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L.L. Bean Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket Review

made by:
Philip Werner
Version:
2015
Price:
219.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On January 16, 2015
Last modified:August 28, 2016

Summary:

L.L. Bean’s Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket ($219) is a very warm midweight hooded down jacket that strikes a good balance between a technical winter hiking jacket and one for street use. If you can only afford to buy one down jacket, I’d recommend giving it a good look. I’ve been wearing the Ultralight 850 for cold weather hiking and have found it to be a solid value in frigid New England weather.

While the hood is not adjustable, the neck area is cut narrow and is very effective at preventing cold air from blowing down your neck and onto your chest. The hood is also helmet compatible
While the hood is not adjustable, the neck area is cut narrow and effective at preventing cold air from blowing down your neck and onto your chest. The hood is also helmet compatible

L.L. Bean’s Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket ($219) is a very warm midweight hooded down jacket that strikes a good balance between a technical winter hiking jacket and one for street use. If you can only afford to buy one down jacket, I’d recommend giving it a good look. I’ve been wearing the Ultralight 850 for cold weather hiking and have found it to be a solid value in frigid New England weather.

Evaluating a Down Jacket

When evaluating down jackets for winter hiking use, there are a number of different things I look at:

  • How warm is the jacket in terms of fill power, fit, and styling?
  • Is the hood adjustable? How high is the face protection?
  • How durable is the shell material?
  • How is the down held in place (box baffles vs sewn-through construction)?
  • How many pockets does it have?
  • How much does the jacket weigh and how much down does it contain?

850 Fill Power Goose Down

The LL Bean Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket is insulated with 850 fill power DownTek treated goose down. This is a very high-grade of down insulation and definitely on the high-end for more active, midweight down jackets.  While the DownTek treatment helps reduce moisture absorption and accelerate drying, the 850 fill power of the insulation is what makes this a very warm coat.

The Ultralight 850 contains 3.76 ounces of 850 fill power goose down in a size medium jacket, which is a very respectable amount of down insulation in a more active garment like this. LL Bean wasn’t able to provide me specs for this jacket beyond a size medium men’s, but they said that they add proportionally more down to larger sized coats, like the size XL I tested, to maintain the same warmth level in different sizes.

The back of the LL Bean Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket has a slight droptail which helps prevent cold wind from blowing up your back as well as adjustable hem cordlocks to seal in torso warmth.
The back of the LL Bean Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket has a slight drop tail which helps prevent cold wind from blowing up your back as well as adjustable hem cord locks to seal in torso warmth.

Fit and Styling

The Ultralight 850 does a marvelous job of sealing in the warm air surrounding your torso, preventing cold air from blowing down the hood to your chest or under the hem and up the back of the jacket. The neck of the Ultralight 850 is comparatively snug, while adjustable cord locks on the hem make it possible to cinch the jack down around your hips to seal in heat. The rear tail of the jacket is also slightly dropped to prevent cold drafts from blowing up your back.

While the wrist cuffs have elastic in them to seal out drafts, it's not very tight fitting if you have thin wrists. Therefore it's best to wear the jacket with gautlet gloves if your hands get cold easily.
While the wrist cuffs have elastic in them to seal out drafts, they’re not very tight-fitting. It’s best to wear the jacket with gauntlet style gloves if your hands get cold easily.

While there is elastic around the wrist cuffs, it is rather loose and less effective in retaining warmth. If you’re hiking in very cold weather, I’d recommend you wear gauntlet style gloves with this jacket to help seal in the heat and keep your wrists warm.

Non-Adjustable Hood

The Ultralight 850 does not have an adjustable hood, which is typical of many down jackets in its price range. There’s an elastic ring around the face but that’s it. There aren’t any cords to make the opening smaller, no brim, and no rear adjustment to shrink the hood volume if you have a small head. When fully zipped, the jacket will just cover your chin. While you can work around these issues by wearing a balaclava, a buff, or a scarf, the Ultralight 850 would be a much better jacket if it had a way to cinch down the size of the hood opening to provide better heat retention and wind protetion.

Pertex 20 Denier Shell

The Ultralight 850 has a 20 denier windproof Pertex shell coated with a DWR coating. This is thicker and heavier than more technical jackets that use a 7 or 10 denier fabric thickness, but it is much more durable and less prone to puncture by gear with sharp points. I’ve ripped up enough down coats on ice axes and crampons to know.

Sewn Through Construction

The goose down in the Ultralight 850 is held in place using a technique called sewn-through construction where the outer fabric is sewn to the inner one, creating a space in between the seams to hold the goose down in place. It’s a popular manufacturing process used in lighter weight jackets because it’s easy and less expensive than other techniques.

Sewn through constructions means there will be cold spots at the seams.
Sewn through construction means there will be cold spots at the seams.

However, sewn-through construction can result in compression and loss of loft along the seams of a jacket where the down is pinched together. The alternative, called boxed baffling is warmer, more expensive, and used more frequently in heavier, parka-sized jackets.

Pocket Distribution

The Ultralight 850 has two large zippered side pockets and a left zippered chest pocket with an ear bud port on the inside of the jacket. There’s a large mesh pocket above the hem on the right hand side of the jacket, good for stashing gloves or a face mask, and a zippered stash pocket on the left, with a built in stuff sack.

The Ultralight 850 hooded jacket stuffs into a pocket for storage and includes a gear loop which can be attached to a harness or carabiner.
The Ultralight 850 hooded jacket stuffs into a pocket for storage and includes a gear loop which can be attached to a harness with a carabiner.

The stuff sack  includes a gear loop which can be attached to a harness with a carbiner, a nice touch for climbers.

Jacket Weight and Down Fill

The LL Bean Ultralight 850 weighs 18.7 ounce s in a size men’s XL. A size men’s MEDIUM contains 3.76 ounces of 850 fill power goose down, with more proprtionately for larger sizes.

While it is hard to pin down exactly how heavy  the Ultralight 850 is in comparison to other midweight down jackets or parkas because manufacturers don’t publish the weights of different sized jackets, the Ultralight 850 has more high quality down by weight (in a size medium) than many of the other hooded jackets in its price range.

Assessment

The LL Bean Ultralight 850 Hooded Down Jacket strikes a good compromise between a very warm goose down jacket that can be used for winter hiking and recreation and a coat that you can wear around town, to school, or work. I like it because it’s a lot warmer than the other lightweight down and synthetic jackets I own, but I can still hike in it without sweating. While the hood is not as technical as other down jackets in its price range, the Ultralight 850 Hooded Down Jacket has quickly turned into my favorite outer layer for hiking in temperatures between 20 degrees and -10 below zero. I think this jacket is a great all around value and hope LL Bean builds on its success.

Manufacturer Specs

  • Filled with 3.76 ounces (size men’s medium) of 850 fill power DownTek water resistant down
  • Pertex 20 denier shell with water resistant DWR coating
  • Climbing helmet compatible
  • Media storage pocket with headphone port
  • Zippered handwarmer pockets
  • Drop tail and hem cord locks to prevent drafts up the back and seal in heat
  • Elastic cuffs and hood
  • Internal stowaway pocket doubles as stuff sack
  • Weight 18.7 ounces in a Men’s XL

Disclosure: LL Bean provided Philip Werner with a sample Ultralight 850 Hooded Down Jacket for this review. 

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13 comments

  1. I just received this jacket for Christmas. And I really like it. I agree with the loose cuff issue. One of the things I really like about this jacket is that the arms are long enough for me. I have very long arms and this is the first jacket it does not ride halfway up my forearms when I raise my arms. This is an awesome jacket for the price. And you also get the great L.L. Bean warranty.

  2. Worth noting is that LL Bean makes this jacket (and many others) in TALL. I am 6’4″ and find LL Bean to be one of the companies that make tall clothing that fits.

  3. Great Review Phillip and based on your review I am going to order one for a family member since the LL Bean jacket I bought so many years ago is still keeping me warm.. come payday since I hate to use a charge card…

  4. I’m looking for a light weight highly compressible down jacket to carry in my 18 litre day pack for lunch breaks. Do you think this is sufficient, or can you recommend something else? Our average day time hiking temperature is 0 F (-18 C), and I’m comfortable hiking in a Marmot soft shell for wind, a micro base layer and a mid layer

    • I thought this was a comment made by me and then I totally thought I was losing my mind because I don’t remember lol.

      Anyway…if you are looking for a down jacket that works below 0 degrees and want one on the cheap, I just recently got the REI Co-op brand down jacket. It doesn’t have a hood, so it is meant more as a mid-layer than a full-on outer parka. But it packs much smaller as it doesn’t have as much fabric. The appeal for me was that it was under $100, not like most down jackets that can be double or triple that cost.

      http://www.rei.com/product/878092/rei-co-op-down-jacket-mens

      It really is a killer deal. The only complaint I have is that I wish the bottom had a draw string at the hem so I can cinch it down a bit to keep the drafty wind from coming up my back. It also runs a bit small so I ordered a size larger than I normally do. But I’ve worn it in temps down to -10F, -25F wind chill.

    • This would be a sufficient. I snowshoed this morning with it. 3 degrees above zero at the trail head with a -25 wind chill.

  5. This review came in the very day that I was dropping off this jacket at UPS to return to LL Bean. I’m a long time customer and fan of LL Bean, but in the 4 weeks or so that I’ve had this jacket, I’ve been wavering back and forth. To me, its just not a warm jacket. I have their 2012 or 2013 non-hooded, 850 fill (non-Downtek) version of this jacket, which I love. I bought this one as I wanted the option of a hood. Just wearing it around town gave me a nagging suspicion that it was not as warm as the earlier version. I had the same experience on back to back day hikes . I know that there may variations in the shell material, but the hooded 2014 version of the jacket weighs less than the earlier non-hooded one. Based on perceived warmth differences, I’m attributing some of this difference to the 2014 having less fill. I prefer my EMS Icarius hooded down jacket. Its an 800 fill Downtek with a DWR shell. It has more alpine fit with slightly better elastic at the cuffs and a truly adjustable hood. Its currently a steal at $132 on EMS’ site. I had the Bean jacket in Large Tall (LT), but the EMS Large sleeve length is 35″, the same as the Bean LT. The back length on the EMS is actually longer than the Bean. I’ll continue to love LL Bean, but this just wasn’t for me.

  6. I have the non-hooded version (2013) in L Tall (for butt coverage) – bought on deep sale and used GCs for a sweet price. I think the cut of the jacket is a little boxy and roomy, when compared to something like the MHW Kelvinator (got at REI Garage Sale for $65).

    The non-hooded is a good coat, but I just wish it fit a bit better. Maybe having a hood would be grand as well.

    John – intersting note about it being lighter and not as warm as others.

    Phil – What temps/conditions do you usually wear this in? How about the conditions in the photo? Basically, what the upper temp. limit of this jacket, before you’ll need to take it off?

  7. I’m not entirely sure this is supposed to be a standalone piece of outerwear. My understanding is that it is meant to be layered with a hardshell. You will lose some warmth just from the wind blowing through the fabric. Think of it like a lightweight hooded sweatshirt

  8. I have the version without the hood and this is certainly a warm jacket for its light weight. One time while walking through the woods the sky opened up and it poured down rain at about 34 F. Took me about half an hour to get back home but water was beading up and rolling right off the jacket.

    If I have any complaint it would be the mid section is a bit too large and I have to say some of the comments on the LLBean website regarding tears in the fabric – worry me a bit. Although I think the jacket should last for a long time by either hand washing or keeping the machine on “delicate.” I line dry all my technical gear as I figure it gets enough of a workout on the trails.

  9. I like the coat. Light weight and warm. Not sorry I purchased it. Picked it up on sale in the LL Bean Outlet for $139.00 North Conway NH. No tax. I would rate it 4 out of 5 only because LL Bean rates this jacket at -25. They should not do that.

    I went to a football game today. Had my BSA lightweight wind breaker over this coat. It kept me warn at 40 degrees with 30mph winds so the real feel was 29 degrees. I had a base layer shirt with a tee under the jacket. It created a nice micro climate. Hood worked well with a fleese hat and the winderbreaker hood. I would say the jacket is good for 30 degrees as a stand alone jacket. Maybe 0 with the right extras.

    Drawbacks with the hood and no drawstring. Overall a good investment at the price for one lightweight jacket. The pillow pocket is a cool feature. I will use this on the trail.

    Scouts Out.

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