazing just how much insulation the hood holds. I own down-filled balaclavas that have less down fill in them, making the Mirage an awesome accompaniment for a down quilt sleep system.
The Mirage has velcro wrist cuffs at the end of its sleeves so you can seal the ends to prevent body heat from escaping. Blood flowing through your wrists travels very close to the surface of your skin and having wrist cuffs helps you prevent cold wind from blowing up your arms and chilling you. I usually tighten the cuffs around my arm and then put gloves with gauntlets over them, but some people close their sleeve ends over the gloves. Whatever works. If you’re too warm, the jacket wrists are wide enough that you can pull them up your arm to release heat.
The Mirage has four pockets, two on the outside of the jacket and two on the inside. The exterior pockets are on the sides of the coat and close with zippers, so stuff won’t fall out. They’re big pockets and insulated so you can put your hands in them to warm up or stuff gloves and hats inside. Each pocket also contains a hidden hem adjuster, so you can cinch the waist tight without taking your hands out of your pockets.
There are also two pockets on the interior sides of the jacket. They’re quite deep and good for storing heavy gloves or food. You can even fit a Mountain House dinner into them if you want to use your jacket to keep your freeze-dried meal hot while it is rehydrated.
The Mirage is made using box baffles instead of a sewn-thru construction. Box baffles are fabric chambers that hold down clusters in place and prevent them from shifting and creating cold spots. The chambers give the clusters space to fully expand and reach their maximum loft, so you stay warmer. In sewn-thru construction, the down clusters are also prevented from shifting but have less space to reach their maximum loft. Sewn-thru construction is faster to manufacture and less expensive, which is why it’s so prevalent. But the warmest jackets have box baffles.
Comparable Down Parkas and Jackets
The Montbell Mirage Parka is a great down parka that’s ultralight but still loaded with features. Insulated with 900 fill power down, it is super comfortable to wear and has a fully featured hood adjustment, so you can resize it to fit perfectly. My only real concern with Mirage is the thickness and durability of the 7 denier ballistic nylon used for its exterior fabric. The shell is easy to puncture and will abrade in high-friction areas more quickly than jackets made with thicker materials. That’s not a deal-breaker, provided you stock up on Tenacious Tape and are proactive about patching holes and thinning fabric.
Disclosure: Montbell donated a jacket for review.
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