MontBell Highland Down Jacket
Test Series By Theresa Lawrence
INITIAL REPORT - December 08, 2012
FIELD REPORT - March 18, 2013
LONG TERM REPORT - May 13, 2013
theresa_newell AT yahoo DOT com
Sparwood, British Columbia, Canada
5' 8" (1.73 m)
125 lb (56.70 kg)
I have more than 15 years of backpacking experience. Day hikes and 2-3 day backpacking trips take place on most weekends throughout the year while longer trips are only occasional. I backpack predominantly in mountain terrain (Coast Range, Cascades and Canadian Rockies) with the goal of summiting peaks. Activities I use my gear with include mountaineering, ski touring, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, trail running, Search and Rescue and overseas travel. I like my gear to be reasonably light, convenient and simple to use though I would not claim to be a lightweight hiker.
Manufacturer: MontBell Co. Ltd.
|Women's Medium Spring Green|
Manufacturer's Website: http://montbell.com
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Made In: China
Listed Weight: 9.7 oz (275 g) (medium)/ Measured: 10.1 oz (286 g) (medium)
Listed Fill Weight: 2.5 oz (71 g)
Stuff Sack Measured Weight: 0.4 oz (11.3 g)
Listed Center Back Length: 24.2 in (61 cm)/ Measured: 24 in (61 cm)
Listed Dimensions (Stuff Sack): 4.3 x 7.7 in (10.9 x 19.6 cm)/ Measured: 4.2 x 8 in (10.7 x 20.3 cm)
Sizes & Colors Available: S, M, L, XL/ Charcoal Black, Eggplant, Light Turquoise, Spring Green
Size & Color Tested: Medium Spring Green
MontBell's Highland Jacket can be described as a lightweight, affordable down insulating layer. The insulating material is 650 fill power goose down (90% goose down/ 10% goose feather), which is described as a quality down allowing for the balance of cost, warmth, weight and low bulk. The shell and lining are made from 40-denier multi-filament nylon, which is said to be lightweight, soft to touch, but durable as well. The fabric is treated with a standard DWR (Durable Water Repellent). The construction is Sewn Thru versus Box Baffle, which saves on manufacturing time and material used, thereby keeping the cost and weight down. It also keeps the down from migrating, however Sewn Thru construction is typically not as warm as Box Baffle construction due to less loft and cool spots at the sewn points. The jacket is also equipped with a VISLON DWR treated zipper, 2 zippered hand warmer pockets, 2 interior drop in pockets and elastic cuffs. Care and maintenance for the jacket includes machine washing (front-loading only) in cold water and gentle setting with down specific soap. The jacket can be tumbled dry on low setting, but no dry cleaning allowed. The manufacturer warranty covers all defects in materials and workmanship for the lifetime of the product. Damages not under warranty will be repaired at a reasonable rate.
Initial Impressions and What's Next
My first impressions of the Highland Jacket have been very positive. From seeing my choice color, Spring Green, tumble out of the box, to trying it on and finding it fit perfectly. I had used the measurements provided on the website to choose the medium and I wouldn't want it in any other size. I can fit layers underneath and a shell over top, which bodes well for a 'mid-layer'. Other immediate observations were that it appeared very well made with solid and consistent stitching. The down had a lofty and warm feeling immediately and compressed into its accompanying stuff sack easily and lofted quickly when undone. I'll be looking to see how well this continues throughout the test period. I thought the separate stuff sack was odd in that I have to carry it around in order to use it versus the much easier solution of stuffing it into its own pocket. I couldn't resist stuffing it into its own pocket and of course the zipper on the pocket wasn't designed to be used this way and so was backwards. In an attempt to be loyal to the stuff sack, I have stashed it in one of the inside drop pockets. This way it's out of mind and sight and when I need it I will know exactly where it is. So far I haven't noticed it taking up space or weight in the pocket when I'm wearing the jacket.
|My cat is not big, if that helps|
The jacket fit is great, not too roomy and not too tight and very comfortable. The elastic cuffs might be considered loose for my wrists, but if it's cold and windy, I'm usually wearing gloves. So far as I can tell with gloves I see no issues with wind seeping through the cuffs. I like the hand warming pockets, they are big enough to encompass my hands in comfort. Aside from stashing the stuff sack, I'm not sure how I will use the drop pockets. I slid some sunglasses into one, which seemed convenient, but was so lumpy to be comfortable. Not to mention that my hand didn't fit very well in the hand warming pocket after that. The zippers all slide nicely and don't catch the fabric, which is great.
I'm really fond of the color, which offers great visibility. Should I ever get lost, I should be seen for miles, right? or not? True story, second day strutting my stuff around town in broad daylight, with my new Highland Spring Green Jacket, I almost got ran over by a car! And I was on a pedestrian crosswalk! Truly, this jacket is not attracting enough attention, I will see about that.
Right off the bat, I have no concerns about the jacket. But I am ever so curious about how it will perform in the backcountry. Will it meet my expectations as a mid-layer? Will it keep me warm in a snow camp? Will I find the right layering system to keep the jacket warm and dry? Will it loft once it's been compressed for so long in my backpack? Will I notice the Sewn Thru construction lofting less and providing opportunity for cold spots? These things will be determined in the next few months, so stay tuned.
INITIALLY LOVED IT
- Pleasing to the eye in color and look
- Comfortable to wear
- Smooth zipper function
- Nice sized hand warming pockets
INITIALLY LIKED IT A LITTLE LESS, BUT NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT
- Separate stuff sack provided instead of the option to stuff it in its own pocket
- Not sure about the function of the inner drop pockets
Thank you sincerely to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this piece of gear, I look forward to the coming months outdoors, it has already brightened my winter.
To date I've worn this jacket almost daily for around town, going to work, going for evening walks, x-country skiing, SAR practices and backcountry ski-touring. Locations were all in the Southern Canadian Rockies with one trip being in Glacier National Park in Montana. Here's a brief list of the more significant trips:
- 1 night, 2 day ski tour: below freezing temperatures, clear/ cloudy skies, lots of powder snow
- 2 nights, 2 day ski tour: below freezing temperatures, clear/ cloudy skies, windy
- 1 night, 1 day ski tour: just above freezing, wet flurries, windy
- 1 day ski tour: freezing temperatures, cloudy, light snow
- 1 night, 2 day ski tour: below freezing, clear skies
Temperatures on overnight trips ranged from -15 C (5 F) to 9 C (48 F) and the highest elevation encountered was 2620 m (8596 ft).
Performance in the Field
Over the past few months my expectations have been met allowing me to enjoy taking the Highland Jacket everywhere I went.
FIT/ COMFORT: The fit is a match for me. I like the length, not too long and not too short. The cuffs fit perfectly around gloves allowing no air to seep in. The material has been very comfortable and light to wear.
WARMTH/ BREATHABILITY/ WATER REPELLENCY: The jacket has been very warm. Wearing just a base layer underneath kept me warm doing light activity in almost freezing conditions. At temperatures of -15 C (5 F) I was able to comfortably hang out at camp wearing the jacket as the 4th layer out of 5 (thermal base, fleece base, fleece jacket, Highland down, Shell). The jacket was too hot for moderate activity (ski-touring and x-country skiing), but when stopping for lunch or a snack, the jacket kept me reliably warm and was easy to unpack and throw on. I did not notice the sewn-through construction being an issue for cold spots, and I like the fact that this type of construction actually makes the jacket lighter and more affordable. The jacket is somewhat breathable, but once heated with moderate activity I start sweating right away and have to take it off and adjust my layers. The water repellency I have so far used and trust in misting and light rain. It does repel dry snow very well.
DURABILITY: The jacket has proven to be very durable so far. The construction has stood up well to date and looks as if it will continue to do so. The jacket continues to loft quickly after it has been compressed for a long time.
PACKING/ DESIGN FEATURES: The Highland jacket is very lightweight and packs down to almost nothing. Admittedly I haven't brought the stuff sack it came with along on any trips. I find it's easier and more convenient to just stuff it in those tiny crevices between all the other stuff in my backpack. It seems to squish in to anywhere. The warming pockets work great and the inside pocket I've used for my cell phone when around town, otherwise I don't really use the inside pockets for anything else. I find if there is anything bulky in these pockets, my hands won't fit comfortably in the warming pockets.
So far I have really enjoyed testing the Montbell Highlander down jacket. It has been a great addition to my winter outdoor attire. I like the way it looks and feels. It has been versatile in different weather conditions and temperatures just by adding or taking away base layers or a shell. I look forward to seeing how the performance continues and in testing the durability and longevity in the next test phase.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Long-Term Test Phase I have continued to wear the jacket around town almost daily for short evening walks, X-country and backcountry skiing and outdoor SAR activities. In addition to these, I have taken it on one winter overnight backcountry ski tour in March to Akimina Pass in Waterton Park, Alberta. Weather consisted of light snow, but mostly cloudless sky. Temperatures were as low as -11 C (12 F). Another 7 days were spent camping in Moab, Utah, with temperatures overnight of 7 C (44 F) with very strong winds.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Again as observed in the field test, in temperatures below freezing in a winter camp with a tent, the jacket worked well as the 4th layer out of 5, even when spending 3-4 hours sitting outside the tent doing minimal activity. While typically in this planned situation I would bring along a much heavier down jacket, but after testing this lightweight jacket, it has me rethinking what I can get away with since the other layers used with it always come with me anyway. It surprised me that something so small and light can offer so much warmth. It's all in the layering.
In completely different conditions, I happened to spend a week camping in desert dry conditions in Moab, Utah, with temperatures only as low as 7 C (44 F) overnight, but the winds were incredibly strong and chilling. With this down jacket, and just a fleece layer underneath, the wind was cut out and I was toasty warm, very impressed. It was just the item I needed to enjoy camping in this setting, as during the days we had temperatures up to 38 C (100 F), where I cared not to pack any heavy layers.
During this test I wanted to focus on the jacket's durability. I've observed that it has held up very well from being squished and squashed into backpacks of varying sizes. It lofts just as well as when I first got it. There has been very minimal loss of feathers, in fact I don't remember seeing any during this phase of testing. There is one pulled thread in the nylon going down the length of one arm, but it has not affected the integrity or performance of the jacket. The end of the thread must be on the inside because there's nothing to pull on the outside, nothing that could get hooked on and made worse. This sums up my observations on this great jacket that has served me well this winter.
Overall I am very pleased with the Montbell Highland down jacket. It has exceeded and outperformed my expectations for such a light and affordable down jacket. I will continue to use it for winter activities and with less layers for cold spring and summer nights in higher elevations in the mountains. It packs and lofts well, keeps warmth in and looks great and fits well. I have no complaints about this fine jacket and as such it has become one of my favorite pieces of gear to wear.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
Thanks again to Montbell America Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test.
Read more gear reviews by Theresa Lawrence