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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Alpine Light Down Vest > Test Report by Nancy Griffith

MONTBELL ALPINE LIGHT DOWN VEST
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - February 06, 2010
FIELD REPORT - April 18, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - June 12, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Nancy Griffith
EMAIL: bkpkrgirlATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Northern California, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
WEIGHT: 130 lb (59.00 kg)

My outdoor experience began in high school with involvement in a local canoeing/camping group called Canoe Trails. The culmination was a 10-day canoe voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have completed all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a week long. I carry a light to mid-weight load, use a tent, stove and hiking poles.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

MontBell Vest
Photo courtesy of MontBell website
vest
Manufacturer: MontBell Company Ltd.
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montbell.com
MSRP: $130 US
Listed Weight: 7.8 oz (221 g) for Size M
Measured Weight: 6.8 oz (193 g)
Stuff Sack Weight: 0.4 oz (11 g)
Sizes Available: S/M/L/XL (Men's and Women's)
Size Tested: Medium (Women's)
Women's Colors Available: Pink Beige, Charcoal Black, Garnet
Color Tested: Pink Beige
Men's Colors Available: Charcoal Black, Steel Blue and Olive Green
Made in China


Other Details (as listed on website):
800 Fill power goose down
30-denier rip stop Ballistic nylon
30-denier Ballistic nylon taffeta lining
Standard 25-wash rated DWR
Fill Weight: 2.1 oz.

Single quilt construction to reduce weight
Micro fleece lined collar
Hand warmer pockets
2 interior drop in pockets
Elasticized hem to seal out drafts
Reverso coiled zipper
Stuff sack included

Warranty: MontBell's warranty covers all defects in materials and workmanship to the original owner for the lifetime of the product.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

collarlogo
The exterior fabric is a 30-denier rip-stop ballistic nylon with a DWR finish. The fabric itself has a cross-hatch pattern which gives it an appearance and texture of small squares. The goose-down sections are sewn in a diagonal baffle pattern. The combination of these two different shapes gives the vest a stylish appearance in my opinion. On the lower left side near the hem is a small embroidered classy-looking logo.

The collar can be folded over but stands up easily. It has a soft fleece lining which reminds me of a Swiffer sweeping cloth both in terms of how soft it is and how it looks. The front nylon zipper has a full-length storm flap along with a full-length draft tube which is filled with down. At the top is a zipper garage to keep the zipper from touching my neck and face. The zipper has a pull which is ergonomically shaped and easy to grab.

The interior lining fabric is a 30-denier ballistic nylon taffeta which is a light gray color on this vest. The interior seams are folded over such that they are completely encased which makes for a nice finished look.

There are two hand-warmer pockets which have a nice piping edge on the top side of them. The openings of the pockets are at the side seam. The same piping is used on the vest arm openings and hem. There are two interior pockets with open tops. The bottom hem is straight and is the same length in front and back.

The vest comes with a matching stuff sack.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT

as stuffed
The MontBell Alpine Light Vest initially seems to be as advertised. The color is called pink beige, but it looked more beige on the website. So I was hoping that it would be more beige than pink which turned out to be the case. There is a sheen to the fabric which makes the color interesting.

My initial impression was that the vest was larger and puffier than I expected. However, please note that I am a bit spoiled in that I own a MontBell ultralight down inner jacket which is even lighter than this vest. So, while I normally would find this vest to be small and light weight, I found it to be a bit puffy. It is very compressible and fits easily into the small stuff sack.

I tried it on and it fit just right and seemed comfortable. I chose the size based on MontBell's sizing chart and it seems to have been accurate.

The hand warmer pockets are roomy and warm. On a lunch-time walk, I had on a shirt with 3/4 length sleeves and was able to put my hands into the pockets and nearly cover all of my exposed skin. The pockets are cozy and quickly warmed my hands. There was a cold breeze blowing and I could feel that the vest blocked the wind.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The tag on the inside of the vest states: 'Hand wash cold. Do not bleach. Do not iron. Do not dry clean. Tumble dry normal. Low heat.' It also shows this information using international symbols.

SUMMARY

The MontBell Alpine Light Down Vest is a comfortable vest that seems to have a good warmth to weight ratio. The vest is a quality construction with an attention to detail that is superior to most I've seen.

Initial Likes:
Roomy hand-warmer pockets
Stylish appearance
Good warmth to weight ratio
Good compressibility

Initial Dislikes:
None


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Over the Field Testing period, I wore the down vest for 9 nights of car camping, one overnight backpacking trip, 6 snowshoe hikes, one hike and multiple walks. I wore it as my primary jacket for going to work, walking at lunch and general casual wear. I washed it one time by hand using a product specifically made for washing down.

For car camping and backpacking, I wore the vest in camp and for sleeping.

Some examples of usage conditions:
Car Camping:
Joshua Tree National Park, Southern California: 4 nights; 1,800 to 3,800 ft (549 to 1,158 m); 40 to 45 F (4 to 7 C); dry conditions with one night of high winds

Pinnacles National Monument, Central California: 1 night; 1,260 ft (384 m); 40 to 45 F (4 to 7 C); dry conditions with heavy dew

Montana de Oro State Park, Central California Coast: 1 night; 180 ft (55 m); 45 F (7 C); dry conditions

Backpacking:
Joshua Tree National Park, Southern California: 1 night; 4,500 ft (1,372 m); 40 to 45 F (4 to 7 C); dry conditions with light wind

Snowshoeing:
Becker Peak, Sierra Nevada, California; 3.5 mi (5.6 km); 7,320 to 8,325 ft (2,231 to 2,537 m); 29 F (-2 C); Variable conditions from clear sunny patches to snow with windy conditions at times; Wore with a thermal top and shell.

Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park, California; 8 mi (12.6 km); 7,250 to 7,385 ft (2,210 to 2,251 m); 29 to 43 F (-2 to 6 C); Clear conditions; Wore with a shell and thermal top.

Strawberry Ridge, Sierra Nevada, California; 4.2 mi (6.8 km); 5,600 to 6,500 ft (1,700 to 1,980 m); 30 to 40 F (-1 to 4 C); Clear conditions; Wore with a shell and thermal top.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

down clumps when wetFor snowshoeing, I liked how the vest kept my torso warm while allowing my arms to move freely. It is lightweight but has a lot of warmth. I found myself stuffing it into my pack on multiple occasions just in case I would need it. When it was too warm to wear it for snowshoeing, I still carried it with me and wore it when we stopped for a lunch break.

I wore the vest several times for sleeping when my base layer just was not warm enough. The vest worked wonderfully for this. I particularly noticed that it did not want to ride up my back during the night. It stayed down over my hips and really kept my torso warm.

I really like the hand-warmer pockets and used them frequently. The down is to the outside of my hands and to the inside is just a thin fabric layer. However, this arrangement works perfectly for keeping my hands warm. The down on the outside keeps my hands warm and even though the layer to the inside isn't insulated, my hands stay warm from my body heat. The pockets are also deep, so that when sitting around camp, they kept me warm by being able to put my hands so far into the pockets.

The collar was comfortable when I had the vest completely zipped up. The collar lining is soft and felt nice against my face while the storm flap and zipper garage kept the cold zipper from touching my skin.

I did not wear the vest as a top layer in rainy conditions so I cannot speak to the water resistance. I did find it to be wind resistant however. I could not feel any wind getting through.

I washed the vest using a product specifically made for down. This was the first time that I washed a down garment, so I was a bit apprehensive. I followed the directions on the down wash except that I used cold water. The wash product said to use warm water but the jacket tag said cold water. The photo shows how the down clumps together when wet. I tumble dried it on low heat and removed it frequently to try to break up the clumps. After drying, the vest looked like new and the down was back to full loft.

SUMMARY

The MontBell Alpine Light Down Vest is a comfortable vest that is really warm for such a light item. It is very stylish and I found many occasions to wear it for both day-to-day and outdoor activities.

Things I Like:
Good warmth to weight ratio
Good compressibility
Roomy hand-warmer pockets
Stylish appearance

Things I Dislike:
Nothing


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Snow CampingThe Long-Term test period started well into Spring, but we had a cool season. So I still wore it for regular activity to take off the morning or evening chill. I even wore it many times in the house when we didn't want to bother turning the heat on. I wore it for one overnight snow backpacking trip and one 3-day backpacking trip.

Backpacking:
Loon Lake, Van Vleck Trail, Sierra Nevada, California; 2 days; 6,327 to 7,000 ft (1,928 to 2,134 m) elevation; 28 to 55 F (-2 to 13 C); Clear with some windy conditions.

We snowshoed in several miles and camped overnight on 7 to 9 feet (2 to 3 m) of snow. It was too warm on the hike in to wear the vest, but I wore it once we arrived in camp with a base layer. It kept me warm until sundown when I added a light down jacket underneath the vest. It was cold in the tent when we went to bed, so I left it on with the down jacket for sleeping.

Western States Trail, Sierra Nevada, California; 3 days; 1,800 to 4,365 ft (549 to 1,330 m); 45 to 72 F (7 to 22 C); Clear to partly cloudy conditions. For this trip, I wore the vest in the evenings and mornings and used it as part of my pillow at night.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

As in the Field Report period, while sleeping the vest stayed down over my hips throughout the night even though I was wearing a down jacket underneath. I used it on our warmer backpacking trip as a pillow at night and found the fabric to be quite comfortable on my face. I just folded it over several times and placed it on top of other clothing. For the most part it stayed in place but I just bunched it up if I felt it moving off of the clothing pile as I slept.

I used the stuff sack on one trip and liked having it to help keep my vest organized in my pack. On the other trip I simply stuffed it into my backpack which worked fine too. In general I like to use the stuff sack just to give some more protection in case the vest inadvertently comes into contact with something sharp in my pack.

I liked having the vest on our warmer backpacking trip instead of a heavier jacket. We camped in a deep canyon next to a stream. Once the sun went behind the cliff, the temperature dropped quickly. I wore it in the evening with a long-sleeved thermal top and really liked having the torso warmth without the arm restriction of a jacket. Again the pockets were great for hand warmth while sitting around camp.

The fit of the vest is very comfortable and was nice to wear in the house on chilly evenings when I didn't want to bother with heating the entire house. I kept it in my clothes closet instead of the coat closet because I found myself wearing it so often.

SUMMARY

The MontBell Alpine Light Down Vest is a comfortable vest that is really warm for such a light item. It is very stylish and I found many occasions to wear it for both day-to-day and outdoor activities.

Things I Like:
Good warmth to weight ratio
Good compressibility
Roomy hand-warmer pockets
Stylish appearance

Things I Dislike:
Nothing

This concludes my Long-Term Report and this test series. Thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for choosing me to participate in this test.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Mont Bell gear
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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell Alpine Light Down Vest > Test Report by Nancy Griffith



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