First Impressions

L.L. Bean – the venerable outdoor brand from Maine – is not necessarily the first company you think of when looking for cutting-edge technical apparel. And frankly, we were pleasantly surprised to find L.L. Bean to be one of the few to deliver hydrophobic down jackets this year. The company’s Ultralight 850 Jacket is a more traditional-looking puffy that employs 850-fill-power down that’s treated with a water repellent from DownTek.


Like I said, the Ultralight 850 Jacket has that traditional down parka look despite the fact that it employs one of the most innovative insulations on the market. The manufacturer of DownTek – Down Décor – coats the down clusters with a proprietary water repellent designed to keep you dry and add to the durability of the product.

Building on that platform, L.L. Bean adds a number of nice features to the parka. On the exterior, L.L. Bean places three pockets, two handwarmers and one napoleon pocket on the upper left chest. All the pockets are lined with a soft fleece to keep the digits warm and protect items like sunglasses.

Fabric: Ripstop nylon
Insulation: DownTek down
Weight: 16 oz

On the interior, L.L. Bean adds two additional pockets. The first, on the lower right side is a large mesh pocket perfect for goggles. Located on the lower left is a zippered pocket that doubles as the jacket’s storage pouch. L.L. Bean uses YKK zippers throughout, all with convenient pull tabs for easy gripping.


The two GearGuide questions: first, how does it literally fit; and second, how fit is it for the task? In other words, does the product live up to its marketing.

On the first item, the Ultralight 850 Jacket is designed as an outer layer and fits like one. It’s large enough to accommodate both a base and mid-layer underneath. If you are looking for something more akin to a down sweater, you probably want to try something like the Sierra Designs Gnar Lite or Patagonia Down Sweater. But if you want a more straightforward and warm jacket, you won’t go wrong with the L.L. Bean Ultralight 850.

On the second question, the Ultralight 850 performed well in our laboratory test, showing no seepage from exterior moisture into the interior. In the real world test, we saw some limited seepage around the seams after roughly 10 minutes of exposure to light rain. That moisture, however, did not penetrate the down nor into the interior of the jacket, partially because of the jacket liner which is not stitched through from the exterior.

Final Verdict

L.L. Bean built a very service-able product in the Ultralight 850 Jacket. The DownTek and durable water repellent applied by L.L. Bean to the jacket’s exterior performed well in our tests. The company includes a series of nicely thought-out features, with a built-in storage pouch, goggle pocket and more. At under $180 MSRP, the Ultralight 850 is the bargain standout in the category.

Find the Ultralight 850 at L.L. Bean.

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide. And thanks to L.L. Bean for providing product for this review.