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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > MontBell Alpine Light Down Vest > Test Report by Chuck Carnes

A L P I N E   L I G H T
Down Vest

Initial Report: January 15, 2010
Field Report: May 11, 2010
Long Term Report: July 22, 2010

Biographical Information
Name: Chuck Carnes
Age: 40
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight: 175 lbs (79 kg)
E-mail Address: ctcarnes AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country: Greenville, South Carolina, USA
Backpacking Background
I love the outdoors – I’ve spent time camping in the outdoors since I was born, and have been actively hiking and backpacking since then. I consider myself a lightweight hiker, usually carrying 20 – 30 pounds (9-13 kg) for hikes up to a week in length. I hike at an easy pace, averaging 2 mph (3 kph). I am a one-man tent camper for now. I like to carry a single trekking pole when I hike to help relieve stress to my legs and knees. I like to get out on the trail as often as I can.

I N I T I A L    R E P O R T
January 15, 2010
Manufacturer: Montbell
Model: Alpine Light Down Vest
Size: Large
Color: Olive Green

Year of manufacture: 2009

Listed Weight: 8.5 oz. (241 g.) (sized Medium)
Actual Weight: 9.3 oz. (264 g.) (sized Large)

MSRP: $130.00 (USD)

The Montbell Alpine Light Down Vest is a three piece vest with horizontal baffles filled with 800 fill goose down. The outside shell is a 30 denier ballistic nylon for great wind protection. The vest has elastic arm holes and an elastic hem. The fabric inside the collar is a micro-fleece fabric which is a nice feel up against the neck and face and is 2.5 in (6.3 cm) tall. The vest also has two outside pockets as well as two inside pockets. The vest also comes with its own stuff sack.

I couldn't believe that there was anything in the box that I received from Montbell. I knew what was in it but it felt like nothing was in it. I pulled the Alpine Light Down Vest from the protective plastic bag, held it up and just gazed at the quality. This is my first piece of Montbell attire and it is certainly a great piece of work. After I let the vest hang out for a while I put it on to check the size. I requested a size large and that is what I received. To me, it fit perfect. I know that I will be using it mainly as a mid-layer and so I didn't want it to lose, I wanted it a little snug.

The fit is close enough so that the material is close to my body but not tight enough that the down is compressed. The elastic arm holes fit good around my shoulders and the bottom elastic hem fits good around my waist. The rear length from the bottom of the collar to the elastic hem is 25 in. (64 cm.). My torso is about 20 in. (51 cm.) so the length fit pretty good. If this was going to be used more for an outer shell, I would want the hem to be a little longer but as it is, it comes down just below the belt line.

The vest does come with two outside hand warmer pockets which at first I really thought the pockets wouldn't keep my hands warm because there is not any insulation on the body side of the pocket but only on the outside side of the pocket, therefore only insulating the top side of the hand. After getting out in the cold snow the day I tried it on and not wearing any gloves, I have changed my mind, these pockets did keep my hands nice and toasty.

The micro-fleece lined collar is a nice touch. It felt great on my neck and face when the collar was flipped up. The loft of the down in the baffles really makes this vest warm even with out sleeves. As I wore the vest around a bit, I only had a cotton long sleeved shirt on with the vest. My arms did get a little cold but my chest and back was very warm. Thanks to the elastic hem and arm holes, the cold air could not enter the chest or back area.

Overall, I really like the vest. I am anxious to use it as a mid-layer for really cold days and even as an outer layer on just chilled days with maybe a sweat shirt underneath.

F I E L D    R E P O R T
May 11, 2010

Area: Kings Mountain State and Federal Park, Kings Mountain, North Carolina
Temperature: 45 F to 70 F (7 C to 39 C) during the day. 30 F to 35 F (16 C to 20 C) at night
Elevation: 1,200 ft (366 m)
Conditions: Mild, slight wind but no rain

I enjoyed this trip with the Montbell Alpine Light Down Vest. I knew the temperatures were going to be just right for the vest. I packed it in its own stuff sack and carried it in my bag. This was a scout outing that we did for two nights. The vest came in handy on the evening that we arrived. The sun had gone down and the chill of the air had set in. During camp set up I always get hot as I have to help the other scouts get their gear and get it set up. A lot of moving around is required and the vest let me do that freely without getting over heated. After the set up I usually start to cool down and again the vest worked great. I was able to throw on a fleece top and I was nice and warm.

During the morning time there was frost on the tents and this was a great time to enjoy my coffee while staying warm with the vest. I was extremely surprised with the hand warmer pockets. I never would have thought that they would keep my hands warm. My hands get so cold in the mornings and a lot of times, gloves don't even help. The hand warmer pockets were very nice to slip my hands in for a quick warm up.

Area: Star Fort Ninety Six National Historic Site, Ninety Six, South Carolina
Temperature: 65 F to 80 F (36 C to 44 C) during the day. 40 F to 50 F (22 C to 27 C) at night
Elevation: 980 ft (299 m)
Conditions: Clear, no wind and no rain

I wasn't sure how much I would be able to wear the vest on this trip since it was going to be warm during the days. This was another scout trip for two nights out by a lake. I brought it along with me because I knew the nights and evenings would be cool with any wind that might come off the lake. The evening and nights proved to be clear and cold. I wore the vest the whole time from sun down to sun up. On this trip I even wore it sleeping. It's amazing what a light down vest will do to the body warm. I always thought vests were useless with no sleeves but Montbell has proved me wrong.

I stayed completely warm the entire evenings. And what made it nice was being able to leave it on even during a morning hike. I took a very small pack and the vest didn't make me sweat at all. The temperature was a mild 68 F (37 C) during the hike and the vest never made me feel uncomfortable. I was worried that I might pick the fabric on a branch or something so I was very careful not to brush into anything that was protruding into the trail.

So far I am very pleased with the Montbell Alpine Down Vest. It has kept me warm when I needed that little bit of warmth but it has also kept me from overheating during certain activities that a normal jacket or heavy mid layer would do. I really like how small it packs up so it makes it easy to just throw it in a pack even if it may not be needed, but I know it's there. Spring has arrived and we are still having cool mornings and evenings and hopefully I will still get some usage for the Long Term Report. 

L O N G   T E R M    R E P O R T
July 22, 2010

Area: Table Rock State Park, Pickens, South Carolina
Temperature: 70 F to 85 F (21 C to 29 C) during the day. 45 F to 60 F (7 C to 15 C) at night
Elevation: 1,000 ft (305 m)
Conditions: Cloudy, slight breeze and no rain

Spring came pretty quick this year and this Table Rock trip was my last ditch effort to get some more time in with the Alpine Vest. I certainly didn't get to use it during the day but I did have it on at night and first thing in the morning as the sun rose. With the cloud cover and a slight breeze, the temperature reading was low but the 'real feel' was a little bit cooler and therefore it gave me opportunity to wear the vest.

I wore it during the evenings as we were settling down after dinner and just hanging out in camp. The great part about the vest is that it's just so light, I hardly felt that it was on. This made it nice to be able to wear even if I didn't 'need' to wear it but I knew I wouldn't get chilled. To me the best part about a vest is that the arms are free to move around and they don't feel constricted. Especially around camp when doing chores and such, the arms are working and I don't feel like I need to cover them up because they don't get cold. Now once I settle down, I do start to feel a chill and that is usually when I put on a mid-layer under the vest to give some warmth to the arms.

It was nice to have the vest for that early morning sunrise, where there is still a chill in the air and the dew on the ground makes it seem even colder. Here I only had a lightweight long sleeve tee shirt with the vest over it. Again, just having the vest on kept my core nice and warm. The hand warmer pockets are always nice on those cold, chilly mornings and evenings.

Overall I have been very pleased with the Montbell Alpine Light Down Vest. Although the fabric feels very delicate and would make one want to be very careful around trees and limbs and other protruding objects that might snag the fabric, being aware of the surroundings would be crucial. The micro-fleece inside the collar is a great touch to the vest. For me the collar stayed in the up position the whole time I wore it so it was nice to have that soft feel on my neck and face. I never saw an escaping feather or loose thread the whole time. The durability of the fabric, inside and out, has withstood a good bit of wearing. I have certainly made a new winter friend with the Alpine Vest. 

This concludes this test series
Thank you Montbell and for this opportunity.

Read more gear reviews by Chuck Carnes

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > MontBell Alpine Light Down Vest > Test Report by Chuck Carnes

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