How do you keep a hundred-year-old company cutting edge? Just ask L.L. Bean, one of the original outdoor retail and equipment players.
Through the years, the company has maintained and grown its reputation for customer-service. It stands behind its product, no matter what. Customers have returned 10-year-old sweaters, live Christmas wreaths that turn brown and a shirt ripped by a rescue crew after a car accident. It’s always painless. No questions asked.
For a number of years, though, none of Bean’s products fit into the growing high-tech, performance outdoor gear segment.
No longer. L.L. Bean has changed up its lineup and partnered with professional outdoor athletes, such as Seth Wescott, who field test products and even collaborate with designers on prototypes. The result? Products that re-establish L.L. Bean’s competitive standing in performance outdoor gear. One of those products is the Ultralight 850 Down Sweater.
L.L. Bean 850 Down Jacket Temperature Rating
The jacket is the perfect mid-layer for cold days, or even outer layer for less severe temperatures. It’s as good as any ultralight down layer on the market and more affordable at $179.
The Ultralight is L.L. Bean’s lightest goose down jacket, but don’t let its low profile and minimal weight fool you. The design’s narrow quilt lines ensure even coverage and each row is densely filled with 850-fill down, offering plenty of warmth. And the down is two times better than industry hypoallergenic standards to boot!
L.L. Bean DownTek
DownTek – a special treatment – helps the jacket repel 33% more moisture and dry 66% faster than untreated down. Bean markets it as staying “warm and lofty, even when it’s wet” and, after working up a bit of a sweat on a hike, I’d have to agree.
Most other packable down jackets come with a separate pouch, which I thought was totally acceptable until I tested this jacket. Undoubtedly my favorite feature, it packs into its own pocket. When traveling or headed into the backcountry, reducing space, weight and extra items are of the essence. At 10 ounces, this does all three.
The jacket is meant to withstand “hardcore and expedition use” and has the right qualities in place to do so. The nylon shell blocks wind and is water and tear-resistant. And, if for some unlikely reason, the jacket doesn’t hold up – even if it’s because you’re abnormally hard on gear – you’ve got the 100% satisfaction guarantee to fall back on.
The bottom line is that, at its price point, the L.L. Bean Ultralight’s ($199) quality really can’t be beat. It’s as warm and comparable in design to others on the market, though a bit boxier in fit and heavier (though the few ounces will only matter if you’ve got a serious adventure ahead). If you’re shopping around for a packable, light down, it’s a great investment.