MONTBELL EX LIGHT DOWN ANORAK
TEST SERIES BY MIKE PEARL
INITIAL REPORT - November 16, 2014
FIELD REPORT - February 03, 2015
LONG TERM REPORT - March 27, 2015
Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
155 lb (70.30 kg)
I have a great appreciation for the outdoors and get out at every opportunity. I am a three-season, learning to be a four season backpacker and year round hiker. Currently, my trips are two to three days long as well as an annual week-long trip. I utilize the abundant trail shelters in my locale and pack a backup tarp-tent. I like to cover big distances while still taking in the views. I have lightweight leanings but function and reliability are the priority. I mostly travel woodland mountain terrain but enjoy hiking beautiful trails anywhere.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2014
Manufacturer's Website: www.montbell.com
Listed Weight: 6.2 oz (177 g)
Measured Weight: 6.3 oz (178 g)
Measured Weight Stuff Sack: 0.2 oz (5 g)
Size Tested: Medium
Other Sizes: Small, Medium, Large and X-large
Color Tested: Gunmetal
Other Colors: Dark Blue, Gunmetal and Green
Insulation: 900 fill power goose down
Fill Weight: 2.2 oz (65 g)
Fabric: 7-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon
Compressed Size: 4.1 x 6.6 in (11 x 17 cm)
Center Back Length: 28 in (72 cm)
- Sewn through construction
- 13.4 in (34 cm) half zipper (medium size)
- 2-way adjustable fixed hood
- Elastic cuffs
- Single non-zippered "kangaroo style" thru-pocket
- Adjustable hem
- Stuff sack included
EX Light is a ultra-light pull over sweater style insulating garment. An anorak is a style of outwear with a hood of Inuit origins made to protect against frigid weather. Historically a anorak is waterproof (the EX Light is not) hence the lack of an opening on the front, furthered by the material it is made of and a regular treatment of fish oil. The EX Light is water resistant from a standard DWR (durable water repellent) treatment, which is probably a little more practical for traveling in bear country.
The EX Light insulates as mentioned with 900 fill power goose down. Down is available in several levels of fill power. Fill power is the volume in cubic inches that one ounce of down will displace. Or in simple terms puffiness, holding fill weight constant the higher the fill power the warmer, lighter and more compressible the garment.
The down is in held in place with sewn through construction in which the stitching goes through the exterior fabric to the interior lining of the fabric. This creates the square pattern on the EX Light. According to the company website this an economical way to keep the down where it is needed and helps to make Ex Light as light as possible.
The 7-denier ballistic Airlight nylon helps the EX Light achieve its ultra-light weight. Denier is a measure of the diameter of a fiber and 7-denier is an extremely thin fiber measuring 30 micrometer or micron (0.00118110236 in). Being so small this fiber has unique qualities of high compressibility, high wind resistant and the feel of cotton.
All these features add up to 35% of EX Lights weight being insulation.
Wow this thing is light! This was and continues to be my reaction when putting the EX Light on. Right out of the box it looks like a stylish, well designed and made garment. It is a bit counterintuitive to me that something so light and feels like it's filled with air could possibly keep me very warm.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The EX Light came with four tags attached. The first with item description, size, color, materials, country of origin and company contact information. The second is a very brief description of the Airlight fabric. The third list the prominent features and explains the minimalist ultra-light design approach to the EX Light. The last is the "Maintenance of Down Leakage Warning" this explains what to do if the spines of the feathers or down cluster poke through the fabric. The gist here is to pull the insulation back into position by pulling from behind the offend feather opposite the surface it is protruding. The interesting part is the advice to gently massage the area to promote "self sealing" by realigning the fabric threads and redistributing the down. It is recommended not to pull any clusters from the garment as the exposed cluster could tangle with others and draw then out as well.
Care instructions are found on a label inside the EX Light. On one side it lists hand wash, cold. Do not bleach, iron or dry clean. On the other side it is more specific, use down specific detergent, gentle cycle wash with cold water and hang to dry. If dryer is use tumble dry with low heat patting the item to help restore loft. Washing at the end of the season should be enough. Do not wash frequently, it may cause fabric damage.
TRYING IT OUT
It's a bit snug when pulling the EX Light over my head and shoulders. But once on the fit is close to perfect. Wearing only a T-shirt under the EX Light the fabric is soft and comfortable against my skin. The fabric does make a crinkling noise kind of like tissue paper when handled. While sitting inside at a comfy 63 F (17 C) writing this wearing a T-shirt and the EX Light I am noticeably warm but not uncomfortable.
The hood fits nicely. It's big enough to accommodate a winter hat. But not so big that it flops around or obstructs my vision. The zipper works easily without snagging any fabric. When fully zipped the EX Light completely covers my neck. When fully unzipped it comes down to my solar plexus. The adjustable hem uses two elastic cords passed through a single cord lock. I am accustomed to using two locks. But the single lock makes for quick even adjustment and keeps with the minimalist ultra-light design. The elastic cuffs maintain a very close but not tight closure around my wrist. This does not impede putting on or taking off the EX Light. I like the kangaroo pocket. It's perfectly located and sized to easily slide my hands into. I like the thru-pocket for rubbing my hands together or temporarily stowing my gloves. But I think this might be a hand warming pocket only. I would be too worried about things falling out to use it to hold anything.
Taking the EX Light off I noticed a small loop of elastic cord for hanging the garment. It's a minor detail but I was surprised by how effortless it was to throw it over a hook single handedly.
The stuff sack that came with the EX Light looks way too small for it. A friend visiting said I wouldn't be able to make it fit. Much to their surprise the EX Light easily stuffed right in and compressed to approximately the size of a 1 L Nalgene bottle.
The EX Light down anorak is a well made ultra-light, warm, comfortable insulating layer. All materials and construction are well executed. It is amazingly light. It has a stylish look while being very functional and weight conscientious. The EX Light has made a very good impression on me. I am eager to get better acquainted on the trails in the coming cold weather.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Hazen Trail - Norwich, Vermont - 3 mi (4.8 km) from 670 to 400 ft (204 to 122 m) and back along the Connecticut River. 30 F (-1 C) and windy with snow rapidly falling for the last mile. Pack weight - 10 lbs (4.5 kg) slower pace kid friendly hike.
Mt Cube - Orford, New Hampshire - 6.8 mi (11 km) from 1230 to 2900 ft (375 to 880 m). 20 F (-6.5 C) clear and calm on hard packed snow and ice trail. Pack weight - 10 lbs (4.5 kg)
Moose Mountain - Hanover, New Hampshire - 4.1 mi (6.6 km) from 1350 to 2300 ft (410 to 700 m). 15 F ( -9.4 C) and windy with 3 in (7.5 cm) of fresh snow on the trail. Pack weight - 35 lbs (16 kg), a conditioning hike for upcoming winter overnight hike.
Storrs Pond Loop - Hanover, New Hampshire - 3 mi (4.8 km) from 525 to 400 ft (160 to 120 m). 25 F (-4 C) and cloudy with 4 in (10 cm) of fresh snow. Pack weight 40 lbs (18 kg) another conditioning hike on snowshoe at a kid friendly pace.
Mt Cardigan - Alexandria, New Hampshire - two night backpack 8 mi (13 km) from 1400 to 2250 ft (427 to 680 m). Day one topped out a high 12 F and bottomed out at a low -2 F (-11, -19 C) with 6 in (15 cm) of fresh snow, winds around 25 mph (40 kph) with gust of 35 mph (56 kph).
Day two jumped to a of high 17 then fell to a low of 5 F (-8, -15 C) clear, winds around 20 mph (32 kph), gust of 30 mph (48 kph). Pack weight 40 lbs (18 kg).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The EX Light has proven itself a very worthy layer during the testing period. I have worn the EX with slight variations to my base layers and/or packs worn. It has worked well in all combinations. On each occasion I found reason to like this anorak.
On the two warmer day hikes I wore a thin wool T-shirt and mid-weight wool base layer. The pace was slow these two days so I never warmed enough to need to remove a layer. Nor was I ever cold. On the two other colder day hikes I wore a thin wool base layer under a heavy wool base layer. On both of these hikes I quickly heated up and was down to the bottom layer. The EX Light being so compressible stows away very easily into any part of my pack minus hip belt pockets. Upon reaching the summit I put the EX Light back on and remained warm for my entire 30 minute rest on the summit. In the gusting winds on Moose Mountain I was very pleased to have the hood. The hood fits close and secure with a hat on, EX fully zipped up and my back to the wind I felt very comfortable.
I found the front pocket helpful in a few ways. It's nice for fast extra warmth at the start of a hike when my hands are cold. Or when stopping to eat or drink and hiding my bare hands in between bites and gulps. It is also a convenient place to stow my gloves when helping my kids adjust their gear. When wearing a pack without a hip belt I worry my gloves might fall out while hiking. So I don't keep my gloves in the pocket while on the move. However when using a pack with a hip belt the pocket is effectively sealed and my gloves secure.
The cuffs stay in place and keep the sleeves from moving up my arms. They stretch enough to allow my thinner gloves to be worn under the sleeves. This helps prevent any thermal breaks at the wrist. This is sometimes a problem at the hem of the EX Light. When wearing a pack with a hip belt the EX occasionally rides up with movement of the hip belt. I think if the EX Light had a little more length this would be prevented.
The zipper seemed like a minor feature earlier. But in the field I have come to appreciate it. My mid and heavy weight base layers both have similar zippers to the EX Lights. Using them in conjunction helps with regulating temperature. The zipper also helps with getting the hood on easily and then keeping it on.
The most extreme conditions I encountered with the EX Light was on the two night backpack. This was a workshop with hikers of various levels learning winter outdoor skills. This made for a slower pace with fewer miles covered. In turn there was more time standing still listening to instruction and watch demonstration. I wore the EX the entire time hiking with all three wool base layers mentioned previously. It did great maintaining warmth while idle. As well as venting heat by removing the hood and opening the zipper when on the move again. On the colder, windier day I needed to add a hard shell jacket to feel comfortable.
Both nights I went to bed wearing top and bottom wool base layer, two pairs of wool socks, wool pants, and heavy wool base layer inside a 0 F (-18 C) Polarguard filled sleeping bag. I woke up halfway through the night cold. I threw on a pair of down booties and the EX and slept through until morning comfortably.
I have not used the stuff sack probably because I am wearing the EX at the beginning of each hike. I have not washed yet either. The EX shows no dirt or grime nor does it have any odor. The only area that the down has visibly thinned is on the back along the hem. I would expect even more considering the size and weight of the pack worn on the last three hikes.
The EX Light continues to wow me. In hand it feels light and insignificant. However when worn it is still light but extremely warm and comfortable. The EX Light has performed superbly under all conditions thus far. The degree of insulation, wind resistance and compression are excellent. Again being so lightweight the EX Light gives the impression of being delicate. However after many cycles of on and off, stuffing in and out of my pack as well as a few brushes against tree branches durability is not an issue. I have only two negatives for the Ex Light which are a slightly short length and very minor signs of wear and tear in the form of a few loose strings. Otherwise the EX Light is making this winter very cozy. The EX Light down anorak will now be my go to layer whenever hiking in temperatures that approach the freezing mark.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Burnt Mountain - Lebanon, New Hampshire - 10 mi (16 km) from 540 to 1030 ft (165 to 314 m). 9 F (-13 C) and sunny with light winds. On snowshoes over snow levels varying from broken trail to untouched 18 in (45 cm). Pack weight 10 lbs (4.5 kg).
Trails around Smarts Mountian - Orford, New Hampshire - 8 mi (13 km) from 1330 to 1720 ft (405 to 525 m) with kids. 20 F (-6 C) and sunny. On XC skis with freshly groomed trails. Pack weight 10 lbs (4.5 kg).
Velvet Rocks - Hanover, New Hampshire - 4.5 mi ( km) from 780 to 1240 ft (240 to 380 m) at kids pace. 30 F (-1 C) and sunny. Bare boot on hard packed snow and ice covered trail. Pack weight 10 lbs (4.5 kg).
Girl Brook - Hanover, New Hampshire - 6 mi (9.5 km) 530 to 390 ft (162 to 120 m) with kids. 15 F (-9 C) lightly snowing on XC skis. Pack weight 10 lbs (4.5 kg).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The EX Light has continued to be a very reliable component of my winter layering system. It has kept me warm and comfortable on all outings. I did become slightly overheated while cross country skiing. The zipper really helped to dump excess heat. I did perspire where my pack made contact with my back. This resulted in the EX Light becoming mildly damp however it has not retained any odor from this. All features continue to function without flaw. There are no signs of wear other than those previously mentioned. The EX Light has maintained its loft quite well. The only area showing some compression is where the hipbelt of my pack makes contact with my back. This is not to surprising nor problematic if wearing a pack.
This has been a great test series with an amazing item. I worked on dialing in my winter layering system the previous winter. I was never completely happy with it. This season the EX Light changed things for me. The EX Light has provided great wind resistant insulation that's very light weight and functional. I am almost sad to see winter end and not being able to use the EX Light. As soon as the first frost returns I will definitely be pulling the EX Light over my head again!
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
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This concludes my Long-Term Report. I would like to extend my appreciation to BackpackGearTest.org and MontBell for opportunity to test the EX Light down anorak.
Read more gear reviews by Michael Pearl