First Look: Borah Gear Ultralight Down Jacket
I love my Montbell Alpine Light Jacket. It’s everything I could possibly want for a cold weather camp jacket. I love that it has pockets and a full zipper. For winter, its features are worth the extra weight. I also love my REI Fleece. It has kept me cozy and warm in some pretty wet weather. It has thumb loops that help keep my wrists warm and works great while hiking those snowy winter hikes. But neither of these jackets work best for those dry fall nights or early spring mornings that we get out here and neither were what I wanted for my upcoming JMT hike. I knew I wanted something akin to the Montbell UL Down Jacket, but I really didn’t want the extra weight of pockets that I just don’t use unless it’s really cold. I thought the Montbell Ex Light Down Jacket might be the jacket for me then, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wasn’t really excited about the full zipper because I keep my jackets zipped the whole time and I wasn’t sure about spending so much on a jacket that wasn’t 100% everything I wanted. Then I found out that Montbell was coming out with a down pullover with a hood. I wasn’t really excited about the hood because hoods just do not stay up on my head. No matter what I do they always fall off my head unless I’m just looking forward, so I prefer my head gear to be seperate from my coat. Still is was the closest I had found to what I wanted and I was happy to take an extra ounce or so of the hood to get everything else I wanted. I emailed Montbell’s customer service to ask when exactly the new pullover was coming out and they said it would be sometime after September, too late for my JMT hike. I accepted that it was not meant to be and I would just have to pick something from the options I already had which would leave me for certain over a 10 lb base weight. The JMT is known to get snow very early, as early as the first week of September and that meant I would have to take my Alpine Light jacket, despite it being too warm for the trip.
Then I saw a post on Facebook saying that Borah Gear was adding a jacket to their line, the Ultralight Down Jacket. I checked it out and it had no pockets, no hood and it was a pullover. It had all the features I was looking for and nothing I wasn’t and the price tag, $165 shipping included, made this the solution to a 2 year search. There was only one problem, they didn’t make it in a woman’s size, but John was happy to make a custom size for me and it turned out great! I gave John my measurements so he could get the sizing right, but I did have a couple of options as well. I could have him shorten the length to fit my small torso a bit better, but I decided to have him go with the longest size instead so that it covers all the way down to where my legs start for maximum warmth. I also had him go with the shortest sleeves to accommodate my short arms. When it got here, I was very happy with how it turned out and I think it will be my favorite new insulation piece.
1. Quality – It was clear from the minute that I took my jacket out of the box that it was well made and with quality materials. The seams were all even, tight, and no down was poking through. The work was neat inside and out, and there was no sign of visual blemish. The down was evenly distributed and fluffed up nicely despite days of being stuffed in a box. The outer and lining fabric was spotless and felt soft but sturdy, especially for its weight. This jacket looks and feels like I could have bought it off the rack at an REI.
2. Sizing – Of course this was one of the most important things to have right since I ordered a custom sizing that was supposed to fit me perfectly so you can imagine I was checking the size with a very critical eye. I am happy to report that I am very pleased with every aspect of the sizing. It is not too big and does not feel like I’m swimming in fabric and fits well underneath my Montbell Alpine Light Jacket. It also did not feel especially tight when I tried it on with two long sleeve shirts and my fleece and vest on under it. Of course with all my layers on, it was more snug than with only one layer on, but it didn’t feel like bending over was going to put undue strain on the seams either. The sleeves are long enough to just cover the tips of my fingers and the length was enough to cover all the way down to my legs. Both of these are features I really like having in a jacket I’m probably only going to wear in camp, as it helps keep me cozy when just hanging out.
3. Warmth – Right now I can only say that I believe this will keep me warm in the spring and fall. As it is still summer here in Arizona (meaning it is over 90 most days and hasn’t dropped below 60 in three or four months) I can’t really test it to its fullest, but every time it has gotten the littlest bit chilly, I’ve thrown in on and headed outside and sat for at least 30 minutes. The coldest so far has been about 55 with a breeze and I was radiating heat with just a tank top on underneath. Based on that, I’m confident that I will be able to stay warm close to 50-45, maybe even lower, with just a thermal top and this jacket.
Cons (sort of)
1. Design – There are two design elements that could be cons, depending on the features you do or do not like. The zipper does not go all the way to the top. It stops short of the top. Now, I’m a bit claustrophobic when it comes to things around my neck so, this something that I preferred, but it could be a real deal breaker for someone else.
2. The second design element that is very different and may keep someone from buying this coat was the cuff on the sleeves. There is no elastic. It’s just a cuff like you’d have on a shirt. This may be an issue for you and honestly it may be something I end up not being happy about either, but I’m going to give it a try before I consider taking my own sewing skills to this and adding elastic cuffs. Right now, the thing I’m liking about this is that I can push the sleeves up my arms and out of my way during camp chores that I may not want my sleeves getting in the way of. The jury is definitely still out as a whole.
Edit: I almost forgot to add that the bottom hem has a cord for cinching up around your waist, which of course, I love!