The LL Bean Primaloft Superlight Jacket is a lightweight hooded insulated jacket, perfect for winter hiking, cross-country skiing, and other highly aerobic winter sports. Insulated just over the front chest and sides, and not on the back or arms, it’s a kind of a cross between a lightweight insulated vest and a hooded wind breaker.
Weighing just 7.1 ounces in a men’s XL, the Primaloft Superlight Jacket is not featureless like so many other lightweight minimalist garments. It has three zippered pockets, two on either side of the torso and one large chest pocket. There are also small holes in the armpits to vent perspiration and elastic wrist cuffs to seal out wind. Unfortunately the hood is non-adjustable and ski-helmet sized, so of less utility if you’re out in a brisk wind or have a smaller head (like me.)
From a layering standpoint, I’ve found the Primaloft Superlight Jacket good for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when worn over a heavy wool baselayer. I’m working hard in both of those cases and generating a lot of body heat, which is easily dissipated by the jacket so I don’t have to worry as much about sweat buildup. The jacket also provides good freedom of motion in the arms and shoulders while provided excellent wind protection when I leave the protection of the forest and ski or snowshoes in the open or above treeline.
In terms of breathability, perspiration is easily vented by the underarm vents and the surface of the back and arms through the thin nylon shell. The Primaloft Active Silver synthetic insulation is also specially formulated for enhanced breathability. However, your sweat will discolor the jacket with use, so it’s best to wash it periodically. Care is relatively easy: wash in cold water with similar colors and tumble dry on low.
While the Primaloft Superlight Jacket provides good wind protection, it’s not very water-resistant, and light or freezing rain will quickly soak the hood and arms. This jacket is really meant for use in dry weather when you want a bit more front insulation. It’s also great for wearing with a backpack because your pack provides plenty of insulation as it covers your back.
With 40 grams of Primaloft Silver Active insulation, the LL Bean Primaloft Superlight Jacket is roughly equivalent to a 100 weight fleece in terms of warmth, at least where the insulation lies over your chest and sides. It’s better than a fleece however because provides better range of motion for your arms in addition to better breathability and wind resistance. While you can layer this jacket under a shell or wear it casually in warmer weather, it really excels when performing highly aerobic activities in close to freezing temperatures from 20 up to about 35 degrees fahrenheit.
Disclosure: LL Bean provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample jacket for this review.