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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > MontBell EX Lt Down Anorak - 2019 > Test Report by Brian Hartman

MONTBELL EX LIGHT DOWN ANORAK
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
October 12, 2019


TESTER INFORMATION

NAME:Brian Hartman
EMAIL:bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE:46
LOCATION:Westfield, Indiana
GENDER:M
HEIGHT:5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT:155 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in the Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Front view


Manufacturer: Montbell
Year of Manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montbell.us/
MSRP: $299 US
Listed Weight: 7.6 oz (215 g)
Measured Weight: 7.6 oz (217 g) Size Medium

Fabric: 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon shell
Fill weight: 3 oz (85 g)
Insulation: 900 Fill Power EX Down 
DWR: Standard DWR treatment
Compressed size: 4.7 x 7.9 in (12 x 20 cm)
Center back length: 28 in (71 cm)

Available Colors: Blue, Grey, Red
Available sizes: S, M, L, XL

Features (as noted on manufacturer's website):
Sewn-thru construction
13.4 in (34 cm) Half zip
2-way adjustable hood
Elastic cuffs
Single non-zippered thru-pocket
Adjustable hem to conserve body heat
Stuff sack included

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

IMAGE 2
Back view

The Montbell EX Light Down Anorak (hereafter called the EX Light, Montbell anorak, or jacket) is an ultra-light, half zip pullover with a DWR finish and non-removable hood.  It is part of Montbell's EX Light product line which, as stated on their website, is for "gram counting trail demons".  The jacket is crazy light at 7.6 oz (215 g) and unbelievably compressible, capable of fitting in a
4.7 x 7.9 in (12 x 20 cm) stuff sack.  Montbell notes that the EX Light anorak was redesigned this year to include a 2-way adjustable hood and a fully insulated tunnel pocket.  In addition to these improvements, the down fill weight was increased to 900 and the jacket's baffle shape was improved to produce greater loft and warmth.  The EX Light has a 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon shell as well as elastic cuffs and an adjustable hem to help retain body heat.  

The EX Light has a half-length zipper, measuring 13.5 in (34 cm), that extends from its neckline to the lower chest area.  The top of the zipper has a chin guard.  The anorak also has left and right-hand pockets that join in the middle to form a through-pocket.  The thru pocket measures 15 x 6 in (38 x 15 cm).  The length of the jacket from neck to waist is 26 in (66 cm) and the waist is 42 in (107 cm).  As I mentioned in the product specifications, the waist features an adjustable hem, via elastic cord and a cord lock, that allows it to be cinched tight to prevent drafts.

The hood is fully adjustable with elastic cord and cord locks on the front and a hook-and-loop adjustment on the back.  The hood can't be removed from the jacket, but it can be cinched down via the cord locks and hook and loop strap.


CARE INSTRUCTIONS AND WARRANTY: Montbell provides care instructions for the EX Light on a label that's sewn inside the jacket.  The label recommends the following procedure for washing and drying the anorak:  Use down specific detergent.  Wash in gentle cycle with cold water and hang to dry.  If using a dryer, tumble dry on low heat.  Do NOT wash frequently.  Washing at the end of the season should be enough.  

Finally, Montbell's warranty covers all defects in materials and workmanship to the original owner for the lifetime of the product.  Montbell will repair or replace the jacket if it ever fails due to a manufacturing defect.














IMAGE 3
Hood
IMAGE 4
Thru-pocket
IMAGE 5
Cuff


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The EX Light arrived at my doorstep in a cardboard box that was so small and light I almost didn't believe there was a winter coat inside.  The anorak looked SHARP in Charcoal Grey and appeared to be very well made.  I couldn't find any flaws, blemishes, or loose threads anywhere, and the stitching was flawless.  The workmanship and attention to detail was obvious.  The anorak is fully insulated with 900 fill down and sports a permanent hood, which is a big plus as far as I'm concerned.IMAGE 6

After thoroughly checking out the anorak, I slipped it on over a mid-weight base layer and it fit really well.  I had enough room in the chest, waist, underarms, and forearms to move around freely and not feel constricted.  For reference, I have a 32 in (81 cm) waist and 39 in (99 cm) chest and ordered a size Medium.  Prior to selection I reviewed Montbell's online sizing chart, comparing my chest and waist dimensions to the body measurements that were listed.  For me, the sizing chart was spot on.

The jacket drapes well and the inner and nylon shell are smooth and soft.  It is however only 7-denier, so I am somewhat concerned about its long-term durability, although Montbell purports it to be "durable enough to withstand the rigors of normal use for an insulated inner piece".  I was originally planning to wear it as an outer layer, but after reading this I think I will wear it as a middle layer, at least when wearing a pack or when it may otherwise be subject to abrasion, such as when I'm hiking off-trail.  I'll keep a watchful eye on it for wear and report back if any down feathers try to escape.

The pockets were roomy and quite warm. So much so that I could easily fit my hands, as well as my cell phone, and other items inside.  Unfortunately, the pockets aren't zippered, so I'll have to be careful not to leave items in there unattended.  

The hood fit well and was easily adjustable.  I'm excited to finally have an insulated hood to keep cold, howling winds at bay.

I went outside for a brief walk this evening with the EX Light.  Skies were overcast and the temperature was 68 F (20 C), so it didn't take long for me to get warm enough that I needed to take it off.  Montbell describes the nylon shell as windproof and I certainly noticed that while wearing the anorak.  Beyond that, I found the anorak very easy to put on and take off, and very comfortable to wear.
                               

SUMMARY

The Montbell EX Light down anorak is well-designed and well-constructed. I really like its large through-pocket, as well as its fully adjustable hood, and waist hem.  This anorak is incredibly lightweight and compressible, and I suspect it will be a great layering piece this winter.  I'm anxious to see how well its DWR coating works and am hoping to give it a thorough test as soon as possible, without putting myself in too much peril.  At minimum I expect it to shed light rain for several minutes, but I'm hoping it provides some greater degree of waterproofness.  As temperatures continue to drop, it won't be long before wearing the EX Light becomes a necessity, and I look forward to backpacking in it during the next several months.




FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the past two months I took the EX Light on three backpacking trips and wore it while biking and on day hikes.  I used it as both a mid and outer-layer jacket during testing, depending on the weather and what I was doing.  

My first overnight trip was for two days to the Hoosier National Forest, Indiana (IN).  Temperatures ranged from 36 to 39 F (2 to 4 C) with moderate winds of 12 to 15 mph (19 to 24 km/h).  Skies were overcast both days while the trails were hilly and muddy from rain earlier in the month.  I hiked approximately 8 mi (13 km) the first day and 5 mi (8 km) the second day and stayed mostly on-trail.  Elevations ranged from 520 to 790 ft (158 – 241 m).  

IMAGE 1

Location: Hoosier National Forest
Type of Trip: Backpacking
Distance: 13 mi (21 km)
Length of Trip: 2 nights
Backpack Weight: 34 lb. (15.4 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Overcast with moderate winds
Precipitation: None
Temperature Range: 36 to 39 F (2 to 4 C)

My second trip was to Northern Ohio in the Mayfield and Hudson areas to visit family.  While there I hiked in the local Metro parks as well as the Cuyahoga National Forest.  Temperatures were slightly cooler on this trip with a high of 35 F (2 C) on the second day.    

Location: N Ohio
Type of Trip: Hiking
Distance: 11 mi (18 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days
Backpack Weight:
28 lb. (13 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy the first two days then clear skies and breezy on day three
Precipitation: 0.25 in (0.6 cm) snow
Temperature Range: 22 to 35 F (-5.5 to 2 C)

My third trip was for three nights to NE Wisconsin (WI).  Daytime temperatures were in the mid 30's F (1.7 C) with a low around 31 F (-0.6 C) and elevations ranged from 570 to 780 ft (174 to 238 m).

Location: Near Francis Creek, WI
Type of Trip: Backpacking
Distance: 18 mi (29 km)
Length of Trip: 3 nights
Backpack Weight:
36 lb. (16 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mist and occasional rain the first two days and clear skies on the third day.
Precipitation: 0.4 in (1 cm)
Temperature Range: 25 to 36 F (-4 to 2 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During Field Testing I used the EX Light as both a mid and outer layer jacket and am pleased with its performance so far.  It saw light rain, snow, moderate winds, and temperatures down to 22 F (-5.5 C), and was warm, comfortable, breathable, and sufficiently durable.  Below are additional details regarding how it fared.

image15     image16

Warmth - Thanks to 900 fill down with excellent loft, the EX Light was sufficient as an outer layer in temperatures down to 45 F (7 C).  I could still wear it below that temperature but needed to hike aggressively to stay warm.  When temperatures reached freezing (32 F or 0 C) I had to wear a shell over the Anorak to stay warm.  Having the hood and adjustable waist cord to keep cold air out, made a big difference.  Without the hood and waist cord I would have been cold much sooner.  Speaking of the hood and elastic waist band, the EX Light did a great job of blocking wind.  Consequently, I never felt chilled even in wind gusting up to 15 mph (24 km/h).  In addition, because the insulation was sewn into baffles and didn't shift, I felt no cold spots.  Finally, the through-pocket allowed me to quickly warm my hands without undoing zippers and because my hands could touch each other they seemed to warm up quicker.  

IMAGE 2
Comfort and fit – The EX Light has a soft outer shell and smooth inner lining that makes it not only comfortable but easy to put on and take off.  The fabric is thin, at 7-denier, and this worries me somewhat, but I have yet to snag it on any tree branches or brush.  In general, when wearing it as an outer layer I tried to stay on-trail to avoid sharp objects that could rip the jacket.  As for fit, the EX Light has plenty of room in the chest, waist, arms and arm pits.  The sizing chart on Montbell's website indicated a Medium would be plenty large for me, and that turned out to be true.  I usually where a long sleeve mid-weight base layer under the Anorak and that seems to be enough most of the time. 

Ventilation / breathability - The Anorak breathed well during Field Testing.  On a few occasions I generated enough body heat that moisture built up inside the jacket, but I never felt sweaty or clammy.  Any moisture that accumulated inside the EX Light during aggressive backpacking quickly evaporated when I opened the zipper and lifted the waist section of the jacket to air out.  Overall, I'd give this jacket an average score in terms of breathability.  

Weather Resistance - As I mentioned above, the EX Light did a very good job of blocking wind.  The elastic around the sleeves and waist helped in that regard, as there was no room for air to come in at the cuffs or the waistline.  The shell did a decent job of shedding water but eventually it started soaking in on the shoulders, arms and sides of the jacket.  I brought a waterproof shell with me on all the trips above and tried to never let the jacket get soaking wet on the outside.  Of course, the EX Light wasn't meant to endure heavy rain or snow, so I stopped short of subjecting it to those conditions.  

Durability - The EX Light held up well during Field Testing.  I was careful to keep it away from tree branches and briars so it didn't get any holes or tears in it, and I haven’t noticed any loose threads or other signs of aging.  The shoulders show minimal wear from my backpack straps, which was one of the things I was initially concerned about, based on the thinness of the outer shell.  The Ballistic ripstop nylon that comprises the shell of this jacket is obviously high-grade, and knowing Montbell, I'm sure they did lots of testing before ever approving it for this application.  As for the down insulation, it kept its loft and remained springy despite the fact that I shoved the jacket into the top of my pack when not wearing it, and used it as a pillow on multiple occasions.  

Features – Because the EX Light is meant to be an ultralightweight jacket, it doesn’t have any bells and whistles, but it does have a few key features in addition to its 900 fill insulation that really make it stand out.  First off, the hood is a great addition to this jacket, and it makes it much warmer.  Second, I love the through-pocket, even though it doesn't have zippers.  The pocket is incredibly large and warm, and it allows my hands to touch for additional warmth.  Having said that, I doubt I would leave anything in the pocket while backpacking except for maybe snacks, for fear of it falling out and getting lost.  Finally, I really like the elastic cord that's sewn into the waist.  It allowed me to tighten the waist so no cold got in, which was a simple yet effective way to maintain body heat.

 
SUMMARY

Overall, I’m very happy with the EX Light.  It’s lightweight, warm, breathable, and does a good job of blocking wind.  So far, I haven’t had any durability issues with the jacket and am not overly concerned about its water resistance.




LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

tent12

I wore the EX Light on two overnight backpacking trips during Long Term Testing and hiked approximately 21 miles (33.5 km) across forested and hilly terrain.  Temperatures were in the low 30s F (0 C) on first trip, and in the low 20's F (-6 C) on my second trip.  In addition, I wore it around town and to my local parks where, on at least two occasions, temperatures reached as high as the low 50's F (11 C).

Trip One: 2 day, 2 night backpacking trip in Franklin County, Indiana (IN)
Weather: Cool and windy with temperatures ranging from 28 to 36 F (-2 to 2 C)
Elevation: 710 to 860 ft (216 to 262 m)
Distance: I hiked mostly off-trail through several fields and forests, and across several small streams. Total distance hiked was 9 mi (14.5 km).
Pack Weight: 32 lb (14.5 kg)

Trip Two: 2 day, 2 night backpacking trip to the Charles Deam Wilderness Area in Southern Indiana (IN)
Weather: Clear and cold with temperatures ranging from 19 to 24 F (-7.2 to -4.4 C). 
Elevation: 794 to 855 ft (242 to 260 m)
Distance: On this trip I hiked both on and off-trail for a total of 12 mi (19 km).
Pack Weight: 34 lb (15.4 kg)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The EX Light performed well during Long Term Testing and has become one of my favorite winter jackets, thanks to its warmth, wind resistance, and ultra-lightweight design.  Having said this, I highly recommend donning a waterproof shell if snow and rain are in the forecast.  The reason is that snow and rain can soak through the shell and into the down insulation, ruining its loft, since the shell has a DWR coating only and no sealed seams, so it isn't waterproof.

Having never owned a down jacket before, I was thoroughly impressed with the performance of the EX Light.  The down insulation did a great job of keeping me warm throughout testing while still allowing moisture to escape.  
It also kept me comfortable through a wide range of temperatures, from below freezing to the low 50's F (11 C).  When I wasn't wearing the jacket, I stuffed it in my pack or used it as a pillow and it held up well.  Of course, durability is just one of the selling points for down compared to synthetic insulation.  Down is also considered the insulation of choice for absolute warmth and when weight and space savings are a top priority.  

On my first trip of the test period I hiked mostly off trail since the ground was frozen and there wasn't much brush to contend with.  It was cool and windy so I was glad to be wearing the EX Light and thankful it had an integrated hood and handwarmer pocket.  I set up camp on the edge of a forest in a small clearing, just far enough away from tall trees, in case the top of one was to snap off in the windy conditions.  After setting up camp I built a small fire and hung out by it for a while before cooking dinner and then retiring to my tent.  On my second outing I hiked several miles in from the trailhead and setup camp on a ridge about a quarter mile from a large lake.  After pitching my tent, I hiked down to the lake and hung out for an hour or so before heading back to my campsite.  Once back I gathered some firewood and then made dinner.  I turned in for the night around 10pm and didn't wake up till morning.  After packing my tent, I hiked to a peninsula that I knew had great lake views and set up camp there.  While hiking I was able to regulate my body temp by opening and closing the front chest zipper, so I never got sweaty.  The snow gave the forest a peaceful vibe.  The evening was quiet and uneventful, and I packed out the following morning.

montbell            snow

I haven't washed the jacket yet so I can't report on that, but it's held up well to the shoulder straps on my pack as well as the waist belt.

SUMMARY

Montbell's EX Light is a high quality down jacket with nice features.  It's well suited for winter backpacking, hiking and many other cold weather activities.  During testing it was comfortable, warm, and provided good wind protection thanks to its integrated hood.  It also breathed well and was durable, although I was still cautious when going off trail so as not to tear its thin nylon shell.

Pros
Great warmth
Ultra-lightweight
Very Compressible
Good wind resistance

Cons
Needs to be kept dry or its insulating ability is greatly diminished

This concludes my Long Term Report. Thanks to Montbell and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this jacket.



Read more reviews of MontBell gear
Read more gear reviews by Brian Hartman

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