Gear Review: Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Vest

I recently put the Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Vest to the test. Being fall, I wore it everywhere around town and while driving in the car, then later while hiking in high altitude around Telluride, CO during October. 

Specs

MSRP: $199

Weight: 3.1 oz. (89 g)

Material:

  • Insulation: 1000 Fill Power EX Down (1.1 oz or 31 g fill weight)
  • Fabric: 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon
  • Standard DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment
  • Sewn Thru construction

Compressed size: φ3.9 x 5.1 in. (φ10 x 13 cm)

vest

tote

Can easily be further compressed to 1/2 this size

Pros

Material Technology

Montbell’s Plasma Vest is inspired by Montbell’s Plasma 1000 Down Jacket. In the race to cut grams, 1000-fill down provides equal warmth and greater compressibility at 20% less weight than 800-fill down. Montbell’s 7-denier fabric technology may be even more impressive: a thread running 2,189 miles from Springer to Katahdin would weigh under a pound. 10 lbs of 7-denier thread would reach all the way around the earth. I could find no competitors offering 1000-fill down and 7-denier fabric technology in vest form, and very few in jacket form besides Montbell. Patagonia offers a 6.3-oz, 800-fill down vest for $249.

I have not had a chance to wear Montbell’s vest for months on end to simulate a thru-hike, but the Ballistic Airlight nylon is built with 3x more tear strength and 1.5x more abrasion resistance of heavier fabric materials. So far, I have not had a close call with a tear.

The DWR treatment performed well in a rain shower. Water beaded up and shook off easily, but I wouldn’t wear it in extended wet conditions.

Water beads up and rolls or shakes off

Water beads up and rolls or shakes off

Comfort, Versatility, and Practicality on a Thru-Hike

Many thru-hike gear lists don’t include a vest, but maybe they should.

I tested the Plasma Vest in 45-70 deg F, high winds, high elevation, and glaring sun. It was cold one minute, then hot the next. I started with the vest on, and then easily stuffed it in my pack’s small top pocket once I warmed up. My ultralight down jacket weighed 8.3 oz on the AT, and it would have been difficult to stuff into the smaller pack spaces.

The vest slid back on whenever I stopped for a break, the temperature dropped, or winds picked back up. My exposed arms regulated my body temperature and my sweating stayed down. The vest’s light weight is an obvious benefit, but imagine the versatility of arms exposed (or not exposed) using other clothing layers.

In 45 degrees F at night, the Plasma Vest kept my core warm in combination with a long-sleeved base layer and a shell jacket.

If the ultimate consideration is warmth to weight ratio, the Plasma Vest gets an A+.

person

Cons

As is the case with lightweight gear, there are sacrifices. The Plasma Vest has no pockets or pull cords. And the high-tech, ultralight fabric is a bit noisy if you’re wearing it while trying to sit still in a library. 1.1 ounces of down fill insulates well, but is not meant for below-freezing temperatures found on a thru-hike unless supplemented with cold-weather clothing (items commonly already carried). The cost may steer people toward less expensive, slightly bulkier and heavier options.

Overall

Montbell’s market-leading lightweight technology justifies the price. 1000-fill down is no joke. This vest (in combination with layers) is not only feasible but practical for a thru-hiker. I would have loved the Plasma Vest on the AT and would strongly consider using it on long-distance hikes in place of an ultralight down jacket.

 

Disclosure: the preceding product was donated for the purpose of review.

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Comments 1

  • MikeM : Nov 29th

    Thank you. I don’t have a vest as yet. A Montbell sleeping bag I bought a few years ago has been amazing, so would definitely consider other Montbell products.

    Reply

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