- As much warmth and a voluminous expedition fit for the low weight of 24 oz;
- The outstanding comfort and convenience of eight pockets;
- The most comfortable down parka hood I’ve ever used;
- Lightweight yet robust fabrics with welded construction to further increase durability in high wear areas.
For lightweight human-powered activities in cold weather, there is nothing finer. If I were to have one down parka, it would (with great enthusiasm) be the Grade VII.
The purpose of this review is not to convince you to buy a $900 parka. Rather, the goal is to expand upon a Down Parka State of the Market Report that will be published by BackpackingLight by explaining in greater detail why this parka performs exceptionally well. In my opinion, the Grade VII is a work of art that deserves to hang on the wall in a museum. It is so good that, sometimes, I exclaim â€œwow!â€� and â€œoh my gosh!â€� when I put on. This is the only piece of outdoor gear I own with a high existence value–I derive happiness from knowing that it exists.
The most sophisticated piece of outdoor clothing ever made
Key Points and Specifications
- This is the only premium down parka with 100% box baffled construction
- Myriad small baffles provide outstanding down stabilization, resulting in no cold spots and a higher warmth to weight ratio
- Welded seams increase durability and water resistance in high wear areas
- Robust fabrics will last for years of hard use
- Expedition cut accommodates extra layers
- Ultralight – only 24 ounces in menâ€™s medium
- The most sophisticated piece of outdoor clothing ever made
- Performance is far superior to competing $800-$950 parkas
- $900 retail price
- See it at Patagonia.com
Comparing the World’s Best Down Parkas
The two tables below show performance scores and key specifications for each parka I’ve tested in the last two years. Many fine parkas (including the Montbell Mirage, Arcteryx Ceres SV, and Feathered Friends Volant) were excluded from this round of testing due to their inferior performance for lightweight human-powered trips in cold weather.
In manipulating the weighting of the scoring criteria, I found the Grade VII scored the highest until the weight criterion (weight of the parka) consumed approximately 70% of the total score. This finding reinforces field testing, which concluded that the grade VII is the down parka. Below around 18 ounces, none of the parkas I’ve tested have been able to keep me warm on multi-day trips and/or have the features I find important on multi-day trips. For that reason, I don’t know of any down garments that weigh less than 18 oz that qualify as a “proper parka.”
As with all expedition parkas, it also works well for standing around in the cold for a long time in a basecamp. But if you’re just standing around, there’s no need to the efficiency of the Grade VII; a heavier parka such as the Feathered Friends Khumbu shown below will work fine.
|Note the difference between the length of the Patagonia Fitz Roy (left), Patagonia Grade VII (center), and Feathered Friends Khumbu (right). Of all the parkas I’ve tested, the Grade VII has the warmest and most comfortable drop-seat. Completely covering the butt adds a lot of warmth. Also, unlike the Khumbu and many other parkas, the front of the Grade VII curves up to save weight and prevent interference with a harness.|
The Grade VII is the only parka Iâ€™ve used that employs 100% box baffled construction. Most others reduce warmth by using sewn-through construction. For example, the $825 Western Mountaineering Snojack uses sewn-through baffles under the arms. Similarly, the Feathered Friends Khumbu has a sewn-through hood. And, finally, the $950 Arcteryx Firebee AR uses pleated construction, which is not a true box baffle.
|The Grade VII parka has nine baffles across the shoulder area for superb stabilization. Due to the complexity of building these baffles, many other parkas have only one baffle here, which can result in cold spots.|
The chart below shows weight scores for 12 parkas tested. Higher scores are better. See the table above to compare the exact weights of all parkas tested.
- Huge adjustable, helmet compatible hood with a high collar that protects the neck and chin – this is the best hood of all parkas Iâ€™ve tested;
- Long drop-seat completely covers the butt – this adds a large amount of warmth. Unlike other parkas, the bottom baffle hangs lower than the hem adjustment to further increase warmth;
- Two exterior chest pockets – this is the only parka Iâ€™ve used with two chest pockets. They are great when you want to securely store smaller items (for example, a lighter or your phone) while reserving the handwarmer pockets for your hands;
- An expedition fit is easily capable of accommodating two puffy midlayers;
Elasticized stitching in the interior back of the parka pull it close to your body, eliminating the need for a separate drawcord, which is used on other parkas;
- Two handwarmer pockets are insulated on both sides;
- Two waist adjustments with cords that stow up, inside the interior pockets;
- It is the only parka with four interior drop-in pockets, two of which are off to the side for greatest visibility of your feet. Also, it is the only parka with drop-in pockets have mesh at the bottom to let snow out;
- Elasticized wrist cuffs are easy to pull over gloves and mittens and can also pull up over your elbows;
- Excellent arm mobility.
|Fabric flaps cover the handwarmer pockets to prevent snow from entering when you forget to close the zippers. Also not the large, highly visible zipper pull.|
The chart below shows the features scores for 12 parkas tested.
|Testing the Western Mountaineering Snojack, Feathered Friends Khumbu, and Patagonia Grade VII down parkas.|
|Grade VII parka on a ski mountaineering trip in the Chugach Mountains, Alaska.|