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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell EX Light Down Anorak > Test Report by Derek Hansen

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Photo courtesy MontBell

MontBell — EX Light Down Anorak

Test Series by Derek Hansen

TESTER INFORMATION

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NameDerek Hansen
Age38
GenderMale
Height5' 10" (1.78 m)
Weight170 lb (77 kg)
Email Address pix-obfuscated
City, State, CountryFlagstaff, Arizona, USA

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I am a lightweight backpacker with a typical overnight pack weight of 15 lb (7 kg) and a multi-day weight of 20 lb (9 kg), each of which includes food and water. I prefer backpacking with a hammock as part of my sleep system.


PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer mont-bell Co.,Ltd.
Year of Manufacture 2014, made in China
Manufacturer’s Website montbell.us
MSRP US$219
Listed Features
  • Sewn through construction
  • 34 cm (13.4 in) half zip
  • 2-way adjustable fixed hood
  • Elastic cuffs to seal out drafts
  • Single non-zippered thru-pocket
  • Adjustable hem to conserve body heat
  • Stuff sack included
  • 900 fill-power goose down
  • 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon
  • Standard DWR treatment
Manufacturer Recommendations

None

Measurements
Specifications What They Say What I Say
Weight 6.2 oz (176 g) 6.56 oz (186 g) for large (stuff sack adds 0.18 oz (5 g))
Colors Green (testing), Dark Blue, Gunmetal
Accessories None


INITIAL REPORT

18 Nov 2014

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The MontBell EX Light Down Anorak is pretty well summarized in the name. It is extremely light, trim, and simple; all qualities I love in outdoor gear. The anorak design has nearly a halfway zip, meaning I have to pull the jacket over my head to put on or take off.

There is a large thru pocket in the front that is roughly 13 x 13 in (33 x 33 cm) in size. Inside the pocket are opposing draw strings with a cord lock on the outside of the fabric. The draw strings adjust the lower hem to seal drafts. There are no extra zippers, snaps, or draw strings outside of that.

The hood is sculpted and there are no draw strings to adjust the fit. The cuffs have soft elastic trim that seals them around my wrists.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

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Trying It On - This jacket is unbelievably light. I feel like I'm wearing space-age technology that adds no significant mass but a whole lot of performance (or so I hope!). The zipper runs clean and the elastic pull strings inside the inner pocket are straightforward (more on the pocket later).

Fabric - The material is soft and very light and makes a crinkling sound. The best way I can describe this super thin fabric is a cross between durable plastic wrap and ripstop nylon, and I don't mean that in any negative way--it's just really light and thin.

Fit - The jacket fits perfectly across my shoulders, arms, and head, and I can adjust the hem around my waist.

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Pockets - The front pocket is HUGE! What also makes this interesting is that there is a panel of fabric on the inside that has no insulation; the insulation is only on the outside. The elastic draw strings are located in the bottom middle area of the pocket. One thing I noticed is that the strings get really long when I pull and adjust them to get a closed fit around my waist to the point where the strings are visible outside the pocket. This means that both sides have in excess of around 7 in (18 cm) of cordage.

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Appearance - I love the color and look of this jacket. It's just perfect.

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INITIAL SUMMARY

It has been COLD here in Flagstaff with below freezing temperatures. I've been wearing the jacket daily, often with only a light t-shirt underneath and I've been remarkably warm. I wasn't expecting that with the sewn-through design. The only cold spot I've felt is around my belly where the pocket creates a sort of wind tunnel if I'm in the right position. With just a t-shirt on, I immediately felt cold on my stomach. While I know one main purpose for this jacket is to save weight, I've already wished there was some way to seal off those pockets. I often use the jacket pocket to hold my gloves or my hat and I've also had those fall out on occasion when bending over.

The other thing I've wished for was an adjustment for the hood. I like to close off the drafts around my head, but I can't do that with this anorak. Again, sacrificing some functionality for weight savings.

PRO—Extremely lightweight. Packs down really small..

CON—Crinkly-sounding fabric. Wish the pockets sealed. No way to adjust the seal on the hood.

FIELD REPORT

27 Jan 2015

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've worn the anorak almost every day since I received it, and have taken it on a few camping, backpacking, and hiking trips during this test period, including the following highlighted trips:

Dec 5-6: Lave Tube Caves, near Flagstaff, Arizona. This base camp included a 2.5 mile (4 km) hike into a long, subterranean lava cave. Temperatures inside and outside the cave hovered in the mid-30s °F (2 °C).

Dec 30: Red Mountain, near St. George, Utah. My backpacking trip turned into a long day hike since the trail had been eroded during the spring monsoon. A freak winter storm blew in as well, dropping temperatures down to 30 °F (-1 °C).

Jan 16-17: Cinder Hills, near Flagstaff, Arizona. This was a 2-mile (3.2) quick, solo backpacking trip to "get away." I experienced slight precipitation and temperatures dipped down to 20 °F (-7 °C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I have continued to be amazed and delighted with this jacket. I get compliments any time I wear the jacket. Folks compliment me on my style and color choice and are envious of the "puffy" jacket. What really has impressed me is its warmth.

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Appearance/durability - I went on a day hike to scout out a route for a backpacking trip I was going to take later that week in Southern Utah. I invited a few of my nieces and nephews along with my own kids thinking it would be a "walk in the park." Our expectations changed once we got out of the car and were accosted with a winter blast. A storm was on the horizon and was driving cold air right in our path. The kids were not prepared for the cold and wind, so I began sharing my gear from my pack. For my son, I lent the Montbell UL Down Anorak (I survived with a wind shell and base layer). The trail conditions got progressively worse as we scaled 1,000 ft (305 m) up the red rock wall. We were all scrambling hand-over-hand across sandstone and rocks, and I cringed each time I saw my son drag the anorak across the terrain. The arms of the jacket were so long that his hands were hidden inside. In essence, he was using the arms of the jacket as gloves. I checked periodically, worrying that he would wear holes into the delicate fabric, but to my surprise, the jacket had no damage.

I can't tell you how relieved and amazed I was at this revelation.

There are a few chambers on the back of the jacket that appear nearly empty of down. I've tried shaking the down around, but I'm not sure I'm helping shift the insulation around. However, I've never noticed any cold spots on the jacket, except when I wear my pack or strap that compresses the down.

Warmth/Wind Resistance - I think one thing that contributes most to how well this anorak performs is in the fabric's wind resistance. It works very, very well in strong winds. I've used the anorak almost daily to work, through some strong winter wind, and have been warm and toasty.

When I went on my backpacking trip on the cinder hill, I used the jacket in camp. I'm still amazed at how this anorak keeps me warm. I keep worrying that I'll be cold when the temperature gets below freezing. On this trip, I did another test. I had slept in my hammock with just some base layers and when I awoke, I decided to shed all my warm layers and just put on the jacket and see how it would insulate me. The jacket had been hanging on top of my hammock all night. Stripped down to just light t-shirt, I quickly pulled over the anorak and went out to catch the sunrise. The temperature was around 20 °F (-7 °C) yet I felt warm and cozy.

Comfort/Fit - I've mostly used the anorak with just a shirt underneath, but on a few occasions I've worn a base layer--a light, long-sleeved Merino wool shirt. In either case, the jacket has had plenty of room. On two occasions, I've pulled a waterproof rain shell on top of the anorak, which has also been fine.

Pockets/Trim - On a few cases, when it has been particularly windy, I noticed that the wind would blow into the large main kangaroo pocket, cooling my stomach. I've also had the hood billow out with wind. On these cases, I've wished for a draw string to close up the hood, or zippers for the pockets, but the more I've used the jacket, I've come to appreciate the simplicity that contributes to its light weight. The hood seals off well enough, as does the main pocket, and it has been rare that either have been compromised by the wind.

FIELD USE SUMMARY

I realize that the simplicity of this jacket may turn some people away (e.g., the lack of draw strings or zippers), but I cannot say enough good things about this jacket. It is surprisingly warm. I wasn't expecting that. I thought that with the sewn-through construction I would need more layers to stay warm. I was wrong. I was also wrong about needing all the extra zippers and draw strings to be comfortable.

On occasion, it's been a little inconvenient to pull the jacket over my head (mostly in social situations when it feels awkward), but those are isolated instances.


LONG-TERM REPORT

25 Mar 2015

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Feb 20-21: Fossil Springs, near Strawberry, Arizona. This was one of our annual backpacking trips with the troop, with an 8 mile (13 km) trail down into the canyon. The elevation was 5,500 ft (1,676 m). During the night, the temperature was near freezing.

Mar 16-18: Goblin Valley State Park, Utah. The elevation was 4,840 ft (1,475 m) on this car-camping trip. We did several day hikes, the longest being 3 miles (4.8 km), as we explored the hoodoos.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

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The Montbell UL Anorak has truly become one of my favorite pieces of gear. It is surprisingly warm, yet packs down so small and is so lightweight.

On our trip into Fossil Springs, it was a lot colder than we were expecting and the anorak was essential. I wore it once we arrived at camp to stave off the cold as I went about my camp chores. That night, there were two scouts whose sleeping gear wasn't warm enough. Thankfully, I had brought along some liners that I shared, but that left me with little more than a 40-degree (4 °C) sleeping quilt. I used some insulated pants and the anorak to sleep comfortably through the night.

At both the Fossil Springs and Goblin Valley trips I used the anorak in the mornings to stay warm before the sun warmed up the day.

While I love the simplicity and light weight of the anorak, I've found that sometimes pulling the jacket up and over can have its challenges. This is something I've grown used to.

I haven't had any additional issues with wind blowing open the front pocket, but I have noticed that there has been some down shifting in the back, with some cells looking very empty. I haven't noticed any cold spots, thankfully, and I'm sure that is in part due to where the empty cells are located on my back in less sensitive areas.

Packing and storing of the jacket has been easy. Most of the time I just stuff it straight into the bottom of my pack, but on some occasions I've used the stuff sack for better organization. The jacket seems to fluff up fairly easily.

The anorak has seen a few close scrapes with thorns and branches, but I haven't had any punctures (yet!) or any problems with down leaking out. The anorak looks as good as new, minus the small down shifting in some areas.

FINAL SUMMARY

Overall, an amazing jacket. This is one piece of gear that I plan to bring on more trips, especially when the warmth, weight, and climate dictate.

PRO—Durable, great fit and feel. Warm, light, and packs small.

CON—Sometimes I wish for a way to cinch down the hood.


I would like to thank MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.



Read more reviews of MontBell gear
Read more gear reviews by Derek Hansen

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > MontBell EX Light Down Anorak > Test Report by Derek Hansen



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