Rational Preparedness

The Best of Mountain Hardwear Parkas

Mountain Hardear Men's Absolute Zero

When looking at the men’s Canada Goose Expedition Parka (Review), on the Backcountry website, I discovered mountain hardwear.  It’s another brand of parka worn in Antarctica by National Geographic Explorers.  I decided to take a closer look at the brand and named it one of my top parka brands for survival.  Mountain Hardwear does not have the same parka for men as it does for women.  They have similar enough design elements that I’ll look at them together.  The Men’s parka earned a score of 9.25 and the women’s a slightly higher 9.375, for styling.  Both Parkas took a hit for the shell design.  The two parkas are:

The Men’s Parka is the Mountain Hardwear Men’s Absolute Zero Parka – Backcountry  – Amazon

The Mountain Hardwear Downhill Down Parka – Women’s – Backcountry – Amazon


Mountain Hardware Table

Companion Article

Remember, all of my coat reviews refer back to a companion article, where I talk about my experience with the cold.  There I talked about what that experience has taught me and what to look for in a Parka.  Also, why you need a parka.

Why Everyone Needs A Survival Parka and What You Should Look For



Design Elements


Mountain Hardwear Mens Absolute Zero Down Parka Dry Q shellBoth coats took a hit for shell design.  The shell is made out of a windproof and water resistant, breathable material.  I like that.  It’s their own brand of material called Dry Q.  The problem with the shell is that it is not a separate layer from the insulation housing.  You can see the quilting in it.  I believe this is less rugged as it provides one less layer of protection for the down.  It’s one less layer to keep water out, because no material is perfectly water proof.

The layer also has to be a thin enough material to be quilted.  The quilting must be sealed in the same way that seams are sealed, to prevent leaks.   Every quilting stitch is a hole in the fabric.  Both coats got a 7/10 for shell design.  These coats do have an added protection for their down though.  See the insulation section below.

Draw Cords

The men’s Absolute Zero parka has an adjustable hem that can be adjusted with gloves on.  Two giant thumbs up for that.  The women’s Downhill parka has a removable snow skirt.  Both systems will keep wind from blowing up the parka and robbing you of built up heat. They both earn 10s for their design.


The parkas have elastic cuffs that can fit inside your gloves.  This means it can keep out wind and snow, without you having to don giant gauntlets.  The Women’s parka has adjustable cuffs.  Both earn 10s for this.  Neither cuff has exposed Velcro that can stick to an unzipped zipper flap Velcro.

Zipper / Closing

At first glance the women’s Downhill parka does not have a flap covering the zipper.  That’s not true though.  It does have a flap.  The flap is inside the coat, instead of outside the coat.  This is purely a cosmetic decision and it makes no difference if it is inside or outside.  When the coat is closed, you can see the zipper.  It’s the only coat, in the series, where that is true.

Both of these parkas have a relatively small zipper flap compared to all of the other parkas in this series.  I suspect there may be a bit of leakage in these flaps, if there was a high wind.  They both got dinged a point for having small flaps.  They earned 9/10 for zipper design.






These parkas have more insulation than the Ultimate Survival Parka All Other Parkas Hope To Live Up To.  They didn’t earn any extra points for it though.  This is because I believe there is a law of diminishing returns.  Once you get up over 600 fill, you start to just add bulk to the coat.  These coats save on some fo that bulk by not having a double layer shell, so I don’t think they are too bulky to be practical.  The men’s with its 800 fill is noticeably bulky though.  The women’s with its 700 fill is amazingly not bulky.  Both Parkas earned 10 out of 10 here.  None of the other parkas beat them.

Q Shield Down: Down must be kept dry or it does not work.  The down in these parkas is treated with a protective layer, on the microscopic level, to keep it working, even if it gets moist.

Insulation coverage

None of the parkas in this series have the problem my London Fog parkas has, with the big gap down the middle of the down insulation.  They all have down that gets about as close to the zipper as you can get it.  The down also goes all the way to the bottom of the coat.  As I’ll say again below, it is in the hood, and in the neck too.  The men’s parka could be a bit longer but it is still long enough to be considered a parka and not a jacket.

See How Mountain Hardwear Stacks Up Against Other Top Parkas

What Are The Top Parkas To Survive a Cold Weather Emergency?


Hood and Neck Design

Mountain Hardwear Mens Absolute Zero Down Parka Hood up


The parkas have hoods and necks that are designed to completely cover the head and neck.  Both cover as much of the face as a parka probably can.  Both rap your head and neck in down.  As I said in the companion article, this is far superior to any combination of hat and scarf your may come up with.  No wind is getting in there and the insulation is better too.

Like the Expedition Parka The women’s Downhill Down Parka has a fleece liner in the neck, making it more comfortable.  The men’s Absolute Zero has an interesting design.  It doubles up on the face covering.  It has a high neck and it has a hood flap, similar to that of my London Fog coat that you can see at the to and bottom of the companion article.   This feature makes for superior face coverage.  It also makes the hood a bit awkward to use if you don’t need the full protection of closing it down all the way.  For me, I just wear a nit hat and scarf when I don’t need the hood.  Then I take those off fro extreme weather and just wear a thin hat with a neoprene mask in it.

Both of the hoods have set-it-and-forget-it cords.  The men’s has a draw cord in the back for adjusting it so that it doesn’t fall down on your eyes.  I don’t see that on the women’s.  Maybe I should have dinged it for that.



All of these Survival Parkas are big and bulky.  Remember that I’m rating them against their peers and not all coats on the market.  The women’s Downhill is surprisingly well shaped for a 700 fill parka.  It has a feminine curve to it, which is both functional and looks nice.  It’s functional because it keeps the parka close to the body, so it doesn’t have lung action pumping out all your warm air as you move.  It gets extra points for that.  Her coat comes in 3 colors.  My tendency would be to shy away from white because of keeping it clean for many years of wear.  Also white would be less visible in a snow storm and not absorb heat from the sun.

The men’s parka is bright orange or a kind of drab grey.  The grey color seams a bit like the color of a navy ship or air force jet. Though it is a bit darker.  If you want to blend in, grey might be good.  If you want to be found in a potential rescue situation, the bright orange parka would be better.

I gave the women’s parka a 9 in aesthetics because of it’s shape.  The men’s earned an 8 because of its colors and because of it’s extra puffy appearance.

Other Design Elements of Note

Women’s downhill parka has armpit zipper vents.  This is a feature I’d like to see in every survival parka.  It’s rare enough that I didn’t make it a mandatory feature.  If more of them did, I would make it so.  Having these zippers allows the coat to be vented, at one of the hottest parts of your body and at a place where you may be sweating.  It’s a great feature that will allow the parka to be worn longer as the mercury begins to climb a bit in mid day.

Other Women’s Mountain Hardwear parkas:

There are 4 women’s parkas that I considered. Why did I pick the Mountain Hardwear Downhill Down Parka over the others?  You’ve seen what this coat has.  Below I’ll quickly list what lead me away from these parkas.

Mountain Hardwear Thermacity Insulated Parka –  No down, Low Neck.  No elastic cuffs.
Mountain Hardwear Downtown Down Coat – Close contender for top parka.  Lower neck than the downhill and no elastic cuffs.
Mountain Hardwear Nitrous Hooded Down Parka – This coat only comes in white (stains) and horrible gold grey.  It also has a lower neck and no elastic cuffs.

Average Score

Both coats earned scores in the 9s.  9.25 for men and 9.375 for women.  The women’s was slightly higher because it came out ahead in Aesthetics.  If you like these coats, they are a good choice for surviving in the winter.  Whether you are stuck in the snow with your car, or you are just walking downtown in the north; you’ll want something to keep you warm and safe.  You want something that you can be outside in, for an extended time, when heat just isn’t available.  These parkas fill that bill very well.


The Men’s Parka is the Mountain Hardwear Men’s Absolute Zero Parka – Backcountry  – Amazon

The Mountain Hardwear Downhill Down Parka – Women’s – Backcountry – Amazon


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