A lightweight down jacket should be in everyone’s gear closet. The combination of minimal weight with maximum warmth is hard to beat with any kind of synthetic. Down’s issues with moisture keep a lot of people from getting one. A new down treatment from Down Decor might change all that.This review is my results of bashing around the L. L. Bean Ultralight 850 down hooded sweater with 850-fill DownTek down.
The Ultralight 850 sweater has features that you’d usually find more expensive jackets. It’s a good combination of features and comfort without a lot of weight. Here’s the main features:
- Helmet compatible hood (available without a hood)
- Downtek 850 fill down
- Zippered hand pockets
- Elastic around cuffs and hood
- Internal pocket that you can stuff the jacket into
- Wind resistant Pertex shell
- Tall sizes with longer sleeves available
- Media pocket with a headphone hole.
Overall the sweater fits a bit big. I ordered a medium regular (they come in tall sizes as well with longer arms) which should fit a 38-40 inch chest. I’m a stocky 5’7” at 175 pounds and my chest is about 39.5” around. There’s room inside for another thick layer plus some. Compared to medium’s in the Icebreaker Helix jacket and Arcteryx Atom SL, it’s quite roomy. For me I’d likely size down if I bought one. Since I will be sending this loaner back to L.L. Bean, it’s not an issue.
Zipped up completely, the neck fits nice. It’s got a nice height covering your chin but not coming up too high. Having it zipped up all the way mostly closes the neck to prevent any drafts.
There are no adjustments on the wrists and hood. They are just elastic all the way around. The wrist openings could be a bit smaller. They stayed on my wrists and didn’t flop down to my hands but could have been a bit tighter to keep the drafts out.
The hood is helmet compatible which is nice but makes it too big for just my head and my noggin isn’t small. I’d love an adjustment around the face and maybe one around the back to tighten up the hood and keep the heat in.
If you’ve got longer arms get the tall size which have longer sleeves.
The Ultralight 850 is well built. I think it’s a good balance between lightweight and durable. It clocks in at about 12 oz (340 g), so under a pound.
The Pertex shell feels very thin at first but it’s actually heavier than some other jackets with a 10 denier fabric or less. I don’t think it would stand up to hard bush whacking but scraping against rocks and tree branches here and there out hiking didn’t even leave a mark.
The small baffles hold the down in place. The 3.7 oz of down in this jacket is a fair amount for a jacket this size. The more down fill you have the warmer it will be. The baffles in the Ultralight 850 are sewn through from the outside to the inside. This does help keep weight down but it also pinches the inner and outer layers together in between every baffle. This can create spots that are cooler because the jacket is thinner there. Box baffles would hold the down in place without pinching the layers together.
Down jackets and sleeping bags are amazing for being lightweight and warm but they can’t get wet. As the down gets wet it loses its loft, trapping less heat in your jacket and leaving you cold.
DownTek down has been coated with a special treatment that makes it water resistant, absorbing 33% less water and drying 66% faster. While not completely doing away with the wet down problem, using coated down certainly reduces it, allowing you to wear your down jacket in more conditions.
The Ultralight 850 uses high loft (850 fill) Downtek down in their jacket to keep it very lightweight and packable.
You can see the difference in the water-soaked down in their video:
Pockets and stuff sack
There are 4 pockets in this sweater, 2 hand pockets, a chest pocket and 1 interior stash pocket. The chest pocket has a hole for headphones to go through to keep everyone tidy inside the jacket when you’re listening to podcasts.The whole sweater can be stuffed into the pocket inside for storing or carrying on a harness. It would make for a small pillow in a pinch.It looks like previous versions of the jacket had fleece lining in the pockets. This 2016 version does not, just the Pertex shell.
LL Bean Ultralight 850 Down Jacket with coffee
LL Bean Ultralight 850 Down Jacket
A lot of snow came at the perfect time on the west coast to test the Ultralight 850. I’m sad to have to send it back, the weather’s still perfect for a light down jacket.With the right size, the L.L. Bean Ultralight 850 sweater would make an excellent addition to your gear closet for almost any kind of sport or just hanging out in the cooler weather. I’d like to see an adjustment on the hood to be able to right-size it for everyone’s head to really trap the heat in.If you need something a bit bigger or want to add extra layers underneath then the fit would be great for you.
The extremely lightweight down and Pertex shell make it easy to carry around, you hardly notice it’s there. The DownTek down let’s you use the jacket in less than ideal weather, conditions that would send the typical down jacket running inside.
Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Sweater on LLBean.ca
Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Sweater on LLBean.com
Disclosure: L.L. Bean provided me with a sample jacket for this review.
My family got one for me. I have two questions.
What base layer do you recommend?
What shell do you use? My family also gave me that ll beans Pathfinder Gore-Tex Shell Jacket.
Great to hear Doc. It’s a great insulation layer. I’m almost always in merino wool as a baselayer. I like Icebreaker and Smartwool but there are many good brands now. For a shell I’m skiing in a Mammut Gore-Tex and for lightweight hiking a Beyond Clothing Yuba Pertex.
Thanks for getting back to me. Happy New Year.
I bought a SmartWool baselayer, a Patagonia Better Sweater, and the LLbean Men’s Pathfinder Gore-Tex Shell Jacket.