THE NORTHFACE SUM­MIT LG DOWN BE­LAY PARKA

Climbing - - ESSENTIALS -

Some­times you need the big guns—namely a be­lay parka so warm it’s al­most overkill—for the cold­est days crag­ging and harsh alpine con­di­tions. The Sum­mit L6 might be con­sid­ered the How­itzer of be­lay parkas, then—a “beefy alpine brawler,” noted our tester af­ter 20 days guid­ing on Rainier, an­other 12 in the North Cas­cades, then 5 days in the Bu­ga­boos. The jacket, he noted, was “sturdy above and be­yond any other jacket I’ve used of sim­i­lar de­sign.” Made with dense 800 fill goose down, the L6 has a 20D x 30D body and DWR fin­ish; it’s made with “wo­ven-cham­ber” baf­fling to re­duce the seam count and thus cold spots/leak­age. Our tester was never chilly, no­table on the glaciated up­per reaches of Rainier with 103 mph winds. He also praised its dura­bil­ity: Though the jacket caught sev­eral times on an ice-axe spike, it didn’t tear or even scratch, and he was able to stuff and re­trieve it ag­gres­sively from his pack with­out wor­ry­ing about a “goose ex­plo­sion.” At 30 ounces, this is not an ul­tra­light jacket, but the bee­fi­ness pays off in dura­bil­ity.

Climber-friendly fea­tures in­clude a hel­met-com­pat­i­ble hood; two-way front zip to ac­cess your be­lay loop (our tester dug the zip’s mit­ten-friendly size); deep, low-pro­file hand-pocket zips that ac­cess the hem cinch cord; an in­ter­nal chest pocket; and in­ter­nal drop pock­ets. These lat­ter came in handy while guid­ing, with our tester on Rainier ably stash­ing things like a wa­ter bot­tle and gloves dur­ing breaks with­out hav­ing them “blow east to Idaho.” He also liked the longer, har­ness-com­pat­i­ble cut, and never felt it creep­ing up when he bent over. The only dings were that he wished the chest pocket had been ex­ter­nal, to fa­cil­i­tate eas­ier re­trieval of a smart­phone, and that the thin fabric on the hand-pocket weather flaps tended to jam in the zip­pers. “For most sum­mer alpine un­der 14K, it’s a bit of overkill,” con­cluded our tester. “But for win­ter ice and higher-el­e­va­tion sum­mits, the L6 is a cozy, com­fort­able friend.”

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