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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell EX Light Down Anorak > Test Report by Andrew Buskov

MontBell EX Light Down Anorak
MontBell's minimalist, ultra-light, highly versatile jacket.
Andrew Buskov
Initial Report: November 19, 2014
Field Report: January 27, 2015
Long Term Report: March 27, 2015

MontBell frontTester Biographical Information:

Name: Andrew Buskov
Age: 39
Gender: Male
Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight: 207 lbs (94 kg)
Email: Rescue(at)Corridor9(dot)net
City, State Zip Madisonville, Kentucky  USA

Backpacking Background:

I’ve been backpacking for nearly 25 years, and have slowly started developing my ideal style. I’ve gotten my pack weight down to roughly 20 - 25 lbs (9.1 - 11.3 kg) before water, and am whittling it down every hike. Day hiking is nice, but getting out over multiple nights is really what I enjoy. I like to take my time and view the scenery as opposed to hiking hard. I also like being comfortable and insist on an air mattress. I usually tent or hammock, but stay in shelters when needed.

Product Information:

Item: EX Light Down Anorak
Manufacturer: MontBell
Website http://www.montbell.us/
Year of Manufacture: 2014
MSRP: $219.00
Listed Weight: 6.2 oz (177 g)
Actual Weight: 6.42 oz (182 g)
Size: XL
Color: Gunmetal
Additional Colors: Dark Blue, Green

Product Overview:

The MontBell EX Light Down Anorak jacket is born out of MontBell's dedication to the minimalist in us all. Using 900 fill power goose down and Ballistic Airlight nylon fabric, the Anorak provides "sweater weight warmth" to even the most weight conscious of backpackers. The sewn-through construction allows for little pockets of down while keeping down the extra weight associated with baffles and additional threading. A single pass-through, non-zippered pocket also provides for hand warmth while not adding additional weight from unnecessary bells & whistles.

Product Impressions:

Immediately after opening the package containing the MontBell EX Light Down Anorak, I knew this was indeed going to be a warm winter. After removing the jacket from the package and examining it, I was thoroughly impressed. Not only did the jacket arrive as described and in perfect condition, but it fit me near perfectly. This is nice seeing as how most XLarge items drape off me while most Large items are just a bit too constricting. The Anorak, in my opinion, is built more like a sweater than a jacket. With its half zipper, the jacket needs to be slipped over the head to be worn. This makes it perfect for an interior layer of clothing, or a modest outer layer on warmer days.

Anorak Simple CuffsThe hood appears to be designed in such a way that it can either be worn over the head, doubled up to provide more warmth around the neck, or completely down. There is an elastic ribbon sewn around the hood to hold heat from escaping around the face when deployed in the up position. The elastic isn't so tight as to be uncomfortable though, and the face doesn't feel constricted. The zipper is made by YKK, a brand synonymous with smooth, error-free operation. It has a small MontBell pull attached for easier use. At the top of the zipper is a hood that the pull tucks into to likely prevent chafing around the neck.

Each arm is made from a single panel of the sewn-through down and nylon fabric. This allows for a single-seam construction that runs from shoulder to wrist on the bottom of the arm. Each wrist contains an elastic ribbon that is fairly loose around the wrist but still helps to retain the heat from escaping by limiting airflow. On the right wrist there is a small sewn logo indicating that the jacket contains 900 fill power feathers. The left arm does not contain a logo of any kind. The torso of the MontBell EX Light Down Anorak does have another sewn-in logo on the left chest pocket indicating that this is indeed a MontBell product. These two logos are the only identifying marks on the exterior of the jacket.

 At the bottom of the torso area there is a kangaroo style, pass-through pocket. This allows me to clasp my hands together inside the pocket to keep them warmer. The pocket is rather large, and easily holds my cell phone, keys, and gloves without feeling crowded or tight. The edges of the pocket appear to be lined in the same material as the arm cuffs, but there is no elastic give around the pocket. The interior wall of the pocket is nothing more than a layer of ballistic Airlight nylon; there is no down in this panel at all.

Anorak Hem ClaspThe hem of the jacket contains a sewn-in elastic cord that runs through two grommets and a spring clamp. This clamp is sewn to the jacket via another piece of non-elastic cord, thus making single handed operation possible. The ends of the cord pass through this clamp and into two more grommets at the bottom center of the pocket. Attached to the end are two small pulls that prevent the ends from sliding back through the grommets. This allows the wearer to tighten and loosen the hem of the jacket from inside the pocket.

It should be noted that while the Anorak is sewn in a sewn-through style, there are gaps that allow the down to travel horizontally throughout the torso, arms, and hood. Instead of creating a number of enclosed squares containing down, these squares now have spaces in their vertical edges that contains no stitching. This did create a noticeable problem to me though. I'm not sure if it is related to how the down is placed inside the material, or if the down just shifted greatly during the process, but there are a number of lightly filled squares. There are also a number of heavily filled squares as well. It's as if the down wasn't evenly distributed during construction. This can easily be seen when donning the jacket in a lighted room. The lightly filled squares will allow much more light to pass through them than the heavier filled ones. In addition, a number of stitching holes can be seen during donning / doffing as well. These occur mainly near the gaps in stitching where a reverse stitch is necessary for strength.

While I was able to use this a couple of days when running errands, I did not take temperature measurements. As such, at this point I'll restrict my comments to fit. In short, it was amazing. I felt as if I had a second skin on. At no point did I feel as though I was constricted in my movement, nor did I feel bunched up when wearing an outer layer over the Anorak. I definitely look forward to testing this throughout the coming months and will have more pictures to add during the next testing phase.

Field Report: January 27, 2015

Testing Locations & Conditions:

Zipper with Small PullDuring this testing phase I wore the MontBell EX Light Down Anorak numerous times. In total, I've probably worn the Anorak more than 15 times. These uses have ranged in duration from five minutes during my trips to check on the rabbits to 12 hours when we were hiking in the woods and running errands. It was worn during various temperatures that ranged from 9 to 55 F (-13 to 13 C). While this was worn on the hiking trips I took, I also was able to wear this during hunting, dressing, and quartering a deer when there was considerable snow on the ground and temperatures were hovering around the 18 F (-8 C) mark. All use was local and elevation ranged on average from 350 to 550 ft (105 to 165 m).

Performance:

It is simply quite amazing to me how something so small and compressible can provide such great warmth! This little jacket provides such an effective barrier between my base layer and the harsh weather that I often find myself wearing it with just a long-sleeve t-shirt underneath even when I know I'm going to be outside for an extended period of time. Even though there are a few light spots where the down has pocketed as mentioned above, just the simple heat generated by moving around is often enough to keep me warm for extended periods. During the times when I have used the Anorak as more of a base layer, I usually find myself overly warm unless I'm sitting still.

Down exposedThe fit of the MontBell Anorak continues to be nice and comfortable. Even though I've put on a few pounds (kilograms) over the Christmas holiday, I've not once found the jacket to be tight or constricting in any way. I am still able to move around, twist, and use my arms without any feeling of tightness or restriction. The exterior / interior wall material is still smooth without any pilling or snags despite being worn though thick woods and pine trees. I have found that at times the elastic hem can become a bit uncomfortable though due to the limited material between the elastic cord and the wearer. This isn't so much a problem when I'm wearing a couple of base layers, but can be problematic if I'm only wearing a t-shirt.

 I haven't found the Anorak uncomfortable to wear in snow, sleet, or very light rain. However, due to the extreme lightweight of the shell material, any sort of significant rain will penetrate the outer shell, mainly through the needle holes, and wet the down. This can and does indeed lead to a very cold wearer. In fact, I was cold enough that it only happened once during the testing phase. I made sure that anytime I even thought there was a chance of watery precipitation I was prepared with a raincoat or other top layer. I didn't want to go through any more miserable walks.

So far, as mentioned above, the Anorak has been quite durable. It has been worn through thick brush, pine trees with sap, and thorn bushes. In addition, it has seen mud and dirty conditions during other uses. The jacket still doesn't show much sign of wear, and definitely no damage. It also has not retained any smells to date. I have not washed it at all, and have worn it without any base layers at times, but can't smell any odor or smell of any kind emanating from the usual areas.

In short, so far the MontBell EX Light Down Anorak is a very compact, very useful, very warm, very comfortable little jacket.

Long Term Report: March 27, 2015

Testing Locations & Conditions:

Inside PullsDuring the last testing phase I had mentioned that I had the opportunity to wear the Anorak jacket while quartering a deer in some considerable snow. I need to retract that statement a bit; I had forgotten what considerable snow was until this testing period. During the long-term report phase of the MontBell Ex Light Down Anorak jacket test I was able to get approximately 40 days' worth of mixed use due to the considerable snow that this area saw. For this part of Kentucky to receive over 14 in (36cm) of snow twice during a three week period is rather unheard of. This coupled with the fact that the temperatures for the latter half of February hovered  mostly on the low end of between -7 to 45 F (-22 to 7 C) meant that this snow hung around longer than I'd seen in quite a while. Throw in approximately seven days of on-and-off freezing rain, coupled with at least five days of pure rain, and I was rather glad to have the Anorak to keep me warm. I even had the opportunity to wear this jacket on a fire scene due to the extreme cold when I was outside managing operations. As far as the times that I wore the Anorak jacket while backpacking, camping, and hiking I would estimate that day hiking trips alone accounted for upwards of 25 miles (40 km) of use. On my overnight trips I was able to log another 15 miles (24 km) of use through rain, sleet, and even freezing rain on the way back to the vehicle. As with above, all use was local and elevation ranged on average from 350 to 550 ft (105 to 165 m).

Summary:

I'd like to reiterate the last statement from my field report with the emphasis and finality that has been shown over the past two months: the MontBell EX Light Down Anorak is most definitely a very compact, very useful, very warm, very comfortable little jacket! Throughout the entire temperature range posted above, I have been able to wear the Anorak as either a base layer or as an only layer depending on the amount of exercise and physical exertion that I put forth. For example, there was one day during the cold spell where the wind was not blowing much and the temperature was around 5 F (-15 C) that I was able to wear just a t-shirt and the Anorak as long as I was walking on the trail. This was simply walking without much physical exertion, yet enough to keep producing heat. On the days where it was simply windy I was able to wear a wind blocker over the Anorak and stay warm without adding additional insulation. During the freezing rain spells, I needed a bit of additional insulation and shell, but at no time did I feel that I needed excessive layering.

I have had the opportunity to wash the Anorak 4 times now in total due to the conditions it has been exposed to. On the overnight trips I took the family dog, whom I love to death but he sheds more hair than any other animal I've seen. I literally have to turn my tent inside out and shake it vigorously to get all the hair out of the cracks and crevasses. As such, when we go overnight somewhere it gets in the sleeping bag, coats, shoes, packs, etc. Not to mention that he's a dog, and well..... dogs can stink. So I needed to wash the Anorak more than once. I generally use Tide on all my clothing and down equipment because it doesn't irritate my skin and has fairly little scent as compared to some of the other detergents out there. After each of my washing cycles, the MontBell Anorak smelled clean and fresh without retaining any sort of sweat or pet smell. At no point in time did I feel like the jacket shrunk after washing or that the down material needed to be redistributed.

I am very surprised, and also very pleased, to announce that throughout the entire testing period I have managed to stay snag and rip free. This, in my opinion, is a big accomplishment for the Anorak as I tend to wear my gear hard and get myself into situations I shouldn't at times. Not once did the jacket snag on the brush that I had to hike through, or when I was sleeping in it and rolling around next to the dog's paws / claws. However, the real shocker was when I was building new rabbit cages. I must have scraped myself 25 times with the cut wire ends, drawing blood at least 5 times, but never did the jacket snag, rip, tear, etc. I honestly don't know how I got through the last two months without damaging the coat somehow with all the use it received.

I foresee this jacket being my primary down jacket for many seasons to come.

Pros

Cons

Lightweight
Durable
Comfortable
Stylish
Very warm
Waist hem causes irritation when
tightened due to lack of padding

I'd like to thank MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test the EX Light Down Anorak jacket.


Read more reviews of MontBell gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrew Buskov

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell EX Light Down Anorak > Test Report by Andrew Buskov



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