MONTBELL THERMAWRAP CLASSIC JACKET
TEST SERIES BY ROBB PRATT
February 24, 2020
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unicornv007 AT yahoo.com
Canton, Michigan, USA
5' 10" (1.80 m)
165 lb (74.80 kg)
I backpacked sporadically growing up and rediscovered it back in 2011. Since then, I've taken several weekend trips a year. I also car camp with my family roughly a dozen nights a year when we use tents unless I can convince them I might snore and it would be better for all for me to use my hammock rig. I prefer a light pack (weight without food or water under 20 pounds / 9 kg). My backpacking stomping ground is northern Michigan that has small hills and I typically camp late spring, summer and early fall months.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer's Website: https://www.montbell.us/
Listed Weight: 9.6 oz (272 g)
* Jacket, Size Large: 9.8 oz (278 g)
* Storage Bag: 0.25 oz (7 g)
Dimensions as Advertised: (as noted for Size Large)
* Chest: 42-44 inches (107 to 112 cm)
* Sleeve: 35 inches (89 cm)
* Compression Size Cylinder (diameter x length): 4.5 x 8 inches (12 x 20 cm)
Dimensions from My Measurements
* Chest: 42 Inches (107 cm)
* Sleeve: 33 inches (84 cm)
* Compression Size Cylinder (diameter x length): 4.75 x 10 inches (12 x 25.4 cm)
The Thermawrap classic jacket is a fallback to Montbell's original jacket design. It uses two layers of wind resistant, DWR-treated 10-denier nylon that acts as the bread for the meat of their EXCELOFT insulation. EXCELOFT insulation is trademarked and is listed as having three different fiber sizes in it (a larger hollow fiber to help maintain high loft, a semi-micro fiber to help with heat retention and provide some loft and a micro-fiber to capture warm air and provide a soft feel). The insulation also dries fast and retains less than 1% of its weight in water. The Thermawrap classic jacket is made with 60 grams per square meter insulation.
Features included on this jacket include DWR treated zippers, elastic cuffs, draw cords for hem adjustment, a pair of zipper hand pockets, another pair of interior drop-in pockets and a stuff sack.
Lastly, while I received the jacket in black, it also comes in silver and green.
|Jacket & Storage Bag as Received|
The coat shipped sealed in a cellophane package within a box. Everything felt so light at first I was not sure it actually was a coat until I opened it up.
I was impressed with the care done to fold the coat properly such that the Montbell label was the first thing I saw. The packaging also did a nice job of protecting the jacket in case any liquid was spilled on it.
Lastly, I also greatly appreciated that the labels were attached on a plastic cord that was fastened around the zipper cords and not fastened directly to the jacket. Nothing annoys me more on clothing than already starting with a hole because the little plastic cord that holds the label was shot through the fabric.
|Zipper, Cords & Labels|
Per the label, the jacket's shell and lining are both 100% nylon. I found the material to have a shiny, glossy appearance to it and feel very smooth, almost silk-like, to the touch.
The insulation is 100% polyester. I could pinch a portion of the coat and my fingers felt like they were nearly touching. Although Montbell went into quite a bit of detail on the technology of their EXCELOFT, I was not going to cut open a baffle and put it under a microscope to check it.
As for the craftsmanship, I found the seams all looked great with nice, tidy intersections. I only found a single loose thread near the cinch cord hole at the waist.
There are three different zippers (two pockets and one for the main body in front). All of these were easy to use the zippers all worked perfectly. They also had cord tabs on each zipper which I believe will be a huge asset in cold weather when my fingers are freezing.
|Good Looking Seams|
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
As most of the clothing I have tested, instructions for use is non-existent. If I was to write something down, it would be straight forward like put right arm here, put left arm there. Zip up coat. If zipper is not in front of chest, coat is being incorrectly worn as a woman's dress. Remove coat and turn body around and reinstall.
As for laundry instructions, I always enjoy playing the role of archaeologist trying to decipher ancient hieroglyphics.
From my first pass, I found:
1. I can place a bucket of liquid with 30 "units" on top of the coat.
2. I should never wear witch's hats while wearing coat
3. I should never stick the coat in a fan.
4. Fishing while wearing the jacket is encouraged.
5. Jacket can also be worn while studying Equilibrium diagrams for metals (yes, I am an engineer and this would come in handy while during metallurgy work in my office)
6. I should never use circles or items that draw circles around jacket.
7. Jacket may be worn in bathroom (some maps have W which occasionally stands for water-closet)
Thankfully, I have my wife and the internet to fallback and know instead I was off a little bit and the instructions are actually for gentle machine wash with no more than 86F (30C) temperature water and that I should not tumble dry, use bleach or iron it. One symbol says it should never be dry cleaned while another indicates if I was to try and dry-clean it, it should be "wet" cleaning. I still don't know what the fishing-like symbol means but either way, I'll stick to the basics of a gentle cycle with cold water and avoid the dryer and if it happens to work out, I'll wear it while fishing.
TRYING THEM OUT & INITIAL TEST RUN
I slipped the coat on and zipped it up. My house is set near 70F (21C) and after a few minutes I was comfortably warm. Again though, this was inside my house. I considered opening up the windows and turning on the attic fan but knew how this would be received by my family.
All the zippers worked well and at this point, I found one of the pockets had the small stuff sack used to contain the jacket when being stored for transportation. While I am not sure how useful the storage sack will be, it weighs nearly nothing, which gives me the option of taking it with or leaving it at home on a backpacking trip. My only fear here is really losing or misplacing the stuff sack. I wish it came in a much brighter color that would stand out.
At this point, I removed the coat and instead stuffed it in to the stuff sack. It fit great and I think I could even compress it to about half the size if I wanted. The cinch cord worked great to keep everything contained. The final tube-like assembly looked reminiscent of a neck-roll and I had to immediately lay on the floor and try that out. Normally, I sleep in a hammock and barely (if ever) use a pillow but for sleeping on the ground, I believe this would be perfect. I also think it would work very well for lounging in my hammock when I want my neck propped up.
|Stuffed Sack with Hockey Puck for Size & Curious Cat for Fun|
Putting the coat back on, I found it had a good fit to my torso, although the sleeve cuffs did balloon a little around my wrists. I believe this is because my sleeve length is a bit undersized to Montbell's measurement. but getting a smaller sized coat would have meant a tighter fit in the chest and I did not want that. The fit at the waist only required a slight pull of the cinch-cord to snug it up. Zipping it up to the top of the neck, I did have a fair amount of space between my chin and the opening but I found I could comfortably tuck my chin inside the coat if I felt the need.
|Fit at Cuff|
The pockets are a perfect size for my hands and I liked that Montbell added a pair of tall, sleeve pockets on the inside of the coat where I could store a cellphone, a hat, a map or other gear that I might want to lay my hands on quickly.
I looked longingly outside. A light rain was falling and the thermometer was reading 60F (16C) which was much better for testing a coat than the 90F (32C) the previous day. Nearly perfect for a quick trial! I ran over to my wife and told her my plan. I suspect she thinks I am a few fries short of a happy meal. Actually, I know she thinks that by the way she refers to me as her "oldest child" some days. I imagine she had quite the headache later from how far back her eyes rolled in her head.
Anyway, after getting her to snag a few pictures of me goofing off, I slipped out the front door and took a ten-minute walk in the rain with no umbrella.
|Wearing Coat, Ready to "Enjoy" the Rain|
My pace was fairly brisk (3 mph or 5 km/h) but I was not wearing a backpack. The entire time, my torso felt comfortably warm but never got overheated. I found the rain beading up on the coat and not soaking through it. My head did get significantly wet and water dribbled down my neck a bit. Other than that, my torso stayed dry. Lastly, although the wind was fairly light (10 mph or 16 km/h max), I still never felt it cutting through my body.
|Water Beading on Coat|
Overall, I am amazed at the near weightlessness to this jacket. I am also impressed with the craftsmanship and attention to detail, such as the small pieces of cord on the zipper pull-tabs and how well it seals around the cuffs and waist.
FIELD CONDITIONS SUMMARY
Over the last 2 months, I have worn the Montbell Thermawrap Classic jacket on several basecamping trips, a day-long backpacking shakedown hike and around a dozen outdoor sporting events (each lasting over an hour). I've also enjoyed wearing it occasionally as my around-town jacket.
* Trip #1 (October 18-20, 2019): Maybury State Park in Northville, Michigan for 3 days / 2 nights. Temperature ranged between 37 to 60F (3 to 16C). During the daytime, I wore a T-Shirt under the Montbell Thermawrap along with a nice fuzzy hat on my head and a buff around my neck. I took one 3 mile (4.8 km) hike in the afternoon.
* Trip #2 (November 22-24, 2019): D-Bar-A Scout Camp in Metamora, Michigan for 3 Days / 2 Nights. Temperature ranged between 20 to 37F (-7 to 3C). During the daytime, I wore a T-Shirt, the Montbell Thermawrap and a rain shell (along with my hat and buff). At night, I used the Thermawrap as part of my top-layer to sleep (combined with a long-sleeve wool shirt). For both nights, my sleeping system also consisted of wool leggings, a stocking cap and a neck buff and I buried a hot-water bottle inside the hammock to help fight off the cold.
* Shakedown Hike (November 2, 2019): Proud Lake Recreational Area in Milford, Michigan for 8 miles (12.8 km). The temperature was 45F (7C). I started this hike with my top layer consisting of a t-shirt, the Montbell Thermawrap and a rain shell but quickly dropped the outer layer. For a good part of the hike, unless I was standing still for a while, I had the Thermawrap zipped open to help vent.
* Outdoor Events (October and November, Misc. Dates): Cross-Country meets and Soccer games for my kids. The weather was generally in the 40 to 50F (4 to 10C), sometimes with rain and/or wind. There was a lot of standing and sitting around.
|Beautiful Sunny Morning at Maybury's Group Site|
Overall, I found the Montbell Thermawrap jacket performed great for me when I was actively moving around. If I was not moving around but it was above freezing, I found myself adding an extra layer which was typically a rain shell. If it was below freezing, I would add the extra layer even for moving around and be quite comfortable, even when running errands around town or taking a walk through the neighborhood.
As for a sleeping layer, it added significant warmth but the slippery material took some getting used to in my hammock (which is also slippery material). Once I got used to it, I was quite comfortable and the thin synthetic insulation really worked well to add warmth to my sleeping set-up without adding any bulk. While I tried using it as a pillow one night, I found it did not work very well - partly because I don't normally use a pillow while hammock camping but also because of the slippery material kept having the jacket slide around under my head.
From a stylish standpoint, I think the jacket looks great on me and I enjoy wearing it around town. Its also amazingly light and over the month of December, I found myself checking the weather and leaving the house with several layers (typically a t-shirt, fleece sweatshirt and the Montbell Thermawrap) which has been a suitable setup for walking and hiking.
One additional thing I've noticed about the jacket that is a side-bonus, is that in both outer pockets are cord-locks used to tighten the waist section to my torso. I've found these to be like built-in fidget devices. I just seem to be more relaxed spinning these in my fingers while standing around, bored, waiting for something to happen. I pretty sure that's not the design intent here but for me, it is quite soothing, and I really like it.
I've only have two (minor) complaints about the jacket. First, is the stuff sack. I'm really trying hard not to lose it. Its black, small and there is not a place to store it with the jacket when not being used. I just know I'm going to lose it. The second complaint is while I like the big inner pockets, I'd really enjoy having a breast pocket. My electronic devices generally die in cold weather and at night, I prefer to sleep with them and use body heat to keep them warm to limit battery drain. During the daytime, I can put them in my pants pocket but I still would rather have them in a breast pocket for easier access.
|Chief Pontiac Trail Hiking|
Overall, this is a stylish jacket that I've enjoyed wearing outside over the last few months. I've used it as part of an active layer as well as part of my sleep system. It provides good warmth even when slightly damp. While I didn't find it made a great pillow for me while sleeping, it is so un-restrictive, that it made a good layer to wear while sleeping.
I have a winter backpacking trip scheduled for later in February 2020 that I am really looking forward to wearing this jacket on the trek.
1. Warmth when moving
2. Easy of Layering with other clothing (never felt bulky)
4. Light weight
5. Built-in fidget devices
1. Lack of beast pocket
2. Stuffsack - I wish it came in a bright non-black color. If there was a breastpocket, it could even be stored in there. I just KNOW I'm going to misplace it eventually.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Dayhike #1 - January 11th, 2020 at Maybury State Park (Northville, Michigan USA) for 5 miles (8 km). Temperature 34F (1C) with light to steady rain. Terrain was mostly dirt with lots of deep puddles. Pack weight of 25 lb. (11.3 kg). I estimated my hiking speed at 3 mph.
Dayhike #2 - January 20th, 2020 at Maybury State Park (Northville, Michigan USA) for 5 miles (8 km). Temperature 32F (0C) with light snow. Over previous day, had 8 inches of snow and being one of the first in the park, I was doing mostly post-holing on fresh snow. Pack weight of 25 lb. (11.3 kg). I estimated my hiking speed at 2 mph.
Backpacking Trip - February 22-23, 2020 on Chief Pontiac Trail near Proud Lake Recreational Area (Wixom, Michigan, USA). Daytime temperatures ranged from 24F to 43F (-4 to 6C). Nighttime temperature low was 24F (-4C). There was no rain or precipitation during this time. The trail was a combination of snow and ice. It was difficult to estimate hiking speed as this trip was fairly complicated for mapping and included numerous stops for navigation. We also had 14 total people on the trip. The first day where we did nearly 8 miles (12.9 km) took over 5 hours to complete but also included a lunch and snack break. The second day was only close to 3 miles (4.8 km) but took almost 2 hours. My pack weight was a painful 38 lb. (17.2 kg) as I offered to carry my wife's tent and crew gear. At night, I slept in my hammock.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Besides using the Montbell Thermawrap Classic Jacket for a variety of sporting events and getting around town, I used it three times for backpacking. Two of those were day hiking where I was doing shakedown hikes in bad weather conditions to establish my hiking clothes while the third time was an overnight backpacking trip.
Overall, I found the Montbell Thermawrap to be an excellent piece of gear for the conditions. At the start of both day hikes, I used a polar grid fleece sweatshirt and then changed to the Thermawrap after 30 minutes for comparison sake. I found the sweatshirt to be warm, but had poor venting. Once I changed to the Thermawrap, I was able to vent my body much better and control my own internal temperature to my hiking conditions. I also found that for both day hikes, my sweatshirt was wet in several areas - from rain. snow and sweat. The Montbell Thermawrap did a better job of shedding the water on both the inside and outside due to the nature of the material. At the end of both day hikes, the jacket was still dry while my baselayer was only damp near my back where it met my pack.
|Rain and Cold? No Problem!|
For the backpacking trip, I made the decision to only use the Thermawrap jacket and it performed great. While we started out cold on day 1, the temperature eventually reached well above freezing. My layering system for my torso was made up of a featherweight merino wool t-shirt, a light-weight polyester t-shirt, the Thermawrap jacket and a rain shell. Half way through the hike, I shed the rain shell and only used the t-shirts and the Thermawrap and was very comfortable. The jacket was even half-zipped open most of the hike.
Once established at camp, I added a puffy to the Thermawrap jacket and added back the rain shell as the temperature dropped. For night time, I changed clothes to a simple baselayer and used the Thermawrap for my torso's insulation. The jacket did a great job on keeping me warm in my hammock and was comfortable to sleep in.
Day 2 started out below freezing and felt cold until my body warmed up. Although I used a facemask and furry hat for most of the hike to keep my head warm, my torso felt quite comfortable after 10 minutes on the trail. I never noticed damp spots anywhere on either my baselayer or the jacket.
My only negative reported in my field report on the jacket is the long deep pockets on the inside. I'm still very torn on them. On the good side, I've found the pockets are great for storing gear such as hats, maps or other things. Earlier, I was concerned about cold weather battery drain but as it turns out, it was my cellphone with the problem and once I replaced the phone, I did not suffer any cold weather battery drain while keeping the phone in the inner pocket. On the bad side, the pocket is actually so deep that I found it inconvenient to have to fish down into the bottom of the pocket to get the phone. Furthermore, my pack belt typically was cutting across this area which made me have to decide between keeping the cellphone near the very top (after the belt was clipped) or below the belt (which meant i couldn't get to the phone unless I unclipped the belt). I also found if I bent over, the cellphone tended to interfere with my motion. I had to shift it up and out of the way to prevent it from cutting into my stomach. Its a minor issue though and I found later in the day I was putting the cellphone in my pants pocket instead. I still wish it had a breast pocket specifically for a phone though.
|Great Day for Backpacking|
After a solid 4 months of cold weather and using the Montbell Thermawrap Classic Jacket, I've grown to really appreciate the light, synthetic jacket and how it enhances my hiking kit. It's a great addition to my layering system and I'll definitely be using it on future trips.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.
This concludes my long term report. I want to thank both BackpackGearTEst.org and Montbell for allowing me to test the Thermawrap Classic Jacket. It was a fun test and I found myself specifically going out into the woods on cold, rainy and snowy days just to test it and it never failed to keep me warm, dry and safe.
Read more reviews of Mont Bell gear
Read more gear reviews by Robb Pratt