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LL Bean Primaloft Superlight Jacket Review

The chest only insulation in the LL Primaloft Superlight Jacket is perfect for highly aerobic activities like cross country skiing and snowshoeing
The chest only insulation in the LL Primaloft Superlight Jacket is perfect for highly aerobic activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing

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.)

The hood is non-adjustable and cut large
The hood is non-adjustable and cut large

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.

LL Bean Primaloft Superlight Jacket - Underarm Vents
LL Bean Primaloft Superlight Jacket – Underarm Vents

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 ( with a sample jacket for this review. 

Updated 2018.

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  1. As always, whether I am interested in buying the subject product or not, I appreciate reading your honest opinion. Thanks.

  2. No tall sizes, but it looks pretty long on you. I may swing by there and check it out. Looks like something i can gift myself for tax refund.

  3. Very interesting jacket, highly specific for a precise activity but could be just the ticket for its’ purposes.

  4. Interesting…I’m not sure it has a place in my clothing rotation, but I get the concept. I already have a down insulated vest, and other insulating layers that I wear for high-output activities. Seems redundant, but I can definitely see the appeal in some situations.

    At least the price is very reasonable. I’ve come to expect good gear at good prices from LL Bean. Not always the lightest or most packable gear since they were never really targeted towards ultralight backpackers, but they are definitely coming along with innovations like this.

    • I’m a real convert to LL Bean gear. Good pricing, light weight, heavy on value. They also really ‘get’ the move to lighter weight backpacking gear and have stuff in the pipeline that will blow you away.

      • Oh, they definitely have great value in the brand. Historically lightweight was not always one of the key points of LL Bean, as they used to focus primarily on urban outdoor gear and car camping equipment. I’d say their trend towards lightweight backpacking gear has really picked up only in the last 3 years or so at least from my outside observation.

    • I suspect that most UL hikers don’t ski (by definition they don’t carry warm gear for winter, at least not on the east coast)

  5. Looks like it’s on sale, today only, for $68.99 with free shipping

  6. Looks like this jacket is discontinued. Too bad. I was interested.

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