The solution to surviving in the frigid climate that is winter in New England comes in the form of a puffy, cozy, pillowy material known as DOWN. Down jackets, vests and the like are a necessity in any winter loving (or hating) northerner’s closet. However, there is nothing more sad that the way a down jacket deflates and sags under the torment of the frequent sleet, freezing rain and wet snow that often graces our slippery streets – think like a wet puppy only not cute at all. Thus, all outdoor adventurers were relieved when Downtek hit the scene and filled out many jackets, and sleeping bags alike including today’s feature: the L.L.Bean Ultralight 850 Down Sweater
Materials and Construction
The L.L.Bean Ultralight 850 Down Sweater is a great midlayer jacket perfect for layering over baselayers and under thicker jackets when precipitation is more than a light drizzle or the temperatures drop. The premium water-resistant 850-fill DownTek keeps the down fluffy and inner jacket reasonably dry when rain and sleet start to fall and the nylon shell is exceptionally soft, tear resistant and blocks wind and has been treated with a durable water repellant finish. L.L.Bean rates this jacket comfortable to 30° F during light activity and -20° F during moderate activity. The jacket is slightly fitted, but does run big – I’m 5’9″ and 155 and normally wear a size medium but would have gone with a size small as this jacket is meant to insulate and layer well. At 10 ounces, the jacket hardly weighs anything and packs into its own pocket for superior portability. There are two very roomy zippered hand pockets and a chest pocket with media port for plenty of storage for tissues, snacks, phone and wallet and anything else you might need to keep close and the adjustable drawcord at the hem seals out any chilly winds. This jacket IS machine washable and dry-able – a definite bonus for a layer that you will most likely sweat in.
Fit and Wear
The L.L.Bean Ultralight 850 Down Sweater felt worn in right out of the packaging – the exterior nylon is as soft as they say, and I rarely find myself calling synthetic materials cozy – but it does feel that way! As I mentioned in the construction and function section, this jacket does run a bit large – I might have erred towards a small because I like my midlayer pieces to be snug, but the medium worked well as more of an outer layer as I was able to wear several other lighter layers and fleeces underneath. I tested this jacket winter hiking, snowshoeing and as a layer under my shell downhill skiing. The first and most important feature that I need to mention is the material this jacket is made from. The Downtek does its job well and even when it started to sleet a bit during a hike this jacket kept me warm and dry. Does it substitute for a good rain coat? Definitely not, but it’s nice to trust a jacket will continue to insulate on yuckier days.