Montane is a relatively young British company that makes me proud to live here. Founded just 18 years ago it has enjoyed a rapid rise to success by producing well-built outdoor clothing that works. It has a great reputation here and the success story is spreading far and wide.
My first Montane garments were in 2010 when I bought a waterproof Atomic Jacket and trousers, plus an Anti Freeze jacket. These were obtained solely for use during my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike and performed brilliantly. I have them now and still use them.
I tend to make do with a poncho for thu-hiking at the moment but a warm jacket is pretty much a necessity for some trips. The Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails go up to around 14,000 feet where it can get pretty chilly, not to mention some very cold nights during the desert section on both trails. Down lends itself to colder, alpine climates and drier conditions. It doesn’t do so well in wet or damp conditions unless the outer fabric has an element of protection against moisture, or there is a water repellent coating on the surface.
There are down products on the market now using Hydrophobic down which, apparently, has a superior resistance to wetter conditions. I have yet to try one of these but hear good things. The Anti Freeze does not use hydrophobic down but deals with moisture through a Pertex Microlight outer shell which does have an impressive track record in wetter climes. It is claimed windproof and will handle light rain but not for prolonged periods. You would need to couple it with an outer waterproof layer to be sure during inclement weather.
Zip baffle keeps out the drafts
The Anti Freeze contains 170gr of 90 / 10 750+ Fill Power down which has been humanely sourced. 750 Fill Power was considered as good as it gets even just a couple of years ago. Things have moved along in the down field and just recently Montbell announced an unbelievable 1000 Fill Power jacket which moved the goal posts somewhat. 750+ has therefore moved down a notch but is still an excellent filling, being a good mix of weight and insulation. The lower the fill power the less insulation it provides for the weight but subsequently will be cheaper. Generally speaking, fill power refers to the amount of space 1 ounce of down will occupy in cubic inches. For example, 1 ounce of 600 fill power will occupy 600 cubic inches. The higher the loft, or fill power, the more area it takes up making the higher fills which are more ‘fluffy’, more capable of holding air and therefore offer more warmth for the weight.
Montanes claimed weight is 400gr / 14.1 oz. Actual weight on my scales is: 428gr / 15.1 oz (both based on size medium). This is not a jacket I would consider for thu-hiking because although it is light, it is not light enough for my needs; weight saving on long hikes means any insulating jacket I took would need to be in the 200gr to 300 gr range (7 to 10.6 oz), and if there is an option below 200 gr that I think would do the job then I’d consider it. Yes, arguably depending on the fill power, the lightest jacket such as the Mont Bell would not be as warm but I would deal with this by wearing a couple of base layers and if those weren’t enough then I’d be in my sleeping bag. It’s about par for the course from the more popular manufacturers, look at similar offerings from say Rab, Mountain Equipment and the like and they’ll all be in the ball park weight wise and on specs. However, look to the more specialist companies, even the cottage manufacturers now are starting to make down clothing, and lighter weights can be found.
Cuffs are adjusted with velcro
A warm jacket is a must for thru-hiking but we can get away with lighter versions because when we hike we stay warm anyway and when we stop, if it’s too cold, we just get into our sleeping bags. So, they are reserved for an hour or so at the end of the day when setting up camp and first thing in the morning. If the weight compromises warmth then we just add more of the little bits of our other clothing. So, the Anti Freeze would lend itself more, for me at least, to maybe one night’s camp somewhere where weight is not too much of a concern, maybe even a two or three nighter.
However, the Montane would score well in the durability area. New downs on the market at the 1000 Fill Power, or just under, will possibly suffer a limited lifespan. Incredibly light they may be but they are not as durable as the 600 to 800’s. Also, more minimalist thru-hiker specific gear uses materials that are shaved down to the bare minimum to save those excess grams and perhaps will not last as long. The Montane is built to last and it shows.
My old Anti Freeze, now coming up to 4 years old, spent 7 months compressed in a rucksack for the day, occasionally got wet, and went through a variety of temperatures. It also was slept in on colder nights and had to deal with the general roughness and grime through that amount of time in the field. It is still perfectly useable now. So, on the flip side of the coin it does have attributes that would make it suitable for thru-hiking; the durability and lower cost (always a concern) over more specific brands.
Size is an important factor. Some manufacturers sizing is perfect for one, not for another and we all know the brands that fit us well and would perhaps veer towards them. The Montane medium is a perfect fit for me; it is not restricting even when stretching up for example. The back panel is a tad lower than the front of the jacket to keep the lower back covered when bending over. The sleeves stop just where I want them too.
It’s neatly stitched and constructed which is synonymous with Montane and there are some sweet touches. The inside the collar is lined with a fleece material and is pleasant on the skin, it also comes a good way up the neck. A zip collar park prevents that nasty cold zip touching your skin, sometimes us outdoorsy geeks really are wimps. We can go for a 2000 to 3000 hike no problem but deal with a frigid zip on the skin, come on!
Zip Park – Cushty
There’s a decent sized, zipped chest pocket and two hand pockets as well. All the zips have a small puller but it is made from a soft rubber that is easy to grip. There is a baffle behind the main front zip which helps with this weak insulation area and the cuffs are Velcro adjusted. A toggled elastic cord around the jacket bottom helps you adjust for a decent fit.
Montane is available from many outlets in the UK. I am obliged to give you the disclaimer bit here and say that mine was sourced from Nightgear for a review on this blog.