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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > MontBell Thermawrap Classic Jacket > Test Report by Coy Ray StarnesMontBell Thermawrap Classic Jacket
Test series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: October 7, 2019
Field Report: January 7, 2020
Long Term Report: February 25, 2020
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, and kayaking. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
Initial Report: October 7, 2019
Since the MontBell Thermawrap Classic Jacket is listed under a new banner I’m not sure if it is the return of a similar jacket offered in the past or not. I can say it is a lot like my 6 year old MontBell Plazma, only not utilizing the bleeding edge ultralight approach the Plazma took. It features a 10-denier outer shell and liner and is said to be more wind resistant than the 7-denier offering. The outer shell is DWR (durable water repellent) treated. I’m not sure if the inner shell is treated. The jacket has a total of four pockets, two zippered outer hand warmer pockets, and directly under those on the inside, two drop in pockets. All four pockets are generously sized and the inner drop pockets even more so. I can easily fit my hand and a large cell phone in either hand warmer pocket. The inner drop pockets will hold even more since slightly bigger and my hands won’t be in them. There is a cinch cord around the bottom of the jacket. I’m not particularly fond of the cinch cord stop doohickeys located inside each front hand warmer pocket. The jacket is not hooded but a hooded version is offered.
The Thermawrap features a thin layer of EXCELOFT synthetic insulation and utilizes sewn-thru construction. This insulation is said to be one of the warmest for weight synthetic insulation’s available. It is hydrophobic which means it will absorb very little moisture, less than 1% according to the literature provided. It also has great rebound qualities which means it will stand up to repeated compression cycles (cramming in stuff-sacks or wadded up and crammed in a backpack). A drawback of many synthetic insulations is that they loose loft quickly from fibers breaking down from repeated compression cycles. I am particularly interested in the hydrophobic performance of the insulation since I sweat a lot, even in cold weather.
The provided stuff sack appears to be made of the same material as the shell of the jacket. It is slightly bigger than it has to be but this is good in my opinion. The jacket stuffs easily into the stuff sack and no doubt could be squished into a smaller one. The method for cinching down the stuff sack is different than I am accustom too. There is no barrel lock but it just clips over each cord and slides along them, relying on a tight fit on the cord to keep it where set. I didn’t weigh the stuff sack separately because it felt so minuscule in weight but here it is as I weighed everything, and for the record, it is slightly bigger than a standard 1 L Nalgene bottle.
The care instructions are located on the left side of the jacket down near the bottom hem. The symbols are suppose to be self explanatory but I find them confusing. Good thing the instructions are also printed just below the symbols. Instead of copying them I just took this photo.
Initial Impressions and Fit
My initial impression is that the Thermawrap looks great and it isn’t bulky like many jackets. Of course this is to be expected from such a light weight jacket. The construction appears to be very good, I couldn’t find any flaws in the sewing and the zippers operate easily.
As for fit, I am always a little nervous when ordering anything online for fear it won’t fit well. The sizing guide provided suggested an XL since my 46 in (117 cm) chest falls smack-dab in the middle of the XL 45 - 47 in (114 - 119 cm) chest measurement range. I also own another MontBell jacket in an XL which fits me great so I was pretty confident in selecting the XL. Turns out it was a great choice. The jacket fits over a normal shirt perfectly but would be a squeeze to fit over any thick layers. This is fine since I consider the Thermawrap a 3-season outer jacket and will use it as a mid-layer in extreme cold.
Since I own the MontBell Plazma 1000 I thought it would be interesting to compare them, not as a shootout since they are not directly comparable. It does however provide a little insight on the philosophy of the Thermawrap. I liken it to comparing a Chevy truck to a Corvette. One is for going as fast and light as possible while the other is more practical, especially when expecting wet and muddy conditions. As already hinted, the Plazma has a 7-denier shell and liner. It also has no pockets. The insulation is 1000 fill down. But what I found most interesting was that the Plazma is a slightly smaller jacket. I could tell the Thermawrap felt just a smidgen bigger, but not by much. Turns out the Thermawrap is about 1 inch (3 cm) longer overall and the sleeves are almost 2 in (5 cm) longer. The length across the bottom of the jackets are the same but the neck opening of the Thermawrap is about 1 in (3 cm) bigger. I zipped both all the way up and sure enough, the neck area of the Thermawrap is quite a bit roomier, and not in a bad way, just not sweater snug like the Plasma. The photo below illustrates the neck size difference better then measurements.
Summary so far
It is still too warm to really try the jacket out more then just to check the fit but I’m excited to give the jacket a good workout over the coming winter months. I am interested in just how warm such a light jacket can be and how well it works for activities such as hiking for exercise and biking, both of which can lead to excessive sweating on my part. This concludes my Initial Report.
Field Report: January 7, 2020
Field Test Locations and Conditions
I’ve worn the MontBell Thermawrap jacket almost every day once cool weather arrived. This included wearing it at work, to church, to town etc, but I wore it mostly around the house (outside of course) and hiking on local trails. There were some warm spells when the jacket wasn’t needed but even then it was usually chilly in the morning. It was actually 16 F (-9 C) on two mornings. I was headed to work the first morning and home from work the next so wore it briefly on both mornings. I wore the jacket on two bike rides in temperatures around 50 F (10 C). I carried/wore the jacket on several cold weather day hikes and put it on when needed. I also carried/wore it on two overnight hikes near home. On the November 4th overnighter I hiked approximately 4 miles (6 km) total and saw a low of 44 F (7 C). The November 21st overnighter included approximately 7 miles (11 km) hiking and a low of 50 F (10 C).
Field Test Results
The MontBell Thermawrap has worked as expected. It kept me warm during light exertion activities down to around 40 F (4 C) and with the addition of a very light rain jacket it kept me warm down to around freezing. On the two coldest mornings I wore it in this manner while scraping ice off my truck window. My truck barely warmed up by the time I arrived at work/back home so I wore it while driving and then off and on during the morning as I did my outdoor rounds at work. I could feel the cold but I was warm enough that I wasn’t uncomfortable. On my coolest overnight hikes I only wore the jacket part of the night and then as I broke camp, and for about a mile (1.6 km) while hiking. As soon as I felt like I was warming up I took it off. I did use it over the foot end of my hammock earlier during the night but it wasn’t long enough to do much good in my opinion. I was using a quilt only rated to 55 F (13 C). At around midnight I was getting chilled and removed the jacket from the hammock (see photo) and put it on. It made a huge difference and I was able to sleep nice and warm for the rest of the night.
I really didn’t need the jacket on the overnighter that only dropped to 50 F ( 10 C) so used it as my pillow. It was reassuring to know that I could put it on if needed. It was OK as a pillow, not any better or worse then other similar jackets I’ve used before. It is so thin that it doesn’t offer a lot of cushion, but in a hammock this works fine for me.
The weather hasn’t been very conducive for bike riding most of the time. On the few warm rides I didn’t wear the jacket but on the two bike rides when I wore it I rode for about 5 miles (8 km) each time before deciding it was time to take it off. I went from slightly too warm to slightly chilled because my shirt was damp. I probably would have been better off wearing just a windbreaker that I could keep on during the entire ride but I was never in any danger of getting too cold and could have put the jacket back on if I felt the need. I was able to stuff the jacket in my frame bag so it wasn’t a big deal to take it off or add it back as needed.
My only real gripe about the jacket is the layout of the pockets. The hand warmer pockets work great but if I put my cell phone in the inner pocket it placed it on the knuckle side (outside) of my hand. It just felt weird having the phone there. When I placed anything soft like a glove or boggin in the same pocket it felt fine.
Care and Durability
I have not needed to wash the jacket so far. I haven’t noticed any wear on the jacket either. On my hikes I was careful to avoid any major bushwhacking but the occasional brush against a limb hasn’t damaged the jacket. I did not wear the jacket when doing dirty work, like the day I took down an old fence. What I did notice was that the work jacket I was wearing (a typical chore coat with heavy duck outer material) was a lot less comfortable and much heavier than the MontBell Thermawrap, but not really much warmer. The reason I noticed was after finished taking down the fence I put on the Thermawrap for about 20 minutes while I drug a magnet over my work area to find a few fence staples I managed to lose. I found several but may have missed a few. Hope not. Anyways the temperature was actually getting cooler since it was getting dark. It was around 40 F (4 C) with strong winds.
Summary so far
The MontBell Thermawrap has performed very well so far. I was pleased with how much warmth it offered for such a light jacket and that it practically disappeared in whatever pack I was using when I didn’t need it. Most of the time it has proven to be much more practical than a heavier jacket that would have left me overheating in short order. The coldest winter weather is typically in February so I’ll probably be able to experiment with more layering as the test wraps up. This concludes my Field Report.
Long Term Report: February 25, 2020
Testing Locations and Conditions
All my testing has been on local trails near home. Fortunately, I have a very nice hiking area right out my door. I had to cancel a couple of planned overnight hikes due to severe weather and then family emergencies so only managed one more overnighter. This was on January 18th. The low was around 46 F (8 C) but it was extremely windy. I did manage several (lost count really) day hikes under various weather conditions and a couple more bike rides at around 50 F (10 C). Of course I continued to wear it as my daily jacket when needed.
Long Term Test Results
The MontBell Thermawrap Classic jacket has continued to serve me well! I could layer it over a nice warm thermal top when it was around 40 F (4 C) and stay warm without overheating. When it got colder than that I could add a light rain jacket over it. On a few occasions when it was windy and I was outside in temperatures around 20 F (-7 C) I wore a fleece vest with a hood over the jacket and then the afore mentioned rain jacket over everything and was toasty warm. Here are a couple of photos of me day hiking in 50 F (10 C) weather with the jacket. I’m using an upland game style vest and when I warmed up the jacket was easy to stow away in the back of the vest.
On the January 18th overnighter I slept in my hammock. I was trying out a new underquilt that didn’t have a temperature rating but I’d put it at about 46 F (8 C) after this trip. I was also using a top quilt rated to 55 F (13 C). The weather forecasters called for a windy night. I only saw 46 F (8 C) on my phone when I checked it a couple of times but the wind was howling all night. It actually blew one of my tarp stakes lose. The Thermawrap jacket certainly played a vital role in keeping me warm during the night. Up top I had on a thermal under-shirt, a fleece shirt, the Thermawrap and then my fleece vest with hood over everything. I also had on thermal bottoms and thick fleece sweat pants. I stayed wonderfully warm all night. Anyone who says wearing extra clothes in a sleeping bag won’t keep you warmer is, well, I better not say... I just know I can add extra clothes and make summer gear work nearly year round. I will concede that it can be less effective if your extra clothes make your bag so tight fitting it prevents the insulation from fully lofting. Fortunately, this is one area where the Thermawrap shines as it is a very thin insulation layer.
The MontBell Thermawrap Classic jacket has been a tremendous addition to my winter hiking wardrobe. I can’t say enough about how versatile it has been. I have always know that layering is really the way to go when hiking in cold weather and this jacket has played a vital role in keeping me warm, from the extreme opposite of actively hiking too sleeping in the jacket. While I haven't needed to wash my jacket, I like that synthetic is much easier to wash compared to down. The durability of the jacket has been great. With reasonable care the MontBell Thermawrap Classic jacket should last me for many years to come.
This concludes my testing of the MontBell Thermawrap Classic jacket. I would like to thank MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.
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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > MontBell Thermawrap Classic Jacket > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
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