Gear review: the Marmot Ama Dablam down jacket

I purchased the Marmot Ama Dablam jacket late this winter, just a few weeks before my (first) trip to Canada this ice season. I was so psyched to have found it in my size, in a cute color, AND on sale for more than 50% off at REI. Now to be honest I didn’t *really* need a new puffy coat. I had a perfectly acceptable puffy coat that my husband had bought for me years and years ago. I really only wear a puffy coat while belaying, so it wasn’t as if it had worn out or anything like that. It’s just that it was black. Blah. Everything my husband buys for me is always black, mainly because that’s the color/size combo that is on sale (he never buys clothing at full price, and as a result always resembles a ninja). Since I like to show my ninja skills in other ways I wanted something more fun. I had seen the Ama Dablam in the ice park last year in all kinds of pretty shades and had been coveting one ever since. I loved the octagonal pattern of the coat as well, so when I ‘accidentally’ saw it available at REI for such a steal AND in ‘Tahoe Blue’ I snatched it up.

The 'old' black puffy coat. I'm the goon on the right not looking at the camera. Photo by Dawn Glanc.

I couldn’t have had a better testing ground than the Canadian Rockies in February to put my new puffy to good use. It performed exceptionally well at keeping trapped heat in. It was only when swapping leads and standing at a belay station for a LONG time that I ever really got cold. To be fair the temperature that day was -21C, so it was legitimately chilly out, and on lead belay you obviously aren’t wanting to wiggle around too much to where they feel it on their end!

Wearing the Ama Dablam at the top of Chantilly, after I had just punctured the sleeve with an ice screw 🙁

OK, so about the coat. There are two zippered hand warmer pockets on the front, along with a zippered pocket on the outside of the left sleeve. I was asked if that’s where I kept my cigarettes (?), but really, a good place for stuff you may want access to if you end up wearing the coat UNDER your harness. (Smoking is GROSS by the way!). There is also an internal zippered pocket that doubles as a stuff sack. Really, it’s super cool – one less piece of gear to drop while three pitches up (that stinking stuff sack has almost floated away from me more times than I can count!). I was a bit skeptical about the ability of the entire coat to fit into the internal stuff sack, but indeed it does with a small hook for clipping onto the back of the harness.

Climbing in the Ama Dablam. It was THAT cold. Also, that's how I ended up puncturing it with a screw! Oops.

The front zipper has a nice and cushy protective flap for your chin. I really get rubbed raw from all the high neck zippers on my gear, so I love having a big protective flap on top like on the Ama Dablam to keep my chin feeling good. The best part about the zipper though is that it zips UP from the bottom, so you can really easily get access to your harness while belaying!

The sleeves – while I’d love them to be just an inch longer – have a Velcro cuff and elastic at the bottom that you can easily pull it on over big gloves and then cinch it down to keep heat trapped in. And the hood – oh, the hood – it fit just perfectly over my helmet WITH the front zip all the way at the top. I didn’t lose peripheral vision and there are little adjustment doo-hickeys you can use if you’ve got a small head and need to tighten it back. I seem to have so many ridiculous hoods – they fit over the helmet great, but they are ridiculously huge, floppy, and a hassle to deal with, so I was really psyched on the fit of the Ama Dablam. The coat is a bit longer in the back than in the front – maybe this is good for keeping under a harness? Or maybe it’s just supposed to keep your bum extra warm.

I'm at the bottom belaying in my Ama Dablam as Chicks alumna Dara Miles leads into the Valley of the Birds in the Ghost. I have no idea what kind of coat she is wearing.

As far as durability goes, it seems to be holding up fairly well so far, with the exception of the inner right sleeve which I punctured with an ice screw. How? Well, I don’t normally climb in my puffy coat. But, one day on my last trip – you know the one where it was -21C – I was SO COLD that I didn’t want to take it off, after I had seconded a pitch and was getting ready to lead the final pitch of the day. So up I went – with every single layer of clothing I had on and in the process nicked the jacket enough with a nice sharp screw that has resulted in a puncture wound that spews down. So alas, my first piece of Duck Tape now adorns it; without it I’d surely lose all the down in that section pretty quickly. At least I have purple Duck Tape so it isn’t totally hideous, and I do look a lot more badass (and less newb) that way, right? The Ama Dablam kept some other gals pretty warm too on our cragging day at Haffner, there was no need for it to sit on the ground when there were Chicks ready and willing to keep it warm while belaying 🙂

So all in all, I am a HUGE fan of the Ama Dablam. Fellow Chick Diana had it in purple in Canada too, and really loved hers as well (and the purple is a beautiful color!). Here are the specs on the Ama Dablam from the Marmot page:
– Ultralight Down-proof Fabric
– 800 Fill Power Goose Down
– Attached Adjustable Down-filled Hood
– Zippered Sleeve Pocket
– Inside Zip Stuff Sack Pocket
– Elastic Draw Cord Hem
– Zippered Handwarmer Pockets
– Adjustable Velcro®/Elastic Cuffs
– Angel-Wing Movement™
– Wind Flap Behind Front Zipper – Protects Against Drafts
– Shaped Hem/Dropped Tail

You can check out all the tech-y stuff here.

Yes, Marmot is our main sponsor here at Chicks, but this review was written without influence about a jacket I purchased with my own hard-earned money. So it’s REAL. I can’t wait to take this pretty puffy on another trip to Canada in just a few days (!!!!!!), although with this unseasonably warm weather I may not be needing it as much!

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